Book Review: Lucky or Smart (Audiobook)

I’ve been listening to a lot of audiobooks lately, and one I just completed is Lucky or Smart? The Secrets of an Entrepreneurial Life.

Written by Bo Peabody, who founded Tripod and later sold it to Lycos for $58 Million while in his mid-twenties, the book explores his journey building a company and his insights into how to increase your chance of success while building a startup. He also touches on a handful of other businesses he’s started since his dot com success.

At only two hours, the book is a bit short for its $19.95 cover price, and I wish there were more details about his experience starting, growing, and ultimately selling Tripod. However, many of his insights proved to be unique and/or contrary to other popular business books, which make the book worthwhile.

His plan for starting a company is as follows:

  1. Start a company that is fundamentally innovative, morally compelling, and philosophically positive.
  2. Communicate a compelling mission.
  3. Have a clear action plan and communicate it.
  4. Treat your people fairly.
  5. Give them the latitude to exercise creativity.

The result of all this is serendipity, luck, success, and ultimately, money.

Two of his other comments were compelling because they challenge today’s wisdom:

  • A good decision made quickly is better than a great decision made slowly. He mentions books like Good to Great, and says that entrepreneurs who are growing a startup don’t have time to be great – they have to settle for being good, but doing it really fast.
  • Don’t believe your own press; in fact, don’t read. He recommends reading a weekly news magazine, like Time, and one other source of news. He reasons that if you spend all your time reading about other companies, you won’t have time to come up with your own brilliant ideas.

The best line of the book is given as he’s discussing the question everyone asks him about his success: “Were you lucky or were you smart?” It took him a few years to find the right answer, but he now replies “I was smart enough to know I was getting lucky.”

If you’re in the mood for an entrepreneur’s tales of success and his take on how to replicate it, then you should check out Lucky or Smart?.

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#1 Eddy on 01.20.06 at 4:34 pm

Good Post–My observation is that the ’90s ushered in a whole generation of young entrepreneurs (not sure if we had seen anything like it before). And it seems to me that we have yet to learn from that time and the experience. And perhaps the jury is still out whether they were lucky or smart… If anything, the Internet is the great equalizer of entrepreneurship. However I’m not sure if I agree with the assessment that good is better than great in an entrepreneural environment. I’m not sure though, I still have to think about it. My question is whether aiming for great is what will create a company that will truly last. (Since this guy made his millions by selling his company, it seems to me that he is not motivated in building something that will last)

#2 John Lee on 01.22.06 at 6:13 pm

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