Lean Life Book Summary

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Lean Life by Paul Akers
Doing Life Better

My Thoughts

Paul’s videos and books are inspiring to me and they have helped me make many significant improvements in my own life and at work. His company tour is one of my favorite videos and I’ve embedded it at the end of the summary.

Paul Akers has all of his books available for free in several formats here. Visit the Lean Life page for a free copy of the book and resources by chapter.

My Favorite Quotes

  • You must slow down to go fast.
  • Be happy when problems are in front of you. They are the opportunity for you to grow.
  • Develop a system to support excellence and eradicate mediocrity. [I modified this from a longer statement in chapter 3]
  • We need to change our standards and expectations, and superior outcomes will follow.
  • The small act of being totally present when you are with the one you love is the gateway to a life of love and success.
  • Life should be remarkable for both men and women, and accepting anything less than excellence is the exact bubble I want to pop. Why do so many people settle for average when excellence is easily available?
  • Life is all about what you give, but you can’t give what you don’t have. A strong self, with a clarity of purpose and a clear process to achieve it, will allow you to give more abundantly to everyone around you.
  • Simplicity attracts people; complexity repels them.
  • Things own you and the more things you have, the bigger slave you become.
  • I will relentlessly pursue the necessary steps to fully succeed in every area of life.
  • Hire horsepower. 1 out of 10 people are keepers…it’s strictly a numbers game to find them. – Jeff Getzen
  • There are those who simplify and those who complicate. Those who simplify have real jobs. -Colin Powell
  • If we have abundance, we will choose to buy something rather than use our creativity. We become lazy and miss the very essence of life: hard work, discovery, and resourcefulness.
  • The real sign of wealth are individuals with deeply engaged minds and physically fit bodies.
  • Why shouldn’t our work and our jobs be extraordinary? It requires going to work every day and not thinking about doing the work, but how to do the work better.
  • When the wisdom warehouse is empty, it will manifest itself at work, in your health, and in your relationships.
  • Have the courage to surround yourself with high-quality people who love to improve and take full responsibility for their position in life.
  • The daily pursuit of discovering solutions and learning from people will enrich your life beyond anything you ever imagined.

Key Questions

  • Are you a “good enough person” or a “continuous improvement person”?
  • Why do so many people settle for average when excellence is easily available?
  • What makes me unhappy?
  • How much time do we really put in the planning and designing of relationships that will last a lifetime?
  • Are you happy?
  • Why shouldn’t our work and our jobs be extraordinary?
  • Why not gain incredible wisdom from people who have made mistakes?
  • Do you have the courage to change your life?
  • Why is it that people will not sort bad people out of their lives?

Opening Comments (from the author)

Most people are living with a fraction of the joy they should know and experience. How could life be so marginal for so many when the very meaning of the word “life” echoes and resounds positivity?

Honesty is imbued in both my friends and the most self-actualized people in the world. I seek it, I want it no matter how much it hurts because it is unequivocally the path to a meaningful life.

The One Thing: Problems are opportunities to learn.

Now, in Lean Life, I discovered that the missing piece for a fantastic life is to “know yourself.”

Perhaps the greatest secret that most of us never really understand is discovering that our problems should make us happy! Why? In the process of solving our problems, we are given the opportunity to learn, exercise our brain and improve.

Mr. Amezawa, former VP of Lexus, said, “People always ask me what the key to my success at Toyota was. My answer is: I always asked to be moved to where the worst problems were. I didn’t avoid problems, I ran to them.”

Be happy when problems are in front of you. They are the opportunity for you to grow. -Mr. Amezawa

Taichi Ohno said it best, “You don’t have to solve them 100%, you just need to improve and then build on every improvement for further improvement.”

Lean is not for super-smart people, because most of them have “genius disease.” They think they have all the answers instead of realizing they don’t, and that they need to be humble.

Introduction: What is Lean?

Are you a “good enough person” or a “continuous improvement person”? How you answer this question will determine the relevance of this book.

If you’re a Lean thinker you’re a long-term thinker.

We spend a lot of time in life spinning our wheels…most of our time is actually spent on non-value added activities. Why is so much time wasted? The secret is you must slow down to go fast. For 99% of people on this planet, this is totally counterintuitive. At my company, FastCap, we spend the first hour of everyday cleaning, making improvements, and meeting as a team before we begin work.

In the game of life, we should be executing a clear plan and a thoughtful strategy. The second something is not working, we need to slow down, stop, and ask why.

If you deal with problems now, you eliminate tremendous amounts of non-value added activities, and you won’t have to deal with them multiple times in the future. You become a future thinker instead of a present thinker. This is the essence of this book. Slow down, make a very careful evaluation of who you are and where you’re going, and the rest will take care of itself.

