BOOK REVIEW: ‘How I Built This’

Entrepreneurship: for some it’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. For others, a daunting path they suddenly find themselves traveling. 

In Guy Raz’s most recent publication “How I Built This,” he delves into the world of entrepreneurship. This book presents a navigational guide to those looking to grow their ideas into a business, as told through the stories of individuals who have walked that road and can share their experiences from the perspective of the successful finish line. 

An entrepreneur himself, Raz has taken his own experience in building his podcast of the same name as the book into one of the fastest-growing NPR radio programs in history. 

Raz presents his compilation of individuals’ narratives in a way that not only pulls the reader along, but also presents the stories in the necessary timeline that only someone who has been through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship can relate to. His book is one that you never knew you needed until you read it, and it opens your eyes to how successful ideas are carefully nurtured into full-fledged businesses. 

As the icing on top of this collective wealth of experience and knowledge, Raz’s 20-plus years of experience sharing stories through his work with NPR sets this book apart from other informational books on how to build a business. It doesn’t instruct the reader on how to grow their ideas, but instead takes us all on a ride through the stories, struggles and successes of others who are themselves ordinary and everyday people with extraordinary determination to share their ideas. 

Anyone who’s experienced the natural flow of life understands how often it cycles in three general stages: the call, the test and the destination. In this book, Raz takes this universal experience of the “hero’s journey,” as it’s known in literature, and skillfully weaves tales of entrepreneurship through this framework to share the growth of a business. 

The wide range of diversity in the stories that Raz shares, all the way from hobbyists discovering that tinkering in their spare time could create a meaningful change in the world to sharing the journey of a monk who hung up his robes to pioneer one of the most influential mobile apps, demonstrates an awareness that the most groundbreaking businesses come from the most unexpected places. 

Anyone who picks up this book as the guide to entrepreneurial success should be warned; throughout the narratives shared, it becomes abundantly clear that there is no recipe for the perfect business. Raz fails to give us yet another bland rule-oriented structure for how to build the perfect business that only works for a very select, very similar group of individuals. Instead, he frequently emphasizes that failure and the subsequent learning from it are a crucial part of almost every successful journey. The way to grow an idea is to be adaptable, flexible and different. 

For anyone who hopes to find a book on how to discover the new perfect business idea, this book will not be of interest. But for those seeking that inspirational boost from the wealth of knowledge held by generations of entrepreneurial spirit that gave birth to some of the most successful businesses of our time, “How I Built This” is the perfect read. 

In such a time of chaos, turbulence and uncertainty, as this past year has been, there has never been a time more fitting for a book like this to be published. It’s often when the large stone we know as the comfortable and “good enough” structure of life gets flipped, that all the little critters of ideas are suddenly hurled out into the world. Some will immediately retreat to the comfort of the normal, but for those that suddenly realize that they have something scalable to share, the pages of this book should be dog-eared and worn. 

For anyone looking to take the next step and begin sharing their work with others, “How I Built This” should be their first steppingstone, to learn from the unexpected paths that some of the world’s most influential entrepreneurs took, and how – eventually – they built it.

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