Thursday, November 26

Book Review: Managing Humans

Book Cover
Like many of the books I've read, Managing Humans is essentially a printed-out blog, and you can tell that pretty quickly by the terse, disjointed, and stream-of-consciousness hops from one chapter to the next. The first few chapters were rough enough to give me the impression (a) it was going to be painful to finish the book, and (b) I couldn't wait to rip it a new one when I reviewed it. However, it got better, so I'll have to save my ripping for another victim.

First, the bad. In the early chapters the author uses some hyperbolically fabricated scenarios involving over-the-top caricatures of personalities to assert that everybody you work with is an idiot and they can be categorized into these nice little buckets and since he's been doing this for so many years he knows all the angles and this is how it is and this is how you should deal with it. This preaching tone and one-sided view of things really left a bad taste in my mouth.

However, in later chapters the author seems to come back down to earth and realize there are other sides to every story and he speaks more in the tone of "this is how it happened in my particular situation and I think this was the best way to handle it." That sat a lot better with me. If I were a betting man, I would speculate that the early chapters, as blog posts, received some critical feedback and the author took it to heart in his future writings.

Having been around the block a few times, from the lowly sysadmin to the even lowlier CTO, I could relate to a lot of the author's parables and anecdotes. In some cases he's spot on and offers great advice, but in others he's rather short-sighted and preachy.

In summary I would recommend the book because it's always good to see your industry through somebody else's eyes, with the caveat that it's a bumpy road in the beginning, and expect that you'll be reading a blog on paper as opposed to a smooth-flowing book.

Wednesday, November 11

Book Review: Crush It!

Book Cover
I've never read a motivational self-help book, but I imagine this is what they are like. Gary compresses a lot of good content into a very small book, but there's a plethora of cheerleading. His core message can be boiled down to work really hard (crush it) and be honest with yourself and others (your DNA).

The chapters are peppered with humorous and inspiring anecdotes from Gary's childhood, which at times seem contradictory. For example, an early chapter tells of Gary's nearly poor and starving family splurging on two Star Wars action figures for his Christmas present, followed a couple chapters later by his father giving him $1,000 to set up a booth at a baseball card convention.

Gary tells a good story, and he has some great advice on leveraging Internet trends, especially the social networking aspect, to "build your brand." He's also adamant about breaking the mold, chasing after advertisers directly rather than hiding behind facades like Google's AdSense; go straight to the money source and cut out the middle man. I hear Gary speak at half of the conventions I attend (even had lunch with him at the last one) and I like him and his message. If you haven't seen him, head over to Google and find a couple of his videos. His Wine Library TV shows are great, but his keynotes are awe inspiring, especially FOWA Miami from a couple years back.

Unfortunately this book, like so many success stories I've read recently, subscribes to the theory of "this worked for me, so it's gotta work for you, right?" Gary says you should be working all the time, "until your eyes bleed," yet the jacket sports a quote from his bud Tim Ferris who only works four hours a week. Likewise Gary makes an off-the-cuff comment about real entrepreneurs not spending their time playing poker with their buds, an apparent jab at bazillionaire Jason Calacanis who seems addicted to the game.

Despite the sometimes seemingly-mixed messages, I do recommend this book because it's short and to the point and full of great advice. My only caveat is we can all learn from his experiences, but we can't all be Gary V.; there are many ways to succeed and Gary's isn't the only one.