Review of the 8 Wastes

  1. Overproduction
  2. Transportation
  3. Inventory
  4. Defects
  5. Over Processing
  6. Motion
  7. Waiting
  8. Unused Human Potential

Three more concepts we must understand:

  • Muri: the Japanese word for burden or to be heavily weighted down.
  • Mura: the Japanese word for unevenness.
  • Muda: the Japanese word for waste.

Paul’s comments on having been successful and accumulating a lot of things.
Unknowingly, all this inventory and overproduction created burden, because I had to manage it and it distracted me from the things that were really important, like my relationship with my wife.

The One Thing
You have some unwanted house guests! (muri, mura and muda)

Chapter 1: Big Concepts About Lean Life

The Problem

Most people squander life. In the Lean language, most of the potential of our lives is never realized and simply wasted.

The Solution

Know yourself and experience the holy triad.

These two ideas will be easy to understand, but very few will actually apply them because it will require you to fundamentally change the way you live and think.
It is not enough to just think Lean thoughts, you must convert hundreds of Lean thoughts into tangible actions that will teach you what does and doesn’t work.

Three areas Paul Akers is working on improving in his life while writing Lean Life:

  1. His posture
  2. Eating more slowly
  3. Shaving more precisely

I wrote this book to coalesce my ideas into one place about what I have learned about from my Lean life experiments, wishing I had this information in my early twenties. Wow, would my life be different today!

I could have done so much more with a fraction of the time, effort, struggle, and money.

I now understand that I was not even close to discovering the full potential of my life.

What motivates me is the belief that life is short and to waste a single second of it is a tragedy.

I beg you to go live your life with no regrets, solve your problems…there is a way.

I believe that most people find happiness when they feel their life is improving. Conversely, people are filled with unhappiness when their life is stagnating.

  • Productivity = Sense of Wellbeing
  • Hyper Productivity = Profound Satisfaction
  • Serious Personal Improvement = Crazy Happiness

I believe that Lean thinking is natural for about 2% of the population. That 2% is never satisfied, intensely curious, and are strongly prone to action.

The One Thing
Life is short and to waste a single second of it is a tragedy.

Chapter 2: It’s Your Brain!

Lean Life lays out how I brought a lot more happiness to my imperfect life. My life is improving in all the important areas: career, health and my relationships (holy triad).

I started using my brain and stopped allowing my emotions to take over my daily decisions.

In my observation, most people make 60% of their decisions based on emotions and only 40% based on deep thinking.
I have concluded that if we could flip that ratio to 60% intellect and 40% emotion, we would all have a lot better life.

Here is an example I can give that everyone can relate to. You have personal problems with a co-worker, but instead of dealing with it straight up, you keep putting it off. The very act of putting it off creates wasted time and emotional energy, not to mention a lack of focus on your work and your obligations to create value for your customers.

If you don’t deal with it now it’s just going to get worse and you know it!

“The mind is a terrible master but a wonderful servant.” -Norman Bodek

Lean Supports Freedom and Intense Creativity

My business runs smoothly, my employees are extremely well trained, my house is immaculate, my closets are clean, and my tools are in order.

My thoughtfulness about all of life’s details allows me not to be bogged down in all the mundane routines of life.

When things are in total order, you have total freedom.

The One Thing
Engage your brain.

Chapter 3: Epiphany

Paul has had an epiphany twice in his life: an experience of sudden and striking realization.

The first one was when he was 37 years old. He was driving down the road and he heard a non-audible voice say, “I don’t make junk…I made you with a purpose to do something great.”

From that point forward, I stopped questioning my ability and my capacity to do something great. I never again listened to the naysayers and the people who said I was stupid or my ideas were not good. I saw every situation as an opportunity to improve the way I did my work and the way I conducted my life.

It is rare to see a person at the peak of their career and who is also fit with remarkable health.

“The difference between good and great is massive, but it does not require a significant increase in effort or time. It does require a deep understanding of how things work and that requires deep thinking.” – Jim Collins, Good to Great

It is not as though you have to expend 50% more energy to attain great health and have great relationships, but you do need to spend 50% more time to gain a deep understanding, some upfront planning, and developing a system to support excellence and eradicate mediocrity. The beautiful thing is when you invest this time, the payback is compounding because happiness begets more happiness. It’s long-term thinking at its very best…the relentless pursuit of quality. A super high-quality life that is improving in the most important areas.

I have observed that most people let the superpower of this holy triad elude them their whole life. They spend more time on their to-do lists than on a deep understanding of their life plan.

Why are so many people living with compromised health and dysfunctional relationships? The answer is the combination of the following 5 excuses:

  1. We only have enough time to focus on one of these important areas.
  2. We accept society’s idea that declining health and relationships are par for the course.
  3. We are masterful at covering up our deficiencies with baggy clothes, fake smiles, and small talk.
  4. We are not predisposed to thinking deeply about the important issues in life, thus we lack profound knowledge about ourselves, so we can’t improve our precious lives.
  5. We have accepted the compromise that we can’t have it all and, even if we could, it would be way too much effort and struggle.

