Derek Sivers

Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World - by Donald Sull

Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World - by Donald Sull

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Not a book that gives you simple rules. Instead it's on the meta-topic of simple rules. Gives examples from medicine, crime, gambling, investing, etc.

my notes


Simple rules are shortcut strategies that save time and effort by focusing our attention and simplifying the way we process information. The rules aren’t universal - they’re tailored to the particular situation and the person using them.

Simple rules allow people to act without having to stop and rethink every decision.

Simple rules apply to a well-defined activity or decision.

Rules that cover multiple activities or choices end up as vague platitudes.

Simple rules are tailored to the person using them.

Use simple rules not as a mechanistic tool but as guidelines within which they exercise judgment.

Three types of rules that improve decision making by structuring choices and centering on what to do (and what not to do).

Boundary rules can help you decide between two mutually exclusive alternatives to pick which opportunities to pursue and which to reject.

Prioritizing rules rank options to decide which alternatives will receive limited resources.

Useful when you lack sufficient resources or time to do everything, or when people hold conflicting views about what to do. Stopping rules dictate when to reverse a decision. They provide guidance: On when to sell a stock, end the search for a mate.

Burglars used a single rule to pick their target: “Avoid houses with a vehicle parked outside.”

An important benefit of boundary rules - they narrow down the alternatives.

PRIORITIZING RULES: Medical triage: Prioritize for care those wounded soldiers who can be saved but only if treated immediately.

Whenever alternatives present themselves sequentially (as opposed to appearing all at once), the question of when to stop searching and make a choice arises.

Tendency among human decision makers, known as the status quo bias, leads individuals to hold ’em when they should fold ’em

Stopping rules can help investors by providing some guidance on when to sell their assets.

Rule: “If an investment loses 10 percent of its initial value, sell it.”

Did not intend his rule to be applied mindlessly.

Detest a mechanistic formula for anything.

Concrete guidance on how to be creative gave the students an effective starting point and channeled their creativity. In contrast, the group that was encouraged to be creative without any simple rules performed no better than the group that was simply given the assignment.

Artists work by imposing constraints on themselves.

Elmore Leonard: simple rules of writing, which include “Avoid prologues,” “Never use a verb other than ‘said’ to carry dialogue,” and “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”