mark cerqueira well-rounded nerd

Manager Reads - It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work

After a brief stopover into the world of fiction I closed out 2018 with my 13th leadership and management book: It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work by the Basecamp cofounders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. Hansson also created a small web framework called Ruby on Rails.

Who recommended the book? I follow Hansson on Twitter (@DHH) and he naturally posted a bit about the book when it released back in October 2018. So this is technically the first Manager Reads book that was recommended by the author.

Judge the book by its cover, font, page quality? The cover of this book is simple and reality-defying. On a black backdrop it features a list of things that make work terrible in white and then, in a rebellious red, a cross over these terrible things with the title in a handwritten style. A suspension of belief is required because if we are to think that the red ink is all handwritten that’s impossible because no one can draw two lines that straight.

Inside the pages of the book feel thick but the most interesting thing is how much the layout of the pages looks like a high school student liberally interpreting spacing and margin requirements to eek out the perception of increased content length. This book features some of the largest margins I’ve ever seen. Given most chapters average two to three pages, most paragraphs don’t have more than three sentences, and there is an empty line in between every paragraph I can’t help but feel they were aiming for a little extra oomph to make the book appear longer. There’s nothing wrong with being concise but it just looks weird. 🤷‍♂️

Thoughts on the book and the big take-aways? Fried and Hansson see work these days as far too crazy. Their solution to this is to eliminate the crazy and embrace calm. Calm is everything to them and it’s a prerequisite to success and continued growing success. They separate their book into four sections with a unifying idea and then dive into crazy things and strategies to be less crazy. Here I’ll highlight the most interesting idea from each section.

  • Curb Your Ambition - Our goal: No goals - Goals are fake. They are arbitrary numbers people pick and they can push people to compromise on their morals and integrity. Instead of goals, the authors advise focusing on staying in business and serving customers well.

  • Defend Your Time - Effective > Productive - People are too focused on staying busy and filling every moment of the day with things. Instead, people should be focused on opening up more time to do real work and cutting down on things to do, not adding more.

  • Feed Your Culture - Low-hanging fruit can still be out of reach - Low-hanging fruit can be harder and more involved than it seems especially if it’s something new. Respect that something you’ve never done makes it hard, not easy.

  • Dissect Your Process - Worst practices - Best practices are oftentimes not the best at all because what works for one company oftentimes will not work for another company. Anytime you are considering a best practice, first remember to reconsider.

The book is filled with many short lessons and things to look out for in a company. Some will resonate with you, others won’t. If all of them resonate with you, you should improve your job situation and join us at the purple pastures of Twitch. We’re hiring!

Favorite quote from the book? “Work ethic is about being a fundamentally good person that others can count on and enjoy working with.”

Elevator pitch for suggesting (or not suggesting) the book? If you feel there’s some crazy going on at your job, this book can be a worthwhile read. While it identifies problems making our work environment toxic and unhealthy, it doesn’t offer much in the way of solutions besides applying for a job at Basecamp where they don’t do any of the crazy things the book highlights. I liked a few chapters here and there, but overall didn’t feel this book provided much value for me, which ultimately might be a good thing.

Notes in Evernote? In a book calling for calm my notes on 🐘 feature the word 36 times.

Most of the world’s wisdom is written down in its best books. Manager Reads is a series covering books on management and leadership, focusing on books that can improve your own leadership with the wisdom of others. Enjoyed this post and want to see more? Check out more at Manager Reads.