My Notes: The Connection Algorithm by Jesse Tevelow

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My Notes:

Simple truths are often the most elusive, overlooked, and forgotten.”

Our decisions make us who we are. The lines between success and failure, friendship and missed connection, happiness and unhappiness, barrier and breakthrough, are far thinner than we might imagine. Our mentality, and the decisions we make based on that mentality, play a huge role in our trajectory through life.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”  - JOHAN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE

Connection Algorithm is a mindset.

Taking risks is scary, but worth it.

Sometimes, we just need to give ourselves permission to jump.

One of the best things about writing a book (or creating anything, for that matter) is that you don’t need approval to get started—you don’t need credentials. You just need the drive to put words on the page.

ZombieLand is my term for institutionalized America—big business, public school, desk jobs, cable TV, and tabloid magazines.

ZombieLand is anywhere you feel useless or uninterested in what you’re doing. It’s the status quo.

It’s where passion comes to die.

In today’s workplace, the average worker switches jobs every four years.

The Connection Algorithm seeks to deliver happiness through passion.

Today’s breed of stability is built on bold decisions, adaptability, and unique experiences.

The goal is not to work harder. The goal is to live the life you want to live, and to be in control.

The goal is to eliminate the things that make you unhappy.

I define Connectors as thought leaders, experts, and influencers in a given discipline, or range of disciplines.

For most of us, the cause for inaction is a little voice in our heads that says it can’t be done.

Although most people don’t realize it, breaking free from these rules is as simple as deciding to do so.

It has little to do with innate talent. It has everything to do with relentlessly following your passions, being persistent, building a genuine support system, and knowing how to bend the rules of society to your advantage.


You need to go all in.

You should remove all distractions, toss any crutches you might be leaning on, and ditch all backup plans.

Committing also means persisting. The best venture capitalists value persistence over intelligence when analyzing the characteristics of founders and CEOs.

Persistence takes extreme mental toughness.

So many of us hate our jobs, yet we do nothing to change the situation. If you’re one of these people, you need to realize that you (and you alone) have the power to break free.

The biggest deterrent to freeing yourself from ZombieLand is inaction—not starting. Don’t wait.

Doerocracy. If you get shit done, you can be a leader.”

If you want to be a leader, simply do stuff. Don’t ask anyone else’s permission. That’s what a Doerocracy is.

Can’t take the big leap? It’s okay. Start small. But do something .

We measure ourselves based on how we perform relative to our local environment

There are two things to consider here. First, you have to ask yourself whether or not you’re satisfied with your life, without making irrelevant comparisons

Second, and more importantly, if you legitimately aren’t satisfied, why aren’t you doing anything about it?

You have to remember that social media is constantly feeding you a false representation of the world—a world that seems increasingly more fantastic and unattainable.

According to the always-brilliant Tim Ferriss (author of The Four Hour Workweek ), the opposite of happiness is not unhappiness—it’s boredom, and I’m 100% in agreement.

If we follow Tim’s thinking, the key to maintaining happiness is simply avoiding boredom. I’ve found passion, purpose, entertainment, and excitement to be the best cures. Fortunately, most of these cures can be experienced for free—especially passion. The problem is how most of us fill our time.

We try to become successful so we can be happy, instead of making sure we’re happy so we can become successful.

If you’re spending the bulk of your time doing something primarily for profit, and there’s no passion at the foundation, you need to jump ship.

Instead, fight for time and then fill it with passion.

Purpose Spurts . Purpose Spurts are the simple activities you love to do on a regular basis.

Purpose Arcs . Purpose Arcs are the broader activities that feed your passions.

The finite duration is what distinguishes a spurt from an arc.

Spurts naturally contribute to fulfilling an arc. Your goal should be to find spurts that can generate meaningful income.

A Purpose Spurt doesn’t necessarily need to exist outside of what we typically categorize as work ; it just needs to be founded on passion and purpose.

You need to love your craft.

If you’re not sure where your passion lies, ask yourself what you end up doing when you have nothing to do. 

Where does your mind go? 

What websites do you visit? 

Which articles and books do you read? 

What television shows do you watch? 

Which activities naturally draw your attention? 

Your passion is right in front of you: it’s how you spend your idle time.

People say you shouldn’t make your passion your work. Bullshit. If you want to avoid ZombieLand, you must make your passion your work.[

It might seem like all of your passions fall into the hobby category.

it’s possible to turn any passion into an income-generating product, in any industry.

There are a few reasons why this is the case: People crave knowledge Knowledge is boundless People are lazy People are forgetful

There is infinite knowledge to gain.

