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Skip the line

16 mins
book summary james-altucher how to live
Shawn L
Builds stuff minimally
Table of Contents

The key to skipping the line is to constantly live in the world of “not knowing. To constantly be curious but not threatened by what’s next.

The 1 Percent Rule

1 percent up or 1 percent down each day will define you long term.

10,000 Experiments

What makes a good experiment?

  1. Easy to set-up and do
  2. Little downside
  3. Huge potential upside
  4. Never been done before
  5. You’re learning something

Become the Scientist of Your Own Life

You know something is a valid experiment when you take what you normally do, get curious about an idea, as in “What if I try . . . ,” and then, you suddenly feel fear.

Borrow Hours

The way to become a giving and generous person is to become detached from the results of experiments, to become detached from the needs of others.

Plus, Minus, Equals

Plus: Get a mentor. Reading turns every author into a virtual mentor.

Don’t ask your mentor “What do you need?”. You’re giving them homework assignment. Overpromise and overdeliver.

Minus: Teach someone with fewer skills.

Equals: Learn by competing, outlearning and challenging peers.

Parenting style

Keep them busy, keep them tired, give them something to be proud of, and once they find something they are interested in, double down on it.

Who Are You? Why Are You? Why Now?

Doing > thinking.

To find purpose in life, you have to do things. Experiment.

Obsession is the first clue toward finding your purpose.

And you have more than one purpose.

Lean in to the fear.

If you’re afraid to publish an article, you’re moving the needle of your life.

List all the ways you can spend more and more of your day involved. Find a community

Exercise the Possibility Muscle

There are two types of failure:

  1. Omission: If you don’t try at all, then you’ve failed.
  2. Commission: Your business failed.

Only ‘omission’ is real failure because you didn’t learn anything.

Idea Calculus

Idea Addition: Take an old idea, one that is big and popular. Add something to it - often the wackier, the better.

Idea Subtraction: Take an idea that seems impossible to implement. Subtract the reason you can’t do it and see what’s left that you can still work with.

E.g. “I wrote a book but can’t find a publisher.” That’s OK. Self-publish.

Idea Multiplication: Take one idea. Show that it works. And then change one item, like the location, and replicate it. I can go to dentists in every other region of the country and say, “Here’s what I did for this dentist. For x dollars I can do it for you now.” Then do a webinar titled “Here’s how I made a million dollars helping dentists”.

Idea Division: Make an idea smaller. We divided our idea down into a niche we could dominate. Suddenly we were the guys for the entertainment industry.


Frame Control

In every high-stakes situation, one person has the frame and the rest in the room do not.

If you lose the frame in a legal case to the other lawyer, you’re going to lose the case.

First, consider this: How many things are you doing to appease the person you are speaking with?

Second, ask yourself: How far are you willing to go to appease this person?

Be Aware of Validation Vacuums

A validation vacuum occurs when a person who regularly validates you stops doing so.

Prizing: Or Get Others to Qualify Themselves to You

People will qualify themselves to hold an authority position.

An easy way to illicit this response from people is to ask questions that are aimed at them providing information on how they know what they know and why you should trust them.


Don’t give too much power to one without absorbing it.

Shaping: Praise Another for a Quality You Want Them to Possess

Have you ever noticed that if you ask someone, “Why are you getting so mad?” they quickly become upset even if they were not upset before?

If you suspect someone has social anxiety, tell them you appreciate how their calm demeanor is making you feel more calm. They will begin to act more calm.

If you want a friend to act in a particular way, just say you appreciate how they are already acting strong, calm, friendly, confident, happy, etc.

In a sales meeting, find a way to slip in, “I’m so glad you guys see the benefits of X.”

Tribe Building

In any situation where you know you’re coming in at a lower status or having difficulty with others, find something in common and attempt to reidentify yourself to others with this quality.

“We’re all dealing with this weather today. You staying dry?”

“This was a rough winter for me. Was yours too?”

“Who here has experienced what I just spoke about?”


