Skip The Line By James Altucher: Book Summary

The 10,000 experiments rule and other surprising advice for reaching your goals.

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The Book in 3 Sentences

James Altucher’s Skip the line: The 10,000 experiments rule and other surprising advice for reaching your goals is an excellent book on how you can quickly achieve mastery in any field. He has walked through multiple successes and failures in his life and compiled everything he learned in his journey in this book. It’s packed with valuable insights and information that will transform the way you think, work, and live.

Who Should Read This Book?

This book is not about hacks and shortcuts. It genuinely teaches you to reach your goals as quickly as possible without spending 10,000 hours on a single activity. For anyone who wants to learn, accomplish and do better in life than the rest of the 99%, this book is a must-read.

Book Summary

Skip the Line Book Summary

The ability to switch interests, even careers, and quickly rise among the top in the world is an invaluable skill. This is what the book Skip the Line: The 10,000 experiments rule and other surprising advice for reaching your goals teach us.

Malcolm Gladwell Popularized the 10,000 rules according to which you need to spend 10,000 hours to get good at anything through his 2008 best seller Outliers. Although the book provided lessons on how to be great and world-class at anything, it is not applicable to all.

10,000 hours rule holds true only for certain people and people who are in specific fields like sports or arts. But for most people, it doesn’t work.

An average person has to work, feed his family and fulfill many other responsibilities. If we go according to the 10,000 hours rule, can we really be successful in life?

Our interests, jobs, careers, purpose, and skills we need switch from time to time. So, is it really possible to switch things and get good at them as fast as possible?

Heck, yes there are. You don’t have to wait 10,000 hours to get good at something. There are no shortcuts and you can’t just cheat the system. But there are methods for quickly skipping the line and getting good at what you want. That’s what this book is about. Skip the line provides some invaluable lessons and advice for people who are looking for a no-shortcut quick way to achieve their goals.

The 1% Rule

1% rule is a simple philosophy of continuous improvement. It states that over time the majority of the rewards in a given field will accumulate to the people, teams, and organizations that maintain a 1 percent advantage over the alternatives. Understanding this principle shows how with a tiny effort every day, you can develop the tools needed to quickly become among the best in the world in any field you want.

Devote yourself to be 1% better than what you were yesterday. At the end of each day, ask yourself, “Did I improve at least 1 percent in my career or skill or whatever I am trying to improve today?” If you work on improving 1% every day, within a year you will be 37 times better. 

In the same way, if you lose 1% of what you know every day, at the end of the year, you will be 0.03 times what you were. 1% up or 1% down. It’s your choice.

Your decisions about how you spend each day define you.

10,000 Experiments

Another way to quickly skip the line and land among the top performers is to be a prolific experimenter. 10,000 experiments beat 10,000 hours every time. Anyone can do experiments. Anyone can be a scientist of “why?” An explorer of “how?”. Be curious, ask yourself questions, and do experiments.

There are only two possible outcomes of an experiment. The experiment either succeeds or you learn something. One of the important philosophies we should adopt in life is to think and recategorize failure as learning.

When you have an idea and don’t know whether it is good or bad experiment. There’s no other way to know until you experiment. When doing experiments, keep these things in mind to conduct a good experiment:

  • The experiment should be easy to set up and do
  • There’s a little downside and little risk
  • If the experiment succeeds, there’s a huge potential upside
  • It is unique and has not been done before
  • Even if the experiment fails, you’ll learn something

If you do this every day, improving by 1 percent a day, then your knowledge, your skill, your career will improve exponentially in a very short amount of time.

Become the Scientist of Your Own Life

The best laboratory is your own life. The best scientist is you, yourself. The best experiments are when you try to do what has never been tried before.

Doing experiments lets you be on the other side of your comfort zone and that’s where you grow. Performing new experiments every day and staying outside of your comfort zone is what lets you skip the 10,000 hours. When you this, you are way ahead of others. Because anyone can do deliberate practice but not everyone can do experiments.

Burrow Hours

This is another concept explained in the book which can help you skip the line. You can quickly rise to the top even when you start from the bottom when you learn to burrow skills you have learned in another field.

How do you think Pele became one of the greatest football players in history. He hadn’t started to play football till he was 15 and when he was 17, he played the world cup for Brazil.

That’s because he burrowed hours. He didn’t play football in his early years, he played futsal, another popular sport in brazil where the ball was a small and condensed field. This forced players to do a lot of footwork and passing. This made it easier when he switched to football. Also, he used to play barefoot. So, the transition to a grass field with actual sneakers made his game smoother.

Build Micro-skills

There is no such skill as “business” or “entrepreneurship” or “investing.” Or even “software development” or “chess” or “writing.” Any good skill is a collection of micro-skills. And to be good at something, you need to be good at those micro-skills.

