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VINE VOICEon February 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
No matter what you do, think of yourself as an entrepreneur. Be willing to take risks. Accept failure and learn from it. Keep trying, and you'll succeed.

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. The moral is in the second part of the story: You're not going to succeed unless you put your time and effort where your mouth is. Hopefully, you already knew that.

Still, "The Start-Up of You" gets the essentials right: The US economy is no longer adapted to reward loyalty with job security. There are no more risk-free, high-reward options on the table. You can't just work your way up within a static hierarchy. You have to be constantly prepared for change. In short, every worker is now an independent contractor to some degree. You have to make sure that you're always supplying something that's in demand--just as startups do. That's a lesson worth learning. You just don't need this book to do it.
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on February 28, 2012
"The Start-up of You" by Reid Hoffman (co-founder of LinkedIn) and Ben Casnocha is an excellent book to motivate and inspire you to take charge and accountability of your professional career. The authors intertwine interesting historical references and extensive personal experiences to provide a roadmap to transforming your career.

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.
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VINE VOICEon February 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Let me gush a bit: "The Start-Up of You" is the best business book I have read in a long time. The premise is relatively simple on the one hand, and given that Mr. Hoffman is the chair of LinkedIn, the thesis is easy enough to guess. While generations of workers had a life-long career in a single company with a progressive path upward inside the company (as in Detroit automakers), the reality is that most of us do not have that option today, and that path is no longer even viable (as in Detroit automakers).

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!
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VINE VOICEon February 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is written by R. Hoffman and B. Casnocha. It is about being an entrepreneur, and about taking charge of your future business career, and about professional networking in general. Reid Hoffman is a co-founder of Linkedin, and as such he is eminently qualified by first hand successful experience on these topics.

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). But they never ever discuss the top public concern of Networks of any kind: privacy. This is especially glaring, because unlike in some other social networks, your personal data is not restricted to your connections in Linkedin. Anybody with a sufficiently large wallet can browse everything you put into your profile.

b) After reading the book, it is clear to me that Reid Hoffman is an extrovert in the extreme (this is fine, I wish I was too). But he seems to make the mistake that everybody should be (or become) extroverts. He simply does not understand (or intentionally ignores) the life perspective of introverts. The creative activity of introverts does not necessarily center around building and nourishing large networks of connections. Many introverts prefer to go very deep on some subject instead of gaining a superficial knowledge of a lot of different areas. In fact, most scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs are made by introverts who become part of a handful of the world's top authorities on narrowly defined areas of expertise. This issue should have been discussed in the book.

c) The book is about start-ups, which is necessarily about taking calculated risks. The authors discuss this in great length with many examples, but the choice of their examples leaves much to be desired in my opinion. Let me start with the example of Steve Wozniak. He gets mentioned in the book only twice very briefly. His contribution to the last 30 years of high tech start-up activity was merely that Steve Jobs needed him. According to the authors, Wozniak was nothing more than a useful tool for Jobs. They treat the Google founders Page and Brin with equal dismissiveness. They get mentioned once along with Donald Trump, and the sentence reads: "Page and Brin were in a computer science doctoral program". This is supposed to explain why they started Google and Donald Trump went into real estate. What about thousands of others who were also in doctoral programs in computer science? Why did they not start Google? Interestingly, Page and Brin were never mentioned again in the book. (Could it be because they are introverts?)

d) In contrast to Page and Brin, who are the real geniuses behind Google, the book mentions Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Goggle, many times. But even that pales in comparison to the story of Sheryl Sandberg, first of Google, then of Facebook. You will read about Sandberg for many pages on and on several times. What is ironic in all of this is the fact that she is the perfect counter-example to the inventing, risk-taking start-up founders. She moved to Google (and Facebook too) after they became multi-billion Dollar companies. Where is the risk in that? The success is already assured, the money flowing like a river, the company culture already set in concrete. So, I am totally puzzled by Hoffman's fascination with Sandberg. (Don't get me wrong, I think she is a great COO for a large company, but she is no entrepreneur.)

Summary: Interesting book in terms of what you can learn from it. Unfortunately, it is not well written. The examples are not chosen with a lot of thought and justification. Worst of all, it is full of Linkedin propaganda.
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VINE VOICEon February 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha have written a book for people with normal jobs. Corporate jobs. What they call the "escalator model." Show up for 9-5 every day, get a steady paycheck, and earn promotions every so often.

The two explain that the classic model is dying. Then they explain in understandable way, that you need to embrace your personal brand, engage with the people 'around' you in a meaningful way, and have an eye on the adjacent possible (what they call, in classic bizbook lingo, ABZ planning).

To that segment, this is a pretty decent call to step it up, hustle as they say, and own their careers. So if you know someone still in that mindset, send them this book.

