No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline

Book Summary - No Excuses by Brian Tracey

What You’ll Learn

  • How excuses keep you from living your best life.

  • How to prioritize your day so that you accelerate towards your goals.

  • The best way to take control of every aspect of life.

Who Should Read This

  • Anyone afraid to pursue their dreams.

  • Those interested in better time management.

  • People who struggle to delay gratification and plan for the future.

Key Insights

In this book, Brian Tracey asks us to rethink the role of excuses in our life; maybe they’re the only thing truly holding us back. He details ways to take control and make progress towards our goals in everything from relationships to money to physical fitness. Once you reject excuses, understand your goals, and start taking responsibility you’ll find a lot more room for progress.

Key Points

Successful people know that excuses only hold you back.

Think of the most successful people in your life. Maybe they’ve accrued wealth and found happiness and renown. What are they doing with their days that’s different? How do they get around the obstacles in life that seem to keep us from thriving?

Tracey starts the book by arguing that it’s their self-discipline that sets them apart. These are the people who eat “dinner before dessert” and sacrifice short-term pleasures for long-term outcomes. By hunkering down and working hard on career and happiness goals, anyone can pull away from the pack in this way.

The excuses we make for why we aren’t successful are endless. Maybe we believe that our parents didn’t teach us the right things or that the economy is too difficult to navigate. In reality, most people face these problems, but some people manage to reach the goals they set for themselves despite everything.

The author explains that he too spent his younger life making excuses. When he was 21, he worked in construction, felt chronically lonely, lived in a tiny apartment, and barely made enough to pay his rent. One night, sitting alone in his apartment, he had a realization. He was the only person who could change his situation. This acknowledgment was the first step towards a new life.

Tracey started studying self-help books religiously. He learned that his unhappiness was coming from his tendency to blame everyone but himself for his circumstances. After accepting that he was responsible for his success, or lack thereof, he started to take control of his life.

Tracey writes that learning and practicing principles of self-discipline can help us become the kinds of people we dream of being. Disciplined people tend to have higher self-esteem since they can control their story and know they deserve everything that’s coming to them. It’s extremely empowering to have a sense that you can change any situation that’s non-ideal.

Tracey divides our goals into three categories: personal success; business, sales and finances; and personal life. He argues that these are the areas that you can transform through self-discipline.

Define precisely what success means to you and commit it on paper.

Before setting out on a journey of self-discipline, Tracey asks us to come up with clearly defined goals. Dream up an ideal life in the areas of work, family, health, and finance. Where do you see yourself? With who? What meaningful work are you performing? Be specific. For example, how much money do you want exactly?

Tracey writes that committing your goals on paper helps you understand where to focus the majority of your energy moving forward. Next to each goal, write down realistic deadlines.

Next, write down all the things you’d need to do to achieve your goal. What obstacles will be in your way? What skills or confidence will you need to overcome these obstacles?

Finally, choose which tasks seem most important and start adding them to your calendar and daily schedules. It’s important to do something every day towards your goals.

As you set out on your life-changing journey, consider people who’ve achieved exactly what you want. Read biographies and go to conferences and workshops led by these people. What specifically did they do to beat the odds? Let these stories inspire you and inform you where to spend your time.

Understand what your ideal character traits are.

Understanding your material goals is helpful, but Tracey writes that becoming self-disciplined is also about becoming the sort of person we admire. Who are the sorts of people you admire? What traits do you more respect about them?

Tracey breaks our character into three parts: the self-ideal (the person you want to be), the self-image, (how you see yourself), and self-esteem (how you regard yourself). Once your self-image aligns with your self-ideal, or in other words, your actions start to align with your values, you will have high self-esteem.

Come to terms with which character traits you want to practice every day to help bring your ideal-self closer to reality. How do these people behave? How could you be behaving differently so that you feel a sense of integrity and sincerity?

Fear of failure could be a major excuse in your way.

Tracey explains that oftentimes, the fear of failure holds us back from pursuing our dreams. Maybe we’re afraid of not making enough money or risking the money we have saved. Although fear can have a stronghold on us, it’s possible to unlearn them with a little discipline.

He recommends writing a “Disaster Report”, a four-step process for understanding our fears and putting them into perspective. Start by describing the fear clearly. Then, write down the worst-case scenario and follow that with solutions to it. So you lose all your money in the stock market? You can find a job and start again. Once we’ve confronted the worst outcome, we’ll realize that it isn’t the end of the world.

After this, brainstorm ways to prevent the worst-case scenario from happening. This way, when you start chasing your dreams, you’ll feel more confident that you’re in control of your fears.

Tracey also emphasizes that sometimes our fears creep up when we’re not getting where we want to go fast enough. He reminds us that persistence, or sticking to our goals despite fear and uncertainty, is the key to achieving real results.

When you feel yourself struggling to go on, Tracey recommends repeating to yourself phrases like “I am unstoppable!” and “I never give up!”. This way, we remind ourselves that everything takes time and the real winners end up being those that can keep going despite everything.

When we run into problems that are blocking away, Tracey offers problem-solving methods to implement. Consider, “Is this really a problem”, meaning, is this beyond my control, or can I really resolve this on my own? If yes, understand the root of the problem so that you can avoid it in the future. Write out a list of all the possible solutions and choose the one that makes the most sense at the moment. By systematizing your problem-solving this way, you can avoid feeling like you’re in a rut and the only option is to quit.

Develop your skills and manage your time to become excellent in something.

Tracey recalls the Pareto Principle which states that 20% of our work produces 80% of the outcome. He asks us to optimize our days to produce the outcomes we want.

Think of everything you spend time on as an investment. Which activities will produce the most return? Tracey recommends using the “A B C D E Method”. Make a list of all the tasks you have to do in a day and assign each a letter from A to E, ranking their relative importance. Tasks are tasks you “Must do” or tasks that will have major consequences if left uncompleted. B tasks are your “should do” tasks that have lesser consequences. C is the “nice to do” tasks that won’t have any consequences if uncompleted. D tasks should be delegated to others so you can focus on the important work and E tasks should be eliminated entirely.

During work hours, focus on your most productive tasks. This means starting with the A tasks firsts and then continuing down the list. Do your best to eliminate distractions. Being able to set priorities, work on high-value tasks, and have the discipline to finish them quickly and well is the most valuable set of qualities to employers.

In order to do this well, we have to invest in our skill sets. Tracey recommends making “personal excellence”, or our ability to complete our work with excellence, a foremost priority. Start your days a little earlier and commit this time to improve your craft. In your downtime, listen to audiobooks or podcasts about your craft. Soon enough, you’ll get a good understanding of what excellence looks like and where there’s room for improvement in your work.

At the end of every day ask yourself “what did I do right?” and “what can I do better next time?”. This way, you can make sure you’re optimizing your precious time.

To become a great business person and leader, be a lifelong learner, and confident in your mission.

If you don’t work for a company and instead own your own business, self-discipline can help you achieve your goals too. In order to succeed in business, you have to work extra hard (Tracey notes that the average hours worked for business owners are 59 hours a week). Tracey offers the “CANEI formula”, which stands for Continuous and Never-Ending Improvement, as a way to keep business owners motivated.

It can be easy for business owners to become stagnant after their business plans are written. But according to the CANEI formula, business plans should always be changing. You should revise and update your plan on a yearly basis to keep up with changing markets. Do your best to understand your target audience and what unique service you’re selling. Always strive for the highest level of customer service. Measure your performance and adapt based on what you’re learning. You’ll know you’re doing something right when people start recommending your services by word of mouth.

By knowing what your company needs to improve, you’re already on your way to becoming a self-disciplined leader. In developing as a leader, be confident in your purpose and always demand excellence. By being consistent in your thinking and actions, you set a good example for everyone working around you.

Become a financial whiz with the One Percent Formula.

Most people dream of not having to worry about money. This is likely a part of your ideal picture of your life that you wrote down on paper. Tracey offers an easy way to take disciplined steps towards this goal.

Practice self-control by delaying gratification and forcing yourself to save 1% of your income and living off the remaining 99%. Once this is possible, increase savings to 2% and live off 98% of your income. With each incoming check, you train yourself to spend less and stash more away into savings. Eventually, you can save more than you spend and begin to build a big reserve of cash.

Achieve physical fitness by sticking to long-term healthy habits.

Maintaining good health is pretty simple, writes Tracey. It doesn’t have to involve crazy nutrition plans or Olympic training. By exercising regularly (30 minutes a day), eating regular meals, and avoiding snacking and overeating, we’ve taken care of most of the most problematic behaviors affecting our health. Doing this every day, we put ourselves on the path to good long-term health.

Tracey recommends replacing the white flour in our diets with whole wheat and avoiding sugar and salt. He calls this avoiding the “three whites”. Healthy adults should also wear their seatbelt and avoid smoking and drinking in excess.

Relationships are an essential part of your well-being and you should commit to setting aside more time for them and resolving problems as they come.

Relationships are a fundamental part of well-being. You have the power to build strong and happy relationships with everyone in your life, whether it’s a partner, your children, or your friends.

Start by realizing that these relationships should be a priority over most other things; the author gives the example of a friend who cut down on golfing in his life to spend more time with his loved ones. Commit to setting aside more time to nurturing these connections and getting to know one another. At the end of the day, strong relationships will make you happier than anything else.

Tracey also says an important part of relationships is learning to forgive. Many people hold grudges against things their friends said or what their parents did in their childhood. It can be easy to use these as excuses for why your relationships can’t be stronger. It’s important to let these things go in order to reduce the strain on everyone’s life and achieve inner peace.

Tracey talks specifically about ways to improve a marriage. He writes that in a happy marriage, both partners are making an effort to listen. Focus on what your partner is saying without interrupting and think before you respond. If you don’t understand what they mean, ask them to clarify, and then confirm that you understand in your own words. By demonstrating these listening skills, your relationship can only grow stronger.

If you have children, Tracey explains that the most important thing you can do for them is loving them unconditionally. You have to set aside time to be with them and parent them; there is no way around this, and many parents regret not spending enough time. Your job is to make them feel safe and secure so they can experiment and build self-esteem. Your job is also to be a good role model for them. By taking the no-excuses approach to life, you demonstrate how to have self-control and go after your dreams.

With friends, Tracey writes that the key is to treat your friends like you’d want them to treat you. He recommends practicing the “three C’s”: courtesy, concern, and consideration. Treat them with respect and express that you like them and accept them without judgment. Make yourself into someone who is pleasant to be around; criticizers and complainers are difficult to be around.

The Main Take-away

To join the ranks of successful people stop making excuses and take control of your life. Through self-discipline, you can make progress in all the meaningful areas of life. Start by clearly defining your goals and the actionable path to achieving them. Stop blaming other people for your problems and master your craft. Manage your time so you’re only spending time on the most productive and important activities. Use regular discipline to tend your health, business, money, and relationships and you’ll find yourself in a life you never thought was possible.

About the Author

Brian Tracy is a motivational public speaker and self-development author. He is the author of over 80 books that have been translated into dozens of languages including the bestsellers Eat That Frog and The 21 Success Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires. He is the chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company that sells counseling on leadership, selling, self-esteem, goals, strategy, creativity, and success psychology.

Power Relationships: Grow Your Network, Engage Others, and Build Clients for Life

Book Summary - Power Relationships by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas

Key Insights

Your life is shaped by your relationships. Professionally and personally, the people you surround yourself with are critical. These are the people that you go into business with, fall in love with, and go to for support.

Some relationships will be good and some will be bad, but the ones with the greatest impact are power relationships. During your ups and downs, these relationships are the ones that will make or break you. For the average successful person, they usually have around 12-15 relationships that have defined them.

A power relationship is one that helps you grow. The other person encourages your talents and challenges you to improve. They also support you when you’re struggling. Power relationships go both ways. You will offer that same support and encouragement to the other person.

