The Wisdom of Rework

My takeaways from Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson's excellent book
The Wisdom of Rework

I’ve been spending a lot of my time recently deep in the minutiae of our financial model as we prepare to raise some additional Angel investment. To avoid the very problem we address with experts, that of becoming siloed, I’ve just reread the book “Rework” in a conscious effort to get my head out of the spreadsheet and into the business.

It reminded me what a valuable resource it is and I thought I would share some of its wisdom...

1) The only thing you learn from your mistakes is what to not do again. Contrast that with learning from your successes. Success gives you real ammunition. That shouldn't be a surprise. It's exactly how nature works. Evolution doesn't linger on past failures, it's always building upon what worked. So should you.

2) Workaholism. If all you do is work, you're unlikely to have sound judgements. Your values and decision making end up skewed. You stop being able to decide what's worth extra effort and what's not. And you wind up just plain tired. No one makes sharp decisions when tired.

3) Draw a line in the sand. Great businesses have a point of view, not just a product or service. You have to believe in something. You need to have a backbone. You need to know what you're willing to fight for. And then you need to show the world. When you don't know what you believe, everything becomes an argument. Everything is debatable. But when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.

  • Stick to the vision

4) You're better off with a kick-ass half than a half-assed whole. Lots of things get better as they get shorter. Directors cut good scenes to make a great movie. Musicians drop good tracks to make a great album. Writers eliminate good pages to make a great book. So start chopping. Getting to great starts by cutting out stuff that's merely good.

  • True, in the draft of this post I had a list of 30 and whittled it down to 15

5) Making the call is making progress. Whenever you can, swap "Let's think about it" for "Let's decide on it." Commit to making decisions. Don't wait for the perfect solution. Decide and move forward. The problem comes when you postpone decisions in the hope that a perfect answer will come to you later. It won't. You're as likely to make a great call today as you are tomorrow. It doesn't matter how much you plan, you'll still get some stuff wrong anyway.

6) Interruption is the enemy of productivity. You should get in the alone zone. Your day is under siege by interruptions. It's on you to fight back.

  • Soon after I joined Zapnito Jon (Beer) gave a great example of being disturbed while coding, he said “it’s the mental equivalent of getting up from my desk, leaving the office, running down the six flights of stairs to the street, running back up and returning to my desk completely out of breath.”

7) Meetings are toxic.

  • It’s worth reading pages 108-110 about this

8) Good enough is fine. Find a judo solution, one that delivers maximum efficiency with minimum effort. Judo solutions are all about getting the most out of doing the least. Whenever you face an obstacle, look for a way to judo it. When good enough gets the job done, go for it. And remember, you can usually turn good enough into great later.

9) Quick wins. Momentum fuels motivation. It keeps you going. It drives you. Without it, you can't go anywhere. If you aren't motivated by what you're working on, it won't be very good.

  • And celebrate those wins with the team

10) Who cares what they're doing? Focus on your competitors too much and you wind up diluting your own vision. You become reactionary instead of visionary.

  • Keeping the vision in focus

11) Say no by default. It's easy to say yes. Yes to another feature, yes to an overly optimistic deadline, yes to a mediocre design. Start getting into the habit of saying no. Use the power of no to get your priorities straight. You rarely regret saying no. But you often wind up regretting saying yes. Don't be a jerk about saying no, though. Just be honest.

12) Don't confuse enthusiasm with priority.

13) Hire when it hurts. Don't hire for pleasure; hire to kill pain.

14) Culture is the by-product of consistent behaviour. You don't create a culture. It happens. This is why new companies don't have a culture. If you encourage people to share, then sharing will be built into your culture. If you reward trust, then trust will be built in. Culture is action, not words.

  • “Artificial culture is paint. Real culture is patina”

15) Inspiration is perishable. Inspiration is a magical thing, a productivity multiplier, a motivator. But it won't wait for you. Inspiration is a now thing. If it grabs you, grab it right back and put it to work.

There are many more pearls of wisdom I could have chosen and I throughly recommend reading the whole book. It's so well written that you can fly through it in an evening.

(All quotes taken from “Rework” by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson)


Go to the profile of Jenefer Thoroughgood
over 4 years ago

I love Rework too Steve. Thanks for the reminder of why!

Go to the profile of Charles Thiede
over 4 years ago

My favourite section right now is Marketing is not a department. Everything we do is about the brand. Rework is a great book, but its not a manifesto and I reckon Fried would agree. But its got to be one of the best books on bootstrapping that I have ever read. Lean Startup is also pretty damn good but Fried has a lot more legs to stand on.