Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Just Mercy By. Bryan Stevenson

Key Insights

Understanding the American criminal justice system is an important part of being a citizen of the states.

The author of “Just Mercy” Bryan Stevenson, a social justice activist, has hands-on experience as a lawyer working inside these complex courtrooms and prison settings.

“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”- Bryan Stevenson

With Steveson’s insight, you will learn how the system has evolved from the 80s to now and how the system has treated people of different abilities, races, and gender throughout the years.

Key Points

  • Punishment and Incarceration

The criminal justice system in the United States has been under scrutiny for years. It has been featured in movies, TV shows, and books. But, without all the Hollywood glam, it’s a terribly tragic topic.

Since the 1980s, the American criminal justice system has believed in excessive punishment. This began when the courts began convicting people of minor crimes, but doling out major punishments. It happened this way most often when someone had a criminal background behind them. The problem with this was that a little petty crime, such as shoplifting, could put a person in prison for life.

“An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive, abusive, unjust and unfair until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others.”- Bryan Stevenson

At the beginning of the decade, there were 41,000 Americans incarcerated for drug-related offenses. But toward the end of the ’80s, the number of Americans exceeded 500,000. This just shows that what was considered fair and right when it came to punishment changed over that ten years. More and more people were being jailed for committing small crimes.

An example of this unfair and severe punishment is from a woman that Stevenson met in the prison system. She was serving a long sentence simply for writing 5 bad checks, all under the amount of $150, in order to purchase, Christmas presents for her children.

Excessive punishments lead to mass incarceration because the prisons become overcrowded.

To put it into perspective, America’s prison population in the early ‘70s was approximately 300,000. Today, it is 2.3 million. And, that’s not even counting the people on parole or probation!

  • The Mistreatment of African-Americans

It’s no secret that African-Americans have become victims in the flawed justice system of America.

Because of the long history of bias in America, African-Americans have always been looked at with extra and unnecessary suspicion.

“Fear and anger are a threat to justice. They can infect a community, a state, or a nation, and make us blind, irrational, and dangerous.”- Bryan Stevenson

Steveson recalls an encounter he had with the Atlanta police. It’s important to know that the author is African-American. The encounter went like this…

Stevenson was parked in his car outside of his house, listening to his favorite band on the radio. Before he could even react, a police car was pulled beside his and a gun was shoved in his face. The police officer searched Steveson’s car illegally and told Steveson that he was lucky he was getting off easy.

This may seem like a bizarre and crazy scenario, but occurrences like this happen all too often in the United States.

African-Americans also often receive unfair trials in the U.S. which is another reason why Steveson was so scared during his own encounter with the police. He knew that many people who looked like him have been convicted and sent to prison for doing no wrong.

The American criminal justice system makes it hard for people of color to prove their innocence.

In the 1880s a Supreme Court ruling determined that denying a juror from performing jury duty for being of a different race was unconstitutional.

But even with that ruling in place, juries remained mostly white until the 1980s. This is because the justice system kept finding reasons for African-Americans not to serve.

This reality made it so African-Americans who were facing trial had to convince a jury full of white people that they were innocent. This was true even in areas with a mostly black population.

  • The System’s Repercussions For Children

The criminal justice system in the U.S. has not only convicted adults, but it has also taken hold of the lives of the youth. Youth as young as 13-years-old. In fact, in the 1980s many children were charged as adults in court.

But, this seems unfair because young people, unlike adults, do not fully understand the crimes they are committing and the consequences associated with them.

For these children, being locked in prison meant facing sexual, emotional, and physical abuse. According to statistics, the chance of an underage prisoner suffering from sexual abuse is five times more likely than one of adult age. And, the only way for a prisoner to be set free from this abuse is to go into solitary confinement.

“What do we tell these children about how to stay out of harm’s way when you can be at your own house, minding your own business, surrounded by your entire family, and they still put some murder on you that you ain’t do and send you to death row?”- Bryan Stevenson

In his encounters, Steveson met a young male who spent 18 years in prison in solitary confinement after an armed robbery and an attempted homicide was committed when he was just 13-years-old.

And, life sentences are not all that children were getting before the 90s. Children under 15 were also sentenced to the death penalty until the year 1989. It wasn’t until 2005 that the death sentence for underage felons was demolished altogether.

  • Women and the Justice System

Women have also been mistreated by the American criminal justice system. In fact, between 1980 and 2010, the number of women being incarcerated rose 646%. To put it into further perspective, that’s one and half times higher than the incarceration rate of men.

More than half of the women being imprisoned are there because of drug-related or property-related convictions.

The conditions that women inmates live under is shocking. They are often cramped together with very little room to live. And, they often face abuse from male guards and overheads.

Tutwiler Prison, a prison in Alabama, holds more than twice the amount of women inmates than it was designed to hold when it was built in the 1940s. And, regarding sexual abuse, male guards were allowed in the shower rooms while females were bathing until the 1990s.

Before the law passed, you can imagine how many women suffered sexual abuse from their overheads. And, as a result of sexual abuse, many of the women inmates became pregnant.

Male guards were not punished for the abuse they administered to these women. The worst that would happen to them is that they would have a temporary reassignment.

To make matters worse, many prisons even handcuffed women while they were giving birth in prison. But, a law passed in 2008 to make this illegal as it is inhumane.

  • Mass Incarceration of the Mentally Ill

Because of the closure of many mental health facilities, a great number of mentally ill people got locked up in American prisons.

In the history of America, mentally ill people have always been locked up in some way. Either in a hospital or a prison.

At the turn of the 20th century, many mentally ill people were sent to mental health facilities for committing crimes while they were suffering from their conditions.

“But simply punishing the broken--walking away from them or hiding them from sight--only ensures that they remain broken and we do, too. There is no wholeness outside of our reciprocal humanity.”-Bryan Stevenson

And, at the same time, many people were being locked in those facilities for things such as homosexuality and hysteria.

When the 1970s rolled around, many of these facilities closed because they were housing innocent people, not the sick.

However, some of the people in these closing facilities were there for a real mental illness. So, when these actual sick people were released they ended up getting in trouble with the law and being sent to prison.

Today, in America, half of the inmates of the prison system are mentally ill. In fact, prisons hold three times more mentally ill people in America than mental health facilities do.

This is largely due to the fact that in the 1980s court trials, the system didn’t fully understand that a person who is mentally ill has impaired decision-making. They were convicted like any normal person.

But, in 2002, the Supreme Court banned the death penalty for people who are mentally ill.

If a mentally ill person was sent to prison, they did not receive the treatment and support they needed.

A gruesome example of this happened at Angola Prison in Louisiana. A prisoner was instructed to put his hands through the bars to be cuffed, however, he was suffering an epileptic convulsion, and could not. The guard subdued him by spraying him with a fire extinguisher.

  • The Consequences of Mass Incarceration

Putting someone in prison has a massive effect on their psyche. It can be a life-changing tragic experience.

Although five years may seem like a fair punishment for the crime committed, it’s important to think about what this could do to a person’s state-of-mind.

For example, Joe Sullivan was put into prison because of a non-homicide crime he took part in when he was just 12-years-old. Throughout his prison sentence, Joe suffered from sexual abuse. This abuse resulted in him trying to commit suicide more than once. He eventually was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and is now wheelchair-bound.

Many prisoners suffer greatly in prison from abuse and they come out wondering how they were able to previously administer abuse to others.

But, prisoners aren’t the only ones being affected by this mass incarceration. Families and communities are suffering as well.

Communities are more likely to be affected when the prisoner is from an area that is tight-knit and dense, like an urban Brooklyn neighborhood.

  • The 2000s Reform the American Justice System

Though there has been a lot of bad said about the American criminal justice system, there is a lot of progress being made.

In the early 2000s, life sentences and convictions for the death penalty greatly declined.

In fact, between 1999 and 2010, the number of executions decreased by 50%. And some states such as New York and Maryland got rid of the death penalty altogether.

“The death penalty is not about whether people deserve to die for the crimes they commit. The real question of capital punishment in this country is, do we deserve to kill?”- Bryan Stevenson

In 2010, the Supreme Court said ‘goodbye’ to life imprisonment for children who were under trial for non-homicidal crimes. Then in 2012, life sentences for children were abolished entirely.

This big drop in severe punishment for children caused a drop for severe punishment all around. In 2012, the number of people sent to prison dropped for the first time in over 40 years.

Although there are improvements being made with severe punishment, we cannot ignore the races, genders, and people of different abilities being targeted in the system.

Main Take-Away

America’s criminal justice system has been known throughout history to have both excessive punishment and mass incarceration. African-Americans, women, and the mentally ill have suffered greatly because of the predisposed prejudices of the courts.

About the Author

Bryan Stevenson is an American lawyer, social justice activist, founder/executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and a clinical professor at New York University of School of Law. He has worked to help improve the criminal justice system, specifically how it treats the poor, minorities and children. Under his direction, the Equal Justice Initiative has won major challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults.

He argued and won multiple cases to achieve Supreme Court decisions that prevent sentencing of children under 10 to death or to life imprisonment without parole.

He initiated the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, which honors over 4000 African Americans lynched in the South from 1877 to 1950. He received the Benjamin Franklin Award from the American Philosophical Society.

He was born in Milton Delaware. When he was sixteen, his maternal grandfather was murdered in Philadelphia during a robbery. The killers were given life sentences. Stevenson said of the murder: "Because my grandfather was older, his murder seemed particularly cruel. But I came from a world where we valued redemption over revenge."

He attended Harvard Law School. He worked for Stephen Bright’s Southern Center for Human Rights, which represents death row inmates throughout the South. He earned a JD from Harvard and a Master’s in Public Policy at the John F Kennedy School of Government.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

Born A Crime By. Trevor Noah

Key Insights

You’ve probably heard of the late-night South African comedian, Trevor Noah.

Trevor Noah famously took over Jon Stewart’s, The Daily Show, in September of 2015.

But, there is much more to this satire-loving comic than many people know.

“You want to live in a world where someone is good or bad. Where you either hate them or love them. But that's not how people are.”- Trevor Noah

In, “Born A Crime” by Trevor Noah, you will learn the star’s life story. And, how he was affected by the racist beliefs of his country, where life for a mixed-race person is systematically cruel.

Key Points

  • Trevor Noah Was A Crime From Birth

Noah was born during apartheid in South Africa, which was racial segregation that was active between the years of 1948 and 1991.

“Relationships are built in the silences. You spend time with people, you observe them and interact with them, and you come to know them—and that is what apartheid stole from us: time.” - Trevor Noah

This segregation system was set in place in 1948, but the roots stretch much farther. In 1652, the Dutch settled in South Africa and took the people of the land as slaves.

In the 1800s, the British then took control of the land and the people. So, the Dutch decided to high-tail it inland in order to develop their own unique culture. They gained the name Afrikaners.

After the British left, the Afrikaners returned and created a code of laws that oppressed the native black people.

One part of the code made it clear that whites and blacks were not allowed to procreate or have any sexual encounters with each other. This was to keep the races completely separate so that it could not tear apart the racist apartheid system.

People who did intermingle with the other race were put into prison. Men were sent for up to five years and women would serve no more than four.

