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Book Summary: Bet on Yourself – Recognize, Own, and Implement Breakthrough Opportunities

Ann Hiatt learned about leadership, innovation and risk-taking while working alongside legendary CEOs such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Google’s Eric Schmidt and Yahoo!’s Marissa Mayer. But those heady experiences arose only because of her bedrock conviction that success requires a willingness to pivot toward opportunity and be resilient in the face of difficulties. Hiatt explains how to recognize and take chances that can elevate your career from the ordinary to the exceptional. Her insider’s view of how iconic companies operate is fascinating, instructive and inspirational.

Book Summary: Bet on Yourself - Recognize, Own, and Implement Breakthrough Opportunities

Content Summary

Genres
Take-Aways
Summary
About the author
Table of Contents
Overview
Review/Endorsements/Praise/Award
Video and Podcast

Genres

Work Life Balance in Business, Business Motivation and Self-Improvement, Motivational Business Management

Take-Aways

  • Ann Hiatt’s parents taught her the power of strategic risk-taking and a “can-do” attitude.
  • Open the door when opportunity knocks – and don’t look back.
  • Follow the leaders you admire and want to emulate.
  • Pursue your dreams, but be prepared to pivot when your instincts lead you in new directions.
  • Set yourself apart through resiliency and aggressiveness.
  • Willingness to move outside your comfort zone can push your career to new heights.
  • Perspective allows you to find meaning in the mundane.
  • A colleague’s legacy inspired Hiatt’s commitment to living fearlessly.
  • You can’t spread your wings if you live in a cocoon.

Summary

Ann Hiatt’s parents taught her the power of strategic risk-taking and a “can-do” attitude.

Ann Hiatt learned about the transformative power of ambition and persistence from her parents, who lived on Idaho potato farms during their formative years. Her father, Glade, fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming an Air Force fighter pilot and was immortalized as “Goose” in the movie Top Gun. Her mother, Tammy, embraced the challenges that came with being isolated on a military base in Anchorage, Alaska, far from family and friends. She developed a neighborhood preschool program, made ceramics and oil paintings, and took her kids fishing and berry picking.

“I was taught early in life that there is exponential power in the combination of hard work and big dreams.”

Hiatt’s resiliency and drive during her formative years compensated for what she considered a lack of innate talent. As the oldest of seven children, she learned to be organized, self-motivated and tactful – qualities that served her well throughout her career. Self-criticism and insecurity in her abilities growing up spawned an intense work ethic. Hiatt’s “can-do” attitude helped her flourish during an improbable career in which she worked alongside Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Google’s Eric Schmidt before starting her own worldwide consulting company. Hiatt’s success stems from her eagerness to accept positions outside her comfort zone while maximizing every learning opportunity.

Open the door when opportunity knocks – and don’t look back.

Hiatt worked at the University of Washington’s European Union Center while an undergraduate majoring in international studies. She originally intended to pursue a PhD and become a professor. But when she asked the EUC director for career advice, he suggested submitting a resume to Amazon. Hiatt followed his recommendation, but was surprised when Amazon invited her to interview for a junior assistant position. Though she knew nothing about being an assistant, Hiatt recognized a unique growth opportunity.

Hiatt left her initial interview energized by both the individuals she met and Amazon’s bold and exciting initiatives. But three months passed before she was asked to return to interview with the company’s senior vice presidents.

Hiatt was stunned when Jeff Bezos walked into the conference room. Bezos asked Hiatt “to estimate the number of panes of glass in the city of Seattle.” She realized that Bezos wanted to observe her thought process in simplifying a complex problem. Hiatt worked on the problem as well as she could and was thrilled when Bezos confirmed her final estimate. His second question focusing on career goals was designed to evaluate Hiatt’s “grit, courage and motivation.” Bezos hired Hiatt immediately and assigned her a desk right next to his. He believed in bringing aboard individuals such as Hiatt whose drive and creativity compensated for any lack of expertise.

Follow the leaders you admire and want to emulate.

