Highlights from my reading of Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.

Highlights are the text that I found interesting, important, or points that may be notable in some way. Therefore, the collection of highlights becomes my interpretation of the book. You may find the notes useful for deciding to read the book, as a quick method for rereading, or just as useful information even if you decide not to read the book.

My Amazon.com review of Rework is located here: https://amzn.to/cmhtri.

Note, page number references in the book are surrounded by []’s.

August 2010

Chapter Takedowns

  • The real world isn’t a place, it’s an excuse. It’s a justification for not trying. It has nothing to do with you. [14]
  • What do you really learn from mistakes? You might learn what not to do again, but how valuable is that? You still don’t know what you should do next. [16]
  • Failure is not a prerequisite for success. [17]
  • Success is the experience that actually counts. [17]
  • Writing a plan makes you feel in control of things you can’t actually control. [19]
  • Why don’t we just call plans what they really are: guesses. [19]
  • Plans are inconsistent with improvisation. [19]
  • Plans more than a few pages long just wind up as fossils in your file cabinet. [20]
  • Working without a plan may seem scary. But blindly following a plan that has no relationship with reality is even scarier. [20]
  • Small is not just a stepping-stone. Small is a great destination in itself. [23]
  • Don’t be insecure about aiming to be a small business. [23]
  • Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up. [26]

Chapter Go

  • To do great work, you need to feel that you’re making a difference. That you’re putting a meaningful dent in the universe. [31]
  • If you’re going to do something, do something that matters. [32]
  • Ideas are cheap and plentiful. [38]
  • The real question is how well you execute. [38]
  • But we’re just as proud of what our products don’t do as we are of what they do. [43]
  • There’s a world of difference between truly standing for something and having a mission statement that says you stand for something. [47]
  • Standing for something isn’t just about writing it down. It’s about believing it and living it. [48]
  • A business without a path to profit isn’t a business, it’s a hobby. [56]
  • Act like an actual business and you’ll have a much better shot at succeeding. [57]
  • You need a commitment strategy, not an exit strategy. [59]
  • Embrace the idea of having less mass. [62]

Chapter Progress

  • Embrace constraints [section title, 67]
  • Constraints are advantages in disguise. [67]
  • Boxing ourselves in this way prevents us from creating bloated products. [68]
  • You’re better off with a kick-ass half than a half-assed whole [69]
  • Getting to great starts by cutting out stuff that’s merely good. [70]
  • When you put off decisions, they pile up. [77]
  • Long projects zap morale. [78]
  • The right way to go is the opposite direction: Cut back. [83]
  • Focus on what won’t change [84]
  • Japanese automakers also focus on core principles that don’t change: reliability, affordability, and practicality. People wanted those things thirty years ago, they want them today, and they’ll want them thirty years from now. [85]
  • Your tone is in your fingers. [88]
  • If you had to launch your business in two weeks, what would you cut out? [93]

Chapter Productivity

  • Sometimes abandoning what you’re working on is the right move, even if you’ve already put in a lot of effort. [102]
  • If you’re constantly staying late and working weekends, it’s not because there’s too much work to be done. It’s because you’re not getting enough done at work. And the reason is interruptions. [104]
  • Interruption is not collaboration, it’s just interruption. [104]
  • Interruptions break your workday into a series of work moments. [104]
  • Your day is under siege by interruptions. It’s on you to fight back. [106]
  • If you decide you must get together, try to make your meeting a productive one by sticking to these simple rules: [109]
    • Set a timer. When it rings, meeting’s over. Period. [109]
    • Invite as few people as possible. [109]
    • Always have a clear agenda. [109]
    • Begin with a specific problem. [109]
    • Meet at the site of the problem instead of a conference room. Point to real things and suggest real changes. [110]
    • End with a solution and make someone responsible for implementing it. [110]
  • Judo solutions are all about getting the most out of doing the least. [112]
  • It’s a situation where timeliness is more important that polish or even quality. [113]
  • Momentum fuels motivation. [115]
  • The way you build momentum is by getting something done and then moving on to the next thing. No one likes to be stuck on an endless project with no finish line in sight. [115]
  • To keep your momentum and motivation up, get in the habit of accomplishing small victories along the way. [115]
  • The longer something takes, the less likely it is that you’re going to finish it. [115]
  • A lot of times it’s better to be a quitter than a hero. [118]
  • We’re all terrible estimators. [124]
  • Reality never sticks to best-case scenarios. [124]
  • Big decisions are hard to make and hard to change. [130]
  • Instead, make choices that are small enough that they’re effectively temporary. [130]