When a person is trying to take back control of the frame, this is your opportunity to take back the frame by “labeling” their behavior.

You can say, “Did you just change the subject? How come?” Or, “Are you not answering the question for a reason?”

Either way, don’t let them off the hook. Don’t let them change the question or the subject. Don’t let them answer a different question. Always label it: “Did you just answer a different question?

Say no

One quick guideline for learning to say no is to ask yourself, “If I say yes to this, will I learn something new?”

If you are saying yes because you are afraid of what someone else will think or you are saying yes just for the money… then that’s the wrong reason to say yes.

Know Your Inferiority narrative

Remind yourself: You have earned the right to be here, in this moment. Even if you are on a public stage, giving a talk, and it appears you are losing the interest of the crowd (i.e., losing the frame), remind yourself that you are on the stage because you have more experience than anyone else in the room.

Steer clear

Remain clearheaded and unemotional is the only way to ensure you continue to hold the frame.

If you can’t reframe the conversation, leave or take a break. You’ve already lost by staying in negotiation.

Distrupt pattern

Be nonreactive to retain control.

“Assume he’s guilty, which means you probably think X, Y, and Z.” And then challenge those assumptions.

Simply be silent. State what you want and don’t speak.

Choose Your Frame or It Will Be Chosen for You

Convincing others of a different point of view is not gaining frame.

Your desire to convince other people makes you less valuable.

The more you try to convince another person, the more you are reinforcing the higher value of their frame.

Instead, be willing to take no as an answer from someone as long as they’ve done the required work to convince you that their no is worth taking.

A good way to elicit this is to simply ask, “Can you walk me through your reasoning here?”

Find the Conspiracy Number (or How to Know if an Idea Is Good or Bad)

When deciding on something, always ask, “How many things have to conspire to make this a good idea?” The number of things that have to conspire is the “conspiracy number.”

The best chess players in the world use: go for breadth instead of depth.

First, list in your head the six to ten possibilities before looking too seriously down any one move. Then, after you’ve identified all the possible moves, pick one and look (with breadth) at all of your opponent’s possible choices before going down any one path. And so on. List all your choices. Then start thinking.

If you go too deeply down one of the choices first, you might miss the obvious and waste valuable time.

When making decision:

  1. List all the possibilities.
  2. Use conspiracy numbers to analyze each one. How many things need to conspire for you to get to the goal you want?
  3. Pick the decision with the lowest conspiracy number. It should be so low that the downside/upside ratio should look like an experiment.

Microskills Everyone Should Learn

The Advice Technique

People don’t like being told what to do. Ever. So I don’t tell anyone what to do.

Counter by asking “What advice would you give me in terms of how I value this?”

I’m also saying he’s the “expert” at these things and that I trust him. All of these are further giving him a feeling of status over me.

He’s primed to help me.

“Well, I was thinking of [ridiculously high number], but [insert advice technique here].” That’s called “anchoring bias.”

So I ask for their advice. Give respect and acknowledge the other person’s status.

Remember that everyone has an agenda. But their primary agenda is to boost their self-worth and maintain their place in line (the hierarchy). When you interact with others, never try to boost your own self-worth. Always help people increase their own significance and their own self-worth.

Give them the power to help you. They will.

Six Minute Networking

  1. Scroll down your text and find people you’ve not texted in a while.
  2. Text them. Texts have a 90 percent open rate and emails only have about an 8 percent
  3. Don’t ask for anything. Just say, “I just saw XYZ and it reminded me of that project ABC you were working on. It gave me an idea you should do JKL. In any case, hope all is well. Talk to you soon.”

The idea, he said, is that you don’t want anything from these people at all. You just want to be top of mind. At the end of the month, you’ll have about another hundred people you are top of mind for.

Dig the well before you’re thirsty.

If someone had written, “Hey, can we jump on a call for a few minutes?” and I never responded seven years ago, I might respond, “OK, how about Tuesday?” as if no time had passed at all.