Hiatt’s experience working for Bezos established personal standards she sought to replicate throughout her career. She sought out high-quality people who could bring out the best in her. She found immense satisfaction in working with teams that challenged and supported her, and inspired her to test her limitations. Hiatt discovered that truly transcendent personalities are daring risk-takers who choose alternate paths to greatness.

“Extraordinary people are willing to let go of the expectations placed on them by family, society, and even their own childhood urgings.”

Bezos, for instance, resigned in 1993 as senior vice president of a New York hedge fund to create an online store that one day would offer a limitless variety of products. He recognized the vast potential of selling on the internet and quit a secure and lucrative position to chase his dream.

Pursue your dreams, but be prepared to pivot when your instincts lead you in new directions.

Hiatt left Amazon after three years to pursue a PhD in Scandinavian Studies at the University of California. Though she loved the company and working with Bezos, academia represented her heart’s desire. Bezos’s enthusiastic support of the move confirmed Hiatt’s decision to obey her instincts. But she wasn’t quite ready to sever ties with Amazon completely. Before leaving Seattle, Hiatt arranged to work on special projects one day per week at A9, an Amazon subsidiary in Palo Alto, California, near Berkeley.

Sitting at her desk one Friday, Hiatt received a call from a Google recruiter named Jeff. But she was committed to school and declined an invitation to interview. After a few more persistent calls over the summer in 2006, Jeff finally convinced Hiatt to tour the Google campus. She was curious, having heard of Google’s cutting-edge approach and its legendary employee perks. The diversity, intelligence and uniqueness of the people she met during her visit aligned with her ambitions of working, each day, with the brightest individuals and trying to make the world a better place. Hiatt had found a new home.

Set yourself apart through resiliency and aggressiveness.

Hiatt never would have foreseen her 12-year career with Google, nor the founding of her own global consulting company. But opportunities to associate with bright, inquisitive and compassionate individuals always dictated her career progression – not salary or title. She consistently searched for new challenges to stay stimulated and avoid job complacency that depleted her creative energy.

Hiatt believes that resiliency is the most important trait for surviving in cutting-edge environments. You can expect to make mistakes and stumble along the way – which is unpleasant, but unavoidable and necessary for growth. Aggressiveness is the best strategy for increasing your visibility and becoming an indispensable team member – particularly early in your career. Volunteer for tasks that everyone else avoids, even when you’re not asked. People notice when you’re dependable and proactive.

Willingness to move outside your comfort zone can push your career to new heights.

Hiatt was surprised when the executive assistant to Google CEO Eric Schmidt asked if she was interested in moving to his team. Hiatt knew of Schmidt’s unconventional method of recruiting star talent instead of outside hiring to fill a particular opening. In chatting with Schmidt, she was impressed with his philosophy of assembling the best possible team with only the finest people.

Hiatt accepted Schmidt’s offer, never anticipating that her then-boss, Marissa Mayer would feel betrayed. Still, Hiatt knew she was making the right move. The pressure and pace of working for Mayer had taken its toll. Joining a larger, more diverse team with access to additional resources would alleviate some of the burden she had felt with Mayer. The change also would broaden Hiatt’s leadership opportunities and afford her access to a wider range of prestigious projects.

“Meaningful success comes only after repeating the cycle of choosing the right bet, experimenting, failing, pivoting, and trying again.”

The new position’s steep learning curve required Hiatt to ask lots of questions and reluctantly expose her knowledge deficit. Though she risked feeling uncomfortable and vulnerable, Hiatt knew openness was the only way to further her education and proficiency. During her 12 years with Google, Hiatt consistently volunteered for assignments outside her areas of expertise. Self-doubt often accompanies new learning situations regardless of your status or experience. But growth can only occur when you leave your comfort zone.

In fact, private equity investors typically prefer to back entrepreneurs with track records of failure, believing that such experiences provide the know-how and resiliency to successfully handle massive new undertakings. You can’t master anything in a short period of time. Perfection is an unrealistic goal. A sense of accomplishment comes only through hard work and struggle.

