The Alchemist is an inspiring read. 5 Powerful lessons.

I’ve recently been going through a non-fiction binge and thought I read a story a friend recommended. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

The tale follows a boy who is complacent with his life. He’s happy, and in fact even proud of his achievements. But he yearns to travel, and decides goes in search for a treasure in his dreams.

pyramid

Lesson 1: When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.

This theme of the book really resonated with me. It reminded me of Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. The more you desire something, the more things just seem to go your way. Everything isn’t going to be perfect, but small things start favoring you. These small favors add up, and keep propelling you to towards your desire. If you are an entrepreneur with a desire, pursue it like crazy. You might meet some amazing people who can help you along the way. You might even meet your fated love one. It’s the ability to keep pursuing and have faith that you will achieve what you want.

Lesson 2: It’s about the journey getting there.

It all started with a dream about gold. Eventually, it became an epic story. Seeing new worlds, the struggles, finding and meeting new people. THAT is the story you want to tell. It made me think deeply about where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. It’s even inspired me to write a book! We want to hear about those stories. So why not go out there and create your own story. No one wants to see the gold in your hands, but they definitely want to know how you got there.

maze

Lesson 3: Add value to everyone along the way.

The boy in The Alchemist meets a glass shop owner along the way. The glass shop owner was complacent where he was, but once the boy started working there, things improved. He looked on ways to improve the store. He made a nice cabinet to attract move customers. He told the owner to start selling tea with the glasses. Business boomed, and it became prosperous. The boy would eventually leave with many positive blessings, and a lot of money for his journey (and that feel good moment 😉 ).  It reminded me a bit of Never Eat Alone, always add value where you can.

Lesson 4: It’s really easy to fall back to complacency.

It was easy for the shepherd boy to fall back to his flock of sheep. When things were tough, he considered going back to being a shepherd. He considered A LOT. He decided to stop looking for his treasure occasionally, especially when  times were tough. It’s because complacency can be so appealing. I’ve often felt that it would be so much easier to just stick to a normal job. It would be easier, but then we won’t know what else is out there. Like the glass shop owner, once the boy arrived, he started to realize more about what he was capable of. He didn’t know anything beyond his shop. That’s why it’s easy to be complacent, because you won’t know any better.

Lesson 5: Personal Legacy! Becoming The Alchemist.

Create a freaking legacy. To keep it short, go out there and be remembered. If you don’t do it now, when will you? Create something. The people, the mistakes, the achievements – these are the things that will create your legacy. 

Give The Alchemist  a go. Won’t take you long and it will really inspire you.

 

The Power of Habit starts with small things.

I have a terrible habit of shaking my leg. It pisses off people sitting next to me, and it even starts to bug me when I see other people do it! What a hypocrite! It’s a habit I want to shake (pun intended) so I thought I picked up The Power of Habit. I tried to read this book when I was a lot younger and couldn’t finish it. It’s interesting reading the book now, I was bored out of my mind when I was younger but with a bit of age, the book was fascinating. In saying that however, I do believe towards the end it was simply the same theme, reinforcing the same point.

The Power Of Habit on Amazon

The Power Of Habit on Amazon

What engaged me about the book was the things it made me think about. For example, why do all the McDonald’s look the same? Why does improving organizational safety improve profits? why does the Alcoholics Anonymous work? These questions made me realize the things I do every day. To distill the book down to some key points:

1) Habit = Cue -> Routine -> Reward.

  1. Cue: something that will start the habit – perhaps you are bored or stressed.
  2. Routine: You decide to do something to stop this, so you smoke, drink a coffee or snack.
  3. Reward: You feel the benefits immediately – sugar high or relief through smoking.

So work on changing the ROUTINE which will lead you to a REWARD. 

My first big bad habit.

My first big bad habit.

So when you are bored and stressed? Read a book, go for a walk, do some exercise. When I had gained a lot weight, I realized my routine was gaming or eating food. Instead, I’ve channeled that to exercising. The ‘good’ habits take a while, and it took me about 2 months before I really started enjoying exercise and it’s reward (vs. gaming or eating sweets!). My gaming routine was the worst of all – the cue was something as ‘sitting at the computer’. Instead of doing work, I would play games or go on social media. Instead, I’ve slowly been changing that, making sure I always read or write while I’m at the computer. It’s still hard, and occasionally I have some rest and play a game or so with friends. It’s definitely hard and I’m still transitioning.

2) Surround yourself with those trying to break the habit as well.