Whatever field you are interested in, pick a pencil and a paper and write down 10 micro-skills that you need to be good in that field. For example, if you want to be an artist, you probably need skills like drawing, perspective, oils, watercolor. Then you probably need to know the history of art so you can figure out how to stand out and be unique. Then there are the “tribal skills” — sometimes called “soft skills” — which can be really hard but are needed to rise up in the art world: networking, communicating about your art, salesmanship.

For each skill you write down, now you need to think of some experiments to start learning those skills.

Plus, Minus, Equals

Plus, minus, equals is another technique to help you skip the line and rise to the top quickly.

Plus means to find a mentor, learn from him and add value to your life. You can either have a real mentor or a virtual mentor. A real mentor is a real person while a virtual mentor can be any other thing like books or online content. But how do you find virtual mentors if you don’t have real ones?

Well, just read. Reading turns every author into a mentor and sometimes they can be even better than real-life mentors. Reading is a superpower that can turn you from a normal civilian to a supernatural vampire.

Minus means to find someone with fewer skills and teach him what you can teach and add value to his life. Why? Because if you can’t teach the basics so a beginner understands, you haven’t fully understood yourself. Albert Einstein said it the best:

“If you can’t explain something simply, then you don’t understand it.”

Equals mean to compete with others and learn by trying to outlearn, challenge and impress others. Find people who are on the same level as you are and be with them. Keep pace with your equals or even pass your competitors before they pass you.

Exercise the Possibility Muscle

The world of possibilities is the same as the world of ideas. You only see the world of possibilities if you exercise your idea muscle every day. And once you start creating new ideas, a new world opens up before you. You can see the possible future of yourself, that no one other can see. 

One great way to exercise the possibility muscle is to write down ten ideas every single day. This exercise puts your brain on fire. It rewires your brain. When you write down 10 ideas every single day, you will have 3650 ideas in a year. And maybe only a few of them are good and only one is great. Who knows? 

Your ideas, good or bad don’t matter. The point is to exercise the idea muscle. And once you have great ideas, your execution will also be better than anyone else.

You don’ need to be in constant worry of your ideas being stolen. Why? Because you have an abundance of them. And sometimes sharing ideas with others will also help you create good connections and networking with others.

Idea Calculus

Now you know that you need to write down 10 ideas every single day. But how do you write? You know nothing. Well, Idea calculus can help. Idea calculus has 6 techniques:

  • Idea addition:

Idea addition is a technique to create new ideas where you take an old idea(that is really popular) and add something to it. For example 10 ideas I would add to zoom to make it better, 10 ideas I would add to google to make it better, etc.

  • Idea Subtraction:

This is another technique where you 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. For example: 

“I have an idea for an app but can’t program.” That’s OK. Go to and outsource to a good programmer for less than $500.

  • Idea Multiplication:

Idea multiplication is to take one idea, show how it works and replicate it by changing one or different items like location. Amazon is a great example of this. They sold books online. They said, “This works, so now what other product categories can we sell?”

  • Idea Division:

Idea division is to make an idea smaller. We divide our idea down into a niche we could dominate. We slowly start from the smallest and expand into larger niches. For example: For example, PayPal was initially a way for people to pay for anything they wanted by using their web browser. But this was too big. They needed to divide the idea. They picked just one website: eBay. With its sole focus on eBay, PayPal became a monopoly and then expanded from there to other marketplaces.

  • Idea Sex:

Idea sex is to mix up two ideas. Make a list of two things that people love. Combine them well and there’s your idea. For example: the cell phone + the iPod = the iPhone.

  • Idea Subset:

Idea subset is to break into parts within parts.

People say, “Execution is everything.” But it isn’t. If you can never come up with ideas, you will never be good with execution. You get better at execution when you have good execution ideas.

Micro-skills Everyone Should learn

There is no such skill as “business” or “entrepreneurship” or “investing.” or even “software development” or “chess” or “writing.” Any good skill is a collection of micro-skills. And to be good at something, you need to be good at those micro-skills.

But what are the micro-skills we all need to learn and are easy to learn in life? Well, here are a few easy and effective micro-skills that will help you to skip the line:

The Advice Technique:

This technique can help you to be a better negotiator and get good at communication. The simple principle of this technique is that people don’t like being told what they should do. You should never tell them what to do. So, you might be wondering what should do to get things done by other people.

You should give people the freedom to decide. Ask them what they want to do. There’s a very good example mentioned in the book. I’d like to write it out here as it is:

Someone approaches you with an offer to buy your company: “Well, we’d like to buy your company. How much do you want?”

