The Third Door Summary

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The Third Door: The Wild Quest to Uncover How the World’s Most Successful People Launched Their Careers

This article aims to bring-out the key ideas in the book “The Third Door” by Alex Banayan. By using advice given to him by the likes of Steven Spielberg and Bill Gates the book describes how taking “the third door” can help you achieve anything you have your mind set on.

The Mysterious Third Door

Alex Banayan provides a great analogy in his book where he compares success to a nightclub. Imagine you are waiting at the doors trying to get in. Usually, you’ll be in a line which curves around the block with hundreds waiting for a chance to get in the main door. The lucky ones – those who are celebrities and billionaires – roll straight up and are taken straight through the second VIP door. But, there is a lesser-known door around the side which can get you in, it involves jumping out of the line, running down a side-alley and then sneaking in through a cracked window.

This “third door” is the unorthodox way of achieving success, it’s not about waiting in line and hoping for success to come to you, instead it is about getting out there and making things happen.

6 Insights to help unlock the “Third Door”

1. Ask for advice & opportunities

Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask other people for advice. They may be more than willing to help – plus, there’s usually not much to lose but lots to gain. An interesting example from the book is when Alex gets the opportunity to shadow the Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and asks why nobody has ever shadowed him before. The response was that “Nobody has ever asked”. This shows that sometimes you need to make your opportunities, just because nobody has done whatever you want to do does not mean others have been turned down – it may be because nobody has dared to ask yet.

2. Build meaningful networks

Networking can sometimes feel like mindlessly handing over business cards for the sake of it and hoping something good comes from it. The author instead suggests that you should play “The Spielberg Game”, let me explain…

Steven Spielberg’s early years show a great example of making friends and building your network. As an aspiring film producer, he decided to board a tour bus at Universal Studios and take a ride around the lot. Before the tour ended, he ran off and spent the day by himself walking the Universal lot instead. He eventually bumped into Chuck Silvers – who worked for Universal TV – and managed to get a three-day pass into Universal. From then on he used this opportunity to show off his passion and talents – which ultimately secured him a future in filmmaking.

Although I wouldn’t recommend doing something similar, I would suggest that you try to take a different approach to networking. Try to find creative ways to get inside the industry you want to work in and then show off who you are.  

Bill Gates also advised in his interviews with Alex that you should ask for others advice, spend informal time with them and try to get people to take you under their wing. Don’t worry about using “Networking tricks” to flatter people, aim to build genuine, trusting relationships.

3. Borrow credibility

When trying to get to respected people to know you, you’ll likely be ignored. It’s nothing personal though, it’s just that there are so many others doing the same thing you just become a name to them.

To have the opportunity to be heard, you need to have some credibility behind you. This isn’t possible to just pull out of thin air, but you can “borrow” it from credible sources to help build your own.

Tim Ferris – the author of “The 4-hour workweek” – suggests that volunteering for a well-known organisation is an easy way to gain some credible association. Being known as “an event producer for start-up entrepreneurs” is a much more effective introduction than “recent graduate”. If you don’t want to volunteer, then getting your name in a well-known publication can also be helpful. This could be as simple as completing some Q&A’s on behalf of the publication and posting it online.

4. Take careful steps

It can be easy to rationalise quitting projects or work by thinking of successful people like Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates sticking their finger up to the establishment and never looking back – if they can do it why can’t I? But it’s not that simple, while they did both drop-out and “quit” effectively – they did so carefully.

Bill Gates took one semester off during his junior year to work full-time on Microsoft and when momentum didn’t pick up, Gates went back to studying.

Taking risks is a requirement for doing things others haven’t done. The decision isn’t really whether to take risks (you will have to) it’s more about when to take them.

Try to avoid making impulsive decisions without fully knowing the risks and rewards offered by your choices. Always try to keep as many doors open as possible so if you decide to “dip your toes in” and get burnt, you can recover and give it another go later.

5. Ask yourself why sometimes

We can focus too much on what we are doing and lose sight of why we are doing it. Ask yourself if what you are doing is valuable and contributing to what you want. This should help keep you on the right path moving towards the destination you want, instead of a destination you reach by chance.

6. It starts with your choices

All the above advice is important, but nothing will matter if you don’t make the right choices. Dreaming of what you want is a start but getting up and starting is the most important step. Self-made progress doesn’t come in one day, but instead over-time as a result of lots of small decisions and choices along the way.

You can either give up and continue waiting in line for whatever you want to happen to come along, or you can jump out of the line and take that third door.

Hopefully these insights are useful – try not to use them as a prescriptive list, however. Instead use them as considerations when approaching what you want to achieve.

Make sure to check out the book below to pick up more insights!

The Third Door: The Wild Quest to Uncover How the World’s Most Successful People Launched Their Careers