The One Thing
The Holy Triad: Career, Health, and Relationships

Chapter 4: Exercise This Muscle! [Your Brain]

We need to change our standards and expectations, and superior outcomes will follow.

If you’re successful in your business, finances, or your career, it is more than likely you had some kind of a plan or a roadmap.

In this book I suggest one simple mantra, “Exercise This Muscle!” (as I point to my brain).

One of the most important tenets of Lean is a deep respect for people. You don’t just wake up one morning and have this deep respect. You practice it day by day. You begin to see that the universe is organized around the principle of respect and it is in your best interest to embrace this magical concept.

The small act of being totally present when you are with the one you love is the gateway to a life of love and success.

Life should be remarkable for both men and women and accepting anything less than excellence is the exact bubble I want to pop. Why do so many people settle for average when excellence is easily available?

I have always had a strong predilection to improve everything in my life. I love it when things get better.
My life is on a steady incline of accomplishments with my business, my health, and in most of my relationships…but not always. Basically, I stopped getting pissed and riddled with excuses and started thinking deeply about what I was really doing.

The One Thing
Know yourself.

Chapter 5: Weakness Oriented

Most people are deeply frustrated about something in their lives.

It appears that an awful lot of us in the human race seem to be doing the wrong thing at a very fundamental level. That is the essence of this book. How we create a simplified process about doing life better, that the average person can deploy. Unfortunately, for many people, thinking deeply is just too much effort.

Most people have never looked deep into their soul and done a careful analysis of what it is that makes them happy and what they need.

It wasn’t until I was 46 years old that I started to write a document entitled, “Are you Happy?”

This document is essentially my value stream map for myself. I took the time, for the first time in my life, to really analyze and get total clarity on what makes me happy. I discovered so many things about myself that I never knew.
For example, I learned that one of my deep needs is to be respected intellectually by my peers.

If I wanted to overcome this frustration in my life, it was necessary that I developed some different habits. Specifically, the counter-measure or habits that I changed were that I quit watching TV and I started reading a minimum of one book a week.

It was no more than five years after I developed these habits, that my speaking fee increased. Can you imagine if I had not taken the time to write this document that addressed my deficiencies and weaknesses?

My life would have been a vapid wasteland in comparison if I had not changed my behavior.

The result is I charted a new course to bring more happiness into my life and I was successful in doing so. Unfortunately, this little activity, that took me about three weeks, should have been something that I did when I was a young man.

How did I get the courage to ask myself such probing questions?
I realized two things: First, the alternative of doing nothing and reliving the same dissatisfaction day after day had zero appeal; secondly, I understood that if I looked deep inside my psyche to answer these uncomfortable questions, it would give me the power and insight to bring lasting change.

The first question I asked was not what would make me happy, but rather what was it that made me unhappy, I focused on my weaknesses and deficiencies. The results I gained were total clarity on what makes me tick. Next, I laid out what I needed to do, on a daily basis, to correct those weaknesses.

We are our most important customer! To the extent we fully understand our needs and serve ourselves, that is the extent to which we can best serve our spouse.

Life is all about what you give, but you can’t give what you don’t have. If you don’t have peace of mind, if you don’t feel satisfied as a human being, and if you live part of your life in a vague haze of perpetual frustration, how in the world can you effectively serve the ones closest to you? A strong self, with a clarity of purpose and a clear process to achieve it, will allow you to give more abundantly to everyone around you.

The One Thing
What makes you unhappy?

Chapter 6: The Super Power of Respect

Paul tells a powerful story about Jan and the importance of respect.

The One Thing
Respect is a powerful concept. Learn it, live it and fall in love with its magical power.

Chapter 7: The Life Factory

Paul tells a story about Vivian, a 38-year-old woman from Taiwan, and some of her struggles.

Vivian’s answer to “The Things That Make Me Happy”

  1. Achieving something that I once thought was impossible.
  2. Someone gives me his soul.
  3. Achieving a goal.
  4. Knowing someone will always be the pillar I can lean on.
  5. Someone who respects all my wishes, even if they’re silly, and does not judge me.
  6. Feeling like I’m doing what I was born to do!
  7. Seeing the good in people.
  8. Meeting new people and chatting with them about their life and work experiences.
  9. Negotiating and meeting a mutually beneficial agreement.
  10. Going on an adventure.
  11. Losing myself and focusing completely on something like learning a new foreign language.
  12. Anything Egypt.
  13. Anything caramel.
  14. The sound of rain when I’m inside the house.
  15. Taking a bath.

News flash: Start thinking about it! You need to make sure you know what makes you happy and make sure you marry someone who is closely aligned with what you value.