But for those of us who have already embraced this approach, or, honestly, will probably never know any other, this book will read like like a primer. That's not a knock, especially since I haven't found the perfect book on this topic, but something to be aware of.
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on May 6, 2012
This book expands upon the ideas first described in Daniel Pink's 2002 Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself This new book is informed by the great transitions that have occurred in the economy since Free Agent Nation was published. These days people need less convincing that they need to be nimble or face stark economic prospects. This book includes some good tips that I hadn't thought about before. I hope this book is adopted in some high school classes because by the time students reach college, they may be too set in their ways to understand and adopt the always-learning, always-in-beta lifestyle recommendations of this book.
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on April 19, 2012
As a regular Linkedin user and reader of Hastings's short-form writing, I was looking forward to getting some practical advice about how to increase my visibility in the marketplace and solidify my career position. While the book starts out well with some practical advice (mostly about how to use Linkedin, which seems self-serving), it eventually devolves into rah-rah cheerleading and the recounting of success stories an average person couldn't hope to re-create. Yes, Jeff Bezos is a big success because of his tenacity. But how does that relate to my career? The advice is also frequently contradictory. A chapter on tenacity closely follows a chapter on being able to "pivot" on a moment's notice and change one's career path. In the end the book was useful as a motivator to help me start doing *something* to increase my visibility in the marketplace, but not helpful with what or how to do it.
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on February 17, 2012
Steve Jobs once called Apple the "biggest start-up on the planet". Because of its success at systemizing disruptive innovation, it is the most scrutinized company in the world, especially by its competitors. As secretive as Apple is, there are plenty of books and articles that examine Apple's culture in great detail. So why are most companies -- especially large, established corporations -- incapable of applying these principles themselves?

I bring up this question because the first time I read this book, I was disappointed. So many of the strategies seemed so intuitive, so obvious, that I didn't feel like I had gleaned as much insight as I had hoped. But as I looked over my highlights, I realized that, like Apple's competitors, I'd missed the point.

What you need to adapt to the changing world of work aren't cheap tactics and off-the-wall ideas and quick fixes to hack your career. Often, the best ideas *do* seem obvious and familiar. But what is less obvious and less familiar and, thus, is arguably more important and more useful, is a framework or blueprint or system that makes it easier to build the habits required to consistently and sustainably implement those ideas with every decision you make, day in and day out.

The framework this book offers is this: you must think and act like you're running a start-up.

But what does that mean? Here's an example. One deceptively simple philosophy in the book is the idea of helping first -- that you should find ways to create value for others before seeking value for yourself. It's so simple and obvious that it's easy to gloss over it, and yet, it is fundamental to every successful entrepreneur or start-up in the world, because you'll never get a single customer until you solve a problem for someone.

So how does one apply this philosophy? Here's what Reid does: whenever he gets the chance, he asks a simple question again and again and again: "How can I help?" Think about it: It sounds simple, and yet most people don't approach their careers or their relationships with this empathetic mindset. How often do you find ways to solve problems for the people around you? And if it isn't often, how do you change that? What habits does Reid have that you need to do this, too?

"The Start-up of You" will give you Reid Hoffman's -- and Silicon Valley's -- secret sauce, but it's not enough to know it, just like it isn't enough for Apple's competitors to know its philosophies. You have to understand that an entrepreneurial mindset requires different habits of thought and action. This is what the authors mean when they say you have to think and act like you're running a start-up. If you were running a start-up, how would you create a culture that instills the habits of thought and action you want your people to have?

Well, it turns out you *are* running a start-up: your career. How do you train yourself to have the habits of thought and action you need to thrive in the 21st century?

Or, put another way, what would an entrepreneur do?
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on February 14, 2012
I've read my fair share of career books. While each takes its own angle on the whole "job" thing, I find that oftentimes I get most annoyed in the section where authors - typically, at least - say "OK now, the first thing you need to do is follow your passion!" Luckily, this book takes an entirely different approach.

In the start-up of you, Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha give a framework for how to think about your career. This framework, obviously, is adapted from the start-up world. The strategies that start-ups use to survive can also be used for individuals to survive (especially given the current state of our economy). And, because of this framework, the question isn't "what do you really, with all of your heart, want to do?" (which I appreciate, because how many people really have a good answer to that question?) The questions are: what are you good at? What resources do you have at your disposal (could be money, connections, location, etc)? What are the needs in the market? These are the same questions that start-ups must ask as they get going and pivot as needed.

I actually used these questions when I myself was looking for a job. Rather than staring at my computer screen thinking "hmmmmm maybe I could be a botanist?" I made lists of people I knew, their positions and their companies, and worked from there. This helped me map out my network and see what resources I had at my disposal, people-wise.

But these aren't just strategies for how to survive, they're strategies for how to thrive. Each chapter contains numerous stories of ultra-successful people from SIlicon Valley and how they used an entrepreneurial attitude to get where they are. And I'll give you a hint: none of them applied to jobs through Craigslist.
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on March 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have absolutely appreciated this book. I've been freelancing for years and I'm graduating with a degree in media and I'd be lost without this book. First he starts out explaining how we all should think like entrepreneurs. We don't have to start businesses of our own but we should learn to deal with and take risk and always be looking for the next opportunities. This book does not help you write a resume but it helps you will all the areas that are important before you write one and before you go on an interview. You will breakdown your goals and aspirations to direct you path more accurately. The chapters about networking and finding opportunity are going to an invaluable resource to the reader. At a conference in Austin, SXSW, entrepreneurs Gary Vaynurchuk and Tim Ferriss recommending this book to the audience for anyone to get a better understanding of how to find your place in your given industry.
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