Book Review of “Smarter Faster Better” by Charles Duhigg

This book was worthy of me spending some time writing a book review and summary for future reference. For this genre, the book was well above-average: Captivating story telling, thorough research, and skillfully distillation of key research findings into easy to understand language.

The core theme is how to generate self-motivation, and how to stay on track to achieve great outcomes. Although enjoyable, for those of you who are too busy for that, here is a summary of the key points and the procedures to follow:


Internal locus of control is a biological imperative for self-motivation.

First, Internal Locus means believing in having ownership of control; self-determination. Second, Control means having authority over one’s actions, decisions, and environment; choice. The recipe for achieving internal locus of control and thereby a self-motivation is as follows:

[ ] Determine a task, and an associated choice that you can plan to make immediately that puts you in control.
Perhaps write an initial sentence with an opinion or decision. Or select a time or location. The choice you make does not really need to matter.
[ ] Explain why above task is connected to something you care about.
The explanation needs to demonstrate making progress towards a meaningful goal.
[ ] Make the choice and execute the task, reminding yourself of the why to make it easier to start.


The driving force of self-motivation is thoughtful goal setting comprising both SMART aims and stretch goals.
[ ] Set a major stretch goal that sparks big ambitions.
A stretch goal should be a rather big goal and it can feel somewhat remote; the stretch goal is intended to be your compass.
[ ] Create SMART objectives in the form of To Do list entries.
There could be multiple levels of stretch goals (sub-goals being proximal goals) before arriving at a stretch goal that can be broken down into SMART objectives. (SMART is the well-known Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timeline kind of way of specifying objectives.)
[ ] Regularly re-visit and re-evaluate the entire hierarchy of goals, with an open mind.


Building a mental model or creating a story of what we expect to see on our way helps us focus and achieve our goals faster.

Keeping focus comprises three ideas: First, that focusing on the greater picture helps achieving stretch goals faster. Second, that distractions slow us down and we must be quick to identify evens as such. The third and last idea is that before starting a task it will help to create a flight plan towards completion your goals, including possible pitfalls and distractions, and how to handle them.


The remaining Chapters touch on some secondary topics. These are, very briefly: Effective teams (need psychological safety and trust: encourage equality in speaking, stress listening to others, showcase social sensitivity), managing others (empowerment), decision making (use Baynesian instincts or intuition for attributing probabilities to outcomes and potential futures, and make decisions that maximize probability to arrive at a preferred future), encouraging innovation (combining ideas), and absorbing data (force oneself to do something with each new piece of information).

2016 ISBN 978-0812993394
updated: 20170129
photo of cover:
(No compensation or products were received in exchange for this review and as of this writing there is no affiliate advertising on this site.)

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