DEEP SUMMARY - What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 - Seelig, Tina
Here is a summary of the key ideas and lessons in the chapter:
• The author gave her students an assignment to generate as much money as possible with only $5 in seed funding and 2 hours of time. The most successful teams made over $600, a return of over 4,000% on the $5 investment.
• The winning teams didn’t actually use the $5. They reinterpreted the problem more broadly as generating money from nothing. They uncovered nagging problems that they could solve to create value.
• Two successful examples:
1) Selling restaurant reservations to avoid long wait times. They adapted by having men get reservations and women sell them. They made more money when they asked for donations rather than charging a fixed price.
2) Offering free bike tire pressure check and air refills for $1. They were providing a convenient and valuable service. Asking for donations generated more money than charging a fixed price.
• The most successful team sold their 3-minute presentation time to a company for $650. They recognized an asset that others didn’t see.
• In another version of the assignment, the author gave students 10 paper clips and 4 hours to generate as much “value” as possible, however they defined it.
• One team collected as many paper clips as possible, treating them as a new currency.
• Another team worked to break the world record for the longest paper clip chain. They rallied help and showed up with thousands of paper clips linked together.
• The most clever team made a video of themselves breaking into dorms to steal valuables, then revealed they were joking. They traded the paper clips for poster board and sharpies to make signs for their “protest.” They generated social value by raising awareness of an important cause.
• The lessons are to question assumptions, reinterpret problems broadly, uncover hidden problems to solve, leverage assets that others don’t see, experiment and adapt based on feedback, and value can take many forms beyond just money. An entrepreneurial mindset can lead to opportunities all around you.
Here is a summary:
The author gives students exercises like setting up a stand selling “Stanford Students for Sale” to teach them entrepreneurial skills like identifying opportunities, creatively solving problems with limited resources, and thinking broadly about problems. These exercises have evolved into a larger competition called the Innovation Tournament.
The exercises illustrate some key points:
1) Opportunities are abundant if you look for them. Both big and small problems can be turned into opportunities.
2) You can solve problems creatively with the resources you have. Most people assume problems can’t be solved but creative solutions are often right in front of them.
3) We often frame problems too narrowly. Stepping back and looking more broadly opens up many possibilities.
The author teaches entrepreneurship and innovation at Stanford to help students develop an entrepreneurial mindset and skills like problem-solving, leadership, and decision making. The goal is to create “T-shaped people” with both depth of knowledge in a discipline and breadth of knowledge about innovation and entrepreneurship.
The rules in school are often opposite from those in the real world. In school, students are evaluated individually but in the real world people usually work in teams with shared goals. School is very structured but in the real world you have to figure things out yourself. School teaches that there are right and wrong answers but in life there are many possible answers and failure is common.
The concepts in the book challenge conventional ideas. The goal is to help readers see themselves and the world differently. Success comes from learning to identify opportunities, solve open-ended problems, and navigate ambiguity. The skills to do this can be taught and developed.
In summary, the author uses unconventional teaching methods to help students develop an entrepreneurial mindset. This mindset, which involves skills like problem-solving, creativity, and learning from failure, prepares students for real-world challenges where there are no straightforward answers or paths to success. The author aims to spread this mindset through teaching, research, and writing.
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The author argues that we should view problems as opportunities and embrace challenges with a positive attitude. Most people are taught to avoid problems rather than solve them creatively. The author gives the example of Jeff Hawkins, the creator of the PalmPilot, who was willing to look at problems in new ways. For example, when his first product failed, he asked customers how to improve it. He also developed a new written language, Graffiti, to overcome handwriting recognition challenges.
The author describes an "Innovation Tournament" in which teams were challenged to create value from rubber bands. One team created "Do Bands" - bracelets people wear to inspire themselves to complete tasks. Although just rubber bands, Do Bands motivated many people to take action on things they had been putting off.
To illustrate solving problems creatively, the author gives an assignment where students pick a problem and a random object, then figure out how the object can help solve the problem. An example is a woman who needed to move furniture and used leftover wine to barter for help on Craigslist.
The author says there are no limits to the size of problems you can solve. The Innovation Tournament projects aimed to create "social value" by addressing significant problems. The first step is identifying important needs. The Stanford BioDesign Program teaches students to identify needs in medicine and design solutions. A "well-characterized need" is the starting point for any solution.
The key message is that we should develop an opportunistic mindset, view problems creatively, and have the confidence we can solve them, no matter the size. With practice, problem-solving becomes a habit.
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The key to successful innovation is identifying and solving important problems. Inventors and entrepreneurs should spend time observing the world carefully to find needs that are not being met. They should talk to people on the front lines—users, customers, doctors, nurses, teachers, etc.—to uncover problems that often go unnoticed by others. Some refer to this as “problem blindness”—we get so accustomed to the status quo that we fail to see opportunities for improvement.