Permission Marketing

Get permission on both sides before connecting them.

Eliminate the time wasters that drag people down. Two ways to do this:

  1. Never go to a “general” networking event unless it’s for a specific topic or purpose
  2. Create software to optimize your networking time. E.g. Contactually


I never disagree with people. What for? Who cares if you manage to change their mind?

The best way to get smarter is to find people of differing opinions and listen to them. I don’t let myself disagree with someone until I can argue for their position even better than they can.

Google Technique: Give credit to everyone

Be the credit card: give everyone the credit they deserve. Then they keep coming back to the source.

Google makes the best motorcycle sites look good. Google measures its success by how quickly its users leave

Every day find someone to help. Find someone to give credit to. Find someone for whom you can selflessly figure out how to make their lives easier. Need no credit ever and everyone will give you credit forever.

Attention Diet

  • Never hit Home on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Get my news from books.
  • If someone says, “Can you believe what is happening?” I always say, “Yes,” and then I don’t listen after that.
  • If someone wants to pitch me an idea, I ignore it.
  • If someone wants to meet me for coffee because “I’m sure you’d enjoy it,” I ignore it.
  • If someone gives me advice about finance, comedy, writing, economics, I ignore it.
  • If someone disagrees with me, I ignore it unless I know them and it’s face-to-face.
  • Only 10 percent of communication is verbal.

Shouldn’t you be aware of what’s happening in your own country so you can create impact?” Instead of doing that, I can help the five or six homeless people who live within a block of me.

Having impact on the things immediately around me is the best way to contribute value and alleviate suffering.

“Yes, and…”

If someone presents an idea, the key is to say, “Yes, and…” Help them explore their idea. Help them be creative about their idea. “Yes, and…” is the first rule of good improv for a reason. It allows others to create something new.

Then give constructive criticism:

  • List what’s good.
  • Offer how you would improve upon the idea.
  • Restate the core idea, its intention, and its purpose.
  • Be open to the fact that you might be wrong. Always, always you might be wrong.
  • Don’t listen to destructive criticism or give it.

How to handle rejection

Most people who have an opinion are probably wrong. If people don’t know who you are, they are more likely to reject you. Nobody wakes up and says, “Today is the day I make some unknown person a superstar!”

People are stupid.

A billion people are standing in the way of what you want to.

You have to experiment every single day.

The 50/1 Rule (or How to Be Infinitely Productive)

You don’t really make money from the value you create.

The 80/20 Rule is the idea that 20 percent of the time you spend on a project creates 80 percent of the value.

Going further, the 50/1 Rule states one of your employees is generating approximately 50 percent of the value of your company.

Measure what matters.

My number one rule in investing: always invest alongside people smarter than me.

Find the right 1% that create 50% of your income. Then you have freedom to pursue new ideas.


When you call someone by their name it humanizes them. So a defense attorney will always use the client’s name, while the prosecutor will try to dehumanize by referring to my clients as ‘the defendant.’

Even a single thought where you are concerned about your own self-worth will block any chances of success in your passion. Always pursue making the others around you look as good as possible.

Wobble Without Falling Down

“Progress” is skipping the line.

“Perfection” means you’re going to wait in line forever.

Don’t be afraid to wobble.

Lean in to fear to create growth.

Don’t hit publish on an article unless you’re afraid of what people will think of you.

Exit the Line

A job won’t protect you. What protects people is an ability to find new pursuits and new meaning in their lives, and to quickly get good enough at these new endeavors to provide for themselves and their families.

One important thing to remember: your best new clients are your old clients.

Don’t try to get brand-new clients - try to provide more services or products to your old clients.

Another way to diversify is by expanding what I call your “status hierarchies.”

The way to not be a monkey and have more opportunities to increase your happy chemicals is to be in more than one tribe.

Become an Entrepreneur

Products are always more valuable than services.

99.9999 percent of people never change.

Don’t invest if two founders are arguing in front of strangers.

People have an energy between each other.

