No Fears, No Excuses by Larry Smith, Book Summary

written by Fred Campos
No Fears, No Excuses by Larry Smith, Summary by Fred Campos on

[I]n 2016 I have a goal to read 50 books. This is my 5th book this year I have completed. The book was checked out of the library and given to me to read, by my lovely school teacher wife, Karen. I think she wants me to gain focus in my business (DFW Website Designers).

Larry Smith has worked and tracked thousands of students entering the workforce over many year and has extrapolated three defining areas to having a successful career. He suggests that to have a GREAT career one should find your passion, create a career plan, and confront your fears and excuses in your pursuit. Here are my personal notes from the book. I highly recommend you get your own copy as well. (Click Here to Buy)

No Fears, No Excuses by Larry Smith

What You Need to Do to Have a Great Career

Passion is a word we use often when we talk about our love lives, but rarely when it comes to our work lives. p. ix
– Passion invites an intensity of enduring focus. p. xiv


Chapter 1: Why Good Work Is No Longer Good Enough
A. Why John Struggled: Competition and the Demise of the 9-to-5er
B. Why Charlene Thrived: Change and the Ever-Demanding Consumer
C. Action vs. Reaction
D. John’s Reeducation
E. A New Strategy
F. Jake’s Jobs: A Choose-Your-Own Adventure

Chapter 2: Why “Safe” Jobs Are a Myth
A. Argument #1: Every Passionate Career Needs a Backup Plan.
– You see, then, that although the backup plan is filled with good intentions, it leads to unhappiness all too easily. p. 24
B. Argument #2: The Current Market Demands High Skills, Not Passion!
– Many people focus on the competitiveness of today’s labor market and pay no attention to what the market will look like fifteen years from now, never mind fifty years from now. p. 25
C. Argument #3: You’re Wasting Time Looking for a Passion When You Should Just Be Doing Something!
D. Argument #4: If You Develop Great Skill, then Your Passion Will Follow.

    1. The Counterargument: Your Trusty Prof Goes on the Offensive
    – …skill does matter. It has a place. But it is not the starting place for the best use of talent. Passion is, and passion makes the highest skills possible. p. 33
    2. Becoming Exceptional
    – There are two ways: education (including training) and practice (also called experience). p. 34
    – Another characteristic of the exceptional is their mental flexibility, their ability to roam effectively among differing subjects, and differing aspects of the same subject. p. 34
    – Exceptional students are all engrossed in anything new and creative. p. 35
Chapter 3: How Logic and Evidence Will Find You Work You Love
A. The Overwhelm
    1. Just as with choosing a partner, when choosing a passion to pursue, you need to listen to your emotions and also to be logical at the same time–but not too much of one or the other. p.40
    2. The second reason is the sheer number of possibilities available.
    3. Just as Emotional Seekers are liable to walk right past their passion, they’re also vulnerable to being so committed to their passion that they ignore all the warning signs that it’s a bad fit. p. 41
    4. The Logical Seeker will get so caught up in amassing facts and observations that she forgets the goal is to become energized by her mission. p. 41
B. Step One: Start Where You Are
C. Step Two: Stop
D. Step Three: The Great Sampling

    1. Read
    2. Talk
    3. Think Analytically
    – Finding your true passion is too important to trust to an automated calculation, and there is not substitute for your own hard work and research. p. 57
E. Step Four: Recognize Your Passion (vs. an Interest)
    – The rule of passion is simple: The mind cannot stop thinking about that which it loves. p. 57
    – Teachers know that the best students learn easily because they love the subject. p. 58
    – But if there is no passion for learning, there is no passion of any kind. p. 58
F. Step Five: Keep Looking
    1. Too Many Passions
    2. How Much Time?
    – While you must pursue your passion to realize your talent, there is an equal need to be ever vigilant. In other words, if you’re doing it right, the search should never end. p. 64
Chapter 4: The Most Common Career Mistakes
A. Mistake #1: Has Your Passion Crossed Over to Dangerous Obsession?
B. Mistake #2: Are You Using Passion Itself as an Excuse?

    – Remember that a great career requires having impact. p. 68
C. Mistake #3: Are You Neglecting Your Homework?
D. Mistake #4: Do You Struggle to Communicate about Your Passion?
E. Mistake #5: Are You Simply Running with the Herd?