Remember what the subtitle of this book is, “Exercise This Muscle!”
If you choose to ignore your brain and follow only your emotions, you will follow your emotions to misery.

Our relationships are not some mystical happening, rather they are the result of the things we do and don’t do. They are a product of our efforts or the lack thereof. Bad relationships are the result of poorly, ill-conceived processes set in place by ignorance. Or worse, by laziness and lack of effort or, in some cases, total stupidity.

I also found it incredibly fascinating that some of the very core principles of Lean manufacturing applied perfectly and directly to having great relationships: Respect, Overproduction, Excess Inventory, Just-in-Time, Kata routine, all these concepts are remarkably relevant to how we build a great life.
While the Toyota Production System is the greatest business management concept in the world, the concepts can apply in your personal life.

I find it interesting that when I teach people how to do Lean, the first thing they want to do is point out somebody else’s waste. I always say to them, “Forget about everyone else. You have enough waste of your own life for ten lifetimes.”

What so many of us do is ignore the source of the problem, which is ourselves, and try to fix somebody else. Caution! This will never work. Fix your waste and your problems first!

As in all my books, I try to identify the value and the non-value added activities. I also do my best to identify those things which are waste. One of the two pillars of Lean manufacturing is respect for people. If at any point you don’t respect your partner, you are going to die a slow, painful death. Disrespect is the number one non-value added activity. If you get the respect component right, you’re going to have a very good life.

The One Thing
Are you treating your partner like a Ferrari?

Chapter 8: Clarity and Process

When I work with companies to help implement Lean, I am astounded at the lack of clarity in their communications and directives. Most people are happy coming back 3 or 4 times for clarification, instead of getting it right the first time.

What relationships are missing is clarity and process. Clarity on what’s important and a process on how to make sure we can consistently deliver it.

Simplicity attracts people; complexity repels them.

Apple has mastered simplicity in its retail stores and products.

Taichi Ohno said, “Make complex ideas simple and easy to understand and repeat them often.”

Our relationships involve two customers: the man and the woman. Two people that should be serving one another.
There are a few questions that we really need to ask to gain clarity, “What do our customers (aka our life partners) want?”

If we were doing it right, why are so many people unhappy? If we really knew what our partners wanted, why are we doing such a poor job of delivering it? There are really two sides to this question and this is the essence of the book. Not only do we not know what our partners want, but our partners are also unclear about what they want.

Do the things you enjoy and find a partner that enjoys them with you.

Think about it, we designed superyachts, high-rise buildings, multi-million dollar houses, fantastic bridges, rockets, supercomputers, and phones that can just about do anything. All these are the result of careful planning and great designs, but how much time do we really put in the planning and designing our relationships that will last a lifetime? I can guarantee none of these amazing structures or designs are the result of somebody thinking this up in their head and never putting it down on paper. I am sure the detailed plans were drawn and revised many times.
Why wouldn’t we give our relationships a little more due diligence? I will tell you what I think. First, people don’t think it is natural to apply logic and process to their relationships. Secondly, I think we are afraid to bare our soul to ourselves, let alone let someone else know what we really think about some very important issues.

In my first book 2 Second Lean, it was the discovery that I was clueless about the way I was running my business that put me on the path to operational excellence.

So what’s it going to be? A lifetime of marginal relationships or great relationships?

The One Thing
Great processes produce favorable results.

Chapter 9: Go and Watch

The beach became my laboratory where I learned and observed volumes about relationships. How many couples are holding hands and looking like they enjoy each other? The answer is very few. This is crazy when you really think about it.

Lean is simply…the idea of doing things with maximum effectiveness.

If you want to live life with maximum effectiveness, apply Lean thinking to the way you live.

The Process in a Nutshell

  • Know yourself (write it down).
  • Know the people you love.
  • Review at least once a week.
  • Evaluate your efforts and continuously improve them.
  • Repeat for a lifetime and never be tempted to stop!

So this is the essence of a Lean Life. If you’re not willing to write down who you are, what makes you happy and unhappy, and repeat the same process with the person you love, it will be difficult to have a lasting, loving relationship.

So, I’m begging you please, please, please stop what you’re doing and begin writing. Every day, add a little bit more to the document. The next key is to read this document with regularity over the course of your lifetime.

What I’m saying is know yourself. Get to know the most important people in your life and know them well. Get to the root of the relationship. Do it with pen and paper and review this document with regularity for the rest of your life. It is this routine or Kata (the Japanese word for a regularly recurring habit) that will guarantee wild success.

The One Thing
Go and watch! Take careful inventory of what’s really going on in your life.

Chapter 10: Let’s Have Fun

Sadly, the routines of living, slowly and quietly crowd out the fun, relationship building, and value-added time. It is replaced by non-value, relationship-killing time!

