The Book of Mistakes Summary
11 min read ⌚
9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future
Smart people learn from their mistakes.
Smarter people learn from other people’s mistakes.
The Book of Mistakes analyzes 9 of them.
So that you never make them.
Who Should Read “The Book of Mistakes”? And Why?
The Book of Mistakes is yet another business fable.
Meaning: if you have so far enjoyed acquiring your business savvy from motivational parables (as opposed to textbook-styled non-fiction books), then this is most certainly the book to buy.
Let us translate that for you in an even more relatable manner: if Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Leadership and Self-Deception, Who Moved My Cheese?, The One Minute Manager, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, The Ant and the Elephant – to name just a few – are on the top of your favorite business books list, then The Book of Mistakes has all the qualities to join them as soon as you open it.
About Skip Prichard
David “Skip” Prichard is an American business executive, CEO and president of OCLC, the company which founded and maintains WorldCat, the largest online public access catalog in the world.
A graduate of University of Baltimore School of Law, Skip Prichard held a few executive positions with LexisNexis between 1995 and 2003, after which he moved on to work for ProQuest, where he eventually became CEO; before becoming the CEO of OCLC, he held the same position at Ingram Content Group Inc. as well.
Deemed a “standout example” by Harvard Business Review for his CEO engagement on the social media, Skip Prichard wrote The Book of Mistakes after interviewing “over a thousand unbelievably successful people ranging from politicians to news anchors to sports heroes.”
Hugely successfully, it is his only book so far.
“The Book of Mistakes PDF Summary”
As we stated above, The Book of Mistakes is a business fable.
But boy – is it a complicated one!
You see, unlike other business fables, this one interweaves three narrative arcs: one involving a monk on a mission in England of 1425, the second one involving a girl named Aria living in the American colonies in the 1770s, and the central one involving a depressed young man named David struggling in the present.
Before you think to yourself “Hey, I didn’t come here to find out the plot of a postmodern novel” – bear with us: The Book of Mistakes makes a lot of sense, and, even though there are three storylines, you can easily follow each of them.
England, 1425: The Prologue
The first one is the shortest one: it is actually the prologue of the story.
It follows a monk with a mission and an attitude even Elbert Hubbard would approve: “this mission he was on originated directly from the Prior, and it was as mysterious as the man himself. He didn’t question. His job was to follow orders, dutifully fulfilling his vows.”
And the exact nature of the mission?
First of all, carefully scribing ten copies of “an ancient book of wisdom from the desert lands of the far south, the lands of man-made stone mountains that reached to the sky.”
And then, distributing each of the manuscripts (one by one) to the Prior.
The book increased the odds of success for all those who applied its wisdom. Not having to fall into the common traps of mankind, it became possible to accomplish plans at great speed. This was true for individuals, and even more so for a group of committed practitioners. No one wanted the book to fall into the wrong hands.
After the successful completion of these two missions, the monk burns the original manuscript.
The ten copies are then distributed: one stays with the Keeper of the Book, and the other nine reach the Nine Teachers who oversee the dissemination of the Book’s knowledge.
“When will the entire world be ready for its wisdom?” – the monk wonders. “Will there be a day when the darker forces are so diminished that it will be freely available to all?”
The American Colonies, the 1770s: Aria
The next two storylines are interweaved: after a few chapters covering the events in David’s life (see below), follows one which covers the story of Aria, a young girl living in the American Colonies in the 1770s.
Advised by her uncle Raymond, she undertakes a journey of discovery and peril during which we learn more about the origins of the book scribed by the monk in the first storyline, as well as about its content and distribution.
It is in this narrative arc that we learn more about the roles of the Keeper and the Nine Teachers which are continuously chosen by him to spread the message of the book.
As Aria struggles to keep the mysterious Book safe from falling into the wrong hands, she also discovers the Three Laws of Success.
We’ll get to them in a bit.
USA, Present Day: David
A young man in his twenties, David is not exactly a happy person.
He feels overwhelmed with doubts and worries and has no idea which direction in life he should be taking.
One day, he gets “an unexpected, terse message” from his boss: “I need to see you in my office at 11:00.”
Fearing that he would be fired and crippled by anxiety, before heading to his boss’s office, he spends some time scanning the local news to clear his mind.
There, he reads a story of a prominent businessman lauded for his charitable work.
Lost in thought, he almost trips over a young, attractive woman struggling to grab some yellow papers blown out of her hands by the wind.
After the meeting with his boss – during which he receives a verbal warning – David heads home, thinking about how important it would be
At home, he discovers a piece of paper in his pocket, reading: “NORTH CAFÉ 10:00 a.m. Friday, September 14.”