Even when new solutions are proposed, they are often met with skepticism or resistance, as people have trouble imagining radical change. Paul Yock told a story about the pioneers of balloon angioplasty facing roadblocks from surgeons who didn’t believe clogged arteries could be treated in any way other than bypass surgery. Focus groups failed to see the potential of ATMs. When cell phones were first introduced, many couldn’t envision needing or wanting one. It’s human nature to get stuck in our ways of thinking.
To find important needs, look for gaps—in the way products are used, in available services, in what people say about their experiences. Observe details, ask lots of questions, and challenge assumptions. For example, Kimberly-Clark was focused on selling diapers as waste-disposal devices, missing the opportunity to position them as a nurturing product and major milestone. Cirque du Soleil reinvented the circus by challenging every assumption about what a circus could be.
Some people are especially gifted at identifying assumptions and seeing opportunities where others see only obstacles. They make unconventional choices and forge new paths. Sandra Cook left a successful career to travel in Afghanistan after 9/11 and find ways to help with rebuilding efforts. She saw past risks and doubts to envision how she could make a difference.
In summary, the key to innovation is problem finding. Look at the familiar in unfamiliar ways, question assumptions and limits, observe gaps, and talk to those with firsthand experience. Visionaries have an ability to reframe problems as opportunities and see possibilities where others remain blind. With practice, anyone can get better at challenging the status quo and conventional thinking.
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• There are implicit and explicit rules in society that govern human behavior. These rules create tension between individual desires, biological drives, and social norms.
• We often create mental rules and limitations for ourselves based on the roles we adopt and how we define ourselves. These self-imposed rules can be more limiting than actual societal rules.
• Larry Page encouraged people to have a “healthy disregard for the impossible”—to think big and set audacious goals. Big goals give you more flexibility and resources to achieve them. Small goals have a more prescribed path, so there are more ways they can go wrong.
• To illustrate, traveling from San Francisco to Kabul has many possible routes, so you would give yourself ample time and be flexible if needed. Going across town has a clear path, so if there’s a roadblock you’re stuck. Big goals offer more options.
• Successful people often break rules and challenge assumptions. They push the boundaries of what most people consider acceptable or even possible. Breaking rules can lead to punishment but also opportunity. It depends on the rules, motivations, and execution.
• Three examples illustrate this:
1) Franklin Veaux challenged cultural rules about monogamy and relationships. He now lives with two life partners, unaware of societal norms.
2) James Tripp identified assumptions about work limiting his life. He quit to travel, then built a location-independent business. He lives life on his terms.
3) Stephanie Lahart got bored and mischievous in school. She pushed boundaries and challenged rules, often getting into trouble. But it showed her the difference between rules and limits. She now helps others push their own boundaries.
• In the end, rules are made to be broken when needed. But you must understand why the rules exist before breaking them, and do so constructively. Push the limits to find new opportunities, not cause harm. Successful rule breakers are guided by purpose and compassion.
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Linda Rottenberg founded Endeavor, an organization that helps foster entrepreneurship in developing countries. Endeavor identifies high-potential entrepreneurs and provides them resources and guidance to help them succeed.
One example is Leila Velez, who lived in poverty in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She invented a product to soften kinky hair and built it into a successful business, Beleza Natural, with Endeavor’s help. Beleza Natural now employs over 1,000 people and earns millions in revenue annually.
Successfully tackling difficult problems often requires breaking free of expectations and traditional approaches. An exercise that helps with this is coming up with both a best idea and worst idea to solve a problem, then working to transform the worst ideas into good ones. This helps open one’s mind to unconventional solutions.
For example, to increase utility company energy savings, one “worst” idea was to charge employees for excess energy use. This was transformed into giving employees an energy quota and rewarding those who save energy, creating incentives to conserve.
To attract more arts event attendees, a “worst” idea of a staff talent show became a fundraiser with diverse university talent. Three "worst" business ideas—selling bikinis in Antarctica, cockroach sushi, and a heart attack museum—were transformed into an Antarctica fitness excursion, an exotic sushi restaurant, and a health museum.
John Stiggelbout took this approach in his business school application by submitting an absurd letter of recommendation from a “prison friend” to stand out. His unconventional application led to an invitation to visit the school.
Turning worst ideas into good ones and breaking from the norm can lead to innovative solutions and new opportunities. Success often comes from tackling problems in unexpected ways.
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The passage discusses the importance of breaking rules and challenging assumptions during brainstorming and innovation. The key is to generate wild and unconventional ideas without immediately evaluating their feasibility. Sometimes the craziest ideas can lead to the most interesting solutions. The example of Cooliris, a startup that created an immersive web browsing experience, is used to illustrate how breaking rules in recruiting and hiring led to their success. Instead of using standard approaches to find employees, they focused on making the company an exciting place to work so that talented people would come to them. They then hired almost everyone as interns so they could evaluate them in action. They gave interns a lot of responsibility and empowered them to take risks. They also used their product testing as a way to identify passionate candidates who would be a good fit for the company culture. The passage ends by noting that large companies can also benefit from breaking rules and challenging conventions. An example from Microsoft's Zune product development illustrates how deviating from standard processes allowed them to meet tight deadlines.
