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The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Creating a Life While Making a Life Paperback – Sep 1 2001

4.0 out of 5 stars 106 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (Sept. 1 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578516447
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578516445
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 222 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 106 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #135,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

Prospective entrepreneurs may think they know everything there is to know about starting a business in Silicon Valley. They can draw up business plans, have meetings with venture capitalists, maybe even get funded and actually launch a start-up. However, in The Monk and the Riddle, Silicon Valley sage Randy Komisar reasons that's only half the equation for success. And it may not be the important half. Komisar has worked with a number of companies--Apple, LucasArts Entertainment (the gaming division of George Lucas's empire), and WebTV among them--and has come to a rather startling conclusion: if you can't see yourself doing this business for the rest of your life, don't start it. In other words, he wants to see passion and purpose in business, not just spreadsheets and a by-the-numbers business model.

To illustrate, Komisar takes the reader through a hypothetical Silicon Valley start-up, with an eager entrepreneur named Lenny trying to get funding for an online casket-selling business. As Komisar helps Lenny find the real purpose of the business, the passion behind the revenue projections, he reflects back on his life as an entrepreneur. Komisar emerges as a master storyteller, the kind of guy you'd feel honored to share a bottle of wine with. And you believe his conclusion: "When all is said and done, the journey is the reward." It's great if you've made billions on the journey, but the important thing is that you do something you can truly throw yourself into. --Lou Schuler --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Komisar is among a new breed of executives who have been called "virtual CEO's." Unlike consultants, they not only advise but actually work for companies that tend to be very small high-tech or Internet start-ups. In addition to working currently for seven such companies, Komisar has worked with WebTV and TiVo, was the "real" CEO at LucasArts Entertainment, and was one of the founders of Claris Corporation. With the assistance of freelance writer Kent Lineback, who has produced numerous films and videos for the Harvard Business School, Komisar here intertwines the story of his own career with that of two fictional entrepreneurs. The purpose is to show how deals are made and businesses get started in Silicon Valley. Komisar's many experiences allow him to speak firsthand about how venture capitalists and headhunters think and operate. He also warns that passion and vision are just as important as a well-crafted business plan. Throughout, we also get a strong dose of Komisar's own philosophy of success and fulfillment, a philosophy that might best be called Zen capitalism. David Rouse --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book by Silicon Valley legend Randy Komisar, beginning with its title, took me a while to get into, I have to admit. I was way into it (page 60+ or so) and still wondering what the big deal about it was. This is the reason why I give it four stars: it takes a while to hook you. But if you stick to it, Komisar has a wealth of experience to share with you, from his first days in the East Coast, litigating, all through his experiences with tech giants such as WebTV, Tivo and Apple.
The main idea presented by Komisar is that you don't need to postpone your life's dream for later, by playing it safe and engaging in what he calls the Deferred Life Plan. To convey this idea, he presents the reader with the process through which he takes Lenny (an entrepreneur at heart, driven by money, who comes to him for advice) in his pursuit to push his Business Plan for Funerals.com into the attention span of some Silicon Valley VC that Komisar knows. Initially a great idea conceived as a community-building scheme, leveraging the Web to assist those in grief due to the loss of a loved one, Funerals.com had evolved into a very basic money-making scheme that didn't have much of a spark to it, tied to the sale of cheaper caskets by leveraging the efficiencies that the Web can bring about.
In the end, if you take away the Silicon Valley specifics, Komisar's point remains not just valid, but a healthy proposition to lead life driven from within, by passion for what you do and pride rooted in leaving a legacy behind you, instead of ambition and short-term gratification. Highly recommended reading for those who are searching for their mission in life, as well as those who are considering pursuing the entrepreneurial path in their lives.
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Format: Paperback
The only interesting point Randy made was that "TRY and do what you love doing, instead of doing what you *have* to do for a long time before it is too late to do what you love doing". There is an assumption that one is doing what one *has* to do because one wants to make a lot of money, get fame, build big houses, etc. This assumption may not be acceptable or applicable to some.
In any case, the tricky part is in being able to choose such a profession where one can do what one enjoys doing, instead of "showing up at work". It is easy to talk about this when one has enough financial freedom to do whatever one wants. There are so many extraneous reasons for doing what one is doing. Some of these are alterable to take one towards what one would really like to do. But, for most situations, the activation energy is very high, and many people dont have a strong burning desire to initiate that change, and hence decide to start "wanting" to do what they "have" to do.
I liked his term "Deferred Living Plan". Many people in the Silicon Valley may enjoy reading this book, because they can relate to much of what he talks about (most of which is itself based in the valley).
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Format: Hardcover
Congratulations to Randy Komisar on his ability to weave old truths with superficiality and egotism into a "critically acclaimed bestseller". I commend him for his salesmanship.
A huge whollop of modesty and less patting himself on his own back would have made this book more palatable. I suggest he donate all profits from "The Monk and the Riddle" to a Buddhist monastery in Asia. Lou Schuler (the person who wrote first review on this list) may want to look up the words 'sage' and 'master storyteller'. Komisar is neither sage nor master storyteller. Kent Lineback deserves credit for translating Komisar's self-aggrandizing and self-admiring navel-gazing ramblings into words in print. Entrepreneurs, contrary to Komisar's generalizations, are a highly DIVERSE group of motivated, passionate and energetic dreamers and doers.
Hopefully Komisar has not shelved generous charitable donations under the maligned "Deferred Life Plan" but instead has made these an important component of his lauded "Whole Life Plan".
The recommendations on the back cover of the paperback are unimpressive. The butchered quote from the San Francisco Examiner "belongs in a category by itself....The best thing I've read all year" leads one to believe that this, perhaps, was the only book the reviewer read this year?
If the reviewer would care to read another book this year, I greatly recommend "Life is So Good". The brag on the back cover of the "The Monk and the Riddle" that states that the book offers timeless advice would be more justified if it were on the back cover of "Life is So Good". "The Monk and the Riddle" offers nothing original in the category of timeless advice.
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Format: Hardcover
Randy Komisar imparts a couple profound lessons in this business fable. If you were able to learn the Theory of Constraints by ready the Goal, this a book that can imply some grander lessons about approaching life and business.
On the surface, the story is a fable about Komisar providing business advice to an internet funeral planning startup. The lessons are deeper than "What's a VC looking for?" I picked up two major concepts:
1 - If you're not passionate about something, it's not worth doing, and you won't be able to convince others to join you.
2 - It's not good to defer enjoyment of life - the journey has to be of value in addition to the destination.
These issues are brought up with two questions:
1 - What would you be willing to do for the rest of your life? Is the idea or change you're pursuing something that you'd be willing to do forever? If so, it's worth doing. If not, it's just another get rich quick scheme.
2 - If you drop an egg 3 feet, how do you keep it from breaking? This is the riddle in the title - I won't spoil the answer here, but it's different than what I thought (Boil it first!) and the key to concept 2 above.
Komisar's credentials to speak on this subject come from his varied background: He was a lawyer & CFO (hard numbers quant guy), a Virtual CEO and investor in high tech companies. He lived what he speaks, and comes from a "hard skills" background. This adds credibility to his discussion of softer subjects.
This is a great book for anyone wondering, "Why am I doing this?" or "Should I be doing something new?" It delves into "Why do we get into a business?" I highly recommend this profound, but practical read.
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