Read the Frickin' Manual

At 24 years of age, Mark Cuban was far from what many would call a success.

“I was living in a 3-bedroom apartment in Dallas. I didn’t have my own bedroom. I slept on the couch or floor depending on what time I got home.

I had no closet. Instead, I had a pile that everyone knew was mine. My car had the usual hole in the floorboard, a ’77 FIAT X19 that burned a quart of oil that I couldn’t afford every week.”

Until that point, Cuban was working exclusively in the service industry. His prospects were poor, and he was mostly coasting through life, until he landed a job with Your Business Software – the first software retail store in Dallas.

He was excited to start a job that may lead to a good career, but he was also concerned.

“I had never worked with an IBM PC in my life. Not a single time, and I’m going to be selling software for it.”

So Cuban decided to do his homework. Each night, he would bring home a different software manual and read it – no matter how late it was.

After weeks of reading the manuals, Cuban became the best salesperson on the team. He even knew more than his boss!

“Turns out not a lot of people ever bothered to RTFM (read the fricking manual), so people started thinking I knew my stuff.”

This small detail – reading the manual – turned out to be the defining characteristic that separated Cuban from everyone else; not just in the sales team, but also in the marketplace.

“I knew I would end up owning my own business someday, so I figured my challenge was to learn as much as anyone about all businesses.

I believed that every job I took was me getting paid to learn about a new industry. I spent as much time as I could learning and reading everything about business I could get my hands on.” 

It was not talent, luck, or a genius idea that took Cuban to the top – it was this small detail of reading the frickin' manual.

“Most people think it’s all about the idea. It’s not. Everyone has ideas. The hard part is doing the homework to know if the idea could work in the industry, then doing the preparation to be able to execute on the idea.” [1]


If Cuban's success really is this simple, why aren't more people listening to him?

Because reading the manual is boring.

No matter how intelligent you are, nobody wants to pick up the boring textbook about Microsoft Excel and go through it step-by-step. Most of us would even choose an exhausting workout over that kind of torture. 

But those who do find the willpower to understand the Excel manual have an advantage for life. They took the time to learn how to solve problems, while the rest of us try to work around them.

Giving them exponentially more time and skills to accomplish their goals. 

This is a lesson that finally hit home for me.


If you have worked in the technology industry over the last 20 years, you know the value of a talented engineer. Partly because they're the ones who actually build the products, but also because there just aren't enough of them.

This is completely ridiculous considering the value and almost assured high salary that come with the position. Plus, it is one of the few lucrative careers that anyone reading this has the tools and knowledge to begin working towards this very second.

The web is overflowing with online coding schools, forums, guides, etc. that are mostly all free and actually good enough to give you a "foot in the door."

There's only one catch – you have to read the manual.

Until 4 months ago, I'd tried to learn how to code several times. I would read a little bit, go through a lot of trial and error, and then give up after my enthusiasm dropped and my errors grew.

But this time, I was determined to learn, and willing to embrace the boredom. 

So I started on lesson 1 on this site and took every boring step necessary to truly understand what I was learning.

Yes, it was hard...

It was tedious...

It was frustrating...

But it was worth it. 

Learning basic code has made my life 10x easier. I've learned to automate literally hundreds of tasks, saving myself over 20 hours/week so far. 

This article, for example, was completed in 2-3 hours less time than it used to because I built a customized app using Alfred -- an app that helps you automate your workday. 


Unfortunately, with my time split between 2 companies now, I don't have the hard scientific basis to answer this question that I usually do. 

However, what helped me win my fight with boredom was clear – I had no other choice.

Scarcity is one of the most powerful strategies people rarely use. When you have a deadline, make a promise, or leave yourself no retreat, your brain stops focusing on distractions and starts focusing on solving problems.

And after I made a promise to some of my heroes of science to develop a platform specifically for them by the end of Q3, I had to get it done. I had to learn how to code, and code well.

This mentality has stuck with me every day since and only grows stronger as deadline day is less than 10 days from now. And my "problem-solver" is firing on every cylinder. 

To illustrate what I mean, as of Monday I still had about 2 full days worth of mindless data entry before the product was fully operational...and I didn't have 2 full days to spend. 

I stressed over this problem all of last week as I continued to put it off; hoping that I would find a solution...

Then at 3:30am on Monday, I did. That's right, it was in a dream.

I never thought that was possible before, but I shot out of bed, wrote a screen-scraping program to collect the data for me, and 2 days of boring, tedious work was accomplished in 30 minutes (plus I may never have to enter data again).

If you can create a situation where you "have to get it done" over the course of even just a couple of hours, those hours will pay you dividends for a lifetime. 


Sometimes success is boring. It's boring choosing a trip to the gym over a night on the town, it's boring choosing a salad over pizza. And it's boring reading the instruction manual instead of picking things up as you go along.

However, if you can embrace that boredom by reading the freaking manual you will set yourself apart from everyone else. It will pay dividends for years to come as you master the fundamentals and exponentially build your skills over your lifetime.