We want simplicity. This is a good thing because it gives craftsmen the opportunity to create value.

If you have useful things to say, people will pay to listen.

(Keep in mind, these rules relate to any product, so if you’re on the track of building a more traditional company, they still apply): You have to be knowledgeable (or talented). You have to distribute effectively. Blockbusters are rare. You have to seem fresh. You have to provide value.

You can’t hope to provide value if you aren’t either knowledgeable or talented. You need at least one of the two. People can sense bullshit pretty easily, so you should focus on something you know a lot about, or do well.

It’s better to find a niche you truly understand, or a specific product category in which you can excel.

After creating a product, you have to distribute it.

The financial returns from your project may not be substantial enough for you to quit your day job—at least not right away—but your efforts will still be worthwhile.

How will customers perceive your product? What will make it better, more fun, and more enjoyable than similar offerings? If it feels boring or redundant, it has no chance.

This is the most important point. You could execute on every step above, but if the customer isn’t getting value from whatever you’re selling, your efforts won’t matter.

The best way to test it is to share your product early and often.

This is why passion must be at the foundation. You won’t persist if you’re not committed from the mental standpoint.

Forget the finish line. It doesn’t exist.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” - WINSTON CHURCHILL

To excel in anything, you must commit.

You should always commit to: Your feeling of passion Taking risks that bring meaning to your passions

Also note that taking risks is a constant and recurring part of the process. Being comfortable with your lifestyle is great, but if you’re truly committed to making your passions meaningful, you’ll always look for new ways to push the envelope and keep things fresh.

If you plan on following your passions and pushing your limits, failure is par for the course.

You get out what you put in—to a degree . Your natural ability and strengths play a big role in determining the potential of your output. 

Don’t work on things that don’t play to your strengths and passions. Don’t work on things that provide opportunities that don’t interest you.

If you’re working hard and don’t feel like you’re getting out what you’re putting in, you probably need to stop banging your head against the wall and jump ship.

But there’s more to life than money.

There’s an opportunity cost to everything you do.

If you’re hitting a wall for more than a year and you’re unhappy, I recommend jumping ship—even if there’s a potential pile of cash down the road.

The commitment has to produce results. The effort has to matter

To let people know that success and failure are both dots on a line. We experience our lives between the dots.

Failure can feel like the ultimate death sentence, but it’s actually a step forward.

It’s about the journey, not the destination .

Doing experiments will account for 99% of your time on this earth. That’s the journey. The result of your experiments is the other 1%. If you enjoy 99% of your life (the time spent in experimentation), who cares about the results?

Take a deep breath and realize that there are no life-ending failures, only experiments and results.

It’s also important to realize that you are not the failure—the experiment is the failure.

It is impossible for a person to be a failure. A person’s life is just a collection of experiments. We’re meant to enjoy them and grow from them. If you learn to love the process of experimentation, the prospect of failure isn’t so scary anymore.

Perception is reality.

Be careful though—the idea is not to hop jobs for the sake of hopping. The idea is to do valuable and impressive things with your time.

Your project might fail. But if your project fails, you don’t necessarily need to abandon your underlying passion.

Bigger isn’t always better.

Unfortunately, without passion, you can no longer deliver on your commitment.

As it turns out, acting out of self-interest to better your situation usually benefits everyone. Applying this unnatural truth to your life is an extremely powerful aid in making difficult decisions.

To do truly meaningful work, you need to get serious, focus, and go all in.

Vision is not enough; it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps; we must step up the stairs.” - VACLAV HAVEL

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80–20 rule , or the law of the vital few, states that roughly 80% of the outcomes come from roughly 20% of the sources.

80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients 80% of your customer complaints come from 20% of your customers 80% of the world’s wealth is owned by 20% of the population

Parkinson’s Law, states that the amount of work required to complete a task will expand or contract to fill the allotted time.

The takeaway here is that you must set constraints for yourself in order to stay productive.

Tim combines the Pareto Principle and Parkinson’s Law to form the ultimate productivity hack: Focus on the most important things Set aggressive deadlines

But there’s a third, often overlooked factor that I’d like to focus on instead. Namely—what is the task being learned?

Not all disciplines are created equal. If I wanted to become an expert at tying my shoes (working on it), I bet I could achieve expert-level status after five solid hours of practice. 

Conversely, if I wanted to become an expert at brain surgery, it would likely require 20,000 hours of practice at a minimum—well above Gladwell’s magic number. The truth is that the magic number isn’t a magic number at all, it’s just a baseline for mastering really hard tasks. 

