Start with Why

Start with Why answers some of the most complex questions about business and culture in the most obvious of ways that has left me honestly confused. I am not sure how this kind of brilliance has eluded business culture for so long, and yet it makes perfect sense that the best companies in the world; certainly the ones that have the most interest from a talent perspective, attribute the philosophies found in Simon Sinek’s book.

Perhaps the simplest explanation is simply that Culture = Value * Behavior. That is to say the values of your organization are literally meaningless if the behavior of the individuals at the organization do not mirror them; this is particularly true of the leadership and executive level.

Simon imagines a world where everyone was thrilled to wake up in the morning and go to work, and was fulfilled by the work they do, and in this masterful work of words I leave with the same optimism.

If you’re looking for a way to redirect your career, or you’re a leader looking to refine the culture of your team or organization then look no further: Start with Why

The 48 Laws of Power

Understanding that much of this book is exaggeration and/or conjecture, I have found there to be shockingly appropriate “laws” that I have immediate real-life examples to reflect upon.

Coincidentally they happen to also be the first two laws:

Never Outshine “The Master.”

In my younger years, I thought the ambition and passion were enough (and transparent) to warrant praise and recognition, and it was shocking to me when executives in one particular former company would deliberately muffle or silence the efforts I was taking with completely honest intentions. Looking back this makes perfect sense now as their technical and professional insecurities were on full display.

Never put too Much Trust in Friends, Learn how to use Enemies

To this day this has been the hardest lesson I have ever had to learn. I thankfully never had my heart broken, and have lived a fairy-tale life with my wife of >15 years.

However, I made the catastrophic mistake of being “the guy” for several friends who could get them jobs, train them, and drag them through a complete career rebirth because I knew that they would not only be grateful, but thankful. And frankly I sincerely enjoyed doing what I thought was genuine and helpful to enrich their lives.

Unfortunately this later led to the largest betrayal of my life, a cross-country move, and a years of paranoia, obsessive introspection and anxiety that I am not convinced will ever really disappear. All at the hands of the one person I would have previously trusted at the same level as my wife. A very hard lesson to learn, but learned well; and on the first try 🙂

My Thoughts

This book and its author go to great lengths to explain the “laws” of power and use examples for each that range from thousands to decades of years old, offering real evidence as to how they have been applied and used over the centuries by the famous and infamous.

Many of these, applied lightly to real life would likely lead to real gains in the power in modern life, but they are riddled with contradiction and hyperbole, so I would caution anyone reading this to literally interpret them as laws to be applied without restraint.

In any event this was a wonderful read that really helped me understand some of the mistakes I’ve made in the past as a professional at work and as a friend and has helped glean insight into how people reacted the way they did when I was at the time completely flabbergasted.

What Every Angel Investor Wants You To Know

As obvious as much of the content of this book is to me now, I wish I had read this five years ago and had some of the insights to share with some former executives.

Much of what the author, Brian Cohen, dives into here can be filed under “duh” when you really think about it, but it’s nevertheless wildly important to really grasp the nuts and bolts of the foundational principles of what angel investors really want to see and how you can get there.

Ultimately what it boils down to is the character of the Founder(s) of the company and their grit towards the success of their idea. The idea itself, contrary to popular belief, is not nearly as important as the quality of the people executing on the idea.

As history has proven to me, poor leaders can drive an ivy league idea into the toilet, and exceptional leaders can reinvent something as basic as an MP3 player, or selling a book, into an empire.

In any event, any aspiring entrepreneur would be foolish not to read this book, if for nothing else than to reaffirm some of the obvious, and glean into the cultural and philosophical components of angel investing.

What I personally learned from this book, is that I don’t want an angel investor. Although I may enjoy being one some day soon if the act is anything like the literature representation of it.