How can Software Developers use the techniques they use on the job to rapidly advance their careers? That’s one of the few questions entrepreneur and journalist Shane Snow answers in his book Smartcuts.
This book was picked up from my local library. I keep a long Amazon wish list of books that I would like to read.
Most book suggestions come from podcast, blog articles, or friends. When making a trip to the library, I go through my wish list and see if they have any of the books available. Smartcuts happened to be on the shelf so I decided to pick it up.
Libraries are great. They’re in most towns, and you might be able to find some good books for free!
Smartcuts Is About Doing Extraordinary Things In Rapid Time
Shane Snow analyzes the lives of people and companies that do incredible things in implausibly short time.
How do some startups go from zero to billions in mere months? How did Alexander the Great, Ruby on Rails creator DHH, and Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon climb to the top in less time than it takes most of us to get a promotion?
One way or another, they do it like computer hackers. They employ what psychologists call “lateral thinking” to rethink convention and break “rules” that aren’t rules.
The easiest ways to quickly excel is by breaking common wisdom. Snow shows that “pay dues” prevents progress, why kids shouldn’t learn time tables, and how it’s harder to build a small business when compared to a huge one.
9 Quotes For Computer Programmers From Smartcuts
1: Computers Are Layered
“Like a highway, computers are layers of layers of code that make them increasingly easy to use.” – Shane Snow, Smartcuts p. 81
Computers aren’t as complicated as they appear. We build things by standing on the shoulders of others. Everything’s a remix.
A lot of programmers feel guilty because they don’t know about the lower levels of what makes a computer. It’s ok not to know. Not knowing every layer of a highway doesn’t mean the transportation company you build on top of it is less valuable.
2: There’s Power In Simplification
“The key ingredient behind every disruptive product is simplification.” – Shane Snow, Smartcuts p. 161
Complex code bases can kill productivity. Most programmers realize this after working on a few projects.
3: Learning Speed Isn’t Always Tied To Talent
“You can accelerate your training if you know how to train properly, but you still don’t need to be that special… I just know how to train.” – DHH via Shane Snow, Smartcuts p. 98
Don’t be intimidated by the other “technical” geniuses you talk to. With the right learning process you can increase the speed to pick up new skills. The hard part is finding learning styles work best for you.
4: Warp Pipes Exist
“This [Smartcuts] is a book about Warp Pipes in real life.” – Shane Snow, Smartcuts p. 4
If you’ve every played a Mario game you’ve seen a Warp Pipe. These are literal shortcuts in the game that take you to new and interesting places. Yes they do exist in real life. Not literally but figuratively.
5: Not Everything Matters
“Like [Sherlock] Holmes, hackers strip the unnecessary from their lives. They zero in on what matters… Like great writers, innovators have the fortitude to cut the adverbs.” – Shane Snow, Smartcuts p. 163
This followed an interesting story about Sherlock Holmes where the master detective didn’t know a widely known fact about the solar system. I think this is a problem that’s grown because of the schooling system. Grade Schools treat every subject with equal importance. They reward the jack-of-all trades and punish students that only excel at one subjects.
Let’s be real, you don’t need to know everything to be successful. In fact most things don’t matter. As a programmer if you can focus in on your strengths and forget everything else you’ll win.
6: Shoot For The Stars
“10x Thinking is the art of the extremely big swing. To use a baseball analogy: instead of trying to get on base… it’s trying to hit the ball into the next town.” Shane Snow, Smartcuts p. 177
I’m sure you’ve heard this saying, “If you shoot for the stars you might just end up on the moon.” To me that’s one of the key benefits of 10x thinking.
7: It Starts And Ends With Mindset
“Get the thinking right and the skills come largely for free.” – Keith Devin via Shane Snow, Smartcuts p 91
8: Break Some Rules
“Like computer hackers, certain innovators break convention to find better routes to stunning accomplishments.” – Shane Snow, Smartcuts p. 5
9: You Still Have To Put In the Work
“Lateral thinking doesn’t replace hard work, it eliminates unnecessary cycles. Once they’ve shortened their path, overachiever tend to look for ways to do more with their effort…” – Shane Snow, Smartcuts p. 11
All because you work smart doesn’t mean you don’t have to work hard. There’s no magic bullet, there’s no formula that’s going to make all things work perfectly, there’s no productivity hack that takes care of your life.
Smartcuts Are All Around Use
The thing about most smartcuts is that they’re easy to overlook. The reason is because they normally go against the norm. It’s hard to be different, but the benefits of finding a smartcut definitely outweigh the risks.
If you found any of these quotes helpful I would recommend you checkout the source. Smartcuts by Shane Snow is a good read. Don’t forget to check your local library to see if they have it.
Have you used a Smartcut in your life? Let me know in the comments below.