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The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google by Scott Galloway

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Refers to these giant firms are the four horsemen, they all powerful but not all good. We have a perception of these large companies that they must be creating a lot of jobs, but in fact they have a small number of high-paying jobs, and everybody else is fighting over the scraps which puts people out of jobs.

If Google represents the brain, Amazon, which is powered by robotics, is a link between the brain and our acquisitive fingers which utilises our hunter-gatherer instinct to acquire more stuff. Facebook is the world’s connective tissue: a combination of our behavioural data and ad revenue that underwrites a Google-like mammoth. 

Elsewhere there is a lot of positive things written about Steve Jobs but this book really suggests he wasn’t a particularly nice man, for example not paying child support. However, suggests Steve Job’s decision to transition from a tech to a luxury brand is one of the most consequential and value-creating insights in business history. Book suggests it wasn’t the iPhone, that defined Apple’s success but was in fact the design of the Apple shops. Technology firms can scale, although they are rarely timeless. Suggests Chanel will witness the meteor that sets Google on a path to extinction. It is of note that Apple is the only firm among the Four Horsemen, at least for now, that has thrived post the original founder and management team.

Why are luxury brands successful? In part as buying the luxury item triggers an emotion, a boost in serotonin that makes you feel some happiness and success. Rich people are more homogeneous than any cohort on earth, all seeking to obtain the same luxury brands. This act of obtaining a luxury brand tries to make you more attractive to strangers, although the sexual magic coming from a luxury purchase may well not actually occur, as we do know that millions of iPhone owners sleep alone at night.

What five attributes makes a luxury brands?

An iconic founder,

Artisanship (skill in a particular craft),

Vertical integration (when a company owns or controls its suppliers, distributors, or retail locations to control its value or supply chain, this retains the ability to control the consumer experience),

Global reach,

A premium price, which in turn uses scarcity to their advantage

Facebook both taps into our need for these relationships, and helps nourish them. There’s something satisfying in rediscovering someone you knew twenty years ago, and keeping in touch with friends after they move away. When friends post pics of their new baby, we get a delicious hit: dopamine.

Facebook, can potentially analyse every bit of data about us so potentially it might come closer to understanding us than our friends. Facebook builds a register that is a highly accurate portrait of us from our clicks, words, movements, and friend networks. This is different from our actual posts, the ones designed for our friends which are mostly self-promotion. Users tend to post about peak experiences, moments they want to remember, and be remembered by such as their weekend away Paris. Few people post pictures of their divorce papers or how tired they look on a Thursday. Users are curators. However, the camera operator, Facebook, isn’t fooled. It sees the truth and can sell this to advertisers. This is what makes the company so powerful. The side that faces us, Facebook’s users, is the bait to get us to surrender our real selves. 

All platforms ultimately aim to monetise its audience.  The underlying algorithms are potentially the most valuable man-made things ever created.  It is of note that generally social marketing, which was based on in which you have clicked “like” on,  therefore are potentially interested in has been replaced by behavioural marketing, which is based on what you have been searching for.

6 ways the four horsemen obtain the competitive edge:

1. Get a product that is truly differentiated otherwise you have to resort to an increasingly dull, yet expensive, advertising.

2. Visionary Capital – obtain the ability to attract cheap capital by articulating a bold vision that is easy to understand.

3. Possess likeability

4. Obtain Global reach

5. Control the consumer experience, at purchase, through vertical integration.  It is important to control a large portion of their distribution so products remain aspirational.  Suggests Samsung is never going to be that cool, if it continues to depend on Best Buy stores.

6. Recruit the best talent, clearly smart people need to work hard but emotional maturity is important.

The digital-age worker must often respond to numerous stakeholders and shift between roles throughout the day, this environment that favours the mature. Product cycles shorten and our work life will see rapid swings between success and failure. How well someone manages their own enthusiasm through those cycles is important.

For career progression for every four things you’re asked to do, offer one deliverable or idea that was not asked for.  Determine what you are good at, as early as possible, and commit to becoming great at it. You don’t have to love it, just don’t hate it. If practice takes you from good to great, the recognition and compensation you will command will make you start to love it. Therefore suggests don’t follow your passion, follow your talent.

Remember to keep physically fit, you’ll be less prone to depression, think more clearly, sleep better, and broaden your pool of potential mates. On a regular basis, at work, demonstrate both your physical and mental strength – known as your grit.

Ownership is another standout skill for building your career. Be more obsessed with the details than anybody on your team and what needs to get done, if, when, and how. Assume nothing will happen unless you are all over everybody and everything, as it likely won’t – this goes for tasks, projects and your whole business.

How well you interact well other people will determines the projects you work on, who you work with, and who wants to hire you. This brings in another important point about going to college / university. The friends you make on campus can be just as valuable as the education. Some of those friends will drop off the face of the earth, but some of them will go on to acquire assets, or skills, or connections of their own that, properly networked, may be just what you need to succeed in your own future endeavours.

If you want to get rich, the path to rich(es) is a path of living below your means and investing in income-producing assets. Rich is more a function of discipline than how much you make.

Includes information about the legendary Grant Study at Harvard Medical School. This was a longitudinal study began tracking 268 Harvard male sophomores between 1938 and 1944. In an effort to determine what factors contribute most strongly to “human flourishing,” the study followed these men for seventy-five years, measuring an astonishing range of psychological, anthropological, and physical traits – from personality type to IQ to drinking habits to family relationships to “hanging length of his scrotum.” The study found that the depth and meaningfulness of a person’s relationships is the strongest indicator of level of happiness. In conclusion: “Happiness is love.” Love is a function of intimacy and the depth and number of interactions we have with people.

Regression to the mean is a powerful force, and the good luck will cut the other way at some point. So, many entrepreneurs who make a lot of money on one venture turn around and lose a lot of it because they believe the victory was due to their genius and they should go bigger. At the same time, when beaten down, realize you are not as stupid as the world, at that moment, seems to think you are.

Crudely speaking start-up, growth, maturity, and decline require an entrepreneur, visionary, operator, and pragmatist, respectively. Surprisingly, the hardest to find are the pragmatists. The entrepreneur is the storyteller/salesperson who convinces people to join or invest in a company before it really exists. Highly rational and intelligent people are usually not good entrepreneurs, especially serial entrepreneurs, as they can clearly see the risks. Once a firm has momentum and access to capital, it is better served by a visionary who can turn this momentum into a somewhat dumbed-down, scalable, and repeatable process and gain access to cheaper and cheaper capital. The operator is long on business maturity and reeks of integrity. He or she must be highly competent at dealing with employees who increasingly choose job security over risk, and who prefer salaries over stock. The pragmatist CEO has no romantic notions about the company’s glory days, often because he or she wasn’t there. The pragmatist CEO recognizes that the firm is in decline and harvests the cash flows, cuts costs faster than revenue declines, sells off still-valuable assets to mature company CEOs and then fire-sales the rest.

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