What you’ll learn

  • How to form power relationships
  • Who to surround yourself with
  • What it takes to nurture power relationships
  • How to apply power relationship strategies to clients

Who this is for

  • Entrepreneurs
  • Business executives
  • Professionals
  • Anyone looking for deeper relationships

Key Points

Conversation can spark a power relationship.

How do you form a power relationship? Well, you can’t just ask someone you don’t know to be that person for you. But you can get to know them in a meaningful way by focusing on your conversations.

Conversations are the root of connections. They go beyond the product or service you’re selling by creating a bond with you directly. For example, there was a financial advisor who used to rely on presentations. But his competitors were trying to poach clients. With some advice from his client’s assistant, he realized he needed to focus on the informal conversation.

The financial advisor shifted his strategy. He went out to lunch or coffee with clients. They talked about what they wanted to achieve. The financial advisor was better able to help them get there. Two years after he took the client’s advice, he was making his greatest revenue from that client who was now more successful.

A conversation can also be a launching pad. You build a rapport and then you can make an ask. It may feel like you’re going out on a limb, but the connection built during your talks will make it easier to get what you want.

Questions are the backbone of a good conversation and the start of a relationship.

Talking about yourself is great for someone to get to know you, but you need to make sure you’re learning about the other person as well. Also, people like to talk about themselves.

You’re more likely to get someone to open up by asking the right questions. Jumping straight into business may seem like a good way to cut to the chase, but sometimes you need to ask personal questions. This allows you to better understand the motivations and character of the other person.

Some key questions that can ignite a conversation, helping you with the process of building a relationship. If you're trying to get to know a client, ask what they're looking for.

You also need to engage the other person even when you're talking. If they've asked you to tell them about yourself, reciprocate by asking what they want to know. This makes it clear that you want to really respond and engage. Similarly, if you're discussing an idea, make sure you ask what they think to get immediate feedback.

Your network should be about quality, not quantity.

Some people have a large network, with many friends. But these are not deep relationships. It’s much more advantageous for you to have a smaller network where you have deep, committed, and loyal relationships.

A quality network is also not about who is already successful. It is unlikely that someone who has already “made it” will bring someone into their inner circle if they feel like they’re just trying to ride coattails.

What you’re looking for are individuals that will come through for you and for whom you’re willing to do the same. This is what makes your network both strong and useful. These are the power relationships that can pay off down the line.

The network you make predates the success of any individual member. It may pay off down the line with opportunities or help when you need it. For example, a bailiff in Brooklyn had a close friendship with a judge. Years later, that judge got her own show. Judge Judy became a household name. And who did she invite to be her bailiff? Her friend from before she became famous.

A diverse network is more meaningful.

To make a useful network, you need to include a variety of people. You don’t want an echo chamber. Look for people that are different from you and that can bring something else to the table.

Power relationships add to what you can offer. You can complement one another. Together, you can be stronger than you would be without the relationship.

Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak are a prime example of deep, complementary, power relationships. Wozniak had the technical and engineering know-how. Jobs was the face of the brand with his charismatic salesmanship.

Building a power relationship requires work to create a strong foundation.

You can’t jump straight from strangers to a power relationship. You need to put in the work to build the foundation of the relationship. That foundation keeps the relationship steady as you both grow and go through life’s challenges.

The authors of Power Relationships had an experience with someone who tried to take a shortcut to a relationship. A man came to their offices to insist he get to work with them. Instead of going through a formal process or an informal relationship-building process, the man was looking for a quick way. That’s not how it works.

To build the foundation, get to know one another. That starts with the conversations, which creates a connection. You need to show mutual respect and respect the relationship by being reliable and principled.

The more you demonstrate your ability to show up for the other person, the more you build your relationship. For example, if you have a budding business relationship and find an accounting error, you can rationalize a way to ignore the error. Or you show integrity and correct it. This builds trust.

Show up for people in the ways that matter to them.

After you build a foundation, you need to strengthen and maintain your relationship. You get to a power relationship by coming through for those that matter to you.

Offer the other person your trust. If you can give that to them, they’re more likely to give it to you. Without trust, you can never get to a power relationship.

A lack of trust is toxic for everyone involved. Take the example of two restaurants facing the same situation: a customer doesn’t have his wallet when it is time to pay. One causes a big scene and the other gives the customer the benefit of the doubt. The first restaurant alienates customers and the second is rewarded with loyalty and appreciation.

An extension of trust is reliability. The people with whom you have strong relationships should be able to trust that you’re going to be there for them when they really need it. You have to help them achieve what they want for themselves.

For example, many successful people have that one teacher that has meant the most to them. Often, they believed in the person when nobody else did, including the person themselves. Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith had an elementary school teacher who encouraged his writing. Miss Breckenridge encouraged him through the years. When he won a Pulitzer Prize, she wrote to him, “I told you so.”

Keep growing your relationship by not taking it for granted. Personal and professional relationships benefit from new and shared experiences. You can strengthen and maintain your power relationship with that in mind.

Making a client relationship into a power relationship is about value for both of you.

New client relationships should be treated the same as an ongoing relationship. You're not treating them as an unknown but rather like someone you already appreciate. They are a valued asset to your business.

You should discuss what ideas you have for them and how they could benefit. Don't make your conversation contingent on them officially signing. This treatment can create the connection and loyalty needed for a lasting relationship.

Showing you value them and bringing them value for what they need is how you get to a power relationship with a client.

Power relationships are about balance in what you share and what you give to the other person.

Sharing and being open are important parts of a power relationship, but don't go too far with it. Over-sharing can be detrimental to a relationship.

Allow yourself to be vulnerable about your hopes, fears, and dreams. Show your enthusiasm for what excites you. You are a real and relatable person this way.

Still, you have to find a way to keep some mystery and allure. If you're talking to a client, be candid about your ideas and show your enthusiasm. You're not giving everything away. But by intriguing them, you can reel them in.

How you communicate is also a balancing act. Power relationships benefit from honesty. You and your inner circle should be able to give you the feedback you need.

But it can't be all brutal honesty and criticism. At the core of lasting relationships, there is love and respect. Praise and positive reinforcement are also essential to lifting you up.

For example, Olympic gold medalist Johann Olav Koss had two coaches: one that focused on criticism and one that focused on praise. After the two extremes, he found a balanced coaching style that gave him the necessary criticism but also boosted him by pointing out what he was doing right. That's how he won four gold medals.

The Main Take-away

Power relationships are critical, but you have to put in the work to cultivate and maintain these strong bonds.

You need a network of people that you can trust to support you and be there when you need them. Developing these relationships requires you to have conversations and build connections. A solid relationship requires trust, empathy, honesty, and encouragement. The right relationships are long-term investments that can pay off big time in the end.

About the Author

Andrew Sobel is an expert in fostering customer loyalty and lasting business relationships. He has written eight books on creating lifelong customer relationships. Two of these books were international bestsellers.

In addition to being an author, Sobel has worked as a strategy advisor for over 35 years. His previous clients include major companies such as Deloitte, Xerox, Experian, Bank of America, and others. He also spent 15 years working at Gemini Consulting. Sobel has an MBA from Dartmouth.

Jerold Panas is the founding partner at a firm focused on developing financial resources and building campaigns. The firm, Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners, has worked with organizations in the education, medical, cultural, and social service fields.

Panas is a well-known speaker and contributor in the field of philanthropy and governance. He has written several books and journal articles about these topics. His book Asking is a key resource in fundraising.

Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance

Book Summary - Go Put Your Strengths to Work by Marcus Buckingham

Key Insights

We all make mistakes, it’s a normal part of life. It’s how we deal with those mistakes that is important. Do you focus your energy on learning from mistakes or do you concentrate on your successes instead? Research has suggested that when you focus your mind on your wins instead of losses, you are better for it.

However, like most people you probably find it easier to list your weaknesses. If you want to become better at your job or improve your overall performance, you have to change your mindset. Although this may seem hard to put into practice, there are ways to achieve your goals and improve your strengths.

Learn to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses so that you understand where to improve. With a better understanding of your abilities, you can increase your performance potential and make your role truly enjoyable. By incorporating some simple methods of analysis, you will become an asset to your team and improve your daily work life.

Key Points

Personal growth is an essential part of improving your performance.

Choosing what to focus your energy on is integral to your success. If you spend most of your time correcting mistakes you will never achieve what you want. While it is necessary to correct obvious mistakes, this should not be an effort that takes up the majority of your energy. To achieve real personal growth you need to work on building on your strengths.

You will also need to overcome some of the myths that surround the process of personal growth. These myths can be a hindrance and prevent you from making any meaningful change. One of the most common misconceptions about personal growth is that when you improve your habits, your personality changes. In reality, you are only building on the foundations of who you are and what you want to achieve.

Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t more room to grow in your areas of weakness. Although you do need to work on your weaknesses, improving your strengths will result in greater overall improvements. When you do something well, it is much easier to make minor improvements to your strengths than to waste more time trying to fix weak spots. Emphasizing your strengths will yield greater results than highlighting weaker areas.

Concentrating on your strengths will also help you when you work as part of a team. Traditionally, it has been common for people to work under a mentality that what is best for the team outweighs what is best for the individual. However, you will be more of a benefit to the team when you play to your strengths.

Bringing your best efforts and strongest talents to a team will only enhance it. Think about it another way, if you are in a role where you can’t work to your strengths you are only going to use a small percentage of your potential. If you want your team to achieve outstanding results, you have to contribute an outstanding performance.

Identifying your strengths makes it easier to know where you can improve.

It may feel much easier to write lists of what your weaknesses are. However, if you want to improve your performance, you have to recognize your strengths. Try to write down specific areas that you know you are successful in. If you’re not sure what they are, just think of achievements or tasks where you have experienced a feeling of accomplishment.

Another method that will help you clarify your strengths is by asking yourself questions about your job. Ask yourself if the work you are doing matters to you or for the people you work for. If the nature of your work is important, note down why it is important.

Use your answers to write down a more accurate list of your strengths. Also, take this opportunity to write down the areas of your job that don’t matter to you, or that you don’t like. This will help you clarify where you shine in your job.

Now that you have your list of general strengths, you need to refine them more. Use the SIGNs method- Success, Instinct, Growth, Needs - to assess your list before you begin telling your employer about your abilities. Do you do certain tasks or activities successfully? Do you instinctively enjoy these tasks? If so, can you do these tasks easily? Do you feel satisfied that you have remained true to what you wanted to achieve?

Refining your strengths and building on them is a continuous effort. As time goes you’ll add new skills and strengths. You’ll also lose some strengths as your professional situation changes and they become less important. This all part of the process of personal growth.

Examine how well you are using your strengths and see if you can improve.

If you feel like you’re not using your best skills in your job, this doesn’t mean the job is not right for you. Before you start looking for a role that is more suited to your strengths, examine the role you’re in. Ask yourself if there are opportunities to use the strengths that you may have missed.

Maybe you can shape the role you’re in to suit your strengths. Maybe you can refine your knowledge or add extra skills that will help you play to your strengths in your existing role. Ignore aspects of your job or tasks that distract from optimizing your abilities. One way to do this is to use the FREE - Focus, Release, Educate, Expand- method to improve in specific areas.

The goal is to enable you to bring your strengths to the front and leave your weaknesses behind. You should understand how your strengths are used in work and when you use them. If you feel certain strengths are not being used properly, try looking at different ways you can use them. Finally, don’t be afraid to refine your skills and shape them around your job. It will benefit you in the long run.

Minimize your participation in tasks you don’t like and focus on tasks you do.

Everyone has parts of their job they don’t like. These are usually the tasks that you struggle with. They are the ones where your weaknesses are most prominent. If these tasks are limiting your potential, then use the STOP - Stop, Team-Up, Offer Up, Perceive - method to remove them from your role.

