Smartcuts: The Breakthrough Power of Lateral Thinking by Shane Snow
Everyone thinks of taking shortcuts once in a while. When we’re at work the temptation’s always present. But we know that’s bad form. We’re well aware of how success is achieved: by working hard, day in and day out.
Still, is it enough? Maybe there’s another way. One that doesn’t involve cheating or never sleeping. This is where Shane Snow’s Smartcuts comes in.
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Overachievers have a trick up their sleeves – smartcuts. Here’s how Shane Snow explains the title of his book:
Smartcuts as shortcuts with integrity. Working smarter and achieving more—without creating negative externalities.
Don’t get me wrong. Hard work and consistency are essential, as well as smarts and merit. Also, sometimes success comes from the strangest of places. You should to be prepared.
Once the spotlight’s on you, take advantage of the buzz and the foundation built before this momentum started.
Untraditional ladder climbing towards the top is effective. The fear of breaking the norms is nowhere to be found when driven individuals get ready to tackle a goal.
SUCCESS / SMARTCUTS
“You can make incremental progress by playing by the rules. To create breakthrough change, you have to break the rules.”
Smartcuts is a history lesson – one that’ll shift your perspective on how success is earned, one that says rules are meant to be broken (I don’t care how cliché it sounds. It’s the reality). Hiding behind conventions, keeping your head down and minding your own business doesn’t usually equal making it big someday.
Someday is a word that you must erase from your mind when planning the timeline for achieving greatness. Technology and communication dramatically shorten the period from blueprints to concrete results. Take advantage of what’s at your disposal today.
Also, keep in mind that:
Traditional paths are not just slow; they’re no longer viable if we want to compete and innovate.
It’s easier to think big than small. Smartcuts isn’t for those who wait around. It’s for the doers, the restless, hungry people – for the overachievers.
The main idea of Smartcuts revolves around hacking our way to success by working smart. Real life examples of driven individuals unravel from chapter to chapter, linking and explaining concepts, ideas, and collected data.
Snow wants to prove that unconventional routes were always the best in achieving our dreams.
The effect of being surrounded by extraordinary people sparked Snow’s curiosity. He started asking himself, “How do they move so fast?” During long hours of interviews, research, and going through numerous academic documents, patterns emerged.
Shane Snow has always been an avid reader. Besides writing the bestselling Smartcuts, he’s also the cofounder of Contently. He’s written for publications including WIRED and The Washington Post and is among Inc. Magazine’s 30 under 30.
Snow starts his book with an analogy between smartcuts and Warp Pipes (the secret passages used to skip multiple levels at a time in Super Mario). It’s not being lazy or not paying your dues.
As Snow writes, “this is a book about Warp Pipes in real life” – reaching achievement much sooner on merit and smarts. He showcases individuals who hacked their way to success. No cons are permitted.
The 3 parts of Smartcuts, “Shorten”, “Leverage”, and “Soar”, are introduced with a Dr. Seuss quote, foreshadowing the lesson you’ll learn.
The 9 chapters mirror Snow’s 9 Principles for working smarter: Hacking the Ladder, Training with Masters, Rapid Feedback, Platforms, Waves, Superconnectors, Momentum, Simplicity, and 10x Thinking.
Anecdotes, hard data from various researchers, and success stories from overachievers – Jimmy Fallon, Michelle Phan, Elon Musk, to name a few – come together to pave the way for each of the principles presented in Smartcuts.
It’s also a knowledge crash course of sorts, where you gain insight on programming, surfing, the Cuban revolution, and dip your toes into the film and music industry.
The key concepts of Smartcuts are:
- Merit. You need to earn it. Success isn’t manufactured overnight.
- Smarts. Paying your dues just because that’s the way it’s done is no longer a safe bet (if it ever was.) Thanks to technology and communication success is achieved quicker by working smart.
- Unconventional. Overachievers shorten their path to success by skipping avoidable steps.
- Breaking the pattern. Arriving at your goal in the shortest amount of time. Anything that can’t help in your quest is not worth a second glance.
Like Holmes, hackers strip the unnecessary from their lives. They zero in on what matters.
Onwards, 5 actionable things from Smartcuts for you to use:
- Transform failure into feedback. Negative, high-pressure feedback tends to shatter our confidence and inspire fear. The objective is to remove ourselves from the equation of failure – not take it personally – and extract useful knowledge from the experience. That’s how progress and growth is achieved: through trial and error, and learning from our failings.
- Welcome constraints. Notably, if you want your creativity to flourish. It can seem like constraints narrow our options. But in fact they let us discover new paths to achieving our dreams. Excellence is often born from a place of deprived resources.
- Reduce distractions. Too many small decisions are distracting. Simplifying or stripping down the unnecessary leads to innovation.
- Keep moving. When you achieve your goal, the next step is to keep the momentum going. Use your current achievement to move on to something else. It doesn’t need to be bigger or better. Just something that spikes your interest. Dwelling on the laurels of your success can be lethal.
- Spot patterns. Analyzing data in order to spot patterns is meant to be useful only when you start your business endeavor. It makes up for the lack of experience. Right? Well, no. Identifying patterns remain as crucial as ever, helping you create an advantage over your competition. Supremacy is maintained by not taking things for granted. Even when you’re at the top.
Shane Snow also has some theories about the other side of mentorship and pioneering:
- Building an organic relationship with your mentor. Everybody’s hunting for one. Once you begin your mentorship, all the tricks of the trade are at your disposal. Usually, it works out wonderfully. You get the knowledge you bargained for. The alternative doesn’t contain a desirable outcome. How can you avoid the last option? Forge a personal bond. Seek common ground outside your inquires about work. It’s a partnership. It goes beyond a business lecture.
- Don’t be a pioneer. Even if you’re encouraged to be one. Instead, be a fast follower that enters the market right after the first wave – the pioneers. Surfing the second and third wave caries a more powerful momentum. Market education and infrastructure are already in place. You just need to deduce where and why missteps occurred in order to learn, and to highjack what worked from the start. Your efforts will have a better aim in the aftermath of the first wave.
You’re in charge of your destiny. Yesterday is gone. Today is being built as we speak, with a constantly evolving pack of tools. Luck and accidental discoveries are self-made.
These are some of the things that Shane Snow’s Smartcuts made me realize.
I leave you with the words of a man who redefines being an overachiever every day:
Musk likes to say, “The first step is to establish that something is possible; then probability will occur.”
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