Book review Archives - Salvador Briggman

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Book review

Review of Dotcom Secrets by Russel Brunson

Woah! This book was epic. I learned a ton about online marketing, specifically, how to start and grow an info-product business.

This year, I made the decision that I want to grow my blog/podcast/YouTube channel into an educational company. I wanted to take course creation seriously.

I came to this realization after feeling like I had hit a bit of a plateau. I could continue to do what I was doing, and have a business that affords me a nice lifestyle, but it wouldn’t make me rich as quickly as I wanted.

Of all of the thing I’ve done in my life, the most positive feedback has come from my ability to learn and teach. By viewing my work as the foundation of an educational company, it would change my strategy significantly.

That’s why I’ve been doing many more courses this year and webinars to sell those courses.

I also realized that throughout my entire life, the info-product industry has actually had a significant positive effect on my life.

The reason why I started working out was because of Bowflex commercials. At a young age (10/11) I realized I wanted to look like the guy in the commercials, and of course, have a fit girl like the one in the infomercials.

Later, it was people like Robert Kiyosaki that got me into business with his book, Rich Dad Poor Dad. Of course, there were also other influences besides him.

I even got into personal development from icons like Tony Robbins and his book Unlimited Power. I’m sure that many other people share a similar catalyst.

One day, I found myself relaxing on a rooftop in NYC, gazing at the stars. I was smoking a tiny cigar and thinking about life (what else is new). I started to connect the dots, and I was amazed to find that so many good things in my life actually came from the info-product industry.

There are many BAD products and individuals in this industry, but there are also a lot of good ones. I think that this industry creates a separate “reality” from the mainstream consciousness.

My desire to build up existing business into an educational company is what led me to the book, DotCom Secrets: The Underground Playbook for Growing Your Company Online by Russel Brunson.

I’ve learned a ton from this book. If you’re new to the info-product industry, or you want to build your own educational company, then you should definitely check out this book.

I’m going to share some of the notes I took this book down below. This will reveal some of my major takeaways.

The great thing is that these techniques also work. I’ve tested out several of them and I started to make more sales with my existing course and I improved the conversions on my latest webinar.

At the time of writing, you can purchase DotCom Secrets for $8.69 on Amazon.