You reply, “I have been so focused on building this to be the best company, I don’t even know what the value of the company is. And I can see this growing ten times with a partner like your company. But you’re like the grandmaster at this. You do deals like this all the time. I’m like an amateur.” And you ask, “What advice would you give me in terms of how I value this?”

It may seem like you are putting the other side on power, but it’s the reverse. By doing this you add them to your side. By asking for advice, you acknowledge them for their superiority. Which is what the human brain wants. This spikes the serotonin in their brain and they are more likely to take risks for you.

It doesn’t matter whether you think you are a good or a bad negotiator, using advice techniques will help you to be a better negotiator.

6-Minute Networking

Your network is your net worth. You might have heard this a couple of times. But how do you really increase your network? 6-minute networking can help you in this. And it will not more than 10 minutes. Here’s how you develop this micro-skill:

  • Scroll through your text, messages, or mails and find 4 people you haven’t texted in a while.
  • Text them(texts have a better open rate than mails)
  • Don’t ask anything. Just give genuine appreciation for what they are doing and share your ideas if you have any.
  • Every single day

You don’t want anything from these people at all. You just want to be on the top of their mind. This gives you a lot of opportunities and keeps you in contact with many people. It doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert, your net worth will go 100X in a year if you practice this every day.


Invert is another technique that will help you to deal with people you disagree with and allow you to experiment right in the middle of a conversation with someone you disagree with.

‘Social media’ used to be called ‘social network’ once. Now they are not. It doesn’t connect you with other people. It just feeds you with the same stuff that you like through their various algorithms. It doesn’t let you find people of differing opinions. But the best way to grow is to find people you disagree with and learn their ideas from them.

Hear what’s James Altucher says about this technique:

I don’t let myself disagree with someone until I can argue for their position even better than they can. I have to know more, and I have to be willing to battle each of my original arguments.

The Google Technique

Most people seek credit for everything they do. If you want to skip the line and quickly go to the top, you have to stop seeking credit. Be the credit card: Give everyone the credit they deserve and they will come back to you.

When you make other people good, they will come back to you. Every day find someone to help and give credit to. Find out selflessly, how you can make their life better and rise.

The Attention Diet

The Attention DIet 1

Attention diet is popularized by Mark Manson, the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck and Everything is Fucked. Distractions have become so pervasive in the digital age that we’ve come to accept them as normal. But we can skip the grip and free our minds. For this is what Mark Manson suggests everyone should do:

  • Say ‘fuck yes’ or ‘fuck no’ to your social connections. Any connections that drain your time and energy, remove that
  • Unfollow all news and media outlets including sports and entertainment
  • Uninstall any app that feels pointless after doing the above two
  • Choose a good source of information and connection only
  • Stop consuming short-form content
  • Schedule your diversions and Implement

Read more about attention diet here.

The 50/1 Rule

Have you heard about the Pareto Principle? Yes, the one which is also called the 80/20 rule. It states that 80% of your output comes from 20% of your inputs. Research shows that an average worker that works for 8 hours every day is only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes. All the rest of the time, he is wasting time in other activities that are not giving any output.

So, instead of giving 100% percent of your time to get 100% results, you should give less of your time and get more results. The author breaks down the 80/20 rule further and further and reaches the 50/1 rule. This rule states that 50% of results in life are as a result of the 1% decision or work.

Although there is no technical way to find the 1% of your input that gets you most of your results, you can use this to be more productive. Focus on the main work that gives you the most results. And the time you have left can be used to do other productive works.

The remaining time can be used to find your purpose, find what you love, and get paid for it.

Take Two Steps Back

In life, there are times when we have to step back a little to make a big jump. But taking this kind of leap is not practical. It’s hard on people’s ego, it’s hard on our natural-born instincts to stick with our tribe and maintain our status. But if you can take a leap backward, you will eventually be able to leapfrog past those who have been dutifully plodding along.

Even a single thought where you are concerned about your own self-worth will block any chances of success in your passion.

Wobble Without Falling Down

This is what the author says: 

They say “perfection is the enemy of progress,” but there’s a bit more to it. You have to be willing to wobble your way through to success. I was twenty-six and scared and unqualified for the job. Nothing was the way I wanted it to be. I wasn’t a successful novelist that everyone would admire on my first day at the job. I wasn’t even that qualified for the job. In fact, I didn’t really know anything. I had to learn to wobble into a situation, to be OK with falling and getting back up, to be OK with not being perfect in advance. 

You should focus on progress rather than focusing on perfection. Progress is skipping the line while perfection is staying in the line forever.

Don’t be afraid to wobble. You have to be courageous. And the true courage is to stand up and be hated for your opinions and still press forward with compassion and insight, knowing that what you are doing is creating value.