Keeping the races separate was essential to keeping the racist system intact. And because it was so important, police would peek into windows to try to bust interracial affairs.

On February 20th, 1984, Noah took his first breath. Noah’s mother was black and his father was white, which made Noah the evidence of a serious crime: interracial intercourse.

  • Noah’s Parents Prove That Opposites Attract

Noah’s parents were different racially, but they were also different in many other ways.

Noah’s father was named Robert. He was of Swiss and German heritage. In the 1970s, he moved to South Africa. Robert was a very quiet man who didn’t quite understand the apartheid system he was living in. Later in his life, he opened the first racially-mixed dining spot in the town Johannesburg.

Unfortunately, Noah wasn’t able to visit his father as much as he’d like to because of the racial system. By the time Noah was 13, they didn’t talk anymore.

But, when Noah turned 24, he was able to visit his father again and was welcomed with love and a big scrapbook his father had made of clippings from articles focusing on Noah’s comedy career.

Noah’s mother was the total opposite of Robert. Her name was Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah. Patricia was full of life and extremely ambitious. She grew up in poverty and was dropped off with her aunt by her father, who had no interest in raising her. She lived in a one-room hut with 14 other members of her family; all who were unwanted. Patricia and her hut-mates often stole food from the animals in order to avoid starving to death.

Patricia stayed driven and hardworking. She learned English from a white missionary and when she was able she obtained a job at a sewing factory, which hardly put food on her table.

When she was 21, she moved back to where her parents lived and found a job as a secretary.

One of Patricia’s passions was Christ. She went to church three times on Sundays at three different churches; one church was black, one was white, and one was mixed.

At the age of 22, she moved to Johannesburg illegally. At the time Johannesburg was strictly white. She became friends with prostitutes who would help her hide in the city by sleeping in public toilets.

  • Noah’s Mom Always Wanted The Best For Him

Noah grew up in poverty too. Oftentimes they would eat simple broth with nothing but water and bones.

Most of his childhood he lived in Soweto, which was a part of Johannesburg where all the blacks resided. It was essentially a ghetto developed by the government to keep all the blacks in one place.

On holidays, Noah would often stay at his grandmother’s house, which wasn’t much better. He slept on the floor with uncles, cousins, grandparents, and his mother. They had an unhygienic outhouse with only newspapers to do their business.

“My mom did what school didn't. She taught me how to think.”- Trevor Noah

Patricia was set on giving Noah a better life. She educated Noah every chance she got. With the little money she had, she purchased “how-to” books, the bible, and encyclopedias so that she could teach Noah as much as possible. She didn’t want him paying the “black tax.” She wanted him to stay positive and hopeful that there was more to life.

Noah, however, was not an angel. As a child, he began playing with knives and fire. He even burned down a house!

  • Post-Apartheid Life Was Not Easy Either

Nelson Mandela was set free in 1990, which triggered the 1991 call of saying ‘goodbye’ to apartheid. But, these drastic changes also created new problems.

The two largest tribes the Zulus and the Xhosas began a power struggle since the power for blacks was now on the table. Because of this struggle, thousands perished.

Throughout this rough time in South African history, Patricia remained strong and did whatever she had to in order to protect Noah and his half-brother Andrew. One time Patricia had to push both boys off of a moving bus, as busses were unsafe at the time and they had just been threatened by the driver. After the three landed, they ran home to safety.

Noah was a smart kid and make it his mission to learn several of the 11 languages that were spoken in South Africa at the time so that he would be easily able to navigate his way through life. This helped him to stay safe when walking the streets at night amidst potential muggers.

“Language, even more than color, defines who you are to people.”- Trevor Noah

  • Noah Always Considered Himself Black

In the time of apartheid, the term“coloured” was used as a classification. If you were coloured, you were a person of mixed-race. But, after apartheid that presented the problem of where a person belonged; with the whites or with the blacks?

During apartheid, the coloureds were told that they were able to become white if you mixed with more whites.

But when apartheid was over, being black wasn’t such a bad thing in South Africa.

Noah embraced his black identity. He spoke African languages, he spent his childhood with his mother, who was black, and her family. But, just because he considered himself black, didn’t mean he didn’t interact with white people, as well.

At school, Noah talked to all sorts of kids from different backgrounds. He was friends with the rich kids, the jocks, and the nerds. This was mainly because of his job as the “tuckshop guy.” Tuckshop is a British term for a shop that sells sweets, sodas, and snacks. Noah would always get to the school’s tuckshop first to take orders for people and create a racket with his jokes. This was the start of his comedy career.

  • Noah’s DJ Career

When Noah was 16, he started selling bootleg CDs. He created them from downloading songs illegally at home and burning them onto discs. He got the burner from a rich white friend at school.

“People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.”-Trevor Noah

Then Noah began making his own tracks and deejaying at parties. His DJ business took off fast and he was booked solid. Noah even had a dance crew that would come with him on gigs to perform.

Noah was playing at a Jewish cultural festival and unfortunately, his best dancer was named Hitler. This got Noah into quite a bit of trouble when he started calling “Go Hitler” over the mic to get his star dancer up and dancing. Noah’s background in South Africa didn’t teach him about WWII or Hitler. So Noah was shocked when the music was cut and anger erupted throughout the venue.

  • Noah’s Run-Ins With The Law

Noah was lucky to have a small DJ career because it was hard for blacks to find work even after apartheid.

In law, it was said that whites and blacks have equal work opportunities. But blacks were not educated because of their previous oppression, so it made it hard to actually secure work.

“The first thing I learned about having money was that it gives you choices. People don’t want to be rich. They want to be able to choose. The richer you are, the more choices you have. That is the freedom of money.”- Trevor Noah

Blacks often found money through crime. And, Noah fell into this lifestyle too.

Noah and his friends started a credit-and-loan business in the ghetto. They financed it from Noah’s bootleg CDs and DJ funds. But, a police officer shot Noah’s computer, which made Noah lose all of his music. So, the business didn’t last long.

When Noah was a little older he took a car from his stepfather’s garage. Noah knew that it was probably stolen, but took the chance anyway. Officers arrested him and put him in jail for a week after they suspected he stole it. It was Patricia who hired a lawyer and paid his bail.

  • Noah’s Mother Was Almost Murdered

While Noah was dealing with the law, Patricia had trouble of her own. When Noah was a young boy of six or seven, Patricia got involved with a car mechanic named Abel. Eventually, she and Abel got married and conceived two children.

The relationship became abusive because of Abel’s alcoholic tendencies which pushed him to be aggressive and violent. During one of Abel’s fits, he got rough with Patricia. When Patricia went to the police, they refused to help and even went as far as saying that she shouldn’t have made Abel angry.

Patricia felt trapped and was afraid to escape. She felt that Abel might kill her or her children.

Noah had a hard time watching his mother stay in an abusive relationship. So after he finished school, he moved away and let their relationship dissolve.

Patricia, the fiery determined woman that she was, did break free eventually and even got remarried.

Noah did hear about one almost-fatal attack that Abel committed while he was performing in England. Abel barged in on Patricia and her new family and shot her twice. She miraculously survived and was back to work in a week’s time.

Incredibly, Abel wasn’t punished for this crime. He was sentenced to three-years probation for shooting his ex-wife.

The Main Take-Away

Living as a mixed-race person during and after apartheid was not easy. Trevor Noah faced poverty and racism throughout his life, while also getting mixed-up in crime.

About the Author

Trevor Noah is a South African comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, actor, and television host. He is the current host of The Daily Show, an American satirical news program on Comedy Central. He was born in Johannesburg. He hosted several television shows for the South African Broadcasting Corporation and was the runner-up in the fourth season of South Africa’s iteration of Strictly Come Dancing in 2008.

From 2008 to 2011, he created and hosted the late night talk show Tonight with Trevor Noah, which aired on M-Net and DStv. After his talk show gained international success, he became the Senior International Correspondent for The Daily Show in 2014. In 2015, he succeeded Jon Stewart.

In 2017 and 2018, he was named one of The 35 Most Powerful People in New York Media by The Hollywood Media. In 2018, Time Magazine added him to the list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Start Something That Matters

Start Something That Matters

If you are looking to start your own business, then this book has the advice you need to make that happen. And the only way to get started is to overcome any fears you may have.

Even without a lot of business experience or resources, with Start Something That Matters, Black Mycoskie delivers insight into how to start a company, while also overcoming your fears.

Whether you want a small business selling handmade crafts or something on a more global scale, Mycoskie looks at the fears that hold many of us back and offers advice for overcoming these setbacks and handling any challenges that come your way.

By starting his own company, Blake Mycoskie has been able to put together practical knowledge that shows people how to “recycle” another person’s business card, why even making a mistake is worth rewarding an employee for, and why it is okay to let bad things happen.

Key Points

  • Fear is natural, but letting it go unchecked can be damaging

We all get scared at times, and while it can make us feel ashamed or embarrassed, it is a natural emotion. Typically it is an emotion we experience when we come across a situation for the first time or run into a new experience.

Fear of failure can make us so uncomfortable that we miss out on potential opportunities. However, talking about our fears and being willing to confront them is the only way we can push forward.

  • To overcome a fear, you must first be able to identify that fear

The best way to overcome one’s fear is to face it head-on. Do whatever it is that inspires fear in you and let what happens, happen.

Fear might be one of the most powerful emotions we deal with, but once we confront our fears, we tend to find that they are actually quite minor and we can overcome it with ease.

The author has faced his own fears in business, including when he wanted to start his business, TOMS, in Argentina. At the time, he did not have a lot of experience or even resources, and this left him with the temptation to scrap his business entirely.

Instead, he started by making a list with one side being what he was afraid of and the other being the worst-case scenario. By writing down his fears and the possibility of what could happen, he was able to see that while it may still be scary to try something new, it really wasn’t as bad as he had made it out to be in his head.

  • You can’t predict the future, so don’t let it hold you back

New business ventures are the easiest thing to fear, especially for people who are doing this for the first time. This fear stops many people from even making the first step towards a new business.

However, much of the fear comes from the belief that we need to have a ton of experience going into this venture. This is not actually the case.

No one can predict the future and therefore you can’t actually create a business strategy that is free of risk. You can’t wait for the perfect time to start something new, because there will never be a truly perfect time. And in many cases, people never get started because they have waited too long to begin with.

Instead, to get past the fears that are holding you back, there are strategies to try.

You can read biographies of entrepreneurs who have already achieved success. This can point you to the fears that they had and what they did to overcome them.

Another tip is to write down whatever goals you may have. Having these goals pinned above your desk can be the motivation you need to push through your fears. Motivational quotes can also help.

Surrounding yourself with people who are supportive and motivational will also help you to get through the tough times.

  • Keeping things simple can let you create something successful

When we come across things that are complicated, we assume that it is also sophisticated. However, this is not the right way to look at things. Sometimes things that are complicated are also flawed in some way.

Instead, if you want to achieve success, it is better to keep things simple. This is also true when talking about the design of things, as the more simple the design, the more popular it tends to be.

Keeping things simple is also useful on bigger picture pieces of the business puzzle, such as the business model or strategy.

