Summary Written by Jill Donahue
"…the fastest route to success is never traditional…"

- Smartcuts, page 6

The Big Idea

The hard way, the cheap way or the smart way?

"Too many of us place our hopes and dreams in the unreliable hands of luck, but the world’s most rapidly successful people take luck into their own hands..."- Smartcuts, page 14

Does this classic success advice sound familiar? Work hard, believe you can do it, visualize and push yourself harder than anyone else. This is the hard way. Or maybe you’ve been schooled with other common success advice. Outsource the tough stuff, and try to profit from the arbitrage. This is the cheap way. Shane teaches us the smart way. He claims that the fastest route to success is never traditional and that anyone can speed up progress with the following nine principles.

  1. Hacking the ladder: Approach a problem laterally. Companies that pivot, switch business models or products while on the upward swing, perform better.
  2. Training with masters: Learn from those who have gone before you.
  3. Rapid feedback: Use failure to push yourself forward.
  4. Platforms: Find the ‘paved roads’. Build on top of things that already exist.
  5. Catching waves: Like a surfer who watches the waves for just the right one, watch the horizon to see what trend is coming and jump on.
  6. Superconnecting: Build a powerful network and be generous in serving them.
  7. Momentum: Break the challenge into smaller tasks so you can feed off the energy of the small step wins.
  8. Simplicity: Eliminate the clutter so your hard practice is focused and targeted.
  9. 10X thinking: Have a noble big vision.

Insight #1

Momentum – success breeds success

"…momentum – not experience – is the single biggest predictor of business and personal success."- Smartcuts, page 13

Only one third of Americans are happy in their jobs. Why do you think that is? What affects your happiness most dramatically? The answer was deduced from Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile from her study of 238 white-collar workers. It is simply progress; a sense of forward motion; regardless of how small.

Do you remember the story from Greek mythology about Sisyphus? As the story goes, as punishment for chronic deceitfulness Sisyphus was condemned to push a rock up a mountain. Upon reaching the top, the rock would roll down again, leaving him to start over.

Yesterday I wasn’t happy with my work-day. I had spent days preparing to shoot an educational video. Finally, with minutes remaining before the kids would come clamoring home from school, I did it! I shot the perfect take. Progress! And then discovered the memory card was full and it wasn’t captured. All those hours of work down the drain.

Are your happiest days when you see progress, regardless of how small? So make your days (or your team members’ days) happier by setting up lots of tiny wins. When I teach how to influence behavior change, for example, we break the influence into five steps. Ascending the “staircase of behavior change” by merely one step is cause for celebration. It makes a huge difference for people. Instead of saying “we failed” when the person doesn’t change a behavior, they can say “We saw progress”. The person moved up one step! It makes the world of difference in their momentum to make the next call. Success breeds success. How can you set up more wins in your day?

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Insight #2

Superconnectors – you just might be the catalyst to something big!

"No matter the medium or the method, giving is the timeless smart-cut for harnessing superconnectors and creating serendipity."- Smartcuts, page 138

The most successful people in any industry are extremely generous. Adam Grant’s research proves this. (Enjoy the summary of his book Give and Take here.) But don’t worry, this generosity doesn’t need to involve huge acts of sacrifice. The generosity simply comes from a focus on acting in the interests of others, such as by giving help, providing mentoring, sharing credit, or making connections for others.

A friend of mine lost her job this week. In fact her entire sales team lost their jobs. She sent me a note describing her colleagues and what a great team they were and how they could just be the best thing a growing company came across. She extolled the virtues of her peers and that yes, by the way, she would also be looking for a job.

I was impressed by her act of generosity and I know she will succeed. Contrast that to her peer, who when my friend called him about the openings she found advertised in his part of the country, pleaded “don’t tell the others”. Having a mindset of abundance will feed your generosity whereas a mindset of scarcity starves it.

Shane Snow shares nine smartcuts to help us improve our lives and careers. What conventions do you need to reject to work smarter. What mindsets do you need to alter? What smartcuts do you need to add? To have the breakthrough change you desire, maybe you need to break some of the rules.

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Shane Snow

Shane Snow is an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist based in New York City. Originally from Idaho, he studied journalism at Columbia University.

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