    – If your passion leads you to be in a competitive field, the sooner you start thinking of a way you can stand out or distinguish yourself from the rest of the competition, the better and happier and more successful you’ll be. p. 78
    – Remember, if you want to get ahead, you’ve going to have to do something or create something that allows you to stand out from the herd. p. 80
F. Mistake #6: Are You Allergic to a Plan?
    1. “I have a plan!”
    2. “I don’t need a plan.”
    3. “I can’t make a plan.”
G. Mistake #7: Are You Losing Sight of Your Plan?


Chapter 5: Getting Yourself Ready
A. Determine the Destination
B. Distinguish Your Priorities
C. Identify the Specific Barriers to Achieving Your Goals
D. Probe the Barriers and Revise Your Goals if Necessary
E. Identify, Acquire, and Strengthen the Key Skills You Need
F. Put Your Team in Place

    – It doesn’t matter what the nature of your work is, whether you’re in a small organization or a larger one, a tech company or a manufacturer. Even in the notoriously isolated high-tech world, loners will struggle. p. 103
    – A team is not a group that will do your bidding. Rather, team members are in a relationship with you, and a relationship is never a one-way street. p. 105
Chapter 6: Find Your Edge
– If all you can produce from your work is a good result, you’re not generating a competitive response. p. 107
– It isn’t enough just to have a passion, or even a passion and a plan; you must also have a defining distinction, or an edge. And that distinction involves the skill of creativity 100 percent of the time. p. 109
A. Yolanda and Cliff: Imitate vs. Innovate
B. The Villain: Conventional Thought
C. Understanding Innovation
D. What is Your Problem?
E. What’s Your Solution?
F. “But Professor…”: Common Excuses to Innovation

    1. “But my employer doesn’t want me to innovate!”
    2. “But I work in a helping profession–social work–innovation doesn’t apply to me.”
    3. “But you’re clearly picking exceptional examples.”
    4. To Sum Up on Innovation…
    – Being an innovator is difficult work. It takes time to prepare and to execute an idea, and it involves no small amount of frustration. p. 123
Chapter 7: Sell Yourself by Selling Your Idea
– All the other steps are in vain unless you can mount an effective marketing campaign for yourself. p. 125
– Self marketing is equally important for the advancement of an ongoing career. p. 126
A. Banish the “Ick” Factor
B. Define Yourself or Someone Will Do It for You
C. Defining Yourself with Your Words

    – Words define you to the world and to yourself. p. 131
    1. The Elevator Pitch: Brief, Distinctive, and Enticing
      a. Short
      b. Distinctive
      c. Expressed in a way that invites the listener to ask for more information
    2. The Follow-Up Paragraph: The Hook and the How
      a. The first goal of the follow-up paragraph is actually not to answer the how question; it’s to strengthen the hook. p. 136
    3. The One-Pager: Talking Points for Deeper Dialogue
      a. The one-pager is a series of talking points in which you deploy a few more interesting and important facts about your domain; the nature of your key innovation, with examples; and alternative ideas and suggestions for different groups of people. p. 138
D. Defining Yourself with Your Actions
    1. Every career direction and idea will require its own unique approach–there is no one-size-fits-all here. p. 142
Chapter 8: Execute and Revise
– Willingness to reevaluate your plan periodically and revise, if necessary, is just as important as strong execution. p. 144
A. Three Critical Questions
    1. First, when new and relevant information appears, always ask: Would this revision move me closer to my overriding goal of a great career? p. 147
    2. For the second question: If a new choice is tangibly closer to your goal, will it involve a loss of time that will reduce your advantage? p. 147
    3. There was a third question: Will this revision limit my options? p. 148
B. The Fruitless Search for Perfection
    – Plans aren’t perfect, but the absence of planning sends you into the unknown. p. 149


Chapter 9: Anatomy of the Excuse
– Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
– Excuses may seem harmless enough on the surface, but they’re actually like supervillains with the power to obliterate rational thought. p. 153
A. Excuses in Action
    – An excuse has to be factually correct and relevant, or it has no credibility in the eyes of the person making it. p. 155
    1. The Unknowable Future
    – There is no certainty, of course, but there is greater probability. p. 157
B. The Universal Excuse: Luck
    – Only the unprepared need luck. p. 159
C. The Tyranny of Time
D. The Glut of Information, or Cynicism
E. A Low Bar