When sticking to simplicity, it is important to focus on a few of the things that really matter and forget the rest.

It is important to let the little things that are bad happen and remember that they are irrelevant to your future and your success. This will also make it easier to stay on track and work towards your goals. It is about ignoring everything that is not pushing you forward in your business venture.

Even keeping things simple when it comes to daily activities will help improve your work routine and get you to your final destination.

  • Even with limited resources, it is possible to grow a business that is successful

By keeping things simple in business, you will also find that you do not need as many resources. Finding creative solutions in business can show potential investors and partners that you are committed to your goals without wasting money.

And with today’s technology, one’s perceived lack of resources should not be a limitation as there are plenty of things available online for free that can help you with your business.

Even without a lot of resources, you can increase productivity by using free tools such as Google Drive and Doodle. Doodle can help you schedule business meetings, and Google Drive can help with paperwork and organization.

Think of your lack of resources as a way to keep things simple and streamlined when starting your business.

  • Surround yourself with like-minded people who can help build you up

In order to have a successful business, you need a team. This means that you need to surround yourself with like-minded people who can help build you up. Basically, you need the help of other people.

To bring people in who can help you, you may want to put together a map of your network. This just means making a list of all the people that you know.

Every person on your list has their own set of skills and knowledge that can potentially add more value to your business.

Beyond looking at the people close to you, you should also be looking for passionate people who have the same goals as you. When starting a business, you want people who are just as enthusiastic as you are.

Having the right people working with you also means that they will believe in what you are doing and the project itself. These same people will also feel a sense of excitement over being part of something new.

Typically it doesn’t take a lot to spark motivation or a sense of joy in people, especially when you are all passionate about the same things.

  • A good business typically has a sense of humor when it comes to the mistakes they make, while also having a giving nature

It is important to know what kind of business you want to run. And knowing that you are running a good business can be important because there are benefits to being a good business.

Most of the successful companies in the world are known for being philanthropic and being willing to give back. Not only is it about caring about their public image, but it is also about having a company that the employees can think highly of.

It is important to create an environment within the workplace that is all about honesty and trust. This means that you are understanding when an employee makes a mistake. It is very rare that a mistake is so bad that it is irreversible or truly disastrous. So it is important to be understanding and use the mistake in a positive way to learn from the experience.

  • Marketing can mean being a storyteller over just getting the facts out there

Once your business is up and running, you need to be able to market your product and business.

While you may want to use statistics and facts to draw a customer in, the best way to appeal to customers is by telling a story that makes your product or business sound good.

A story that is vivid and detailed will be more memorable than any facts you might offer.

A good story does more than sell a product, it also gives business and product identity. It is all about creating a connection with your customers and evoking emotions in them.

Finding a personal story that works for your business is important, even if it might take time and work.


It is important to overcome your fears when you decide to start a business. Even without any experience or a lot of resources, it is possible to get started and be successful.

At the same time, it is important to have like-minded people around you who can not only lift you up and support you but who is also there to help you build your business.

It is important to be passionate about your product and have employees who are also passionate. Get creative with your business and remember that mistakes happen, but you can use those mistakes to grow and succeed.

About the Author

Blake Mycoskie is an American entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist. He is the founder of TOMS Shoes. He attended Southern Methodist University on a Tennis scholarship but left during his sophomore year after an Achille tendon injury ended his tennis career. He launched his first business, EZ laundry, an on-campus dry cleaning service.

He focused on SMU to get his clientele and expanded to $1 million in sales. After college, he founded Mycoskie Media, an outdoor billboard company focused on country music. It was later sold to Clear Channel nine months after launch.

He competed in the second season of The Amazing Race and finished in third place.

He co-founded a cable network, Reality Central with Larry Namer, a founder of E Entertainment Television. For the company, he raised $25 million from venture capitalists. The network failed in 2005 after Rupert Murdoch launched the Fox Reality Chanel and outbid Reality Central for advertisers and programming.

Mycoskie then launched DriversEd Direct, an online driver’s education service, which offered behind the wheel training in hybrid and sport utility vehicles, He created Closer Marketing Group, a marketing firm based in Santa Monica to promote the company.

After seeing the poverty in Argentina, he founded Shoes for Better Tomorrow, a for-profit business that gave new shoes to poor children. For every pair of shoes sold, the company donated a new pair of shoes. By 2013, the company had donated over 10,000,000 shoes to people in need. The shoes were sold around the world in more than 1000 stores.

His book, Start Something That Matters, is a New York Times bestseller. 100% of the royalties from the book provided grants to entrepreneurs. For every copy of the book sold, Blake Mycoskie promised to give a copy to a child in need.

In 2014, he launched TOMS Roasting Co, offering coffee sourced through direct trade efforts in Rwanda, Honduras, Peru, Guatemala, and Malawi. Mycoskie pledged to donate a week of water to people in need in supplier countries for every bag of coffee sold.

In 2014, Blake Mycoskie sold 50% of TOMS to Bain Capital. He now serves as Chief Shoe Giver. He pledged to donate 50% of profits from the sale to help with social entrepreneurship and other causes.

He is married with one son.

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win

Extreme Ownership By. Jocko Willink & Leif Babin

Key Insights

When you think Navy Seals, you think of leadership skills.

And, though their skills may seem pretty extreme, they can actually be applied to your own life, no matter who you are!

In “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, you get the chance to gain leadership advice from two Navy Seals, who know that the skills they learn in training can be applied anywhere.

“Implementing Extreme Ownership requires checking your ego and operating with a high degree of humility. Admitting mistakes, taking ownership, and developing a plan to overcome challenges are integral to any successful team.”- Jocko Willink

With complicated tasks and hard life decisions, sometimes you need to get a little extreme in terms of your leadership.

Key Points

  • Take Responsibility

It’s important to take ownership when you make a mistake. Even in the Navy, mistakes happen. The author, Willink, tells of a time when he was in Iraq as a task unit commander and his team was attacked. Willink assumed that it meant it was the enemy and commanded his team to fire back. However, later they discovered it was another SEAL unit. And, because of this incident one of their men lost their lives. Willink, however, took responsibility for the reaction and actually saved his job in the process.

He kept his job because good leaders know that good leaders take responsibility for when they make mistakes. And, the best teams are led by leaders who never blame others and who eagerly take criticism.

When a leader starts to blame his team, then the negative energy is spread throughout the team and they begin to perform poorly because they are not working cooperatively. Rather, they are pinned against each other.

“Extreme Ownership. Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.”- Jocko Willink

Leaders are there not just to lead, but also to be a good example to the people under them.

  • You Must Understand Your Mission

In order to successfully fulfill a mission, you must understand its importance in the grand scheme of things.

During Willink’s time in the military, he was told he was going to be fighting with a new Iraqi team alongside his team. He was not a fan of this proposal, but he kept quiet and tried to understand why this was being put to action.

Once, he understood why the mission was happening, he was able to fully get behind it and support it, while encouraging his team to do the same.

When you fully understand your mission you are able to fully commit and carry out the game-plan successfully. But, if you don’t understand what you’re fighting for, then where is your motivation?

As a leader, you must make sure all the objectives of the mission align with your overall goal in order to command your troops to carry it out.

  • Support Network

Your allies should feel like a support network, not your competition.

“Cover and Move” is a tactic that Navy SEALS are given during training. It basically sums up to the idea of working as a team.

All of the components of a company, or a family, or a military unit must work together in order to protect and succeed in their mission.

The enemy is external, not internal.

  • Clear Priorities Under Pressure

During stressful and heightened situations, it’s important for the leader of the troops to stay calm and act wisely by thinking of the team as a whole, rather than an individual.

In training, Navy SEALS learn “prioritize and execute”, which means they must stay calm, evaluate the situation, and take action.

“Prioritize your problems and take care of them one at a time, the highest priority first. Don’t try to do everything at once or you won’t be successful.” I explained how a leader who tries to take on too many problems simultaneously will likely fail at them all.”- Jocko Willink

In a high-stress situation, it’s important to identify the priority. This could be saving someone’s life or saving an important business account. The leader must then communicate that to the team and be open to input from other leaders and their team. Once, the team has come to a decision on how to solve the problem, they must work together to put it into action.

  • Planning For Success

When planning for success, it’s important to be on your toes and anticipate risk.

Leaders should always be prepared for what could happen, even if the chance is slim. This is why military troops go through months and months of training.

With thorough planning, leaders will not be thrown off-guard or be unable to succeed with the task at hand.

Every plan should include all potential risks, including risks that leaders cannot control. And, all plans should be easy to follow and understand by everyone on the team.

  • Give the Right Information

When higher-ups in your company or in your military troop begin asking questions about what you’re doing, do not take it as an attack. Rather, ask yourself, “am I telling them everything they need to know?”

Communication in any job setting is the key to success. And, it’s imperative to keep a clean relationship with your supervisors in order to be trusted and part of the team mission.

A good leader communicates with their higher-ups and their team effectively, so that no one feels as if they are not apart of the mission.

Main Take-Away

As a leader, you must take responsibility and communicate well with your team in order to succeed in the overall mission. You must also plan for all potential risks, even ones that are out of your control.

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person

Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

Key Takeaways

“You never say yes to anything.”

These are the six words said by her sister that led to Shonda Rhimes spending the entire next year saying yes to any and every opportunity that she feared or resisted. Saying no got her in her present situation: wildly successful yet authentically miserable. She therefore reasoned that saying yes to anything and everything might be a way to get to a better place within herself. If saying yes did not get her somewhere better, it would get her somewhere different.

About the Author

Shonda Rhimes is a self-professed liar, but for good reason--it’s the reason for her claim to fame. As the mastermind writer behind television show hits Greys Anatomy, Private Practice and Scandal, her talent for storytelling has landed her many accolades and awards including being named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 People Who Help Shape the World (2007), the 2014 Directors Guild of America Award, the 2012 Golden Gate Award and multiple NAACP Image Awards. Rhimes is a television producer, screenwriter, author and is a graduate of both Dartmouth College the University of Southern California. She is the proud mother of three children.

Synopsis, in Brief

-When continuing to say no is leading to nowhere and standing still is no longer an option, say yes...to everything.

-If we lack within ourselves what it takes to take chances, we need someone else to give us a push. It took having her sister tell her she never says yes to anything to give Rhimes the push she needed to do something different.

-As a self-professed liar and storyteller, Rhimes found grave difficulty in getting honest with herself about her fear of saying yes to new opportunities.

-Saying no meant there was nothing new to fear.

-Saying yes also meant accepting compliments. Prior to her year of yes, Rhimes would modestly downplay the compliments of others. Her year of saying yes led her to realize it’s alright to enjoy the praise of others.

-Success and accolades do not equal self-acceptance and fulfillment.

-Feeling beautiful comes with loving your body and making a commitment to saying yes to doing what is best for it. Rhimes was able to lose over 120lbs by saying yes to exercise and clean eating.

-Sometimes saying yes means saying ‘no’: making difficult decisions and having tough conversations is important for healthy relationships. Say no to those who are depleting you.

-Yes means engaging in authentic friendships by ending ties with toxic people in our lives.