When you see that it IS possible to break a habit, what will you think? A feeling  of realization will come over you. When your friend quits smoking, you will want to as well. Why? it’s because you start to realize change is possible. That’s important. Seeing people around you break the habit is amazing and will continue to motivate you. I would go further to say, surround yourself with people who have already broken the habit, or don’t even have the habit at all. Another good area is Reddit – there are so many subreddits it’s likely what you are looking for is there.

Surround yourself with a group of people working on that habit.

Surround yourself with a group of people working on that habit.

3) Always celebrate the small wins.

A small win in one area can produce something even greater. If you are beating the habit, measure it. I counted the hours I would save by ‘not’ gaming or counted times I shook my leg. Slowly but surely, I started to get happier and happier seeing the numbers. That was my reward, conquering a bad habit. It wasn’t easy and occasionally I still find myself ‘flinching’ at the THOUGHT of breaking my good habit. It’s bloody hard, but with time, and be sure you truly want it for yourself, you can conquer and create a good habit or eliminate a bad one. Give the Power of Habit a read (or the audio version – I have heard this is well read on Audible.)

Entrepreneurs should read Phil Knight’s Memoir

“I wanted to leave a mark on the world.”

– Phil Knight.

nike

I’m sure you did Mr. Knight, there’s a giant tick, a swoosh… everywhere.

I’ve always wanted to know how Nike came about – the story, the man who made it what it was today. It’s hard to find stuff about Nike and Knight, but I’m glad he wrote this book. Knight has always been trying to fly under the radar, and it shows in his last chapter when he bumps into Gates and Buffet. Everyone recognizes them, but not many will recognize Knight. A man worth $10 billion and climbing. A man sport idols recognize and look up to, Jordan, Kobe, Lebron and Tiger to name a few.

“Like it or not, life is a game. Whoever denies that truth, whoever simply refuses to play, gets left on the sideline, and I didn’t want that.”

– Phil Knight

Knight details his journey about his ‘Crazy Idea’ – Nike. It’s a pretty brutal (but fun) journey, and as he said – he would be happy to do it again. The journey involves many things, such as banks basically kicking him out, the Japanese suppliers denying him exclusivity in distributing the shoes, the government demanding a huge lump sum of $25 million which would bankrupt the company and even a personal flare of heartache and friendships. It’s a great reflection on how hard it can be to make a successful company.

So how did a man from humble Oregon make a multi-billion dollar company? A company who’s brand, its name alone – worth billions? Some think he is lucky, and you know what? Knight agrees.

“Hard work is critical, a good team is essential, brains and determination are invaluable, but luck may determine the outcome.”

– Phil Knight

But I have always believed luck comes to those who do work hard. Knight worked really hard. Seriously. I probably would of broken down at some points in Knight’s story. Lawsuits from companies, FBI threats from the banks, people’s lack of belief in his dream goal – it’s endless, but all in detail in the book. It’s a journey worth a read, especially those wanting to make their own mark in the world.

Lessons Learned:

  • No journey is easy. Especially if your goals are huge – as they should be. Bigger goals, a longer journey, but what a journey that will be.
  • If you believe in something – pursue it.
  • Nike was a team effort, Johnson, Bowerman, just to name a few were crucial to Nike’s success.
  • Set ridiculous targets – isn’t it funny how people will hit those targets (When Knight told Johnson to sell 3250 shoes – which was almost impossible – I add almost after because it was deemed Impossible by Knight before Johnson made it happen!).
  • There is nothing wrong with ambition (Words from Ito, the Japanese company bankrolling Nike at the time to Knight).
Phil Knight's Memoir

Phil Knight’s Memoir

Give this book a read.

The Millionaire Next Door, is not really a Millionaire

This book was a tough one to finish. Super fine detail towards the end.  Most of it reiterating the same point.

If I could summarize it all for you:

Frugality = Millionaire.

It reminds me of the times I walk around and see a Lamborghini or a Ferrari.  You see these guys in nice cars, and you say to yourself – ah, I wouldn’t mind that car. Or you think – wow, that’s impressive. Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with admiring a nice car. I know many financially successful people who spend hundreds of thousands on their cars. What the Millionaire Next Door is trying to say is that a significant amount of people are putting up a lie – they can’t afford to live a high consumption life. So even though there are people who are successful, and are able to afford luxurious things, there are also many who simply do so to look rich.

car

The Millionaire Next Door?

The best example is simply comparing a guy who looks like a millionaire. We think of a giant house, great suburb, nice suit and exotic car. The reality is that a majority of millionaires don’t look like this. Take a look at Brin and Page (billionaire founders of Google). they drive a Toyota Prius! You don’t need to look rich to be rich. 