You can simply stop participating in the tasks you dislike and see what the outcome is. You might realize that the tasks you are doing are pointless and have no bearing on your job. Removing those tasks will increase your productivity and reduce your stress. Alternatively, you can team up with a colleague who enjoys the tasks you don’t.

Maybe you can find a way to swap roles or a colleague might be able to help make difficult tasks easier. Another way to handle these tasks is to offer to do other jobs that suit your strengths. It never hurts to ask. If all else fails, try looking at the more difficult tasks with a different perspective and see if there is a way you can align it with tasks you enjoy doing.

You can achieve an outstanding performance if you surround yourself with strong team players.

One of the perks about being part of a team is that there is always an opportunity to reshape your roles within the team. In a strong team, there will always be people who have skills that you don’t and you can use that to your advantage. But first, you have to make sure you’re all on the same page.

Talk with your team about strengths and weaknesses so that you understand where everyone thrives in their roles. Use this as a chance to highlight your strengths and the reasons you want to shape your job to focus on them. The team needs to understand you’re trying to do what’s best for everyone and not just yourself. Offer other colleagues the same opportunity to present their strengths so you all know how to best function as a group and get the best results.

After the team discussion, you should write an action plan with timelines so that you have a clear direction for the group. If you have to clear the plan with a manager you also have something to present them with that will help you argue your case. Ultimately, you are stating the case for how your team can yield excellent results if everyone works to their strengths.

In contrast, if you’re the manager who is being approached, you need to understand what the team needs. While you want to make sure every part of the team is happy, you also need to make sure they are performing to the best of their abilities. Assess the realities of their plan but also allow yourself to be flexible and open to changes within the team roles.

To maintain your outstanding performance, you have to maintain your strengths.

Your performance is constantly changing as your job evolves. To maintain your strengths you should incorporate an evaluation of your abilities into your daily routine. This way you can be sure you are constantly performing at a high level. You should take the time to look at three strengths and two weaknesses that need refining.

Every week, identify two ways you can remove weaknesses and increase your strengths. By constantly evaluating and taking actions you can increase your performance levels and remove the weaker aspects of your job. As you continue to do this you will grow your strengths and be able to consistently achieve an outstanding level of performance in your job.

The Main Take-away

Growth requires understanding your abilities and consistently working to improve them.

Being an outstanding performer takes a lot of work. Be honest with yourself about your abilities and don’t be afraid of removing work that doesn’t help you. By constantly evaluating your strengths and weaknesses you will reach your goal of achieving an outstanding performance

About the Author

Marcus Buckingham is a best-selling author and an internationally renowned consultant. A graduate of Cambridge University, he has worked with numerous multinational corporations including Toyota and Disney.

Buckingham has authored and co-authored five best-selling books which have sold more than 3 million copies. As a keynote speaker, Buckingham has addressed more than 250,000 people around the world. His workshops are highly successful and his workshop for talented women has been downloaded more than a million times.

Originally from the United Kingdom, Buckingham now lives in Los Angeles.

Remote: Office Not Required

Book Summary - Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Key Insights

Remote work is on the rise, and it is a benefit that companies should embrace. The internet and new technology have enabled workers to collaborate and work from anywhere in the world. Tax law in the United States also does not penalize workers for working remotely from anywhere in the country. Thanks to these new developments, the number of remote workers had risen 73 percent in the years from 2003 to 2011.

Companies that embrace remote work have the advantage of recruiting competitive employees from anywhere in the world and improve the satisfaction, wellness, and productivity of current employees. Remote work is a benefit that can help companies attract the most competitive talent.

However, despite the rise in popularity of remote work, Yahoo made the controversial decision to end its remote work program in February of 2013. This is because in many companies, the corporate mindset has not caught up to new technological developments, and many company leaders are still stuck in the traditional office tradition. It is hard for these industry leaders to see the benefits of remote work and break out of the normal 9 to 5 schedule. However, industry leaders will have to embrace the advantages of remote work, in order to attract the best talent to their companies and improve employee happiness and productivity.

Employers should openly assess the pros and cons of developing a remote work culture and will have to address the challenges of employee motivation and the cultivation of company culture with remote employees. However, companies that are able to address these challenges and take advantage of the benefits of a remote workforce will be ahead of the curve. Companies with a remote work culture will be able to attract top employees and increase productivity, while the traditional office set up will become outdated and unattractive to competitive candidates.

Key Points

Most Work Doesn’t Happen At Work

Most workers don’t do their best work at the office, because the amount of distractions in the average workplace makes it difficult for employees to be productive. Meetings and calls break up the workday into short segments, which makes it difficult for workers to devote long periods of time to concentrate on deep work. For workers to do good creative work, they need long periods of time, free from distraction, to get into a flow state and produce good, creative work. Remote work allows workers to set up their day so they can eliminate distractions and create a workspace that encourages concentration and creative work. Remote work also allows employees to restructure their schedules in the most efficient way for them. Some people feel more productive in the morning, while others are night owls. Others have other obligations, such as doing chores or dealing with childcare. Outside of a traditional 9 to 5 office space, workers can set up a schedule that is most productive for them.

In most workplaces, employees are aware of the risk of interrupting their colleagues and creating unnecessary distractions. Therefore, most employees use email and collaboration software as their main method of communication, even though they are communicating with workers who are in the same building. Workers try to avoid interrupting their colleagues when they are concentrating, and many see it as more courteous to send an email rather than go over to a coworker’s desk, even when it is nearby. The recipient is then able to respond to the message in their own time, which allows them to be more productive and reduces distractions in the office. However, this also means that most office interactions are already done entirely online, with no face-to-face communication.

The City Monopoly

Because many jobs are concentrated in big cities, like Wall Street or Silicon Valley, most workers must live in or near these cities for their careers, and they often have to endure a long commute into these cities to get to their places of work. While cities have some benefits, like public and social institutions, they are also crowded and have a high cost of living. This forces employers to pay more to enable workers to live in the city, which creates a burden on the company and causes an income disparity between employees in different regions.

With remote work, employees do not have to be concentrated in crowded and expensive cities. Employers also do not have to restrict their hiring only to the talent that lives in the nearby region. They can look outside their geographic area and recruit talented candidates from all over the country.

Employees who are recruited from outside their immediate geographic talent pools are also more likely to work for a company because they are genuinely interested in their work, and won’t simply see it is a stepping stone to another position. Workers who are able to live where they want will most likely also be happier because they can choose to live near wherever makes them happiest. For example, some people can choose to live near family, while others might be happiest living in a small city or by the beach. They will also not have to commute, which will make them healthier and happier.

Commuting takes up a large chunk of time that could be spent on productive work. The average worker commutes up to an hour and a half each day, which adds up to between 300 to 400 hours per year that they spend just on commuting. If workers were allowed to work remotely, that time could be spent more productively.

Commuting is not only a waste of time. It is also bad for the environment and causes congestion and stress on workers’ physical and mental health. Long commutes often mean workers will get less sleep, and traffic and other stresses can cause increased anxiety, higher rates of obesity, neck and back pain, and other negative health effects, including insomnia and depression.

Remote Work Is Not The Same As Outsourcing

Many businesses, especially smaller ones, already outsource some services, like payroll or legal departments, because it is easier and more cost-effective than to have these departments in-house. It is common practice for many companies to entrust their private information with an outside service provider. However, they are also often reluctant to extend this same trust to their own employees by allowing them to work remotely. Employers seem to believe that their employees will not work as hard if they are not under managerial surveillance in an office, even though they trust external contracts to do their work without supervision. Employers should allow their workers to work remotely, and trust that their employees, like their contractors, do not need direct supervision to complete their work.

However, remote work is also not the same thing as outsourcing. Outsourcing is often criticized because many people see it as an employment model that replaces expendable employees with cheaper workers who can do the same job for a lower wage. Remote workers, however, are not contractors, and they should be paid and treated the same way as on-site workers.

Employers should be sure to treat remote and in-office workers the same to avoid creating a caste system that incentivizes in-person work. Employers must make it clear that they value employee satisfaction over the need for in-office surveillance. Companies that value employee satisfaction have a competitive recruiting advantage, because they can attract and retain top talent. Flexible work is an attractive perk that can attract the best employees, even if there is a minimum amount of in-person attendance. Some employees may still choose to commute, but by giving workers the option to have a flexible work schedule, companies can improve the quality, satisfaction, and productivity of their workforce.

Four Myths Of The Traditional Office

There are four big myths that many employers believe about traditional office spaces, which make them reluctant to allow their employees to work remotely. First, they believe that employees working at home will not be as productive. However, workers will still waste time if they do not have enough to do, regardless of if they are at home or in the office. According to a study conducted by JC Penney, workers at their company headquarters used 30% of their internet bandwidth streaming YouTube videos in the office.

Workers respond far better to inspiration and clear expectations set by managers than they do to a culture of surveillance, which can be demoralizing. Instead of using surveillance as an external motivator, employers should inspire internal motivation in their employees, and encourage them to work on projects they care about, which will drive better performance and improve productivity, even if they are working remotely.

The second myth many employers believe is that in-person meetings are necessary to generate the synergy needed to come up with big, creative ideas. While collaboration is important, these big ideas that are sparked by in-person meetings are rare, and these types of meetings can also be draining on employees. Rather than promoting constant in-person meetings between employees in an effort to promote collaboration and inspiration, employers should limit these types of meetings, so employees do not feel burned out and exhausted. Leaders should also limit their own in-person meetings with their employees, to reduce the feeling that they are being surveilled. A good way to do this and reduce the chance of burn-out is to replace in-person team meetings with weekly email threads and remote status updates, and leave in-person meetings only for special occasions. Leaders should maintain a balance between setting up occasional in-person meetings, so employees can feel connected and develop personal relationships with their colleagues while ensuring employees do not burn out by making these meetings too frequent and demanding.

The third myth that company leaders commonly believe is the idea that employees will be faced with too many distractions at home, which will reduce productivity. However, offices are also filled with many distractions that waste time. Employees who are motivated will be productive and complete their work regardless of the distractions they face in the office or at home.

The fourth myth employers believe is that granting employees access to remote work is a security risk. They believe that, by granting remote access to their business information, they are opening their company up to potential security breach. However, employees can and should be educated in digital security practices as a matter of company policy. Regardless of if they work remotely or in the office, all employees should be trained in good security practices, including disabling automatic logins, web browser encryption, better password standards, and two-factor authentication. This will help ensure the company’s security regardless of where the employees are located.

The Perks Of Having A Remote Workforce

Many large companies, including Aetna, Deloitte, At&T, and Unilever, have recognized the advantage of allowing their employees to work remotely, at least some, if not all, of the time. These companies have embraced remote work in part because it reduces their overall risk if a local catastrophe takes place, such as an environmental disaster or regional blackout. If a company has a single point of failure, then any local disaster that takes place has the potential to collapse the entire company and halt productivity for hours or days. If a company’s workforce is spread out, however, then the risk of a total shutdown is much less.

Offering remote work also helps companies to attract and retain competitive workers. Attractive employees can consider opportunities at companies all over the world, even international companies if they do not have to leave their homes to accept the position. Alternatively, workers that may have been forced to leave their jobs because obligations forced them to move away from the region will be able to keep the positions if they are able to work from anywhere. For example, the media production company Jellyvision was able to offer remote work as an option to an employee who would otherwise have to leave his position to move with his spouse to another state. However, when Jellyvision opened up the possibility for remote work, they were able to retain a talented employee. Most employees acclimate well to a remote work environment, and it enables companies to build a competitive workforce by attracting talent from anywhere in the world.

Companies that switch to remote work will also enjoy the advantage of reduced office space costs. Companies with a reduced in-person workforce will not need as much office space, even if they blend both remote and in-person work. For example, IBM gained almost $2 billion dollars after selling off 60 million square feet of office space they no longer needed after implementing a flexible telework program.

