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One of my favorite books of all time. This is one of those books that you shouldn't hesitate to read more than once to absorb as much as you can.

Recommendation: 5/5

My Highlights

Ignore the real world

Evolution doesn't linger on past failures, it's always building upon what worked. So should you.

Unless you're a fortune-teller, long-term business planning is a fantasy.

Plans are inconsistent with improvisation.

Sometimes you need to say, "We're going in a new direction because that's what makes sense today."

Give up on the guesswork. Decide what you're going to do this week, not this year. Figure out the next most important thing and do that. Make decisions right before you do something, not far in advance.

...avoid huge growth spurts too—they can cause you to skip right over your appropriate size.

Not only is this workaholism unnecessary, it's stupid. Working more doesn't mean you care more or get more done. It just mean you work more.

If all you do is work, you're unlikely to have sound judgements. Your values and decision making wind up skewed. You stop being able to decide what's worth extra effort and what's not. And you wind up just plain tired. No one makes sharp decisions when tired.

In the end, workaholics don't actually accomplish more than nonworkaholics.

Make a dent in the universe

To do great work, you need to feel that you're making a difference. That you're putting a meaningful dent in the universe. That you're part of something important.

This doesn't mean you need to find the cure for cancer. It's just that your efforts need to feel valuable. You want your customers to say, "This makes my life better."

You should feel an urgency about this too. You don't have forever. This is your life's work. Do you want to build just another me-too product or do you want to shake things up? What you do is your legacy. Don't sit around and wait for someone else to make the change you want to see. And don't think it takes a huge team to make that difference either.

If you're going to do something, do something that matters. These little guys cam out of nowhere and destroyed old models that had been around for decades. You can do the same in you industry.

Scratch your own itch

The easiest, most straightforward way to create a great product or service is to make something you want to use. That lets you design what you know—and you'll figure out immediately whether or not what you're making is any good.

When you build what you need, you can also assess the quality of what you make quickly and directly, instead of by proxy.

Start making something

What you do is what matters, not what you think or say or plan.

Until you actually start making something, your brilliant idea is just that, an idea. And everyone's got one of those.

No time is no excuse

Don't let yourself off the hook with excuses. It's entirely your responsibility to make your dreams come true.

Besides, the perfect time never arrives. You're always too young or old or busy or broke or something else. If you constantly fret about timing things perfectly, they'll never happen.

Great businesses have a point of view, not just a product or service. You have to believe in something. You need to have a backbone. You need to know what you're willing to fight for. And then you need to show the world.

If no one's upset by what you're saying, you're probably not pushing hard enough.

When you don't know what you believe, everything becomes an argument. Everything is debatable. But when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.

Standing for something isn't just about writing it down. It's about believing it and living it.

Outside money is Plan Z

  • You give up control.
  • "Cashing out" begins to trump building a quality business.
  • Spending other people's money is addictive.
  • It's usually a bad deal.
  • Customers move down the totem pole.
  • Raising money is incredibly distracting.

You need less than you think

Do you really need six months or can you make something in two?

A business without a path to profit isn't a business, it's a hobby.

Building to flip is building to flop

You need a commitment strategy, not an exit strategy.

Plus, when you build a company with the intention of being acquired, you emphasize the wrong things. Instead of focusing on getting customers to love you, you worry about who's going to buy you. That's the wrong thing to obsess over.

Don't be that guy. If you do manage to get a good thing going, keep it going. Good things don't come around that often. Don't let your business be the one that got away.

Embrace the idea of having less mass.

Mass is increased by...

  • Long-term contracts
  • Excess staff
  • Permanent decisions
  • Meetings
  • Thick process
  • Inventory (physical or mental)
  • Hardwar, software, and technology lock-ins
  • Long-term road maps
  • Office politics

Avoid these things whenever you can. That way, you'll be able to change direction easily.

Embrace constraints

Less is a good thing. Constraints are advantages in disguise. Limited resources force you to make do with what you've got. There's no room for waste. And that forces you to be creative.

Build half a product, not a half-assed product

You just can't do everything you want to do and do it well. You have limited time, resources, ability, and focus. It's hard enough to do one thing right.

You're better off with a kick-ass half than a half-assed whole.

Getting to great starts by cutting out stuff that's merely good.

When you start anything new, there are forces pulling you in a variety of directions.

The stuff you have to do is where you should begin. Start at the epicenter.

The way to find the epicenter is to ask yourself this question: "If I took this away, would what I'm selling still exist?"

