5 Lessons from Rework


I recently finished the book Rework by the 37Signals founders. The book was a quick read and is definitely written for the blogging generation with illustrations and quick, scannable pages. In fact, it’s more like a collection of one page essays than a book, but even so, there is a lot of knowledge in those short paragraphs.

For those that don’t know, 37Signals run a web development firm here in the Chicago area and have created some phenomenal web products – most notably Basecamp.

Their mantra has always been keep things as simple as possible, and even though they work on technical web products, I think their lessons could apply to many other industries. Here are the ones that stood out to me the most:

  • Inspiration is Perishable: So true. If I’m excited about getting a project done, I try to carve out as much time as possible right then to work on it because I know that time will be very productive. Inspiration should be used immediately.
  • Planning is Guessing: They decry the long-term business planning as nothing more than guesswork and the harm is that they prevent you from being nimble. In Me, Myself and Bob, Phil Vischer, the creator of VeggieTales, describes how all their long-term projections showed double-digit increases so they would easily have the cash to self-finance a movie. Unfortunately, those double-digit increases didn’t happen and VeggieTales went bankrupt. Don’t lock yourself into long-term plans that have no bearing on reality.
  • Make a Dent in the Universe: Do something that matters. People are happier when they feel like they’re making a difference. You don’t have to cure cancer, but you’d hope that people would miss you when you’re gone. You don’t have forever.
  • Start Making Something: Their section on this topic focuses on what I discussed in one of my first blog posts on the myth of the great idea. Ideas are cheap. It’s execution that matters.
  • Meetings are Toxic: The true cost of a meeting is often overlooked. If there are 8 people in the meeting then you are actually using 8 hours of company time, not just one. For that hour, there are 8 people who can’t be working and moving the project forward. So if a meeting’s going to happen, it had better be important.


The one point from their book that I disagree with is their denial of the workaholic.

Not that I think you should work all the time, but I’m a big believer in the fact that the hardest workers are the ones that win. If you look back through history at successful people, you will see that they were obsessed with their one thing – whatever it was. And they didn’t just do it from 8-5. The fact of the matter is, the more you do something, the better you get at it.

That said, overall it’s a great book and highly recommended!