The amount of practice required to become an expert is relative to the difficulty and scope of the discipline.

Here’s another secret: limiting the scope of your expertise is not only easier to achieve, it’s also far easier to apply in the real world.

Because my knowledge is specific, it’s easy to apply it to something actionable.

Learn to narrow the scope of your expertise into something actionable.

When you narrow the scope of your discipline, goals become more tangible.

The work required becomes more manageable. Becoming an expert isn’t as hard as you think. Forget 10,000 hours. Five-hundred is usually more than enough.

But by cutting everything else out, you can learn more efficiently, reaching expert-level status in the first 1,000 hours.

This happens because the best artists have a narrow focus.

They become obsessed with a particular subject matter, relentlessly honing their skill in that one specific area.

Whenever you find yourself in the Zone, take advantage of it, because you can’t come back to it later. The Zone comes and goes without warning.

Find your trigger. When the Zone strikes, identify the trigger or circumstances that caused it. Prepare for the Zone. Prior to engaging the trigger, gather whatever materials are necessary to be productive so you can jump into action as soon as the Zone hits. Build the trigger into your routine. Schedule the trigger into your day to maximize your chances of experiencing the Zone consistently.

Whenever you feel you have no time, there are two questions you need to ask: 

What are all the things I’m currently doing? 

What are the things I want to be doing instead of the things I’m doing?

Here’s a list of low-value activities I’ve either reduced considerably, or removed completely from my schedule: 


Paying bills 
Talking on the phone 
Browsing the internet 
Reading /watching the news 
Social networking

Here’s how to do it (hat tip to Tim Ferriss on this topic): Cancel all subscriptions and notifications. No more newsletters or daily deals. Don’t give out your email to third party sites. Create a secondary account for signing up for new services. This significantly reduces spam. For close contacts, respond to open ended emails with a phone call whenever possible. Phone calls are more personable, and it’s easier to get things done more quickly. You’ll also find that most people don’t pick up, which is great. Leave a message. Done.

Schedule a time to check email once or twice (no more than twice) per day for ten minutes. When you start, set a timer. When the ten minutes are up, you’re done. The rest can wait until tomorrow. When the time is up, be sure to close your email client. Leaving it open will be too tempting. Turn off email notifications on your phone, as well.

Avoid live programming. Use that magical doo-hicky called a DVR to record your favorite programs and watch them later (or use Netflix, or Hulu). You should do this for two reasons: It allows you to take downtime on your schedule, not the schedule of a television network. It allows you to skip commercials, which can reduce time spent by 30-50%.

Answering the Phone Don’t do it, unless it’s a close contact. Screen calls. Set a time to check voicemail. Get back to people on your own time.

Commuting/Driving Don’t do it. Live as close to work as possible, or work remotely if you can. Use commuting as an excuse to work from home if possible.[

Favors Don’t do them as often. When you do a favor, do it consciously and deliberately because you want to. Don’t do it out of guilt or an unspoken obligation. Do big favors only for close friends. They should be in your inner circle. Help secondary contacts and strangers as well, but only as your schedule permits.

Worrying is not useful. This is a tough one. I’m constantly working on this, and you should too. When you realize you’re worrying, accept it. Then consciously clear it out of your mind. Writing it down and setting it aside sometimes helps.

When I’m researching something, I limit myself to 2-5 sources. Anything beyond that likely won’t contribute substantially to what’s already been found.

The absence of interruption is arguably the most effective productivity enhancer.

Believe it or not, being short-sighted is more efficient than planning ahead. Don’t think too much about the long-term effect of a particular decision, and don’t try to map out every detail of your career. It’s easier to execute precisely on a two week plan versus a two year plan.

Long-term goals also tend to distract you from enjoying your life right now

Small-batching keeps us more nimble. Broad-batching also leaves us vulnerable to traveling down the wrong path for an incredibly long time before uncovering a problem, while small-batching reveals problems immediately.

Forget about long-term goals and plans. Forget about batching your life. Being short-sighted is the most efficient way to get things done. You’ll accomplish tasks more quickly, avoid costly mistakes, and ensure you’re enjoying yourself right now .

People who do things out of order and without permission get more done, faster.

"Move fast and break things". - Zuckerberg

This doesn’t mean he breaks into banks. It means he questions conventional thinking and finds better solutions through constant experimentation.

He understands the benefit of exploration, of moving quickly, of taking action. This is how innovation happens.

When everything feels like a drag, you should stop and ask yourself, “Why?” Why are you in this situation? You’ll quickly realize that you have deeper problems than whatever is currently pissing you off.

