An American Girl in Washington

Book Review: Hearts, Smarts, Guts and Luck

Posted in Book Learnin' by AGinDC on 6 January 2013

hsglWhen Sandbox got a new board member, an email went around introducing him and talking about his new book, Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck: What it Takes to be an Entrepreneur and Build a Great Business. It sounded great, and I’m always looking for more books to help me figure out what the hell I’m doing, so I bought it. But I have a bookshelf absolutely teeming with books I haven’t read yet and Amazon Marketplace is the most dangerous place on Earth for me, so I just got to this particular tome last week.

HSGL is about the four traits that the authors have determined make up most entrepreneurs. They have a nifty test you take online to find out how much of each trait you have and the book follows the pretty standard business book format of talking about each in turn, giving examples from relevant research and popular business leaders, and closing with suggestions on how to use each skill as and when it’s optimal. If you’re curious, I am Heart and Guts dominant with very little in the Smarts or Luck department. This will surprise no one. I pretty much run on instinct and Chipotle.

The book wasn’t bad, I have lots of little tabs sticking out of it (yes, I’m a nerd) and I walked away with some good quotes. The best feature is the chapter summaries, any chapter that wasn’t holding my interest was quickly skipped in favor of the cliffs notes in the back. Below, I share some of my favorite tidbits.



*Before doing anything else… founders need to generate widespread energy and inspiration. Purpose should always come before company, product and profit, especially during a business’s early stages.

*Purpose is about thinking explicitly of how you can change the world for the better and create businesses with integrity, on a values-driven system.

*Nuance can transform a simple functional transaction into an emotional experience.

*For any entity that has its eye on large-scale success, perfecting the offering at the smallest level first before scaling is critical.

*Think big but be willing and open to starting small.

*Businesses that can create a soulful cultural movement among their employees are rare, yet those who can have a remarkable advantage they should celebrate and preserve.

*Write an annual CEO memo to the board to clarify the big picture, create a powerful mechanism for alignment between boards and CEOs, and find a point of focus for the year.

*You can learn a great deal about customers by finding out what they are doing three minutes immediately before and three minutes after they use your product or service.

*Constantly know and refresh the 25 people in this world who could take your business to the next level.

*Guts-driven entrepreneurs aren’t fearless; they just know how to cope with, and maybe even thrive in, uncomfortable environments.

*At the foundation of a lucky attitude is humility. Successful business-builders must be aware of their shortcomings. Humility and vulnerability humanize leaders, embracing their ability to embrace luck.


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