As a Lean thinker, I look at this situation and I ask myself what is the source of the problem? At first blush, I would say we all get caught up in the trappings of living: bigger houses, cars, and material possessions. We think somehow those things are going to satisfy us. The irony is, a lot of these possessions were obtained for fun, but they require an enormous amount of management, whether it be paying the bills, insurance, or maintenance. All these activities have the potential to interfere with being together and having fun. In the name of having it all, we inadvertently trade our fun time for things.

So what is the answer? We must identify what is true value-added activity in relationship building and not let anything stand in the way of those activities.

Fun requires spontaneity. You can’t have spontaneity if you have a long list of life’s burdens weighing you down.

Value is in communicating to our partner that they’re important and we do that by responding spontaneously to them in a playful and loving way

We are the ones setting up the processes that either support or detract from our relationships. They are not some mystical happening that requires a genie to understand. They do require us doing a few things:

  1. Ask some tough questions.
  2. Make some important observations.

Kevin Meyer, a great Lean thinker, told me about his house shopping experience. He and his wife were relocating and they were looking for a new house. The realtor kept pointing out all the great storage. Kevin replied back “We don’t want more storage, we want less storage.”

Kevin understood something that most people miss: things own you and the more things you have, the bigger slave you become.

In order to have a Lean life, you have to fundamentally change your thinking.

When you tour a Toyota plant there is just one banner hanging from the rafters and it reads “Good thinking, good products”.

As long as we are not clear on where the value is in our life, we will always replace it with non-value added activity…wasted life, wasted emotion, wasted effort, wasted love, and most of all wasted time we could be enjoying with the people we love, smiling, laughing, building memories, and having lots of fun.

Spontaneity could easily be interpreted as Just-In-Time. Responsibility, in the form of houses, cars, and things, can easily be interpreted as inventory.

Do the math…less is more. It’s not that things in and of themselves are bad, it is the excess that causes the problem.

The One Thing
A garage full of toys is not the same as holding the hand of the one you love.

Chapter 11: Are You Happy?

Make no mistake about it, this is the most important chapter in the book. If you neglect to put down on paper who you are and what you need, this book will be a total waste of time.

Below is my document about who I am and what I have learned about myself.

Every day when I wake, I do it with thoughtfulness, clarity, and accuracy. I’m not making the same mistakes over and over again and producing defects, I’m doing life better!

As you read this document, know that it is now twelve years later, I have blown almost every goal completely out of the water. Here are is the list of my original goals:

  • Ran for U.S. Senate
  • Traveled to 101 countries
  • Flew around the world six times
  • Was Interviewed by John Stossel
  • Produced over 2,000 videos with millions of views on YouTube
  • Created a radio show (now a podcast) called “The American Innovator”
  • Crossed the North Atlantic three times in a single-engine aircraft
  • Completed 4 books, one of which was translated into 14 languages
  • Was invited to the White House and had a conversation with George W. Bush
  • Summited Mount Kilimanjaro and three other 14,000 foot mountains, and climbed to Everest base camp
  • Honed my skills to become highly sought after, speaking in countries around the world to audiences of over 1,000

For anybody that doubts the power of penciling out what’s important to you, this document should be a clear testament to its value. I reviewed this plan once a week. I allowed Siri to read it back to me so it was deep in my brain and my psyche. I can’t imagine the wasted life that would have occurred if I had not developed this simple process.

The important thing is I reviewed the list every week, so I was constantly thinking about it and improving everything from the grammar to the content.

When I made my list, I didn’t stop everything I was doing and start down a new path. Instead, what I did was create clarity in the direction that I was heading and I started improving daily in all of these areas.

The critical thing is that you start your list now!

It’s too bad it took me this long to understand these simple, yet profound, concepts. My happiness or sense of wellbeing is directly linked to four things:

  1. Being absolutely clear about my fundamental needs as a human being.
  2. Being absolutely clear about my biggest dreams.
  3. Having a crystal clear plan to meet my needs and achieve my dreams.
  4. Executing this plan by checking off daily habits and routines.

Important note to the reader: I [Paul] developed the Lean PD (Personal Development) App. Lean PD is a simple checklist that is phenomenal for developing habits that support doing life better. It is fast, easy to use, and intuitive. There are videos online that show you how it works. It is available on the iOS platform. (Lean PD App.)

[Note, I have used Lean PD, it is a good app for habit tracking but does not allow you to go back if you skip entering for a day. Habitify is the habit tracker I currently use.]

I have discovered that in order for most of us to feel satisfied in life, we must feel like we are moving forward in life and continuously improving.

The notion that someone might find happiness by mere luck is nonsense. It’s achieved by a well-thought-out plan that is executed thoughtfully.

One of my favorite sayings from Samuel Goldwyn is, “The harder I work, the luckier I get!” It’s not that I don’t believe in destiny or fate, but destiny or fate have a much better opportunity to present themselves to someone who has properly prepared themselves. A half-hearted approach to finding fulfillment is a wasted life.

