52 in 52 Book Summaries

Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath

book cover for Made to Stick:  Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath forces of habit journal summary on made to stick by the heath brothers

Made to Stick:  Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath


The Essence

Made to Stick helps us understand why we are better at remembering some ideas over others. Not only that, the Heath brothers also provide us with the tools to make our own ideas stickier. Much of what we know suffers from the curse that only knowing it can cause; we are trapped in our own understanding. By taking caution against the curse of knowledge and applying the SUCCES to our ideas, we all can share ideas that will resonate across time.

Made to Stick Summary Journal Entry:

This is my book summary of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath. My notes are a reflection of the journal write up above. Written informally, the notes contain a mesh of quotes and my own thoughts on the book. The Journal write up also includes important messages and crucial passages from the book.

  • The curse of knowledge: Once we know something we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it.
  • “It’s hard to be a tapper”: Sharing knowledge isn’t as easy as it seems. The study done in the 1990’s showed that only 1/40 students could rely a song via tapping the rhythm out. This wonderful study presented in the book discuss how difficult it actually is to share a message due to our tendencies to share as though we are explaining it ourselves.
  • Your ideas are sticky if they are understood and remembered and have a lasting impact.
  • ANYONE with the right insight and the right message can make an idea stick.
  • DO NOT focus on the presentation more than the message.
  • What Sticks? S.U.C.C.E.S
  1.    Simple
  2.    Unexpected
  3.    Concrete
  4.    Credible
  5.    Emotional
  6.    Stories


  • Find the Core
  • It is about elegance and prioritization, not dumbing down the message.
  • Don’t bury the lead
  • Schemas enable profound simplicity
  • A Great way to avoid useless accuracy, and to dodge the Curse of Knowledge us to use analogies. Analogies derive their power from schemas, models that represent something more comprehensive in a diminutive manner.


  • Get Attention: Surprise
  • If you want your ideas to be stickier, you’ve got to break someone’s guessing machine and then fix it. We tend to go on autopilot. We observe the same type of stuff all the time and have these models for attributing things with one another. But if we can get an idea to slightly trick our common associations, then the audience’s attention is ours for the taking. Said another way, the best way to get peoples attention is the break their existing schemas directly.
  • How do we use the attention we just grabbed? Make it interesting. Use the Gap Theory of Curiosity: As we gain information we are more likely to focus on what we don’t know.


  • Help people understand and remember.
  • Don’t dumb things down, find a universal language.
  • Students are wisely trying to find a way to break up a big, abstract goal into smaller, more concrete subgoals.
  • If you can examine something with your senses
  • Novices crave concreteness.
  • Abstraction demands some concrete foundation .trying to teach an abstract principle without a concrete foundation like trying to start a house by building a roof in the air.
  • Velcro Theory of memory: The more hooks an ideas has, the better it will cling to memory


  • Help people Believe.
  • External Credibility: Authority and Anti-authority. It helps to have an external entity to point your message at that acts as a form of validity for the ideas. As in Robert Cialdini’s book Influence, Authority is a stronger weapon for persuading an audience.
  • Internal Credibility: things within your message itself that strengthen its credit.
  1.    Use convincing details
  2.    Make statistics accessible: make the numbers mean something
  3.    Find an example that passes the Sinatra test: If it X here then it can X anywhere!
  4.    Use testable credentials
  • Meaningful associations are rooted in human context; the more relatable to our own conditions as humans the better.


  • Make people care
  • Feelings inspire people to act.
  • Mother Teresa principle: If I look at the one, I will act. If we can make our ideas more intimately related to a single rather then a collective it appeals more to our emotions. So when stating a case that may be related to a large sec, you may be better off to talk more intimately about a single person harmed by the case.
  • Use the power of association.
  • Appeal to self-interest (the specific interest of the audience rather than a general inventive)
  • Appeal of identity
  • It’s the attitude that makes the differences
  • Empathy emerges from the particular rather than the pattern.


  • Get people to act.
  • Stories are models for life; flight simulations for reality.
  • Tell people how to act (hand them the simulations).
  • Give people energy to act (Inspire them).
  • Simulating past event is much more helpful than simulating future outcomes. This reminds me of the effects of a good war story on the moral of the troops. This helps manage emotions.
  • We need the story. While it is easy to skip right to the tips and tricks, the story lessens us up to the ideas within the main message.
  • Telling stories with visible goals and barriers shift the audience into problem-solving mode thereby keeping them engaged.
  • SUCCES will help people do numerous things pertaining to our ideas. It helps people
  1.    Pay attention
  2.    Understand and remember
  3.    Believe and agree
  4.    Care
  5.    Take Action
  • Core Idea Glasses: You do not need a natural creative genius to cook up a great idea. The world will always produce more great ideas than any single individual even the most creative one. Think of ideas as spotted rather than created. If you’re a great spotter, you’ll always trump a great creator.

Reading Recommendations

If you liked what you saw. Here are 3 titles that I recommend based on what discussed in Made to Stick.

1. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath

2. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

3. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

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