Keeping Remote Employees Healthy

Remote workers can be at risk of developing health problems, due to lower rates of activity and a higher risk of developing ergonomic issues. Companies should encourage remote employees to remain active by implementing health and wellness incentives, such as free of discounted gym memberships, exercise and nutrition classes, or memberships to local fresh produce programs. Company leaders should also ensure workers have an ergonomically designed remote workspace, to reduce pain and discomfort that can come from sitting at a workspace for long hours. Employees with an ergonomically subpar layout can suffer from neck and back pain that can even require surgery, which causes discomfort, pain, and a loss of productivity.

Remote workers can also run the risk of burning out if they do not establish a regular routine for themselves while working from home. Otherwise, they might be tempted to work fewer hours when deadlines are far off, and then pile on the hours when deadlines loom closer. However, this leads to frustration and burnout, and often top-performing employees will end up overworking more hours than they are supposed to. Managers can help prevent this by offering extra days off to remote workers during certain months, or by encouraging their employees’ leisure activities and hobbies, such as travel.

Remote workers who stick to a set routine are healthier, happier, and more productive. It also helps for remote workers to establish a set workspace where they do their work each day, so they can easily separate their work tasks from the rest of their day.

Transitioning To A Remote Work Program

Companies that begin transitioning to remote work sooner rather than later will have an advantage over companies that wait. Companies with remote work programs will gain a competitive advantage in recruiting new employees, but they should begin transitioning to remote work with their current employees, before hiring new workers remotely. They can implement a remote work culture slowly, by allowing current employees to transition into remote work one or two days a week, or relaxing regular attendance rules. Companies who do not want to completely eliminate in-person meetings could allow employees to work remotely in the morning, and attend in-office meetings in the afternoon. Because current employees are already well-versed in the company culture, there will be a higher degree of trust on both sides. The company culture will remain intact as employees move into remote teams, which will help provide a smooth transition into a remote work culture.

For a remote work culture to be successful, companies should begin implementing remote work with multiple employees or whole teams, not simply one lone test-case employee. Having only one employee experience the benefits of remote work is not conducive to accurately assessing the pros and cons of remote work culture. More than one employee should transition into remote work in order to fairly assess the remote work experience.

The Main Take-away

Modern technology has enabled companies to embrace a remote work culture. Remote work is a benefit that will enable employers to attract competitive talent from across the globe while increasing employees’ satisfaction and productivity. If employers are able to successfully manage the challenges that come with building a remote workforce, they will enjoy significant advantages over a traditional office work culture.

About the Author

Jason Fried is the co-founder and CEO of the software development company 37signals. He is the co-author of bestsellers Getting Real, Remote, and REWORK. He is also a columnist for Inc. Magazine. Fried received his B.S. in finance from the University of Arizona.

David Heinemeier Hansson is the co-author of two New York Times bestsellers, REWORK and Remote. He is the cofounder and partner of the software development company Basecamp, and the creator of the software toolkit Ruby on Rails.

Hansson was born in Denmark and received his bachelor's degree in Computer Science and Business Administration from Copenhagen Business School. He moved to Chicago in 2005, and he now splits his time between the United States and Spain with his wife and two sons.

Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More

Book Summary - Great at Work: The Hidden Habits of Top Performers by Morten T. Hansen

Key Insights

What does “working smart” really mean? Business professor and author Morten T. Hansen wanted to find out what it really means to be a smart worker, so in 2011 he and his team launched a massive project studying the habits, tricks, and techniques of top performers.

Using interviews, surveys, and over 200 academic papers, Hansen and his team came up with the top seven habits that contributed to top performers’ success. From a survey of 5,000 people, they found that these seven factors accounted for 66 percent of their successful performance. Using these seven top-performance principles, workers were able to work smarter, be more effective, and excel without working longer hours.

Key Points

Principle One: Do Less To Get More Done

Most people hold the common misconception that to do better, they need to do more work and put in longer hours than everyone else, but what they really need to do is work smarter, not harder. By stretching themselves too thin on a number of projects, they make it difficult to really excel at any one task. If people are constantly multitasking, they become overwhelmed, and the quality of their work suffers.

Hansen’s research shows that the most effective performers commit to less work, but focus their attention fully on a smaller collection of the most important priorities. By narrowing their attention, they are able to concentrate more fully on excelling at the most important tasks. According to his research, Hansen found that performers who used this principle and obsessed only on their priorities outperformed others by an average of 25 percent.

However, it is often difficult to determine what to prioritize, and what to let go. Hansen recommends three strategies to help pare down your task list to only the most essential items.

First, you should reassess how you measure success. Rather than just thinking of success as completing lots of tasks, you should see how many tasks you can eliminate because they do not contribute to your overall larger goal.

Second, you should eliminate all distractions. To fully focus your attention on your most important tasks, you should arrange your workspace so you do not have access to any distractions. You should cut off access to tempting internet and email distractions by designating a work-only laptop that does not have access to the web, and carve out space and time alone so you are not distracted by co-workers.

Lastly, if your boss is not clear about what his priorities are, it might be difficult for you to identify your own. It is important to speak with your boss to identify priorities and get a clear idea of what your overall goals should be.

For example, explorer Roald Amundsen utilized this technique to be the first to lead his team to reach the South Pole in 1911. While his rival, Robert Scott, prepared five different methods to get to the South Pole, Amundsen focused obsessively over just one: sled dogs. He focused his attention on how to make his sled dog team the most effective, learning all about the best sled dog breeds, the best dog drivers, and the best way to run a sled dog team. Because he wasn’t trying to spread his attention over five different methods, Amundsen won the race to the South Pole.

Principle Two: Redesign Your Workflow

For optimal performance, you should redesign your workflow based on the external value that it adds, not on arbitrary internal metrics that measure productivity for productivity’s sake. Tasks should be prioritized based on how much value they add to you or your business. To assess the true value of a task, you should use an “outside-in view.” This means that, instead of assessing value based on internal metrics, the tasks are assessed based on how it benefits external parties, such as stakeholders, customers, or the business as a whole. By redesigning your workflow with external value at the forefront, you can focus only on your priorities and reduce multitasking.

When redesigning your workflow, you should also remember to balance efficiency with quality. For work to add value, it has to have high levels of quality and accuracy. Efficiency comes at a cost if the accuracy of the work suffers. However, the work also has to be done efficiently enough that its performance adds meaningful outward value.

For example, if a doctor sees many patients in a day, but does not accurately diagnose and cure their problems, then they have not added value, although they have improved efficiency. Similarly, if a transcriptionist generates a high volume of output, but they are not accurate in their transcriptions, then they have not provided a lot of value. The best workflows should be designed to account for the best balance of quality, efficiency, and value.

Principle Three: The Learning Loop

To be a great performer, you should develop your skills, and improving your skillset requires regular practice. However, it is often difficult to set aside time to devote to practice. Instead, Hansen recommends a technique called “the learning loop,” in which you integrate practice into your everyday tasks. With each task you complete, you receive feedback on your performance and use it to improve your techniques. There are six guidelines to using the Learning Loop effectively.

First, you should set aside just fifteen minutes a day to focus solely on developing one skill, and make sure to collect feedback on your performance.

Secondly, practice micro behaviors. Microbehaviors are smaller, actionable behaviors that you break out of the bigger skill you want to develop.

Thirdly, use metrics to track growth and measure your success.

Fourth, enlist other people, such as your boss, mentor, or colleagues, to help you by evaluating your progress and giving you actionable feedback.

Fifth, be prepared to see a “dip” in performance. Once you improve your skill level, it is natural to see performance drop because you are at a new level of expertise. This dip is normal, and it is essential to push past it to ensure continued improvement.

Lastly, don’t be discouraged by a plateau. When someone has mastered a skill set, they are capable but they often reach a plateau where they stop improving. Top performers don’t become complacent but are always looking to improve their skills, even ones they have been using for a long time.

Brittany Gavin was a food and nutrition manager at a hospital in California, who Hansen interviewed for his research. She employed the learning loop method to improve the way she solicited new ideas from her team. When leading meetings, she asked specific questions from her team, got feedback, and made continual improvements. Eventually, she was able to implement 84 great new ideas, and their satisfaction rating rose.

Principle Four: Passion and Purpose

Passion for what you do and the broader purpose of your work should be combined for top performance, using a method Hansen called “P-squared.” Passion for your work is important, but it’s often not enough. For optimal performance, workers should combine their passion with a sense of purpose with the P-squared method. By combining passion and purpose, you will feel energized and get more out of your working hours.

To incorporate P-squared into your work, you should make sure your role is designed in such a way that your passions are effectively utilized.

For example, a COO at a German software company named Steven Birdsall had lost his passion after being stuck in his position for ten years. His true passions were customer service and intrapreneurial ventures. He reinvigorated his role by incorporating these passions into his work by creating a plan to develop new markets for his company. He decided to focus on developing rapid deployment solutions within his company, a service that had market demand but was not being sold effectively. He combined his entrepreneurial passion with purpose, and his rapid deployment solutions plan generated 1.3 billion dollars in revenue within a few years.

To understand their purpose, people also have to look beyond their daily tasks, which can often be mundane and uninspiring. However, when people focus more on the results of their task, and understand how being competent in their role contributes to the success of the whole, they can understand their purpose and feel accomplished.

With that said, individuals should also be on the lookout for opportunities to improve their jobs by incorporating more purposeful daily activities. They should accept more responsibilities and look for opportunities to accomplish work that benefits others.

Principle Five: Winning Support

When you are proposing a new idea, it is essential to have people on your side, and the best way to do that is by utilizing emotional appeals and understanding others’ perspectives. Proposing a new idea is often difficult, and it helps to have support when you hit opposition. To generate this support, top performers use a combination of emotional appeals and logical arguments. Successful persuaders stimulate “high-arousal” emotions, like fear and excitement, which encourages action. Using visual aids can stimulate emotions even more, and help your audience remember you. For example, chef Jamie Oliver, during a presentation on fat at a West Virginia elementary school, brought in a dump truck to dump loads of animal fat into a dumper to illustrate his point about the amount of fat the school was consuming. This memorable visual aid stimulated the groups emotions and led them to changing their diet.

People also feel more motivated to act when they feel a sense of purpose. Therefore, it is important to connect your ideas to a greater cause. For example, call center employees who raised money for university scholarships were often discouraged, because they never saw the positive results of their work. However, when they read letters from grateful students who benefitted from the money they raised, they felt a connection to a bigger cause and derived much more purpose from their work. This sense of purpose led them to more than double their fundraising average.

Winning support from others requires perseverance, but not stubbornness. You should use what you learn about your opponents to change your approach and effectively counter their arguments. The best way to beat your opponents is to instead co-opt them, understand and address their concerns, and invite them to share in the successes of your project. For example, Lorenza Pasetti, the manager of an Italian meat company, was facing opposition from another Italian food organization, the Consorzio del

Prosciutto di Parma. Pasetti understood their concerns were not over the product, but over the validity of their using traditional Italian methods of making foods like prosciutto. Pasetti was able to explain her company’s connection to traditional Italian tradition, culture, and food, and was able to bring the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma over to their side.

Principle Six: The “Fight and Unite” Method

Effective meetings are essential for success, but too often, meetings turn into a waste of time and energy. To lead effective meetings, Hansen suggests utilizing two modes: fight and unite.

The “fight” portion encourages open debate, challenges, and analysis of the team’s ideas and opinions. Open debate is important because it allows space for new ideas to be presented, the status quo to be challenged, and for team members to feel like their ideas and opinions are heard. Hansen encourages what is called “constructive conflict,” which focuses on bringing together a diverse team, with different experiences and opinions, to debate in a meeting. Diverse thought processes and open debate leads to the emergence of new ideas, encourages innovation, and improves performance.

However, meetings can’t be all conflict. Leaders must “unite” the team before the end of the meeting. The whole team must come to a decision and have everyone on board before the meeting is adjourned. If the whole group cannot commit, then the most senior meetings must make an educated decision on the best path forward.