And on the other side of it:
Your success is only possible if you avoid the nine mistakes. Most people never realize these until it’s too late. Don’t let that happen. Meet me in the last booth by the windows. They’ll know you’re coming.
The letter is signed by the businessman mentioned in the newspapers, one of the most successful of his generation, a genuine “rags-to-riches” story.
So, even though he knows that this must have belonged to the girl he almost tripped over, David decides to go on the meeting, believing that any connection made with such a successful businessman may bring him future glory.
And it does – but not in the way he expects.
Read our “Key Lessons” to find out more!
Key Lessons from “The Book of Mistakes”
1. The 9 Mistakes You Should Never Make
2. The 3 Laws You Should Never Break
3. The 9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future
The 9 Mistakes You Should Never Make
David arrives at the North Café and there he meets the businessman from the newspaper.
Dubbed the Old Man, he is not at all what David expects: casually dressed in faded jeans, a nondescript shirt and worn loafers, the Old Man has an unshaven face and a small leather book.
And he reveals to David that he couldn’t have discovered the invitation by mistake – because he is “in a perfect state of mind” to learn the lessons from the book.
OK, says David, I’m ready to listen. Give me the lessons.
“Do you think I can just hand them over to you?” says the Old Man. “I suppose I could… But the power wouldn’t be there. I’m not sure it would even work.”
“You have no idea the journey you are about to take,” he goes on. “Now that it has started, almost nothing can stop it. In fact, the teachers will appear at just the right time and in the most unlikely and unusual places. I wish I could be there myself. You’ll have a rendezvous soon!”
And true to the Old Man’s words, in the following weeks, Nine Teachers appear to David, each of them teaching him one of the 9 mistakes that can doom a person on his road to success.
Mistake #1: Working on Someone Else’s Dream
The first teacher is the Playwright.
She was an actress once, but she decided to become a playwright when she learned the first mistake everyone makes: that there’s no point in working on someone else’s dream.
“When you act,” she says, “you are fitting into the story. When you write, you are creating your own story.”
The message from the Book:
Don’t act out a part cast by someone else. You are the casting agent of your life’s purpose. A life choreographed by someone else is not our finest performance. Your purpose is unique.
Design your life to fulfill your purpose.
Mistake #2: Allowing Someone Else to Define Your Value
The second teacher is the Banker, who teaches David that a penny is worth more than a penny, aka that it costs more to make a penny than a penny is worth.
The underlying lesson: never judge a book by its cover.
Don’t accept the limitations others put on you.
Just allow yourself to be yourself – this will unleash fantastic power.
Mistake #3: Accepting Excuses
The third teacher is the Trainer at David’s gym.
Even though rather sickly throughout his life (and sad because of his inability to become a sportsman), he was transformed when he met a girl who overcame cancer to win a triathlon.
The lesson: excuses prevent our progress. Avoid people who encourage them.
Mistake #4: Surrounding Yourself with the Wrong People
The fourth teacher is the Bartender.
He teaches David that “the people around us affect everything. Our friends determine our fate.”
In other words, that “who you are around determines where you go.”
So, he concludes, “replace naysayers, doubters and energy drainers with encouragers, winners and motivators.”
That is the only road to success.
Mistake #5: Staying in Your Comfort Zone
The fifth teacher is the Bookseller.
She tells David that one of the worst things about life is being imprisoned in your comfort zone.
“Winners seek out the uncomfortable,” she says. “Leaders consistently push beyond what’s comfortable to stretch to new levels of achievement.”
In fact, she adds rather ominously, “mediocrity is the end result of too much comfort.”
Mistake #6: Allowing Temporary Setbacks to Become Permanent Failures
The sixth teacher is the Entrepreneur.
He teaches David that his thoughts don’t control his destiny and that he shouldn’t allow his current circumstances to define his destiny.
He reiterates the notion that “excuses are the weeds that try to choke progress” and adds that “successful people see temporary failures as stepping-stones to success.”
Mistake #7: Trying to Blend in Instead of Standing Out
The seventh teacher is the Conductor who teaches David how his best students stand out.
“Standing out,” he says, “is as simple as consistently outperforming expectations.”
The tragedy is that “most of us spend our lives learning to blend in when success is about standing out.”
Standing out is the same as being true to yourself and authentic.
It is the same as being in touch with your unique giftedness.
Mistake #8: Thinking That There Is a Fixed and Limited Amount of Success Available
The eighth teacher is the Artist.
