Smart Cuts - Shane Snow

Smart Cuts - Shane Snow

Video Book Summary

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Book Summary Notes  


“Pick your era of history and you’ll find a handful of people—across industries and continents—who buck the norm and do incredible things in implausibly short amounts of time." 

"The common pattern is that, like computer hackers, certain innovators break convention to find better routes to stunning accomplishments.

"The question is, can finding these better routes be taught?"

"In this book, I’m going to show you how overachievers throughout history have applied lateral thinking to success in a variety of fields and endeavors. In doing this, I plan to convince you that the fastest route to success is never traditional, and that the conventions we grow up with can be hacked." 

"And, most important, I want to show you that anyone—not just billionaire entrepreneurs and professional mavericks—can speed up progress in business or life.”

How to do incredible things in a short amount of time..

That's really what Smartcuts is all about!

Bucking the norm and not following convention, in a well thought out and deliberate way..

Doing things that people often believe to be impossible..

But it doesn't just need to be for people who are shooting rockets to Mars..

Smartcuts is for you!  Whatever role you play. 

 Accomplishing something incredible with your life, that has meaning to you as quickly as possible!

This book is filled with wisdom:

Shane references people like..

  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Elon Musk
  • Shelock Holmes


“The difference between Franklin’s unconventional work and Abagnale’s was that the former managed to create value for others while the latter cheated others." 

"Franklin’s approach was a lateral solution to the unfairness of present convention. Abagnale’s, however entertaining, was a con, and he paid for it."

"And that’s the difference between rapid, but short-term gains, which I call shortcuts, and sustainable success achieved quickly through smart work, or smartcuts."

"Whereas by dictionary definition shortcuts can be amoral, you can think of smartcuts as shortcuts with integrity. Working smarter and achieving more—without creating negative externalities.”

What is a Smartcut?

Accomplishing something in an efficient manner..

  • Generally by working smarter, avoiding the path others have staked and understanding the pitfalls others fall into! 
  • Smartcuts are generally lateral thinking instead of straight linear moves..

They aren't 'shortcuts' (beware shortcuts).

  • Shortcuts are often amoral and lead us into trouble..  
  • Think late night infomercials selling some kind of 6 pack solution..  They don't work and you lose money!  (The person selling them is taking a shortcut and so are you).

Most of all Smartcuts are a new way of thinking..

  • Looking at the situation from the ground up instead of from the predetermined path!
  • Asking yourself how you could accomplish something faster, use different skills or leverage past success.. 
  • This book is filled with a ton of great Smartcut examples!  Test them, apply them to your life.

Bigger or Better

“Now, if the BYU kids had gone door-to-door asking for free televisions, they wouldn’t have succeeded so quickly." 

"Few people are willing to make that kind of stretch. This is like an intern applying for a CEO job, or a brand-new startup bidding on a NASA contract. The players eliminated resistance by breaking the big challenge (acquire something valuable like a TV) into a series of easier, repeatable challenges (make a tiny trade).'

"Researchers call this the psychology of ‘small wins.’ Gamblers, on the other hand, would call it a ‘parlay,’ which the dictionary defines as a ‘cumulative series of bets in which winnings accrued from each transaction are used as a stake for a further bet.’"

"In Bigger or Better, the parlay never stops. Players don’t wait an arbitrary period of time before moving on to the next trade, and they don’t mind if the result of the trade was only a slightly more desirable object, so long as the game keeps moving.”

A penny for a house?

Some of you might have seen this YouTube video..

  • A guy starts out with a penny, then trades the penny for a paperclip and after a few dozens trades he's got a house!
  • It seems totally implausible..  But Shane gives us another story of BYU kids doing the same thing!
  • Going from a toothpick to a TV in only one night..

Of course trading a toothpick for a TV is probably not a shortcut you want to take..

  • But what it represents is something important..  I think of it like real world compound interest!
  • Leveraging one move you make to help you move again!  (Without a time limit)

Think of it like this:

  • 1. Right now you may be stuck in a job you don't love!  Plus you've probably got one that you would like in mind..  
  • 2. That job might be something that you're currently unqualified for.  So what can you do?
  • 3. Start trading toothpicks!  What is a small jump you can make right now that would move you in the direction of your dream job?
  • 4. Now repeat that again as soon as you get the new one..  Trading toothpicks doesn't have a waiting period!


“So how does one avoid billionaire’s depression? Or regular person’s stuck-in-a-dead-end job, lack-of-momentum-fueled depression?"

"Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile took on the question in the mid-2000s in a research study of white-collar employees." 

"She tasked 238 pencil pushers in various industries to keep daily work diaries. The workers answered open-ended questions about how they felt, what events in their days stood out. Amabile and her fellow researchers then dissected 12,000 resulting entries, searching for patterns in what affects people’s ‘inner’ work lives the most dramatically."

"The answer, it turns out, is simply progress. A sense of forward motion. Regardless how small. And that’s the interesting part. Amabile found that minor victories at work were nearly as psychologically powerful as major breakthroughs.”

Progressive realization of a worthy goal..

That's what true success is!

  • It's not the end (billionaires) and it's not the beginning (dead end job) it's the middle..
  • Human's are wired for progress..  We crave it and it makes us happy!

How are you building progress into your life?

  • Do you know the direction you're heading?
  • Do you have a way of measuring how far you've come?
  • Do you know what your next toothpick trade might look like?

Momentum is a powerful tool..

  • We spoke about real world compound interest already.  That's a powerful lever for success!
  • But it turns out it's also a profoundly motivating and happy making tool..  
  • Moving forward 1% each day towards your worthy goal is the best thing you can do for your happiness!