Perspective allows you to find meaning in the mundane.

It’s laudable to seek opportunities at work that exceed the fundamental requirements of your position. But supervisors who consider you a threat may discourage you from expanding your sphere of influence. Nevertheless, you can make your job more rewarding – regardless of your standing in the pecking order – by changing your outlook on what you do.

Yale professor Amy Wrzesniewski, who studies how individuals perceive work, says there are three basic approaches to employment. People regard their jobs as a source of income; as an opportunity to advance and elevate their stature; or as a way to do something meaningful and personally fulfilling. In one of her studies, Wrzesniewski asked janitors at hospitals whether they considered themselves “skilled” or “unskilled” laborers. Those who believed they contributed to helping patients heal viewed their jobs as skilled. Perspective is everything.

A colleague’s legacy inspired Hiatt’s commitment to living fearlessly.

In 2015, one of Hiatt’s colleagues, engineer Dan Fredinburg, was killed in an avalanche while mapping ascent paths on Mount Everest. Hiatt greatly admired Fredinburg, an adventurous sort with a joyful approach to life. In his memory, his family launched a campaign and website urging people to adopt Fredinburg’s philosophy of living life fearlessly. That struck a chord with Hiatt, who, at the time, was going through a divorce.

Instead of confronting the grief and loneliness of her broken marriage, Hiatt had exercised compulsively and worked extra long hours. But inspired by Fredinburg’s mantra of “living life as you are, who you are, and who you want to be,” Hiatt changed her attitude. She began looking for new challenges and found renewed delight in trying difficult things.

“I wanted this new phase of my life to be synonymous with excitement, bravery and achievements.”

Hiatt unexpectedly received an invitation to address a conference in New York from a stranger who noticed her LinkedIn profile. Though she had never before given a speech, Hiatt embraced the opportunity. During the talk, she spoke about her experiences and the often-difficult lessons she learned. She received positive feedback and enjoyed interacting with the attendees who related to her story.

Hiatt has since made presentations on five continents and addressed Google employees at worldwide training sessions in New York and Dublin. Her reinvention process continued in early 2017 when she decided to leave California permanently and capitalize on an opportunity to work in Google’s London office. In 2018, Hiatt ended her 12-year career with Google, moved to Spain and founded her own consulting company.

You can’t spread your wings if you live in a cocoon.

Most human beings find comfort living their lives in a protective cocoon of certainty. They revel in routine tasks and know precisely how to deal with problems that may arise. But in choosing risk-free existences, they pass up life-enriching challenges and adventures. Hiatt considers herself fortunate to have worked alongside immensely successful CEOs and managers who were never satisfied with the status quo and who constantly looked forward.

Hiatt believes that adhering to certain core truths can help you maximize your potential and make your life more fulfilling:

  • “Give yourself time” – You’re never too old to return to school, change professions or move to another city or country. You can follow your heart’s desire at any time.
  • “Live your own life” – Choosing a path in life to please others will likely make you miserable. Listen to your inner voice. Stay true to yourself and your desires. Do what makes you happy. Live a life of meaning.
  • “You can redefine failure” – Instead of condemning yourself for missteps in your career or personal life, look at how much stronger you are as a result. Experience is a fantastic teacher.
  • “Be open to the unexpected” – Life is often marked by surprising twists and turns. Weigh your risks; make sensible choices, and trust yourself to handle adversity successfully.
  • “Be present” – Be conscious of the people and events and around you. You can miss out on valuable experiences if you’re constantly thinking about the future. Immerse yourself in the present moment.

About the author

Ann Hiatt worked alongside Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Google’s Eric Schmidt and Marissa Mayer, before founding her own global consulting company. She teaches entrepreneurs and executives how to develop a corporate culture of relentless ambition and vision.