After David tells her that he doesn’t have a painting bone in his body, she reveals to him that “the world has unlimited opportunity.”
In other words – the problem is not with his painting capabilities, but with his mind, which constricts his potential.
There is no limit to it.
“The only limitations you need to worry about are the ones in your mind,” she concludes.
Mistake #9: Believing You Have All the Time in the World
The final teacher is the Doctor and a few of his patients.
They teach David the one last final mistake all of us make: believing that we have all the time in the world.
Knowing your life is limited is the only thing that will keep you focused on the most important part of your purpose.
Successful people – learns David – have a sense of urgency.
The 3 Laws You Should Never Break
While David is talking to the Doctor, a visitor knocks at his door.
“Oh, you already have a visitor,” she says. “Should I come back later?”
David looks at her face and realizes that the girl is none other than the one he almost tripped over before the beginning of his journey.
Her name: Aria, a name that has lingered in her family for a few hundred years.
And that links the storyline of David in the present to the one of Aria’s identically named ancestor Aria in the 1770s, when she reveals the three laws of success.
You should remember each of them, so let’s quote them in full.
Each of the words below is taken from the author, Skip Prichard.
If you’ve followed the storylines closely, you’ll already guess why.
Because the ancient Book is actually The Book of Mistakes.
The Law of Desire
“The Law of Desire is the first law. Desire is a spring overflowing to fill your life with goodness. All opportunity, all achievement, all power is activated first with a burning desire.
Desire the noble; think high thoughts; feast on the abundance of possibility. Guard against wasting your desire on the insignificant and small.
Only when your desire is great enough does it activate the winds of achievement to propel you to the impossible. Do not proceed without picturing your desires achieved fully. Your desire sets the course of your destiny.
Desire prevents others from limiting or labeling you unfairly. Desire pushes your thoughts to a new level, one higher than you think is possible. Let your desire burn within to fuel your success.”
The Law of Gratitude
“The Law of Gratitude is the second law. Gratitude is the fertilizer for the bounty of success, the enabler of the harvest. A grateful spirit magnetizes people, ideas, and opportunity.
With a grateful heart, one is able to receive blessings that pass over those who are bitter. Uplifted hands of gratitude have no expectation and yet are filled joyfully with abundance.
Inside a thankful person is love and an overflow of joy. One may unlock the mystery inside with a continually thankful attitude. Those who drink richly from the cup of thankfulness find themselves refreshed and their cup refilled. Count your daily blessings until your years are rich.
On its wings, gratitude lifts those in despair onto winds of plenty to fly above life’s pains into the everlasting place of abundance. Speak gratitude to others and you fuel the mysterious power of the spirit.”
The Law of Belief
“The Law of Belief is the third and final law. The Almighty created you with purpose. Believe in yourself. What seems impossible and implausible is only the enemy of your potential.
Develop an unshakeable, unwavering, unbendable faith in your ability. Your destiny will expand as your belief expands. There are really no limits to what is possible for you.
Allow your beliefs to soar like an eagle. You cannot rise higher than your own beliefs. Most importantly, when you are able, help instill belief in others. This is the most important task of all—for once belief multiplies, nothing shall be impossible.”
The 9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future
Unsurprisingly, the 9 secrets of success are the opposite of the 9 mistakes of failure.
In order, they are the following ones:
1. Live your own dream.
2. Recognize your inherent value.
3. Reject excuses.
4. Surround yourself with the right people.
5. Explore outside your comfort zone.
6. Move forward through challenges with determination and purpose.
7. Stand out.
8. Act boldly with the knowledge that your potential for success is unlimited.
9. Pursue your goals with urgency
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“The Book of Mistakes Quotes”Our thoughts can empower or imprison. They empower when we try something new, and they imprison when we let them convince us to stay comfortable. Click To Tweet Success is the result of consistently and purposely doing the uncomfortable. Click To Tweet When we learn to overcome the excuses that are preventing our progress, we begin an almost magical process of growth. Click To Tweet Toxic people are often more dangerous and create more damage than we realize. Click To Tweet A setback is compounded when you allow an unwelcome label to stick. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
The Book of Mistakes is a delightful read.
Due to the simple literary style and the parallel mystery-laden storylines, you’ll barely notice that you’ve learned some of the most important lessons on success and you will have already finished the book.
So, even if you think that some of the lessons are trite, at least you’ll enjoy the stories.
And if some of these lessons work for you – even better!
You have nothing to lose.
Just a regular guy with a knack for writing, and digital marketing.
Emir is the Head of International and SEO at 12Min. In his spare time, he loves to meditate and play soccer.