I’m sure I’m not the only one, but I have at least a half-dozen half-read books about business and leadership on my bookshelf.
Over the years I’ve had many reads suggested to me, whether timeless wisdom on How to Win Friends and Influence People or trendy narrative around Growth Hacker Marketing. Any time I get a new book related to business, I usually dive right in with excitement—but it fades about as fast as the glass of wine I’m drinking just to stay motivated. It’s not because the subject matter isn’t interesting or relevant, it’s just that when it comes to books on the subject of business I admit I do better with the CliffsNotes.
I think that’s why when I first read the book REWORK not only did I get through the whole thing (in one day), I still remember many of the principles it covers years later. REWORK is a manifesto from the founders of 37signals, a small but wildly successful software company behind online products like Basecamp. They went through the typical pains of getting their product to market and did the rest of us a favor by documenting their experience.
REWORK is a composition of about 90 very short essays on topics that feel quite taboo compared to more traditional business advice. To name a few:
- Ignore the real world
- Reasons to quit
- Meetings are toxic
- Good enough is fine
- Underdo your competition
- Say no by default
Each essay does a good job of calling BS on the traditional business mindset, then provides a bit of pragmatic advice based on the 37signals team’s own experiences. Having spent most of my career in a services (not product) business, I still found most of their perspective illuminating and germane.
A few essays in REWORK have had a profound impact on me (more like a wakeup call), helping inspire my decision several years ago to stop climbing the proverbial ladder and create a new path for my career that didn’t cannibalize my personal pursuits.
Workaholism: Working more doesn’t mean you care more or get more done. It just means you work more.
Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day; they just use it up. The real hero is home because she figured out a faster way.
Make a dent in the universe: To do great work, you need to feel that you’re making a difference.
This doesn’t mean you need to find the cure for cancer. It’s just that your efforts need to feel valuable. If you’re going to do something, do something that matters.
Interruption is the enemy of productivity: You can’t get meaningful things done when you’re constantly going start, stop, start, stop.
Those taps on the shoulder and little impromptu get-togethers may seem harmless, but they’re actually corrosive to productivity. The worst of all interruptions are meetings.
It’s easy to see from the excerpts above that REWORK is an especially quotable book. Here are a few of my personal favorites:
“There are four-letter words you should never use in business. They’re not f@$% or s&%#. They’re need, must, can’t, easy, just, only and fast. These words get in the way of healthy communication.”
“You don’t need an MBA, a certificate, a fancy suit, a briefcase, or an above-average tolerance for risk. You just need an idea, a touch of confidence, and a push to get started.”
“It’s OK if it’s not perfect. You might not seem as professional, but you will seem a lot more genuine.”
“What you do is what matters. Not what you think or say or plan.”
As Seth Godin so elegantly said, “Ignore this book at your own peril.” I honestly believe there is something for everyone trying to break-through the status quo business or career.