In summary, the key message is that breaking rules, challenging assumptions, and thinking unconventionally fuels innovation and problem solving. Both startups and large companies can benefit from creating an environment where wild ideas are encouraged and people feel empowered to take risks, even if it means deviating from standard operating procedures.
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The author's father, a successful corporate executive, was annoyed when she called herself "president" on her new business cards. In his experience, executive titles were given by others, not self-appointed.
The author has encountered this mindset before - that you need someone else's permission or blessing to take on ambitious projects. For example, a friend asked "What makes you think you can write a book?" when the author said she was going to write one.
The author felt confident in her own abilities and didn't feel the need to wait for someone else's approval. She says the task was ambitious but worth trying, and at the worst she might fail but at least she tried.
The author argues that this mentality of waiting for someone else's approval stifles creativity and ambition. People become conditioned to follow the rules and wait their turn instead of empowering themselves.
She says we should give ourselves permission to try new things, start new ventures, write books, give TED talks, start companies, and more. While these tasks are difficult, they are within our reach if we give ourselves permission to try.
The author concludes that we should stop asking for permission and start giving ourselves permission to pursue our dreams and ambitions. No one has more belief in us and our abilities than ourselves.
In summary, the key message is that we should stop seeking other people's approval and permission, and instead give ourselves permission to pursue ambitious goals and projects. We have the ability to empower ourselves rather than waiting for someone else to empower us. With self-belief and permission, we can accomplish amazing things.
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The author wanted to read a book on the chemistry of cooking but couldn’t find one, so decided to write one despite lacking expertise. The book was published but poorly promoted, leading the author to start a company to help authors and readers.
The author built a prototype kiosk system to match books with interested buyers. Local bookstores agreed to use the kiosks. The author hired programmers to develop the full system. The author did all this without waiting for permission or validation from others.
The author observes that some people wait for others’ permission before acting, while others give themselves permission. There are opportunities waiting to be seized by those willing to take initiative.
Paul Yock founded Stanford’s BioDesign program by identifying an opportunity in collaborating across disciplines. He brought together medical and engineering faculties despite their differences.
Debra Dunn moved into new roles at HP that she wasn’t obviously suited for by identifying how her skills could translate. She retooled herself for new positions through her own initiative.
The author moved from neuroscience to management consulting by framing her scientific skills as relevant for consulting. She identified similarities in the key functions of both fields.
In any organization, there are opportunities for those willing to be creative in applying their skills. Yock, Dunn, and the author identified such opportunities and positioned themselves for new roles.
Abandoned or discarded ideas often retain value that others don’t recognize or exploit. Michael Dearing identified value in an unused eBay feature and turned it into a successful new initiative by demonstrating its benefits.
The key message is that rather than waiting for permission or validation, proactively seize opportunities and give yourself permission to pursue new initiatives or roles. Look for the potential in what others overlook or discard. Success comes from exercising initiative.
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Michael Dearing noticed that eBay listings with photos sold better and generated more revenue. He started heavily promoting the photo feature, increasing its adoption from 10% to 60% of listings. This resulted in $300 million in additional revenue for eBay at minimal cost.
Michael has a habit of proactively reaching out to establish relationships with influential people he admires. He sends unsolicited emails to thank, acknowledge or offer help without asking for anything in return. Many respond and long-term relationships develop.
Research shows that people with a "growth mindset" - the belief that skills can be developed - are more likely to succeed than those with a "fixed mindset" - the belief that skills are innate. Growth-minded people take risks, try new things and work hard to achieve goals.
A wallet redesign exercise shows that problems and opportunities for improvement are everywhere. By observing how people use and interact with everyday items, you can uncover frustrations and design solutions. The exercise yields quick feedback at low cost.
Successful entrepreneurs naturally identify problems and opportunities. They pay close attention to the world around them and imagine ways to fix or improve things. The possibility for improvement is endless.
David Rothkopf studied highly influential "superachievers" who shape global affairs. He found they work harder, have more energy and drive, and are self-made rather than inheriting power or wealth. Their success comes from seizing opportunities while others remain inert.
An example is how Rothkopf secured high-profile speakers for a conference by proactively contacting Henry Kissinger's office and agreeing to expensive terms he couldn't yet pay. Once Kissinger agreed, other big names followed. Sponsors were then found to cover the costs. Rothkopf succeeded through determination, work ethic, and leveraging what he had.
Rothkopf turned down a prestigious government position after two weeks because the bureaucracy and slow pace frustrated his desire to make things happen. An anecdote illustrates how some prefer complaining to taking action.
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The author requires her students to create a "failure resume" where they list their biggest failures and what they learned from them. She argues that failure is an important part of learning and growth.
