"Many times the hardest part about achieving a dream isn’t actually achieving it—it’s stepping through your fear of the unknown when you don’t have a plan. Having a teacher or boss tell you what to do makes life a lot easier. But nobody achieves a dream from the comfort of certainty."
Chapter Four: The Spielberg Game
Getting your foot in the door
"The most important step, I realized, was finding that “Inside Man”—someone inside the organization willing to put his or her reputation on the line to bring you in."
Chapter Five: Crouching in the Bathroom
This chapter is mostly tips from Tim Ferriss.
On gaining credibility as a writer / creator
"Well, volunteering for the right organizations is an easy way to get some credible association,” [Tim] Ferriss said. A second step would be writing for or being featured in known publications,” he continued. “And that could be as easy as doing a Q and A with someone—interviewing them and publishing the answers online.”
Cold-email tactics from Tim Ferriss:
“The general composition of my emails,” Ferriss said, “when I’m emailing a busy person, is:
I know you’re really busy and that you get a lot of emails, so this will only take sixty seconds to read.
[Here is where you say who you are: add one or two lines that establish your credibility.]
[Here is where you ask your very specific question.]
I totally understand if you’re too busy to respond, but even a one- or two-line reply would really make my day.
All the best, Tim"
In summary: Tim Ferriss did not build credibility from nothing — he borrowed it by associating himself with well-known organizations and publications. Borrowed credibility.
I’d also not end with something like, ‘Thanks in advance!’ It’s annoying and entitled. Do the opposite and say, ‘I know you’re super busy, so if you can’t respond, I totally understand.’
Chapter Six: Qi Time
"Luck is like a bus,” he told me. “If you miss one, there’s always the next one. But if you’re not prepared, you won’t be able to jump on.”
Chapter Nine: The Rules
"What was the tipping point in your career that allowed you to build so much momentum?” “There is no tipping point,” he said, still typing away. “It’s all just little steps.”
Rule number one: Never use your phone in a meeting. I don’t care if you’re just taking notes. Using your phone makes you look like a chump. Always carry a pen in your pocket. The more digital the world gets, the more impressive it is to use a pen. And anyway, if you’re in a meeting, it’s just rude to be on your phone.
"Now, rule number four,” he said, slowly stressing each word, “this rule is the most important. If you break it”—he moved his hand across his neck in a slicing motion—“you’re done. “If you break my trust, you’re finished. Never, ever go back on your word. If I tell you something in confidence, you need to be a vault. What goes in does not come out. This goes for your relationships with everyone from this day forward. If you act like a vault, people will treat you like a vault. It will take years to build your reputation, but seconds to ruin it. Understood?”
This is true for anything. Have integrity.
Rule number two: Act like you belong. Walk into a room like you’ve been there before. Don’t gawk over celebrities. Be cool. Be calm. And never, ever ask someone for a picture. If you want to be treated like a peer, you need to act like one. Fans ask for pictures. Peers shake hands.
Speaking of pictures, rule number three: Mystery makes history. When you’re doing cool shit, don’t post pictures of it on Facebook. No one actually changing the world posts everything they do online. Keep people guessing what you’re up to. Plus, the people you’re going to impress by posting things online aren’t the people you should care about impressing.
Chapter Eleven: Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
Ever since then, I’ve lived my life by one motto: "Bite off more than you can chew. You can figure out how to chew later.”
Chapter Twelve: That’s How You Do Business
This is what you don’t understand,” Elliott told me. “You probably think everyone loves your story because you were on a game show. But what your story is about isn’t as important as how you tell it.”
Chapter Thirteen: Exponential Life
"You see, most people live a linear life,” he continued. “They go to college, get an internship, graduate, land a job, get a promotion, save up for a vacation each year, work toward their next promotion, and they just do that their whole lives. Their lives move step by step, slowly and predictably."
“But successful people don’t buy into that model. They opt into an exponential life. Rather than going step by step, they skip steps. People say that you first need to ‘pay your dues’ and get years of experience before you can go out on your own and get what you truly want. Society feeds us this lie that you need to do x, y, and z before you can achieve your dream. It’s bullshit. The only person whose permission you need to live an exponential life is your own.
"I’ve learned that you have to go for it, even if there’s a chance you’ll fail. The planets are never going to perfectly align. When you see an opportunity, it’s up to you to jump.”
Chapter Fifteen: You Can’t Out-Amazon Amazon
Ever since I’d been on my dorm room bed, I’d been obsessed with studying the paths of successful people, and while that’s a good approach to learning, I couldn’t solve every problem that way.