-The year of yes taught Rhimes how to love and trust her own authentic self by embracing challenges.

Tools for Saying Yes

-Say YES to Play: become comfortable with choosing relaxation and leisure over work.

-Say YES to prioritizing your personal and professional boundaries. For Rhimes, this meant adding a statement to her email signature letting recipients know she will not engage in work emails after 7pm or on weekends. The clause also encouraged her employees to put down their phones (and do the same).

-Say YES to joining the club: this may mean partaking in activities as a minority or as a woman, that are opportunities to break through barriers of perceived exclusivity in order to be an agent of impact on that organization.

-Saying YES to asserting yourself in difficult conversations by saying NO.

-Saying YES to seeing people not how you want them to appear, but as they are in their own authenticity. Weed out people from your inner circle if they don’t live up to your standards and values.

-“Dance it out” is a reference to the final scene of Shonda’s television show Grey’s Anatomy Season 10, where characters Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Cristina (Sandra Oh) prepare for Cristina’s move to Zurich (and Oh’s exit from the show). Before leaving, Cristina meets with Meredith for one last dance. The two dance and laugh carelessly, enjoying a few moments of bliss in spite of the sadness. Rhimes implores us to gracefully exit daunting tribulations in life by dancing them out blissfully and intentionally, in pursuit of our own true happiness.

What I Know for Sure

What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey

Key Insights

Oprah Winfrey is iconic. When people think of her, images like Oprah screaming “You get a car! And you get a car!” on her famous talk show come to mind. Even though she seems larger than life in many ways, In her book What I know for sure, Oprah unleashes some very down to earth advice.

The book title was chosen from an interaction where someone asked her what she knew for sure, and she couldn’t find an answer in the moment. Later, as answers came to her, she began to write. Soon afterwards, her column “What I Know for Sure” was created.

This book is a compilation of those columns. In each essay, she touches on topics she has personally struggled with, including isolation, loneliness, and feeling like she isn’t valued. And since the advice is coming directly from Oprah herself you know it's good (even if it might not be a car).

Struggling with a difficult decision

We’ve all been there, even Oprah. Sometimes there seems to be no right answer, or conversely, sometimes both all solutions seem to have equal merits. In regards to indecision, Oprah wants you to ask yourself:

“What would I do if I wasn’t afraid of making a mistake, feeling rejected, looking foolish, or being alone?”

Sometimes fear is the invisible force that is preventing you from doing the things that you really want to do. What feels like indecision is really an inner battle between what you want, and how strong your fears are. If you take your fears out of the equation for a moment, what decision do you want to make?

But even the process of struggling through making decisions presents it's own gifts. Oprah talks about how facing struggles and moments of indecision show you what is meaningful to you, and can showcase your greatest strengths. Let’s say your a mom who is trying to decide whether or not she should go back to school to finish her degree. Wrought with indecision and paralyzed with fear, she cannot make a decision. If she goes back to school, she is worried that her children will not get enough attention. On the other hand, she is absolutely terrified that she won’t be smart enough to be successful in her education. Choosing to leave is different than being too stupid to perform. She imagines falling behind, being ostracised for being older… and she can’t make a choice. She’s always dreamed of furthering her education, but fear has prevented her from moving forward.

If she looks to Oprah's line for guidance, the choice becomes a little simpler. What would she do if she wasn’t afraid of looking stupid? Of making a mistake?

Though this example may seem simple, many life decisions can become almost as simplified when you take the fear out of the equation.

It is ok to struggle with indecision. It is ok to let fear play a role in your solutions. However, it is not ok to let the fear of making a mistake, reeling rejected, looking foolish, or being alone dictate the way you make decisions in your life.

Hitting a dark patch

Sometimes things go your way, and sometimes they don’t. When you lose something, especially something essential that once defined you, the feelings and consequences can be absolutely crippling. Oprah calls these moments, “stand-down” moments. Moments that require you to stand up, and to know who you are, even who you are without the things that you thought defined you. Because they don’t. Your marriage, your job: these losses do not define who you are. How you survive these dark patches does. Oprah states:

“Being willing to learn from these challenges is the difference between succeeding and getting stuck”. Hard to imagine when emotionally you’re down in the dirt. However, changing the way you think about your situation is key to overcoming it. Getting stuck, just like overcoming obstacles, is a decision.

And Oprah hit a dark patch when she got demoted from her job as an Anchor for a news show in Baltimore, and now she’s Oprah. She wouldn’t have had time for a talk show had that demotion not happened. You don’t know where something as seemingly hopeless as a demotion can lead. You simply have to make the choice to continue.

On the topic of love

Oprah has talked to thousands of people, and one of the many things she knows for sure is that people want to feel valued. Oprah learned how much people want to feel valued when she interviewed men who had affairs. The thing that drew them away? Feeling valued by their mistresses. That’s just how important being valued can be. Oprah reminds us that the love we so desperately crave has to come from within, and can never come from another source. Oprah says, “Look inward, the loving begins with you”. See “Taking your pleasure seriously” for tips on how to do that.

On the topic of successful relationships, she also mentions that communication is one of the most essential elements of a successful relationship. Unfortunately, it's also the most challenging. When things get confusing, she says to simply ask your partner what they really want. Cut to the chase. You might be surprised by the answer. Sometimes what may appear to be an argument about a surface level issue, really goes much deeper. When your partner is yelling at you about the garbage not being taken out, they might really be saying they don’t feel valued. In fact, Oprah says, usually that’s some form of what they will say. Seems like being valued is important… now where have we heard that before?

She also states that “if you are holding someone accountable for your happiness, you’re wasting your time”. Read that again. There are much better things you could be doing with that time your wasting. See “taking pleasure seriously”.

Take your pleasure seriously

When was the last time you thoroughly enjoyed something? Like full focus, sitting back, pure pleasure? Oprah talks about hers: it was when she had a sip of her favorite Masala Chai Tea at 4:00 pm. She goes on to talk about enjoying these pleasures (or “Ahhhhh moments”) wholeheartedly. Whether it's laughing on the phone with a friend, or reading a good book, it is important to take the time to fully enjoy the things that make you feel good. And if you can do something that makes someone else feel good too, well that’s just an extra bonus. She also talks about ways to feel wonder. She states “life will lull you into numbness if you pass up on opportunities to feel wonder”. She (adorably) realized this after she adopted three puppies on impulse. If you don’t want to deal with the dog hair, there are other ways to feel wonder too.

Speaking of feeling wonder, one way to truly enjoy your pleasure is to learn to be in the moment. Oprah says living in the moment is an important spiritual practice. How exactly do you do that? Right now, you’re reading this sentence. Now you’re reading this one. You are here, in your chair, in this moment. Something like that.

If you get the choice to sit it out, or dance

Oprah dances. Metaphorically, and literally. She was given the chance to dance with Tina Turner on her show, and she took it! Amidst her rock star moment, Oprah says she felt tremendous trepidation and stress, but she also told herself that if she focused too much on the stress and the worry, the moment would pass too quickly. Oprah goes on to say, “You can either waltz boldly onto the stage of life and live the way your spirit is nudging you to, or you can sit quietly by the wall, receding into the shadows of fear and self doubt”. When given the opportunity, do you explore, live and enjoy? Or do you let fear control your actions? Oprah doesn’t sit it out, she dances! And she thinks you might feel good if you gave it a try too.

One of Oprah’s other important tips: READ! She credits much of her enjoyment of life to reading. Whether you’re reading a novel, reading the back of a conditioner bottle, or reading the fine book summaries here on Sumizeit, reading is a great way to expand your mind while also entering other dimensions.

There you have it! Oprah’s What I Know for Sure. These tips can be helpful in changing your perception and increasing your awareness (even if they still aren’t a new car).

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods By. Jeff Benedict & Armen Keteyian

Key Insights

Tiger Woods is a name that comes to mind when discussing golf.

But, because of unfortunate events in his life, his name also comes up when the topic of infidelity arises.

When Woods was under scrutiny for his marital problems, he decided to take a break from his golfing career to deal with these issues.

However, Woods is back in the spotlight to use his talent to gain success once again.

“As a human being, he might not have been lovable—or even likable—but as a performer, he possessed unsurpassed talents that he honed through a lifetime of practice. On Sunday afternoons, he shared his gifts with millions, enabling them to forget reality and vicariously experience thrills that were more exhilarating than anything felt in a church pew.”- Jeff Benedict & Armen Keteyian

In, “Tiger Woods” by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian you will learn if Woods has what it takes to make a total comeback. You will also discover what led him down that dark path in the first place.

Key Points

  • Tiger Woods Was Created To Be A Golf Legend

Tiger Woods was born in 1975. He started learning how to play golf at the age of two from watching his father Earl play.

According to neuroscientists and their studies on child development, Wood’s early exposure to the game primed him for success.

Even at just two years old, Woods spent two hours a day golfing. Earl was mighty impressed and even had a local reporter come to the golfing range to cover the story of his child.

The reporter Jim Hill was impressed as well and invited Woods on his TV show where he predicted that Woods would be a golf pro.

  • Earl Was Overbearing and Controlling

Earl had high goals for Woods from a young age. And, he let everybody know. Earl was also not against shortcuts and non-traditional methods in order to ensure that Woods would be a golf star one day.

While growing up, Woods had only a couple of friends. Earl would not let him join team sports in school. Because golf was a solo sport, Earl made sure to keep Woods isolated.

Woods had the best golf instructors in the business who helped him with his swing at no cost because of his talent, ambition, and previous success.

Earl did not take a traditional route when it came to fathering Woods. He would put him through mentally abusive tests calling him names and degrading him to ensure that he would remain tough throughout his life. One of the main reasons he put Woods through these tests was because the PGA had a history of racial bias.

Earl believed that by Woods making it big in the golf world, which was a very “white” sport at the time, he would help solve the problem of racism in sports.

Earl put too much pressure on his young son. It was a burden Woods could not handle.

  • Tiger Woods Changed the Game of Golf

Throughout Woods’s life, the people around him knew that he would go pro. Everyone in the tournament world knew his name and his skills kept getting sharper and sharper with every swing.

When Woods was 16-years-old he became the youngest person to participate in the PGA Tour Competition.

And, when he was 18-years-old he won his first US Amateur Open. He was also the first African-American to win this tournament, as well. This made his father, Earl, push the race-card even further by comparing Woods to other famous black activists. Woods, however, was not interested in being an activist.

Woods then attended Stanford University on a full golf scholarship where he studied economics for two years before deciding to be a pro-golfer.

Woods was pressured by his parents to quit his education and go pro to earn money.

He became an official pro in 1996 and received endorsement deals from Nike and Titleist. He was worth more than $60 million before his first game as a pro-golfer.

  • Woods Got Into Trouble Outside of the Spotlight

Tiger Woods was a name that you heard over and over in the golf world. At the age of 21, he won his first Masters Tournament. Because of his quick success, he gained a lot of followers.

At the age of 24, he won a Career Grand Slam, which means winning four big international tournaments. But, even with all his success Woods was never done practicing. He was never satisfied. He even asked his coach, Butch Harmon, to help him redesign his classic swing.

