Book Review: Rework by Jason Fried

This is the book I’ve been waiting for. At least that’s how it feels. As if Jason Fried was in my head collecting all the scattered thoughts that I’m unable to put into words and documented them chapter by chapter…then sold them to me for £10.99. It’s given me something I can refer to from any situation and feel as though there could be no possible riposte.

It’s a good sign that 15 pages in I was already considering exactly how I was going to get across the level of respect I have for this book. Turns out I’m not a good enough writer to fit in all the superlatives and similes without turning this into a sponsored review. It’s that good.

Jason Fried and the David Heinemeier Hansson are the guys behind 37 Signals – an online suite of customer relationship and project management tools aimed primarily at web designers and developers. Their company consists of just 16 people, spread across 9 cities and 2 continents, yet it turns over millions of pounds in revenue every year. They don’t aim to please everybody in what they do. They please themselves by building products they believe to be truly useful. And in so doing, they please many, many more. Something they are evidently proud of.

Rework is the second book from 37 Signals, though this one is more of a manual than anything else. In its first week of launch it became a New York Times best-seller. And understandably so. Its chapters are littered with nuggets of useful, every day best practices and suggestions for running a sleek and successful business – whatever field you’re in. They actually make sense. Books like this run the risk of coming off as cheesy and unrealistic. But this one is nothing if not realistic. Keeping well clear of the ‘self-help’ and ‘motivational speaker’ genres, it carefully positions itself somewhere between ground-breaking white paper and, well…rant.

Something I particularly like about Rework is that everything discussed can be applied to any situation, work or otherwise. It’s written by web designers by trade, but spoken from the mouth’s of those who have been there, done it, disagreed, reworked it and written about it.

The chapters are short and punchy. There’s no lag, no filler and nothing unnecessary. Every paragraph makes sense and is about as succinct as you would want it to be. This makes it incredibly easy to read, whether you’re sitting down with it for a good session, or just dipping in and out on the train to work, like I did. I still finished it in 2 goes.

“Failure is not a prerequisite for success”

One of the biggest things I’ve taken from this book is that is that it doesn’t matter what’s gone before. It doesn’t matter that others have tried and failed. Their misplaced conceptions or ill-conceived ideas are what commit their ventures to failure. You create your own luck and in spite of others. You succeed because of you.

“Evolution doesn’t linger on past failures. It’s always building on what worked. So should you.”

Despite Seth Godin’s (American entrepreneur, author and public speaker) warning that some of it may make uncomfortable reading, I actually find it quite soothing to be told that there is more than one way to skin a cat. That just because we already have these processes and policies in place, we don’t necessarily have to abide by them if we believe there is a better way to achieve the same outcome or better.

Without wanting to give too much away, there are a couple more quotes that I have to share. On startups, new businesses and those that have always thought about it but never quite got round to it:

“When you want something bad enough, you make the time – regardless of your other obligations. The truth is most people just don’t want it bad enough. Then they protect their ego with the excuse of time.

Don’t let yourself off the hook with excuses. It’s entirely your responsibility to make your dreams come true.”

Ok, so talk of dreams coming true might’ve caused a few pairs of eyes to roll skywards and some of you will brush it off as more clichéd rubbish for the people not living in the ‘real world’ to chase. This is probably a clear indication that either you have everything you need….or you’re missing something pretty major in your life to strive for. You be the judge on that one.

On the subject of building a rockstar environment (one where all employees are highly skilled, highly devoted and near-miracle-working geniuses):

“Rockstar environments develop out of trust, autonomy, and responsibility. They’re a result of giving people the privacy, workspace and tools they deserve. Great environments show respect for the people who do the work and how they do it.”

Nuff said.


I felt genuinely inspired and invigorated from page three. Page one was blank and page two had the chapter title :). I only really need one word to describe it: loaded.

It’s loaded with bullshit-meets-reality scenarios. Loaded with paragraph after paragraph of pure and unadulterated truth. It scythes down all antiquated and inflexible structures that we have grown to be comfortable or accepting of and replaces it with workable, sensible solutions. Drop it on the boardroom table and it will go off in the face of those who persist in unnecessary formalities and needless protocol. It questions everything and offers more, to the point where I want to get wrist bands made up with ‘WWJFD?’ embossed on them, standing for ‘What Would Jason Fried Do?’.

I have found my bible. But I won’t be lending it to you.

Buy it yourself if you seek genuine enlightenment.

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