‘BUILD’ Takeaway #1: There is no Getting Started 101 without making Error 404s
Sorry for the tacky technical slang in the title. That is the best an engineering undergrad like me could come up with to discuss a book I have been reading for the past few hours.
The book goes by the name “BUILD: An Unorthodox Guide To Making Things Worth Making”. And the author is none other than the Inventor of the iPod and the iPhone — Tony Fadell. When I realized Tony had written a book that was due to launch on May 3rd, I instantly pre-ordered it. And as soon as the clock struck 12, I refreshed my Kindle Library to find my next read on the shelf.
As I write this, it’s been 18 hours since the book launched, and I am two chapters down. But I couldn’t wait to finish it all until I shared a review or takeaway. That is mostly because this book isn’t written in the sense to be devoured from cover to cover. Rather it is an encyclopedia that needs to be referred to when the challenges covered in each chapter start resonating with you. That’s one of the ways you can read the book. That is how I am reading it.
Tony shares his experience of working in different companies, doing his own startups, and being both successful and hitting rock bottom, throughout his career. I have read many business and entrepreneurial-related books that straight away begin with idea inceptions, building companies, managing teams, and other business stuff that you had signed up for. However, I was glad Tony wavered from the convention to dedicate the first chapter to building… yourself!
This one single chapter hits on a whole new level. Because instead of simply targeting young adults looking for whatever startup inspiration they can get from wherever possible, this book now addresses the more important question of how to get started — a question that is not answered by most school and university curriculums these days.
And that is why the first takeaway from this book is based just on the first chapter of the book — BUILD YOURSELF.
1. Start with what’s in your heart
The best way to find a job you’ll love and a career that will eventually make you successful is to follow what you’re naturally interested in, then take risks when choosing where to work.
If you have a calling then listen to it. This in no way is meant to encourage settling for what you are skilled at and then shun your thinking hat for the rest of your life. It means finding your natural interests and then leveraging them for a difficult task. In that way, you get to learn and hone your skills further, all the while in your best interest and in that of the organization you are working for.
If finding those natural instincts are itself tough for you, then experiment. Even if it explodes on your face, you will have enough experience to learn from and move ahead — next time with more certainty. Tony has a beautiful way of putting it into words: “Early adulthood is about watching your dreams go up in flames and learning as much as you can from the ashes. Do, fail, learn. The rest will follow.”
2. Get your goals aligned with your work
You don’t have to be an executive right away, you don’t have to get a job at the most amazing, world-changing company right out of college, but you should have a goal. You should know where you want to go, who you want to work with, what you want to learn, who you want to become.
Once you are there, working for a company or doing your own business — you might want to align your goals with the work you do. This has long-term benefits and helps you from burning out. It keeps you on your toes even when the work you are doing isn’t all that exciting.
For people working in corporate environments, these could be individual projects you work upon, on the side. It could even be a collaboration with an acquaintance halfway across the globe. Just having these goals in sight, let you strive for them when your current workplace is in a gloomy state.
This is also for those who are in the field of developing near-future technologies. Sometimes the only sane choice is to quit when your customer base is not ready for the product/service you have built. You could either continue to strive and develop passionately and be the first to deliver when the time is right or simply use the built technology for a different goal, leveraging it for a better purpose.
3. Try working with your heroes
Good mentor won’t hand you the answers, but they will try to help you see your problem from a new perspective. They’ll loan you some of their hard-fought advice so you can discover your own solution.
The quote “Never meet your heroes” is so misunderstood. In the conventional sense, it argues that meeting your heroes could ruin the glorious image you have of them in your eyes. But that’s only because you are not ready to see what they have seen and learned over the years. They didn’t become a hero just by following the normal routine and if you are in any way, a follower of the normal routine — it’s got to hurt your eyes a little.
Tony reflects on his experience working with his mentors, who he admired a lot. After being hired by General Magic, he was in awe of the founders — Bill Atkinson and Andy Hertzfeld. But after a few days, when the whole aura, he envisioned around them, lifted, he got comfortable sharing with them his ideas about the different products and getting all the feedback necessary.
All the while, you will be making mistakes you would have never thought of. And that is the great thing. The lessons you learn will propel you towards the next big thing, which could use your experience to either turn out a success or just another learning lesson. And the best thing about these lessons is that no one will grade you according to how well you have faired. Mostly because no one likes to compete in terms of losses incurred. But the experience from these losses remains inherent — slowly making you powerful and attracting the next big opportunity.
This would be my first takeaway. I am really looking forward to reading more from this book. I am already in the third chapter or so and would love to do another takeaway post soon. And while we are at it, you should definitely give this book a read if you found this takeaway interesting.
What was your experience starting off in your early days? Or what is still keeping you from starting off today? Let’s have a discussion in the comments below.
Originally published at https://adityadarekar.blogspot.com on May 3, 2022.