Cultural attitudes toward failure and risk-taking differ widely. Some cultures see failure as shameful and teach people to avoid risks, while Silicon Valley embraces failure as part of innovation. Factors like bankruptcy laws and social attitudes shape a culture's risk profile.
All learning comes from failure. Just like babies learn to walk by falling down, people learn skills by experimenting and failing. Reading about something is not the same as doing it yourself.
The author's fellowship program gives students experience with startup challenges and failures. They take on key roles, address risks, make hard decisions, and experience stresses and failures firsthand. This helps them learn in a way that classes alone do not.
Successful leaders have a high tolerance for failure and see it as a learning opportunity. They create an environment where others feel comfortable taking risks and failing without fear of punishment or ridicule. This fosters more experimentation and innovation.
The key lessons are: embrace failure, build a culture where failure is acceptable, learn from failures, and gain experience by doing and failing - not just by reading. Failure, especially when young, helps build resilience and perseverance.
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The students in the Mayfield Fellows Program gain insight into leading companies in dynamic, fast-changing environments. They see many companies struggle and fail despite efforts of talented teams.
Failure is common in many industries like venture capital, publishing, movies, and toys. It is hard to predict successes but by producing many options, some become hits. Success requires perseverance but also knowing when to quit non-viable options.
Serial entrepreneur Mir Imran has a high success rate by ruthlessly cutting non-viable projects early. It is easier to quit in the early stages before committing too much time and resources. The "too-much-invested-to-quit" syndrome causes people to continue with poor options.
Quitting can be empowering as it allows you to leave undesirable situations and start over. However, quitting is difficult as it can be seen as failure and requires facing mistakes publicly. Randy Komisar turned leaving his VP role into an opportunity to find work better suited to his skills.
There are ways to turn failures into successes. A team turned their failed "Wishing Tree" into a video documenting their failure and what they learned. They celebrated the failure and moved on to new ideas.
It is hard to know when to persist or when to quit. You have to determine if efforts will eventually succeed or if you're just putting energy into a "wet log". People often stay in undesirable jobs, products or relationships too long hoping the situation will improve.
The decision to quit should be made carefully by listening to yourself and considering alternatives. Do you have the ability to succeed or are you better moving on? Quitting well, with consideration of consequences for others, is better than quitting hastily and causing damage.
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• Quitting a job gracefully and professionally is the right thing to do. It leaves a positive lasting impression and avoids burning bridges.
• A story is told of an assistant who did great work but quit abruptly before a big project deadline, leaving the team in a difficult position. Despite her good work, she damaged her reputation by quitting unprofessionally. In contrast, others who quit with grace were able to get good recommendations.
• Successful people recognize that failure is inevitable. They try many things and are prepared for failures along the way. Some key examples:
Jeff Hawkins of Handspring expected failures and was prepared to address them. When major shipping and billing issues arose after a product launch, the whole team worked to resolve each customer issue individually.
A man who had continual success dating asked every attractive woman he met, recognizing many would say no but some would say yes. The key is putting yourself in a position to find success, even if there are rejections along the way.
The advice “squeaky wheels get the grease” means keep pushing to get to a conclusion, rather than waiting indefinitely for success. Get to “no” quickly so you can focus your energy elsewhere.
• Success is not a straight line up and to the right. It has ups and downs, though the overall trend is upward. Temporary dips often set up greater future success. Lateral moves can help build experience to fuel future success.
• Steve Jobs’ story shows how failure and rejection can lead to even greater success. Getting fired from Apple was devastating but freed him to enter a highly creative period launching NeXT and Pixar. His failures and successes show that paths to success are uneven.
• For most successful people, failures are expected and the key is resilience—the ability to bounce back. David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue, is an example of someone who was able to start again after the failure of an initial airline venture.
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David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue Airways, was fired from Southwest Airlines after only five months. As part of his employment contract, he had a five-year noncompete agreement preventing him from starting another airline.
Neeleman used the five years to plan his next airline in great detail. When the noncompete period ended, he launched JetBlue. Getting fired and having time to plan turned out to be the best thing for him. Like Steve Jobs, he was able to turn a seeming failure into an opportunity.
While failure should not be celebrated for its own sake, rewarding only success can discourage risk-taking and innovation. Smart failures, not dumb ones, should be rewarded. More successes come with more failures.
The ratio of successes to failures stays the same for individuals. Wanting more successes means accepting more failures. Big risks can lead to big rewards. It's better to have a "flaming failure" than a "so-so success."
However, it's important not to quit too early, as in the case of 3M's Post-it notes. Success and failure are often unclear and separated by a "razor thin" line. Small changes can dramatically impact outcomes.
Some companies, like Google, are adept at extracting value from seeming failures by modifying and improving projects rather than discarding them. A/B testing releases multiple versions of a product to see which works best. Small tweaks can lead to big differences.