Notes on Dotcom Secrets

  • “Ultimately, the business that can spend the most to acquire a customer wins.” – Dan Kennedy.
  • Who are your dream clients, where can you find them, what bait will you use to attract them, what results do you want to give them?
  • Need to create a continuity or monthly program.
  • Flesh out my value ladder. Price and value goes up with each level.
  • “A percentage of your audience will always want to pay you the premium to get more value.” There is no end.
  • “In a perfect world, I would immediately be able to talk my dream client into purchasing my best, most expensive service. But, I haven’t provided value yet. It’s almost impossible to build a company just offering your high-end services. You need a full range of offers.”
  • “Provide value to each customer at the unique level of service that he or she can afford.”
  • A sales funnel is the process that you use to take people through the levels of your value ladder.
  • Target market: What are their pains and passions. What do they desire. What do they think about and what do they search for online. Dig into your own experience.
  • Understand the strategy, set up the systems, and hire people who are good at the tactics.
  • Traffic you own. Traffic you pay for. Traffic that’s organic.
  • The attractive character: we love them, want to be like them, relate to their stories, and therefore buy what they’re selling.
  • Shared something with the audience and there is a new segment attracted to his persona. They could relate, and therefore had enough trust to purchase.
  • “I want to be like _____.”
  • “I kept seeing examples of this trend. The people who related to my stories were the ones who bought my products.”
  • Four elements of an attractive character (can be you or not you).
    • Backstory: You’re unable to relate to someone without a backstory. He’s just another dude eating subs. If people can relate where you came from, they will want to follow you to where you are now. You’ll seem unreal otherwise and untouchable. If they see you were once in a similar situation, they instantly identify with you. Relate it to what you’re selling though.
    • AC speak in parables: Easy to remember and illustrate a relevant point. Amusing or memorable story. Use the things that happen to you to teach and inspire others. “When you stop teaching facts and start teaching through parables, your message will stay with an audience longer.”
    • AC shares their flaws: A character with vulnerabilities and flaws makes them interesting that people CARE about. “No one wants to hear about the perfect person – because you can’t relate.” Flaws create empathy.
    • AC uses polarity: Being neutral is boring. Stick to your guns. It turns fair weather fans into diehard fans. “It’s very interesting that we will spend as much time listening to, talking about, and sharing things from people that we despise as we do from our favorite people.” If no one’s talking about you, no one know who you are.
  • The Leader: You have a similar backstory to audience. The result has been achieved by the leader.
  • Adventurer or crusader: Curious and set out journey to discover the answer. Shares the answers with them rather than leading audience on journey to find them result.
  • Reporter or evangelist: Interviewing people to discover the answers. Also share your own experience. People will associate you with high-profile people over time. “My status went up because I was constantly in the company of high-status people.”
  • The Reluctant Hero: Don’t want the limelight, but share your findings out of obligation. Shy.
  • Storylines:
    • Loss and redemption.
    • Us vs. them (polarize audience – draw raving fans closer and give them a rallying cry against the outsiders).
    • First I was _____. Now I’m _____.
    • Amazing Discovery. Good for webinars. They help people “believe that the answer they have been searching for is finally available to them.”
    • Secret telling.
    • Third-person testimonial. Sprinkle them liberally. Case studies.
  • Soap Opera Sequence: Create bond with Attractive Character. Use story to get character attention. Can use cliffhangers. Start story on part of high drama. Then events that happened (backstory) to get to high drama moment.
  • People are open to your answers because they are stuck. Bring on personal journey with you. Where you hit the wall. Open loop and promise to close.
  • Focus on hidden benefits.
  • Seinfeld emails: Be entertaining. Tell stories. Tie it back to your core offer.
  • For competitors, nail down: offer, landing page, traffic source, and ad copy. “It’s more likely to be what gets people in the door, while the real moneymakers are down the line somewhere. The first offer is just the tip of the iceberg, and I need to see their ENTIRE iceberg during this research phase.
  • Pre-frame in order to get the outcome that you desire. The state of mind you put someone in before you move them to the next step.
  • The frame people are in before they enter your website is the best thing to know.
  • Determine traffic temperature in terms of unaware -> problem aware -> solution aware -> product aware -> most aware.
  • “If your prospect is aware of your product and has realized it can satisfy his desire, your headline starts with the product. If he is not aware of your product, but only of the desire itself, your headline starts with the desire. If he is not yet aware of what he really seeks, but is concerned with the general problem, your headline starts with the problem and crystallizes into a specific need”
  • Hot traffic: know who you are. On email list, podcast read blog, talk to them as friends. Personality driven communications.
  • Warm traffic: joint venture and organic social media.
  • Cold traffic: ads, banner ads, etc.
  • Cold traffic bridge is the holy grail of online marketing. The secret of growing massive companies. Learn how to convert cold traffic.
  • Cold traffic: don’t use any jargon. talk in more broad terms.
  • Match messaging to traffic’s temperature and knowledge.
  • “If people aren’t willing t give their email addresses at this point, they are highly unlikely to give me money later.”
  • Qualify subscribers. Then quality buyers. “A buyer is a buyer is a buyer.”
  • The list of subscribers is different from the list of buyers.
  • Hyperactive buyers = in some kind of pain right now and will buy more than one thing at a time. Selective sequence for them and upsells.
  • Change the selling environment to sell high-ticket items.
  • Include “value of” to make the thing seem worthwhile.
  • Qualify subscribers (I know how to do this well). Qualify buyers by getting them to pay for something.
  • Offer is distinguished based on how you make your money back.
    • You might lose money on the offer when it comes to free plus shipping, trials, trip wires, etc. But, you can break even with up-sells.
    • A self-liquidating offer (SLO) is when the front end product liquidates your ad cost so that your up-sells can become pure profit.
    • Straight sale offers are $97 and up. They are best offered to a warm audience and people who have gone through funnels or watched webinars. Need stronger bond with AC. Need more selling.
  • Qualify hyperactive buyers. First qualify as buyers then offer up-sells.
    • Bumps on the order form
    • One-time offers (compliment initial purchase). Must add value to initial offer.
    • Downsales if say no to OTO. Different product or payment plan. 20% can say yes.
    • Affiliate recommendations.
  • Unaware -> Problem aware -> Solution aware -> Most aware.
  • Start with SLO or F+S for cold traffic.
  • Introduce to the buyer qualification for the organic traffic + bond with attractive character.
  • Humans can’t resist the word free. Hershey’s Kiss experiment.
  • Free + Shipping script: Who, what, why how. Catch. Urgency. Guarantee. Recap.
  • “I’ve got __ that’s going to show you ____.” “If you’ve been struggling with __, then you need this because it will ____.” “Just do x,y,z” “I’m do this because___.” Urgency. guarantee.
  • OTO – Longer process did not help. Just do right after the purchase. When customer buys something, don’t sell more of the same thing. They’ve scratched that itch. Find the next thing the customer needs to accomplish core goal. Or “do it faster” just don’t say not complete or will be mad about first offer. Could also do “need help.”
  • OTO – Confirm decision to limit buyer’s remorse. Keep the loop open. Say made smart decision and why. Tell them about the ONE Thing that stands out in product. Can’t explain everything. Future pace. Value stack. Testimonials.
  • SLO – cover expense of buying traffic. Use questions to get prospect to think about what they desire most. Agitate past failures. Big promise.
  • Story: Drama, backstory, problem, epiphany, solution path, first sign success, conspiracy, big lie and not your fault, common enemy, rapid growth. case studies. hidden benefits.
  • Solution: pain and cost, ease, speed, so benefits, social proof, the offer, build value, price anchor, “if all,” reveal price, guarantee, scarcity, future pacing, call to action, post selling.
  • Webinar: big promise. Hook to end. Command attention. Future pace. Break their belief patterns. The stack. If all.
  • PLF = Wow+how you and others are using it, people look over shoulder as walk through process, ownership and what it’s like to live with this in their life, the offer.
  • High ticket – how do people feel about where they are. Pull out the emotions. What are their hopes and dreams. What would money allow them to do? Find the reason why the person will buy this.
  • Simply a lack of knowledge blocking success and you can provide him with that knowledge. If you knew how to ___ would you do it? You have to get them to admit they don’t know what they’re doing to some degree and need help.
  • Get them to say why they will be successful with the program.

Tons of more great findings.

At the time of writing, you can purchase DotCom Secrets for $8.69 on Amazon.

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Review of Invisible Influence by Jonah Berger

I really enjoyed this book, and Jonah Berger’s other book, Contagious. I was initially afraid that this book would just be a copy of Robert Cialdini’s book Influence, but I was pleasantly surprised! While there is some overlap, I think that you’ll gain some new insights from Invisible Influence, particularly if you’re in the marketing field.

invisible-influence-coverMost of the negative reviews of the book that I’ve come across through Amazon point to the fact that the book “could have been a magazine article” and that the book didn’t leave as big of an impression as Jonah’s last book.

I think it really depends on how much you already know about the topic of influence. Overall, I’m glad I read the book and I’ll be including some of my notes below. I do think that if you’re pretty familiar with influence-based marketing, this book might be a tad too simple for you.

In this book, Berger explores some of the forces that influence our purchasing decisions and general behavior in society. Many of the ideas that we have or choices we make are actually a direct result of the impact that other people have had on us. Sometimes, we’ll conform. Other times, we’ll try to stand out.

If you want to learn more, go and pick up a copy of Invisible Influence by Jonah Berger. You can check out my notes below to gives you an idea of what the book is about.

My Notes and Thoughts

“The idea that mere exposure increases liking may seem stranger at first. Familiarity leads to liking.”

This is very true, both in terms of sales, dating, and your friend group!

“Even when the answer is clear, people still imitate others.” “When we’re not sure about the right thing to do, we look to others to help us figure it out.”

In this quote, Berger is referencing how when presented with the decisions that other people have made about a particular choice, we’ll often times go along, even if we know that choice is incorrect. This is especially true when w’ere not as sure about the correct answer or what to do in a given situation.