    – We don’t expect to work at a job we love, and so we don’t seek it. p. 165
    – Why should I look just to pass the time? Let’s do away with passing the time and live fully instead. p. 166
F. Our Culture of Excuses
    – We love in the Age of Victimization. We are all victims now. p. 167
    – Sometimes the obstacle standing in your way, casting its shadow, is you. No excuses, just you. Now get out of your own way, and get to work. p. 168
Chapter 10: How Great Careers and Loving Families Go Hand in Hand
A. Rule #1: Remember the Definition of a Great Career
    – A career is great when it offers satisfying work, impact on the world, a dependable and adequate income, and personal freedom. p. 172
B. Rule #2: Let Go of Guilt
    – By focusing only on your role as a parent, you have given up being a role model for your kids’ career life. p. 174
C. Rule #3: Use Your Edge to Gain Control
    – Nature does not follow a single pathway; neither should man. Part of having a great career means that you can say no–to a task, to a promotion, to a relocation. A great career means that there’s not just one path available to you. p. 177
D. Rule #4: Look for the “Win-Win,” Not for the Compromise
    – If you want both deep human relationships and a career you love, then you need to honor both. p. 178
E. Rule #5: Be Time-Disciplined
    – The passionate people of the world must rein in their passion so it does not consume the rest of their lives. p. 180
    1. Exclusive Work Time
    2. Integrated Work/Family Time
    3. Exclusive Personal/Family Time
F. Rule #6: Seek Integration, Not Balance
    1. Talk to Your Kids and Your Partner about Your Work
    2. Work with Those You Love
      – A great career means at the end of it and at the end of your life, you leave your mark behind. p. 187
Chapter 11: The Bottom Line of Great Careers
A. Money Matters
B. Gold-Plated Jobs (High Income/Reasonable Chance of Employment)

    1. Narrow Range + Volatility = Disaster
    – The underlying challenge in these particular high-profile, trend-setting industries is their high volatility. p. 195
    2. Lifestyle of Constant Work
C. Scary Jobs (High Income/Risky Chance of Employment)
    1. The Worthy Effort
    – Don’t enter a crowded field unless you’re prepared–really prepared–to minimize the competitive pressure in that field. p. 199
    2. The Artist’s Block
    3. Being Aggressively Creative
D. Outlandish Jobs (With No Employment Prospects)
    – If you want to make a living at an unusual activity you need to connect with those who share your passion, whether for knitting, skiing, or old phones. p. 206
    – Most of these opportunities are “created” occupations, exercises in entrepreneurship. p. 206
E. The Virtue of Flexibility
    – Unless you can get your desire for, and misconceptions about, financial gain under control, you are forever disadvantaged. p. 207
Chapter 12: When Your Passion Collides with Your Fears
A. The Fear of Wasted Time
    – If you never confront your fears, you’ll never know what you could actually have accomplished in your life. p. 212
B. The Fear of Missed Opportunities
    – Parallel processing is a challenging approach, one that requires planning and research. But it doesn’t require courage or overcoming fear, just determination. p. 215
C. Fear of the Unknown
D. The Fear of Ambition
E. Fear of Failure
F. The Fear of Financial Distress

    – Fear distracts from rational thought, and sometimes it takes a while to determine the root of the anxiety. p. 223
    – The best way to fight fear of financial distress is to take the long view. p. 225
G. Fear of Fog
    – Define your fears, and just shine a light. p. 226
H. The Greater Fear
    – Failing to achieve the highest use of our talent. p. 227
    – Fear the consequences of the path not taken. p. 227
I. Fear as an Excuse…or Not
    – When the impulse of fear arises, examine it, understand it, and probe it for ways to overcome it. p. 228
Chapter 13: Conclusion: Taking Action
– It is unfortunate to miss your true vocation because you did not know such a choice existed. But it is a real tragedy to find the pathway that will lead to great accomplishment and then turn your back on it. p. 231
A. What Shall I Tell My Family?
    – Dialogue is a two-way exchange. If your family objects to something you said, listen to their reasons why. p.234
B. What Shall I Tell My Spouse?
    – You might start by emphasizing the importance to you and to the family of having everyone pursue work or studies they enjoy. p. 237
C. What Shall I Tell My Friends?
    – Explain your decisions and goals. p. 238
D. What Shall I Tell Myself?
    – You need to have a thorough dialogue with yourself in which you confirm the identification of your passion. p. 240

What is your favorite part of the book? What did you learn from Larry’s book?

Featured image from Amazon & Larry Smith.



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