Book Review, Summary & Notes

Smartcuts by Shane Snow

The Breakthrough Power of Lateral Thinking

Smartcuts by Shane Snow
Shane Snow
My Rating


Smartcuts by Shane Snow

Smartcuts by Shane Snow is an entertaining and inspiring book revealing how hackers, innovators, and icons break the conventional rules and succeed faster.

Entrepreneur and journalist Shane Snow engages with interesting stories on how being creative can save you years of hard work to get where you want to go.

Here are my notes from the book.

Biggest lesson: Successful people seek mentors, embrace the process and build on top of a lot of things that exist in this world.


Smartcuts shows us how innovators and entrepreneurs think and act differently because they know how to hack systems rather than work them. Shane Snow takes us inside the world of extreme performance, revealing the tricks and tools that will allow you to shortcut your way to success.

He shows how a handful of innovators have used smartcuts to leapfrog their competition. Snow introduces us to people who are using these tricks to radically transform our lives.

Smartcuts will reshape your understanding of success. It will show you how to wake up one morning and realize you’re living your dream life.

Notes & Quotes

New ideas emerge when you question the assumptions upon which a problem is based (in this case: it’s that you can only help one person).

Lateral thinking doesn’t replace hard work; it eliminates unnecessary cycles.

Too many of us accept the plateaus our lives have offered us and succumb to passivity, to the well-meaning delusion of "If I work hard enough, something good will hopefully happen to me."

"Once a small win has been accomplished,” Weick continues, "forces are set in motion that favor another small win.”

Indeed, polls indicate that being "a strong and decisive leader” is the number one characteristic a presidential candidate can have.

Mentorship is the secret of many of the highest - profile achievers throughout history. Socrates mentored young Plato, who in turn mentored Aristotle. Aristotle mentored a boy named Alexander, who went on to conquer the known world as Alexander the Great.

SO, DATA INDICATES THAT those who train with successful people who’ve "been there” tend to achieve success faster. The winning formula, it seems, is to seek out the world’s best and convince them to coach us.

Indeed, equal amounts of research support both assertions: that mentorship works and that it doesn’t. Mentoring programs break down in the workplace so often that scholarly research contradicts itself about the value of mentoring at all, and prompts Harvard Business Review articles with titles such as "Why Mentoring Doesn’t Work.”

There’s a big difference, in other words, between having a mentor guide our practice and having a mentor guide our journey.

The late literary giant Saul Bellow would call someone with the ability to spot important details among noise a “first-class noticer.” This is a key difference between those who learn more quickly than others.

The post told the story of the talisman the revered Indian leader once gave to his grandson Arun, which listed the seven “blunders” he believed led to violence: Wealth without work.

Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Religion without sacrifice. Politics without principle.

This is a survival mechanism. We externalize our mistakes because we need to live with ourselves afterward.

The difference was how much the feedback caused a person to focus on himself rather than the task.

The research showed that experts — people who were masters at a trade — vastly preferred negative feedback to positive. It spurred the most improvement. That was because criticism is generally more actionable than compliments.

THE SECOND CITY MANAGES to accomplish three things to accelerate its performers’ growth: ( 1 ) it gives them rapid feedback; ( 2 ) it depersonalizes the feedback; and ( 3 ) it lowers the stakes and pressure, so students take risks that force them to improve.

In the world of high tech — like in racing — a tiny time advantage can mean the difference between winning and getting passed.

ISAAC NEWTON ATTRIBUTED HIS success as a scientist to "standing on the shoulders of giants” — building off of the work of great thinkers before him.

But in the age of smartphones and Wikipedia, does it matter that you don’t know offhand the name of the second - largest city in Botswana? What’s important today is knowing how to use platforms to retrieve the information we need, whether it’s the capital of Botswana or the result of 124,502 divided by 8.

In an age of platforms, creative problem solving is more valuable than computational skill.

Effort for the sake of effort is as foolish a tradition as paying dues. How much better is hard work when it’s amplified by a lever?

"You can build on top of a lot of things that exist in this world,” David Heinemeier Hansson told me. "Somebody goes in and does that hard, ground level science based work. "And then on top of that,” he smiles, "you build the art.”

"Intuition is the result of nonconscious pattern recognition, "Dane tells me. However, his research shows that, while logging hours of practice helps us see patterns subconsciously, we can often do just as well by deliberately looking for them.

"Superconnecting is about learning what people need, then talking about 'how do we create something of value.’”

No matter the medium or method, giving is the timeless smartcut for harnessing superconnectors and creating serendipity.

MOMENTUM ISN’T JUST A powerful ingredient of success. It’s also a powerful predictor of success.

Investors see momentum and future success as so highly correlated that they will take bigger bets on companies with fast - growing user bases even if the companies are bleeding money. Momentum, it turns out, can cover a multitude of sins.

AS WE’VE LEARNED FROM Michelle Phan’s story, the secret to harnessing momentum is to build up potential energy, so that unexpected opportunities can be amplified.

SOMETIMES BIGGER IS NOT better. Sometimes more of a good thing is too much. Sometimes the smartest next step is a step back.

OFTEN, THE THING HOLDING us back from success is our inability to say no.

Apparently, patience and willpower, even creativity, are exhaustible resources. That’s why so many busy and powerful people practice mind - clearing meditation and stick to rigid daily routines: to minimize distractions and maximize good decision making.

Inventors and entrepreneurs ask, How could we make this product simpler? The answer transforms good to incredible. Perhaps that’s why Steve Jobs referred to simplicity as "the ultimate sophistication.” Holmes, on the other hand, would simply call it elementary.

Academic research actually shows that we’re less likely to perform at our peak potential when we’re reaching for low - hanging fruit. That’s in part because there’s more competition at the bottom of the tree than at the top.

Big causes attract big believers, big investors, big capital, big-name advisers, and big talent. They force us to rethink convention and hack the ladder of success. To engage with masters and to leverage waves and platforms and superconnectors. To swing and to simplify, to quickly turn failure into feedback. To become not just bigger, but truly better. And they remind us, once again, that together we can achieve the implausible.

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