Most people “just want to be a part of the group.” There is a strong desire to be a part of a community or group. I think this is one of the reasons that religion is so popular.

“Turns out that the same cells that fired when the monkey took an action were also firing when the monkey observed someone else take that action… watching someone else engage in an action activates the same cortical region as engaging in that action.”

This is one of the reasons that we will experience an emotional response when we watch movies! It’s the most basic form of empathy.

“If someone acts like us, or behaves similarly, we may infer we have things in common or are part of the same tribe. Part of this may be driven by the association between similarity and kinship. Because we tend to imitate those around us, seeing someone doing the same thing we’re doing may serve as a non-conscious signal that we are connective in some way. If someone has the same accent or loves the same brand we feel an affinity or bond. These connections, in turn, lead to greater liking, and smoother interactions.”

I can’t underscore how powerful this topic is. It’s why actors that are similar to the viewer tend to make those viewers more interested in a product. It’s also why we choose to be friends with the people that we are friends with. We assume similarity in other areas because we connect on one thing.

“Providing information about other people’s choices has a big impact.” “If that many people bought it, it must be good.” “Following others saves us time and effort and hopefully leads us to something we’re more likely to enjoy.” “Social influence only works when other people’s opinions or behaviors are observable.” “Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd.”

I lumped these quotes together because they all get to the heart of how others influence us in our own daily decisions. Quite frankly, most people are too busy, tired, and overwhelmed to analyze every single decision in their life. That’s why they rely on the collective group knowledge to help them make decisions. While this strategy will work most of the time, it doesn’t work all of the time.

“You’re unhappy when someone makes you less distinct with their choice (in small ways).” “The more something matters to us, the more distinctive we assume it is.”

We all like to feel unique and special. When we feel like we are a cookie-cutter creation or that we have very cliche tastes, it hurts that view of ourselves, and damages our sense of identity. I really hate feeling like I’m ordinary.

“For many working class people, their occupation is a means to an end rather than a signal of identity.”

I’ve witnessed this with some friends, and to be honest, it surprised me. I associated my identity quite strongly with what I do for a living (as do most men in my opinion).

“You’re not purchasing a product, you’re buying a ticket to a certain lifestyle and everything that comes with it.” “Wealth is often private. No one but you and your spouse knows how much money you have in your bank account. Status, however, is social. It is attained in the eyes of others. The respect of one’s peers.”

I completely agree with the above quote, and one of the reasons that I discovered the whole “lifestyle business” sector. It also never did make sense to me why people shun talking about money but love to talk about things they’ve bought with money. I guess that’s just how human nature and society works.

“The more you see something, the more you like similar things as well.”

Humans crave a feeling of familiarity. I think that’s also one of the reasons that we tend to date the certain kinds of people, unless we specifically realize that type is bad for us and we put effort into changing our choices.

“Humans strive for validation. We want to be part of something. Being similar to, or doing the same thing as, others gives us confidence that we are doing something right.”

This is a very hard emotional craving to combat, especially when you’re starting a new business. It’s very weird to feel like you’re doing something that not many other people are. It feels wrong, or like you’re making the incorrect choice in life.

“Brand is an identity-relevant attribute. It communicates information about the social identity and preferences of the person wearing the brand.”

  • Spectators increase performance when the task is not complex or you’ve done it before. They inhibit it when the task is difficult or you’re learning something new.
  • When you’re informed that X percent of your neighbors use this or do this, it will cause you to alter your behavior to be in-line with those individuals. In terms of saving energy, it could make you turn off your air conditioning more. 
  • “Emphasizing that the candidate was behind raised 60 percent more money.”
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Blog Articles Book review

Notes on Trust Me I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday

trust me I'm lyingThis book is a seminal book on PR and public relations. You absolutely MUST read it if you’re looking to get a better understanding of the inner-workings of the media.

I have suspected many of the practices outlined in this book for quite a while. As a blogger, I’m very aware of how the media influences our perception and how it can be used for good and nefarious purposes.

If you’re a marketer, it’s easier than ever before to gain access to a large audience, but you have to know the tricks of the trade.

I’m actually really surprised that I have not heard this book mentioned more. Obviously, it’s done quite well, but it’s no where near as popular as it should be. This should be used as a textbook for any public relations professional.

Before I get into some of my notes on the book, I wanted to address two of the negative reviews on Amazon. First of all, literally every book on Amazon has that review saying that it could have been much shorter. This book is no exception. Personally, I think it was an appropriate length and found it to be a quick read.

Second, while I do think there is a clear underlying tone of disgust and the author is definitely trying to come off as a whistleblower, it’s quite simply a part of the book. He’s telling a story. I didn’t find the tone a turn-off at all and found a lot of value in the various points made.

Anyway, let’s get to some of the notes I took on Trust Me, I’m Lying!

The importance of public perception

“I created false perceptions through blogs, which led to bad conclusions and wrong decisions- Decisions in the real world that had consequences for real people.”

“We’re a country governed by public opinion, and public opinion is largely governed by the press, so isn’t it critical to understand what governs the press?”

“Create the perception that the meme already exist and all the reporter is doing is popularizing it.”

Make it clear that everyone is talking about it.

“You’ll notice that they tend to get story ideas from the same second-level sites, and by tailoring the story to those smaller sites, it sets you to up to be noticed by the larger one.”

How blogs work

“Exclusives build blogs. Scoops equal traffic.”

“Build a brand by courting controversy, breaking big scoops, driving comments, and publishing constantly.”

“In my line of work, it’s about encouraging those feelings however possible.” Warm and fuzzy or valued on a pedestal.

“Journalists are rarely in a position to establish the truth of an issue themselves, since they didn’t witness it personally.”

Leaking = more people seeing than an official statement.

“Blogs love press releases. It does every part of their job for them.”

“Writers are at the mercy of official sources, such as press releases, spokesmen, government officials, and media kits. And these are for the instances they even bother to check anything.”

Most journalists are looking to confirm or get support for what already are going to write. They just need a quote denying to justify publishing it.

“If something is a total bummer, people don’t share it.”