A lot of Woods’s competition was intimidated by him because he was such a determined and ambitious player. His father had done his duty of preparing Wood’s mentally, but his mental mindset also got him into trouble behind the scenes.

Woods was making millions and with that came women who wanted a part of it. Despite having a family and kids, Woods pursued these women.

In 2004, Woods married his lovely wife Elin Nordegren and from the outside, the couple looked happy and whole. However, that wasn’t so. Woods was having affairs left and right in hotels as well as his own home.

Because Woods was so successful he acted as if he could behave without consequences. And because of his lack of affection from his parents and friends he led a reckless life searching for intimacy.

  • When Things Start To Unravel

In the year 2009, The National Enquirer released an article on Woods’s secret affair with a nightclub manager named Rachel Uchitel.

Reporters ate this story up and stalked Uchitel until they confirmed the affair.

Woods denied the affair. He even set up a call between Uchitel and Elin to try to prove that nothing was happening between them.

The night before Thanksgiving, Elin took a peek into Wood’s phone and found a text to Uchitel declaring his love.

When Wood’s heard his wife crying, he woke up startled by his sleeping pill-induced sleep. He immediately got into his car to drive away from the scene but ended up crashing into his neighbor’s driveway.

The news of the crash was the buzz around the world. Woods had no choice but to fess up to all his affairs. Many women came forward, as well. That is when Woods decided to announce a break from golf.

Woods was more publicized than the 9/11 attacks and became the cover of the New York Post for 21 days in a row. Because of this, he lost many of his endorsement deals.

That’s when Woods decided he needed to take a look at his behaviors throughout the years.

  • Tiger’s Treatment

In 2009, Woods admitted to being a sex addict and sought treatment to cure it. This was not surprising to professionals as many sex addicts come from childhoods with little affection and strict rules.

Earl also suffered with an addictive personality when it came to drinking, tobacco, and women. Woods inherited those vices.

In August 2010, Woods and Elin divorced and he continued to play golf. However, he did not feel the same way about the sport. A big part of this is because his coach Hank Haney quit because of the one-sided relationship that he felt he and Woods had. Woods gave no interest to anyone but himself.

Woods’s game was worse than it had ever been. He tried to overcompensate by practicing regular weight-lifting, but it had negative health consequences.

In 2014, Woods had to endure three spinal surgeries which required recovery time and another break from the sport.

  • Tiger’s Return

In November of 2017, Woods returned to the professional golf scene after a long hiatus.

Right before his comeback, Woods had another scandal with an accident involving the abuse of painkillers. But, this time, instead of denying it, he took the blame right away and owned up to his mistake. He once again sought the help of professionals.

After his hiatus, Woods took 9th out of 18 in his first golf game. His progress to be where he continued and he plans to play full-time.

The people around him noticed his cold personality turn warmer and cheerier. Woods has become more engaged with his fans and following.

Woods also has become a better father, spending more time with his children. He is working hard to be a respectable role model and a loving encourager to his offspring.

The Main Take-Away

Tiger Woods is a living golf legend. He started his career at the age of two and was controlled by his overbearing father and forced to reach the top. However, his upbringing brought about destructive behavior later in life. Woods is now working hard to change his image, while still improving his game.

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder

You have probably heard of him as “the Wizard of Omaha,” the boy who, by eleven, had already saved up $120, which was a lot of money in 1941, and who used this money to make his first investment in the company Cities Served Preferred.

Warren Edward Buffett, one of the world’s few billionaires, has a net worth of $89,4 billion.

In her book, to understand how Buffett went from a broke young boy in Omaha to one of the richest and most successful men in the world, author Alice Schroeder leads us through his journey as the most famous investor of the twentieth and twentieth-first centuries in a way that anyone can learn how to get rich as Buffett himself did.


  • Start Them Young: How Warren Buffett Made His First Investment at the Age of 11

Warren Buffett was born on August 20, 1930, only a few months after the Great Depression hit the country, leaving most investors broke, to Howard Buffett, a stockbroker and member of Congress, and Leila Buffett (née Stahl).

Young Warren’s early interest for numbers, probabilities and statistics was noticed and encouraged by his family. When he was nine years old, he was already making money by working several jobs, such as selling peanuts and Coke at football games.

At the age of eleven, having saved $120, he bought six shares of the company Cities Service Preferred: three for himself and three for his sister Doris. In 1942, after his father was elected to Congress, Warren began working as a newspaper delivery boy; at some point, he was earning $175 a month, and it was not long before his savings summed up to $1,000.

At the age of fourteen, Warren Buffett would fill his first tax return.

Years later, during his college years at Columbia University, Warren would come to learn several of the most important lessons and fundamental investment strategies in his life: for example, the importance of investigating a company from top to bottom before investing in it. He took a particular liking to study his professor Benjamin Graham’s “buy and hold” investment theories, and would later call him “the Albert Einstein of the investments.”

It was also during his Columbia years that he would meet his wife, Susie Thompson. Though her father liked Warren immediately, it took a while before Susie herself finally fell for his nerdy, awkward charm. Their daughter, Susie Alice Buffett, was born in 1953, the very same year Buffett got his dream job at his mentor Ben Graham’s investment firm, Graham-Newman. Warren quickly became the company’s rising star, yet he realized he hated being a stockbroker for multiple reasons. He would eventually launch his own company, Buffett Associates, Ltd, in 1956, after the birth of his second child, Howie Graham Buffett.

Buffett Associates only included friends and relatives, and there were straightforward rules, which were listed in his company’s original partnership agreement, behind investments so that no one would be disappointed afterward or have unrealistic expectations. At this same time, Benjamin Graham decided to retire and closed his company, but on his way out made sure to recommend his pupil Buffett as a reliable man for his clients to invest their money with.

  • Like a Snowball: Why Warren’s Investments Never Go Wrong

During his first year as his own boss, Warren Buffett began a series of eight partnerships, and every time he started a new one he made sure the new partner understood his rules and his philosophy: he would only invest in undervalued stocks, and any earnings would be reinvested in the same shares. It was like rolling a snowball down the hill: what starts as something small eventually grows into something bigger and bigger. He also made sure to tell any potential clients that he wasn’t the kind of investor who cashed out when a stock hit a certain number — he was a very patient man.

And, boy, did his patience pay off! By 1956, his partnerships had hit the market by 4%; one year later, it was ten percent, and finally, three years later, at the end of 1960, it was 29%. Call it a snowball!

Before 1960 was over, Buffett was already managing more than a million dollars. He still searched for undervalued companies, and whenever he found something he wanted, he bought as many shares as possible, which also meant earning a seat on the board to make sure that the executives didn’t waste or do anything foolish with the money invested.

Some people still couldn’t believe in his success, though: because Buffett was one of the few major players who didn’t work in New York City, several established moneymen remained skeptical. They predicted that he would go broke any day now. Yet, his doings were starting to go beyond Omaha to Wall Street.

One of the people who were quick to recognize Warren’s tremendous success and talent was lawyer and investor Charlie Munger. The two would quickly become good friends, and this friendship would later lead to a fruitful business partnership.

But it wasn’t until 1963 that Warren’s business became even more significant and his success, even louder for those who still didn’t believe him.

In the same year, President John F. Kennedy was murdered, few people were thinking about anything but what would be of their country under Lyndon B. Johnson. However, Buffett was far more interested in a story about a soybean scandal involving American Express. Sounds familiar?

Here’s what happened: a subsidiary of American Express had certified that individual storage tanks contained soybean oil, yet it turned out to be filled with seawater; you can imagine how bad that looked for American Express, and its stocks fell quicker than a lightning bolt. That didn’t matter to Buffett, though: he knew that, at some point, the company would be back on its feet.

So when prices were so low, Warren began gradually pouring money into the company, first $3 million, then, three years later, in 1966, $13 million. Of course, the company gained life again, and before Buffett knew it, he was a billionaire by the age of 35. He had bought entire businesses with the rewards provided by American Express’s shares, which were now being sold for $7,50 per share.

Now, in 1965, after some negotiation, Buffett got controlling interest in Berkshire Hathaway, the Massachusetts textile manufacturer, by purchasing 49% of it at only $11 per share. That was one of the first buyouts that would come to define Warren Buffett’s life and career.

Though Buffett is always associated with Berkshire Hathaway, it doesn’t mean his story with the company was still roses: it would come to be so problematic that he would regret buying it years later. Yet, he wasn’t the kind of investor to cut losses, a philosophy that came years before his involvement with Berkshire Hathaway: Buffett kept the company alive by purchasing winning stocks in its name every chance he got, something that would eventually give Berkshire Hathaway one of the best stock portfolios in the world.

His experience with Berkshire Hathaway would lead the way to another of his most treasured rules: he would never buy stock in a company that offered a product or service that he didn’t fully understand. Buffett liked things “easy, safe, profitable, and pleasant,” as he said himself numerous times, which led to another rule: no involvement with businesses that had potential or proven “human problems,” such as layoffs, plant closing or executives fighting each other or labor unions.

There were lots of things Warren Buffett cared about, yet one of the things he decidedly didn’t was appearance: even after he became a millionaire, he remained a shabby dresser, to his wife’s horror. He was far more concerned with the characteristics and personal details of the people who worked for him; you see, he was a prudent man, and he always made sure his businesses were being run by competent, smart, caring people just like himself, people in whom he made sure he could trust. One of his significant buyouts, Baltimore department store Hochschild-Kohn, was made mostly in consideration to the people who worked behind the scenes. For example, it wasn’t until Buffett knew he had found a great manager, namely Jack Ringwalt, that he decided to buy the Omaha insurance business National Indemnity; by the end of 1966, the company had outperformed the market by 36%.

When it came to home and family matters, one cannot say Warren was much involved: he was always working, and his wife Susie constantly hoped her husband might retire and dedicate more time and attention to their children, who were growing up fast and most often without Warren’s presence in their lives. She, meanwhile, was a very politically active woman: she took part in anti-war and pro-civil rights marches and movements during the 1960s and 1970s. Eventually, Warren himself would come to engage in politics as well, but after only the death of his father, who was a Republican Congressman and who didn’t share Warren’s political opinions. Finally, in 1967, Warren became the treasurer for the Nebraska office for Democratic presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy.

In 1969, after years of dreaming of owning his paper, Warren Buffett purchased a controlling interest of the local newspaper, the Omaha Sun, after making $16 million in earnings in the same year; it not only fulfilled Warren’s childhood dream, but it would also grant him an awards years later, in 1972, after the newspaper released an article called “Boys Town: America’s Wealthiest City?”, about a corrupted shelter for boys run by a priest which had been stockpiling donations, grants, and funds, amassing approximately $18 million per year. The scoop made Warren the Pulitzer Prize for outstanding regional journalism winner of that year, and the story immediately went national, leading to reform on how non-profit organizations are run, and all thanks to Buffett, who helped investigate the whole case.

After the tremendous success, the story brought him and the Omaha Sun, Warren had his sight set on a celebrated national newspaper: the Washington Post. One year later, in 1973, he already owned 5% of the company and even developed a close friendship with its publisher, Kay Graham, whose father had started the newspaper. He attended several of Graham’s lavish dinner parties, always awkwardly trying to not embarrass himself in front of diplomats, respected senators, actors, and international dignitaries.

