Guy Kawasaki's Reality Check: Worth Your Time
by Josh Bernoff
How about $29.95? That's the list price on Guy Kawasaki's new book, Reality Check, The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition.
Forget the title and forget the subtitle. The problem with this book is, it's hard to categorize, but awfully enjoyable. As an author, my goal is to create prose that is at the same time enjoyable and enlightening. I can't swear I did it -- and from the other business books I read, it's pretty hard to do -- but Guy sure did it.
What you get here is a compendium of insider tips on everything from pitching a VC to giving a presentation to PR and emailing. Nearly all of them ring true. The thing weighs in at 474 pages, but since it's presented in bite size chunks of 5 or 6 pages, it's very easy to consume.
I rarely review books here, but I love the "interview the author" format that Guy made famous, so I turned the tables on him. A few provocative questions with Guy Kawasaki:
"Reality Check" is sort of your compendium of how to do absolutely everything correctly, from pitching a VC to emailing. What makes you qualified to tell us how to do all this stuff?
One one level, I've been an evangelist for Apple, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, blogger, tweeter, and speaker. That's got to be worth something. On another level, I've made a lot of mistakes in my career, and I haven't hit a billion dollar home run.
Making lots of mistakes and not hitting a home run are arguably better teachers than getting lucky because they help you separate correlation and causation.
Your 10/20/30 rule says every presentation should have ten slides, last no more than 20 minutes, and have no text smaller than 30 points. What happens if somebody hires you to speak for 45 minutes?
This is a trick question on two levels. First, the 10/20/30 rule is for when you're pitching. Typically, when you are pitching, you don't have a minimum time--you have a maximum time. [This is strictly true, but Guy keeps coming back to it throughout the book, so I know he loves this rule.]
Second, when you're paid to make a speech, you should still adhere to the underlying qualities of a 10/20/30 speech which are clarity and brevity. If you can cover the topic in twenty minutes, more power to you. Then use the extra twenty five minutes for Q and A with the audience. That further increases your impact.
You blog, you twitter, you're good at it. How do you answer people who say "I'm too busy to do all that stuff." Should they learn to do it, or give up and watch from the sidelines?
Here an analogy: Would you go to Tiger Woods and say, "You sure practice and play a lot of golf. How do you find the time?" Tiger is in the business of playing golf. I am in the business of marketing, and marketing means getting out there by blogging and tweeting.
This isn't about making friends, updating them on my feelings and life, and letting them know that my cat rolled over. If you wanted to play golf professionally, would you ask Tiger if you should learn the game or watch from the sidelines? What do you think he'd say? If you want to use social media for marketing, you need to approach it as a business skill like any other business skill.
Is Web 2.0 a bubble?
This kind of question is only relevant to analysts who need to write reports and large companies who want to buy them--the reports, not the analysts. [Ouch.] It's not relevant to entrepreneurs and companies. Who gives a shiitake if "Web 2.0 is a bubble"? All one should care about is creating a kick-ass company.
Was Web 1.0 a bubble? Maybe if you're Webvan or Pets.com. But do you think Jeff Bezos laid awake at night pondering the macro picture? I don't think so. I think he laid awake at night wondering how to achieve worldwide domination of ecommerce.
After reading your book, other bloggers must be asking "How can I turn my brilliant blog posts into a book?" What would you tell them?
Get the shiitake kicked out of you for twenty five years then write about what you've learned. "Blog to book" isn't the hard part. It's easy. The big challenge is acquiring the knowledge to write the blog or the book at all. I could make the case that you might not want to believe what everyone who has the time to blog has to say.
You are an author, an entrepreneur, a VC, and a blogger. OK, pick two. Which ones do you absolutely have to do? And what does that tell us about you as a person?
You left one out: Tweeter. If I were to pick two, I would pick entrepreneur and tweeter. I hope that this indicates that I'm action oriented. That is, that I like to create and market more than pontificate. One of the things that I missed as a venture capitalist is that I didn't have a product to evangelize. Alltop fills that need for me.
To use the words of Clay Shirky, there is a "filter failure." This means that people cannot get the information that they want. Google is great for answering a question like, "What products won the BusinessWeek design awards?" But it's not so good at "What's happening in innovation right now?"
That's the question that Alltop answers: "What's happening?" for almost 600 topics ranging from Adoption to Innovation to Zoology . People can think of Alltop all as their magazine rack for the Internet.
If someone reading this was just laid off, what advice would you give them?
It's easy for me to say, but you have to believe that "this too shall end." I've seen many layoffs happen in twenty five years, and people do survive. Most, in fact, come to view a layoff as a pivotal event in their life that worked out to be a good thing. "If no one is giving you a job, then create your own job" is the foundation of entrepreneurship.