“The most powerful predictor of virality is how much anger an article evokes”

Sadness is a low-arousal emotion.

“Regardless of the topic, the more an article makes someone feel good or bad, the more likely it is to make the most emailed list.”

“I made it my strategy to manufacturer chatter by exploiting emotions of high valence: arousal and indignation.”

“Humiliation should not be suppressed. It should be monetized.”

Question marks can be used to make false statements that no one can criticize.

“He knew that the newspapers’s role was not to instruct but to startle.”

Way blogs have changed/newspapers. Write about what’s on everyone’s mind.

“If other blogs have covered something, competitors rush to copy them, because they assume there is traffic in it.”

“We know that practical utility doesn’t spread.”

“TV is a visual medium, he said, so to ask for the audience to think about something it cannot see would be suicide.” The medium is the message.

“Give a blogger an illusionary twenty-minute head start over other media sources, and they’ll write whatever you want, however you want.”

“That’s what web culture does to you. Psychologists call this the “narcotizing dysfunction,” when people come to mistake the busyness of the media with real knowledge and confuse spending time consuming that with doing something.”

Delegation of trust and research.

“Once anything is printed enough times in the media without challenge, it becomes fact.”

“Rile up the crowd by repeating sensational allegations and then pretend that they are waiting for the facts to come in.”

“We’re hearing…I wonder…Possibly…Lots of buzz that…Sites are reporting… Could…. Would… Should… They toss the news narrative into the stream without taking full ownership and pretend to be an impartial observer of a process they began.”

Rumors don’t have to be true. They just have to be talked about.

“Corrections appear to tighten their mind’s grip on the now disputed fact.”

“The more times an unbelievable claim is seen, the more likely they are to believe it.”

“The story of how we got it wrong.”

Leak a controversial ad

“To make us feel better by hurting others. To stress that the people we’re reading about are freaks, while we are normal.”

“The job of journalism is to prove surprise.”

“The media is a mechanism for systematically limiting the information seen by the public… The longer a user engages with it, the more comfortable they get and the more they believe in the world it creates.”

“From the pseudo environment came actual behavior.”

“The current system of delegated trust and deferred responsibility exists because readers have tacitly accepted the burden that blogs have abdicated.”

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Blog Articles Book review

Review of Mindwise By Nicholas Epley

I’ve been reading A LOT of psychology books recently. I’m always a bit skeptical of psychology-related books. Some of them turn out to be bullshit. Others offer life-changing insights.

Usually, I’ll only buy books that I’ve heard mentioned on various podcasts. But, I found this book in Barnes and Noble after scanning the psychology section and decided to pick it up.

mindwisePersonally, I found a few nuggets of wisdom in the book Mindwise by Nicholas Epley. While I have heard some of the basic psychological experiments that were mentioned, there were other things that I’ve never heard of before.

Before I get into my review and takeaways, I wanted to comment on two Amazon reviews that the book got.

“The topic is very interesting to me, the writing style however was not and I found myself picking up the book only to put it down a few pages later over and over because it just felt too dry and smug to me. Reading it felt like it does when you have a conversation with someone who insists on using big words instead of common ones because they think it makes them look smart. I ended up not finishing it.” – See comments.

I think that books have to broken down into two categories: those that you read for pleasure, and those that you read because you want to learn something.

When I’m reading a book to learn something, I don’t care about the style of the writing or whether or not it’s communicated in an interesting manner. Other people do, and that’s 100% okay. For me, I just focus on the takeaways and evidence supporting these ideas.

Some books sound scholarly and the author chooses to use big words. Others aren’t. I don’t think one is better than the other. It’s just the writing style.

Another review reads, “The overall takeaway I got from this book is that people will look at things from their own perspectives, and we are wrong to simply conclude that another person’s decisions are stupid or evil. I think most readers have heard that before, so the thesis of the book is nothing profound.” – See reviews

Other negative reviews that I read went on to say that they wished the book was shorter. I’ve actually noticed a theme of Amazon readers wishing that books were shorter.

I think that some of the principles in psychology seem “simple” or “easy to recognize,” but in reality they are deeply profound. As Shay Carl says, the secrets to life are hidden behind the word cliche.

Many times, I will read books to reinforce ideas and beliefs that I’m having trouble remembering. I don’t just read them to obtain new information. Still, everyone is different.

Next, I’m going to discuss a few of my takeaways after reading this book!

1. Look to actions, not words

Most people would say that it’s a no-brainer to focus on the actions of the people around them and themselves in order to judge their future behavior, attitudes, etc.

But, I’m willing to bet that those same people, myself included, rarely follow that logical path when making judgements.

We tend to overvalue our own thoughts and those of other people and devalue the actual actions that we’ve taken towards a goal or that show our beliefs.

“There can be a significant disconnect between what people think about themselves and how they actually behave.” In short, people are bad at predicting how they will feel in given situations.

Steve Jobs and many of the famous innovators knew this. You can’t listen to what people say. You can only observe their behavior.

“No psychologist asks people to explain the causes of their own thoughts or behavior anymore unless they’re interested in understanding storytelling.

You can ask people what they are thinking or feeling or wanting – the finished product of some mental processes – and expect to get a solid answer, but asking why they think or feel or want invokes nothing but theoretical guesswork.”

The reason that people suck at knowing what they want, how they feel, or who they really are is that we’re great at rationalizing but horrible at understanding how our beliefs, intentions, and attitudes are formed or impacted.

“When you think one thing about yourself and the truth is another, what are you failing to know about yourself? One word: construction. You are consciously aware of your brain’s finished products – conscious attitudes, beliefs, intentions, and feelings – but are unaware of the processes your brain went through to construct those final products, you are therefore unable to recognize its mistakes.”

Marketers can exploit this connection that every human being makes between observable action and thought. Just because someone smiles, we assume that they are happy or like whatever they’re doing.

“If you see someone smiling at a carton, you will assume that they find it funny.”

But, it’s not true. Be aware of this the next time you watch a commercial or talk with a salesman.

2. We all dehumanize to avoid feelings

Most people who have read a psychology book are familiar with the concept of dehumanization. However, I don’t think we’re aware about the degree to which we all do it.