That’s not to say you can’t have nice things! What I took away from the book was that you should always be frugal when you can be, especially at the start. You can’t just make millions without saving. So where you can be, be frugal. Use your money wisely. Where you can, live below your means.

Keeping up the image.

Keeping up the image.

Is it easy? No way. I know that when I see something nice, and I have a bit of money saved up, I take a while to fight the urge. It’s hard. I also think its much harder for those living in very nice suburbs. The Millionaire Next Door shows that because you live in these nice suburbs, you feel pressured to keep up the ‘image’ of the area. Your neighbor has a nice car and is always nicely dressed – so why aren’t you? If you can afford to keep it up, why not – but if you can’t, don’t. Don’t waste your energy. Every dollar does matter. Use that money to build wealth. Sure, spoil yourself a little (these feel even better the longer you hold it off – you learn to appreciate it even more), but when you can, why don’t you save? Any accumulated wealth will position you in future for great ventures – I’m sure of it. 

 

My game plan or quick tips?

  • Eat at home when you can – when you see friends, host a small dinner at yours. Its more intimate as well!
  • No drinking – minimize the alcohol whenever you can (In Australia this is really marked up!)
  • Use the gym in my condo or my home gym as opposed to memberships. There’s also many videos on Youtube for body-weight exercises.
  • Work more, even on side projects.
  • Plan ahead, budget and all.

What’s yours?

Revisiting Stephen Covey Time Management Grid

I was in the car with a friend the other day, and we started talking about time organization. He mentioned about doing more things that are important for the future but seem less urgent.  I had read this somewhere and when I went home, I looked through my notes and found Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly effective people. I popped on the audio book version (which is great!) and reminded myself about time management. I honestly loved this part of the book most of all.

Most important lesson? Concentrate on things that are important but not urgent. 

covey time management grid

Stephen Covey Time Management Grid

Time is the most important thing in your life.

With more time, you can make more money. With more time, you could read and continually improve yourself. With more time, you can share it forever with friends and family.  Time is finite, so make the most of it. Don’t waste a single bit. Manage it well and make a dent. To help understand this matrix, I’ll go through some of the main points:

Urgent – Important (MANAGE):

  • These things are your crisis. You got to do them, and having a lot of them is not a good sign.
  • Your family’s in the hospital? urgent. Deadlines that have to be met? urgent. You HAVE do these things. They are both important and have a time constraint on them.
  • You inevitably have these, the less the better.

Urgent – NOT Important (AVOID):

  • Covey goes through the three Ps.
  • Proximate: When the phone rings, it’s right in front of you. It now appears urgent since it’s within your proximity. Hence, you feel like picking it up. However, if it’s not an important call (from work, a family member, or someone you care about) and you are doing something that is important to you – it can wait.
  • Pressing: Other people are expecting something from you. THEIR needs and problems are being transferred to you. Ignore these as much as you can. Why waste your time with OTHER people’s problems when you have to concentrate on your own?
  • Popular: Shallow relationships, or certain meetings to go to because you ‘have’ to but don’t NEED to. I’ve noticed that as I spend more time with people I care about, the less time I’m spending with others that are using me for their own need. Shallow relationships are hard to notice at first, but as you start to become clear in your mission and where you want to head, you will start to realize who you should be hanging around.

Not Urgent – Important (FOCUS):

  • You will focus on these parts in your life as much as you can.
  • Planning: Don’t plan day by day, that ends up becoming a list of URGENT things, instead, plan your week ahead.  If at all possible, plan your month ahead as well.
  • Self Improvement: Always sharpen the saw. Don’t keep chopping away at something that isn’t work. It all boils down to you. Improve yourself. Read more – not junk reading, begin reading classics, non fiction and stuff that can only improve you. Learn new things, start a new language.
  • Exercise: Keep fit. Go the gym.
  • Relationship building: Improve the relationships that matter most to YOU. This could be your family and friends. Perhaps business partners or founders. Your Mentors. Regardless – always be sincere. You want to be in their presence and they hopefully want to be in yours.
  • Meditation & Relaxation: This is hard to do, especially if you want to go out there and make some impact. Spend 5 to 10 minutes relaxing. I use the guided meditation videos on Youtube or even on Audible very useful.

Not Urgent – Not Important (LIMIT):

  • Limit your time doing pointless things. Many parts of social media can be mindless. Surfing the web for no reason. All these things can be distracting and make you forget what you want most in life. Don’t get distracted. 