Ignore the details early on

...getting infatuated with details too early leads to disagreement, meetings, and delays.

...ignore the details—for a while. Nail the basics first and worry about the specifics later.

Detail just doesn't buy you anything in the early stages. often can't recognize the details that matter most until after you start building. That's when you see what needs more attention. You feel what's missing. And that's when you need to pay attention, not sooner.

Making the call is making progress

When you put off decisions, they pile up.

Whenever you can, swap "Let's thing about it" for "Let's decide on it." Commit to making decisions. Don't wait for the perfect solution. Decide and move forward.

You want to get into the rhythm of making decision after decision, you build momentum and boost morale. Decisions are progress.

You don't have to live with a decision forever. If you make a mistake, you can correct it later.

It doesn't matter how much you plan, you'll still get some stuff wrong anyway. Don't make things worse by overanalyzing and delaying before you even get going.

Long projects zap morale. The longer it takes to develop, the less likely it is to launch. Make the call, make progress, and get something out now—while you've got the motivation and momentum to do so.

Be a curator

It's the stuff you leave out that matters. So constantly look for things to remove, simplify, and streamline. Be a curator. Stick to what's truly essential. Pare things down until you're left with only the most important stuff. Then do it again. You can always add stuff back in later if you need to.

Throw less at the problem

Focus on what won't change

The core of your business should be built around things that won't change. Things that people are going to want today and ten years from now. Those are the things you should invest in.

When you focus on permanent features, you're in bed with things that never go out of style.

Sell your by-products

When you make something, you always make something else. You can't make just one thing. Everything has a by-products. Observant and creative business minds spot these by-products and see opportunities.

Launch now

Once your product does what it needs to do, get it out there.

Just because you've still got a list of things to do doesn't mean it's not done.

Think about it this way: If you had to launch your business in two weeks, what would you cut out?

Put off anything you don't ned for launch. Build the necessities now, worry about the luxuries later.

Do everything you can to remove layers of abstraction.

Here are some important questions to ask yourself to ensure you're doing work that matters:

  • Why are you doing this?
  • What problem are you solving?
  • Is this actually useful?
  • Are you adding value?
  • Will this change behavior?
  • Is there an easier way?
  • What could you be doing instead?
  • Is it really worth it?

Interruption is the enemy of productivity

You can't get meaningful things done when you're constantly going start, stop, start, stop. should get in the alone zone. Long stretches of alone time are when you're most productive.

Also, when you do collaborate, try to use passive communication tools, like e-mail, that don't require an instant reply, instead of interruptive ones, like phone calls and face-to-face meetings.

Your day is under siege by interruptions. It's on you to fight back.

Meetings are toxic

The worst interruptions of all are meetings.

If you decide you absolutely must get together, try to make your meeting a productive one by sticking to these simple rules:

  • Set a timer. When it rings, meeting's over. Period.
  • Invite as few people as possible.
  • Always have a clear agenda.
  • Begin with a specific problem.
  • Meet at the site of the problem instead of a conference room. Point to real things and suggest real changes.
  • End with a solution and make someone responsible for implementing it.

Good enough is fine

Find a judo solution, one that delivers maximum efficiency with minimum effort. Judo solutions are all about getting the most out of doing the least. Whenever you have an obstacle, look for a way to judo it.

Problems can usually be solve with simple, mundane solutions.

When good enough gets the job done, go for it.

And remember, you can usually turn good enough into great later.

Quick wins

Momentum fuels motivation. It keeps you going. It drives you. Without it, you can't go anywhere. If you aren't motivated by what you're working on, it won't be very good.

The way you build momentum is by getting something done and then moving on to the next thing.

The longer something takes, the less likely it is that you're going to finish it.

Excitement comes from doing something and then letting customers have at it.

So don't wait too long—you'll smother your sparks if you do.

If you absolutely have to work on long-term projects, try to dedicate one day a week (or every two weeks) to small victories that generate enthusiasm. Small victories let you celebrate and release good news. And you want a steady stream of good news. When there's something new to announce every two weeks, you energize your team and give your customers something to be excited about.

The quicker it's in the hands of customers, the better off you'll be.

Don't be a hero

A lot of times it's better to be a quitter than a hero.

People automatically associate quitting with failure, but sometimes that's exactly what you should do. If you already spent too much time on something that wan't worth it, walk away. You can't get that time back. The worst thing you can do now is waste even more time.

Forgoing sleep is a bad idea.

We're all terrible estimators.