When you don’t perceive someone as “cut of the same cloth” as you or 100% exactly the same as you are, you give yourself permission to treat them differently.

It brings to mind this quote, “Perceiving the Poncas as mindless, after all, is what had made it possible for officials to treat them as property under the law rather than as persons…

The essence of dehumanization is, therefore, failing to recognize the fully human mind of another person.”

The more you are psychologically distant from someone, the easier it is to dehumanize them. The only way to view someone else who appears dissimilar to you as not human is to fail to empathize with them. In order to empathize, you must consciously see someone else’s perspective and imitate another person’s actions and body language in order to get a sense of how they are feeling.

When we’re not in sync with another person we have a “tendency to assume that others’ minds are less sophisticated and more superficial than one’s own.”

After reading this section on how we distance ourselves from other people in order to avoid feelings of empathy or closeness, I was profoundly struck by the quote below.

“Your humanity comes from the way you treat others, the idea goes, not the way you behave in isolation. Humanity comes from treating others as human beings not in the biological sense of having a fully human body, but in the psychological sense of having a fully human mind.”

3. Happiness in a Social Setting.

This is the area of my life that I’m working on right now. A lot of what Epley had to say really resonated with me. To you, they might be obvious.

“In one large survey of happiness, for instance, having positive relationships with friends and family members was the only necessary ingredient for being very happy.”

While I understand that from an intellectual perspective, the actions that I used to take in my life were not congruent. I think a lot of people have this problem. We “know something,” but don’t take action on it. Or, we simply ignore it.

There was this great commuter experiment in the book which talked about the social standards when you’re among strangers. “We found that people had a more positive experience when they connected with their neighbor regardless of whether they tended to be outgoing or shy, open or reserved.”

Knowing this gives me a bit more confidence when striking up a random conversation in the subway. I’m not the only one that is simply looking for a distraction from boredom, and would probably rather talk with another human being that just play a game.

It seems like we also over-emphasize the degree to which our embarrassing moments are witnessed and remembered. “In all of the cases we ever studied, those in the throes of an embarrassing moment consistently overestimated how harshly others were evaluating them.” I bet you can’t recall own school commencement speaker or most of their speech.

Lastly, this section discussed stereotyping and how we tend to stereotype when someone is a member of a particular group. Also, when looking at a group, you tend to pick up on the gist of a group of people, but not the individual members.

4. We think that others think like us. They don’t.

Men and women feel the same reactions and on average the same level of intensity. But, they vary greatly in the expression of their emotion, which infers that women are feeling more because they are showing more emotion than men. In reality, we both feel emotions strongly.

“When you know very little about someone, the gaps in your knowledge are filled in by information about who a person is. But when you know more, that stereotypical knowledge seems to be quickly supplanted by what a person does.”

People assume that a person’s mind corresponds to their observed actions. Think of behavior at a bar or in a social setting. Body language can communicate confidence, even if you’re not confident in your life. You could also have bad body language if you’re a billionaire and make people think you’re not confident, even if you ARE confident in your life.

There was also a really interesting section about celebrities and how people assign actors the traits of the characters that they portray in movies, like Spock being logical in Star Trek.

Finally, this last quote that I’ll share resonates SO MUCH. I can’t tell you the number of times that this has happened to me.

“Not only are shy people commonly misinterpreted as arrogant rather than anxious, but their anxiety also keeps them disconnected from the very relationships that could increase their happiness.”


Go pick up a copy of this book! There is so many more insights and takeaways that I had. People always assume that just because you’ve heard about one study in a book that the book is bad. I don’t judge books on 100% originality. I judge them on how they impacted my life.

Again, many times I will read books to simply reinforce beliefs that I want to embody or that I’m looking to acquire. I wonder if other people do that too. Let me know if you do in the comments below!

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Book review entrepreneurship

Review of Contagious: Why Things Catch On

contagiousI’ve noticed something. Many of the major books that have changed my life and improved my skills weren’t chosen by me.

They were given as gifts, suggested by friends, or discovered randomly.

I’m one of those types that is very systematic in the way I read books, because I’m trying to learn different things, but allowing for some serendipity is a good thing.

My mother sent me this book, because she knows that I’m always hungry to learn new things about marketing.

In this post, I’m going to share what I’ve learned from the book Contagious by Jonah Berger, but before I do that, let’s discuss why you should or shouldn’t buy this book.

You should buy this book if you want to:

  • Learn more about marketing in a social media driven world
  • Nail down exactly why things go viral online
  • Grow traffic to your blog or youtube channel
  • Sell digital or physical products online
  • Understand how the world works and how things catch on
  • Get better at social media marketing and storytelling

You shouldn’t buy this book if:

  • You’re already an expert at online marketing
  • You’re already familiar with viral marketing and sharing
  • You don’t have control of marketing at your company. I guess if even if you can’t implement some of these strategies, you’ll sound smarter in meetings.

So go check it out! Let’s talk about some of the things I’ve learned.

General reasons why things catch on

  • It could be simply better
  • More attractive pricing
  • There is more awareness about it than other products

Organic reasons why things catch on

  • Word of mouth. “We’re not going to tell a friend who doesn’t have kids about the best way to change a diaper. Word of mouth tends to reach people who are actually interested in the thing being discussed.”
  • Study why people talk, what they talk about, and why some things are talked about more than others.
  • Maybe ask yourself “What will people say about me/my product or how will it be described when I’m not in the room.”
  • The message matters more than the messenger (influencer). It should spread regardless of who is talking about it.
  • Don’t mistake correlation with causation. There are many cute cat videos without millions of views.
  • You can make anything talked about, even if it’s boring, but it has to hit the same certain core human emotions.

Principles of a viral message

  • Social currency. How does sharing this thing make someone look? Appeal to ego, status, etc.
  • Triggers. What reminds someone to talk about it? It could be your environment or cues.
  • Emotion. “Naturally contagious content evokes some sort of emotion.” You must make people feel something. Focus on feeling, not function.
  • Public. “Monkey see, monkey do.” Make things more open and visible.
  • Practical value. The message or product is useful. People like to help their friends.
  • Stories. People tell stories. Stories “are vessels that carry things such as morals and lessons. Information travels under the guise of what seems like idle chatter.” Your key message must be a crucial part of telling the story, or will be left out if re-told.

