book reviews – Stay N Alive

The Power of Starting Something Stupid [Book Review]

In my life, I have a rich dad and a poor dad (see Robert Kiyosaki). My poor dad is always keen to tell me that going out on my own and running my own business is “stupid”, risky, and a bad decision. My rich dad tells me it’s the most secure and rewarding decision I can make. Which one is it? The book, “The Power of Starting Something Stupid: How to Crush Fear, Make Dreams Happen, and Live Without Regret” attempts to answer that with a pep-talk, showing how “stupid” is the new smart.

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur that has a rich dad and a poor dad like me, there’s a good chance you’re going through the very same debates I did before going out on my own. While I must say there are definitely risks and a lot of work that goes into it, going out on my own was one of the best decisions I made in my life. The book, “The Power of Starting Something Stupid“, by Richie Norton goes into these rewards in deep detail, and has lots of motivation to push you towards taking that leap and going out on your own.

It is not a howto book per-se. However, I found the principles taught in the book were a perfect “pep-talk” for reminding me why making decisions others call stupid isn’t worth listing to those distracting me from my goals. In the book, it shows how some of the best ideas and businesses were called “stupid” before they became multi-million (and some times billion) dollar businesses.

If you’re looking for some inspiration to get off your rear and go out on your own, this book shows you why stupid is the new smart. It’s the perfect pep-talk for any aspiring entrepreneur. Go pre-order it now, and check out my GoodReads review! It is scheduled to come out in March.

Mitnick’s "Ghost in the Wires" Will Hack Your Mind With Real Life Adventures in Hacking

When I was just 16 years old I got my Ham Radio license. It was then, one of probably 3 Hams my age in the school nerdy enough to care about radio wavelengths, antennas, and electrical engineering, that I gained a fascination for communication. I was fascinated that I could wirelessly tell my mom where I was over patch radio. I was fascinated that I could access the internet over Packet radio even though my parents couldn’t afford an internet connection. The world had little knowledge of the power I had at my hands in that little 2 meter radio.

It was these experiences that made me relate to the stories of Kevin Mitnick in his new book, “Ghost in the Wires” (Foreword by Steve Wozniak). In his book, he begins talking about his childhood as a ham radio operator and having the same fascinations and passion around communication I did. This fascination is what brought him into the world of hacking and social engineering, eventually making him the most wanted man in America by the FBI, landing him in a justice system at a time no one really understood computers or hacking.

Mitnick’s book takes you on a journey through his experiences in social engineering, making you realize that his secret wasn’t cracking passwords as you envision a traditional hacker, but rather becoming a master at hacking people. Every experience in the book is suspenseful, and kept me turning the pages wanting to know what happens. Every experience in and of itself could be an entire blockbuster movie. The real life experiences Mitnick faced are the works only a fiction writer could think of.

In a world where building relationships and learning to work with people through means of social networks and other tools is so important, Mitnick shows how easy it is to manipulate and “hack” the weaknesses of people to get what you want. In this book he shows his real life experiences that allowed him to satisfy a curiosity of determining whether he could conquer challenges that normal people couldn’t fix. It seemed to me he was able to always conquer every one (like the time he hacked the jail phone system while a guard was sitting right in front of him).

Constantly 5 steps ahead of the FBI, Mitnick proved that an ordinary man can outsmart the system through very simple means. This book helped me realize that none of us are truly secure, and what might be secure in our computer systems may not be secure in our minds and psychology. I also found myself sympathizing with Mitnick in many cases, realizing as a man trying to outsmart the system just to see if it could be done, the system had no sympathy for him, nor any understanding of how this man could help him. In the end, the system ended up learning and Mitnick is now one of the world’s top security experts.

If you get a chance, buy the book, “Ghost in the Wires” and read it. I find it rare that I can’t put a book down. This book was one of those rare exceptions, and I found myself embracing every page. In a time where phone tapping and hacking is vividly in the news, this book couldn’t pick a better time to come out. You’ll truly understand how insecure any system is to hackers like this, and it will put you on the defense through the real life experiences of Kevin Mitnick to be sure you yourself don’t get manipulated or hacked. I thoroughly enjoyed “Ghost in the Wires.” I hope they make a movie out of this.