There are five types of risk: physical, social, emotional, financial, and intellectual. People have different risk profiles and are comfortable with some risks but not others. Entrepreneurs often don't see themselves as big risk takers but instead work to minimize risks.
When analyzing risks, consider all possible outcomes and the chances of each. Take high risks when prepared for all consequences, good and bad. Good decisions can still lead to bad outcomes. Risk is always involved.
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Passion and talent are not enough to build a successful career. You also need to consider the market for the skills you have to offer. The ideal situation is finding work at the intersection of your passions, talents, and market needs.
Following your passion alone can lead to frustration if you lack the skills or the opportunity to find work in that area. Many people pursue their passions as hobbies outside of work. Some careers, like professional athletes or artists, have very limited job opportunities even for those with talent.
Having skills that are in demand but lacking passion for the work can also lead to an unfulfilling career. The worst scenario is lacking passion, talent, and marketable skills. The goal should be finding work you love so much you can’t believe people pay you to do it.
Discovering the overlap of your passions, skills, and market needs often takes time and exploration. Rather than deciding on a career path too early, expose yourself to many options. Don’t limit yourself to what you see around you. Consider your skills and talk to people currently in jobs that interest you. With time and experience, the right path can emerge.
Preparing for a new career field may require developing relevant skills and experience. Do research, join related organizations, take additional courses, or get an entry-level job in the field. With hard work and perseverance, you can pivot into an entirely new career.
In summary, don’t rely on passion alone in choosing a career. Develop your talents, consider market needs, and work to find the ideal overlap of passion, skill, and opportunity. With an open and exploratory mindset, you can find very fulfilling work.
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The author argues that we receive implicit and explicit messages about the roles we are expected to play in society. These messages can come from friends, family, teachers, and the media. As children, we are particularly susceptible to these messages, and they can have a big influence on the careers we pursue.
The author shares several examples of how she received both encouraging and discouraging messages about her interests. A family friend dismissed her interest in neuroscience when she was young. But a college professor later told her she “thought like a scientist,” which gave her the confidence to pursue neuroscience.
The author says it can be difficult as a young person to separate your own interests from the guidance you receive from others. She took time off from graduate school to gain perspective and figure out what she really wanted to do. Her unstructured time in California allowed her to experiment and confirm her interest in neuroscience.
The author argues that rather than sticking rigidly to a preset career path, it’s better to keep an open and experimental mindset. A winding career path with twists and turns can provide valuable learning experiences and help you discover the right path for you. She compares this experimental process to developing a new product, where you have to try many options before finding what works.
The author shares the example of how scientists have made important discoveries by paying attention to unexpected or anomalous results, rather than dismissing them. She describes how scientists long assumed glial cells in the brain were merely structural, but recent research has shown they actively participate in brain function. This is an example of how keeping an open and curious mindset can lead to breakthroughs.
In summary, the author argues for maintaining an experimental and open mindset in your career and life path. Paying attention to unexpected opportunities and being willing to try new options can lead to important discoveries about yourself and your interests. While guidance from others is inevitable, it’s important to separate their desires from your own and give yourself space to explore. An unstructured, winding path may be the best way to find the right direction for you.
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• Secrets and glia are fundamental components of the nervous system that were long overlooked but are now known to be critically involved in many neurological diseases.
• It is easy to get stuck in prevailing theories and miss alternative explanations. Retrospectively, the importance of glia seems obvious, but researchers took a risk in exploring their role.
• Most events and findings make sense in hindsight but the future is hard to predict. You can increase opportunities by working with great people in environments that expose you to new possibilities.
• It is important to frequently reassess your life and career. Many people stay in suboptimal roles for too long. Regular self-assessment allows you to address problems and find better situations.
• Parenthood forces reevaluation and creativity. Although parenting is demanding, the skills you gain are valuable and careers are long. Keeping your career “on simmer” during early parenting allows an easier return to work.
• The best roles tap your skills, passions, and the market. Experiment to find the intersection. These roles enrich life rather than take from it.
• Regularly reassess where you are and want to go. Course correct quickly and don’t worry if the path ahead is unclear. Side trips and detours often prove valuable. The destination is less important than the journey.
• Key advice: find work that doesn’t feel like work; identify your skills, passions, and the market; experiment and push back on poor advice; reassess frequently; keep parenting in perspective; and value the journey.
In summary, the key message is that taking an experimental and opportunistic approach to your career, while frequently reassessing your situation, can lead to better outcomes and more fulfilling work. Parenting, in particular, provides an opportunity for creativity and helps build valuable skills, even as it demands significant life changes. The path forward is often unclear, so value the journey rather than focus solely on the destination.
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Hard work and preparation are key to success and 'making your own luck'. Luck favors those who put in the effort.
Stories of Quyen Vuong and QD3 show that through hard work and perseverance in the face of adversity, they were able to achieve success. They worked tirelessly to overcome poverty and hardship.
Research by Richard Wiseman shows that 'lucky' people share certain traits:
They notice and take advantage of chance opportunities. They pay attention to the world around them.
