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Jul 13-Jul 17, 2020 


a look back at this week’s essays…


Pareto Principle, Part I:

The Secret of the 1%

It may be the most important idea in economics – but it also applies to science, to sports, and to human behavior. It explains not only why things are the way they are, but also why, no matter how you try, it’s almost impossible to change them.

Welcome to a series of essays on the Pareto Principle!

Click here to read more.



The Pareto Principle, Part II:

A Universal Law That Even Applies to Business 

I don’t remember exactly when I first read about the Pareto Principle, but I’m certain I did not grok it early in my career. It wasn’t until I was running a multimillion-dollar company in which I had secured a profit share… and there’s a good reason for that.

Click here to read more.



The Pareto Principle, Part III:

Entropy and the Impossibility of Equality 

When I was young, the campaign for equality was about the protection of equal rights under the law.

Today, the call for equality is very different.

Click here to read more.



what I’m reading 


Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense by Rory Sutherland 

Rory Sutherland understands marketing. But he understands more than that, too. Alchemy is a fast read for marketing professionals, replete with philosophical observations and humor that makes the reading great fun, even for the most seasoned marketing professional.

Check out this online interview with Sutherland here.

A few testimonials:

“This is a breakthrough book. Alchemy is wonderfully applicable to about everything in life. Furthermore, it is funny as hell.” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan

“So many of us are trained to focus on data and the logical, and Alchemy makes a great argument for the irrational. I think everyone could use a reminder that asking dumb questions, reframing old ideas, and, in turn, trying to create a bit of magic, can lead to unexpected solutions for some of our most difficult problems. Alchemy was a reminder of that and then some.” – Inc., “Great Books for Anyone Who Wants to Get Ahead in Life”

“Sutherland, the legendary Vice Chairman of Ogilvy, uses his decades of experience to dissect human spending behavior in an insanely entertaining way. Alchemy combines scientific research with hilarious stories and case studies of campaigns for AmEx, Microsoft, and the like. This is a must-read.” – Entrepreneur, “Best Books of the Year for Entrepreneurs”

“Buy this book. I loved it. It’s full of great insights.” – Matt Ridley, bestselling author of The Rational Optimist and Genome



recommended links from this week’s blog 


* The latest issue of AWAI’s Barefoot Writer – Click here to read the July issue.


* Jeff Allen on “Understanding Your Love Language” Here


* There are 8 musical terms that every music lover should know. Click here for a good explanation of each one.

* “This Is Where Your Wine Corks Come From” Here


* “How to Bleed in the First Line” by James Altucher – Click here to read the entire essay.


* Here’s more consumer advice from the FTC.


* Fun stuff from the Guggenheim Museum’s Works and Process project…here.





Your Question: 

What do you attribute your success to? Could you narrow it down to just a few main reasons? And based on your experience, what would you say are the main reasons that most people fail to succeed?

One more question: If you could give people like me your best 3 pieces of advice, what would they be?
– RT


My Answer: 

Your questions are all interrelated. I’m going to answer them this way:


  1. Three things that helped me be successful 

* Want. I grew up as one of eight children, living in a small house across the street from the RR tracks. I wore hand-me-down clothes, drank powdered milk, and worked four hours a day on Saturdays for a weekly allowance of 33 cents. In grammar school, this seemed normal. But in high school, I became acutely aware of and embarrassed by my family’s modest circumstances. This embarrassment fueled a lifelong desire to become more than I was. In short, being a have-not was, for me, a great gift.


* Commitment. My desire to be successful was always there, but I never achieved anything extraordinary until I realized that desire alone was not enough. There were plenty of people around me with the desire to succeed. Some of them had more talent. Many of them had more resources. Some were physically more attractive. (Don’t kid yourself – a big advantage!) And some were, although I hated to admit it, smarter. To succeed – to get myself to the front of my imaginary pack – I had to change my behavior. I had to commit to three things: I would work harder than anyone else in my peer group. I would become more knowledgeable than any of them. And I would get more things done – more things that mattered.


* Help. I have no doubt whatsoever that my desire and commitment alone would have been enormously helpful in advancing my career. But things began to move so much faster after I humbled myself enough to be mentored by several people that taught me things about work and life that it might have taken me decades to learn on my own. I don’t believe you need many mentors. One is good. Two or three are fantastic. Looking back at my career as I approach my 70thbirthday, it’s easy to see that I had four great ones: my mother, who gave me my contrarian nature; my father, who gave me my ethical values; JSN, my former boss and partner, who taught me how selling works; and BB, my current partner, who taught me (and is still teaching me) that the opposite of every true thing is also true.


* Wisdom. I’m not sure if anyone taught me this or if I somehow knew it. But it has been clear to me for as long as I can remember that you can accomplish much more in life if you set, as the purpose of your work, something that is outside of yourself. As an employee in business, that meant working to grow the business I worked for, not to get the business to pay me more. I knew that if I made myself invaluable to my boss, he’d take care of me. Later, in developing partnerships in every sort of project and business, I always had that same idea: Make it work for the other person first and it will come back to you.


  1. The three biggest reasons people fail to succeed 


* Ignorance. We are all ignorant in the beginning. To become knowledgeable about anything, you must accept the fact that you don’t know and put in the time to know. It takes between 500 and 1000 hours to become competent in any complex skill or career, and 5000 hours to become a master. You have to be committed to constant learning.


* Laziness. We are all lazy, naturally lazy. Being lazy is the source of creativity. We want to get what we need or want by working as little as we can. The problem with this is that if you give in to laziness, you will never achieve anything important. You will always be one of the pack. To be super-successful, you have to be willing to work much harder than the average person. You have to work hard for 60 to 80 hours a week.


* Arrogance. Many smart, hardworking people make advances but then hit a plateau. This often happens because they make the mistake of thinking that they are special. They believe that they know better than anyone else. They feel that they are “the smartest person in the world.” The smarter and more successful you are, the more  important it is to be humble.


  1. My best advice – three recommendations 

* Read The Pledge.

* Then read Automatic Wealth.

* Then read Ready, Fire, Aim.

Hope this helps!



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For a look back at the stock market, click here

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“How to Bleed in the First Line” by James Altucher

“I like to study first lines,” James writes. “They have to be powerful: a few simple words that compel us to read the next 300 pages. How do the authors do it? How can I do it?”

He goes on to give us 12 of his favorites. A few examples:

* From The Stranger by Albert Camus: “Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.”

* From 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez: “He’s facing the firing squad. How did he get there?”

* From Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut: “All this happened, more or less.”

* From A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan: “It began the usual way, in the bathroom of the Lassimo Hotel.”

* From Beloved by Toni Morrison: “124 was spiteful.”

Click here to read James’s entire essay.

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