Wake up, buddy! Time is not unlimited and life is not a rehearsal.

Are You Happy?
The Goal

Being really happy is a lot more satisfying than being angry, frustrated, and generally unsettled about what exactly is going on every day. Lack of happiness seems directly related to a lack of clarity of goals and the necessary action steps to achieve them. At the same time, these steps are fleshed out, it is critical that other worthy opportunities do not hijack the happiness goal and ultimately derail the plan.

I think the vast majority of people rely on having goals in their head, but it is the act of writing them down that brings the clarity necessary for wild success. It also gives you a reference point to measure your process.

The following document is the result of my close observation of successful people, who have traveled the world, treading paths few will follow. Documenting my life goals will create “deliberate practices” which will create tectonic change.

I will relentlessly pursue the necessary steps to fully succeed in every area of life.

Important concepts that you must remember.

Your words are the most powerful and influential tool in the world. If you can clearly and effectively express ideas, you will have no limits. Master this and make it your strength.

Don’t feel uncomfortable with your passion. Let it energize you to pursue your dreams. Many will misunderstand you. Press on and let your passion and desire to learn everything in life burn intensely.

Don’t throw your pearls to swine (Matthew 7:6). Your advice and wisdom is the result of the intense pursuit of continuous improvement and learning. Give your counsel freely to the curious and humble. The giving of your advice should be done judiciously. Do not disseminate your knowledge to those people who don’t want to learn.

Daily steps on life’s wonderful journey.

  1. Exercise and build muscle for 5 minutes every day.
  2. Answer all emails by 10 am. Answer all phone calls by 12 noon.
  3. Make a list for all task management. Check 5 things off your task list by 5 pm. [Paul uses Wunderlist at the time of this posting in 2019]
  4. Plan your day the night before.
  5. Always remain positive and never give up.

Life Defining Goals

Have a clear plan to significantly improve my life in the following areas:

  1. Be highly respected intellectually by my peers.
  2. Be extremely healthy.
  3. Be continuously improving.
  4. Have lots of fun.
  5. Live by a checklist of daily habits.
  6. Tolerate absolutely zero bulls***! Walk away the second someone pulls this. On second thought, run and never look back!
  7. Create a clear mental vision of who I want to be.
  8. Live to improve other peoples’ lives. Change the world. Think crazy big thoughts. Teach Lean.
  9. Be slow to speak. Two eyes one mouth.
  10. Be curious and ask questions.
  11. Be positive.
  12. Treat mistakes as opportunities to learn.
  13. Limit responses to 15 seconds. The 1-minute zone is no man’s land. Nobody will be listening.
  14. Increase my vocabulary by learning one word a week. Write and utilize those words. It’s a powerful reflection tool.
  15. Read one book a week. Take notes. Stop being a mental lightweight. Know history. It answers the why of the past and brings clarity for the future.
  16. Listen to an audiobook every night before I go to bed.
  17. Write one chapter a month for my newest book.
  18. Never stop asking “Why” about everything.

Paul’s Plans

Health Plan

  • 80% of my food is fruits and vegetables
  • 20% of my food is fish, chicken, and nuts
  • No sugar or no artificial sweeteners
  • No packaged food.
  • 2 ,200 calories a day
  • Log everything in MyFitnessPal App
  • More than 10,000 steps a day
  • 100 push-ups and 200 sit-ups

Life Action Plan

  • Delegate like a wild man (stop resisting because you think they are too busy…give it to them and watch them rise)
  • Stay on top of projects
  • Stay hyper-organized
  • Have a perfect yard
  • Have a clean shop
  • Have an organized and well-maintained home and office (3S everything)

Fun Action Plan

  • Ski four times in 2006-2007: Bachelor, Aspen, and Park City.
  • Go back to Pittstown, New Jersey
  • Attend Porsche racing school in 2007 and 2008: Porsche Masters
  • Walk the Great Wall of China
  • Attend concerts: James Taylor, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, and Sara Evans
  • Fly to Bahía de Los Ángeles, dad’s favorite place
  • Hike in Aspen with Bill
  • Take a glider class
  • Learn to kitesurf
  • Have lunch with Bob Taylor
  • Play golf once a week with Leanne
  • Learn ‘Sweet Baby James,’ ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ and ‘Up on the Roof’
  • Buy a hot sports car and enjoy the hell out of it
  • Spend a week touring Germany in a Porsche with Michael
  • Climb Mt. Whitney and the Matterhorn
  • Pilot a plane to Rome
  • Pilot a plane around the world

Zero Tolerances Action Plan

  • Have a great relationship with Leanne
  • Stop denying myself of attaining what I want in life…don’t put up with bull**** excuses.
  • Embrace relentless improvements. It is a way of life and worth every effort. Dismiss anyone who doesn’t understand this.
  • Be excellent and you will attract people of excellence
  • Welcome to constructive criticism. Listen carefully to the words people say because they can provide deep insights. Seek out people’s opinions, but never let them put you down.
  • Kick-A** from here on out…NO EXCEPTIONS!

