Monk and the Riddle: The Education of a Silicon Valley Entrepreneur (Anglais) Relié – 1 avril 2000
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L'histoire d'un homme qui investit dans des start-ups, mais pas n'importe lesquelles.
L'histoire d'un autre homme qui veut lancer un lucratif commerce sur Internet et cherche du financement.
L'histoire de l'associée de ce dernier (arrivée tardivement) qui ne veut pas perdre son âme.
Une fin très morale.
Et une morale: ne perdez pas votre vie à la gagner n'importe comment.
P.S. Le titre sur Amazon.fr n'est pas correct, cela devrait être : "The art of creating a life while making a LIVING" = = "L'art de se créer une vie tout en gagnant sa vie".
Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
So, here's my attempt at summarizing the book. It's a story about a business plan being pitched by a budding entrepeneur that Komisar is reviewing for a VC friend. The (factitious...I presume) story includes Komisar's personal perspectives about how one's career interacts with one's life and passions, how his own career, life, and passions have evolved together, and how VC's look at business plans / ideas. The story is well written and not the typical Harvard Business School Press book, in that all of the wisdom and content are presented neatly within a story.
If you need more from your job than a wage, you will likely find some pearls of wisdom in this story. If you like what you read here, check out Komisar's article in the March/April '00 HBR. If you're interested in some insight into how VC's look at business ideas, there is certainly plenty of information within this story for you too.
Finally, about the five stars, the book is absolutely deserving of them. This story hit me right between the eyes in so many ways, was so elegantly presented, and so refreshing, that I highly recommend it.
The work itself was often scattered and forced. There was no real continuity between the flashbacks, often sounding as if Mr. Komisar decided to insert various triumphs in his life whenever he felt like it. Furthermore, I found the characters of Lenny and Allison to be more symbolic than human. They were not actual individuals, but prompts put in by Komisar to respond to the questions he wanted answered. In his interactions with them, Komisar walked an unhealthy line between humility and arrogance, presenting himself as a sort of low-key person who thinks outside the box, yet is always right on everything and draws reverence from those around him. At times, I wondered whether this book was more of a teaching tool or a testament to his own greatness.
I found his main message to be useful, but somewhat hypocritical. His criticism of the "work first and then retire" philosophy struck especially close to home, as that is one I have often embraced. I paid close attention to his words and was partially persuaded. I think he is downright contradictory, however, when he tries to use his own life as an example of how a business does better when fueled by complete passion and the expectation of it being one's life's work. There were many times when I felt like screaming out, "Mr. Komisar, practice what you preach!" Furthermore, I can think of so many ways that his theory is wrong. Sometimes, the best businessman is one who has passion for what he/she is doing, but also has the ability to be objective and analyze the situation with an objective business savvy. When he and his mentor Campbell (of Columbia fame!) ran GO to the ground, sticking with it through its crash landing, he writes as if that is a good thing. That is fine when you have enough money to absorb that kind of failure, but most beginning entrepreneurs do not. Komisar got where he is because of the strategy he condemns.
The other major problem with the book is the premise of funerals.com. I found it to be a very poor example, as it unjustly generalized the funeral market. While I am sure there are funeral homes who take advantage of people in their vulnerable, grieving states, I cannot think of anything less comforting than making arrangements over a computer instead of with people. The character of Allison in representing the opposite extreme really represented absurdity. If she were so feeling and caring, why not establish a not-for-profit website for grieving families? I was never convinced that they were after anything but money, and the only evidence that their purpose was primarily moral was Komisar merely claiming it. If this had been some kind of technological advancement in medicine, for instance, then I could have understood the enduring desire to save lives while also profiting. The funeral example, however, is weak at best, and so is the pathetic Celestine Prophecy/Richest Man in Babylon rip-off with the riddle.
