Customer Review

450 of 472 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A book that needs to take more risks, February 6, 2012
This review is from: The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career (Hardcover)
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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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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 10, 2012 1:29:20 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 10, 2012 1:30:38 PM PST
Wes Wilson says:
"They told him he was crazy..."
1. How many people, who have heard this line, have in fact failed? Only those who succeeded write books. It is a flawed database. Just because someone told you that you are crazy does not guarantee that you will become a billionaire.
2. Success is very rare and probably depends on many factors, one of which is Luck! If you are not a proven entrepreneur, you have a better chance of making your fortune by writing a book titled "How to get lucky". Maybe enough people will misinterpret the topic and you will get lucky.

Posted on Apr 12, 2012 11:39:16 AM PDT
Your last statement somehow hit home for me, today. It is succinct and important - make sure that you're always supplying something that's in demand. And that doesn't mean another useless post on twitter or facecrack.

Posted on Jun 27, 2014 6:14:48 PM PDT
Ben Casnocha says:
Hi folks, the co-author of Start-up of You here. It's been a couple years since Trevor posted this review, and someone just re-sent it to me so wanted to weigh in. I appreciate his taking the time to write the review, and he's entitled to his point of view, but I believe it's quite misleading. From the review, you'd think the book were a set of "They told him he was crazy" stories, as he put it. We do have a couple stories that are remarkable tales of persistence and hustle. But the majority of the book is of a different sort entirely. We include 20,000 words on networks and relationships, where we unpack complex network theory and studies around connection strength in order to offer nuanced advice on how to strengthen your network, how to conceptualize 2nd and 3rd degree connections, the important blend of having close emotional allies and weaker ties who run in different social circles, and so on. We write at length about theories of risk and how to build up resilience. We offer concrete, tactical advice for how to pull intelligence from your network and how to make key decisions.

Trevor's review implies this book is a collection of feel-good, no-impact inspirational stories. The thousands of people who've written in after reading the book to tell us how they've transformed their career would disagree. We believe this is a comparatively hard-nosed book that uniquely draws upon the best of Silicon Valley strategy so that you can make your own career as adaptive as possible in whatever field you work.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 5, 2014 5:06:50 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 5, 2014 5:07:40 AM PST
Manthano says:
hmmm I wonder why this review is considered "most helpful?" There are two main hypotheses to explain that. The first is that the book just plays on former success and states the obvious in a not very useful way. The second is that the reviewer is setting up a "straw man," and the real reason the review does so well is that most people are afraid of success, or need to run down successful people in a Lilliputian way. I know this latter has some truth.
You got me curious enough to read the book. I myself have not spent enough time on Linked-In, and the interesting fact that 40% of active members make over 100K a year (is this true?) certainly speaks for the process.
Back to the two hypotheses. In cases like this, I lean towards the latter hypothesis and put the short-coming on the individuals, not on external events including books. Given that the reviewer is not doing a fair review of the book, I'm going to buy it.
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Review Details



Trevor Burnham

Location: Cambridge, MA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 2,219