How to skip the line is the best thing I’ve learned today

James Altucher’s new book is packed with advices on how to leave naysayers behind

So I finally read “Skip the Line”, James Altucher new book. I found the author talking about in an article here on Medium and I decided to give it a try. I said “why not?” after all, is not the first time I cross my path to Altucher’s thoughts. The first time was by reading another, interesting, book: “Choose Yourself”. So full of knowledge and common sense it was, that I devoured it in a couple of days and I never looked back.

Probably the best advice in that book was to prioritize yourself, make sure to take care of your well-being, first, before possibly moving on.

The new book, “Skip the Line” tackles another interesting advice for life: the fact that, no matter where you are at, if you act smart every day and keep yourself open and engaged you can always bounce back at every fall. Prepare every step every day, so that every new ostacle will make you instead of break you.

You’ll learn how to become “Antifragile” as Nassim Nicholas Taleb marvellously put it in his also famous book.

James Altucher’s book is a distillation of this and other studied concepts, vigorously mixed with his past experience of rollercoasting between peak success and failure. A healthy dose of real life definitely more relatable than the plethora of self-help gurus that promise an olympic sequence of winning and success without taking in consideration any related risk.

The book is dedicated to the all the people that have been personally affected by the recent pandemic crisis and its outcome on the economy and unemployment. Is a series of straightforward rules and advices to be always ready at any point in life to jump. It doens’t matter if it’s a change of career or the abrupt necessity to find a new job: is important to craft a B plan to deploy in such situations.

Write, write, write

One of the most prominent advices in the book is to write 10 ideas down every day. Sounds silly, I know, but this simple concept hides a powerful potential: it forces you to interrogate yourself and your surroundings in your daily routine. It forces you to question any little problem or discovery and find little solutions. It forces you to be constantly active and engaged, instead of just being passive in your day-to-day.

There is more into that: there’s problem-solving and creativity that you consciously exercise every day, like a muscle: the more you exercise it, the more you’re ready to find ideas and solutions the moment you face a crisis. It will makes you less bounded to the circumstances anymore.

Most importantly, if you don’t keep creativity engaged, you will let this “muscle” atrophy and eventually die, which is unfortunate since creativity is the key element to bounce back from any time of crisis. You don’t want this right?

Pareto rule

Write 10 ideas a day will bring you an arsenal of 3650 ideas a year. Are those ideas great? Probably not. But, according to the Pareto principle, they don’t have to be 3650 great ideas. Maybe one alone is enough, if is so genius that can make you a millionaire the next day. Who knows?

As Thomas Edison once famously said: “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”. One idea among 10.000 was all the necessary to revolutionize the world.

Don’t over-focus on getting the 80% off anything you do. Find that small 20% that can gives you better outcomes. Follow Edison and Pareto’s ideas, they know it better than anyone else!

Experiment, experiment, experiment

One important aspect is to take one idea and find ways to apply it to reality quickly and effortlessly so you can immediately test the quality of it and move forward with new iterations or other ideas. So is important to experiment and experiment a lot. But what makes an idea worth a try?

  • Is fast to set up and do: you need to be able to run a lot of experiments before making the right discovery
  • Little Downside: it shouldn’t cost anything essential to make it. It shouldn’t be a russian-roulette gamble but something quick, easy and cost/time effective.
  • Potential Upside: this is the key element. It don’t cost anything to set-up and you see it can have huge benefits down the line, then is definitely worth the try.

Other elements are:

  • Never been done before: this is definitely a plus if you have come up with a new idea that nobody has explored before
  • You’re learning something: and this is another key element. No matter what, success or failure, the experiment will teach you something. You’ll add a tiny fraction to your knowledge. From this perspective, is always a win-win. And if you experiment every day, you’ll have small victories every day, or better, you’re accumulating knowledge. And this brings to the next point.

Microskills

We tend to think at “skills” as a building block to the career, and this is definitely true. Learning only coding and programming will make you a good programmer, but won’t help you necessarily to advance in any career or being good in “business”. In fact, quoting Altucher’s own words: “You don’t have to be good at all the skills to run a good business. And being good at one of these skills doesn’t mean you are good at any of the others. You have to study and focus on each of the microskills.”

Think about all your experiments and experiences as a way to build microskills. They’re a bridge crossing that would help you move forward in the career, or to better put it, to “skip the line”. If you like stand-up comedy and you collect some experiences as a comedian, that could teach you to how to better deal with a public and some public-skills technique.

If you add this little microskill to your programming career, it can become the winning element that can seal a deal next time you have to pitch your ground-breaking project to a sponsor. Again, who knows?

Since careers have never been more blurred and uncertain, this book is packed with advices to always be present and ready for any possible future outcome. Trying to be creative every day and find ways to stay engaged, experiment and make singular little experiences is a way to stay always on top of the curve, not matter what happens. And possibly move always forward, skipping the line of people always is stuck in routines instead.

There are lots more of little, straighforward advices. I especially liked the chapter on the “conspiracy number”, to know in advance which idea is worth pursuing among thousands other choices. Great advice for anyone who feels paralyzed by the “paradox of choices” and doesn’t know where to even begin.

Another good take is on “the spoke and the wheel”, or how to monetize anything. Is not the first time I‘ve found this concentp, but is the first time it makes so much more sense in Altucher’s much bigger picture.

But for all the nuggets of knowledge disseminated between the lines, I redirect to the original book, which I definitely recommend to read. Is a good distillate of knowledge in an easy, straightforward writing that can clarify the mind and inspire a vision to move forward. Especially if you feel stuck at a point somewhere in life and you want to move forward quick and you need to skip the line.

There’s going to be always someone who will say to you “you can’t do that”, but sometimes exploring your full potential could be the best choice you ever made.

Skip the Line — Penguin books

Human mess in search of enlightment. Your average guy, basically.

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