The Diary of a CEO Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: The Diary of a CEO condenses 33 of the best lessons podcaster Steven Bartlett has learned from hundreds of interviews with great business leaders, creatives, and scientists into concise laws you can apply immediately to build, grow, and continuously improve both your business and your life.

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The Diary of a CEO Summary

What does it take to build and lead a million-dollar business? It’s a question thousands of books about entrepreneurship have tried to answer. The truth is that different solutions will work for different people. Every founder just needs one model that works for her.

In his world-famous podcast The Diary of a CEO, started in 2017, Steven Bartlett hopes to help you find that model, be it a set of principles to run your business on or a role model you can emulate. Born in Botswana, Bartlett’s family emigrated to the UK when he was 2 years old. While he didn’t excel in school, he had a knack for marketing, and the social media agency he co-founded in his 20s was eventually listed on the German stock market.

Today, Bartlett runs two marketing agencies and an investment fund. He also still interviews people for his podcast every week. After having hundreds of authors, scientists, and of course million-dollar CEOs on his show, Bartlett condensed the very best ideas into a book. The Diary of a CEO: The 33 Laws of Business and Life will help you find your modus operandi for building a great business.

Here are 3 lessons from the book that will support you on your journey as an entrepreneur:

  1. Greatness is built on 4 pillars: the self, the story, the philosophy, and the team.
  2. To flesh out your pillars of greatness, fill them with timeless principles.
  3. No matter how many useful rules you discover, there’ll always be more to learn.

Let’s discover what it takes to build an awesome business!

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Lesson 1: The 4 pillars of greatness are the self, the story, the philosophy, and the team.

The first question you’ll likely have is “Okay, so what kind of laws are we talking about here?” And you might be surprised that the answer is not “different business strategies.”

“Strategy changes like the seasons,” Bartlett writes. “This is a book about the fundamental, enduring laws of building great things and becoming great yourself.” It is, after all, the diary of a CEO, not their playbook.

Bartlett groups these fundamental laws into 4 categories:

  1. The Self, which is about “your self-awareness, self-control, self-care, self-conduct, self-esteem and self-story.”
  2. The Story, which will help you use stories as your #1 tool to turn the humans standing into your way into your allies.
  3. The Philosophy, that is “the set of beliefs, values or principles that guide your behavior.”
  4. The Team, which is the group of “the right people, bound together by the right culture,” that will help you accomplish your dreams.

Why are these 4 pillars so important?

First, yourself is the only thing you truly control. “Those who cannot establish dominion over themselves will have no dominion over others,” Bartlett quotes Leonardo da Vinci. Second, stories are the most compelling way of getting others on your side.

Third, philosophy drives behavior, and so only with the right philosophy will you choose the right actions. Finally, no one has ever built a great company on their own. You’ll need to get together a group of people and align them. Only then can the sum of your combined actions be larger than their parts.

How do you build out these pillars? That’s what we’ll discuss next!

Lesson 2: Build your pillars of greatness with timeless principles, such as these 4 examples.

Sometimes, people criticize Bartlett’s show for having guests with directly opposing opinions. But as a listener, the point is not to follow every expert’s advice on everything. It is to find a few that speak to you in various areas, then really commit to trying their suggestions.

Bartlett’s book is no exception. Not every single one of his 33 rules will work for you. But as long as you keep filling your 4 pillars with new rules and principles you discover for yourself, you’re on the right track! Here’s one rule from each pillar to give you an idea of what you’re looking for:

  1. Fill your 5 career buckets in the right order.
  2. Never become wallpaper.
  3. Sweat the small stuff.
  4. Be an inconsistent leader.

The 5 buckets are your knowledge, skills, network, resources, and reputation. Each one tends to grow the next, so you should always invest in your own knowledge first, then your skills, then your network, and so on.

“Wallpaper” are the things we tune out because we see them so frequently. Our Youtube channel, for example, grows just fine, even though we don’t tell people to “like, subscribe, and leave a comment” in every video. Stand out in everything you do.

Sweating the small stuff is about focusing on the details that, in the long run, add up. Most people are overly focused on big hits and lucky breaks, but if you do the small things right for long enough, eventually, you’ll succeed.

Finally, in running a team, you must be an inconsistent leader. People have different needs, so if you treat everyone the same way, not everyone will be happy.

These are the kinds of rules you should look for when it comes to your self, your story, your philosophy, and your team. Continue to add them to your pillars of greatness, and one day, you’ll be on top of the world!

Lesson 3: Never stop learning, because the most useful principle is the one you haven’t discovered yet.

Bartlett’s final law is, “Learning never ends.” All it shows is a QR code and a link. When you go to it, you’ll see a signup box for Bartlett’s newsletter. After you join, there’s a short video, in which he explains: “Every month, from now until forever, I’m gonna send you one brand-new law.”

It’s brilliant marketing, of course, but it also makes his point: Learning never ends. You must continue to master new knowledge forever. Not every day, perhaps, but surely every sometimes. Therefore, if you can make learning itself a habit, you’ll never go hungry in your entrepreneurial journey.

When I first started Four Minute Books, “never stop learning” was my sign-off phrase in early emails. Now, years later, our mission has slightly changed, but the core idea is still the same: If we can help you learn something new from a good book every single day, we’ll call that a smashing success.

Whatever you do, wherever you get your new knowledge from, remember: Learning never ends, and that’s why habitual learning is the most important thing any future CEO can do.

The Diary of a CEO Review

The Diary of a CEO is a refreshing business book compiling well-known best practices with new examples and unique stories from interesting people in all kinds of fields. Bartlett’s writing is clear, confident, and easy to understand. Also, if you like Robert Greene’s books, you’ll love this one.

Who would I recommend our The Diary of a CEO summary to?

The 21-year-old would-be entrepreneur who hasn’t actually started anything, the 35-year-0ld CEO of a VC-backed startup, and anyone who wants to start a business that’s about more than just business.

Last Updated on February 21, 2024

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Niklas Göke

Niklas Göke is an author and writer whose work has attracted tens of millions of readers to date. He is also the founder and CEO of Four Minute Books, a collection of over 1,000 free book summaries teaching readers 3 valuable lessons in just 4 minutes each. Born and raised in Germany, Nik also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration & Engineering from KIT Karlsruhe and a Master’s Degree in Management & Technology from the Technical University of Munich. He lives in Munich and enjoys a great slice of salami pizza almost as much as reading — or writing — the next book — or book summary, of course!