Things I underlined and notes

  • “People share things that make them look good to others.”
  • “Sharing personal opinions activated the same brain circuits that respond to rewards like food and money.”
  • “What people talk about also affects what others think of them [along with what they wear].” Most people talk about interesting stuff to seem interesting.
  • “To get people talking, companies need to mind social currency. Give people a way to make themselves look good.”
  • “When we talk to others, we’re not only communicating information, we’re also saying something about ourselves.”
  • How will your story hold up if it’s told again and again like the game telephone.
  • More remarkable products are talked about more, or at least those perceived as remarkable.
  • “The key to finding inner remarkability is to think about what makes something interesting, surprising, or novel.”
  • The goal is to build buzz or conversations. Why will people talk about it?
  • “People don’t just care about how they are doing, they care about their performance in relation to others.” – Using game mechanics.
  • “What good is status if no one else knows you have it?”
  • How can you make someone feel like they are an insider and convey urgency?
  • “Both used scarcity and exclusivity to make customers feel like insiders.”
  • How do you make someone feel like they have to have it now?
  • “People don’t need to be paid to be motivated.”
  • Ongoing word of mouth vs immediate word of mouth. Interesting products = immediate. Doesn’t mean ongoing.
  • “Triggers are like little environmental reminders for related concepts on ideas. Accessible thoughts and ideas lead to action.” (like friday/rebecca black)
  • “triggers not only get people talking, they keep them talking. Think about whether the message will be triggered by the everyday environment of the target audience.”
  • More frequent triggers = better, but should be unique triggers and not trigger other things. What is the mindshare of a trigger?
  • For something to be viral, a “large number of people had to make the same decision you did.”
  • Evoke an emotion, like awe. We want others to experience the same emotion we had to form a connection.
  • “Even if we’re not in the same place, the fact that we both feel the same way bonds us together.”
  • Positive things are shared more than negative things.
  • “When aroused we do things…arousal kindles the fire.” Like walking around, wringing hands, etc.
  • Invoke an emotion that causes arousal, which causes action, not an emotion that stifles action and decreases arousal.
  • High arousal positive: awe, excitement, humor. High negative: anger, fear. Low arousal positive: contentment. Low negative: sadness. This is why exercise gets you in a state to take action I think.
  • High arousal leads to sharing information and taking action.
  • “The best results don’t show up in a search engine, they show up in people’s lives.”
  • “Making something more observable makes it easier to imitate. Thus a key factor in driving products to catch on is public visibility.”
  • Social proof is powerful. “They probably know something we don’t.”We rely on the intelligence of others.
  • “Taking what was once an unobservable thought or behavior and transforming it into a more observable one.”
  • Outward things provide an insight into who people are. How do people want to seem like they are?
  • “Rather than making the private public, preventing a behavior requires the opposite: making the public private. Making others’ behavior less observable.”
  • “People don’t evaluate things in absolute terms. They evaluate them relative to a comparison standard.” (pricing when deciding between products). Why infomercials make it seem like a deal.
  • “The same change has a smaller impact the farther it is from the reference point” Ex. winning 20 vs 10 is good. 110 vs 100 is not.
  • “Quantity purchase limits increase sales by more than 50 percent.”
  • If a price is less than 100, use percentage discounts, for larger, use dollar discounts.
  • Stories make the same message have a bigger impact. People treat stories different than information.
  • “You start down a path and you want to know how it ends. Until it does, they’ve captured your attention.”
  • Stories are vessels for information and learning.
  • Stories shape how we perceive culture to be or cultural norms.
  • “Information travels under the guise of what seems like idle chatter.”
  • “They provide a sort of psychological cover that allows people to talk about a product or idea without seeming like an advertisement.”
  • Your product must be “woven so deeply into the narrative that people can’t tell the story without mentioning it.”

Closing thoughts

The one thing that I kept thinking as I read this book is that people need to start creating advertisements to affect their own behavior.

What I mean by that is that we can implement some of these principles to affect our own habits, thoughts, and actions in our life, as well as influencing others.

The other major thing that I took away is that everything is about focusing on feelings. I’m very logic-driven, so that has always been foreign to me, but it’s 100% true.

Finally, the last thing I took away is that feelings drive action, not thoughts. Thoughts might drive feelings which drive action, but ultimately it’s the underlying feelings that cause action.

I highly recommend checking out this book. What I’ve underlined is just a fraction of the gold mine of information!

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Book review entrepreneurship

Review of Elon Musk’s Biography by Ashlee Vance

Elon Musk by Ashlee VanceI first became interested in Elon Musk when I watched this PandoMonthly fireside chat with him and Sarah Lacy. Having sold several startups and cofounded big companies like PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX, he quickly became a role model for me as an entrepreneur and I grew to admire his rationality and methodical decision making abilities.

What stood out to me even more than his numerous accomplishments was the diverse range of fields in which he has been successful and how his ability to learn new material and execute on that knowledge has lead to phenomenal success.

As with many well-known figures who are top in their field, Elon’s life has had it’s tremendous highs and extreme lows. I already knew a lot about Elon from watching youtube videos, but I wanted a more intimate understanding of his personal drive and backstory. Like most people, I was ecstatic to read Ashlee Vance’s new biography and am even more excited now to share what I’ve learned!

I’m going to divide up this post into 8 key takeaways that I had from reading this book. In terms of a unbiased review, I think it’s a great read. Even if you already know a lot about Elon Musk. However, it’s clearly biased at times and is written from a certain perspective. Still, definitely recommend checking it out.

1) Elon’s ability to learn and execute is paramount to his success

One of the huge advantages that stood out to me when comparing Musk with other entrepreneurs in the technology space was his unparalleled ability to execute and learn what he needed to learn to get the job done.

For example, although his programming background allowed him to create his first startup, which brought media companies online, it was really his ability to execute despite all of his hinderances, like money and even a place to stay, that ultimately made the company a success.