The strength of the book is in Komisar's thoughts about achieving happiness in life rather than about success in business. Unlike the other characters, I was able to connect with Komisar as a human being, experimenting with different companies and developing his own tastes. I gained a lot from reading his experiences, even if they were disjointed, and while I may have disagreed with him on some points, I learned from them. I am glad I read the book, found it useful, but would hardly call it a masterpiece.
So deep in fact, that many readers and reviewers may miss their significance for three simple reasons:
First, the book doesn't give answers. This is a brilliant insight which frustrates 'inside the box thinkers' no end. After you've written a dozen business plans and pitched a hundred venture capitaliists, you quickly discover the conribution of 'dumb luck' in getting a company funded and through a liquidity event. The hubris which generally accompanies fast millions blinds most people to the mere veneer of control they exert on the destiny of a business.
Second, some people won't get the cosmic joke. Using the vehicle of a pseudo dotcom called Funerals.com, the book gently makes fun of the absurdity of monomaniacal obsession with business, contrasted to the shortness of life. Again, the authors allow the reader to explore the journey of a startup in ways which few others dare imagine.
Third: they permit the struggle to appear deceptively easy. Randy glosses over how the passions of the founders are quickly subsumed by the demands of capital, perhaps the only shortcoming that bears mention.
If Randy or a top tier business school could develop an algorithm that properly values passion on the balance sheet, inspired founders everywhere would be more likely to adopt his guidance from day one.
Implicit in the message is the question: "What do you have to become to be successful?" Their insights may help you avoid a Faustian bargain. That is a gift you'll want to savor and pass on to others.
Most of the book is a fable about a stiff would-be entrepreneur named Lenny who seeks Mr. Komisar's advice. To get some idea of this fable, Lenny starts his pitch by saying that his business concept is to put the fun in funerals. Through the course of the book, Lenny learns (with a lot of prodding from Mr. Komisar and Lenny's co-founder) to connect to his original passion, to provide a place on the Web where geographically-dispersed families can connect to grieve when a loved one dies. They can also get advice on how to handle the grief and the funeral. Mr. Komisar interspaces his own experiences with the fable to provide context for his observations.
The fable is so far-fetched that it works well, because it allows you to see the differences more easily between serving an empowering vision that excites you, investors, potential employees, and customers and just trying to make a bundle.
For those who want to know a little more about fund-raising for start-ups, the fable is filled with worthwhile advice. If you want to know more, read Confessions of a Venture Capitalist (which I also reviewed).
At another level, the book makes the point that the reason to be an entrepreneur is to avoid the stultification of companies without a soul, operating only to meet the numbers. But you will have learned bad habits of forgetting about your soul-felt needs in mainstream corporate America, so you've got to regear as you enter entrepreneurship.
The book is very well written, and you'll get through it very quickly.
A good related book is Who Am I? which will give you tools to help you identify what you really want to get out of life.
You should also use this book as an opportunity to reexamine your beliefs about life and relationships. You may have lots of stalled thinking outside of your working life, as well.
But, this is not a book for the entrepreneur. It's more of a Chicken Soup for the Business Unsavvy Soul meets Monkisms that Don't Hit Home. The venture capital story line is the only real interesting part of the book, yet this story fizzles so dramatically at the end that I thought I actually felt my stomach ulcer relent a moment when I closed the book--or maybe the book was causing the pain? I don't know.
The monk's answer fails to deliver on multiple levels: first, the question (oh yeah, the monk's answer is a question) is judgmental wonderment by a man so far removed from the "rat race" and normal stressful life that he could have no other view than that of a little child; second, the so called journey that leads one to the answer/question is at best askew to the venture capital storyline; and third, a person looking for an answer to a pretended great question will find no mystery unfolded in this book.
My suggestion, save your money! Buy a Chicken Soup for the Soul book (this will take care of the good feeling you were supposed to get when reading this book) , read one of Napoleon Hill's books (this will put in the "money" frame of mind), and one of Michael Gerber's E-myth books (this will help you structure your would-be business), at least you'll know what you were getting and feel like a more significant person after reading any one of these other books.