The book tries to reflect on an individual’s professional growth in the contemporary era of fickle employment guarantees.
The best part about the book is that it tries to offer pragmatic, as opposed to principled advice, regarding career development and branding.

The Start-Up of You

Following is my short summary of the same.

  1. Avoid complacency: The world changes really fast, Detroit use to be what Silicon Valley is today but then it became complacent and has been reduced to abandoned buildings. People who become complacent with their skill set would realize that it has become outdated. The book emphasizes that one must update his/her skill set, both hard as well as soft, regularly.
  2. Competitive advantage: The authors reject the theoretical notion of “inherent passion” and a “static world”.
    Since the world is dynamic, one cannot expect a fixed plan to work, the plan has to evolve as the world changes.
    What you have – assets (qualitative skills as well as quantitive money/real estate) – these alone are not sufficient unless someone is willing to pay for them.
    What you aspire to be – Aspirations – it’s good to have but they must be realistic.
    One has to see assets, aspirations, and market realities in conjunction with each other and realize that all of them will evolve with time.
    The author recommends that one should look around for a good opportunity with less competition than a great opportunity with extreme competition.
  3. Plan to Adapt: Flickr was originally a game (Neverending) but then its photo-sharing feature became more popular than the game, so, it transformed itself into a photo-sharing site.
    Make plans – be ready to change them as market demands – don’t make random changes make planned changes.
    ABZ planning: Plan A (what you are doing right now), Plan B (pivot from A when it feels it might be better than A), Plan Z (fallback, if both A and B fail).
    All plans should be explicit in terms of time.
    Prioritize learning over making money and try learning by doing.
    Avoid immediate gratification.
    Try making small reversible bets (eg. trying out a FOSS project on the side related to any idea you might have)
  4. Network: Understand the importance of the network, and put aside some time and money specifically to meet people, when trying to meet someone says “what you can do for him/her”, and occasionally send emails to maintain contact.
    Have some core allies, who defend you and you defend them and then have weaker ties surrounding the core
  5. Pursue Breakout opportunities: Keep an eye around for breakout opportunities (random but can have a huge impact on career)
  6. Take Intelligent Risks: Think about whether you can face the worst-case scenario, also, don’t conflate uncertainty with risk (uncertainty is fine, risk must be accounted for). It’s good to take regular small risks to avoid ending up taking a much larger one later (several small shocks are better than a big one).
  7. Network Intelligence: Use your network for guidance along with general as well as specific questions, and schedule lunches with friends/people ahead of you/people in another interesting industry. Such non-specific conversations can lead to serendipitous intelligence.

One can read a more comprehensive summary on the official website.