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The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career Hardcover – February 14, 2012
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Thomas Friedman Interviews Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha
Thomas L. Friedman is a New York Times foreign affairs columnist, three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of international best seller Hot, Flat, and Crowded.
Whatever you may be thinking when you apply for a job today, you can be sure your prospective employer is thinking this: Can this person add value every hour, every day--more than a worker in India, a robot, or a computer could? Can he or she help my company adapt by not only doing the job today but also reinventing the job for tomorrow? And can he or she adapt with all the change, so my company can adapt and export more into the fastest-growing global markets? In today's hyper-connected world, more and more companies cannot and will not hire people who don't fulfill those criteria. This is precisely why LinkedIn's founder, Reid Garrett Hoffman, one of the premier starter-uppers in Silicon Valley--besides cofounding LinkedIn, he is on the board of Zynga, was an early investor in Facebook, and sits on the board of Mozilla--has written The Start-up of You, coauthored with Ben Casnocha. Its subtitle could easily be: "Hey, recent graduates! Hey, thirty-five-year-old midcareer professional! Here's how you can build your career today." Here is our brief chat about their book.
Tom: You're a serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist. Why did you feel the need to offer this message?
Reid: As you write in That Used to Be Us, our country faces enormous challenges. The path to the American Dream has changed. We wanted to focus on what individual professionals can do to survive and thrive in a flat world. The premise of the book is that all of us are entrepreneurs of our own lives. We must act as CEO of our careers, take control of our professional future, and become globally competitive.
Tom: Really? Anyone can be an entrepreneur? Really? Even me?
Reid: Not only can anyone be an entrepreneur, but they must be. Even you, Tom! Not everyone should start companies, but everyone must be the entrepreneur of his or her own life. The skills people need to manage their careers are akin to the skills of entrepreneurs when they start and grow companies. For example, entrepreneurs can both be persistent on a plan and flexible when conditions change. They take intelligent risk. They build networks of allies and tap those networks for intelligence on what's happening in the world. Silicon Valley's most innovative entrepreneurs possess unique skills--you can learn them and apply them, no matter your profession.
Tom: Who is the target audience for this book?
Reid: Jeff Bezos says that at Amazon.com "it's always day one." This is a book for people just starting out, and it's equally for people midflight in their career who need to reinvent, restart, or reimagine their career as if it were day one, as if they were in permanent beta. We think that's most people, and eventually everyone.
Tom: What does it mean to be in "permanent beta?"
Reid and Ben: Technology companies sometimes keep the "beta" label on software for a time after the official launch to stress that the product is not finished, so much as ready for the next batch of improvements. For entrepreneurs, finished is an F-word. 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. You will need to adapt and evolve forever--that's permanent beta.
Tom: Why the urgency of The Start-up of You?
Reid and Ben: A billboard that once ran along the 101 highway in Silicon Valley summed it up pithily: "A million people can do your job. What makes you so special?" We wanted to give people tools to take control of their lives, without having to wait around for the government or a company to rescue them.
Tom: Is China going to eat America's lunch?
Reid and Ben: National competitiveness is really a reflection of the individual competitiveness of its citizens. The question for each American is, "Is a professional in China going to eat your lunch?" Some will be competitive, and some will not. And the distinction is not set in stone. Just look at Detroit. All of us need to have a plan for investing in ourselves every day.
"Being an entrepreneur isn’t really about starting a business. It’s a way of looking at the world: seeing opportunity where others see obstacles, taking risks when others take refuge. Whatever career you’re in or want to be in The Start-Up of You holds lessons for success."
-Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg, L.P. and Mayor, New York City
"Everyone, women and men alike, needs to think big to succeed. This is a practical book that shows you how to take control and build a career that will enable you to have real impact."
-Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook
"Forging a fulfilling career is one of the most important--and often, most difficult--challenges in building a happy life. The Start-Up of You is crammed with insights and strategies to help each of us create the work life we want."
-Gretchen Rubin, author of the #1 bestseller, The Happiness Project
"The Startup of You" describes how to take the Silicon Valley approach to building a life: start with an idea, and work over your entire career to turn it something remarkable. In the world today, I think that the startup approach to life is necessary. This book distills the key techniques needed to succeed."
-Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, co-founder of Square
"This great book shows that entrepreneurship is really about taking control of your life, and you don’t need a big startup to be an entrepreneur – you need personal responsibility and intellectual exploration."
- Penelope Trunk, author, Brazen Careerist
“Silicon Valley revolutionizes entire industries through the way we work. It is now time to export our playbook to the rest of the world. The Startup of You is that key playbook: it will help you revolutionize yourself and achieve your own career breakout.”
-Marc Andreessen, co-founder Netscape; director at HP, Facebook, and eBay
"A profound book about self-determination and self-realization. By capturing and universalizing the wisdom of successful start-up businesses, the authors provide an exciting blueprint for building a fulfilling career. Invaluable for any person who wants to be a successful entrepreneur not in a particular company but in the most important enterprise of all: one's own life."
-Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark
""The Internet has fundamentally changed the architecture of business and society. This terrific book shows you how to live, learn, and thrive in a networked world."
