We are surrounded by people who seem more successful than us and who earn more money than we do. We may think, “What do they have that I haven’t got? Are they just smarter?”
In The Magic of Thinking Big, author David J. Schwartz says it’s a matter of mindset. Successful people “think bigger” — they believe in themselves, have a grander scale of imagination, and see bigger possibilities. This mindset then affects their behavior — they have magnetic attitudes, prefer action to waiting, and learn from every setback.
The Magic of Thinking Big is a wide-ranging book because it essentially tries to describe everything about what makes people successful. There are tons of details and lists, and it covers psychology, ambition, social behavior, goal-setting, and leadership. Therefore, this The Magic of Thinking Big summary is quite long, but it’s a useful checklist to figure out where you’re weak.
In this The Magic of Thinking Big summary, learn:
Common excuses you might be using to stifle your own ambition, and how to get over them
How to build a “first-class environment” to improve your thinking
In his epic 707-page Tools of Titans, Tim Ferriss shares the habits and beliefs of 101 people at the top of their game, including tech investors like Chris Sacca and Peter Thiel, entrepreneurs like Linkedin’s Reid Hoffman and Evernote’s Phil Libin, superhuman athletes like Amelia Boone and Wim Hof, media figures like Edward Norton and Whitney Cummings, and more.
These are the principles that successful people use to achieve audacious goals, improve themselves, and be happier. If you can apply the lessons from this book, you can be more effective.
The problem with Tools of Titans is its organization – every titan has a separate chapter, leading to over 140 short chapters over 707 pages. For Tim, this makes sense, as he wants to pay homage to the titans and make it easy to find personalities you care about. But when organized this way, it’s hard to see the bigger picture.
What I really wanted to know were patterns of habits across the titans. What do many successful people do that I don’t currently do? I wanted to see the beliefs of titans organized by theme, like how to define your life goals, how to think of good ideas, how to be happier everyday.
That’s what I’ve done in this summary. I’ve extracted my favorite lessons from the book and reorganized them by theme. This way, you can see how 10 titans focus their lives to cut out the noise, and how 9 titans find time to be grateful every single day.
When you read a book, do you find yourself forgetting what you read? Do you regret wasting time on books that you should have skimmed instead?
If you read a lot of books a year, then it makes sense to spend a few hours learning how to read better and double the value from your reading. That’s the point of How to Read a Book, a classic by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren.
The argument is compelling: after you learn phonics as a child and go through high school English, no one really teaches you how to read intelligently. College courses rarely touch on this, and the workforce even less so.
As a result, plenty of adults read at an elementary level – not in the sense of having a limited vocabulary, but in absorbing the value of a book efficiently. See if any of these problems apply to you:
You don’t really know what a book is about until you start reading it.
You read at the same pace, regardless of whether it’s a good book or a terrible book.
You don’t critique your books, articulating exactly why you liked or disliked it.
In this How to Read a Book summary, learn:
Tactics to understand what a book is about, in minutes
How you should read a novel differently from a nonfiction book
When you’re trying to be productive, are you easily distracted by wandering thoughts or urges? Do you mindlessly open up your favorite website or app, craving novelty or fearing you’re missing out? Do you wish you could focus better, spending hours more per day driving toward your most important goals?
These are laughably universal problems. Internet apps are engineered to deliver hits of novelty and trigger cravings so strong you don’t even realize you’re under their control. If you examine your behavior, you’d likely find elements of drug addiction.
(My drug of choice is Reddit. Like an addict, I get sudden impulses out of nowhere to check it, fearing I’ll miss something hilarious or provocative. Also like an addict, I have an efficient sequence of delivery – “Ctrl+T” to open a new tab, “RE” to get reddit as the top choice in the search bar, “Enter” to load the page. I didn’t realize how ingrained this habit was until I tried to stop.)
It’s common knowledge that today’s media is addictive – yet ultimately unsatisfying, providing little more than frivolous amusement. What’s less common knowledge is how to overcome these distractions so you can focus on the goals you really care about.
Deep Work teaches you how to develop your focus and resist distractions. Focus is like a mental muscle – you need to structure training sessions and push yourself to your mental limit to increase your focus capacity. Implement the strategies in this Deep Work summary, and you’ll be more productive than you’ve ever been.