They are open to new experiences. They try new things and expose themselves to new opportunities.
They are extraverted. They smile, make eye contact and engage with others. This leads to new opportunities and connections.
They are optimistic. They expect good things to happen and are able to find the positive even in adversity. Their optimism rubs off on others.
An example shows how being observant, friendly and open can lead to new opportunities. By engaging a stranger in conversation, new connections and opportunities can arise.
The key message is that while luck does play a role, you can maximize your chances of success by working hard, being prepared, and having an optimistic and open mindset. Put in the effort and 'luck' will find you.
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The key points in the story are:
Luck comes to those who create opportunities for themselves by being observant of their surroundings and open to new experiences. The author gave the example of helping a student, Eduardo, connect with people in the entrepreneurship community. Years later, Eduardo invited the author for a helicopter ride to show his appreciation.
We often miss opportunities because we fail to notice important details right in front of us. We go through life with "blinders" on, sticking to routine paths. Lucky people make an effort to see the world with fresh eyes, like travelers in a foreign country. Several examples illustrated how much we miss even when we think we're paying attention.
Lucky people leverage their knowledge and experiences in new ways. They appreciate the value of what they have access to and find ways to tap into these resources as needed. Steve Jobs dropping in on a calligraphy class in college is a perfect example. That single experience inspired the typography and fonts on the original Macintosh computer.
Ideas, like many things, can be described through similes and metaphors to uncover new meanings and recombine them in interesting ways. The exercise showing many similes for ideas illustrated how this can stimulate new insights. The more experiences and knowledge we have, the more raw material we have to make new connections.
In summary, luck comes to those who open themselves up to new experiences, pay close attention to opportunities, make unusual connections across areas of knowledge, and find ways to tap into resources that others may not notice or appreciate. An open and curious mindset is essential. With practice, making fresh connections and leveraging your knowledge can become second nature.
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The key lessons from this story are:
Thank-you notes have a big impact. Sending a handwritten thank-you note makes a meaningful impression and shows your gratitude for someone who has done something for you. This simple act helps you stand out and builds goodwill.
Assume a thank-you is needed. It's best to default to sending a thank-you note. Only don't send one in exceptional circumstances. This approach ensures you don't overlook an opportunity to express appreciation.
Little things matter. Small acts of thoughtfulness, like sending a thank-you note, can have an outsized positive impact. Focus on the little details in your interactions and relationships.
Opportunity cost. Keep in mind that any time someone gives you, no matter how small, has an opportunity cost. They are taking time away from something else to help you. So expressing gratitude is important.
Follow your mother's example. The story highlights how the author's mother emphasized the importance of gestures like writing thank-you notes. Look to role models who demonstrate thoughtfulness and use their example.
Stand out from the crowd. Because expressing gratitude is relatively rare, following through on small acts of appreciation will make you memorable in a good way. People will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
So in summary, paying attention to little details, like sending handwritten thank-you notes, has significant benefits. It leaves a meaningful impression, builds goodwill, and makes you stand out from those who overlook these small but important acts. Following the example of role models who emphasize thoughtfulness is a great approach. And remember that any time given to you by others has an opportunity cost, so gratitude is always warranted.
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Remember that the world is small and you will frequently encounter the same people in different roles and contexts over time. Your reputation follows you, so guard it well through your interactions and relationships. Mistakes and missteps can often be remedied over time through positive interactions, but some relationships may be irreparable.
Consider how you will describe your actions and decisions in the future. Make choices now that you will be proud to discuss later. This can help guide you through ambiguous or difficult situations.
Everyone makes mistakes. Learn how to apologize sincerely and take responsibility for your errors. The sooner you apologize, the less damage is done. Use mistakes as learning opportunities.
Demonstrating a willingness to learn from interactions and feedback can help turn negative situations into positive ones. People who show they want to improve and develop from experiences often make better impressions, even when the interaction starts out unfavorably.
Negotiation is a crucial life skill that is rarely taught formally. Most of our daily interactions involve negotiation to some degree. Become familiar with basic negotiation techniques and approaches. Look for opportunities to negotiate in low-risk, everyday situations. With practice, your ability and confidence will grow.
Other tips include: choose your battles wisely; compromise when possible; focus on interests, not positions; look for win-win solutions; build trust and rapport. Effective negotiation leads to better outcomes and relationships.
In summary, nurturing self-awareness and interpersonal skills will serve you well in work and life. Pay attention to the little details in how you interact with and relate to others. Continuous learning and development in these areas can help you avoid stumbling blocks and build stronger connections. With practice and experience over time, these “little things” will become second nature.
Here is a summary:
• We negotiate all the time in our daily lives, but most of us are not very good at it. We make inaccurate assumptions, the most common of which is that the other party's interests are directly opposed to our own.
• A key to successful negotiation is understanding everyone's interests so you can find a win-win outcome. This involves probing to identify shared and opposed interests, as well as which interests are most important to each party.