I couldn’t copy and paste other people’s playbooks and expect it to work exactly the same for me. Their playbook worked for them because it was their playbook. It played to their strengths and their circumstances.
Not once had I ever looked within myself and wondered about my strengths or my circumstances. What did it mean to out-Alex someone?
While there’s a time for studying what’s worked for other people, there are moments when you have to go all in on what makes you unique. And in order to do that, you have to know what makes you, you.
Chapter Sixteen: No One Ever Asks
If you want something, ask for it. It's rare that people ask for what they want. So just try asking. The worst case is rejection — and that's not so bad.
Chapter Seventeen: It’s All Gray
Maybe the hardest part about taking a risk isn’t whether to take it, it’s when to take it. It’s never clear how much momentum is enough to justify leaving school. It’s never clear when it’s the right time to quit your job. Big decisions are rarely clear when you’re making them—they’re only clear looking back. The best you can do is take one careful step at a time.
The advice I got at Summit from Dan Babcock came to mind: Success is a result of prioritizing your desires.
Chapter Nineteen: Grandpa Warren
"I tell college students, when you get to be my age, you will be successful if the people who you hope to have love you, do love you.”
“No matter how great the talent or effort, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”
“I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business…So I do more reading and thinking, and make fewer impulse decisions than most people in business.”
“I will tell you the secret to getting rich on Wall Street. You try to be greedy when others are fearful. And you try to be fearful when others are greedy.”
“The stock market is a no-called-strike game. You don’t have to swing at everything—you can wait for your pitch. The problem when you’re a money manager is that your fans keep yelling, ‘Swing, you bum!’ ”
“I try to buy stock in businesses that are so wonderful that an idiot can run them. Because sooner or later, one will.”
Buffett is famous for being a long-term value investor and this story shows he treated his career the same way. He could’ve gotten a high-paying job right out of school and made far more money in the short term. But by offering to work for free under Graham, he set himself up to make much more in the long term. Instead of trying to get paid as much as possible in dollars, Buffett chose to get paid in mentorship, expertise, and connections.
“While this story is short,” I told Ryan, “the lesson is huge, and I think it’s one of the biggest keys to Buffett’s success. When everyone else skims a report, Buffett is obsessively scouring the fine print, going above and beyond, studying every word, looking for clues. You don’t have to be born a genius to read the footnotes—it’s a choice. It’s a choice to put in the hours, go the extra mile, and do the things others aren’t willing to do. Reading the damn footnotes isn’t just a task on Buffett’s to-do list—it’s his outlook on life.”
“Energy and persistence conquer all things.” —BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
“The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” —THOMAS EDISON
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” —ALBERT EINSTEIN
Sugar Ray had warned me about this. “You’ve got to stay in the fight. It’s going to get tough. You’re going to hear no. But you’ve got to keep pushing."
Chapter Twenty: The Motel 6
“That’s my point. You need to understand that business is not target practice. It’s not about obsessing over a bull’s-eye. It’s about putting as many balls in the air as possible and seeing which one hits. When was the last time you worked on getting Bill Gates?”
“Well, not for a few months.”
“When was the last time you worked on Lady Gaga?”
“Not for a few months.”
“When was the last time you worked on Buffett?”
“I’ve been working on Buffett every day!”
“That’s my point! You need to start working on building a pipeline and getting other balls in the air. Business is not target practice.”
Context: The author was trying to talk to the people mentioned above.
Chapter Twenty-one: Frog Kissing
“Let’s say there’s a one-in-one-hundred chance you’re going to get something right. If you’re willing to do it more than a hundred times, you start to approach the probability that, eventually, you’re going to get it right. Call it luck. Call it tenacity. You will eventually get it if you exhaust all your efforts.”
"But if you do want to do it—if you want to go off and do really big things—be prepared for them to take way longer than you thought, cost way more than you expected, and be full of failures that are painful, embarrassing, and frustrating. If it’s not going to kill you, keep trudging through the mud.”
“Here’s a big one: it’s better to prove it can’t be done than to exhaust the infinite number of ways to fail.”
“Instead of getting frustrated by repeating the same old problem,” Kamen said, “reframe the question in a new way that is amenable to a different kind of solution.”
Chapter Twenty-two: The Shareholders Meeting
“To attract money, you should deserve money. And you should develop a record over time that does it. You should explain to people why that record is a product of sound thinking rather than simply being in tune with a trend or simply just being lucky. Charlie?” — said by Warren Buffett
Chapter Twenty-three: Mr. Kinggg!
Larry King gives advice on interviewing.
Those starting out often try to copy famous interviewers. But their interview style is based on what makes them comfortable; because what makes them comfortable, is what makes their guests comfortable.
