Category Archives: Reviews

I usually read allot, but I am expecting to read even more during the time we will be in Fernie. So I will post reviews of the books and other toys here:

Vagabonding by Rolf Potts – Review


I have been captivated by the idea of long term world travel since I’ve read The 4-hour WorkweekIn that book Timothy Ferriss referred to Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-term World Travel by Rolf Potts.  This short guide to this unconventional life offers some great insights and describes the roads less travelled in vivid detail.

Our time in Fernie was a first step in exploring long term travel, although after reading Vagabonding  I’ve realised that there is so much more to do, and more importantly so much more to learn.  But as Potts articulates in Vagabonding it is about getting into a completely different mind-set.  But this is a mind-set very difficult to understand when you are trapped in the rat race of normal everyday life.

==> Click Here to buy: Vagabonding <==

Vagabonding also builds on one of the key ideas I got out of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance where Robert M. Pirsig put it as follows:

“To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top.”

While in Vagabonding, Potts says:

“As new experiences and insights take you in surprising new directions, you’ll gradually come to understand why long-time travellers insist the journey itself is far more important than any destination.”

Reading the book also got me thinking about the contrast of seeking happiness vs. significance, a topic I will try and explore in a future blog post.

The last chapter in Vagabonding is about returning home and seeing it with new eyes, since you are no longer the person you were when you left.  Potts talks about feeling homesick while being at home…homesick for the other places that you’ve left behind.  I can appreciate that feeling right now.

He also offers some advice about trying to relate the stories gathered on your travels to you friends and family back home – “leave the best parts out”.

I think everybody can benefit greatly from experiencing life not as a race from weekend to weekend, but as a long extended travel experience. Where every day is something to look forward to, learning as you go, and taking in all the different parts of the world has to offer.

==> Click Here to buy: Vagabonding <==

And before you say that it won’t be possible for you, Vagabonding show how almost anybody can do it if they wish to.  Whatever your excuse is, somebody else have already overcome the same challenge and made it happen.

As Donald Miller says in A Million Miles: “Make sure your life is a story worth telling”

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values

I have never before ventured into the world of philosophy.  Although I have been curios at times to know more about it, I never got to read a book on the subject.  I was actually prompted to read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by a quote in a Paul Graham essay, then after seeing some tweets from others that have read it, I had to give it a try.  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was a very long read, but I found it thoroughly thought provoking. It definitely got my mind thinking and asking questions even more than it usually does while reading.

The timing of reading the book was also a happy coincident.  Spending the ski season in a small BC ski town, and embracing the mountain lifestyle, was the perfect setting for me to read this 1970s’ classic.  It helped me think about what a quality life would really mean for me and my family, and where we are most likely to find it.

==> Click here to buy: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance <==

The book tells the story of a motorcycle journey through the North West United States, while on the road trip the narrator takes you on an intellectual expedition of discovery into philosophy.  He asks some fascinating questions about quality, technology and education.  It also gives insight into the narrator’s struggles with mental illness and his relationship with his teenage son.

As many in my generation, my idea of technology is sometimes limit to what we experience today.  So when he talks about how technology changes the world in a book written before I was born, it serves as a reminder that technology transcends our lifetimes.

The way he talks about working on a motorcycle in the book reminds me what great cricket batsmen always say they try and do while batting.  To live in the moment, they look for that state of mind where you don’t think about anything else than the next ball you have to face.  This ability to completely embrace in what you are doing is something I want to work on.

==> Click here to buy: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance <==

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was also the first book in a long time, maybe ever, that I have read written in the first person.  As the author explains in the introduction to this edition, that limits the reader to the narrators view of the world.  After finishing the book, I had to read the introduction again.  This got me thinking how the same limitations apply to own thoughts and the way we view the world.

I can see how Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance became a classic. Take the time to read it, you will not regret it.

Startup Life – Review

Startup Life

I have really enjoyed all of Brad Feld’s books I have read. Venture Deals and Startup Communities were two of my favourites.  Startup Life co-authored by Brad and his wife Amy was the next instalment in his Startup series.  For some reason I was a little hesitant to read it. I was not sure I wanted to get the balanced life and relationship advice I thought it would offer.

==> Click here to buy: Startup Life <==

Luckily Brad had a competition a few weeks ago.  He offered a dinner with two couples and their partners as the prize.  All you had to do to enter was to buy the book and send him proof.  I obliged entering for both the amazon and B&N competitions.