• An example is negotiating to buy a car. The salesperson's interests were not actually opposed to the customer's. By exploring interests, they found a win-win deal.
• Negotiations can happen anywhere. Another example is negotiating with a Chinese student to arrange a sunrise trip to the Great Wall of China. By understanding the student's interests, a win-win deal was crafted.
• Key advice for negotiating:
› Look for surprises that indicate inaccurate assumptions. › Pick a negotiating approach based on the other party's interests and style, not just your own. › Don't go in with a fixed plan. Listen to the other side and figure out what motivates them. › Know your "BATNA" - your best alternative to a negotiated agreement. This helps you know whether you should walk away from a deal.
• Helping others is also a valuable skill. Simply expressing willingness to help if needed can be comforting. We can offer this to friends, family, and colleagues.
• There are cases where no win-win is possible and walking away is best. But people often make deals even when it's not optimal, wrongly assuming any deal is better than no deal.
• Negotiating effectively requires understanding both parties' goals, finding win-wins, knowing when to walk away, and helping others. It takes effort but these skills can be improved with practice.
Here is a summary:
- Offering to help others is a great way to build goodwill and strong relationships. People are usually grateful for the offer, even if they don’t take you up on it. But you must be sincerely willing to help if they do accept.
- Helping others, even if they can’t help you in return, is a hallmark of good character and leadership.
- Early life experiences can make it hard to know how to help others or be a good team player. But these skills become increasingly important as you advance in organizations and life.
- The best team players work to make others successful. They craft roles and responsibilities to suit each person’s unique talents and strengths. This leads to high fulfillment, productivity, and team success.
- When interviewing for jobs, try to get a sense of whether the role and team dynamics are a good fit for your skills and work style. Look for shared interests and connections beyond just the job requirements.
- It’s easy to rationalize the “smart” choice over the “right” choice. But doing the right thing builds character and integrity, even if it’s difficult. Your actions define your reputation.
- Taking on too many responsibilities leads to frustration and limited success. Identify three core priorities at a time, and focus your efforts there. You can’t do it all at once.
Limiting yourself to three priorities avoids being trapped by the “Tyranny of the Or” - the notion that you must choose one thing over another. With focus, you can have multiple important things in your life, just not all at the maximum level of commitment at the same time.
Here is a summary:
The author never uses PowerPoint in class except on the first day. On the last slide, she tells students to "never miss an opportunity to be fabulous." She promises to do her best and expects the same from them. The students rise to the challenge and deliver more than expected.
- One student even engraved "never miss an opportunity to be fabulous" on her iPod. Students seem hungry for the chance to do their best without limits or expectations of "satisficing" (doing the minimum to satisfy requirements).
- The author was surprised by Ashwini Doshi, a graduate student applicant, because of her appearance. Although the author didn't initially hire her, Ashwini took the author's class. The author then hired Ashwini, who did exemplary work and always exceeded expectations.
- Ashwini was born normal size in Mumbai but stopped growing at age 1. Extensive surgeries were the only option to lengthen her limbs, but her active lifestyle made that impossible. Her loving, open-minded family educated her well. Ashwini sees herself as normal living an extraordinary life.
- Ashwini feels she can do anything and has proven this. She came alone to the U.S. for graduate school despite challenges. She only asked for a step stool. She solved problems creatively. Finding a driving school was hard but she persisted.
- Ashwini always gives more than 100% and regrets not taking more risks when younger. She knows life isn't a dress rehearsal. She's a model of never missing a chance to be fabulous.
Not being fabulous means doing the minimum. Missed opportunities compound like lower investment returns. Bernie Roth shows this by having a student fail to take a water bottle. Changing the request to "try your hardest" leads to success. Fabulousness comes from putting in maximum effort.
Here is a summary:
Bernie, an instructor, has a lesson that there is a big difference between trying to do something and actually doing it. We often make excuses for why we don’t achieve our goals, but achieving them is ultimately up to us. We need to give 100% commitment and effort. Excuses are irrelevant.
Examples of people who achieved amazing feats through persistence and commitment include:
1) Chong-Moon Lee, a Korean-American entrepreneur. He persevered through many hardships to build a successful company that produced graphics cards for PCs. He put his “heart and soul” into achieving his goal.
2) Perry Klebahn, a snowshoe designer who turned around a struggling company, Timbuk2, through focused effort and by pushing the limits of what was expected. He improved infrastructure, boosted employee morale, and opened up the design process to customers.
Being driven to achieve a goal is different from being competitive. Being competitive implies succeeding at the expense of others, while being driven means tapping into internal passion. Successful leaders can be inspired by the success of others.
A simulation exercise illustrates this. Teams are given pieces of different puzzles and poker chips and have to work together to complete puzzles within an hour. Since there are fewer puzzles than teams, teams must collaborate and determine alternative ways to create value. Teams start by competing but often end up merging or dividing labor. At least one team usually takes on a role other than just building a puzzle. The changing conditions require creativity and flexibility. Success requires balancing competition and collaboration.
