Why You Need To Read Smartcuts by Shane Snow

For starters, its name is so intriguing??? Hey there, dear readers, Justine here, and welcome to the very first book review post! A lot of you asked us for book recommendations through ask.fm or through email for some unknown reason. So, since Betina and I both believe that growth comes from all aspects of life, we decided to start a new section completely dedicated to books we recommend you read! This section has no name yet, it’s working title is Page Turners; so if you can think of one, do tell us! (Because I suck at naming things.)

The books we’ll be talking about will mostly be from the business, psychology, or management genre. The main criteria to be a book on this list is that it taught us something or it changed our perspectives. We’ll also discuss our biggest takeaway from each book, so you’ll get a look at how we contextualized it into our own situations!

And we’re not getting paid to promote these books. We honest-to-goodness love them enough to talk about them in under 1000 words for you, dear readers.

Before we get started though, and for those who don’t know, I’m Justine, she’s Betina, and this is The Border Collective, the Philippines’ premiere blog on interning, resumes, interviews, and all things you need to know to be an overachiever.

Thanks for reading, and if you do end up reading this book, drop us a comment here on what you thought about it too! Hope I wrote something useful for you!

Today’s book recommendation is Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success by Shane Snow

Tell me you weren’t intrigued by the title. The moment I saw it, I immediately downloaded it. That’s how you judge a book by its cover.

And because, I downloaded it, there are 0 photos in today’s post. I don’t have a hard copy of the book to artistically Instagram. 

Smartcuts is one of my favorite books on Earth, because it confirmed a lot of thoughts I had about working our way up the ladder. Namely, that paying our dues is not the only way we can get ahead of the group. We could just jump onto a completely different ladder with less people on it, like say, interning as a sophomore here in the Philippines, and use that to springboard ourselves ahead of the pack. We don’t have to do the same thing as everyone else! Rejoice!

If you haven’t noticed it yet, I’m not a big fan of studying, much to the chagrin of my parents. Nor am I a fan of work cultures that use how much time you spend with the group as a basis for your promotion. I’m a results-oriented kind of girl, ergo, I’m not very popular in face-time-oriented work cultures, which are especially prevalent at school. I blame that on the fact that I like going home everyday at 3pm.

It also doesn’t help that I believe in working only 3 hours a day, while spending the other 13 hours awake in leisure or learning or obligations (like class). So, I really am not someone most people think of as a prime success candidate. I’m too unconventional. I don’t want to put in the work. And I accepted that I’d be a bum for the rest of my college life because I’m not willing to play the magis game with everyone else.

And then I read Smartcuts. Which made me feel infinitely better because I found out that what I do is totally OK.

Smartcuts was one of the books I spent my leisure hours on. And some class hours too. I would reread it again if it wasn’t already seared into my brain.

I finished it within a day because it’s the kind of book you can’t put down. Its pace is quick and snappy, with examples leaping out of the page and taking charge of your imagination. You feel like you’d miss out on something the moment you put it down. So you don’t. And you end up thinking “what happened in class today??” followed by “what else did Shane Snow write?” (He hasn’t written any other book, but he writes a lot of articles online. Here’s his website.)

Shane Snow, a journalist and tech entrepreneur turned best-selling author, takes a fast-paced approach to teaching his readers that you don’t have to take the conventional methods of life to get ahead. Instead, he talks about how the fastest way to get ahead is through changing the world by going against the grain. It’s too complicated for me to go into detail but Shane Snow explains it brilliantly in his book by bringing his readers through the world of shortening, leveraging, and soaring while weaving his words at breakneck speed. He practices what he preaches in Smartcuts. 

There’s no lull throughout the book. Hacking is his verb of choice, and how he jumps from topic to topic brings all of us closer to understanding him than if he had explained it in a linear fashion. And he brings John D. Rockefeller, Elon Musk, Jimmy Fallon, Skrillex, and Marissa Mayer for the ride.

“What’s a Smartcut?”