Still, life isn’t always a wonderland for wealthy entrepreneurs and investors like Warren Buffett: actually, there were several difficult times in his life, notably when Santa Barbara Financial Company filed a complaint with the Security Exchange Committee (SEC) claiming that both Buffett and his partner, Charlie Munger, had purposely overpaid the acquisition of a company called WESCO to ruin its merge with SBFC, which was not valid. What happened was that Buffett and Munger were planning to acquire WESCO when Santa Barbara Financial Company — a company that, according to Buffett himself, was “bad news” — became interested in buying it too. So Buffett flew to California to convince Betty Caper Peters, the last surviving member of WESCO’s founding family, to sell the company, which she eventually did, deeply infuriating Santa Barbara Financial Company. This was 1974, a tense year for Buffet after the SEC launched an investigation on both his and Munger’s companies, including Berkshire Hathaway and Blue Chip.

What truly made the SEC suspicious of Buffett and his partners was the structure of his companies: there were five big parent companies, such as Berkshire Hathaway, that owned five or more companies individually, which in turn owned more companies, and so on. That confused the investigators and only made Buffett more anxious about the investigation that, thankfully, ended up without any damage to his or his companies’ reputation.

Back home, Susie wasn’t pleased with the proximity between her husband and The Washington Post’s editor Kay Graham, with whom she thought he was having an affair. She eventually began her romance with her tennis instructor. She ended up writing a personal letter to Graham, declaring that she was free to have a relationship with Warren, who was still much more focused on work than on his relationships.

In 1977, when Susie decided to move to San Francisco now that the children no longer lived with them, she hired a young woman she knew from a nightclub to cook and look after Buffett, who was still shocked by his wife’s departure. Years later, in 2006, this young woman, Astrid, would become Warren’s second wife.

Amidst all of this, Buffett would engage himself in a legal battle that would take years to resolve: he and Charlie Munger had acquired another newspaper, the Buffalo Evening News, which they planned to introduce by offering the first five issues for free, followed by a discount price. But their competition in the area, the Buffalo’s Courier-Express, didn’t like the idea and consequently filed a lawsuit, claiming that such an offer constituted unfair practice. The judge would later rule in favor of the Courier-Express. However, Buffett naturally appealed, and would only win the battle years then, in 1981, after the paper had already lost millions of dollars.

  • Keep Them Always by your Side: How Friends like Kay Graham and Bill Gates Helped and Influenced the Wizard of Omaha

It is no secret that keeping loyal friends by your side is one of the best decisions you can take in life, and Warren Buffett certainly knew that: when GEICO, a company whose board Warren was part of, was facing several financial problems, an executive called John Gutfreund, who worked for the Wall Street trading house Salomon Brothers, helped him raise funds for the company to get back on its feet. Buffett was so grateful that, when Gutfreund’s own company had its problems, he was more than willing to help.

At the beginning of the 1980s, hostile takeovers became the primary way of doing business in Wall Street: everyone was racking up debts by making deals based on credit, and no one hated this practice more than Warren, who was a firm believer in the cash-only practice. Therefore, when Gutfreund asked for his help in ’86, Buffett agreed to join the board of Salomon Brothers to help them solve their problems this time; he had such a reputation for being associated with only the most stable and most reliable companies that his sole presence in the board was a clear sign that the company was in good hands and fully protected.

Unfortunately, Buffett had no idea of the troubles that laid ahead of him.

Because an employer called Paul Mozer had been caught in a significant financial scandal related to illegally bidding in government auctions and the company had failed to take proper action after finding out about it, Warren was made interim-CEO and put together a whole new leadership board and new reforms, using his contacts to plead his case to prevent the Treasury Department from barring the Salomon Brothers from future auctions.

And even though Buffett didn’t integrate himself to the new technologies arising, his career and reputation still took a downward turn in the 1990s, a proof that he managed to stay relevant and successful while steering clear of the newborn NASDAQ: between 1978 and 1991, his net worth jumped from $89 million to $3.8 billion, which is more than merely successful, I might say.

It was then that he would come to meet Bill Gates, who he agreed to meet at a Fourth of July part in 1991 because Warren wanted to invest in Gates’ rising company, Microsoft. Both went to the party thinking that nothing would come out of it, though, to their surprise, the meeting led to a conversation that lasted the rest of the weekend, and Warren ended up buying 100 shares of the company at once. After that, Gates began attending Warren’s annual shareholder meetings, along with Charlie Munger and Kay Graham.

They both competed for the title of “richest man in the world” throughout the 1990s and 2000s, yet their friendship lasted through everything and anything. Eventually, a trip with Gates to China helped open Warren’s eyes to his lucky place in the world, which would only reinforce his humble and thankful attitude.

In the 2000s, Buffett faced personal losses that made him stop and reevaluate what’s truly important in life, starting with family and friends. First, it was the loss of Kay Graham, who passed away in 2001 due to having fallen down and striking her head while visiting Sun Valley, Idaho, which put an end to their 30-year friendship and left Warren genuinely devastated. Then, two months later, September 11 happened, and things only became worse and opened Warren’s eyes to the fact that times were changing. Therefore one needed to invest in companies that offered some degree of certainty and secureness. That was the period during which he would invest in companies that made the farm’s equipment and children’s clothing.

In 2003, when Susie was diagnosed with stage 3 oral cancer, Warren took time off to take care of his wife, even though they no longer lived together, and he was in a relationship with Astrid. She would sadly pass away one year later, in 2004, and Warren would spend weeks in bed after her death, not talking to anyone; when he finally emerged, it was now with the desire to be closer to his children and to help other people with his money: he donated 85% of Berkshire Hathaway, which was worth approximately $36 billion, to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He divided another six million between Susie’s charitable foundation and his children’s foundations.

The key message in this book is: though Warren Buffett’s life was almost always focused on rolling the “snowball” — investing and reinvesting his earnings in companies — he never lost sight of the human side of the business. He paid attention not only to the monetary side, but also to the sentimental one, and always made sure to see more than just money and success in a company. He, one of the richest men in the world, will also go down in history as one of the humblest and most charitable.

About the Author

Alice Schroeder is an American author and former insurance analyst.

As a project manager for the US FASB, she managed SFAS No. 113. She was a columnist for Bloomberg News. She graduated with an MBA from McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. She worked as a CPA at Ernst and Young in Houston. She then worked as a project manager for the Financial Accounting Standards Boards in Connecticut.

In 1993, she left FASB to work as an insurance investment analyst for Downling Partners in Hartford.

In 2000, she started working for Morgan Stanley, where she was voted the #1 Property-Casualty insurance analyst for a period of two years after being ranked a member as the Institutional Investor All-America Research team for seven years.

In 2003, Schroeder began traveling to Omaha to research and write Buffett’s official biography. She was the first and only analyst at Morgan Stanley to be granted an interview with Buffet, who gave Schroeder full access to the going ons of his life. The Snowball was published in 2008 and debuted at #1 on The New York Times. The New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin called it one of her ten favorite books of 2008. Time and People named it on the ten best books of the year. The Snowball is a comprehensive overview of Buffet’s life, wisdom, and philosophy.

Schroeder currently works as a Bloomberg News columnist.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs is a visionary. Steve’s biological mother gave him up for adoption in 1955. Paul and Clara Jobs then adopted Steve in Silicon Valley.

Their home had floor-to-ceiling glass walls which helped the home be modern and minimalistic. Steve was greatly influenced by the clean, simple style of their home.

He took this love for minimalist design into all of his future work. He partnered with his friend Steve Wozniak to create a simple, streamlined computer that started the Apple company.

Steve’s work at Apple was innovations that inspired and changed the world. He designed computers, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad. This leading technology sparked many industry standards we see today.

But his path to these successes was a rocky one.

Key Points

  • While in high school, Steve met a computer technician named Steve Wozniak. In 1971, they create a device called the “Blue Box” that allowed them to make long-distance calls for free.
  • Steve experimented with drugs and spirituality in the 1960s. He has said that his refined aesthetics are due to his psychedelic drug use.
  • In 1972, Steve dropped out of college but continued taking classes like calligraphy that will play a role in his future products. The design for Apple products remains clean and simple due to Steve’s love for minimalism. This aesthetic goes into every part of the product including user interfaces.
  • In the 1970s, Steve wanted to start his own business and Wozniak had an idea for a personal computer. Wozniak's idea was to put all computer components together into one machine with a screen and keyboard.
  • In 1976, with $1,300 in capital, Steve and Wozniak founded Apple. During the first month, Steve and Wozniak built 100 computers by themselves. This product was Apple I.
  • Steve was very temperamental and controlling. He would flip out if the products weren’t working or perfect. He verbally abused people. During the production of Apple II, Steve and Apple’s president, Mike Scott, would get into confrontations.
  • Apple II sold 6 million units and became an icon. Steve wasn’t satisfied, so he created the Macintosh computer. The Macintosh had a powerful graphics card and had a mouse. In 1984, Macintosh became a success and made Steve an icon with it.
  • However, due to Steve continuing to verbally abuse people, the board of directors at Apple fired Steve in 1985. Steve then designed NeXT, a square computer that did not have market success.
  • By 1988, Steve invested over $50 million into Pixar. Since Steve had 80% of Pixar’s shares, his net worth shot up to $1.2 billion when Pixar went public.
  • Steve then met Laurene Powell in 1991 and had three children: Reed, Erin and Eve. Steve also has a daughter, Lisa, from a previous relationship.
  • By 1996, Apple was on the decline. Apple acquired NeXT for its software. Steve then went back at Apple as an advisor. He placed the NEXT employees in high positions at Apple and used this momentum to gain back power.
  • Apple’s board of directors offered Steve the CEO position again, but Steve declined at first. In 1997 Apple lost over $1 billion but gained back $300 million once Steve was CEO again.
  • Afterward, Steve partnered with Jony Ive to design the iMac. With its launch in 1998, it became the fastest-selling product at Apple.
  • The Apple Store was then created. Steve designed the store with a minimalist aesthetic. The first one opened in May 2001 and was a huge success.
  • Apple launched the iPod. People feared that the average consumer could not afford such a device, but the iPod was half of Apple’s revenue by 2007.
  • When phones started to have built-in music players, Steve worried that the iPod would become obsolete, so Apple launched the iPhone in 2007. The iPhone then became half of Apple’s revenue by 2010.
  • Apple launched the iPad in 2010 and it sold 15 million units in the first 9 months.
  • Steve and Bill Gates had a rivalry. Steve accused Bill of copying Macintosh’s user interface. Steve also accused Google of copying the iPhone in Android OS.
  • By 2003, Steve was diagnosed with cancer and refused surgery for 9 months. After having a tumor removed, Job’s cancer returned in 2008. Steve tried natural treatment to help his cancer, but his health deteriorated and he died in 2011.
  • Steve believed that he achieved everything he wanted and was happy with his life and career. He left a legacy of a seamless user experience. Apple products set the standard for slim, clean design and user-friendly interfaces.

