25 Responses

  1. You next book should be a biography. Would be extremely interesting!

  2. What a great set of lessons. I think it was the US marketer Dan Kennedy who said “first we had Napoleon Hill breaking down success into 13 steps, followed by Covey who managed it in 7 and a bit, so I thought I would break it down into 1 – Action”. Nice one Steve.

  3. Great article! I worked as an manufacturing engineer before jumping to the web industry and right before I quit I was working on a lot of kaizen/ lean activities. One of the main initial activities is reviewing the process in a holistic way. You really find out where the waste in movement, activity and time is when you have a small kaizen group focused at improving activities. Most of the time when you ask the person why are they doing that and their reply was usually “that’s how I was taught” or “that’s just how I’ve always done it…” I see this Lean movement and methods from manufacturing are now being really utilized by startups and the tech/web industries.

  4. Great post Steve! It is especially timely with the Thanksgiving holiday. It made me thankful for all of life’s experiences and opportunities. It is a good reminder to me personally to live in the present and continually learn.

  5. Happy Thanksgiving! And I’m STILL peeling potatoes! :)

  6. This inspires me to hope. Rarely does a CEO know it all because they’ve dime it all.

  7. Great insight. Good writing. How do I share this on my fb page.

  8. Sounds like you would have enjoyed working at McDonalds

  9. Even greater careers start by figuring out that the healthiest part of the potato is the skin and that you can eliminate an unnecessary task by leaving it on :-)

  10. I love your article, Steve, and you are “right on” with your insights once again. Your clarity and good sense have always amazed me, and I attribute it to your working your way up from the bottom. Perhaps it’s because I, too, traveled that path.

    After high school I entered the US Air Force – not so much to defend my country as to get money for college – a luxury my parents couldn’t afford. After paying my own way through college with my Uncle Sam money and part-time jobs I emerged debt free from graduate school to join HP as a “repairman”. One might think repairing equipment isn’t the most glamorous job for a newly minted M.S. in Physics, but I learned a bunch by toting wrenches around, dealing with gases, liquids, electronics, robot autosamplers, pumps, mainframe computers, high voltage, high vacuum, and all kinds of user-caused malfunctions, including the chemistry involved in these analytical instruments. I got to see real customers crying with frustration and stress as their bosses pressured them for results, but the instrument was down. I got to learn firsthand how you need to listen to customers. This really helped when I moved to manufacturing to help build the instruments I was repairing, then to R&D to help design them, then Quality to help teset them. It was a long road to being a business leader, but I am a far more capable leader because of this journey.

    Those who had an easier path need to work harder to gain these insights. Thanks for pointing the way.

  11. Great post! Having worked my way up last decade I can connect to these observations and career learning!

    Most recently, I always knew about how search adwords works and how it can help acquire customer, but I really started appreciating the tech, when i applied these to my own projects and saw how it can impact business!

  12. […] Steve Blank offers a nice post about learning in the business context. His main point is that the most valuable lessons are found in doing stuff rather than theory. I agree that you can’t understand a process without doing the process. And once you stop or if you get disconnected from doing the heavy lifting, you stop learning. […]

  13. It’s hard enough to stay connected to the frontlines when you’re a founder or senior executive; taking the time to peel the potatoes is one of the few ways to do this.

  14. Terrific post. This should be taught to kids starting in high school; there are no short cuts while developing anything great. It could be titled “It takes 10 years to be an overnight success” or “Start by peeling potatoes!”

  15. Wow! Thanks for sharing these nuggets and wisdom bytes! Great insights for future leaders!

  16. Great post – I have done the same with every success I have had – knowing about how to do the job at my own company, and also getting to know everything, and I mean everything, about my customers operations. Thanks Norm

  17. Great article.
    Everyone has to start somewhere and most of the time it is all the way from the bottom. But it is wonderful to reap the rewards of all the experience and wisdom gained through the difficulties of rising to the top.

  18. Great post…thanks for sharing a personal story. It serves as inspiration to all of us out here “peeling potatoes” everyday.

  19. great post, this is why startups need senior people, no substitute for experience, I have worked in software since I was 16 ( am 42 now ) and see new grads make the same mistakes due to ‘book learning’, experience is what counts

    up with steve blank and his awesome blog

  20. Reblogged this on SquareBall Marketing and commented:
    Great advise from Steve Blank. There is no shortcut in in creating your own success. If you need motivation to keep you moving forward, this is a great read.

  21. […] Steve Blank talks about the origins of his success, and strangely enough, they involve doing physical things and encountering the problems he would later help overcome through the enginee…: […]

  22. There is no comparison to gaining experience from doing each job you have to lead one day.

    Since you have experience being down in the trenches, then what would you look for in a wanna-be entrepreneur working to build a company that puts past colleagues to work in the digital age with the latest, and “next” tools?

  23. […] Blank writes a lovely blog about his experiences starting and growing technology businesses in the USA – but it has plenty of wise words for non-US, non-tech entrepreneurs too. (Why […]

  24. Awesome post. Nothing beats hands on experience. It seems like the internet has given rise to analysis paralysis.

    If you want to make something happen, put in the work!


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