Exit the Line

If you want to quickly skip the line, you have to learn to diversify your passions, skills, and other hierarchies that you measure yourself in. Because if you don’t do, you will be trapped. If there’s one lesson that COVID-19 has taught us, it’s that jobs offer little to no comfort in tough times. 

A job doesn’t protect you. What protects is your ability to find new pursuits and meaning in life. You always have to have a plan B. You can explore different side hustles, let your curiosity or your hobbies lead you into new territory. Take small steps and start easy. 

A job will never make you rich. You can’t build real abundance with a job. According to a study, an average millionaire has 7 sources of income. And the job is only one source. So, learn to diversify your money-making skills. Diversification is not an ‘invest in stock’ strategy. It’s an ‘invest in happiness strategy’.

Become an Entrepreneur

Being an entrepreneur is hard but it will open up multiple possibilities in your life. Entrepreneurship will shake your life. You will go from the person who gets a paycheck every two weeks to the kind of person who only eats what he kills. Entrepreneurship is about going to a jungle naked and coming out alive. But it all will be worth it. Here are some entrepreneurship lessons the author learned in his life:

  • Products are always more valuable than services
  • The best new customers are old customers
  • A business is made up of people, not the product. So, it will fail if you have bad people
  • Don’t settle mediocre. Overpromise and overdeliver
  • Don’t waste time building a product first. Instead, just get one customer and execute the idea
  • Experiment every day
  • Be a voice in the industry that you want to be heard in
  • List your options. Don’t waste your previous years devoting yourself to just one idea
  • Build a community. Start your email list right now. Always be in touch with people

The Spoke and Wheel(How to Monetize Anything)

Spoke and Wheel 1

If you are making money (or expanding your audience, or creating a brand, or creating art) but you aren’t using the spoke and wheel method, you are losing out. If you are not using every spoke, you are leaving money on the table or you are missing an opportunity to build your brand and build a bigger platform.

The wheel is an idea that you’d want to invest in while spoke are different ways to monetize the idea. Here are the spokes that you can use to monetize your idea:

  • Blog
  • Social Media
  • Podcast
  • Email List
  • Online Course
  • Online Newsletter
  • Books
  • Consulting
  • Public Speaking

And there are probably many more. With each business idea, run your creative mind and list out all the spokes that could be developed out of that wheel.

Three Ways to Make a Billion Dollar Business

In this chapter, the author explains the three business models that can make you a billion-dollar or even a trillion-dollar business. Those 3 business models are:

The Access Economy Model

There are always people who have excess, and some people want access to the excess, but they don’t know-how. Being the middle man and helping connect and finding each other can be a good business model.

Uber and Airbnb are the perfect examples of this type of business model.

The God- Humans- Data Model

We have been always evolving. Every industry on the planet earth evolved from a theistic approach to a humanist and ultimately to a data-driven approach. And currently, we are evolving in the data model. 

Artificial Intelligence, Robotics. Bitcoin, etc are some of the examples of the rising of dataism as a business model.

Understanding the industries that evolve in this manner, we can take advantage and find opportunities to replace the gap between transitions. We are just at the beginning (the first thirty years of what could be a thousand-year evolution) in the rise of dataism as a business model.

The Bottom One-Third Model

There are very few businesses that want to serve the bottom third of an industry. Everyone is competing for the top third. But if you can find a business model that can serve the bottom third of the industry, you can be the only player and that’s already worth billions.

Understanding these three business models and their nuances will give you access to billions or even trillions of dollars worth of opportunities.

The Incerto Technique

James Altucher seems to be a big fan of Nassim Nicholas Taleb and his work. He recommends reading the books by Taleb on risk and uncertainty. But he doesn’t suggest reading the whole book, just the titles only. Because he thinks you might just need the titles

The books together are called Incerto Collection and are Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, Antifragile, and Skin in the Game. He believes these will help you to make good decisions, stand out in the crowd, find success in the spots people least expect, and understand the difference between luck and skill.

What to Tell Your Kids (or 10+ Rules for Living a Good Life)

In this chapter, the author writes about being a good parent. A good parent is the one who demonstrates the right way to live, not tell their children the right way to live. Here are the 10 rules he provides for living a good life:

  • Always go to the places least crowded. Success is found where nobody else is.
  • Being secretly good to people = superhero. Being famous for the sake of being famous = loser.
  • Good relationships = good life. Bad relationships = bad life.
  • If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.
  • Sleep and rest.
  • Bad things will happen. Treat them as opportunities.
  • Don’t feel sorry for yourself ever. See above.
  • Be creative every day.
  • Live life as if today might be your last day.
  • Hara Hachi bun me.

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