Derek Sivers

Lucky Or Smart? - by Bo Peabody

Lucky Or Smart? - by Bo Peabody

ISBN: 1439210101
Date read: 2009-04-23
How strongly I recommend it: 5/10
(See my list of 320+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Tiny book by an incredibly successful serial entrepreneur telling his tales and lessons learned.

my notes

I was smart enough to realize I was getting lucky.

The number-one killer of start-ups is when entrepreneurs confuse “being lucky” with “being smart.”
You must possess the humility to distinguish one from the other.

There is a pseudo-scientific formula for creating business luck. And the key element is this:
Lucky things happen to entrepreneurs who start fundamentally innovative, morally compelling, and philosophically positive companies.
Because lots of smart people will gather around companies with these qualities.
As it turns out, precious few of them exist.
And the vast majority of human beings, and certainly most of the smart ones, are constitutionally caring creatures who would, if given the chance, prefer to spend their valuable time in a positive setting contributing to the betterment of society rather than in a negative setting contributing to its detriment.
Shocking, I know, but true.
And when smart, inspired people gather around a fundamentally innovative, morally compelling, and philosophically positive company, they work very hard.
And when smart, inspired people work very hard, serendipity ensues.
Serendipity—the faculty of making fortuitous discoveries by chance—causes lots of unexpected things to happen to a company.
Some of these unexpected things are good. Some are bad.
But because no one planned for the good things to happen, they appear as luck.
In other words, the best way to ensure that lucky things happen is to make sure that a lot of things happen.
It’s really that simple.

In applying this formula, the entrepreneur has two tasks:
1. Create an environment wheresmart people will gather
2. Be smart enough to stay out of the way and let luck happen.

Much of what makes a company fundamentally innovative, morally compelling, and philosophically positive is not what the company’s business model actually is, but how the entrepreneur communicates the mission of the company.

Create an “aura of authenticity,” which is the elixir that attracts smart people and inspires them.

My formula for getting lucky in business is reasonably simple:
Start a company that is fundamentally innovative, morally compelling, and philosophically positive.
Create an aura of authenticity around your start-up by carefully crafting your mission and communicating it with charisma and passion.
Your company will quickly attract smart, inspired people who will work very hard.
Treat all these people fairly.
Provide them with a clear action plan and give them the latitude to exercise their creativity.

The ability to focus and be patient is typically associated not with entrepreneurs but with managers.
Entrepreneurs want results immediately, while managers are happy to wait.

(About the techies who said they could do what he does:) The bet was that I could configure a web server before any of them could raise $1 million.

Start-ups are like extreme-skiing runs. The person who wins is the one who screws up the least and doesn’t die.

There is no such thing as a great start-up, because every startup can be improved upon.
And most of the improvement happens between the first incarnation of a company and the tenth.
Maybe by then, the company might well be considered great.
And that is precisely the moment by which all of the true entrepreneurs will have left the building.

Project Mercury and Tripod are good.
NASA and General Electric are great.
Start-ups are no place for greatness; leave that to the large, established companies.
If your idea is big enough, and crazy enough, all you have to do is survive. If you survive, you will succeed.

Odd people and ordinary people get a co-dependent kick out of being needed and liked by each other.

If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, be prepared to work with people who not only don’t follow the rutted path of the masses but openly shun it. After all, that’s why these people are willing to listen to you and your fundamentally innovative ideas in the first place.

In working with odd people, you are in for some serious challenges. But you’re also in for some serious treats. These are the smartest, most interesting people on the planet, and the fact that they are willing to give your ordinary B-getting ass the time of day should flatter you.

Bo Peabody to college that rejected him: “I reject your rejection.”

Most people would simply accept the rejection. Don’t. Ever. Train yourself not to shut down when you hear the word “no.” That is in fact just the time to really start fighting.

No human being likes to say “no” to another human being. When he does, he is at his weakest moment. Take that opportunity, and start selling.

It never pays to get indignant in any way. In every meeting, in every situation, you must always, always, always be gracious. The business world is a small place; what goes around comes around. Your ability to remain gracious will be tested often, and you will constantly be tempted to become defensive.

90 percent of Tripod’s value was in the amount of press we received in such a concentrated period of time.

The quickest way to completely tank your company is to wholeheartedly believe what you read in the press, especially if it happens to be about you. The vast majority of the press is not interested in covering what is actually happening. They are interested in covering what they think people want to think is actually happening.

The best use you can make of a Blackberry is to buy them for all of your competitors. They’ll never have time for another creative thought.

If you’re doing something fundamentally innovative, then there shouldn’t be much in the news for you anyway. By definition, the news has already happened. And the more you fill your head with the past, the less room there is to think about the future.

Recognize when there is in fact a right answer to a difficult question and you have no idea what it is.