Smartcuts: how hackers, innovators, and icons accelerate success… by Shane Snow – journalist, entrepreneur, and founder of media tech company Contently.

How can one person accomplish so much more than the average?  How can someone build eBay in the same time that it takes someone to build a house?  The answer is: lateral thinking.

The author studied in depth how successful people break away from the norm, interviewed hundreds of them, and in the book he prescribes ways to help us develop this type of lateral thinking ourselves.

Why smart cuts?

Think of life, your career, and business like a giant puzzle.  We all learn the conventional, brute-force path to success: work harder than the rest of them.

But working hard is actually the lazy move!  We drone away and keep ourselves busy because it actually takes more effort to break out from the norm and figure out a smartcut.

The author distinguishes from a shortcut, which implies that we’re cutting corners or sweeping things under the rug.  Instead, a smartcut is a novel approach that accelerates our journey.

How does it work?

How can you achieve more, faster?  Here are 2 of the 9 smartcuts catalogued in the book.

*  One way has to do with how you train and compete.  The person who invented Ruby on Rails is also a very competent racecar driver.  But he didn’t get there the conventional way: he’d have to spend years and years advancing from amateur to professional racing leagues.

Instead, he looked for ways to get into the most advanced racecar leagues, even if that meant that he would be the worst, at least for a while.  This forced him to master the basics fast, and learn from the best.

Traditionally, competitions pit us against people of similar skill.  Instead, you should seek to be the worst in your group.  Because when you compete against people better than you, you learn and grow exponentially faster.

*  Another way is by ‘studying the waves’.  The best surfers spend their time gazing at the waves BEFORE they jump in the water.  Because the key to being a master surfer is to be in the right place at the right time.  And the only way to do that is by recognizing the wave patterns.

This is very similar to ‘creating your luck’.  An outsider would see a surfer catch a great wave and claim it was luck.  Similarly, how often do we see someone succeed in business and attribute it to blind luck?  But it’s not: it’s all about the careful study of patterns, which helps us develop intuition and get the timing just right.


Conventional thinking – working hard and playing by the rules – will help you make incremental progress.  But if you’re looking for breakthrough results, then you have to look for smartcuts: ways to make your journey shorter… add more leverage to your actions… and aim high!

Smartcuts storyboard page 1

Smartcuts storyboard page 2

Smartcuts storyboard page 3

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