I put this section together for early supporters (thanks so much!) and writer friends who have asked me about my process and how Smartcuts came about.
Here's how it all happened:
I officially started working on Smartcuts on January 1, 2013. I'd been thinking about it for ages, but it took something as obnoxious as a New Year's resolution to get the ball rolling.
The initial premise was a list I'd made at one point of the fastest-growing technology companies and various related superlatives: youngest CEOs, self-made billionaires, etc. Monitoring these types of successes was an interest of mine for two reasons:
1) I was writing about tech companies for Fast Company and Wired and needed story ideas.
2) I was running my own tech company and wanted to know how to do it right.
The book bug had been eating at me for a few years now, ever since I got it in my head to add "write a book" to my list of life's goals. I'd been happy writing for magazines and running my company, so if I were to do a book, I told myself, I wanted it to be awesome. Not just a book, but a book that made a meaningful difference for someone (or hopefully lots of someones).
However, I liked the idea of writing a book for the rest of us based on what tech entrepreneurs did differently to beat the average. That was the kernel of an idea that led to Smartcuts.
But it wasn't until I made my next list that the idea became a book, not an article.
While re-hashing my list of superlatives, I one day got a little carried away. I decided to list out every superlative in history I could think of. Largest empires, youngest Nobel Prize winners, greatest athletes, fastest revolutions, most successful underdogs in various industries, fastest-rising comedians and race drivers and actors and politicians. Best-selling authors, books, albums, musicians, musicals, movies, directors, artwork. Most notorious jewel thieves, orators, conquerors.
These were a little funner than the tech companies. I drilled down a Wikipedia rabbit hole for a few days and popped out having realized, These people are more similar than you'd think. Among the patterns I saw in their stories was an overarching theme: breaking with convention.
I couldn't stop thinking about this.
So I made another list: Conventions we hold to in career-building and business; the dogma that we generally accept when we talk about success. How many of my superlatives—the fastest movers in history—adhered to timeless truths like "pay your dues" and "fail fast, fail often" and "it's not what you know but who you know".
Not many of them, it turns out.
I ordered a whole bunch of books. And I started working on an outline for how I might tell this story.