Bart Becht, the CEO of the multibillion dollar company Reckitt Benckiser, uses this meeting method to his advantage. He is known for bringing together a wide variety of ideas, perspectives, and personalities into his meetings, to allow the best and most innovative ideas to emerge, and unite the team around them.

Principle Seven: “Disciplined Collaboration”

The best type of collaboration for optimal performance is “disciplined collaboration,” but there are are two big risks when it comes to teams working together that can hinder performance. The first is “overcollaboration,” which is when a team seeks help in areas where they already have the expertise they need to make the decision. Soliciting help in areas where teams already have expertise actually leads to worse performance.

However, silos that discourage communication and prevent teams from seeking out expertise in areas where they lack expertise leads to “undercollaboration.” Teams should be able to effectively communicate and seek help from other departments when they would benefit from the expertise of others.

The best type of collaboration is what Hansen calls “disciplined collaboration.” Hansen’s research showed “disciplined collaboration” led to a 14 percent improvement in performance over both under and over collaborators. In this method, each proposed joint project must have a business case, with the value, opportunity cost, and collaboration cost accounted for. If the venture is still valuable after accounting for these costs, then the project is worth pursuing. Each project should also have a unified objective, that provides value for the whole organization. The goal should be clear, quantifiable, and have concrete deadlines.

For example, a business manager at a chemical company called Agilent Technologies wanted the chemical team and the life sciences team to collaborate on a chemical liquids devise project. However, he was turned down at first by the life sciences team. Rather than get discouraged, he was able to produce projected calculations that showed the life science teams the project had the potential to add almost $1 billion of value to the company within eight years, if the two units worked together. This convinced the life science team of the benefits of collaborating on this project.

The Main Take-away

To be a top performer, individuals do not need to work harder, they need to work smarter. By incorporating these seven top-performance principles - including smart prioritization, improved workflow, constant practice, uniting passion and purpose, winning support, leading productive meetings, and effective collaboration - into their work, individuals can become top performers themselves.

About the Author

Morten T. Hansen is a management professor at University of California, Berkeley, and is on the faculty at Apple University. He is the author or co-author of three books, including the New York Times bestseller Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck-Why Some Thrive Despite Them All. He has also written for the Harvard Business Review and the Sloan Management Review. He was the 2005 co-recipient of the Sloan Management Review/Pricewaterhouse Coopers Award.

Previously, Hansen worked at the Boston Consulting Group, and was a member of the founding team of BCG Nordics. He holds a Ph.D. in business administration from Stanford Graduate School of Business, and is a former Fulbright Scholar.

Hansen lives in the San Francisco Bay area with his wife, Helene, and their two children

The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You

Book Summary - The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo

Key Points

Julie Zhuo, former VP of design at Facebook, teaches you how to be successful as a new manager.

At the age of 25, Zhuo was appointed as VP of the Facebook design team. That was her first managerial role. At first, she thought a manager should focus on having meetings with team members, giving them feedback, and promoting or firing them. Managers should make sure team members are working well together, achieve career goals, and develop a process to improve efficiency. However, a decade of experience later, Zhou realized it was most important for managers to help teams get great results.

The author realized that there are several routes to management. The author took the apprentice path, where her boss allowed her to manage part of his team. She received much coaching from her boss; however, it was hard to establish a good rapport with the team beneath her because they saw her more like a peer.

The Pioneer route of management entails starting new teams with the responsibility of handling the team’s growth. These managers get to build the team from the ground up; however, support is lacking from the organization because they only can best understand the team.

The new boss's path to management is when a manager is brought from a different team or organization to manage a workgroup that’s already running. He is allowed to make more mistakes in the beginning because he is seen as a newbie.

Giving your team member feedback is hard. The author encourages activity-specific feedback given to team members as soon as possible when they finish a project. These serve as great coaching sessions for every task completed. Let them know what they did well and the improvements they should make.

360 feedback sessions are when managers give feedback to a particular team member after consulting the wider team. Receiving feedback from your peers gives you a better perspective of how you can do better.

Meetings can be boring and a waste of time. To make meetings more productive, the author ensures that each meeting has a successful outcome or decision. All team members articulate their points of view clearly. The manager facilitates this process. All options and views must be presented and respected.

Hiring people is an important part of a manager’s job. All too often, the author sees managers hiring people simply to fill a vacancy. They fail to think deeply about how the skills, traits, and experience of the candidate will fit in with their team. Before hiring, the author encourages new managers to plan ahead.

At the start of the calendar year, ask yourself these questions.

What skills is my team lacking that we need?

What are their experiences and strengths?

What are the team’s priorities for the year? What is the expected rate of attrition? What is our budget?

How many recruits do we need?

What kind of experience does each recruit need to have?

What traits, personalities, and experience will increase the diversity of your team?

As your team grows, you will have a less personal relationship with team members. In fact, you might have to hire a manager to manage your team. Managing indirectly can lead team members to find you unapproachable. Thus then it’s important to tell team members that you welcome opinions that are different from yours and to encourage them to express their disagreements.

The Main Take-away

Julie Zhuo walks you through the essentials of becoming a first-time manager. She became a manager at 25 years old, working as the VP of design at Facebook. After over a decade at Facebook, she realized that great managers are made not born. This book teaches you how to be the kind of manager you wish you had.

About the Author

Julie Zhuo was the VP of product and design at Facebook. She became a manager at the age of 25. She is a Chinese-American computer scientist. She currently works as the Co-founder of Inspirit. In her blog “The Year of the Looking Glass”, she writes about technology, great UX, and leadership. Her work has been featured in the New York Times and Fast Company. She graduated from Stanford University. She lives in California with her husband and three children.

Think Like an Entrepreneur, Act Like a CEO: 50 Indispensable Tips to Help You Stay Afloat, Bounce Back, and Get Ahead at Work

Think Like an Entrepreneur, Act Like a CEO by Beverly E. Jones

Key Points

In the past, having a career meant working for the same employer for many years, but in today’s world, things have changed. There is more instability in employment than ever before. That is why than ever before, it’s important to become resilient and flexible to change. It’s important to think like an entrepreneur and act like a CEO.

It’s important to create your own plan for success. On your first day of work, figure out what your boss wants. You are the CEO of your own career. Keep an eye on your schedule. Figure out how your boss communicates and how to make him happy. Set realistic goals and prioritize to complete these goals. Spend 4-6 weeks heavily focused on succeeding at your new job. Make sure you manage the stress well.

Large organizations are a collection of small outfits that thrive when individualizing employees cultivate entrepreneurial kindness. It’s important to be an intrapreneur and take responsibility for what needs to be accomplished. You should try to cultivate a get-up and go personality. Understand what your organization is trying to do. What are the basic functions of the business? Understand the roles of marketing, sales, humans resources, and public affairs. Focus on your customers, your coworkers, and your boss. What do they need and how do they think? More importantly, don’t be afraid to fail. Try a tennis class if you don’t know how to play tennis. Learn from your mistakes.

Act like a CEO to succeed in your career. When it comes to rejection, it is easy to take that the wrong way. Don’t be angry. Instead, keep a gratitude journal. Stay professional and grateful. Not only, will that lessen your anxiety but it will give you a better perspective. For example, when James was rejected from his dream job, he thanked the people involved with the hiring process, and they helped him find another job!

When it comes to your career and life, change will happen. It’s important to think like a CEO and be prepared for this change. Focus on the big picture. Try your best to understand your industry and what affects it. How does the market work? What are the regulatory frameworks? What political changes can affect your industry and which ones are coming? Stay present and focus on the current challenge. Always try to make sure your personal life doesn’t go out of balance. Make sure you make the right financial decisions. For example, keep an emergency fund in case things go wrong. Having a side business is a good way to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset. Having a side business gives you a fresh outlook on your main job.

It’s common for people who receive praise to brush it off. However, that could cause commenters to devalue your work. Instead of brushing off comments, accept them gracefully. Say thank you and acknowledge those who helped you with the work including the person who is giving you the compliment, if that is the case that they helped you with the work. Make sure not to prolong the exchange.

The author discusses her sugar grain process of tacking career changes. If you want to make changes to your career, first visualize the change you want. What are the changes you’d like to see? What are the pros and cons of your current situation? What are your goals? What steps or "sugar grains" should you take to get there? Set the right pace. Do you want to get there in a week? A year? Finally, make sure to record your progress. That may lead to more steps to take.

On your way out of the door, make sure to behave like a CEO. Say you get fired for any reason, always leave a good impression. Be careful about what you say. Don’t be too frank. Be considerate of other people’s feelings. Leave your work nicely. Thank people in an honest way. Write handwritten notes and even think about making personal visits. Stay in contact with people. When it comes to your career, making a positive lasting impression is key.

The Main Take-away

When it comes to your career, you will experience many changes. It’s important to be flexible and adaptable to change. An entrepreneurial mindset and CEO resolve will help stay successful especially when going through tough career changes.

About the Author

Beverly Jones is a writer, led university programs for women, and worked as a Fortune 500 energy executive. She is a professional mentor to other professionals. She is an executive coach and leadership consultant, helping people with their careers. She is also a renowned speaker. She lives in Rappahannock County, Virginia with her husband, former Washington Post ombudsman, and their two dogs.

Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time

Book Summary - Eat That Frog by Bryan Tracy

Key Insights

Are you always rushing around but getting nothing done? Do you find that your to-do list keeps getting bigger? If the answer is yes then it sounds like you’re being overwhelmed by frogs.

Fortunately, these frogs are metaphorical. Frogs are the tasks that are too big or too hard to tackle easily and end up being pushed to the back of the line.

However, there is a way to make life easier and more productive. That is to handle these tasks first or to put it another way, by ‘eating the frog’. Learning how to ‘eat the frog’ will enable you to be more productive and get more out of your day without feeling overwhelmed.

Key Points

Write down your daily goals.

It sounds pretty obvious but having a good plan reduces procrastination and increases your productivity. If you have a defined list of goals for the day, you are going to have a better chance of completing those tasks.

A simple but effective way to plan is to write out a list starting with the most important goals for the day. When you have something down in writing, you have something physical you can see and focus on.

The added benefit of writing goals down for the day is the ability to feel you accomplished something when you cross off each item on the list. Most people who do not write down their goals for the day rarely get them done, so they rarely feel accomplished.

Having a clear purpose outlined in writing will make you more determined and focused to complete tasks. When you see something you need to do written down, you’ll be more motivated. You’re holding yourself accountable to the goals that you’ve set. That makes you more effective.

Apply this planning process to your day, week, month, and beyond. Your commitment to accomplishing the goals you set for yourself should become a habit.

Prioritize tasks.

How do you prioritize your to-do lists? Do you put the easiest and less pressing tasks at the top of the list? This is a common strategy. Perhaps it feels like, by doing them first, you’ll have the rest of the day to concentrate on more important tasks. Or maybe you view the quickest tasks as a warm-up for the actual work?

The reality is that if you work this way you are more likely to fail in completing your important tasks. You’re not just warming up or getting distractions out of the way. You’re spending your limited time and energy on things that don’t matter as much. By leaving them until the end you risk running out of time.

However, if you prioritize properly, you can make sure all of the important matters are taken care of first. You’re giving your attention to the things that matter the most for getting the results you want. If you run out of time it won’t matter as much. The less important tasks can wait until another time.

To prioritize, you need a method for labeling your tasks. There are different approaches and you should figure out what works best for you. It may take some trial and error, but it will be worth it.

You can categorize your tasks using the ABCDE method. The most important tasks are labeled in descending order of importance as group A, B, or C. Handle your A tasks first, then B and C if you have time. Tasks that can be delegated to someone else or removed completely are grouped as D and E.

