San Francisco Meeting:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013 @ 7 PM

Location: It's a Grind @ Polk & Washington

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Jim Collins has done it again! If you aren't familiar with his books ... what am I talking about? Of course you're familiar with his books. Ten years in the making, Jim Collins has released his sequel to Good to Great: Great by Choice. Here's a snip-it of the Amazon review:

"Ten years after the worldwide bestseller Good to Great, Jim Collins returns withanother groundbreaking work, this time to ask: why do some companies thrive inuncertainty, even chaos, and others do not? Based on nine years of research,buttressed by rigorous analysis and infused with engaging stories..."  >read more

For those crunched on time, such as myself, this one is available on Audible. If you're not already a member, try Audible Now and Get A FREE Audiobook!

Here are some questions to help lead (let me know if you have any suggestions for this):

  • What was your greatest take-away from the book?
  • What actionable items have you given yourself as a result?
  • Is there anything that you disagreed with?
  • What books have you read that were similar?
  • Any additional Thoughts?

Discussion notes have been added below. Please continue the discussion in the comments, especially if you were unable to attend the meeting.


Book Club Meeting

We had a great discussion on this highly analytic book. Admittedly, it wasn't the easiest read, but it did spur some great discussion with a lot of parallel resources introduced by readers in the group. Below is a quick summary of the takeaways and actionable items that the group took from the book; but first, some key terms introduced in the read:

20 Mile March: a fanatic discipline that manages long term goals through consistency and not through erratic behavior chasing current trends.

SMaC: Specific, Methodolical and Consistent. The power of managing through common vision, direction and culture. 

ROL: Return on Luck. Strong leaders are best evaluated on how they prevailed in both good and bad luck events. Luck is not a primary factor in success, rather its how you take advantage of good luck and are prepared for bad luck.

Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs: Be empirically creative by experimenting intelligently. Fail fast and small, then exploit the successes.


  • The three characteristics of the "10x" leaders: productive paranoia, empirical creativity, and fanatic discipline
  • Productive paranoia is very important for looking forward, anticipating what could happen, and leading above the "death line" 
  • Good change comes slowly and should take time
  • Realistic Goals and discipline is the key to success
  • Focus on a single goal and nail it


  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses within the three characteristics, and focus on your weakness to improve
  • Always be looking forward, be calculating, and be aware. This is especially important in the good times, not just the bad.    
  • Don't be rash and take calculated approach
  • Keep your promises and don't make any you can't keep
  • Choose specialization over generalization

As stated above, one of the great benefits of this discussion is that it evoked many parallel materials that support the concepts. Here are some of the ones we discussed:

Michael Lewis' Obama's Way

A great piece that reiterates the importance of dedication to calculated control. 

Official White House Photograph by Pete Souza via Vanity Fair

Official White House Photograph by Pete Souza via Vanity Fair

Outliers: The Story of Success
By Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers

Through the "10,000 hour" rule, reinforces the idea that it is less about luck and more about true dedication and preparation. 

Alice Schroeder's The Snowball

Talk about calculating and conservative. "Here is THE book recounting the life and times of one of the most respected men in the world, Warren Buffett..." > Read More via Amazon


Joshua Kendall's America's Obsessives

Really get's into the role of "productive paranoia" and how you may not want to experience life as some of these business leaders, but that's what drove them. An interesting correlation is that many of the leaders were men who lost their fathers, literally or figuratively, early in life.

Benjamin Graham's The Intelligent Investor

In this classic, the allegory of Mr. Market really highlights how you can maximize your ROL during a "bad luck" situation; in this case, a down economy.  

In the video below, Charlie Rose interviews Max Levchin, Bay Area entrepreneur and co-founder of PayPal (along with Yelp, Slide, and HBF).  It gives great insight into one of our creative local leaders that parallels a lot of the values highlighted in Great by Choice.

Thank you to Alicia, Christian, Dan, Jennifer, Patrick, Rahul, and Vivian for all your great input and recommendations.  Please feel free to keep the conversation going below!

AuthorBen Larson