I recently summarized my own book, The 4 Minute Millionaire, on a website I started seven years ago to summarize other people’s books (and, often, pre-existing summaries of them). The irony is palpable, and the idea is as ridiculous as it has always been.
Why would anyone be interested in a summary of a summary of summaries, most of which were originally written based on…summaries!? The meta-ness makes my head hurt, and the level of abstraction is, quite frankly, insane — and yet, over 2,000 people have bought the book, and nearly 100 of them liked it enough to leave a review.
In the beginning, some people told me the whole endeavor was asinine, but I think those people were always missing a crucial part: It was never about just condensing other people’s work. It was about transforming it. I’m a writer. I started Four Minute Books to practice writing. As such, I always added a solid dose of “Nik’s creativity dust” into each summary, and I think that’s probably one of the things that ultimately made the project work out better than it would have otherwise.
The even greater irony, however, is that summarizing books taught me how to write books. I could not have started in a place further away from that final destination, and this is the part where the whole thing turns from ridiculous to astonishing. Bringing my own book back into the fold, sharing it in the same format from which it all started, really made me feel like I had come full circle. It made me feel proud.
Most importantly, however, it taught me a lesson: No matter how small you start, and no matter how crazy and laughable your ideas may seem, there is little in this world you can’t do if you set your mind to it. Stay flexible but persistent, chase the dreams you believe in, and trust that taking many small roads can still lead you to a big destination.
It always takes years to come full circle, but some round trips only life can plan — and even if the irony is palpable, the journey will still be amazing.