Dec 31, 2012

The Start-up of You

"All humans are entrepreneurs" 

You can see your life as a start-up. That is the main message of the very good book The start-up of you by Reid Hoffman [one of the founders of LinkedIn] and Ben Casnocha. This means innovating, creating new ideas, adapting to changes, building social networks, reading broadly to expand your horizons, etc. Managing your life as an enterprise implies looking at your projects as if they were in constant beta form, which means that everything is temporal and success is not guaranteed, especially in the current economy where long-term jobs are becoming rare. 

Automobile companies like General Motors, in the US went from being some of the largest in the world in 1970-80s, they had a bright beginning and rapid growth. They were game changers. Recently the story is not the same, and GM started a bankruptcy process and asked for government money. Detroit, the city where they are located, has suffered dramatically with raising unemployment, losing population; and parts of the city are abandoned. What happened:

"The auto industry got too comfortable"

Silicon Valley is another story. It is reinventing itself constantly. One can choose between being Detroit, or being Silicon Valley. In a fundamental way this means an approach to life of constant "alertness."  

Illustration by Von Glitschka and Brett Bolkowy
Copyright © 2012 by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha
"Get busy livin',  or get busy dyin'. If you're not growing, you are contracting. If you're not moving forward, you are moving backward."
How do you go about living your life, or managing it, as a start-up:
1) Develop your competitive advantage in the market by combining three puzzle pieces: your assents, your aspirations, and the market realities.  
2) Use ABZ Planning to formulate a Plan A based on your competitive advantage, and then iterate and adapt that plan based on feedback and lessons learned. ABZ Planing means have a plan A, a plan B, and a safe option Z.  
3) Build real, lasting relationships and deploy these relationships into powerful professional network.  
4) Find and create opportunities for yourself by tapping networks, being resourceful, and staying in motion.  
5) Accurately appraise and take on intelligent risk as you pursue professional opportunities.  
6) Tap network intelligence from the people you know for the insight that allows you to find better opportunities and make better career decisions. 
Your competitive advantage: 

"The person passionate about what he is doing will outwork and outlast the guy motivated solely by making money," but take into consideration the market realities. 
  • Make plans based on your competitive advantage
  • Prioritize learning
  • Practical knowledge is best developed by doing
  • Don't bet the farm but be ready and willing to make errors
  • Think two steps ahead
  • Maintain an identity separate from you specific employer 
 "World-class professionals build networks to help them navigate the world. No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy. If you're playing a solo game, you'll always lose out to a team. "
"Try to help other people first. Don't keep score. Think about your relationships all the time, not just when you need something."
"If you don't follow risk, risk will follow you" because "short-term volatility increases long-term stability."
Where you live matters, that is your city and your country, because entrepreneurs need certain conditions to prosper, such as rule of law and legal certainty, and the guarantee of minimal rights like life and property. Role models matter too.

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