I think asking better questions is the third most useful thing you can do. Answering them is second, acting on the answers is first. Acting on ideas is on me and I don’t expect a book to do that. If as book offers specific ideas I can use I give it five stars. This book gets four because I find it difficult to implement the broad ideas it offers. 

I picked up the book because I heard Tim Ferriss interview the book’s coauthor, David Heinmeier Hansson. Hannson is better known as the inventor of the development framework *Ruby on Rails and the cocreator of Basecamp. The interview gives a glimpse of how Basecamp operates as a company.

If you want a book on business philosophy written by people who walk the talk, it would be difficult to find one with better credentials. Fried and Hannson live the ideas laid out in the book in their operation of Basecamp, where they apply the lessons daily. What lessons?

  •  Be proactive. 
  • Be economical. 
  • Don’t fall for excuses, especially your own.

The good news: the book is a collection of brief essays, all 1-3 pages long. You can read them at your convenience and in any order. The underlying messages are simple and clear.
The flip side: if you are looking for prescriptions or details, look elsewhere. This book is not procedural and doesn’t offer a recipe for success. The closest it comes to recommendations is advising you on what to not do:

  • Don’t but led what you don’t need.
  • Don’t hire people you don’t need.
  • Don’t borrow when you can avoid it.

One chapter I particularly liked was called Reasons to Quit. It offered a collection of several useful questions:

  • 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?

There are nuggets of wisdom here worth checking out.

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson


1st Edition

ISBN-13: 978-0307463746, ISBN-10: 0307463745

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