Smarter Faster Better

5 minute read


As always, I don’t agree with or use everything I read, but I will still try and summarize it here.If you are new here, read why I put my semi-personal book notes online.

I can’t recommend this book. And as a result, I’m going to give a very brief summary of the few points I thought was worthwhile. Even when I don’t agree with everything an author says, I try and include the whole summary. I just can’t do that here since some of the advice here just seems plain bad. An example of that is that of Jack Welch. The author’s positive examples don’t hold up this section of a similar topic in the book Leaders Eat Last. I’m normally slow to pass judgment on something like this but I think history speaks for itself.

On the positive side, the anecdotes are entertaining and make for an easy read. One of the examples discusses a plane crash so if you are on a plane, maybe wait until you land before reading this book.



Motivation is triggered by making choices. What that means is by giving someone a choice (the author refers to a boring game) you will enable them to become motivated. I believe this relates to my theory of autonomy, but gives it a new spin

Transform Chores

Making a choice that shows you are in control can create motivation. The author gives the example of having 40 emails you need to get through. Start by browsing emails and choosing a few you want to reply to. This transforms a chore into a choice.

Connect Caring

Linking a current boring task to a future meaningful goal can give you motivation. Thinking of the promised future reward means you can get through the current boring task. This is something I use so often I have written about how I do it to a fault.


Psychological safety is the most important thing that allows teams to accomplish exceptionally according to the 2012 Google Project Aristotle result. The difference between good and bad teams is psychological safety. This is a point that every other book on leadership has mentioned in varying ways.

The author goes to mention how empathy is important to help stimulate that psychologically safe atmosphere. As I mentioned above this theory is mentioned in almost every other book I’ve read on the subject including Leaders Eat Last


Mentally simulate those tough and difficult future states before they happen. We are the only creates known to be able to do that, may as well use it to our advantage. If you picture all possible future states beforehand, you’ll be more focused and mentally able to handle them.


Set a lofty goal so that when you fail, you will have still achieved an impressive result. Brian Chesky from Airbnb talks about this as creating an “11-star” experience and comes to a similar conclusion as Charles. Check out this episode of startup podcast I regularly listen to with steps for the 11-star experience. One thing I like about the 11-star experience method is it relies on a cognitive bias to anchor us in such a way that a 5-star experience suddenly doesn’t seem like such a big deal. This seems like a good exercise for anyone who read my Zero to One review where it talks about challenging assumptions.

Managing Others

Instead of managing, I am more focused on leading others as I believe it’s important to encourage vision and autonomy. Looking at a study from a couple of Stanford Business Professors, the author mentions the best company style called the “commitment companies”. Best because they maintained the highest profitability ratios, less likely to go bankrupt, and were the fastest to go public.

Based on that you will want to build a commitment culture of trust and loyalty rather than starts, individuality, and competition. Also, you want to allow the employees to have more decision-making abilities to unlock their hidden potential. This is something I describe at length as autonomy. More information from another book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team in the Team Rewards section talks about this in greater detail.

Decision Making

When trying to decide on a space you don’t know anything about, don’t use your system 1 response to make a gut reaction. Talk to people with experience so you can equip yourself with the tools to then make the decision.


The author mentions a study performed that shows 90% of the most creative manuscripts had already been published as a combination of ideas elsewhere. New innovative ideas are made on the shoulders of mundane giants. I would add something called “the edge effect” to the author’s list of ways to be more innovative. Hidden brains had a great podcast talking about that which I’ll link at the end of this article.

Understand your own experiences past cliches so that you can get into the insight.

Embrace desperation and use stress/anxiety as a driver of creativity. This is something I was taught at a young age, I’ve been told I do great when everything is falling apart.

Be self-critical and self-aware.

Absorb Data

The author talks about how in the current information age we can absorb data but many are unable to. The author recommends forcing yourself to do something with data and practice making decisions based on data. With that data, only then make a decision. This sounds a lot like system 2 advocation. I do this regularly by explaining data to a friend or writing a quick post on it. That really helps me truly absorb what I consume.


I tried my best to include the tips I thought were helpful. I do think the book was a little too long but perhaps worth a skim if you have the chance. The podcast on “the edge effect” that I promised is just down below if you are interested in another technique for becoming more innovative.


Avishaan’s Goodreads

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High
The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives
Hello Startup. A Programmer's Guide to Building Products, Technologies, and Teams
How to Win Friends and Influence People
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
The Systems Mindset: Managing the Machinery of Your Life
Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master

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