You’re probably thinking by now “what the hell is a smartcut???” Well, Snow defines it in his book as the art of “lateral thinking” aka reframing problems to challenge basic assumptions. You don’t attack the problem using the same sword and slash technique everyone else is using. You take a step back, figure out where’s the chink in the armor, then do a jumping backflip butterfly kick attack to win. (I have no idea if that is an actual move. Do not try to correct me by talking about attack moves either. )

Snow also says in his book, that too many people think that shortcuts are the only way to jumpstart success, and to some degree, it does. Who you know helps you get ahead. No doubt about that. But what you do with your resources is what will get you further than the rest. The ethical and sustainable implications of shortcutting through life are bound to catch up with you, so why take the chance of your boat engine exploding when you can just outfit it with turbo thrusters?

“What I Learned From Smartcuts”


My favorite part of Smartcuts was the case study between Michelle Phan and double rainbow guy. One became a billionaire entrepreneur, the other became a guy we define by what he cried about. I can’t even remember his name without google-ing it. And I don’t plan to google it. The reason Michelle Phan became an “overnight success” that we remember was because she wasn’t.

Michelle Phan laid down the groundwork way in advance so that when people found her breakout video, a Lady Gaga makeup tutorial, she would be poised to embark on a career path she pioneered. She prepared herself by banking a ton of makeup tutorials in her account, studied the game she was about to play aka how to make it to Youtube’s top video picks, and hacked it to her advantage. Which is why today even I, who does not wear any makeup aside from eyeliner for my slits-called-eyes, know who Michelle Phan is.

Double rainbow guy on the other hand turned into a literal overnight success. Millions of people saw his emotional outburst over a double rainbow. And after that, he was promptly forgotten about. There was no other content on his channel for people to turn to after that video, so the audience didn’t invest into double rainbow guy like they did with Michelle Phan.

After their videos hit Youtube front page, people who wanted to know more about them scoured their accounts for other content. Michelle Phan gave them hundreds of hours of tutorials banked in her account. He had nothing else. She delivered compelling content and a reason to subscribe. He didn’t.

That part really taught me the importance of being ready for sudden fame. Kidding. It taught me that being like a duck is a smart move to make. Calm on the outside, but furiously paddling on the inside, until you see someone throwing bread, and you lunge towards them before the other pond creatures. 

My favorite lesson from Smartcuts though was about J.J. Abrams and it wasn’t about the fact that he rebooted Star Trek better than other reboots. Roughly, it’s about how when he was starting out, he co-wrote with people who lent him credibility to reach the top. Once he was at the top, he then started co-writing with amazing newbies to lend them a leg up. Which made him one of the most artistically diverse people in Hollywood.

If I had one complaint about the book, it’s that there’s no sequel. That’s literally it.

Everything in it is so compelling, and to this day, it’s one of the most solid books I’ve ever read. It’s a book that “analyzes the lives of people and companies that do incredible things in implausibly short time.” And I feel like I’m immensely better off after reading it. As I hope you will be too, if you choose to read it. 🙂

And that’s it for the very first Page Turner here at The Border Collective! Like us on Facebook to keep updated with the latest happenings in our lives, which are about to become very hectic, thanks to internship season!!! I can’t tell you how excited I am to go back to work! Partly because of the free laptop, but mainly because I get to be with my high-performing friends as I navigate another existential crisis.

It’s giving me a nervous thrill.

If you know a book that’s life changing, perspective moving, or generally a great read, recommend it to us too so that we can read it! And hopefully, review it here on The Border Collective too!

We’re currently setting up a ton of articles to post in June, like answering common interview questions you guys asked over at our ask.fm! So if you want to help us post more in the coming months, drop as many questions as you can in there or in our Google Form for us to answer!

If you have anything you want to ask us personally or to comment on, email us at either justine@thebordercollective.com or betina@thebordercollective.com! If you’ve got any suggestions for what we write next, email that to info@thebordercollective.com! For partnerships and business deals, email us at admin@thebordercollective.com!

If you want to show us your support, want to help out your friends be more competitive, or just have nothing to do, like The Border Collective on FB and invite your entire friends list to like our page too! This online show of support helps us gauge if what we’re doing is actually useful and should be continued since we could be doing other things with our time! Like, working at another internship or studying to boost our GPA’s, because mine is really dismal. 😀

Before I sign off, drop your recommendations for what we read next or what you thought about Smartcuts by Shane Snow in the comments below and let’s talk!

Thanks for reading and hope I wrote something useful for you! 🙂

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