So when I finished the Founders Dilemma’s, I started to read Startup Life. It turned out to be a really awesome read.  Brad and Amy offer some great practical life to help everybody in the family adjust to the pressures of startup life.

They’ve also included some advice and inserts from other entrepreneurial couples.  Since they don’t have kids, most of the chapters on kids was contributions by others who do have kids.

They have a big focus on communication, which forms a central theme throughout the book.  They give some great examples from their own relationship on how to work on improving communication.  They have some great suggestions like four minutes focused on each other each morning, life dinner and quarterly vacations off the grid.  Many of these suggestions came when Amy renegotiated their relationship years into their marriage.

I am really glad I read this one. Next step is to get my wife to read it as well. It will definitely help us have a better relationship going forward. Especially as I get ready to do my next startup.

==> Click here to buy: Startup Life <==

Thanks Brad and Amy for going to the effort of writing Startup Life, and being so open in sharing many of your personal thoughts and solutions.  I look forward to the next instalment in the Startup series.

The Founder’s Dilemmas – Review

Founders Dilemmas

A few years ago I read an article in the Harvard Business Review that asked: Do you want to be rich or king?  After reading that article I thought my answer to the question is obvious and that I would rather be rich than king of the castle.  So when Amazon recommended The Founder’s Dilemmas, I was immediately intrigued to read the book.

==>Click Here to Buy: The Founder’s Dilemmas <==

The author Noam Wasserman is a professor at Harvard Business School.  Although The Founder’s Dilemmas reads a little like an academic article, I found it fascinating.  The data used as basis for this book was gather by Wasserman over more than a decade. It included more than 10 000 founders, in the technology and life science industries.

The Founder’s Dilemmas analyzed many of the reasons that people tend to start businesses. Although there are many, the primary motivators are either wealth or control.  Wasserman the goes into great detail into many of the decisions that founders make through out the life of the business that they start.

Some of the most critical decision included: Founding on your own or as a team, taking investment or bootstrapping, when to replace a founder CEO, hiring people.  For example control motivated founder will tend to: remain solo founders, hire inexperienced people and keep control of decisions, self fund, and choose to remain CEO through all stages of the business development.

I found this central theme very insightful, and it really helped me understand my own motivation better. I have no doubt that it will help me make better and more consistent decision when I start my next business.

I also loved the real live examples of founders and the decision they made. One of the case studies were Evan Williams, through founding and selling blogger and then founding Odeo which eventually led to starting Twitter.  Interestingly another case study was Feedburner, who was founded by Dick Costolo (among others) whom later become CEO of Twitter when Evan Williams stepped down.

==>Click Here to Buy: The Founder’s Dilemmas <==

When starting a business the founders make key decision very early on that they will have to live with for the life of the business, The Founder’s Dilemmas offers great guidance to make sure you make informed decisions.  It will also force you to properly examine your own motivations.

What are your motivations and how have they effected key decisions when you started a business?

Getting Real – Review

Getting Real is a Great Read!

After reading Rework from the, I could not wait to also read Getting Real.  I was not disappointed, it is another practical and inspiring read.  This book was actually published before Rework, so some of the ideas were a repeat of things also mentioned in Rework.

True to there own philosophies of leaving out everything possible, the book is relatively short and broken up into short chapters with mini chapters sometimes added.  Throughout Getting Real the authors supplement the book with inserts from other people reinforcing the point they are trying to make.  It was great reading somebody else articulating the idea a little differently.

==> Click here to buy: Getting Real <==

Getting Real is all about taking action rather than talking about taking action. It is about not writing documents about what you are going to do and just doing it and learning as you go.  One of the fundamental ideas behind this philosophy is that many of the problems you anticipate will happen never will. So stop worrying about them and get going.  Then solve the problems that do occur in a JIT (just in time) manner.

The book applies the Getting Real way of thinking (or doing) to almost all aspects of getting a web application going.  This includes interface design, feature selection, coding and promotions among many others.

It ties in very nicely with the Lean Startup methodology.  I suspect some of the ideas in the book will help when I get to start my next business.  Most of the idea would have already come in handy if I had read the book a few years ago. I think I would have approached many conversations and discussion we had at Private Property in a different way if I had read it back then.

==> Click here to buy: Getting Real <==

If you find yourself in software, internet or mobile startup, you would be well advised to read Getting Real. If you have read Getting Real, tell me your thoughts below: