Note: This is the second post in a series reviewing The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha
I'm a HUGE FAN of the career management concepts shared in this book. Its teachings and lessons will influence and impact my professional and career management choices forever.
I read / studied The Start-Up of You from cover-to-cover. If I could do it again, I would prioritize reading these five (5) chapters and their related concepts first (in the following suggested order):
* Chapter 6: Take Intelligent Risks -- The Volatility Paradox: Small Fires Prevent the Big Burn
* Chapter 7: Who You Know is What You Know -- Synthesize Information Into Actionable Intelligence
* Chapter 1: All Humans Are Entrepreneurs -- The Start-Up of You Mindset: Permanent Beta
* Chapter 5: Pursue Breakout Opportunities -- Court Serendipity and Good Randomness
* Chapter 3: Plan To Adapt -- Maintain an Identity Separate from Specific Employers
Reid and Ben provide great insights throughout the book. Here's a beautiful visual from Ogilvy Notes of all of the valuable lessons from The Start-Up of You:
You Might Want To Grab Some Coffee. The following chapters and their verbatim quotes are the concepts I found most inspiring. Sometimes, I provide only the quotes because the words alone inspired me. In other sections, I include my point-of-view.
Buy and Read This Book. Most of all, I hope sharing these five (5) game changer concepts from the book will motivate you to buy and read it.
If you're still here, I suggest grabbing that cup of coffee (or maybe two).
1. Chapter 6: Take Intelligent Risks
Read This Chapter First. Beginning with Chapter 6 is the only thing I would have done differently. I suggest starting with the section of the book titled, The Volatility Paradox: Small Fires Prevent the Big Burn.
These passages represent my "eureka moment."
"Without frequent, contained risk taking, you are setting yourself up for a major dislocation at some point in the future. Inoculating yourself to big risks is like inoculating yourself to big risks is like inoculating yourself against the flu virus. By injecting a small bit of flu into your body in the form of a vaccination, you make a big flu outbreak survivable. By introducing regular volatility into your career, you make surprise survivable. You gain the ability to absorb shocks gracefully."
"Opportunity and risk are two sides of the same coin, after all: join and create groups, be in motion, take on side projects, hustle. In a phrase, say 'yes' more."
"Pretending you can avoid risk causes you to miss opportunities that can change your life. It also lulls you into a dangerously fragile life pattern, leaving you exposed to a huge blow-up in the future."
"When you're resilient, you can play for big opportunities with less worry about the possible consequences of unanticipated hiccups. 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."
Companies and Individuals Who Don't Take Intelligent Risks Marginalize Themselves Over Time. Here's a video of Reid discussing the importance of intelligent risk taking:
Previously, I Said "No" More. I said no to additional career-related opportunities because of the additional time commitments. I'm not talking about the "traditional" internal company, career-related opportunities (i.e., accepting high profile internal projects to increase exposure to senior management, etc.).
I'm referring to externally focused opportunities beyond the significant time already devoted to this personal blog. These opportunities will consume additional time next to an already consuming and stressful full-time job and family duties.
Focus On The Upside. But, Chapter 6 convinced me to start focusing on the upside. These are investments in my "soft assets" (i.e., cultivating new contacts, learning new skills, expanding the reach of my network intelligence, acquiring actionable knowledge). Dwelling on the potential downside is counter-productive (e.g., the time demands).
A Counter-Intuitive Approach. For someone in their mid-forties balancing demands of a young family and a full-time job involving travel, "taking on more" seems counter-intuitive. But, The Start-Up of You makes the case for constant investment in activities building our "soft assets."
Investing in yourself requires significant time and commitment. Plus, it's especially important to make those investments while gainfully employed.
(page 30) "My goal in Purple Cow is to make it clear that it's safer to be risky--to fortify your desire to do truly amazing things."
(page 64) "Safe is risky."
2. Chapter 7: Who You Know Is What You Know
Synthesize Information Into Actionable Intelligence. It's not enough to have great connections with a diverse set of skills, industries, and professions. Your network must inform your decision making with excellent data. But, "what do I do next with that data" is a determining factor in driving your success:
Here are my favorite book passages describing the importance of synthesizing information or "connecting the dots:"
"So far we've talked about the first step -- pulling information from multiple people from multiple people in your network. Once you have gathered information, the next step is to analze the validity, helpfulness, and relevance of what each person has said. Remember, that everyone has biases -- even your parents or best friend. It's not that they are trying to manipulate you. It's just the nature of being a human with personal experiences and self-interests. Bias can be obvious or nonobvious."
"As you pull information and advice from various sources, think about how the person's personal goals, ambitions, and experience might have colored their position. Bias is not reason to dismiss information or advice altogether; just account for it in your analysis."
"Synthesis is the important final step. If you don't step back and take in the big picture of all you've learned, it will feel like you're worming your way through a cocktail party hearing bits and pieces of several different conversations but not able to make out anything of substance."
"Synthesizing what you learn involves reconciling contradictory advice and information (which is inevitable if you're pulling multiple streams from diverse people), ignoring information you believe is completely off base, and weighing each person's information differently. This is a complex cognitive process."
"For now, we'll just say that when it comes to intelligence, good synthesis is what makes the whole worth more than the sum of the parts."
"Network intelligence is the advanced game: if you do it well, it'll give you a competitive edge."
"IWe means your network can help you decide on a direction and then help you move quickly, but only YOU can drive the process forward."
Connect the Dots, Commit to a Personal Strategy, and Have the Courage to Ship: Connect. Commit. Ship. Any action answers "what do I do next." That's why I altered the final quote to emphasize YOU.
- Don't listen to your lizard brain (e.g., don't give into the fear of failure)
- Start something (e.g., commit to your decision)
- Pick yourself (e.g., be the initiator)
- Ship (e.g., get it out the door, finish)
3. Chapter 1: All Humans Are Entrepreneurs
The Start-Up of You Mind-set: Permanent Beta. Permanent beta is a lifelong commitment to continuous personal growth. This concept is analogous to how technology companies keep iterating and testing software after the official launch so the software can be continuously improved.
Our careers are much the same way:
"For entrepreneurs, finished is an F-word. They know that great companies are always evolving."
"Finished ought to be an F-word for all of us. We are all works in progress. Each day presents an opportunity to learn more, do more, be more, grow more in our lives and careers.
"Keeping your career in permanent beta forces you to acknowledge that you have bugs, that there's new development to do on yourself, that you will need to adapt and evolve."
"But, it's still a mind-set brimming with optimism because it celebrates the fact that you have the power to improve yourself and, as important, improve the world around you."
Reid Describes Permanent Beta and Learning To Improve Every Month. In the first video, he explains the concept of permanent beta. In the second video, he talks about when he interviews people. During those interviews, he wants to understand how people grow their capabilities on a monthly basis.
4. Chapter 5: Pursue Breakout Opportunities
Court Serendipity and Good Randomness. What I enjoy most about this concept is "proactively making our own luck." And, the best way to achieve serendipity (e.g., accidental good fortune) is to be doing something. You have to be in motion.
"Serendipity involves being alert to potential opportunity and acting on it."
"You won't encounter accidental good fortune--you won't stumble upon opportunities that rocket career forward--if you're lying in bed. When you do something, you stir the pot and introduce the possibility that random ideas, people, and places will collide and form new combinations and opportunities."
"By being in motion, you are spinning a web as wide and tall as possible in order to catch any interesting opportunities that come your way."
"As entrepreneur Bo Peabody says, "The best way to ensure that lucky things happen is to make sure a lot of things happen." Make things happen, and in the long run, you'll design your own serendipity, and make your own opportunities."
You Have to Be Playing in the Game. You can't make your own luck or court serendipity and good randomness while sitting on the couch watching tv. Here's a short video with Reid talking about how sitting on the sidelines means missing out on breakout opportunities:
5. Chapter 3: Plan to Adapt
Maintain an Identity Separate from Specific Employers. This book section focuses on personal branding. Here are some important direct quotes:
"Establish an identity independent of your employer, city, and industry. For example, make the headline of your LinkedIn profile not a specific job title (e.g., "VP of Marketing at Company X") but personal-brand or asset-focused (e.g., "Entrepreneur. Product Strategist. Investor.")"
"Start a personal blog and begin developing a public reputation and public portfolio of work that's not tied to your employer. This way you'll have a professional identity that you can carry with you as you shift jobs."
"You own yourself. It's the start-up of you."
Your Personal Blog = Your Personal Competitive Advantage. A personal blog and other self-published content give you a differentiating competitive advantage by:
1. Showing how you think
2. Demonstrating your individual creativity
3. Making it easy for a potential employer / great connection to find you (e.g., SEO benefits)
4. Giving you practice in an important and portable business skill set -- writing
5. Proving you're technology and Internet savvy
6. Informing people first-hand how you're driven to learn new skills
Seth Godin and Tom Peters Says A Personal Blog Matters. In this video, they both discuss how a personal blog is the best personal marketing tool.
And, Remember The Brand of You is Just One Part of the Start-Up of You. Here's Reid Hoffman's take on personal branding. Pay close not to his point that a brand must be backed by substance if you want it to be relevant.
What Were Your Favorite Concepts From The Start-Up of You? Have you read this important book? Take time to invest in yourself by reading it.
Reading The Start-Up of You will make a significant difference in your life. It's already changed mine.
And, it will have a lasting personal impact and influence for many future years.