If you have the time (and I’m sure you can find it 😉 ) give the book ago, or at least listen to the audiobook version. Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is well worth it.

Contagious: Why Things Catch On Review and Notes

Contagious: Why Things Catch On – On Amazon

 

General Summary: 

I really liked this book. It tells you about interesting facts on marketing strategies and how they work. Each backed with a study either conducted already or one they conducted. It makes you realize there is a reasoning behind some of the tactics employed in marketing and how things become viral. I would recommend a read / listen to the audio-book (the Narrator is really good and he 100% makes me hungry when he describes food).

Cool Facts, Notes & Details from the book:

1. Word of Mouth is about 93% of discussion, where as the other 7% is online. Study here (Keller Fay Group).

2. Blendtec  – it’s ‘viral’ spot was blending random things – which at the time was unheard of. It made a point to prove that its blenders are strong. You can see some of their videos here.

BlendTec!

BlendTec!

3.  Social Influence Marketing:

  • Inner Remark-ability: Something involved with the product gives the person value, that value they feel like sharing as soon as possible. The example given was the Snapple lid – underneath it was an interesting fact you wanted to share with someone. So the moment you open the lid, and you see the fact – you want to tell someone as soon as you could.
  • Game Mechanics: something we are probably all familiar with. Example given was the frequent flyer system, and how a significant number of people do not use their points. Foursquare does a similar thing with checking in to places and ‘badges’.
  • Feel like insiders: When we are on the ‘inside’ with knowledge, we feel better. Given exclusive invites,  people want to join because they didn’t have access before. You can actually see this in action on the example business (RueLala) which prompts you to give an email for exclusive discounts. The most interesting part of the example was the comparison to it’s previous business model – which was the exact same thing but without the exclusive invite. I.e. RueLala was the same as something called SmartBuy (made by the same person) but one offered exclusive invitations only – still selling the same thing!

4. Triggers

There are two key word of mouth methods – immediately, or ongoing things in conversations. An interesting example was the increase sale in Mars Bars when the successful landing of Mars on the moon. The” Wassup” ad from BudWeiser was a great example of people using a common trigger to remind people of BudWeiser. Essentially – a trigger will remind the person of the product, and consequently trigger a possible call to action.

budweiser-wassup-charles-stone

BudWeiser “Wassup” advertisement

5. Emotions

  • When we care, we share!
  • Awe – Something that AWES us makes us want to share.
  • Sadness – emotional connection allows us to underscore our similarity in relationships. So something we find sad, and someone else finds sad will build upon the relationship.
  • Anger/Anxiety – it arouses us, blood pressure rises. They did a study which showed that those who exercised before hand would have a more likely chance to share. The book had a great example involving United Airlines and the incident involving breaking of a singers guitar. He wrote a song and people happily shared it because they felt the same with their service. (Stock price at the time fell by 10%).
United Breaks Guitars - a video to drop shares by 10%?

United Breaks Guitars – a video to drop shares by 10%?

6. Observability

A sense of a social proof – monkey see, monkey do. People like to conform to what other people are doing. Apple’s logo is standing up correctly when they open the laptop. The line is long – people happily wait. Canned laughter exists because people are more likely to laugh because the sound is there. Money in a tip jar – people are more likely to tip because there is money there. (many examples in the book – these were just a few.)

The Apple Logo is up - social proof?

The Apple Logo is up – social proof?

7. Practical Value – News others can use. If you can give practical advice to others – it cements a relationship.

8. On sale – the sale tag can increase demand for a product even without a sale. The bigger the number can be, the better it is – for example, 30% off a product is better than $2 off.

9. Stories are great – so bring a Trojan Horse. A story allows us to bring up a product without sounding like an advertisement. We are following a great story so much, we forget what’s actually being told to us. So make a good story!

That Exit Story though….

I was really surprised with the final story. It answered the question why so many Vietnamese people own Nail Salons!

It started with Tippi Hedren, an actress in several of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies in the 1960s. She was also an international relief coordinator, and she was working with Vietnamese women in a refugee camp near Sacramento when several of the girls admired her long glossy nails. She had a manicurist who would come down to the camp and teach her techniques to the women. One of the new students, Thuan Le, who started with nothing but clothes on her back, would get free classes and hatch a new plan. Nail Salons would appear, success stories would come and the rest is history.

Contagious: Why Things Catch On – On Amazon

I hope my Contagious: Why Things Catch on Review Helped! Great Book! Worth a read.