Rework is a goldmine. It’s written by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. Below are quotes and takeaways from my favorite chapters. All of the quotes are from the authors unless otherwise noted.

Learning from mistakes is overrated

Failure is not a prerequisite for success

Don’t romanticize failure. You learn more from success than you do from failure. When you succeed you have a better chance at finding the cause of your success. When you fail you have a much lower chance of knowing what would have worked. Just because lots of businesses fail, doesn’t mean yours has to.

This doesn’t mean you can’t learn anything from failure. If you fail you should learn as much from it as possible.

Planning is guessing

Unless you’re a fortune teller, long-term business planning is a fantasy. There are just too many factors that are out of your hands.

Plans are guesses. When you use the word plan you are locking yourself into a guess. You aren’t free to improvise. It’s helpful to think about the future, but don’t delude yourself. Don’t think too far in the future. Make more short term decisions than long term ones.

Give up on the guesswork. Decide what you’re going to do this week, not this year. Figure out the next most important thing and do that. Make decisions right before you do something, not far in advance.

Why grow?

Small is a great destination in itself

Startups focus on growth. People often judge the success of a business by how many people you employ, or how much money you’ve raised. Your goal is profitability, not growth. If you are profitable and sustainable, you should be proud. Small companies have a big advantage in moving faster than competition.

Fire the workaholics

Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is already home because she figured out a faster way to get things done.

Workaholism isn’t necessary and shouldn’t be celebrated. It’s not good for company culture. There are diminishing returns when it comes to time and productivity.

Workaholics make the people who don’t stay late feel inadequate for “merely” working reasonable hours. That leads to guilt and poor morale all around

Scratch your own itch

The easiest, most straightforward way to create a great product or service is to make something you want to use

Building a product is an exercise in problem solving. If you don’t understand the shape of the problem, it’s hard to solve it. Build products that solve your problems. You’ll understand if what you’re making is any good.

Draw a line in the sand

Great businesses have a point of view, not just a product or service.

Make a stand and you’ll create super fans. Some people might not like your point of view, but you’ll have clarity about what you should be doing.

When you don’t know what you believe, everything becomes an argument. Everything is debatable. But when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.

Outside money is plan Z

Here’s why:

  1. You give up control.
  2. Cashing out becomes more important than building a great product.
  3. It’s easy to spend other people’s money.
  4. It’s not a good deal. When you are starting out you have no leverage.
  5. Customers become less important than investors.
  6. Raising money is distracting.

You need less than you think

Great companies start in garages all the time. Yours can too.

Instead of needing lots of money, full time customer support, business cards, retail stores, and a big office, you can forego it all. Start small.

Building to flip is building to flop

You need a commitment strategy not an exit strategy. You should be thinking about how to make your project grow and succeed, not how you’re going to jump ship.

If you want to exit your business as you are getting started, chances are that you shouldn’t be building it in the first place. Odds of getting bought are not good. Building a quality product is what you need to be focused on.

Decisions are progress

Whenever you can, swap “Let’s think about it” for “Let’s decide on it”

Progress means momentum. Momentum boosts morale. You are probably just as likely to make a good decision now as in the future. If you make a bad mistake you don’t have to live with it forever. Even when you overanalyze you make mistakes. Odds are you’ll waste time in the process.

Focus on what won’t change

The core of your business should be built around things that won’t change. Things that people are going to want today and ten years from now.

Instead of following fads, invest in the things that won’t go out of style. For Amazon, this is good customer service and fast shipping. For a software company like basecamp, it’s speed, simplicity, and ease of use. Customers will want these things 10 years from now.

Sell your by-products

When you make something, you always make something else. You can’t make just one thing.

Be on the lookout for the by products of your work. Henry Ford figured out how to take excess wood from the Model T line and make charcoal. He started the company that would eventually become Kingsford Charcoal. The by product of your work might be knowledge that can be packaged and sold. The Rework book itself is a by product of the things the authors learned while starting their company.

Interruption is the enemy of productivity

Interrupting other people can seem like collaboration, but it isn’t. You need long stretches of time to get meaningful work done. You need space to be alone and concentrate. The communication tools you use should be asynchronous, letting you postpone a response until the time is good for you.

Meetings are toxic

The worse interruptions of all are meetings

You shouldn’t think of a one hour meeting with 5 people as a “one hour meeting”. It’s a 5 hour meeting. You are taking 5 work hours away from the team. Meetings create more meetings, they communicate a small amount of information, and they get off topic fast. If you have to get together, invite as few people as possible.

Underdo your competition

Don’t shy away from the fact that your product or service does less. Highlight it. Be proud of it. Sell it as aggressively as competitors sell their extensive feature lists.

You don’t need to one up your competitors. Let them solve the hard problems. Reducing features so that a product is simple is usually better than adding lots of difficult to implement feature sets. An example of this is fixed gear bikes. These bikes are simple and they work well for a sizable group of bikers.

Do it yourself first

Never hire anyone to do a job until you’ve tried to do it yourself.

It’s hard to hire for a position that you don’t understand. Try doing the work yourself first. If you succeed and it’s manageable, then you’ve saved yourself the need to hire someone. If you realize that it’s not possible for you to do the work you will still have a good idea of what the job entails. It will also make you a better manager of the person you hire.

Inspiration is perishable

If you want to do something, you’ve got to do it now.

If you are excited about an idea, don’t wait. Get started now. Inspiration is a productivity multiplier, but it’s perishable.

Inspiration is a now thing. if it grabs you, grab it right back and put it to work


Ignore this book at your own peril - Seth Godin

I’ve been through this book 3 times. It’s lodged deep in my head. It’s shaped the way I think about business, work, and productivity. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Go buy it.