Another way to approach planning is by using the Pareto Principle, which is sometimes known as the 80/20 rule. Under the Pareto Principle, 20% of your work accounts for 80% of your productivity. Using this method will allow you to streamline your efforts and maximize your output.

Say, for example, that you have 10 tasks for the day but only two of them are really important. You would prioritize those two items. Spend the majority of your time working on those items. This ensures that you’re working towards the things that really matter and making progress on your priorities.

Once you have removed tasks that don’t matter or delegated what others can handle, you can focus your energy on getting the real work done. As an added bonus, being able to remove items and have a streamlined list will make your load seem less overwhelming.

Learn your own limitations and push past them.

When you’re making your agenda do you think about what you are good at? Chances are, you prioritize work in order of things that come easiest to you. You may do this without even realizing it. But, knowing your strengths and using them is integral to your productivity.

It is also important to understand your weaknesses. Maybe you are great at organizing your plans but have trouble delegating work. Maybe you can work quickly but have trouble staying focused on one project.

Recognizing your abilities and their limits can be liberating. Once you know where your strengths lie, you can focus your energy on the areas that need work and improve your skills. While you build up those skills, you can also recruit others to fill the gaps where you’re weak.

Imagine you have a big project and it is the most important task on your list. However, you get easily overwhelmed with large projects. The most productive solution is to break the project down into smaller actionable items.

As you improve your abilities, you’ll feel more confident. Tasks that initially seemed daunting are much easier to handle. As a result, the hard tasks that you often want to put off no longer intimidate you. Making the choice to prioritize them will seem more appealing.

Identifying and targeting your weaknesses will also help you stop those things from holding you back. This is especially important if those weak areas are also the key constraints keeping you from achieving your goals. You have to push past to get what you want.

Stay focused and be mindful of consequences.

There’s no denying it, staying focused on one task can be hard, especially when technology offers us so many distractions. It can be easy to find yourself wasting time on social media when you should be working on something more important.

Everyone procrastinates from time to time, especially when facing tasks or work that they don’t really want to do. Procrastination can seriously affect your levels of productivity and can also undermine the progress you do make.

Without sounding too dramatic, think about worst-case scenarios. What happens if you don’t complete your most important tasks. For example, there’s an opening for your dream job and you need to apply. But you don’t. Or you complete the application sloppily and it’s full of errors. If that’s the most important thing to you, do it first and do it right.

Being aware of the consequences will help you to stay on track and achieve goals. It will also help you determine which tasks are more important. If failure to complete an item has no meaningful consequences, then it is probably safe to consider it unimportant enough to remove or give to someone else.

Avoid multitasking. Although it always seems impressive when someone is handling multiple tasks at once, it’s better to focus on one task at a time. If you try to work on multiple tasks simultaneously, you are more prone to distraction and more likely to make mistakes. Doing one task at a time allows you the focus to get it done well and, likely, more efficiently.

Making sure you get enough sleep each night is also key. If you are tired the next day you will find it harder to stay focused and concentrate on the tasks at hand. Rest is as important as being active and a lack of sleep has a direct impact on your productivity.

Actively manage your time by organizing how you intend to spend it.

You have written out your priorities in order of importance and had a good eight hours sleep. Yet, you are still finding yourself rushing to complete significant items on the list. The problem isn’t your organization, it’s your time-management skills.

Even if you know what you need to get done and don’t procrastinate, you may find yourself in the same position as before. This is because you need to budget your time for each task so you don’t spend a disproportionate amount of time on one thing.

Try breaking your day up into allotments of time and assign specific amounts of time to a task. Write out the allocated time blocks and stick to them. Assigning times to each task allows you to visualize your day.

If you know you only have an hour in the morning to complete an important task, you are far more likely to try and complete it in that block of time. You also work more productively when you know you have limited timeframes. If you can stick to the timeframe, you will know before the day is over whether you will complete all your tasks or not.

If the pressure of deadlines is too much for you, set yourself a false deadline at an earlier time. Aim to be complete by this time but don’t stress yourself out. You will still have time before the real deadline and will have made significant progress on the task already. This should relieve some of the pressure and help you maintain focus.

The goal is to force efficiency into your work. You want to maximize what you’re good at and figure out how to make the greatest impact. Divide up your time accordingly. You’re trying to give the most time to your best work.

Keep a positive outlook.

Trying to remain positive can be easier said than done, especially when your list of tasks seems endless. However, being optimistic can have a great effect on your productivity. There is power in positive thinking.

In fact, being positive does more than just improve your productivity. It improves your self-confidence and boosts your ability to tackle hard tasks. By believing in yourself, the tasks you found intimidating now become manageable. You won’t be slowed down by self-doubt.

If all of this sounds like a lot of work, it’s because it is. There will still be times when you are distracted or a specific item on the agenda seems difficult. That being said, you have to remember that it’s just as important to take breaks. Working solidly on tasks without a break will diminish your productivity over time.

But continue to believe in your own abilities and even on the most difficult days. The more you keep at it, the more efficient you will become at getting things done. Just keep eating those frogs.

The Main Take-away

Productivity requires planning. To get the most out of your day, prioritize the things that are most important to you. Spend the majority of your time on those tasks.

When you’re planning out your day take the time to think about where your strengths and weaknesses are. Utilize your strengths and learn how to develop your weak points so that you can maximize your potential. Don’t be afraid to learn new things.

Procrastination is detrimental to productivity. The best way for you to tackle distractions is to get ahead of them. Create a clear plan for each day and assign the time you have to each task. Keep focused on your deadlines to make sure you’re accomplishing everything you want to accomplish.

Don’t be afraid to delegate unimportant tasks to someone else, or even remove them altogether. Tackle the most important items of your agenda first and you will increase your output exponentially.

Finally, stay focused and stay positive. Positivity is one of the biggest factors in generating high productivity. Instill yourself with some confidence and believe in your abilities to get things done. When you have a positive view of yourself, you will be at your most productive.

About the Author

Brian Tracy is a personal and professional development expert, motivational speaker, and author. He has written over 70 books and 300 learning programs.

The Canadian-American shares his expertise with individuals and companies through consulting, seminars, and talks. His talks have reached over 5 million people and in a given year, addresses more than 250,000.

Tracy’s events and appearances span the globe. He has worked in more than 107 countries and speaks four languages. Prior to founding Brian Tracy International, he was the CEO of a multi-million dollar development company.

Tracy resides in California with his wife and four children. He is the president of three companies headquartered in Solana Beach.

The Execution Factor: The One Skill That Drives Success

Book Summary - The Execution Factor: The One Skill That Drives Success by Kim Perell

Key Insights

If you’re an entrepreneur, you probably know all about hard work. You know you have to be determined and persevere. Likely, you have some idea of what achieving your goals means. Maybe you want to be your own boss or you want financial independence.

But the reality is that not everyone succeeds. Some people have good ideas that never take off or a great product that doesn’t sell. For many aspiring entrepreneurs, this may feel disheartening. Why do some people succeed where others fail?

The difference between dreams and success comes down to execution. You have to be able to take meaningful action to make your goals a reality. This capacity to chart a course of action and carry it out is known as the execution factor.

Kim Perell knows all about execution. She went from an unemployed 23-year-old to a multimillionaire in seven years. As an angel investor, she’s seen that the execution factor over and over in the successful companies she’s invested in.

Perell explores the execution factor. The factor is made up of five traits: vision, passion, action, resilience, and relationship-building. The good news is you can learn this critical component of entrepreneurial success. You just have to be willing to put in the work.

Key Points

Having a vision is critical for mapping out where you want to go.

Vision is the first part of the execution factor. You need to have an articulated idea of where you want to go. This is the long-term aspiration you have. If things don’t go as planned, you try to get back on course towards that goal.

President John F. Kennedy set an ambitious mission for America in 1961. It was the middle of the Cold War. The United States was competing with the Soviet Union, trying to determine who had more power and influence on a global scale. Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet cosmonaut, became the first person to go to space. President Kennedy responded by stating that the United States would put a man on the Moon by the end of the decade.

President Kennedy’s statement was a vision. It was something you could visualize and work towards. Inspiring the nation, it set the tone for actions that culminated in the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. Neil Armstrong took those steps on the lunar landscape and realized the vision.

Your goal doesn’t have to require leaving the planet. But you need to know what you want to accomplish if you’re going to figure out how to accomplish it. You won’t know if the work you’re doing is helping you meet your goals if you don’t have a final destination in mind.

A vision is any sort of goal that isn’t immediate. You could be trying to complete an ambitious task that requires a lot of preparation, such as running a marathon. You may want to acquire a new skill, like baking. Your goal may be broader, like helping the environment or achieving financial freedom.

The path to achieving your vision will probably not be smooth and easy. If it was, you would have done it by now. The vision keeps you focused no matter what obstacles you encounter. Maybe you get injured during training. If you still want to accomplish your goal, you adjust your timeline and plans while keeping the finish line in mind.

It also opens you up to possible avenues to get to where you want to go. Financial freedom comes from a variety of sources and you don’t want to close off opportunities. There are many ways to accomplish your goals. Your vision guides you while you figure out the best way to get there.

Your vision should fit your needs and motivate you.

To work best in supporting execution, a vision needs to be clear and relevant to you.

Clarity allows you to visualize exactly what you’re trying to achieve. Brevity is an important part of being clear. Your vision shouldn’t be a long and complicated statement. Ideally, you should be able to articulate your vision in a sentence.

Specificity is also important for clarity. Your vision statement may be short, but it directly captures what you want to achieve. When you imagine what that looks like realized, you have a robust sense of everything it entails.

Clearly imagining what the reality looks like can be harder than you think. For example, if your goal is to own a food truck that is a clear vision statement. But you have to imagine the day-to-day reality of owning a food truck. This means the hours, the customers, the cooking, and everything else that comes with it. You can seek input on the practical reality from others. Determine if this is something you really want for yourself.

The other side of a good vision is that it is able to motivate you. It expresses what you truly want and doesn’t just take on what others see for you. Your vision should be relevant to you, meaningful for what you want for your life, and compelling to you. Notice that it is all about you and not objective ideas of what might be “good.”

Think of someone who cooks for friends. They rave about what a good cook he is and how he should open a food truck. These ideas stick and he dives in. But he hates it. From the start, he’s inhibiting his ability to succeed from the start because this isn’t something he actually wants. The vision doesn’t fit his needs and won’t motivate him.

To avoid falling into the trap of someone else’s vision for you, try to test it out. If you think you might want to quit your job to open a food truck, try cooking professionally with lower risk. You could enter a cooking competition or have a stall at a weekend festival. Figure out if you enjoy it as more than a hobby before you give up everything to pursue it.

A well-articulated vision that captures your desires is going to be the beacon that guides your success.

Make your vision a priority.

Once you have a vision that you know is a true expression of what you want, you have to do everything to realize it. This means making it a priority and approaching it strategically.

Visualize what your future looks like if you succeed. Use that imagery to focus on what you want to achieve. Also, ask questions about the specifics of that vision. It helps you flesh out what success looks like, including details of your physical space and the kinds of people you want on your team.

Write down your vision and find a way to remind yourself of it daily. You want to make sure that you’re working towards your goal every day. This means that the tasks on your to-do list should be prioritized based on what gets you closer to achieving your vision.

You have a limited amount of time and you need to use it wisely. Sometimes, that means passing on some things you enjoy in order to get what you really want.

You need to be willing to suffer to accomplish your goals.

Passion is the second key to the execution factor. Your passion is more than just something you’re enthusiastic about doing. The word comes from a Latin word that means “suffer or endure.” The origin better explains the nature of passion in the execution factor.

In trying to accomplish your goals, you’re not just going to be doing what you love. You have to be willing to suffer hardships or endure the less enjoyable tasks because of how strongly you feel about what you want. That is the measure of passion.

Passion in this sense is essential to execution because it likely won’t be smooth sailing. Your love of what you’re trying to accomplish has to be able to keep you going when things get hard. If possible, you also want others that share your passion to help as well.

