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How to think like an entrepreneur, wherever you are (techcrunch.com)
110 points by ahoyhere on Aug 19, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 32 comments

This is very good information, but there is a danger in just sucking up as much information as possible. Study hacks blogged about a very interesting study some time ago (http://calnewport.com/blog/2010/01/06/the-grandmaster-in-the...) in which it was found that time spend studying chess was only weakly correlated with how good you where - if you merely put in the hours, you could learn to become pretty good at chess, but the grandmasters didn't just study more or harder, they studied in a different way.

Rather than simply memorizing chess games, they read old games and tried to predict what the next move would be - which the intermediate players didn't do (or at least not very much).

So if you want to be a business grandmaster, you may have to read the businessbooks in an entirely different way from what everybody else does.

I had a chemistry teacher who used to say "Consumption does not equal comprehension" during the materials review the day before all of his tests.

His point was that memorizing notes wasn't going to help you pass; you had to actually work on solving problems in order to really learn the material.

I agree with both of you.

That's why I (author of the essay) added that you have to look at the case studies and ask yourself what you would have done, how that could be applied to other situations, etc. That's the only way to build reusable mental patterns (IMO - not sure if there's scientific evidence for that! except mental practice of athletes, musicians, etc...)

Too bad I had a word limit to work with :D

Founders at Work is a good book of web startup case studies. Are there others?

What I really want is a place where people who run web startups post, "here's something I did to improve my product" and "here's something I did to reach my market" with specifics about their product and market. That's how I could build a mental database of "chunks".

HN is often too high-level (acquisitions, financing) or too low-level (programming techniques) and not right at that chunk level.

Mixergy often has highly actionable information based on the interviews that Andrew does. If you find interviews that are relevant to your industry/product/vertical, they can be really helpful.

Thanks. I try to model my interviews on JL's work.

The "Traction" podcasts by Gabriel Weinberg are very good.


They have real discussions of what people did to get their business going.

I strongly encourage you to bridge out beyond just "startup" media. It's not as if the idea of beginning a company from nothing is a new concept these past 5 years.

thinking is one, execution is another. Reading is important, but action is crucial. I have no problems saying that I can think like entrepreneurs, and I believe you can as well, what separates winners from the rest of us is relentless execution. I used to force myself to think of 5 new startup ideas a day, at the end of the week I have to pick one idea to execute because we don't have enough time and money, what I want to say is idea is easy to come up with when it becomes your habit and once your team found a process to brainstorm, but execution really matters, we're still building our 1st startup around 1 single idea among bunch of our ideas from the portfolio. (and the idea has changed dramatically) .

Readwirteweb once wrote a post about this "the case against reading for entrepreneurs", good read, http://www.readwriteweb.com/start/2010/08/the-case-against-b...

The "business" books RWR advised against are fluffy, not-business-at-all books like Gladwell -- and Seth Godin's, which are partially fluff, and partially excellent sources of case studies.

The guy quoted in RWR slammed case study books because they are soft-touch "how to build great companies" - but that's only SOME of them. The - you guessed it - fluffy ones.

"Don't read books that are nothing but fluff" is just not a battle cry people click on, so instead they say "don't read business books!"

Read Positioning, Spin Marketing, Pricing with Confidence, Getting to Yes, Rules for Revolutionaries, Purple Cow, etc., etc.

If you read, say, Purple Cow, or Positioning, or Pricing with Confidence, and don't come away with actionable ideas, you either have an empty head or were just running your eyes over the words and not thinking.

And read lots of biographies. They're practical storytelling - learn from me, kid - pinned down on paper.

I dislike reading until I have tried it once, because I'm chronically afraid that if I read about a technique to do things fast and efficiently, I'll never try anything else.

So first I try, then read about it, and see if my intuition came up with a better approach or if what I read was better. In any case, the reading will make more sense because I am constantly comparing it to what I tried.

"Read. A lot. Don’t cherrypick things that seem to apply to you — read it all." <- That is why I read Hacker News.

I agree with reading a lot, however, do not spend too much time on it. At some point "thinking like an entrepreneur" means to act on ideas, not only reading about how to act on them ;)

Hacker News is cherrypicking. :) Nobody here seems to read 20- to 30-year-old business books (except possibly me).

One of my favorite business books is 'Growing a Business' by Paul Hawken. It's from the 80ies, but much of his advice would look quite at home in a blog post by 37signals or some such.

This book is fantastic. It's a great book for bootstrappers.

I believe I ran across it on Fog Creek's book list which has some other good books as well.


Not available on B&N and Amazon as eBook. Sigh.

It's worth killing the tree for.

Thanks, I ordered my copy from amazon.de. :) Guess it will take about 30 years to get here!

I would be careful to underestimate HN. The odds are better that there are people here who wrote 20- to 30-year-old business books.

That sounds nice, but on what reasoning do you base it? If I'm missing people, I'd sure like to know.

nickb isn't pg -- it was Peter Drucker. :-)

Seriously, you're missing people.

I've read some Peter Drucker.

It seems I am not alone:

quite a lot of results when typing this into google:

site:news.ycombinator.com Peter Drucker

Glad to hear it! I don't think I've seen him come up but I'm very glad he does. I am a big Drucker fan.

You might also find Charles Handy to be interesting - he's sort of a business spiritualist.

The Magic of Thinking Big (David Schwartz), from the 1960s IIRC, is great.

Yessss, it really is. I agree! It's one of my faves.

But I don't think I'd qualify it as a business book. Inspirational for sure, but it's not about DOING business exactly.

I guess you just do. For example, entrepreneurs always seem to be looking for ideas, for change, even if they involve risk. Non-entrepreneurs in the other side are the ones that look for a "safe" job, do not appreciate change and they just want to do their job and go home after that.

It is not about thinking like an entrepreneur... it is more like living like one, you are goal/dream oriented, work a lot to get there, work from home and from anywhere, your mind never stops thinking about how to get something better, or how to create something new.

Read it all is sort of bullshit, it's good to read but "read it all" even about only one subject is impossible, blogs, tweets, books, slides, presentations, gathering there is just too much to observe. If you don't cheerypick and try to read all you are being unrealistic not an entrepreneur, entrepreneurs should use time wisely.

It might be that author was trying to say "read different opinions", which makes sense. Which is way different than "read it all, don't cheerypick" advice

This is nitpicky, I know, but I found it funny that the woman writer reffered to a hypothetical grandmaster as "she". I was surprised as I know chess is male-dominated.

Turns out there are 13 women grandmasters in history, and over 1,300 total grandmasters.

I modeled the article after what I learned about Susan Polgar, the first woman to earn the title of Grandmaster. At least one of her sisters also earned the title after her.

She's particularly remarkable because her father believed "geniuses are made, not born" - and set out to train her himself. His methods are based on chunking, repetition, and study -- like I described. He wrote a book on it called "Bring Up Genius!"




Ta-da! You're right - my use of the feminine pronoun is hilarious!

That's an incoherent and muddled article, IMHO.

Great, inspiring post. Thanks.

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