Stop Doing Action Plan

  • Stop eating white bread
  • Stop rationalizing why you can’t lose weight
  • Stop interrupting people
  • Stop avoiding your email
  • Stop buying anything unless it is the highest quality
  • Stop using so much hyperbole
  • Stop getting angry. It’s an emotion that belittles you and does not help you achieve your goal of garnering respect.

Start Doing Action Plan

  • Being tender with Leanne, Gods gift and the most beautiful flower to me
  • Smile more and get everyone you meet to smile
  • Bring out the best in everyone you meet
  • Love every second of life…it’s the seconds that add up to days of joy

What I want my Dream Life to look like by December 2008

  • Easily maintain 185 pounds
  • Own a state-of-the-art plane
  • Maintain a spectacular garden
  • FastCap LLC is in a new building and is getting recognition for a deep commitment to growing people.
  • Be recognized and highly regarded for my intellect
  • Be cutting edge and full of adventure
  • Impact and inspire others
  • Be creative. Be in an environment that facilitates explosive creativity.
  • Make people smile!

Ten years ago, my life changed significantly because I took the time to write this document. It is essentially a life process document, equivalent to documenting a process and from that point on, improving upon it. The net result was significantly better. I felt better about myself, improved my overall sense of well-being, and lowered my frustration level.

I can’t imagine what my life would look like today if I had not done this. What is really sobering is what my life would look like if I had done this at the age of 21.

Those ongoing improvements dramatically changed my life. Instead of having an average life, it became remarkable.

The One Thing
Be transparent and discover what really makes you tick.

Chapter 12: Give Me Shelter

Your home should be a magnet, where you love to go…your refuge and shelter.

Allow your loved ones the space to explore their dreams.

At the end of the day, work is unique but home is a place where our family and our most important relationships reside…where you go for refuge. It needs to be viewed differently than just a place where you live. It allows protection so you can regroup and gain your mental and emotional strength.

I made a profound observation after reading and visiting the homes of some of the greatest leaders in the world. From Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, John D. Rockefeller’s Kykuit, Winston Churchill’s Chartwell, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farm at Gettysburg, Teddy Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill, Henry Ford’s working farm outside Detroit, Eleanor Roosevelt’s cabin alongside the Hudson River, Ronald Reagan’s modest ranch in the hills of Los Angeles, or Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, everyone deeply expressed and lived their dreams in their refuge.

A Lean life requires a place of refuge and creativity and the two are absolutely intertwined.

The One Thing
Make your home a refuge.

Chapter 13: Filling the Void

Let’s face it, everyone wants to have a great life filled with great relationships and deep satisfaction. However, they may not be doing what it takes to have this experience. Think of how people fill their spare time binge-watching TV, playing video games, or on their phones.

I would surmise they are trying to satisfy some missing element in their life. They are probably getting some form of substitution for the real thing.

The idea of using this time for self-development or reflection is uncommon. Instead, most people are engrossed in mindless, short-term gratification rather than meaningful personal development. They are caught up in living a superficial, substitute life, rather than participating in a life of excitement, intrigue, and adventure.

This is exactly the reality that I came to when I wrote: “Are You Happy?” I realized I was living vicariously through mindless gratifications.

Then, in a flash or a satori (the Japanese word for awakening), I became disgusted with my substitute life and everything began to change.

I began developing my skills, abilities, and intellect, so I could personally experience everything that I subconsciously believed was only reserved for the select few. I saw with total clarity I could do anything if I was willing to apply deliberate and continuous improvement.

People are frittering away their time instead of developing their lives and relationships.

In the opening statement of my audiobook 2 Second Lean I state, “Money suffocates creativity.”

Shigeo Shingo said there are four kinds of engineers:

  1. The white glove engineer
  2. The Niet engineer (the Russian word for “No”)
  3. The catalog engineer
  4. The engineer that washes his hands 10 times a day

Shigeo Shingo’s reference to the catalog engineer is in line with the idea that, if we have abundance, we will choose to buy something, rather than use our creativity. We become lazy and miss the very essence of life: hard work, discovery, and resourcefulness.

We should all be cautious not to let anything become a substitute for hard work, diligence, and personal self-development.

I’ve learned the real sign of wealth are individuals with deeply engaged minds and physically fit bodies.

I have seen people lethargic and uninterested while on the clock, but as soon as you get them on the basketball court or a baseball field they become crazy and competitive and play with intense energy. Why?