“The secret is: there is no secret,” Larry added. “There’s no trick to being yourself.”
Chapter Twenty-four: The Final Bullet
“You want to know the secret to changing the world? Stop trying to change it. Do great work and let your work change the world.”
“You won’t get anywhere significant in life until you come to the epiphany that you know nothing. You’re still too cocky. You think you can learn anything. You think you can speed up the process.”
“How does one become successful? You’ll get the same answer if you ask that to any other older, wiser, and more successful person: you have to want to do it very, very badly.”
“I don’t understand why people give speeches with slides. When you speak with slides, you become a caption. Never be a caption.”
“I live my life by two mantras. One: if you don’t ask, you don’t get. And two: most things don’t work out.”
Chapter Twenty-five: The Holy Grail: Part I
It was his ability to do the hard, uncomfortable thing that made this opportunity possible. The potential to unlock your future is in your hands—but first you have to pick up the damn phone.
Gates wanted to be paid in something more valuable than cash: strategic positioning. It’s better to make a fair deal today that sets you up for more deals down the road than a great deal that doesn’t set you up for anything. The takeaway was clear: choose long-term positioning over short-term profits.
Chapter Twenty-six: The Holy Grail: Part II
Bill Gates gives advice on negotiating
Gates told me to ask for their advice, spend as much informal time with them as possible, and get them to take me under their wing. I can see now that Gates was essentially telling me to stop worrying about the BuzzFeed tricks.
The best negotiating tactic is to build a genuine, trusting relationship.
If you’re an unknown entrepreneur and the person you’re dealing with isn’t invested in you, why would he or she even do business with you? But on the other hand, if the person is your mentor or friend, you might not even need to negotiate.
It was the last thing I expected to hear from the business world’s chess grandmaster.I thought he’d share battle-tested secrets, but instead he was telling me to befriend my opponent so I wouldn’t have to battle.
Chapter Twenty-seven: The Third Door
There is no tipping point. It’s all just little steps
“A tipping point only appears in hindsight,” Elliott added. “You don’t feel it when you’re in the trenches. Being an entrepreneur is about pushing, not tipping.”
You just have to give people an offer they can’t refuse
People don’t want to do small shit. You need to think bigger and think differently. Don’t ‘I wonder’ through life. Just make it happen
Chapter Twenty-eight: Redefining Success
“Most people do things because that’s what society tells them they should do. But if you stop and do the math—if you actually think for yourself—you’ll realize there’s a better way to do things.” — Steve Wozniak
“A true hustler is always looking for the next one,” he said. “It’s like playing a video game—let’s say Mario Bros. Okay, you beat the first level, now you got to beat the second level, now you got to beat the third level. Once you beat the game, you’re like, ‘Whoa, whoa. Where’s the next game? Where it at?’” — Pitbull
“The best thing I learned from Luther Campbell,” Pitbull said, “was that there’s nothing better than to be an intern in life. The best CEOs in business started out as interns. Because when you go from intern to CEO, no one can bullshit you. But all you can do is help them. ‘Look, I already did that job. I know exactly what it took to make that happen.’ "
Chapter Twenty-nine: Staying an Intern
And that’s when I realized Pitbull’s key to continued success: it’s about always staying an intern. It’s about humbling yourself enough to learn, even when you’re at the top of your game. It’s about knowing that the moment you get comfortable being an executive is the moment you begin to fail. It’s about realizing that, if you want to continue being Mufasa, at the same time you have to keep being Simba.
Chapter Thirty-one: Turning Darkness into Light
Maya Angelou — advice for young people as they launch their careers.
“Try to get out of the box,” she said. “Try to see that Taoism, the Chinese religion, works very well for the Chinese, so it may also work for you. Find all the wisdom that you can find. Find Confucius; find Aristotle; look at Martin Luther King; read Cesar Chávez; read. Read and say, ‘Oh, these are human beings just like me. Okay, this may not work for me, but I think I can use one portion of this.’ You see?"
“Don’t narrow your life down. I’m eighty-five and I’m just getting started! Life is going to be short, no matter how long it is. You don’t have much time. Go to work.”
Chapter Thirty-four: The Greatest Gift
“You can’t get an A if you’re afraid of getting an F,” Quincy added. “It’s amazing, the psychology of growing in your field, no matter what you do. Growth comes from mistakes. You have to cherish them, so you can learn from them. Your mistakes are your greatest gift.”
Chapter Thirty-five: Getting in the Game
It was from one of the Harry Potter books. At a critical moment in the story, Dumbledore says, “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
Because when you change what you believe is possible, you change what becomes possible.