In this Deep Work summary, learn:
Why deep work is critical to your success as an information worker
How to set up your work environment to maximize focus
How to send effective emails that cut down on dreaded back-and-forth email chains
How to memorize the sequence of a pack of cards – and why this will improve your focus
If you’re like me, you sometimes try to get by with just 5 to 7 hours of sleep (or even less). You hope that you’ll make it up in the extra hours of productivity, or by catching up on sleep on the weekend. There are plenty of excuses for being sleep deprived – a big deadline coming up, too much work, too binge-worthy of a TV show, social events you can’t miss out on.
The book Why We Sleep argues this is totally short-sighted. More people are chronically sleep-deprived than they realize, and the punishments for this are severe – reduced productivity and happiness, and increased risk of a panel of diseases. Except for very rare genetic freaks (<1% of population), the standard sleep you should be getting every night is 8 hours, without fail.
This helpful New York Times bestseller covers how sleep happens, its major benefits, its frightening downsides when deprived, and the best ways to get better sleep.
In this book summary of Why We Sleep, learn:
Why your insane dreams are incredibly helpful for your problem-solving
The 5 major reasons you’re getting less sleep than you should – and how to fix it
How being a night owl is determined by genetics – and why night owls are punished by society
How chronic sleep deprivation destroys your body, from weight gain and heart disease to Alzheimer’s
A very rare inherited disease that causes incurable insomnia, then certain death, within 10 months
How a cocaine-addicted surgeon started the insanely sleep-depriving medical residency program
Do you have problems finishing things? Do new ideas distract you from previous ones? Do you get derailed by setbacks more often than you would like?
Then you could use more grit. In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance book, Angela Duckworth shows how grit – the combination of passion and perseverance – distinguishes high achievers, and why talent isn’t as important as most people think.
If you’re not as gritty as you like, don’t fret – this book teaches the 4 major components of grit, and how to develop grit in your kids and teammates.
Want to increase your personal output, or the output of your team? Do you feel like there’s a bottleneck constraining you? Have you tried brute force effort with little results?
The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement, by Eliyahu Goldratt, is a classic management book, on Jeff Bezos’s shortlist of books recommended to his senior Amazon managers. This book introduced the Theory of Constraints, which identifies the constraint in a production system and restructures the organization around it. It upended traditional obsessions with cost efficiency to focus on what really matters.
Unique among management books, The Goal is written in the form of a novel, detailing a plant manager’s journey to save his factory from closing. The story itself is entertaining and teaches in a Socratic way, helping you identify and overcome your own constraints.
In this book summary of The Goal, you’ll learn:
Why optimizing activities that seem productive can be pointless
How to identify your personal bottleneck
How to increase capacity at your bottleneck to increase output
How to apply these manufacturing principles to your everyday life
Ray Dalio is founder of Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world. In his book Principles: Work and Life, Dalio shares the guiding principles powering his success and Bridgewater’s.
Principles is a master class in rational thinking. The main theme is that finding truth is the best way to make decisions, and that ego, emotion, and blind spots prevent you from discovering the truth. Dalio shares his major strategies to circumvent these weaknesses, including radical open-mindedness, thoughtful disagreement, radical transparency, and believability-weighted decision making.
In this Principles: Work and Life summary, you’ll learn:
How the rational you and the emotional you fight to control your life
How to get past your ego in pursuit of your goals
The 5-step process for getting what you want out of life
Why you need other people to improve your probability of being right
Are you feeling unmotivated in your job and life? Are you finding your current goals unsatisfying to work toward?
Drive, by Daniel Pink, believes that your work structure is to blame. Historically, employers have motivated employees through financial rewards and kept workers on a tight leash. These principles worked well when people were primarily working in assembly lines, but today’s creative work demands more: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
In this Drive summary, you’ll learn:
Why financial rewards can lower your motivation and tempt cheating
How every human, including you, is motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose
Why some companies give unlimited vacation days and pay you to work on personal projects
Why paying people to donate blood actually reduces donation rate
How to convince your boss to adopt changes and give you more freedom
Charlie Munger is Warren Buffett’s long-time partner at Berkshire Hathaway. Bill Gates says that Charlie “is truly the broadest thinker I have ever encountered.”
Poor Charlie’s Almanack is a collection of Charlie Munger’s best advice given over 30 years, in the form of 11 speeches given as commencement addresses and roundtable talks. In all his talks, he shows wit, rationality, and incredible clarity of thought.
In this summary of Poor Charlie’s Almanack, I’ve extracted the most important points and organized them by topic. You’ll learn why Charlie considers multidisciplinary learning vital to success, his checklist when making investments, and how to build a trillion dollar company from scratch.