Why shouldn’t our work and our jobs be extraordinary? It requires going to work every day and not thinking about doing the work, but how to do the work better.

What you’re doing is looking at work instead of how to do work better. Work should be fun, engaging, enlightening, and gratifying.

The One Thing
Do you use fake, fraud, or phony substitutes?

Chapter 14: Paul’s Conclusion

Here are the absolute non-negotiables and most important concepts of this book wrapped into six pithy bullet points.

  1. Life is short
  2. Life should be amazing
  3. Use your brain
  4. Brutal truth equals courage
  5. High-quality people
  6. Fall in love with lean

Life is Short

Life is short and the meaning of this book will elude anyone who does not approach it from this critical vantage point. Life is not a rehearsal, it is for living right now. It is a gift that has been given to each of us. Life must be cherished and lived in a deliberate and thoughtful manner. A casual attitude is completely inappropriate for a gift of this magnitude. Start learning to say yes to all the amazing opportunities presented.

One of my favorite quotes from Thomas Edison is “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work!”

Life Should Be Remarkable

Life should be remarkable, exciting, and forever improving in three critical areas: your work, your health, and your relationships.

The most important things in life according to his guide in Bhutan, Sangay.

  • Passion
  • Patience – Great things happen as you accumulate wisdom, patiently along life’s journey.
  • If you don’t have health, you undermine everything.

Remember, every element of life should be remarkable, settle for nothing but excellence and build a remarkable life!

Start Using Your Brain

Every life experience gives you the opportunity to gain wisdom. Wisdom is essentially a crystal ball that gives you the ability to look into the future and be a better predictor of outcomes. If nothing is changing or getting better, it’s because you are not gaining wisdom from experiences. The reason you’re not gaining wisdom is one of two reasons: You’re lazy or you’ve chosen not to use your brain. When the wisdom warehouse is empty it will manifest itself at work, in your health, and in your relationships.

At work. Remember that you don’t get extra credit for just showing up, you’ve got to add value to the organization. Whether you’re younger or older, if your efforts are not remarkable or innovative, don’t expect to be recognized, let alone elevated.

Regarding relationships. The best book to fully understand what I’m talking about is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. He spells it out in black-and-white, it is peoples’ ability to relate to other people that make them happy.

Why not gain incredible wisdom from people who have made mistakes?

Brutal Truth Equals Courage

Everything of significances starts with a single action…courage.

Most people will not muster the courage to step definitively outside their comfort zone. As Bob Taylor says, “Every great accomplishment can be traced back to the seeds of courage.” Do you have the courage to change your life?

High-Quality People

I see it over and over again, people do not have the courage to sort the bad people out of their lives.

Why is it that people will not sort bad people out of their lives?

Have the courage to surround yourself with high-quality people, who love to improve and take full responsibility for their position in life.

Next, get all takers and people who think, “What’s in it for me?” out of your life.
Remember, there are two kinds of people in the world: givers and takers. Your goal should be to become a world-class giver and surround yourself with other world-class givers.

As I matured and helped people without expecting anything in return I felt entirely different about myself. I began to attract and be attracted to other people who had a similar philosophy.

The next level of maturity was when I realized if I wanted to have a Purpose Driven Life, to quote Rick Warren, I realized one thing, “It is not about you…” I observed that the people who believed this philosophy of helping their fellow man realized a depth of purpose in life that is not comparable to any other pursuit.

A direct application of this principle that I have developed is this, I am not interested in people liking me.

What I do hope to achieve is to make a lasting and substantive effect on others. What I have learned is when people respect you, they will love you, and that’s a much higher and significant pursuit and infinitely more satisfying.

Fall in Love with Lean

What I’m saying is falling in love with Lean will enrich your life. The daily pursuit of discovering solutions and learning from people will enrich your life beyond anything you ever imagined. Banish Sloppiness and Fall in Love with Precision. Love the idea of being precise and getting it right. Live your life in a deliberate fashion so every process serves you. This intense desire to refine all of life’s processes will energize you and deliver joy.

Now go live your life with meaning, passion, and intelligence and banish all excuses that are keeping you from achieving an extraordinary life!

Paul links to this video on The Key to Lean.

The One Thing
Answer the question, “Are you happy?” Tell the truth and begin your Lean Life journey.

-End of Summary-

Side note from Jeremy. One of my favorite videos is Paul’s FastCap Factory tour. Here it is below, hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

My Action Steps After Reading

  • Cleared out more things from our home.
  • Started the “Are You Happy?” document for myself.
  • Removed one friend that was not a positive high-quality person.
  • Refreshed my focus and desire for continuous improvement in my life.
  • Greater recognition that I should not accept excuses or less than excellence from those within my circle of influence.

Related Book Summaries

Hope you enjoyed this and got value from my notes.
This is the 40th book read in my 2019 reading list.
Here is a list of my book summaries.

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