The scene is 1893 Chicago and the city has been awarded the honor of hosting the next great World's Fair. The previous host, Paris, really set the bar by unveiling the wonder that is the Eiffel Tower. An architect and his team are expected to not only meet, but exceed the wonder brought to the stage by Paris. Oh, and they have little time and money to do so.
The book predominantly features two main characters: the architect Daniel Burnham who was famous for his work around the world at the time and also a little known con-man from New England named Herman Mudgett better know as H.H. Holmes. Each chapter jumps back and forth chronologically for the most part to each character as the 1893 Chicago World's Fair is getting ready to open and operate.
The book chronicles the killing spree of H.H. Holmes as he cons people out of money, property and their lives. The book gets in depth with his killing spree and cashing in of the benefactors he took life insurance out on. He was described as very handsome and charming and he reminded me of Ted Bundy in the way he approached his crimes. In his creepy hotel he built in a kiln, secret passage ways, pots of acid and much more. Due to its proximity to the fair many people stayed in his dark palace.
Burham was a man under immense pressure to essentially come up with a beautiful city that is built on sand with a limited timeframe. He manages to pull it off, but not without several hitches and acts of God getting in his way.
What Did I Learn?
1. For those of you that know your history, you'll know that the Ferris Wheel was introduced at this fair and was a smashing success. Can you imagine launching the Ferris Wheel to the masses when you aren't even sure that the steel will hold up to all of the weight. I really found this to be a fascinating story within a larger story.
2. The fairs were really a spectacle in the way that Epcot's Around the World section of Disney World is set up. It is meant to give you a small taste of what other cultures are like. The organizers even brought in full villages of people.
3. I had always heard that Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show was part of the fair itself, but that turned out to be untrue. In a genius use of guerilla marketing, Buffalo Bill rented out land next to the fair and sold out show after show taking advantage of the crowd.
4. I had always assumed that H.H. Holmes was an architect himself based on the fact that he designed his hotel. The truth is he was a medical doctor and pharmacist. When designed the hotel he hired many crews to one particular job and rarely paid them all that they were owed. No one outside of Holmes had any real idea the secrets his building held.
I've always been a fan of Neil Patel dating back to his time co-hosting Marketing School. At some point throughout their short daily episodes, which I listened to for years, Neil had mentioned this book. In the book, Neil, along with his co-authors Patrick Vlaskovits and Jonas Koffler, make you question your traditional 9-5 grind. The main purpose of the book in my opinion is to light a fire under the reader's feet to start tackling the small objectives that ultimately lead up to the goal.
Remembering the book I came across it in a discount section at a Books-A-Million on a vacation in Cocoa, FL. With some time to relax and visit some old haunts from my time interning in the area I was able to complete the entire book before flying home to Pennsylvania. The point of the book did not get lost on me as I've been slowly building my skills to take on freelance in digital marketing and data analysis. I would say this book was one of the key driving forces to me getting my Tableau Certified Specialist level.
What I enjoyed about the book was it wasn't this Ra-Ra motivational speaker BS you have heard a million different places. The authors were very creative in the way they presented their points and examples in each of the chapters. Two of the lessons from the book really stuck with me: "Habits Create Identity" and "A 5-9 hustle". You see I'm a huge creature of habit. I've never been one to want to stay after my traditional hours in the office, not because I dislike the job, but because it interferes with other goals of mine. If I am not disciplined getting my work done at my 9-5, then it doesn't leave time for that 5-9 hustle. For me, that is staying in shape and learning new skills mainly through Coursera, Udemy and YouTube videos. Staying in shape is simply getting to where you want to be and then maintaining that standard. The struggle to get there is harder than staying there.
What Did I Learn?
1. Reading through the book it really stuck with me how people get stuck in their 9-5 rut, complaining about their life and get complacent in their life. They don't try to change things, but will be the first to complain about it. What are you doing to fund a profitable passion of yours?
2. It's important to set goals or even checklists. Personally, I'm a bigger fan of time-blocking otherwise others feel free to book your time for you. If I can time block my check list, then I go home feeling satisfied with everything that I have done for the day. What is even better, is if I can make a list of what I want to block off for later in the week. The bigger the task, the longer in advance you need to block off the time. You feel great when you are working towards your goals and you should be rewarded for those efforts. If you're in a company that won't reward you for the steps you make forward, then they probably aren't a good company to work for.
3. I liked the concept of manufacturing your own luck through hustle. This has been key for me over the years putting in extra work that ends up paying off 3, 6 or 12 months in advance. A current example I have is my goal of creating enough hustle income to fully fund my Roth IRA every year. It is only $6,000 and certainly worth shooting for, but 60 year old me will be thankful for 30-something me if I can do it year-in and year-out.
4. Something I need to improve on after reading this book is keeping my head up and eyes open for opportunities. I would say I've gotten better at that in the last 18 months or so, but I could always do better. In the last few months, I've had countless people reach out to me with an interest in me doing some work problem solving for them.
About the Author
Andy Rupert is a Penn State (B.A. John Curley Center for Sports Journalism 08') and a Southern Miss (M.S. Sport Management 09'). He has spent his whole career working in sports and tourism digital marketing and metrics.