Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Book: The Start-up of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Cosanocha

The Start-Up of You is a pretty good career advice book that applies the mindset of the Silicon Valley entrepreneur to the modern worker.

The gist of the book is that the modern worker can stack the odds of career success in their favour by preparing for a future that can't be predicted. Examples of ways to go about succeeding in this world of constant disruption include developing transferable skills (by investing heavily in yourself) and competitive advantages, networking, and intelligent risk taking (e.g. working on multiple side projects that may or may not flourish, and pursuing break-out opportunities when they arise). Importantly, their is no stasis in the world of the dynamic go-getter, instead his world is one of 'permanent beta', where the only plan that doesn't change is the plan to constantly adapt. It all makes sense and is quite enthusing, but at the same time it is also rather tiring, if that makes any sense.

One concept I particularly liked is the idea of an ABZ approach to a career, where 'A' is the original plan that you are pursuing, 'B' is a pivot off the journey to 'A' to a new plan (i.e. it is born from the original journey), and 'Z' is a non-desirable fail-safe or fall-back. Think of Z as the lifeboat option that covers the worst case scenario. it could include things like having your basic requirements such as a roof over your head and a reasonable pension covered, being ready to accept a minimum wage job to make ends meet, etc). The problem for many folks I guess, is that getting the the 'Plan Z' lifeboat ocean-ready can end up being a life's work in itself. However, if you can have a fall-back in place so you aren't destitute when the AB journey fails, and there are always failures along the way, you are in a much better place to take intelligent risks along the way.

An executive summary of the book can be found here.



- Easy success had transformed the American auto companies into risk-averse, non-meritocratic, bloated bureaucracies. When the competition heated up and customer needs changed, the company executives and the autoworker employee unions did not adapt. Instead, they did more of the same. ...Detroit was once the symbol of progress, of what is good and possible. The auto industry was once the symbol of entrepreneurship. Now Detroit is the symbol of despair.
Detroits are Everywhere.

- ...it doesn't matter how hard you've worked or how passionate you are about an aspiration: If someone won't pay for your services in the career marketplace, it's going to be a very hard slog. You aren't entitled to anything.

- ...contrary to what many bestselling authors and motivational gurus would have you believe, there is not a 'true self' deep within that you can uncover via introspection and that will point you in the right direction. Yes, your aspirations are themselves shaped by your actions and experiences. But your aspirations are themselves shaped by your actions and experiences. You remake yourself as you grow and the world changes. Your identity doesn't get found. It emerges.

- ... we are all risk takers. But we are not all equally intelligent about how we do it. Many people think you get career stability by minimising risk. But ironically, in a changing world, that's one of the riskiest things you can do.  ... Rather than avoiding risk, if you take intelligent risks, it will give you a competitive edge.

- For the start-up of you, the only long-term answer to risk is resilience. Remember: If you don't find risk, risk will find you.

- ...relationships matter because the people you spend time with shape who you are and who you become. Behaviour and beliefs are contagious; you easily 'catch' the emotional state of you friends, imitate their actions, and absorb their values as your own. If your friends are the type of people who get stuff done, chances are you'll be that way, too. The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.

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