Chapter Competitors

  • Defensive companies can’t think ahead; they can only think behind. They don’t lead; they follow. [144]
  • Focus on competitors too much and you wind up diluting your own vision. [148]

Chapter Evolution

  • You rarely regret saying no. But you often wind up regretting saying yes. [153]
  • When you stick with your current customers come hell or high water, you wind up cutting yourself off from new ones. [156]
  • Scaring away new customers is worse than losing old customers. [157]
  • Small, simple, basic needs are constant. [157]
  • You can’t paint over a bad experience with good advertising or marketing. [162]
  • The really important stuff doesn’t go away. [164]

Chapter Promotion

  • When you build an audience, you don’t have to buy people’s attention — they give it to you. This is a huge advantage. [171]
  • Instead of trying to outspend, outsell, or outsponsor competitors, try to out-teach them. Teaching probably isn’t something your competitors are even thinking about. [173]
  • There is a beauty to imperfection. This is the essence of the Japanese principle of wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi values character and uniqueness over a shiny façade. [182]
  • Pare down to the essence, but don’t remove the poetry. Keep things clean and unencumbered but don’t sterilize. [182]
  • Do something meaningful. Be remarkable. Stand out. Be unforgettable. [186]
  • You want an easily digestible introduction to what you sell. [191]
  • Just as you cannot not communicate, you cannot not market. [193]
  • If you build software, every error message is marketing. [193]

Chapter Hiring

  • Never hire anyone to do a job until you’ve tried to do it yourself first. [201]
  • The right time to hire is when there’s more work than you can handle for a sustained period of time. [204]
  • Problems start when you have more people than you need. [206]
  • In a cover letter, you get actual communication instead of a list of skills, verbs, and years of irrelevance. [210]
  • Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. [222]
  • Geography just doesn’t matter anymore. Hire the best talent, regardless of where it is. [225]
  • Some people sound like pros but don’t work like pros. You need to evaluate the work they can do now, not the work they say they did in the past. [227]

Chapter Damage Control

  • A good apology accepts responsibility. [238]
  • No one should be shielded from direct criticism. [242]

Chapter Culture

(Note, page 249 is my favorite from the book. The text below is copied verbatim. Sal.)

You don’t create a culture

Instant cultures are artificial cultures. They’re big bangs made of mission statements, declarations, and rules. They are obvious, ugly, and plastic. Artificial culture is paint. Real culture is patina.

You don’t create a culture. It happens. This is why new companies don’t have a culture. Culture is the by-product of consistent behavior. If you encourage people to share, then sharing will be built into your culture. If you reward trust, then trust will be built in. if you treat customers right, then treating customers right becomes your culture.

Culture isn’t a foosball table or trust falls. It isn’t policy. It isn’t the Christmas party or the company picnic. Those are objects and events, not culture. And it’s not a slogan, either. Culture is action, not words.

So don’t worry too much about it. Don’t force it. You can’t install a culture. Like a fine scotch, you’ve got to give it time to develop.

  • Cut the crap and you’ll find that people are waiting to do great work. They just need to be given the chance. [253]
  • Rockstar environments develop out of trust, autonomy, and responsibility. [253]
  • Great environments show respect for the people who do the work and how they do it. [253]
  • When you treat people like children, you get children’s work. [255]
  • When everything constantly needs approval, you create a culture of nonthinkers. [255]
  • Look at the costs and you quickly realize that failing to trust your employees is awfully expensive. [256]
  • You don’t need more hours; you need better hours. [258]
  • As the saying goes, “If you want something done, ask the busiest person you know.” You want busy people. People who have a life outside of work. People who care about more than one thing. You shouldn’t expect the job to be someone’s entire life — at least not if you want to keep them around for a long time. [258]
  • There are four-letter words you should never use in business. … They’re need, must, can’t, easy, just, only, and fast. These words get in the way of healthy communication. They are red flags that introduce animosity, torpedo good discussions, and cause projects to be late. [265]
  • And when everything is high priority, nothing is. [268]

Chapter Conclusion

  • Inspiration is perishable [271]
  • When you’re high on inspiration, you can get two weeks of work done in twenty-four hours. [271]
  • Inspiration is a magical thing, a productivity multiplier, a motivator. [271]