home  >  books  >  build  >  part-1


An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making

By Tony Fadell

Part 1 - Build yourself

Chapter 1.1 - Adulthood

Mistake #1 - Make more mistakes

“The only failure in your twenties is inaction. The rest is trial and error.”

Every decision you take is going to be influenced by the culture you were born in, your parents, your friends, and many more innumerable amount of factors.

Once you grow up and get to make more important decisions on your own, such as where to live and to work. That is the time to be bold and to take risks.

Especially in your twenties, when your decisions won’t affect a lot of people, besides your own, your window of opportunity is the largest, so use it!

A lot of things you’re going to try are not going to work out. Your company might fail, you might feel like you’re going to get sick from all the pressure and doubts. But if you’re not feeling the butterflies, you’re not doing it right. You have to push yourself up the mountain, even if it means you might fall off a cliff.

I learned more from my first colossal failure than I ever did from my first success.

Fact is, humans learn through productive struggle. Just because you are handed the answer, doesn’t mean you will avoid the problem. But that doesn’t mean you have to walk every path alone. Surround yourself with mentors and people that are able to give you their perspective on problems and situations you are facing.

Mistake #2 - From scratch

Don’t make everything from scratch. Most problems you will be facing, others have faced before you.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try finding better solutions to existing problems though.

Mistake #3 - Life / Work balance

No one realizes they’re working too much, until they crash. Don’t work too much, but also not too little. Find your sweet spot.

Mistake #4 - Clueless

When working, you are looking for a place where you can work as hard as you can, to learn as much as you can, from people who can make something great. That kick to the gut, when you thought you knew eveything about something, only to realize there are many more facades to it. It hurts at first, but is one of the things that allow you to grow the most.

Chapter 1.2 - Get a Job

“If you make it, they will come” doesn’t always work. Just making a cool technology isn’t enough. Even a great team or lots of funding isn’t enough. It’s about solving a problem that people can recognize.

Don’t become a “management consultant” at a behemoth like McKinsey or Bain. They work exclusively with Fortune 5000 companies to present illusive plans on fixing all their problems. You won’t learn how to build or run a company there.

If you’re passionate about something - something that could be solving a huge problem one day - then stick with it.

Chapter 1.3 - Heroes

“Focus on understanding your field and use that knowledge to create connections with the best of the best, people you truly respect.”

“I can’t make you the smartest or the brightest, but it’s doable to be the most knowledgable. It’s possible to gather more information than somebody else”

“Make a connection. That’s the best way to get a job anywhere”

“And any job working with your heroes is a good job. But if you can, try to get into a small company. The sweet spot is a business of 30-100 people building something worth building, with a few rock stars you can learn from even if you aren’t working with them every day.”

Chapter 1.4 - Don’t (Only) Look Down

“The details of the project right in front of you are crystal clear, but the faarther you look out, the fuzzier everything becomes. And different teammates are gazing at different points on that timeline.”


“The CEO and executive team spent 50 percent of their time planning for a fuzzy, distant future months or years away. 25 percent is focused on upcoming milestones in the next month or two. And the last 25 percent is spent putting out fires happening right now at their feet.”


“Managers usually keep their eyes focused 2-6 weeks out. Those projects are pretty fleshed out and detailed, though they still have some fuzzy bits around the edges.”


“Juniors individual contributors spend 80 percent of their time looking straight down - maybe a week or two out - to see the fine points of their day-to-day work.”

“The executive team and managers are supposed to be looking out for roadblocks. But sometimes they don’t. So 20 percent of the time, individual contributors need to look up. And they need to look around.”

“Your job isn’t just doing your job. It’s also to think like your manager or CEO. You need to understand the ultimate goal”

“You want to make sure the direction you’re headed in still feels right - that you still believe in it.”

“New perspectives are everywhere. You don’t have to drag a buch of people off the street to stare at your product and teel you what they think. Start with you internal customers. Everyone in a company has customers, even if they’re not building anything.”