About the Author

Walter Isaacson is an American writer and journalist. He works as a professor of history at Tulane University. He has written biographics of Leonardo da Vinci, Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Enstein, and Henry Kisinger. He graduated from Harvard University in 1974, where he majored in History and Literature. He then attended the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar at Pembroke College, where he studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and graduated with First Class Honours. His book on Steve Jobs earned him the Gerald Loeb Award in 2012, and he was selected as one of the Time 100, a list of the most influential people in the world. His biography on Steve Jobs was published weeks after Job's death and became an international best seller. The book was based on forty interviews with Jobs over a two year period and on conversations with people close to Jobs.

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

Shoe Dog By Phil Knight

Key Insights

Just Do It.

That’s a phrase we’ve all heard before. And, it was made famous by Nike.

This catchy three-word phrase captures the ignitive fiery spirit of Phil Knight when he first founded Nike.

In “Shoe Dog” Knight shares his secrets for success through the telling of his untraditional business building.

“I’d tell men and women in their mid-twenties not to settle for a job or a profession or even a career. Seek a calling. Even if you don’t know what that means, seek it. If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt.”- Phil Knight

You’ll be inspired by Knight’s creativity and honesty as he points you in the direction of entrepreneurial success through his well-crafted memoir.

Key Points

  • It All Starts With A “Crazy” Idea

Phil Knight graduated from business school in 1962. He was 24. At the time, he was not a people-person. In fact, he was terribly shy.

But, Knight had this concept of importing Japanese-style running shoes to America. The name-brand he had in mind was Tiger, which was a smaller part of the big-name Japanese brand Onitsuka.

“History is one long processional of crazy ideas.”- Phil Knight

Knight was so determined to snag this opportunity that despite his terrible sales skills, boarded a plane to Japan to pitch to a room of Japanese businessmen. Not only was the deal sealed, but Knight explains that traveling became one of the biggest inspirations for his future business projects.

When he shipped out to Japan, Knight was holding a loan from his Dad in order to extend his journey around the world. He traveled with a college-friend of his from Hawaii to Asia to the Middle East and Europe. He famously visited Greece where he beheld the Temple of Athena Nike. And, this was long before Nike was even a seed of a company!

His courageous leap landed him a deal and had him untraditionally selling Tiger shoes out of the trunk of his car while working as an accountant for half of a year.

  • An Inspiration

Knight argues that having inspiration in your life and a mentor can propel your dreams forward. Knight’s personal inspiration was his college track coach, Bill Bowerman.

Bill, like Knight, was a “shoe dog”. A “shoe dog”, in the industry, is a person who is literally shoe-obsessed and believes that the right shoe can lead a person confidently in the direction of their dreams.

Bowerman, as a coach, believed the shoe made the difference. And, he would have Knight try different footwear in order to observe his performance.

Bowerman always wanted to make shoes as light as possible for his athletes, so he would often tear shoes apart and put them back together. Bowerman was basically a footwear designer himself!

Knight secured a deal with Onitsuka for exclusive rights to distribute Tiger footwear in the US. Again, he did this with the financial help of his father and bank loans.

The Tiger shoes were sold at track meets and through word-of-mouth. Print advertisements were also drawn up.

On a trip to Japan, in order to continue having exclusive distribution rights for Tiger shoes in the US (rather than losing them to his former coach, Bowerman) Knight decided to climb Mt. Fuji, where he met a woman named Sarah, who shortly-after became his partner. Though, the long-distance in the US eventually terminated the relationship. But, Knight kept the rights!

Knight asked Bowerman to partner with him at Blue Ribbon, his footwear start-up. Bowerman, naturally agreed, and the cooperation was highly successful as Bowerman was training Olympians at the time, so publicity was booming.

  • The Truth About Employees

Knight emphasizes that to have a successful business, your employees must be creative and eccentric. Knight hired people he knew, including his sister as a part-time secretary and his college track friend Jeff Johnson.

Johnson was a strong salesperson, but it often clashed with Knight’s ideology of management. And, while this was happening, tensions were high as the bank claimed that Knight was not as successful financially as he should be.

In his short-lived accounting career, Knight met Delbert Hayes who became a business mentor and guide for Knight. And, at the same time, in 1964 Knight’s coach Bowerman began collaborating with Onitsuka on designs for US running sneakers.

Jeff Johnson’s booming sales led to Knight opening a store in Oregon. But, news broke that someone was trying to compete and steal away their customers, so Knight once again flew to Japan to get a handle on the situation. While there, he claimed to a lead at Onitsuka that he was running offices on the East Coast when he actually wasn’t. In fact, those offices didn’t even exist!

After he flew back to the states, Knight quickly sent Jeff to open a store on the East Coast outside of Boston. Knight hired retired track stars to pose as salespeople at the store.

Bowerman designed a brand new shoe with Onitsuka which was set to launch at the 1968 Olympic games. Their factory operations were then moved by Knight to an old shabby warehouse.

Knight quit his accounting job and took up teaching the subject of accounting at Portland State University. He met a student by the name of Penelope Parks and he gave her the job of bookkeeper of his passion project Blue Ribbon. Eventually, the two entered a romantic relationship and were later married.

In 1969, Knight quit teaching to go full-time with his baby, Blue Ribbon. The heads of Onitsuka visited their US offices while Knight and Parks were newlyweds on a tight budget. When Parks became pregnant, the two bought a house and new offices. Parks had a baby boy.

The Blue Ribbon team was a quirky group that worked exceptionally well together. They were able to look past the flaws and see the genius and knowledge within each other, which naturally, helped power the company as a whole.

Knight also discusses improving team morale by bonding and enlisting employees to partake in company decisions. He explains that showing that you care about what your employees have to say is important to running a successful company.

  • The Obstacles

Though Nike is an unstoppable force, it has definitely had to overcome its obstacles, which as Knight explains, is inevitable once fame and fortune become a reality to a company.

Blue Ribbon’s contract was not being renewed by Onitsuka. But, Onitsuka was not reliable with their shipments, which was a problem as the demand for these shoes was rising. Knight was at a loss when the banks wouldn’t loan him any more money. So, once again, his dad swooped in and loaned him $8,000.

Knight believed by showing the heads of Onitsuka the Blue Ribbon operation that they would remain to let him exclusively distribute their product. However, that was not the case as Onitsuka intended to meet with many other companies about distribution.

At the end of the trip, the heads of Onitsuka offered to buy Blue Ribbon at the same time the bank ended its relationship with the Blue Ribbon company. However, Knight enlisted a line of credit from other bankers willing to do business.

Nissho Iwai, a trading company of Japan, agreed to back the Blue Ribbon company loans. This is when Nike was born as they needed a new brand name to make their own line of shoes.

Knight even let Jeff Johnson, name the company Nike when the company decided to brand its own shoes and say ‘goodbye’ to Onitsuka.

Nike began with factories in both Mexico and Japan. And, they were previewed at the Chicago National Sporting Goods Association Show. The crowd was impressed!

Nike began receiving endorsements from athletes, which helped to boost its popularity.

“When you see only problems, you’re not seeing clearly.”- Phil Knight

Two lawsuits almost killed Knight’s footwear career. But, Nike persevered because of Knight’s belief in the success and honesty of his company.

The first was when Onitsuka filed a suit against Blue Ribbon in Japan. In retaliation, Blue Ribbon filed a suit against Onitsuka in the US. Throughout this time-consuming debacle, Parks had her and Knight's second son.

Blue Ribbon came out on top of their US lawsuit when Onitsuka was found guilty of trademark violation.

All businesses will go through trials and speculations, but it’s important to remain strong and believe in your company fully. This was the case in many stages of the Blue Ribbon company.

In 1975, Bowerman sold most of his stake in Blue Ribbon to Knight and the company was renamed, Nike.

  • Grow Or Die

Knight ran his company with the mantra “grow or die”. He invested all the money his company made, minus what he was paying his employees, to grow the company bigger and bigger.

“Life is growth. You grow or you die.”- Phil Knight

This was definitely a struggle as Knight was facing financial troubles following the previously mentioned lawsuits.

In 1977, a genius idea was brought to Knight’s attention by an aerospace engineer to put air into the soles of Nike sneakers. Also during that year, Nike’s competitors worked to have the US Customs Service send Nike a massive bill for $25 million claiming they violated the American Selling Price. Knight, of course, traveled to D.C. to try to eliminate this fee. Knight ended up paying only $9 million as the government charged him with an anti-trust lawsuit.

By, 1980 Knight was back at the top, and his shares grew to a whopping $178 million. And, by 2007 Nike was the head of sportswear!

  • Values

One of the big things that Knight emphasizes is to treat setbacks as a challenge. It should not be discouragement and they should be approached head-on with creative energy.

Another value of Nike is treating his employees well. Nike is currently working hard to set higher standards for the factories in which their employees work, while also raising the pay.

Having a heart and believing in your company is what makes it successful, stands out, and a great place to work. Knight emphasizes his dedication to the history and culture of Nike throughout all of its trials and errors.

The Main Take-Away

Nike started with some creative “crazy” ideas that formed into a successful company full of heart and dedication. By thinking creatively and believing in his dreams, Knight created a global company worth admiring.

The Man Who Solved the Market

The Man Who Solved the Market By. Gregory Zuckerman

Key Insights

Jim Simons observes patterns in the financial market. And he understands behind these ups and downs is the science of mathematics.

Because of his ability to understand the market, he can predict it, which in turn, makes him a lot of money.

Simons is the most successful market investor in today’s world. But, Simons is even more than that, he is the founder of the hedge fund firm, Renaissance Technologies, a geometer, a code-breaker, and a philanthropist.

“We’re right 50.75 percent of the time . . . but we’re 100 percent right 50.75 percent of the time,” Mercer told a friend. “You can make billions that way.”- Gregory Zuckerman

In, “The Man Who Solved the Market” by Gregory Zucker you will get a good look at Simon’s life and learn some valuable information along the way.

Key Points

  • Simons Always Loved Math

Jim Simons was born loving numbers. He was born in 1938 in Brookline, Massachusetts. Jim was an only child in his Jewish-American family. His parents were named Marcia and Matthew.

At the age of three, Simons was solving complex math equations. His parents discovered him dividing numbers by two as a toddler, all the way up to the number 1024.

Another example of Simon’s early love of math was when he was shocked, at the age of four, when his father pulled over to fill up the car with gas. Simon concluded that if the tank was half full then it would never run out, there would always be half of whatever was remaining left, no matter how small.

“Scientists and mathematicians are trained to dig below the surface of the chaotic, natural world to search for unexpected simplicity, structure, and even beauty.”- Gregory Zuckerman

Without his knowledge, four-year-old Simons had begun questioning a classic math problem. This was a problem that the Greek philosopher, Zeno, had puzzled. The question is: If you always have to travel half of the remaining distance before you get to where you want to be, how will you ever get there?

When Simons finished school he was encouraged to go into medicine by his family’s physician. However, Simons wasn’t too keen on that idea.

He decided to attend MIT to get a B.A. in mathematics. At first, he struggled and ended up failing a few tests. He decided to stop for one summer and really learn to understand the more complex mathematical theories.