Ann Hiatt is a Silicon Valley veteran with 15 years of experience as the Executive Business Partner for Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon, and as Chief of Staff for Eric Schmidt, CEO/Executive Chairman of Google. Ann Hiatt left Google in 2018, after 12 years at the company, and recently founded a consulting company with CEO clients across the globe where she applies the lessons of innovation, ambition, growth-at-scale, and forward-thinking leadership that she learned at Amazon and Google to new businesses and the next generation of leaders. Ann empowers entrepreneurs and executives through practical suggestions of how to develop a corporate culture of relentless ambition and vision while pacing themselves for long-term success.

Ann Hiatt | Website
Ann Hiatt | Instagram @annhiatt
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Ann Hiatt | Twitter @AnnRHiatt
Ann Hiatt | LinkedIn
Ann Hiatt | Email

Ann Hiatt

Table of Contents

Foreword Eric Schmidt v
Introduction ix
Chapter 1 Foundation Building 3
Chapter 2 Creating Career Opportunities 21
Chapter 3 Increasing Your Impact 49
Chapter 4 Career Advancement 77
Chapter 5 Getting a Seat at the Table 111
Chapter 6 Getting Things Done 133
Chapter 7 Purposeful Risk-Taking 161
Chapter 8 Pivot Points and Reinvention 187
Chapter 9 Know Your Value 209
Conclusion 231
Acknowledgments 239
Index 247
About the Author 257

Overview

Whether you’re stuck in your current job, starting your first job and wondering how you can use it as a steppingstone towards your dream career, or mid-career and wanting to finally be recognized for promotion or a leadership role, this book is for you.

For the first time, Ann Hiatt shares both the daily habits and long-game strategies she learned working side-by-side for decades with the giants of technology at Amazon and Google.

Through clear guidance and incredible stories, Bet on Yourself will teach you:

  • How to define your abilities and speak up so that you can be recognized for the work that you do and the unique capabilities you bring to the table.
  • How to create opportunities for yourself when options appear limited and build a purposeful career regardless of your seniority or industry.
  • What it takes to build the confidence you need to build your dream career.
  • How to exchange your frustration over not getting the recognition you deserve for an empowered, actionable plan for taking control of your professional identity and get promoted.

These tried-and-true methods to take ordinary opportunities and create something extraordinary, and the leadership principles that guide the work of these celebrity CEOs, are directly applicable to your goals.

With a few consistent, daily habits you can build a future that exceeds your wildest expectations. No matter the opportunities available to you in your particular community or career stage, there is a path for you.

Review/Endorsements/Praise/Award

Take charge of your career and create a life full of learning, adventure, joy, and success utilizing these never-before-shared leadership principles Ann Hiatt learned working alongside the world’s top tech CEOs—Google’s Eric Schmidt, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Yahoo!’s Marissa Mayer.

‘Ann Hiatt knows what it takes to get things done–it’s why the top executives at Amazon and Google relied on her. Her book is filled with sage advice for taking smart risks, championing your ideas, and increasing your impact.’–Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of THINK AGAIN and host of the TED podcast WorkLife

‘Bet on yourself’ is the principal piece of advice I give to all of my students. Now Ann Hiatt has written the definitive book on how to actually do that! It should be on literally everyone’s shelf.’–Scott Duke Kominers, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School

‘Moonshot thinkers thrive when partnered with visionary implementers. Ann Hiatt was that force behind the CEOs of both Amazon and Google. Bet on Yourself is a rare glimpse into the foundation of these revolutionary companies and a step-by-step manual of empowerment which will inspire each reader to bring their own dreams to life and design new radical opportunities.’–Pablo Rodriguez Moonshots Ambassador, Google’s Moonshot Factory

‘What if you knew someone who collaborated firsthand with the world’s most powerful executives, observing what makes them successful and then applying that wisdom to kickstart her own successful career? Ann Hiatt is that person, and in Bet on Yourself, she shares previously untold recipes for success in the internet age.’–Steven Levy, author of Hackers, In the Plex, and Facebook: The Inside Story –This text refers to the paperback edition.

Video and Podcast