He built out the initial functionality, continued to expand it, and eventually, him and his brother showed that they could execute well enough that they were able to attract venture capital dollars.

He also showed an amazing ability to retain and use knowledge in industries that were, at one time, completely foreign to him like finance, rocketry, and alternative energy.

The ability to learn and execute disseminated into the type of culture that he created around his companies. He was more interested in having an engineer find out how to build something rather than dealing with a supplier or outsourcing a part.

For those looking to follow in his footsteps or interested in entrepreneurship in general, I think the questions to ask yourself would be:

  • How quickly can you learn what needs to be learned?
  • What skill set can repeatedly and continuously execute on?

“He…was not afraid to just go figure things out.”

“Musk also began to hone his trademark style of entering an ultra complex business and not letting the fact that he knew little about the industry’s nuances to bother him in the slightest.”

“Musk initially relied on textbooks to form the bulk of his rocketry knowledge. But as SpaceX hired one brilliant person after another, Musk realized he could tap into their stores of knowledge…He would quiz you until he learned ninety percent of what you know”

2) He might be a smart guy, but his passion is unmatched

There is no doubt that Musk is a super smart guy. Not only does he excel at absorbing new bits of information, but he can also do complex calculations in his head, get a feel for what is needed in an industry, and understand the interworking of other human beings.

However, there are a lot of smart people in the world. There are lots of individuals out there who are better at physics, mathematics, or programming than Musk. So why does he succeed? 

At certain a level, intelligence and success are corollary, but there is a point were more intelligence does not lead to more success from a company-building standpoint. Instead, what matters more is drive, work ethic, the ability to learn, and the ability to hire people who are smarter than yourself.

Therefore, it’s Musk’s amazing passion, commitment, and determination to succeed, no matter what it takes, that sets him apart from his peers, not his intelligence. In business, given the correct resources, a less intelligent man who continually tries and works hard will eventually find something that works and resonates with customers (or a way to make it). A more intelligent man who fails to take continuous action and has less desire to see a certain outcome is less likely to be successful.

3) His greater mission and vision unites his employees

It’s obvious that Elon Musk is talented and intelligent, however, in my opinion, it’s his ability to inspire and convince other talented and intelligent individuals to follow him and work for him that makes him stand out as a great entrepreneur.

It seems to me that it’s his inspiring visions and reasons for working hard that are what captivate the hearts and minds of the american public and his employees. He’s not just working hard to make more money and become the richest man in the world. He’s trying to make the entire human race multi-planetary and build an exciting future.

Would you rather work for a big government contractor that is intent on making money or a passionate individual who is genuinely trying to change the world for the better?

“His vision is so clear. He almost hypnotizes you.”

4) He evaluates by rationality, not expertise.

This is one of the hardest things to do, particularly as a young entrepreneur, but you must evaluate opinions, assumptions, and advice based on the rationality that supports them, rather than the expertise of the individual who is speaking out.

A good example of this is the financial industry. Many young americans will invest in this stock or buy this mutual fund because they were advised to do so under the guidance of a financial “professional” who has has “20 years in the business.”

Funny enough, many of these financial professionals have a horrible track record at beating the S&P 500 and an even worse record of being right in terms of market timing or investment choice. Still, many people will still entrust their money to such an individual because they believe that “they know better than they do,” simply because they have some kind of a degree, certification, or have industry experience.

Whether you are evaluating the advice of a financial professional, a veteran entrepreneur, or anyone who claims to be an expert, you must evaluate the advice from the basis of the underlying rationality, not because “he or she who is an expert said it.”

There are great examples of this in the book where Musk basically calls veteran financial professionals idiots or calls someone an idiot with a distinguished background because they came to a faulty illogical conclusion.

5) Determination and persistence is the only thing that matters.

I’ve already mentioned that I think that Musk’s passion is his secret weapon when motivating people to work for him and to get himself to work towards his own goals. But, everyone can be passionate about something temporarily and have that passion fizzle out over time.

Elon Musk has the uncanny ability to be passionate and focused over a very long duration, which ultimately is at the root of his success. Most people would quit after a few failed space launches, but simply by persisting, continuously learning, being “all in,” and trying it again, his next launch, which was a success, made the difference between him being seen as a success and failure in the eyes of history.

Therefore, the line between success and failure is very thin and sometimes it only comes down to determination and persistence. These qualities will decide if you are able to cross over the line from failure to success.

“He does what he wants, and he is relentless about it. It’s Elon’s world, and the rest of us live in it.”

“What he went through in 2008 would have broken anyone else. He didn’t just survive. He kept working and stayed focused. Most people who are under that sort of pressure fray. Their decisions go bad. Elon gets hyperrational. He’s still able to make very clear, long-term decisions. The harder it gets, the better he gets. Anyone who saw what he went through firsthand came away with more respect for the guy. I’ve just never seen anything like his ability to take pain.”

6) Building useful things

When asked how Musk wanted to be seen, he said that he wanted to be seen as useful. He’s also repeatedly said that a business that does not bring a useful product to a consumer that solves some kind of pain points should simply not exist.

Not only does Musk work backwards from the consumer to figure out what he needs to build that will be of use to that individual, but he also continuously asks that question. Tesla is famous for shipping new software that expands the functionality of their fleet and coming up with new and interesting ideas that will future solve energy and transportation problems.

Paul Graham says it well: “Make something people want. Don’t worry too much about making money.”

7) Being in his own world

I’ve also read most of the biography of Bill Gates and one of the things that struck me was the similarity between how individuals described Gates and Musk. Acquaintances both said that these individuals would often retreat into their own world where they would be thinking and not really respond to their surrounding environment, even if people asked them questions.

I think this is a testament to the incredible amount of single-minded focus that both of these individuals exhibit and the way they are able to tune out any kind of distraction.

8) Days spent hustling

Not to draw too much of a parallel (though I do think Musk is a hybrid of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates in terms of skills), but in the same way that Gates was famous for working long hours and getting home late at night only to collapse from exhaustion and sleep, Musk was also a big hustler.