“‘When I heard MIT didn’t have a football team, I knew it was the school for me,’ he says.”-Gregory Zuckerman

After that, he gained a better understanding of everything and he began to notice the universal system of math. He thought he was looking at a code that could help to explain all of life’s vast and mysterious occurrences.

  • Simons’ Work With Codes

Simons had many academic achievements at both MIT and Berkley. After that, he went on a lookout for a lecturing post.

Simons completed his Ph.D. at Berkeley in only two years. His degree focused on work about geometry and multidimensional curved spaces. This secured him a teaching position at Harvard University.

Simons was a well-liked professor at Harvard. He was very informal and enthusiastic, not to mention, a casual-dresser.

However, Simons got tired of teaching. He felt bored with his routine schedule and lectures on the same old topics. He wanted to be challenged.

In 1964, Simons gave up teaching and went on to work for an intelligence group helping to fight the Cold War. He was apart of the Institute for Defence Analysis, a research organization full of mathematicians, like himself, that worked in cracking Soviet codes.

This company was quickly falling apart as they hadn’t cracked any codes in over a decade. The company hired Simons, even though he had no experience cracking codes, because of his brainpower and ambition.

The motto of the company was, “bad ideas is good, good ideas are terrific, no ideas is bad.”

Through the work in this company, Simons learned to create mathematical models to interpret patterns with data that would normally seem meaningless. And with that, Simons invented a fast code-breaking algorithm.

After Simons developed this algorithm, experts in Washington found a coded message sent by the Soviets with an incorrect setting.

Discovering that information, Simons and the rest of his team utilized this glitch to understand the Soviet’s internal messaging system. This made Simons a big shot in the field of code-breaking.

  • Simons’ Work in Geometry

While Simons worked at IDA, he had a lot of time on his hands. Instead of wasting it, he did further research as he was always curious. One of his main research focuses was global finance.

He also did research on geometry. He focused on questions about the theory. His specific area of research was called “minimal varieties.” This was a very hard-to-understand subject that dealt with the idea of surface area.

An example of a classic case concerning this subject is a soap film stretched across a wireframe that has been dipped into a bucket of a soapy makeup. The soap film has the smallest surface area compared to any other substance that could be stretched across this same wireframe. And because the surface of the soapy film is so smooth, no matter which way you look at it, or how twisted the wireframe gets, it looks the same.

With that idea in his mind, Simons questioned whether that theory would still hold true in higher dimensions, rather than just in the two-dimensional wireframe.

In the year 1968, Simons published the findings from his research in “Minimal Varieties in Riemannian Manifolds.” This helped him to be recognized as one of the world’s greatest geometers.

Simons began using his talented brain to make money from stocks.

He tested investment methods. He approached the markets the same way he approached his mathematical theories. Simons developed a model that looked at the individual “moves” within stocks, without applying any outside context to them.

Simons concluded that the market had eight “states.” “High variance” was when something moved without reason. And “good” meant that the stocks rose generally.

This system was not concerned with “why” the market hit these “states.” It was more concerned with observing them.

After Simons, predictive theory that copied his would pop up throughout different fields.

  • Simons Founds A Hedge Fund

In 1968, Simons was fired from his job at IDA because he shared his opposition for the Vietnam War.

While looking for another job, he decided to go back to the education system. He took a job at Stony Brook University in New York as the chairman of the mathematics department.

At the age of 40, Simons left the academic world once again and founded a hedge fund called Monemetrics. He was determined to find the pattern in the market as he hoped to become rich.

Simons invited an old co-worker from IDA, Leonard Baum, to work as his partner. Baum was the co-author of the Baum-Welch algorithm. The Baum-Welch algorithm was a huge part of Simons’ hedge fund. The algorithm predicted outcomes from a series of events without the knowledge of any outside context or underlying variables. The series of events observed are called hidden Markov chains.

The Baum-Welch algorithm was designed to make predictions using a chain of events and estimating outcomes. The design theory was intended to monitor and analyze the moves happening in the financial market.

At first, Simons and Baum traded only in currency. And they soon began to make a lot of money very quickly. Their hedge fund began to grow at tens of millions of dollars.

  • The Origin of Monemetrics

Monemetrics was made up of friends and colleagues that Simons had met throughout his journey. Once he had his team of mathematicians established, he set up a hedge fund to manage their investments.

The hedge fund was named “Nimroy.” This silly name was actually a clever anagram of Joseph Conrad’s novel, “Lord Jim and the Royal Bank of Bermuda.” This was the bank that handled the firm’s money transfers.

The name was based on finance and the character of the novel who has internal battles about the ideas of honor and morality. It is a story about a man fighting his own conscience as he is haunted by the past.

Simons related to the main character in the novel as he left his honorable job as a teacher in order to find a way to become rich.

Monemetrics did have its rough spots in the beginning. The company was buying low but it wasn’t selling high. For example, they experienced an instance when they bought into gold when the price had skyrocketed. However, they missed their chance to sell when it was high by not acting fast enough.

Losses like this became much too common and they began losing millions a day.

Simons began to doubt his knowledge of the financial market.

  • The Introduction of Computers

In order to fix their losses, Monemetric needed a more accurate system to analyze the movements happening in the financial market.

Simons decided to incorporate new technology into their current method of predictions.

Simons renamed the company, “Renaissance Technologies” to give homage to their new system.

The process began by Simons plugging in huge amounts of historical data into his computer. He collected this information by buying books from the World Bank and records of currency prices.

His reason for doing this was so he could try to see if there were any obvious patterns in the market. But, it as very difficult to see if there were any patterns present that were relevant to the current market.

While trying to perfect this new technology, Simons bought expensive computers and data storage. Renaissance Technologies was now functioning at a level that no other hedge fund was at that time.

The data collected by the computers was then combined with Baum’s mathematical prediction theory.

James Ax, another mathematician on the team, improved Baum’s theory so that they could better analyzing the fluctuating market in the ‘80s. This proved successful and helped them to generate more returns.

Simons and Ax then decided on another name change and the hedge fund became “Medallion.” And this fund was the company’s most profitable.

Down the line, this fund would hold the title of “best record in investing history.” It returned 66% in annual returns and had trading profits of more than $100 billion dollars.

  • The Great Controversy

Renaissance started to expand, which means they needed more brainpower. Robert Mercer was recruited as he had a good track record at the company IBM.

Mercer was a brilliant coder. His fascination with computers started as a young child. When he was a young man, he was inspired and motivated after meeting Neil Armstrong while he was studying at a science camp in West Virginia.

After Mercer graduated college, he began work in a weapons laboratory as a computer programmer. Mercer began disliking his work. He realized his company was only concerned with checking off tasks and using every ounce of the government’s research budget. This made Mercer dislike the government.

At Renaissance, Mercer used his talents to discover and identify flaws in the system. This led them to success during the ‘90s.

However, Mercer was much more well-known for his politics. He funded right-wing political campaigns and publications. He helped fund the campaign to elect Donald Trump as president.

“Truth in life is broad and nuanced; you can make all kinds of arguments, such as whether a president or person is fantastic or awful,” he says. “That’s why I love math problems—they have clear answers.”- Gregory Zuckerman

Simons was on the opposite spectrum. He was a democrat, who had been donating millions of dollars to fund campaigns for years.

However, working together in finance they didn’t have any issues politically until Mercer funded Donald Trump. When that happened, he was forced to step down as co-CEO because of the anger of their investors.

  • Jim Simmons In A Nutshell

Simmons’s achievements in the market are inspiring. He is the most successful trader in the history of modern finance.

In fact, not one company comes close to the profits he made under Renaissance. The Medallion’s funds total around $100 billion dollars. And even now, Renaissance still hits around $7 billion dollars a year in profit. To put that into perspective, that is more than the yearly revenue of names such as Levi-Strauss, Hasbro, and Hyatt Hotels.

“Simons and his team are among the most secretive traders Wall Street has encountered, loath to drop even a hint of how they’d conquered financial markets, lest a competitor seize on any clue. Employees avoid media appearances and steer clear of industry conferences and most public gatherings. Simons once quoted Benjamin, the donkey in Animal Farm , to explain his attitude: “‘God gave me a tail to keep off the flies. But I’d rather have had no tail and no flies.’ That’s kind of the way I feel about publicity.”- Gregory Zuckerman

The trading methods that Renaissance used greatly influenced the way trading in the financial market is done. And other markets as well! For example, sports teams utilize the mass statistic crunching that Renaissance introduced to the world.

Another example is the health world and military turning over tasks to computers, just like Renaissance did.

After becoming financially successful, Simons decided to put his money to good use becoming a philanthropist and creating organizations. He established the Simons Foundation for Education and Health as well as the Math for American initiative. He also donated to Nepalese healthcare and gave generous donations to Stony Brook University.

The Main Take-Away

Simons began as a talented mathematician at a young age. He then worked to break codes before founding his hedge fund management firm, Renaissance Technologies. Simons changed the way global finance works. And with his successes came profit, much of which he donated to charity.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg


Lean In is a rallying cry for women everywhere to adopt masculine professional traits in order to achieve positions of power. Girls are increasingly surpassing boys in academic performance, but these statistics aren’t transferring to the professional domain. If the corporate arena were a jungle gym, then women must employ unconventional, unladylike strategies like accepting opportunity without questioning their competency and speaking their truth unapologetically in order to reach the top of the monkey bars.

About the Author

Sheryl Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and founder of Leanin.org. She became the first woman to serve on the Board of Facebook in 2012. Under her leadership, Facebook went from operating at a multimillion-dollar loss to bringing in profits exceeding $20 billion as of 2018. Forbes named Sandberg #11 in their list of Power Women (2018), #12 in their list of America’s Self-Made Women (2018) and #1425 in their list of Billionaires (2019). She resides in California, USA with her two children.

Key Takeaways

-Girls earn about 57% of undergraduate and 60% of master’s degrees in the U.S. as compared to their male counterparts.
-Despite achieving academic success, women continue to trail men in top-level workforce leadership positions.
-Men take risks and aim for positions seen as challenging and requiring a lot of responsibility, whereas women are more likely to refrain from seeking higher-level positions of authority. Therefore, more men land leadership positions.
-Women let feelings of inadequacy and fear of being disliked hold them back from pursuing opportunities for which they qualify, and this is symptomatic of a more systemic dilemma.
-Women are overly-critical of themselves and their colleagues and the media are also hypercritical of women who engage in perceived unladylike behavior in order to achieve professional ends.
-Successful men are viewed favorably whereas equally successful women are critiqued and are looked at with disdain.
-The corporate environment is a jungle gym, not a ladder; therefore, women ought to seek unconventional means of getting to the top of the monkey bars. The tactics women should employ to achieve this look very masculine.
-Sandberg calls for women to employ strategies often used by men to excel in their professions. These strategies include “fake it until you feel it”, or do something that you feel you may not be fully qualified for until you have the experience under your belt to succeed in it.
-Women should also, according to Sandberg, speak up more and say what’s on their minds instead of suppressing it in politeness.
-Don’t wait for a mentor to show you how to lead; take charge and take a chance at a promotion or higher opportunity.
-‘Lean in’ means to embrace challenging opportunities that may intimidate us in order to experience growth, personal development and professional advancement.