The key lessons are that excuses are irrelevant, we must give full commitment to achieve our goals, being driven is more productive than being competitive, and success often requires both collaborating and competing. Achieving amazing things requires pushing limits and persevering through difficulties.
Here's a summary:
The author encourages giving yourself permission to challenge assumptions, experiment, and push beyond limits. This means abandoning traditional ways of thinking that can severely restrict potential. Many people discourage others from rising above the norm due to discomfort with difference or a desire to validate their own choices.
The d.school at Stanford aims to give students this permission by posing open-ended challenges with no set solutions, an adaptable physical space, and encouragement of experimentation. Students must leave their comfort zones to find answers. The space itself is reconfigured for each use and filled with materials to build prototypes and enable brainstorming. Past projects provide inspiration. Students face real-world challenges, like improving bike safety or helping dyslexic children learn to read, to gain experience solving complex problems. They end up with new ways of thinking, tools to enable innovative solutions, and greater confidence in their abilities.
Through this approach, students develop a habit of challenging assumptions and the confidence to push boundaries. They build a toolkit for innovation and learn that problems often have multiple solutions. The d.school wants students to carry this mindset into their lives and careers to make a positive impact. Overall, the author argues for the benefits of giving yourself permission to expand your thinking in this way.
Here is a summary:
To entice kids to eat healthier food, local projects and university students design innovative and cost-effective solutions. For example, students designed an inexpensive baby incubator for use in developing countries.
The author realized people choose how they view the world after an assignment to describe the same scene from different emotional perspectives. The world can look stimulating or daunting depending on one's state of mind.
The author's father, an immigrant who built a successful career, believes one should not take oneself too seriously or judge others harshly. Most failures and problems are not as significant as they seem. Success is fleeting, and one is not indispensable. He appreciates each day and opportunity.
Going through old possessions, the author found a canvas bag she has kept for 30 years containing rocks, photos, letters, and inventions. A poem she wrote called “Entropy” reflects constantly reinventing oneself, changing plans, and taking risks without knowing the outcome. Uncertainty fuels opportunity.
Although uncertainty can be overwhelming, it leads to innovation and progress. Stepping out of your comfort zone, being willing to fail, disregarding perceived impossibilities, and seizing each chance to excel lead to boundless possibilities, an exciting if chaotic life, and destinations you could not have imagined.
The key messages are:
1) One's perspective shapes how one views the world. You can choose an optimistic or pessimistic outlook.
2) Do not judge yourself or others too harshly. Most failures and problems are insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
3) Success and power are fleeting. Do not define yourself by your position or achievements.
4) Appreciate each day as life is short. Make the most of every opportunity.
5) Embrace uncertainty and step out of your comfort zone. This leads to growth, innovation, and exciting possibilities. The path may be chaotic but rewarding.
Here is a summary:
Problems can be reframed as opportunities if you view them through an optimistic and growth-oriented lens. This outlook gives you confidence that problems are solvable. An anecdote about writing a poem 25 years ago highlights how thinking about an uncertain future can provoke anxiety. In retrospect, embracing uncertainty leads to interesting experiences.
The stories in the book show that getting off predictable paths, challenging assumptions, and seeing possibilities lead to opportunity. Acknowledgments thank many people who shared stories and lessons, especially colleagues, students, and speakers. In particular, the book was inspired by wanting to share lessons with a son turning 16. The book aims to provide lessons the author wishes she knew at 20.
Here are the key points:
You can watch video clips of Larry Page, Armen Berjikly, Debra Dunn, David Rothkopf, Steve Jurvetson, Mir Imran, Bob Sutton, Gil Penchina, Carol Bartz, David Neeleman, Marissa Mayer, and others at ecorner.stanford.edu.
You can find details about Endeavor at endeavor.org.
This exercise is a modification of a project used by Terrence Brown, who used to teach at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Sweden.
You can watch a video summarizing the wallet exercise at ecorner.stanford.edu. Do a search for “wallet” to find it.
You can find the entire GEM report at: gemconsortium.org.
The Mayfield Fellows Program Web site is mfp.stanford.edu.
You can listen to a podcast with QD3 and MC Hammer at ecorner.stanford.edu.
You can watch the video with the basketball players and the moonwalking bear at youtube.com/watch?v=2pK0BQ9CUHk.
You can watch video clips of Stan Christensen at ecorner.stanford.edu.
You can see Linda Gass’s paintings at lindagass.com. She has a new series of paintings devoted to water issues in California.
You can watch video clips of Chong-Moon Lee at ecorner.stanford.edu.
You can watch a five-minute video that summarizes the two-hour exercise by going to ecorner.stanford.edu and doing a search for “puzzle.”
You can watch video clips of David Kelley at ecorner.stanford.edu.
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