-Joi Ito, Director, MIT Media Lab
“Hoffman and Casnocha make a number of astute observations about shifts in the world of work…. As well as explaining network intelligence, or why your contacts’ contacts may be the best source of leads about potential jobs...the book also gives numerous tips—including ones gleaned from the world of online dating—about how best to broker effective relationships.
“If you are starting a career, it is an excellent book for thinking through the practical issues you will face in branding yourself in what is becoming a more volatile and very different labor market”
-Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution.
"The same extraordinary vision and timing that enabled Reid to found LinkedIn is once again on display with his book "the start-up of YOU." His central thesis, that every individual can benefit from acting as the entrepreneur of their own life and career, has never been more important than it is in today's increasingly globalized, competitive, and networked world."
-Jeff Weiner, CEO, LinkedIn
“LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman has pulled off something extraordinary in his book-writing debut. He has challenged a well-worn idea….and replaced it with something better.”
Top Customer Reviews
If this all sounds familiar, then you'll be as disappointed as I was by The Start-Up of You, a generic career advice book churned out by two tech elites who could have done better. Rather than drawing directly on their experiences as founders and venture capitalists, Hoffman and Casnocha make a rote journey through modern Silicon Valley-themed business book territory. When they tell the stories of successes like Apple, Amazon, Netflix, PayPal, and Zappos, it feels like they're going through a checklist. There's far less original substance than in Casnocha's My Start-Up Life, which benefited enormously from his being a teenager who knew little beyond his own experiences. He could tell it like it is, rather than drawing on played-out archetypes. The older Casnocha has tailored his book to the broadest possible audience, with all the mediocrity that entails.
Simply put, I'm tired of hearing "They told him he was crazy..." stories. You know the type:
1. They [potential investors] told him [the entrepreneur] he was crazy.
2. He kept going. For years, he poured his heart and soul into his dream.
3. Today, [company he started] is valued at $x billion.
The problem with these stories is that there's only so much you can learn from them. The moral isn't "If they tell you that you're crazy, you're probably on to something"--to the contrary, if they tell you that you're crazy, you're probably crazy. "They" are often smart people like Hoffman and Casnocha.Read more ›
The book begins with a reality check and reminder that the former paradigms we may have had of the "American Dream" and "traditional career" assumptions have been gradually shattered over the past several decades. The old adage about "ready, aim, fire" has been supplanted with "aim, fire, aim, fire, aim, fire, ..." to survive and sustain our professional careers. The authors state their case that we should define our "assets", "aspirations and values", and the "market realities" of the world we live in to identify your specific competitive advantage as you formulate your professional career.
Reid and Ben also provide dozens of illustrations throughout the book on why so many entrepreneurial businesses launched in the Silicon Valley in California have been success. The professional networking that occurs in that region is likely unsurpassed in any business community throughout the world.
I would recommend "The Start-up of You" to anyone who is at a crossroads in their professional career or any professional who is looking to unleash their entrepreneurial spirit that has been squelched and smothered inside you for far too long.
Disclosure: I was an early adopter and continue to be a fan of the professional networking site, LinkedIn. I found this platform to be an essential professional networking tool in the various businesses I have run over the past decade.
What follows is a guide not for what to <do> to chart a career path, but rather for how to <think> about what you do. For those of us who assumed the "old" rules, this re-thinking of professional assumptions helps make sense of sensible growth and risk management in the world of "new" work rules.
Implicit in the suggested strategies is the self-serving idea that you need to be on LinkedIn. The case for that position is presented very, very well, however.
I usually find that business books can be nearly skimmed to capture the essence of their arguments, and I don't have any interest in returning to them again. This is the exception: I actually bookmarked multiple pages, penciled notes in the margins, and will deliberately re-read it again as I think through the ideas suggested. For me, that's the best endorsement I can give!
What's good about the book: Hoffman and Casnocha give good advice to all professionals, especially to the young ones. After they get out of college, I am going to suggest to my sons that they read this book. In the book, there is a lot of good information about what kind of plans to make and how to make them. The authors detail the risks and the contingencies of the process. They explain the topsy-turvy nature of the start-up business, and they propose that you as an individual treat your career as a start-up, even if you have not (yet) started up your own company, or even if you are not (yet) working at a start-up company. This sort of thing is not for everybody, but I think everybody can learn a thing or two by reading the book.
What's not so good about the book: Unfortunately, the list is rather long. I will select a few of the most important eyesores:
a) Starting with Chapter 4, the book turns into a commercial for Linkedin. You will read page after page about networking in general, and how powerful it is and what kind of wonderful things it can do for you. Some of that is certainly true, but the discussion is extremely hyped-up in the book. In fact, the authors go as far as thinking that it is the natural state of all human interaction. They also discuss why some people may be put off by networking. They mention a few examples that can be easily dismissed (and they dismiss them accordingly).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An in-depth profile on the changing job market and how to position yourself for career success.Published 13 days ago by Kevin King
Good book. I agree with the premise that we are all contractors now, whether we are employees of a company or self-employed. Read morePublished 4 months ago by DaveHardin
Helps with understanding LinkedIn. Using it correctly for business relationship building.Published 4 months ago by Stephen