Authors note: I found it fascinating that the one company Mitnick had the most difficulty getting through to (he ended up giving up due to the risk) was Utah’s own Novell. Mitnick gives strong Kudos to Shawn Nunley, Novell’s head of Security at the time and now works for FusionIO here in Utah with Steve Wozniak. Kevin and Shawn, so I’m told by Shawn, are now good friends.

Disclosure: Mitnick’s publisher sent me a free, pre-release copy of the book. The book is now available to all in book stores and

Selling is Dead – Free is the Newest Trend

Note from Jesse: I’ve always been impressed by the work of Mike Stelzner. As organizer of Facebook Success Summit, which I presented last year and will be presenting again this year, and organizer of Social Media Examiner, he has a passionate audience that really produces strong and engaging conversations for everyone that his websites and social media properties touch. That’s why when he sent me a copy of his new book, Launch, I was very excited to feature it on this blog. I thought I’d take it a step further and see what my wife, Rebecca, thought. Here is her review:

Twelve years ago, my husband was installing Linux on our computer. I asked him how this could this possibly be free? He told me that the internet was going to make everything free in the future. He was right.

In a world where anything you want to know is just a Google search away, paying for information is a relic of the past. And with it, paid advertising has become increasingly less effective, even obsolete. Just ask any newspaper company.

Free is more effective than pricey ads

So if paid advertising is ineffective and too costly, how do you market your product? The answer is simple: offer help to as many people as you can for FREE. By sincerely helping as many people as you can and building relationships, you set yourself above the rest of the players. With a website, you will have the ability to reach and help enough people that eventually customers will come.

You Don’t Believe Me

You probably don’t believe me. If you offer them help for free, why would they ever pay for your help? Let me give you an example. You need a plumber. You Google search and post a request on Facebook for recommendations from your friends. You find one that has a great website that a friend recommended. The website had a few articles on how to diagnose and fix the problem yourself. They offered a free plumber to chat with you via instant messaging. You quickly trust this company because they look like experts and they are so helpful. You check the company on Yelp. They have good reviews from their customers. After all the free advice they give you, you decide the problem is bigger than you want to do yourself. Who do you hire? You guessed it. Their own website and their connection to social media websites, not paid advertising, is what made the sale.

Beating the Competition in an Internet Era

If you really want your business to attract customers, you need to create your own website that offers high quality content for free. Content that solves problesm, educates, inspires, and entertains. Michael Stelzner in his new book Launch outlines all the steps necessary.

Step 1: Create a website with great content like how-to articles, expert interviews, book or product reviews, case studies, news stories, and contrarian stories (my personal favorite)

Step 2: After attracting a wide audience through step 1, take your website to the next level by adding reports based on surveys, white papers or long how-to articles, top 10 lists, and micro events like live webinars or live interviews (videos are power)

Step 3: While doing step 1 and 2, collect information from your readers such as email addresses from a free login process, or a Facebook fan page, or Twitter following

Step 4: Make sure that your website is so helpful that your readers will recommend you to their friends and that experts will want to be featured

Step 5: Continue to offer new content so your readers continue to come back and your reader base grows

Step 6: When you have enough readers, then market your product or service but do so as little as possible.

Stelzner calls this the Elevation Principe: Great Content + Other People – Marketing Messages = Growth.

The Cost of Building Your Free Website

Though your website is free to your reader, it costs money to build it yourself, maintain it, and update it. That cost should be less than what you spend on paid advertisements, however. It also takes time to implement this system. Stelzner estimates 4 months based on his own experience. Some businesses may take longer. Some businesses will have a difficult time writing well enough for their own websites and may have to hire a freelance writer. Implementing this idea takes time, money, and patience.

Selling really is Dead

In a world where we are increasingly blocking, skipping, and tuning out ads, traditional marketing no longer works. We are just too savvy. What we like is being helped and then we tell our friends. We freely market for you. So, invest in your own site.

You can buy your own copy of Launch here.