Feed your passion using related activities and by celebrating wins.

A strong passion keeps you charging towards your goals. Maintaining a connection to your passion is important for keeping it strong.

Regular activity that is related to your passion helps keep it strong. For example, if your passion is animals you can start a blog. To allow for time for those activities, you have to prioritize them. This means that you may have to pass on fun things like social engagements. But you have to make time for what matters and your passion gets you closer to your big goals.

In pursuit of your passion, you should also celebrate any win you have. Big or small, every accomplishment should be acknowledged. Relishing the good things that come with your passion helps deepen the passion and fuel your efforts.

Start small and don’t overthink it.

It may seem obvious that to execute, you have to act. But the first step is often the hardest one to take. This is why the third part of the execution factor is action.

So, where do you begin? You have a clear vision for what you want to accomplish and you’re passionate about getting there. There are usually a variety of paths to your destination. You could waste a lot of valuable time trying to figure out the best path. In the end, you’ll have gotten nowhere because all you’ve done is overthink it.

Gather some data before proceeding. You may miss your chance if you wait until you have all the information. Aim for getting between 40 percent and 70 percent of the data to inform your choice.

Do something. Pick a path and take a step forward. This doesn’t mean you throw caution to the wind and jump all the way in on the path you’ve picked. You don’t want to quit your job and pour your life savings into a venture without testing the waters.

You are starting small and then reassessing whether or not that’s the best path for you. The advantage of starting small is that you minimize the risk. You can also figure out what may offer you the greatest chance of success while setting up a side hustle that helps fund your dream.

For example, don’t quit a well-paying job to open a costly restaurant. Start with the farmer’s market on weekends. You could establish a loyal base of customers, identify your best sellers, and bank some money to invest in an eventual restaurant if you still want to open one.

Keep assessing your steps as you go.

Once you’ve taken the first step, don’t stop. Even if the first step is a wild success, you can’t relax. Use the inertia to keep moving. The first step was not your vision, just a start to getting there.

Apple is a good example of constant progress. Even after bringing to market innovative products, Apple doesn’t stop. The company keeps looking to its next product or improvement. They weren’t the first company to bring out a smartphone, but Apple relentlessly pursues better versions of the iPhone.

To keep moving forward, you should evaluate your progress and recalibrate as needed. Each step can get you closer or it may not work out the way you intended. Reviewing it helps you determine what comes next.

You should implement a daily review process. This means you identify everything you did for your vision. Determine if these actions supported the vision and brought you closer to achieving your goals. If you aren’t headed in the direction you want to go, adjust your actions accordingly.

Develop and harness your resilience.

The fourth piece of the execution factor is resilience. It is not only the ability to handle the ups and downs that life (and entrepreneurship) bring. Resilience is also about working with the challenges to make the best of them. You’re not just trying to survive. You want to thrive.

Positivity helps spur resilience. Maintain that you will succeed, rather than accepting defeat and wallowing. Hold onto your confidence and grow from the setbacks. View each challenge as an opportunity to become better. For example, Elon Musk responded to injuries at the Tesla factory by meeting with injured employees to identify potential improvements.

You can develop resilience like any skill. First, set yourself up mentally to respond well to challenges. This means getting to a calmer mindset where you can keep stress under control. Build calmness by using activities like journaling, physical exercise to burn off stress, and meditation. When you face negative emotions, use the activities to center yourself. Identify activities that are relaxing to you, like spending time with loved ones.

Having a calm mindset will help you become unflappable in the face of adversity. Growing from each obstacle is also an approach you can learn. If things don’t go as planned, you can always try to fix it. Force yourself to ask how you can salvage a bad situation or even how it could turn out better. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.

Relationships can make or break you. Make as many deep and positive ones as possible.

No matter how strong your first four traits are, you’re going to be limited if you try to do everything yourself. The final part of the execution factor is building relationships.

Use relationships to free you up to focus on pursuing your goals. The time and energy of a team of people are better than you on your own. Others can bring skills that you don’t possess. You can’t know everything and tapping those you trust is a more efficient way of bringing in expertise.

Relationships are also a two-way street. Pooling resources mean everyone can do what they’re best at and pitch in. If someone offers their talents to you, reciprocate when you can with the skills you can offer them. Having more mutually advantageous relationships increases your capacity.

The bigger your network, the greater your relationship opportunities. Look for a diverse group of people to add to your social and professional networks. You want people that are in other industries and from different backgrounds. The variety translates to a range of skills and expertise to pull from.

Relationships also take work to maintain. Be thoughtful and remember the important dates for people in your network. When you can, send handwritten notes to wish them well or thank them. And take spare time to connect with them outside of when you need help.

Building a great network also means weeding out bad relationships. Not every person is a good fit for you. Sometimes relationships are lose-lose or they are a one-way street where you feel like you give without getting anything in return. Relationships also evolve and may start positive and become negative.

Periodically review all the relationships in your life. Identify the ones that help you grow or provide support, energy, or inspiration. At the same time, figure out which do the opposite and cut off those relationships.

Of course, it isn’t that easy to cut off every bad relationship. Even if you don’t like a colleague, you still have to interact. The same goes for an in-law that is married to a sibling you love. Make reasonable exceptions and find ways to minimize their negative impacts on you.

There’s also one more category of relationships. Some people are temporarily bad relationships because of circumstances that are out of their control. Grief, illness, or career challenges may make people harder to be around. But you can be there to help pull them through, restoring their positivity. You would probably want them to stick around if you were going through something similar.

Your ultimate goal is to maintain a network of positive relationships. They buoy your resilience, help you take action, celebrate victories to feed your passion, and support you as you pursue your vision. The people around you can help you achieve your goals.

The Main Take-away

The difference between success and failure often comes down to one thing: execution. You can plan all you want, but that’s not going to realize your dreams. The way in which you execute your plans is critical.

Fortunately, the execution factor isn’t just a trait you have or don’t have. It is made up of five components, all of which can be developed. The five parts of the execution factor are vision, passion, action, resilience, and building relationships. These work together for meaningful execution.

If you think of yourself as a driver on a journey in a car, the execution factor is how you get where you want to go. The vision is your destination. You think about it and you have to be specific. It is hard to go to a general place. You need an actual location to be able to drive there.

Passion is the gas in the tank. You need it to get your engine going and you can’t run out. Small tasks related to your end goal and celebrating victories help keep the gas tank full.

Action is actually putting the car in drive and moving. There may be different routes to your destination, but you have to pick one and start moving. Pay attention to your progress and adjust your route as needed.

Resilience helps you deal with unplanned obstacles. Maybe you hit a small pothole and you just have to deal with the brief rough patch. Or you get stuck in a major traffic jam. Cars have safety equipment to handle the worst stuff and keeping a positive attitude even will help you even when things get frustrating.

Sure, you can drive alone. But maybe there are parts of your journey that would be better with some company. Long road trips can get lonely and tiring. If there is more than one driver and you share the burden, you can get there quicker. Or you need special skills on a road that is difficult to navigate. The relationships you build will support you on your journey. Make sure you surround yourself with positive relationships.

With the five pieces coming together, you have what you need. Make it a priority to reach your goals and execute on your plans. Reaching the destination you set out for will be well worth the journey.

About the Author

Kim Perell is an entrepreneur with a background in marketing and advertising.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration from Pepperdine University, Perell joined Xdrive Technology. In her role as the Director of Marketing and Sales, she brought in more than $9 million in revenue from advertising. Xdrive was an internet startup that eventually went bankrupt and Perell was laid off.

Perell took her marketing expertise and founded Frontline Direct. In seven years, her firm grew to over $100 million in revenue. Building on her success, she sold her company to Adconion Media Group.

After the sale, the two companies merged and Perell became the CEO and the first woman on its board. Four years later the company was sold again but for more than $200 million this time. Perell again stayed on as a leader, serving as president for two years before moving up to CEO.

In 2019, Perell shifted her focus to investing and supporting entrepreneurs. As an angel investor, she’s supported more than 60 businesses. She has judged business ideas on Entrepreneur Magazine’s Elevator Pitch series and appeared in Good Morning America’s segments Side Hustle Showdown and Kidventors.

She lives in San Diego with her husband and their two sets of twins.

Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days

Book Summary - Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days by Chris Guillebeau

Key Insights

Sometimes it is hard to be your own boss, and not everyone can thrive and succeed away from their day job. At the same time, if you have an entrepreneurial spirit, but want to keep your primary job, it may be time to try a side hustle.

In Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days, Chris Guillebeau shows readers what it takes to have a successful side business that brings in extra income, while also offering the dos and don’ts for a successful side hustle.

You will learn how to take a hobby that some might consider to be obscure and earn money with it. You’ll learn how to prevent making simple business mistakes with some easy math, and even what the Girl Scouts have to teach us all about business.

Key Points

Side hustles are also a form of job freedom that anyone can achieve

The definition of a side hustle is to have a business venture that is profitable, while also working in conjunction with someone’s paid employment or career. In general, a side hustle is something in which the bare minimum is needed in terms of time and money spent, as well as effort, to bring in extra income.

Having a side hustle means that you have different sources to bring in money. This also helps if you are fired or quit full time because there is still money coming in to pay the bills.

When starting a side hustle, there is no reason to be overwhelmed, as you really should only be starting with an hour per day. Anything over that is likely wasting time and energy. And you don’t need a degree to get a side hustle going.

This is your personal business that you are running, so you don’t answer to anyone else.

With careful consideration and math skills, you can come up with strong ideas that in turn become a solid side hustle

In order to get started figuring out your ideal side hustle, it’s important to determine if your idea has three specific qualities. You must determine if your potential idea is motivating for you if it can be done in a short amount of time, and also if it can actually make you money.

If the answer to those three questions is yes, then you have an idea that is feasible.

In order to determine if your idea can make money, you should be able to describe it to potential customers in two sentences and see if they are interested in your proposal. If your idea is persuasive enough for people to say yes to, then you have something that could in fact make you extra money.

Once you determine whether or not you have an idea that works as a side hustle, it is time to do the math to determine how much money you can make versus how much you need.

Simply put, you should be spending less money on your side hustle than you bring in (otherwise you simply are not making a profit). It is also a good idea to run the numbers two times, once to give yourself a conservative number and once that is more optimistic.

Take your side hustle and build it up with a pitch and how much you plan to charge

Once you have an idea for a side hustle it is time to create an offer for potential customers. Every offer that you make has three components to it: the pitch, the price, and a promise.

Your promise is a bold statement that tells customers what they will get from you and the benefit of going with you over someone else. The pitch itself is what the customer needs to know about what they are getting. And of course, your price is what you will be charging your customer for your services or product. Included with your cost should be a call to action as well.

Your offer should also create a sense of urgency that makes your potential customer realize that they need to hurry to get in on what you are offering them.

You need resources for your side hustle

When getting started with a side hustle it is important to have a shopping list of resources needed.

The first thing on your list should be a website, as this is your home based online. Next, you need to have a social media profile for your side hustle, and while it does not need to be all of the platforms, you should at least be on one or two of the primary sites (either Twitter or Facebook specifically).

The third thing on your list should be a tool for scheduling. While a side hustle may not consume all of your time, it does take time and that means it is important to use time management skills and tools.

The fourth thing you need is a payment system to accept money from customers. This could be as simple as a PayPal account or a shopping cart on your website.

Once these things have been handled, you should make your priority not only making more money but also offering more value to your customers. When you respond to a customer’s needs without them even saying anything, then you are providing them with additional value.

You can also make more money by increasing your rates over time. Once you have established your side hustle and made it something that your customers rely on, they will come to understand that the price increase is something you must do to be compensated fairly as well.

Understand the benefits of your side hustle and make sure the right people are involved to better sell it to others

The Girl Scouts are a good example for people looking to build a profitable side hustle. The reason that they sell so many cookies every year is that not only are their products delicious, but people are aware of this fact.