“I had friends who complained that their husbands came home at seven or eight. Elon would come home at eleven and work some more. People didn’t always get the sacrifice he made in order to be where he was.”

His hard work translated to his team, which at SpaceX, are known for working on weekends. It also made him a bit less empathetic I think, because he would be constantly evaluating how key components of his life are aligned toward his larger mission.

“Even then, as essentially a college kid with zits, Elon had this drive that this thing – whatever it was – had to get done and that if he didn’t do it, he’d miss his shot.”

As a CEO, Elon is extremely hands on from working on problems to evaluating the quality of the product. He also has a knack for making complex decisions quickly and moving on. Overall, his hard work in the right industry and with his talents has certainly paid off.

“Elon came to the conclusion early in his career that life is short. If you really embrace this, it leaves you with the obvious conclusion that you should be working as hard as you can.”


“He always works from a different understanding of reality than the rest of us. He is just different than the rest of us.”

There are a lot of abilities, skills, and personal qualities that Elon Musk has that explains why he is where he is today. If I had to pick one key takeaway however from reading his biography, it would be the way that he:

1. Gets smart people to work for him.

2. Gets them to work harder than they ever have in their life.

He and his team are willing to deal with shitty problems and work towards a solution, no matter how many hours they have to put in to get there. This means that he’s put himself in a great position to own great intellectual property and the products that come from dealing with these problems.

When scouting for engineers, Musk has it down pat: “We’re looking for people that have been building things since they were little” and in the same way that coders are evaluated, he measured individuals based on what they have built and how they’ve actually demonstrated their exceptional abilities.

I think that Musk has put himself at the intersection of hardware and software, which is going to become a booming industry in the years to come and draws on the strengths of his Silicon Valley experience.

Interesting Facts.

Started Zip2 – 1995 When Elon was 24.

$3 million was invested in 1996 When Elon was 25.

Zip2 Was sold for $307 million. Elon made $22 million. 1998 When Elon was 28.

Ebay bought paypal in 2002 when elon was 32?

Elon musk was angel investor in Tesla.


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Book review entrepreneurship

Review of The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do

Over the holiday week, I read The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller. I have to admit, for most of my life I’ve disliked the term “leader.” When you’re growing up, it seems like in school, at work, and on sports teams, everyone is trying to make you rise up and “be a leader.”

This message is echoed by hundreds of television shows and movies you are exposed to as a kid, from The Lion King to Lord of the Rings. I never really had any desire to be a public leader. I always wanted to be the person behind the scenes, pulling the puppet strings. Either that, or one of the villains, because they seemed far more interesting.

As I’ve grown older and wiser, I’ve come to realize that being a leader is more than just being a public figure and that it’s not just some made-up position that teachers push you towards because it’s seen as being “positive” in society. Being a leader expands the scope of your impact on the world, because it allows you to act through others.

51Pj2HaoQaL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_This book broke down the basics of what it takes to be a leader in a business context and the purpose of a leader in an organization. It also did it in a fun way!

Rather than boring chapters or dry explanatory text, the authors made a genius move to layout the entire book in story format.

As the reader, you follow the story of a young up-and-coming female manager who is having team performance issues. Initially, she believes that there is a problem with the team and wants help from a mentor to identify what she needs to change. Over time, she realizes that it’s not the team that has an issue. She needs to become a stronger leader!

Regular mentorship sessions with one of the highest ranking mentors in the program leads to gradual progress and realizations about what is required to motivate others and inspire awesome on-the-job performance.

The main message of the book is broken down into the acronym “Serve.” Which stands for:

S – See the Future

It’s important for every leader to have a clear vision for the future and what he or she wants to accomplish. When everyone knows and understands the vision, it makes it easier to come up with ways to get there and to decide when opportunities are not in-line with that path.

E – Engage and Develop Others

For me, I think this is the hardest part of the leadership equation. Under this principle, you must actively work to bring the best out in others and make sure that they are maximizing their potential.

When thinking about this point, it helps me to bring to mind the Starship Enterprise. Under the leadership of James T Kirk, his team must navigate rough interstellar waters and combat enemies.

If each member of his team does not perform well, then the ship as a whole will suffer. In addition, every member must be suited to their strengths. You wouldn’t find Bones in engineering or Spock as ship’s counselor. Because each person is playing to their strengths and in the appropriate role, the entire organization benefits. 

R – Reinvent Continuously

This point is more salient for leaders in business organizations, because any business that is not continuously re-inventing itself is dying. Product revenue streams will only last for so long.

Dedicating time to figuring out how to get more per-worker output by introducing new technology will go a long way to maximizing the impact a leader can have. Also, by improving on processes and killing those that aren’t helpful, the leader can maintain a streamlined team and efficient working environment.

V – Value Results and Relationships

Most people, myself included, tend to think of business life as being in a vacuum. Workers show up on Monday and leave on Friday. However, employees are not robots! They do other things during their non-work hours and have thoughts, feelings, and aspirations.

By understanding your coworkers or employees, you can help understand what may be affecting their performance, whether that is positive or negative. You will also be able to better align their own aspirations and values with the goals of your company.

Naturally, results should always matter more than titles in any company. The organization should be a meritocracy to ensure continued performance.

E – Embody the Values

Finally, the best way to establish trust and credibility with your followers is to embody the values of your organization. If you’re saying that you appreciate strong customer service, but never reward it, or you praise an action that goes against that value, it will make people skeptical about other promises, values, and plans you make.

Honesty is synonymous with congruency. If your thoughts or words are incongruent with your actions, it will erode trust and make people question whether or not you mean what you say. Without this fundamental relationship, it will be impossible to effectively lead your organization to new horizons or through choppy waters.

Should you read this book?

If you’re new to the concept of leadership and are interested in learning about it in a business context, I think this book is a great place to start, and it’s a fast read!

I don’t think it’s a good fit if you are familiar with the topic and really want to dive in deep. Instead, it will give you more of a basic overview.

Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller have written two other books that might be worth looking into, Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life or The Secret of Teams: What Great Teams Know and Do.

I’d love to hear what you think if you read this book! Leave a comment below.

Food for thought: Are you a serving leader or a self-serving leader?

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