“Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success” by Shane Snow

“Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success” by Shane Snow

I think “Smartcuts” is one of the best 2014 books about success. It is a well-written and thought provoking book that makes you think about success in new ways. If you are stuck in your professional life or other areas of your life, this book can give you excellent advice. The book develops its argument based on scientific studies and a plethora of stories of success (like Jimmy Fallon´s and Skrilex´s). The book was written by Shane Snow who is a fantastic storyteller. He started is career as a journalist and entrepreneur and had his work published in magazines like “Wired”, “The New Yorker” and “Fast Company”. He co-founded Contently, a website that helps freelance journalists and story tellers to connect with brands in need of content. He works there as Chief Creative Officer, besides writing books and giving talks regularly on storytelling. The following talk,  given by Snow to TeDx Columbia, was inspired by the beautiful Native American Proverb: “Those who tell the stories, rule the world.”

The author doesn´t dismiss success or says that we don´t need to work to achieve it. However, he says that if we concentrate our efforts in some less used “roads” we can accelerate our achievements considerably. Shane Snow convey’s in his book the idea that the “hard work” philosophy or the common sense idea that one needs to “pay your dues” to achieve success, is overrated. In many cases (perhaps most cases) the “traditional” way is far from being the fastest to become more successful. Snow also criticizes the idea that one needs to fail many times to achieve success, reminding us that if we don’t realize what made us fail in the first place we might fail one more. So, how can one be successful ?

Speeding Success Through Smartcuts

What could be the possible ways to speed success ? Shane Snow distinguishes between shortcuts and smartcuts. According to him, shortcuts are “rapid, but short-term gains” What he intends by smartcuts are sustainable ways to achieve success quickly through smart work. He asks us to think of smartcuts as “shortcuts with integrity”,  as smart ways to achieve success faster without the negative results of some actions (cheating and cutting corners) associated with the word “shortcut”.

Basically, the book is divided in three parts each approaching one specific keyword that can be put into practice by following three principles.

1. Shorten: How to eliminate unnecessary cycles

Shorten is a section about ways to eliminate unnecessary cycles. Very often we can skip some of the traditional  “roads” on the path to success as these aren´t really necessary for success. Snow writes that we can shorten the path to success by following three principles. The first principle is “Hacking the Ladder”. What he means with this metaphor is to remind us how very successful people normally invent their own ladder to success – they don´t seem to follow the most usual way to obtain something. The second principle is “Training with Masters”. Receiving training from people who really know the path to success can shorten a lot the process of learning. Finally, the third principle is “Rapid Feedback”. Successful people tend to learn quickly both from their successes and failures. In a way successful people fail more and faster. They tend to be persistent but not stubborn.

2. Leverage: How to do more with the same effort

The second section of the book is about “Leverage”. In this section Snow presents us three principles on how to do more with the same amount of effort. The first principle presented is “platforms”. Successful people skip the work they don´t have to do. “Platforms” are tools and environments that help us doing the work in a faster and easier way. One clear example is using computers or online platforms that can help us. The second principle is “Waves”. Successful people tend to find strong trends they can “surf”. Casual observers might think that they were at the right place at the right time simply by chance. Actually that isn´t just a question of luck but the effort to detect and “ride” strong trends until they finish. The third principle is “Superconnectors”. Successful people tend to find people and media that permit them to broadcast their message to many people. “Which is faster – going door to door with a message or broadcasting the message to a million home at once?”.

3. Soar

The third part of the book (“Soar”) is more difficult to summarize in one sentence, but the word “soar” in itself gives a hint of the aim of this section. The three principles of this sectionare the followingThe first principle is “momentum”. According to the author once you start “swinging” for success, it´s easier to keep swinging than to slowing down. The second principle is “simplicity”. Successful people tend to “strip the unnecessary from their lives” which seems to be a good principle to follow. The last principle is “10x Thinking”. 10x thinking is different from a incremental growth witch depends more on resources and hard work. “10x progress is built on bravery and creativity” (working in a smarter way). By other words, 10x thinking forces us, according to the author, to find smartcuts to meet our goals, on our path to success.

Dear reader, even though to find a smartcut that applies to your situation isn´t always easy, this book can definitely help you to realize what are the hindrances in your mindset that are preventing you for achieving success and where to look to find the smartcuts that can help you in your path.