The Start-up of You = My First (and Last?) Book Review

I have no idea why publishers send me business books.

I received my first one about 18 months ago, when my blog was around a year old. It came in the mail without note or explanation. I knew that other bloggers in the HR/workplace space got books to review, but I couldn’t understand why I was one of them. I had never appeared on a top 5, 10 or 25 list – and still haven’t.  I had (and still have) a comparatively small readership. I am not winning any awards, monetarily or otherwise, writing this blog.

What I like to do is tell stories. I start far too many sentences with the words “when I . . .” in my posts. So it’s obvious that the book publishers haven’t read my blog, or they wouldn’t waste their money sending me their books. What am I going to say?  ” When I read your book I . . .fell asleep?”

I don’t even like to read business books. Like most motivational books, I find them to be overly simplistic and over-generalized. Transformation, either personal or professional, rarely comes from reading a book or following 5 simple steps.

So why am I writing about The Start-up of You?

One reason is because the publishers actually sent me a email asking me if I would be interested in receiving a copy of the book. They may not have read my blog, but at least they took the initiative of actually finding my email and sending me a request. I was dazzled by the politeness of it all.

And author Reid Hoffman founded LinkedIn. I like LinkedIn. So I started reading his book.

I made it through the first chapter and stopped.

I stopped after that first chapter because a good chunk of the chapter is devoted to the domestic automobile industry and the city of Detroit. The author basically states that the decline of the auto industry caused the decline of the geographical region. He admits, in one whole sentence, that “there are other complicating factors” in that decline, and that “the story . . .isn’t simple.”

No kidding.

There are a lot of Detroiters who get really upset about this kind of bashing, but I’m not one of them. The region is very, very sick – and admitting it is the first step to recovery, right?  What bothers me is that this guy from California thinks he knows anything about Detroit and its ills, and that if you behave like Silicon Valley instead of Detroit, as he ultimately advocates, everything will be better.

Mr. Hoffman, I lived in metro Detroit in 1967 during the race riots. I watched our region suffer immensely in the 70’s as the now-polarized political and racial factions fought with each other over direction and control of the entire region. When the businesses that drove the regional economy, like the auto industry, began to suffer no one was paying attention because they were still fighting over turf. I could go on, but I hope you get the point. After living my first 57 years in Detroit, I know there are lots of reasons why the auto industry and Detroit declined and Silicon Valley – your hometown, by the way – succeeded.

So I quit reading after that, because anything else the book may have said wouldn’t be credible, in my opinion.

I guess that’s my story. 😉