Saturday, February 18, 2012

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

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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