It is important to emphasize the merits of your product or service. Potential customers need to know about the benefits of your product. It also helps to appeal to people’s emotions.

Once you are able to get the benefits of your side hustle out into the world, get some help. If there is a lot to offer from your side hustle, then there is no reason to do it alone.

There are four types of people you would seek out in this case. Up first are the supporters, who are often friends and family who are there to offer their support. Then there are the mentors, they can offer guidance and feedback about your work.

The third type of person to reach out to are influencers. These are the trendsetters who will be able to spread the word about what you have to offer. Finally, there are the ideal customers. These are the customers who will give you their honest opinion about your product and can evaluate what you have to offer.

These four types of people are your network, and they will help you go far with your side hustle.

Once you can identify what’s working best with your side hustle, do more of that

A business is either moving up and onwards or it is sinking. And in the early stages of your business, it is important to know which direction you are heading.

Once you have gotten started with your side hustle, there is really only one question you should be asking yourself - are you making money.

There are actually three potential answers to this question. Either you are exceeding expectations, you are not doing well and people have not taken to your idea, or finally, you are making some money but it hasn’t really gained any traction yet.

If the third answer is more like what you are experiencing, then it is necessary to look at your metrics. Look at your time spent, profits earned, and how you are growing.

Once you have been able to identify areas of concern, you can typically find a way to improve in those areas by following two basic rules. First, there is doing more of what works and second is to stop doing what’s not working.

While you may want to solve potential problems, it is not worth it in this case. It’s best to concentrate on what is actually working and go from there.

The Main Take-away

No matter who you are, you can create a side hustle that is successful. You do not need a lot of money, time, or resources to start something that is profitable.

You do not need to leave your day job to have a business of your own. This is an extra paycheck on top of the one you already bring in.

Make sure you have a solid workflow when it comes to your side hustle. Utilize lists to keep track of the things you need in your business. Remember that if things are not working, then it is best to let it go.

About the Author

Chris Guillebeau is an American author, blogger, and speaker best known for his book The Art of Non-Conformity and blog. His brand Unconventional guides provide travel and small business topic guides. He is the organizer of the annual World Domination Summit. His blog discusses entrepreneurship, travel, and personal development topics. He graduated from the University of Washington and Athens State University with a degree in International Studies. He lives in Portland with his wife. His second book, The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future, was released in 2012 and reached #6 in its category on The New York Times Bestsellers list. He maintains a blog at Anderson Cooper 360 and has written for Business Week.

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

Book Summary - The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

Key Insights

Most people have written themselves off as destined for the 9 to 5 grind in exchange for relaxing weekends and an occasional vacation. Instead, Ferriss proposes we cut out all the things draining time and income without giving a sizeable return back.

Ferris used to work the 9-5 until 2004, when he decided to travel the world. He realized he can work anywhere and run a profitable business.

Most people are deferrers who postpone life. They work really hard for the idea of retirement. Instead of living life today, they work hard and put aside money for the future. They may save some money, but only having worked hard for a lifetime. For example, the author gives the example of Mark, who Ferris met when he flew to Las Vegas. Mark spent his life managing casinos and gas stations and convenience stores. Though he was rich, he was dead instead. He enjoyed none of his jobs and suffered through 30 years of hateful employment.

According to Ferris, you don’t have to be a millionaire to live like a millionaire. Having more freedom and free time can be achieved without being a millionaire.

Key Points

In absolute income, a person making $150,000 is richer than a person making $30,000. However, in relative income, the person making $30,000 may have more buying power...especially if that same person is geographically-independent and only works four hours a week, whereas the former works eighty hours a week to afford urban living. Great things happen when you earn in dollars and spend in pesos; in other words, learn to extend your earning potential reach through earning online revenue, residual income, and international business transactions. Outsource work you dread or that consumes your time to maximize your return reward.

Steps to Escape the Rat Race

Step 1: Process of Elimination

Consider Pareto’s Law (the 80/20 principle): quantify the 20% of activities that produce 80% of desired incomes.

Determine the 20% of people and activities consuming 80% of your time

The purpose of this is to figure out and eliminate your inefficiencies as well as multiply your strengths

Step 2: Cultivating Selective Ignorance

To save time and work less, only hold meetings when it makes senses and when there is an important decision needed to be made. When it comes to business conversations, try to replace “How are you doing?” with “What can I do for you?” or starting with “Unfortunately, I only have one minute to share" to save time.

Try to do as much as possible in as little time as possible while tackling projects that help you achieve your personal goals.

Catch up on information as needed, not when it comes to you

An example of this is email: it shouldn’t be a workspace, just a tool. Answer emails twice a day, once in the afternoon and once in the evening. Eventually, you might find yourself answering emails once a day.

Let your family know about your new habits by setting up an autoresponder saying you’re designating allotted times to check email and that you will respond accordingly. Urgent requests can be expressed on the phone or in face-to-face conversation.

This lets you focus on the current task at hand, reducing interruption.

Step 3: Outsourcing Your Life

Replace the metric of annual income with hourly income.

If you earn $50,000/year, outsourcing just one 8-hour workday to a Virtual Assistant charging $30/hour would potentially cost you $40 per week and generate a 400-500% ROI.

Setting a NOT-to-do list can help you maximize your productivity while reducing your workload.

How to Get a 4-Hour Workweek

Completely unplug and reset, take a step back and forget about what’s popular.

Closely examine what works and what is just eating up your time.

The four steps to a 4-Hour Workweek:

The “New Rich” increase the money they make and reduce the hours they work through these four steps:

Definition: define your ideal lifestyle.

This means redefining your approach to work. Most people want to work for years and save up for retirement. The New Rich think that it’s better to have intense phases of work and mini retirements such as brief vacations that are between two weeks and two months long. Ferris urges to set big “unrealistic” goals. Few people dare to think big so its easier to achieve the “unrealistic” than the “realistic.” Moreover, the perfect time to quit your job and join the New Rich will never come because you have to trust yourself and take the plunge.

Elimination: get rid of all of the static and noise interrupting you.

Focus on projects that help you achieve your personal goals. Important tasks should be finished before midday. Answer email twice a day in the afternoon and evening. Eventually, you might be able to handle email only once a week.

Automation: Take the few remaining tasks that are important but that are occupying your time and delegate, automate or outsource them.

Liberation: freedom in the form of options.

Once you’ve defined your goals and removed time-consuming activities, you’ve increased your effectivity and may want to liberate yourself from the office. The office wants you to put 40 hours per week; however, you’ve learned how to do more in less hours. To escape the office, and work less from anywhere you want, you can first increase your value to the company, increase your output when working remotely, propose a trial period, and spend more time working remotely. For example, Amy might take on more work and make herself important to the company. By doing this, she increases the value to her employer. She can then take a few sick days where she works from home to prove that she can be as indispensable working remotely. Eventually, she can ask her employer for a trial period to work remotely and produce the same amount of work or more. After all, working remotely means fewer commute hours and makes her more productive.

Amy's learned to work fewer hours per week and can now spend more time building her company on the side. She knows though that not every product will sell. So Amy decides to sell her product on eBay to see if there is demand before she takes it mainstream.

About the Author

Timothy Ferris is an American business owner and angel investor. He has served as an investor or advisor to many companies, including StumbleUpon, Evernote, Shopify, Uber, and TaskRabbit. CNN listed Ferris as one of the “planet’s leading angel investors”. He has written five books, including The 4-Hour Workweek. Each of his books has been featured on The New York Times Bestseller list.

Way of the Wolf: Become a Master Closer with Straight Line Selling

Key Points

Jordan Belfort was a successful stockbroker who made millions of dollars. Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed him in the movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese. He was charged by the FBI with securities fraud and money laundering and served almost 2 years in jail. He is the inventor of the Straight Line System. In his book, Way of the Wolf: Straight Line Selling, he discusses his step-by-step sales and persuasion system that helped him become extremely wealthy.

According to Belfort, The Straight Line System will cut sales cycles, build referrals, generate more closings, help form more permanent closes, and teaches non salespeople to persuade. While he was running his company, Stratton Oakmont, in the 1990s Belfort taught this system to his employees and it allowed for amateur salespeople to become good at selling and make millions. In the straight-line system, the salesperson moves prospects along at a regular pace to the close, as long as the product works for them.

Every sale consists of the same three core elements. First, prospects must trust your product or service. If they do not, you need to move them there. Second, they need to trust the salesperson. Building rapport is important here. Third, the prospect needs to trust the company that he is buying from. For each element, the salesperson needs to move the prospect from absolute uncertainty to absolute certainty.

The Straight Line system requires you to lower your prospect's action threshold and increase their pain threshold. To increase the pain threshold, you can have your prospect think about what will happen if they don't fix the problem. There are four ways to increase the action threshold.

 

  • Offer a money-back guarantee
  • Offer a cooling or rescission period
  • Use key phrases to ease their worries. For example, "I will hold your hand every step of the way."
  • Say something like, “Bill, let me ask you an honest question; what’s the worst that can possibly happen here? I mean, let’s say I’m wrong and the stock actually goes down a few points, and you lose two thousand bucks.

 

If you feel like the prospect is feeling pressured, you can say something like "Jim, please don’t misconstrue my enthusiasm for pressure; it’s just that I know that this truly is a perfect fit for you."

Remember that when selling or persuading others, people form an impression about you in a short time. You have four seconds to make a positive connection with your prospect. You want to show them that you are sharp as a tack, very enthusiastic, and a knowledgeable expert. You want to show that you can fulfill their needs and desires and that you offer a unique perspective.

Your body language and tone are very important. You want to sound caring, sincere, and empathetic. Make sure to smile and have a posture that matches that of your prospect.

Use looping to handle your prospect's doubts. When they voice their objections, delay, and loop back to a previous point in your presentation. This way you are reinforcing why they should take the deal. For example, one way to answer your prospect's objections is to say: “I hear what you’re saying, Bill, but let me ask you a question; Does the idea make sense to you? Do you like the idea?."

When using the straight-line system, make sure you do the following:

 

  • Understand your prospects. Who are they? What do they care about? Do you understand their pain?
  • Use a memorized script when talking to them so that you can focus on their words, tone, and body language.
  • Don’t focus on the benefits at the beginning. Reserve that for later.
  • Use stopping-off points between important ideas. For example, “Does that make sense?” after talking at length.
  • Talk like you are having a conversation.
  • Be honest and ethical.
  • Ask strategic questions to understand who they are and to find the right audience.

 

When trying to find good prospects:

 

  • Ask permission to ask questions. Remember to build rapport before asking more intimate questions. Start from least intimate questions and gradually work your way deeper.
  • Always follow a logical path.
  • Always use a memorized script. That will help you focus on your prospect instead of what you want to say.
  • Use the right tone and body language when asking questions. Make sure you show empathy.
  • Don’t waste time on unlikely prospects.
  • Use vocal exclamation points - oohs and aahs - to build relationships
  • Lean your body towards them when you ask emotion-based questions
  • When asking logic-based questions, lean back, and nod
  • Always end with a powerful transition. “Well, John, based on everything you just said to me, this program is definitely a perfect fit for you. Let me tell you why… “
  • Stay on the Straight Line; don’t go spiraling off to Pluto. Try to stay on track. If your prospect tries to go off track, say something like  “It sounds really interesting. I can see why you feel that way. Now as far as your goal for learning how to trade currencies goes…”

 

Now that you understand how the Straight Line System works you can now focus on building referrals.

The Main Take-aways

The Straight Line System is a good way to sell products to prospects and persuade others. Build a good impression quickly, develop a rapport, ask permission when asking questions, ask the questions needed to target the right audience, make a strong presentation backed by a memorized script, use looping to defend against objections, uncover the prospect’s pain, and explain how your product or service will relieve it.