What Snow tries to find out is how rapid success happened throughout the history, wether we are talking about presidents, artists, companies, surfers or just regular people reaching for their dreams.
He divides the book in three big parts: how can people shorten the way to success by using lateral thinking, how is better to work not the hard or cheap way, but the smart way and use different types of leverage to achieve more in less time, and how momentum, not experience, is the biggest predictor for business and personal success.
The book is well structured and easy to read. The real life examples Snow uses are perfectly interwoven to get his more “theoretical” point across. While the book is a must read if you want to understand the lessons Snow is teaching there, I have subtracted the important take-away information in the following bullet points:
Hacking the leader.
People are willing to take a chance on something new if it feels like a small stretch, a.k.a. the psychology of “small wins”. This is also known as “parlay” in gambling: the first win is then used as a stake for a further win and so on. In order to be successful in a short time, one should not parlay the success only in one direction, but have to courage to move sideways and switch success ladders. A company can pivot, and an individual can use the expertise gathered in one field, to switch part and level up in a completely different area. Hacking the leader is what some have used to achieve their so called “overnight success”.
“Research shows that entrepreneurs who have mentors, ease up seven times as much capital for their business, and experience 3.5 times more growth that those without mentors” Snow writes. But results drawn from all sorts of mentorship programs in different companies and industries have shown that not every type of mentorship works. For the mentorship to bring added value to the mentee, this should be informal, organic and deep. Genuine interest is needed to start the relationship, and the given or requested advice should relate to other aspects of life, beyond the objective task at hand. In order for the learning to be efficient, both parts need to open up about fears and build trust.
In business, failing doesn’t make you better or smarter, but the more you win, the more likely it is to win again. Years of research in failure, success and feedback, concluded that “the closer feedback moves our attention to ourselves, the worse it gets for us”. The more a feedback is directed on the task, and not on the person, the efficient it gets. Experts prefer negative feedback to positive, because the negative feedback is more actionable than compliments, their expertise helps them take this type of feedback objective and use it’s learning potential. The Sillicon Valey mantra “fail fast and fail often” gets the principle of rapid feedback in identifying problems on the go and correcting them with minimum resources, thus making sure that the final product will be a success. Moreover, it implies that failure should not be seen as an end to something, but rather as a something that can be used to improve.
Use of existing platforms.
If you are aiming to validate a business idea fast, to test a hypothesis, to develop fast and learn as you go, the use of existing platforms will give you the time advantage that sometimes makes the difference between success and failure. Ruby on Rails, for example, revolutionized the way we code and program today.
Deliberate pattern spotting.
The “if I work hard enough, the luck will eventually strike” mentality is wrong. You heard that right. Practice and experience are not an effective strategy for success. How else could be explain the fact that many new, inexperienced startups manage to disrupt a market where giant companies make the laws? That’s because relying on experience and intuition once you are on top, won’t guarantee you will stay on top forever. What new startups do is rely on deliberate pattern spotting, rather that rely on the experience they don’t have. Going out, gathering feedback, adapt, learn and adjust is a pretty accurate success predictor if you are planning to enter the market. Research reached a stunning conclusion: 47% of first movers (pioneers in developing a product, service etc) failed, whereas fast followers (those taking control of that niche after the pioneers entered the market) had only 8% failure rate. In a steady, smooth developing market, a pioneer would have a big advantage, but in a fast changing industry, the fast follower can learn form the mistakes made by the pioneer and invest the resources somewhere else. This will help him to develop faster and take control of the market.
We all know that connections are important for business, but there are some people who can use their powerful network to help one individuals spread their message and make it viral, gain trust and have access to new opportunities. Snow calls these people superconnectors, and is convinced that “no matter the medium or method, giving is the timeless smartcut for harnessing superconnectors and creating serendipity”
Momentum and the perception of momentum, is a powerful predictor for success. “The secret to harnessing momentum is to build up potential energy, so that unexpected opportunities can be amplified”. This potential energy can be developing your craft, fine-tuning your idea, creating connections, start somewhere and be consistent with your plan. When the momentum comes, you will know how to make use of it and keep it going.
Creatives and geniuses simplify their lives, entrepreneurs simplify products to make them more user friendly and useful – simplification is the key to innovation, creativity, patience and willpower. All these characteristics are apparently exhaustible resources, and that’s why many successful people practice meditation and live their life following a simple routine. Constraints and scarce resources allow us to be more creative by challenging us to disrupt the status-quo and come up with simple solution.
Make something 10x better.
Research shows that knowing there is a lot of competition in achieving something, will actually decrease your performance. The more difficult a goal is, the innovative an idea is, the less competitors you will have in pursuing that same goal. These high stakes and the few expert competitors you will have, will fuel your potential. So aiming to make something 10x better it’s often easier than making it 10% better, because it forces you to think outside the box, let go to fears, be intellectually more open, try new things and analyzing the results without judging them.
There is no success reception when it comes to startups and venturing unknown waters, but the more I learn, the more I feel that pursuing an idea you believe in is both challenging and rewarding. 🙂
Until next time, dare to play with your ideas!