“Crucially, experts tended to be able to turn off the part of their egos that took legitimate feedback personally when it came to their craft, and they were confident enough to parse helpful feedback from incorrect feedback." 

"Meanwhile novices psyched themselves out. They needed encouragement and feared failure. The tough part about negative feedback is in separating ourselves from the perceived failure and turning our experiences into objective experiments. But when we do that, feedback becomes much more powerful.”

“The Second City teaches its students to take such things [failures] in stride, to become scientists who see audience reaction as commentary on the joke, not the jokester. To turn off the part of their brains that says ‘I fail’ when they get negative feedback."

"With this process, The Second City transforms failure (something that implies finality) into simply feedback (something that can be used to improve). Hundreds of times a week.”

Learning to see failure as feedback..

Every person at the top of their field has failed hundreds if not thousands of times!

  • There is one thing that sets them apart..  They don't see it as failure!
  • They see it as feedback!  Something they can use to improve their craft vs a reason to stop.

Second City is an improve comedy academy that thrives on failure..

  • “The Second City teaches its students to take such things [failures] in stride, to become scientists who see audience reaction as commentary on the joke, not the jokester. To turn off the part of their brains that says ‘I fail’ when they get negative feedback."
  • "With this process, The Second City transforms failure (something that implies finality) into simply feedback (something that can be used to improve). Hundreds of times a week.”

How to turn failure into feedback:

  • I'm blessed that I've taken a path in life that involves a lot of failure!  An entrepreneur since the age of 19 I've had my fair share.
  • Now one thing I think I've been blessed with is a brain that isn't wired to take failure as a reason to stop..  But there have been times where I wanted to!
  • Here is a process I now use to automatically and immediately turn failures into feedback..

1. Open a spreadsheet (or a piece of paper) that has two columns.  One for the thing you failed at/don't know enough about.  The other for resources where you can learn more about it or what you already learned.

2. When you fail or don't know the answer to something relating to your goal.  Write it in column one and forget about it!  Writing it down so you can revisit it later takes a weight off your shoulders.

3. Mark some time on your calendar for learning.  Spend some of that time finding resources and some of it learning new skills.  Failure has turned into feedback which has turned into development.


“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."   

"On the playground, it’s like building a tower to stand on, so you can start your Olympic ring with more velocity. Phan’s tower was a backlog of quality content.

"This is how innovators like Sal Khan (who published 1,000 math lessons online before being discovered by Bill Gates, who thrust him into the spotlight and propelled him to build a groundbreaking digital school called Khan Academy), and musicians like Rodriguez (a folk singer whose amazing, but largely unrecognized music work from the 1970s was featured in a 2012 documentary, which then catapulted him to world fame) became ‘overnight’ successes."

"None of them were overnight success. But each of their backlogs became reservoirs, ready to become torrents as soon as the dam was removed.”

There are no overnight successes..

The myth of the overnight success is pervasive!

  • People who aren't actually attempting to accomplish something seem to believe people who do didn't work for it..
  • There is this myth that they got 'lucky' which isn't ever really true!

People who do experience overnight success are the ones you've already forgotten about..

  • They may have had one great video, song or book..  But they didn't have staying power and eventually faded away!
  • The attention isn't the hard part of succeeding, it's having quality work to back it up that's difficult..

This is meant to be motivating! But how?

  • Most of us think if we're not an overnight success it's not going to happen for us..
  • That's simply not true.. If you commit to something for the long term your chances of becoming an overnight success go up dramatically!
  • Plus, once you get there you'll actually be good at what you do!
  • Want a Smartcut?  Commit to the long term (and show your work if you can).


“Like [Sherlock] Holmes, hackers strip the unnecessary from their lives." 

"They zero in on what matters. Like great writers, innovators have the fortitude to cut the adverbs.

"This is why Apple founder Steve Jobs’s closet was filled with dozens of identical black turtlenecks and Levi’s 501 jeans—to simplify his choices. US presidents do the same thing." 

"‘You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,’ President Barack Obama told Michael Lewis for his October 2012 Vanity Fair cover story. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.’”

Successful people often lead simple lives..

Not because they don't like fancy clothes or have a million options!

  • But because they understand that attention and energy are limited..  
  • They understand that every second spent picking out an outfit is a second not working on their dream!

Does this mean you need to wear the same shirt and eat the same meal everyday?

  • No of course not!  But you do need to decide what's important to you..
  • Do you care about fashion?  Great!  Spend you time there..
  • Do you care about amazing food?  Great!  Spend your time there..
  • The idea here is to understand what's important to you, then do your best to pre-decide things that tend to get in the way of that..

Here is a great place to start:

  • 1. Look at your day currently.  What time do you get up, what decisions do you make and what drains your energy throughout the day.
  • 2. Next look at what pieces could be put on autopilot.  If that's your clothes, food or morning routine great!  
  • 3. Write down what your new day will look like.  Set yourself up to have as much decision power for the important and spend as little on the unimportant as possible.


“The ‘high hanging fruit’ approach." 

"The big swing, is more technically challenging than going after low-hanging fruit, but the diminished number of competitors in the upper branches (not to mention the necessary expertise of those that make it that high) provides fuel for 10x Thinking, and brings out our potential."

"Big causes attract big believers, big investors, big capital, big-name advisors, 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.”

Do something big.  Why not?

Human beings are amazing..  We've created quite an amazing society!

This is large part is due to the dreamers, the people who think big and are willing to put themselves on the line!

These people are attractive, we want to give our best selves to these people and help them accomplish their big idea..  

A Smartcut?  Be that person.  Dream big.  Attract high level people.  Play your best game!

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