I’m going to batch a few of these reviews in the interest of catching up.  Enjoy!

Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie was a classic American industrialist.  He is most known for coming from nothing and amassing an incredible wealth in the steel industry.  He is slightly less known for building hundreds of libraries and giving away the vast majority of his wealth to make the country a better place.  His autobiography will appeal to the capitalist and the philanthropist and perhaps even encourage the fusion of both types of person.  Absolutely worth the read.


Grinding it Out – Ray Kroc

Ray Kroc was a straight up classic Chicago hustler.  I’d lump him in with the likes of Palmer, Pullman, Armour/Swift etc.   I didn’t know much of his history, but I did know he built McDonald’s into what we know today, so he had to be a pretty impressive person.  I watched “The Founder” that came out this year, and was even more intrigued with Kroc.  The movie depicts him to be a tough and self centered businessman who ultimately squeezes the McDonald’s brothers out of their own restaurant forcibly.  With all movies that are based on real events, you can expect the more compelling parts of someone’s personality to be exaggerated to produce more interesting movie content.  Nonetheless I enjoyed the movie and was delighted to see that Ray Kroc actually wrote an autobiography with his side of the story.  The title “Grinding it Out” immediately made me smile, any guy who would use that phrase to describe his life is a man I want to read about.


The Startup of You – Reid Hoffman

Reid Hoffman is an incredible entrepreneur, not just in the founding of LinkedIn but in his general approach to business and life.  Lots can be learned from his book “The Startup of You” which reads as a compilation of actionable advice to use in the improvement of your professional life.  Here a few of his main concepts.

Permanent Beta – This is the idea that the things your create as well as yourself should always be thought of as in ‘Beta’.  Taking this approach allows you to internalize the fact that things will always be changing in the business landscape and you as well as your products need to continuously adapt and improve.

Invest in Yourself – Another straightforward concept, Reid stresses the importance of putting your own development first.  He encourages readers to take more time for themselves, and not to be afraid of investing time/money in the building of skills that will pay dividends down the road.

Build a Risk Tolerance –  Most people that work a salaried day job don’t have enough money put away to last two weeks.  On top of that, they don’t have the skills developed to make themselves indispensible or better yet to find other meaningful work should they be let go.  Building up capital and skills is the best kind of insurance plan to have for when the unexpected strikes.

To sum up, it’s critical for people the understand that we live in an age of uncertainty and rapid innovation (change).  To be able to prosper, one must cultivate an ‘antifragility’ to change and structure their professional life (and financial) to benefit from the volatility of the business world.


The Self Made Billionaire Effect

The Self Made Billionaire Effect,  is the result of a pretty comprehensive study of today’s ‘self made’ billionaires.  The authors try to squash a lot of generalizations that are often thrust upon our fearless top percentage of earners with actual facts of their lives. Things like “how import is vision?”,  adapting to changing market environments etc. are covered in detail.

Usually books like this are pretty fluffy, but I downloaded this one anyways in hope of finding a few gems of insight to make it worthwhile.

I won’t go into each chapter this time, but the biggest piece of value I got from this book was a clearer definition of a topic I’ve often grappled with myself.  Duality and the ability to hold seemingly contradicting ideas in one’s head simultaneously is an overwhelming commonality among billionaires.

If you read enough autobiographies (heh) then you start to come across conflicting ideas about business and life naturally.   Gary Vaynerchuk might say “grind!  Never give in ever, even if it takes years” while others might say things like “fail fast, iterate continuously and don’t be afraid to abandon something that isn’t working”.   A logical reader may wonder who is right?  Well in a lot of cases both, they are merely expressing different sides of the same coin used to play the slot game of entrepreneurship.  

When I read the author’s take on duality of business it helped solidify the thoughts I was having when reading advice from many of the subjects of this book.  It’s very important to be able to hold nuanced concepts in your mind so you can apply the appropriate one to a decision you’re facing.  Interesting stuff, more on this later.  Overall it was a worthwhile read, even if you don’t aspire to being a billionaire (I certainly don’t).

Categories: Book Club