Underpromising is lying. Don’t lie to your customers. Don’t lie to anyone. You win the job by saying the truth (five days). And you push yourself and challenge yourself to do it in four days.

Don’t waste time building a product at first. Get one person who wants to experience what you have to offer. Sell them your services.

Just get one customer. Execution of an idea starts with the customer, not with building the product.

Every day we’d add new features.

Be a Voice in the Industry

Whenever I have a business, I ask myself every single day: Is this good? Why? What problem does it solve? Who really wants to pay for this?

Don’t just start one business and throw everything you’ve got into it.

Start your email list right now.

Only talk when you have something unique to say. Otherwise, listen.

The Spoke and Wheel (or How to Monetize Anything)

Blog: Difficult to monetize. But you can potentially take your blog posts and syndicate them onto other platforms (LinkedIn, Medium, Huffington Post, Quora, investing websites, etc.) to build out your brand.

Social media: Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube. You need huge audiences to monetize on each of these platforms, but these are good ways to connect to and interact with different If you don’t interact with each of these platforms, you’ll miss opportunities to build more audience.

Email list: Offer a special report for free—all people have to do is sign up for your email list. Now they get, for free, all of your content no matter what medium you post it on. This way, your most interested readers get to consume your content without searching all over the internet for it.

Three Ways to Make a Billion-Dollar Business

But ultimately any good business is going to be about service to others.

1. The Access Economy Model

Uber of …

The three parts of the access economy model are:

  1. Excess: Some people have an excessive amount of an item, call it X.
  2. Want: Some people want X.
  3. Platform: A platform in the middle helps people who want X discover it, buy it, transact securely, have customer service, deal with security, keep track of good customers and bad, etc.

Sell pitchfork to mine gold, e.g. Airbnb managers.

Think what items might have an imbalance between excess, people who want that excess.

2. The God ➔ Humans ➔ Data Model

A great example is the art world. Art was initially prized based on how accurate it was to real life.

Every industry starts with a belief in God (or gods) as the expert, then humans, then data.

What industries or practices have not yet taken that final leap from humanism to dataism? What gaps can data fill?

3. The Bottom One-Third Model

If you can find a business model that serves the bottom third, you could be the only player in the space, and that’s worth billions.

The Incerto Technique

The key to skipping the line is often to go to the room least crowded.

Fooled by Randomness: This is a reminder to wake up each morning and say, “I’m quite possibly the stupidest person ever.” Not “definitely” but “quite possibly.”

The Black Swan Black swans are rare. But they do exist.

Antifragility is the essence of skipping the line. If you build up the skip-the-line techniques, it allows you to reach for higher and higher

The 30/150/Millions Rule

Thirty: that’s the number of people we can directly know.

You indirectly have 150 connections.

If you tell a good story and two people from opposite sides of the world trust that story, then they can work together. Hence religion.

What to Tell Your Kids (Rules of living)

  1. Always go to the place least crowded.
  2. Being secretly good to people = superhero. Being famous for the sake of being famous = loser.
  3. Good relationships = good life. Bad relationships = bad life.
  4. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.
  5. Sleep and rest. Put it in your online calendar: twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the afternoon where you put the phone down, pause the computer, daydream,
  6. Bad things will happen. Treat them like opportunities.
  7. Don’t feel sorry for yourself ever. See above.
  8. Be creative every day.
  9. Live life as if today might be your last day.
  10. Eat 80% of your capacity to live longer. Hara hachi bun me.
  11. Don’t “cant’” If there’s something you passionately want, there’s always some way to get it or get close to it.
  12. Double park with impunity.
  13. Buy conveniece.
  14. Skip the news
  15. Read
  16. Everything worthwhile need skills
  17. If someone doesn’t like you, ignore them.
  18. Decide what you believe in and don’t compromise.
  19. Don’t believe something because other people believes it.
  20. Don’t outsource self-esteem. Limit the number of people you look to for validation.
  21. There’s always a good reason and a real reason.
  22. Call often