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The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career

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  • Posted February 21, 2012

    Think and act like you're running a start-up

    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?

    12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Not Very Insightful

    The basic premise of thesis book is the following: the entrepreneurial mindset and attitude are essential for anyone's career in today's economy. Thinking like an entrepreneur is not any more reserved just for the ultra-ambitious, well-funded Silicon Valley types; in order to succeed in today's job market everyone has to adopt many of the practices that successful entrepreneurs have been employing for decades. This, in and of itself, seems like a great piece of advice. Unfortunately, this book falls far short of delivering on how to implement such an approach in most ordinarily career paths.

    I have for years in fact been adopting the kind of attitude that this book promotes: I've networked like crazy, created substantial online presence, tried to be in tune with the latest technological and professional trends, etc. However, in order to have a career, or even get a job, a lot more is required. It is these other much more crucial steps that I was hoping to learn more about from reading this book. Its authors, Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha, seemed to have exactly the kinds of credentials that would lend itself to revealing interesting and fact-based insights that are otherwise hard to find. My expectations were particularly high since Hoffman is one of the cofounders of LinkedIn. I was hoping that we'd find out some interesting data culled from millions of LinkedIn job searches and professional connections. Unfortunately, all my expectations have fallen way short, and "The Start-up of You" is just another indistinguishable, fluffy career "advice" book, of which there are already way too many on the market.

    The book is filled with motivational-speak, with an incessant deluge of phrases that sound meaningful and profound (at least to some people), but are in fact quite vacuous ("Once you catch curiosity, it is (luckily) hard to shake." "Everyone is looking for an opportunity, even if they don't know it."). It is hard to figure out how these pieces of "advice" can in fact contribute to advancing anyone's career. Granted, the book is written with the greatest possible audience in mind, but even so it could have used a lot more concrete actionable advice.

    The only examples that are used in this book are those of people who have been very successful entrepreneurs. These kinds of examples are good motivational stories, but are almost useless to the millions of job seekers out there hoping to get their own career off the ground. In the entire book there are virtually no attempts to show how the insights from the career paths of top-dog entrepreneurs translate into the concrete, actionable advice for the rest of us.

    Furthermore, almost all of the examples and insights in this book are in one way or another linked with Silicon Valley. That is indeed a wonderful and exciting place, and I have been fortunate enough that I had spent many years working and studying over there. However, Silicon Valley is exceptional in many ways, and the insights gained there do not translate well to the rest of the country, and you are even worse off if you live overseas. Silicon Valley's entrepreneurial spirit has tricked down to the lower professional and social circles. This, however, has not been the case with the rest of the world, and it's unlikely that it will happen any time soon. I still think that the entrepreneurial attitude is worthwhile having; just don't expect any dramatic impact on your care

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2012

    Refreshing career book that's a must-read for anyone looking to advance their life

    Reid Hoffman, who is less well known than other Silicon Valley icons like Zuckerberg or Jobs, has been called "*the* role model for entrepreneurs" by tech publications, and for very good reason. He's a hugely successful investor who not only has had a hand in some of the most successful tech companies around today (including Zuckerberg's Facebook) but is also a hugely successful entrepreneur and founder - an incredibly rare achievement in today's tech world. He's currently chairman and co-founder of the professional networking site LinkedIn and was an executive at PayPal.

    Ben Casnocha is an intensely curious young author. Anyone familiar with his extensive online writing and earlier book, My Start-Up Life, knows the quality of insight he provides. That voice certainly shines through in this book. Not only is he a true intellectual, he also has the business experience as a founder of his own software company to be able to write authoritatively on a topic like this.

    Two of the key threads:

    - Relationships are the most important aspect of one's career.

    The authors use a brilliant analogy for thinking about one's relationships: I-to-the-We. Your individual strengths matter, but when surrounded by the right individuals, your ability to effect change is raised exponentially by the power of your network.

    A refreshing change from typical business books, the authors show how to build genuine relationships that benefit both individuals. They stress helping first and not keeping score.

    This idea is epitomized by the little-known story that Hoffman actually introduced Mark Zuckerberg to Facebook's first outside investor and himself (Hoffman) invested in the very first round of financing. Facebook, for now, has the greater market cap and the larger member base. Their respective companies are often pitted against each other in the media, and Hoffman's willingness to help a young Zuckerberg building a competing social network shows Hoffman's commitment to follow his own advice.

    - Have a bias towards action.

    Straight out of the Silicon Valley playbook, this seems incredibly obvious once you hear the rationale, but is certainly not standard practice for folks in their careers today. As the pace of change accelerates all around you, if you're not moving forward, then you are in essence moving backwards.

    Simply doing things, when you're guided by your best instincts, generates opportunities, new connections and most of all, helps you learn about yourself. Instead of thinking about whether you want to make a move to another industry, get out there and talk to the folks in that industry or take a small and reversible step in that direction by working in that industry on the side, testing your "strong hypothesis, weakly held" to see if it is in fact right for you.

    To further this focus on action and to help the reader in his or her own career journey, the authors end each chapter with a section titled Invest In Yourself. It provides many eminently useful "action items" that the reader should take to implement the ideas in the book. Many business and self-help books falter when it comes time to

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2013

    A Good Resource for Developing Your Career

    I found "The Start-up of You" to be helpful for assisting me to sharpen my understanding and focus on my career in the mode of an entrepreneur, looking at my competitive advantages to develop a plan and begin to use my network more effectively. It was interesting to learn more about how entrepreneurs have been successful in the development process as they work with those in their network to learn and then adapt to new opportunities or evolution of their products as their understanding is enhanced through the power of the network. The applicability of these and other entrepreneurial processes to our own careers is informative and inspiring.

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  • Posted June 25, 2012

    Good guide

    Helps the reader position for success in a professional world where constant career changes are the norm. Just like a business you need networking, plans and adaptation to stay successful.

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    Posted April 7, 2012

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    Posted September 22, 2013

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    Posted February 20, 2012

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