The solution: Break the big thing into smaller things. The smaller it is, the easier it is to estimate. You're probably still going to get it wrong, but you'll be a lot less wrong than if you estimated a big project.

Keep breaking you time frames down into smaller chunks.

Start making smaller to-do lists too.

Whenever you can, divide problems into smaller and smaller pieces until you're able to deal with them completely and quickly. Simply rearranging your tasks this way can have an amazing impact on your productivity and motivation.

Don't prioritize with numbers and labels.

Instead, prioritize visually.

...make choices that are small enough that they're effectively temporary.

These small decisions mean you can afford to change. There's no big penalty if you mess up. You just fix it.

Making tiny decisions doesn't mean you can't make big plans or think big ideas. It just means you believe the best way to achieve those big things is one tiny decision at a time.

Decommoditize your product

If you're successful, people will try to copy what you do. It's just a fact of life. But theres a great way to protect yourself from copycats: Make you part of your product or service. Inject what's unique about the way you think into what you sell. Decommoditize your product. Make it something no else can offer.

Pick a fight

If you think a competitor sucks, say so. When you do that, you'll find that others who agree with you will rally to your side. Being the anti-____ is a great way to differentiate yourself and attract followers.

Underdo your competitions

When you get suckered into an arms race, you wind up in a never-ending battle that costs you massive amounts of money, time, and drive. And it forces you to constantly be on the defensive, too. Defensive companies can't think ahead; they can only think behind. They don't lead; they follow.

Do less than your competitors to beat them. Solve the simple problems and leave the hairy, difficult, nasty problems to the competition. Instead of one-upping, try one-downing. Instead of outdoing, try underdoing.

Don't shy away from the fact that your product or service does less. Highlight it. Be proud of it. Sell it as aggressively as competitors sell their extensive feature lists.

Companies need to be true to a type of customer more than specific individual customer with changing needs.

The enthusiasm you have for a new idea is not an accurate indicator of its true worth.

...let your latest grand ideas cool off for a while first.

Write them down and park them for a few days. Then, evaluate their actual priority with a calm mind.

When you build an audience, you don't have to buy people's attention—they give it to you. This is a huge advantage.

So build an audience. Speak, write, blog, tweet, make videos—whatever. Share information that's valuable and you'll slowly but surely build a loyal audience. Then when you need to get the word out, the right people will already be listening.

As a business owner, you should share everything you know...

Give people a backstage pass and show them how your business works.

Even seemingly boring jobs can be fascinating when presented right.

People are curious about how things are made. like you really talk. Reveal things that other unwilling to discuss. Be upfront about your shortcoming. Show the latest version of what you're working on, even if you're not done yet. It's OK if it's not perfect. You might not seem as professional, but you will seem a lot more genuine.

Drug dealers get it right

Emulate drug dealers. Make your product so good, so addictive, so "can't miss" that giving customers a small free taste makes them come back with cash in hand.

This will force you to make something about your product bite-size. You want an easily digestible introduction to what you sell. This give people a way to try it without investing money or a lot of time.

Don't be afraid to give a little away for free—as long as you've got something else to sell. Be confident in what you're offering. You should know that people will come back for more. If you're not confident about that, you haven't created a strong enough product.

Marketing is not a department.

Marketing is something everyone in your company is doing 24/7/365.

Getting back to people quickly is probably the most important thing you can do when it comes to customer service.

When you rock the boat, there will be waves. After you introduce a new feature, change a policy, or remove something, knee-jerk reactions will pour in. Resist the urge to panic or make rapid changes in response. Passions flare in the beginning. That's normal. But if you ride out that first rocky week, things usually settle down.

So when people complain, let things simmer for a while. Let them know you're listening. Show them you're aware of what they're saying. Let them know you understand their discontent. But explain that you're going to let it go for a while and see what happens. You'll probably find that people will adjust eventually.

Inspiration is perishable

We all have ideas. Ideas are immortal. The last forever. What doesn't last forever is inspiration. Inspiration is like fresh fruit or milk: It has an expiration date.

If you want to do something, you've got to do it now. You can't put it on a shelf and wait two months to get around to it. You can't just say you'll do it later. Later, you want be pumped up about it anymore.

If you're inspired on a Friday, swear off the weekend and dive into the project. When you're high on inspiration, you can get two weeks of work done in twenty-four hours. Inspiration is a time machine in that way.

Inspiration is a magical thing, a productivity multiplier, a motivator. But it won't wait for you. Inspiration is a now thing. If it grabs you, grab it right back and put it to work.


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