Simply put, the best way to get more done faster is to fill your schedule with less.

Remember: Extreme Focus + Aggressive Deadlines = Ultra Productivity.

Don’t work to live. Live to work.

The sharing economy is creating new ways for people to earn supplemental income from the stuff they already own. Top performers make a healthy living from these services, often quitting their day jobs. 

Rent out your home. 


Rent out your car. 



Rent out your bike. 


Give people a ride using your own vehicle. 



Sell handmade goods. 


Do simple tasks for others. 


Dog sit. 


Do handyman, house cleaning, and outdoor work. 


Sell or rent your clothes (women’s clothing only, for now). 


Sell absolutely anything. 


Create your own eCommerce store. 


Raise money for anything. 



Raise money for your book, or self publish it. 



Raise money for anything, in exchange for a small portion of any income you make in the future. 


There are also business-specific crowdfunding platforms: 



Time is not money. Time is everything . It’s the single most important asset we have, and one of only two basic assets that really matter in life. The other is health.

To truly build the Edge into your life, you need to: Seek it out Make it a habit Enjoy the struggle Never settle

Clutter is the enemy of productivity.

If you’re pissed off all the time, you don’t necessarily have an attitude problem. You might just be hanging around too many cold-blooded reptiles.[

You can’t change the people around you, but you can change the people around you.”

What matters most—by far, is your perseverance.

If someone insists you can’t accomplish something, attempt to prove them wrong before accepting their claim.

I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone, and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible.” - NEO, THE MATRIX

The Connection Algorithm is the Four Cs: 



I’ve created a second formula that serves as an equally important framework. 

It presents the Connection Algorithm as a function of risks and relationships: f(pg) = (ri)(x) + (re)(y) Where: pg = Personal Growth ri = Risks x = A numeric variable re = Relationships y = A numeric variable.

So, in its simplest form, this formula states that your personal growth is proportional to the number of risks you take plus the number of relationships you build.

There are different types of risk. We could slice it up a million different ways, but let’s separate it into two categories: Shallow Risks and Deep Risks . 

Shallow Risks are risks with minimal downside. An example would be approaching someone you find attractive and striking up a conversation. Worst case scenario: the person dislikes you and you move on. Best case: you just found the love of your life. 

Deep Risks are risks with a potentially big downside. An example would be quitting your high-paying job to build a startup. 

Best case scenario: you become a wildly successful entrepreneur. Worst case: you slowly fail, losing money, friendships, sanity, and years of your life in the process.

You should take Shallow Risks often.

You should also take Deep Risks—when you can live with the worst case scenario.

Very little is obvious in the research on human decision-making and happiness. Very few things are proven. One thing that is proven is this: the only regrets octogenarians have are for the risks not taken. 

Here’s why: If the risk taken does pan out, it is good. But if it doesn’t—and here’s the key thing—we find a way to justify the risk taken as learning.

Learning is what life is all about.

Relationships are critical because they can present new opportunities, while simultaneously providing a support system to help you overcome adversity and bounce back from risks that result in failure.

To maximize the acceleration: Start now. Act on the Four Cs and the formula today . 

If you have kids, let them in on the secret, too. The earlier they start, the better. Go straight to the top. 

Take risks and build relationships that map directly to your personal growth. Again, quality over quantity. Aim high.

So, let me drill this into your skull a little further: The purpose of a connection is not to get help. The purpose of a connection is to build a relationship. 

When a relationship is built, it’s no longer just an avenue for help—it’s two friends supporting each other. The true value is in the relationship, not one-off favors.

People don’t join clubs and groups because they’re mildly interested, they join because they’re deeply interested. These are the people you want to meet. 



As individuals though, shouldn’t we just inherently know what we stand for? When I asked myself this question, I realized—to my surprise—that I didn’t really know my values. I had a broad sense, but it wasn’t crystal clear. So I wrote them down, taking a lot of cues from our company documents. 

Here they are: 


I am my own leader 

I am passionate in my endeavors 
I value quality 
I am explorative 
I am innovative 
I am honest 
I am caring 
I am respectful 
I am confident , but humble 
I stay grounded 

Our company also created a habits list. Here’s mine, again adapted from the company’s version: 


Search for Meaning 

Be Selfish 
Be Healthy 
Make Decisions 
Be Productive 
Think Macro 
Embrace Minimalism 
Create Value 
Build Relationships 
Have Fun 

Both lists are deliberately short. Why? Because it’s easier to remember. Rest assured, there’s still plenty of thought behind them.

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