Book review Entrepreneurship Recommended Read

Book Review | Every mistake in the book

Entrepreneurial lessons from the trenches

Rating: 3 out of 4.

Stories of successful entrepreneurs abound in the literary universe. Stroll down the aisles of your neighborhood bookstore and you would find plenty of literature lavishing exorbitant praises on certain wealthy individuals.

A lack of right perspective blinds people to the sweat, perseverance and a constant threat of failure that beset the world of startups.

For one successful entrepreneur, there are thousands who founder without a decent shot. My beef with the credulous glorification of a few thriving individuals is that it leads those who aspire to take the plunge down the garden path.

A booming venture brims with the magic ingredients of hard work, faith, grit, money, timing, and luck (with its importance always being understated in case of success). Interestingly, a doomed business has the same ingredients and yet it fails to get off the ground.

In my opinion, the circumstances that drive hundreds of entrepreneurs out of business present a better learning opportunity than the boasting, narrative-fallacy-ridden autobiographies of those basking in the aura of success.

Every mistake in the book comprises personal memoirs of a failed entrepreneur who could not make it to the shores.

Buoyed by his passion for video games, FJ Lennon – without a formal background in the business – ventured into entertainment software industry in the ’80s.

After seven agonizing years of hardship, Lennon had to sell his company. Unfortunately, his miseries did not end there. Two years later, to save his hide, Lennon bought the company back only to trade it once more. The newest buyer allowed him to stay. However, his status as a remnant-of-the-acquired-company came to haunt him and he was fired.

FJ Lennon recounts everything about his trials and tribulations. The blunders he committed at the time of starting his venture serve an important lesson. He also shares the erroneous judgments he made which led to winding up of his company. All of this dished out with delicious slices of wit, wistfulness and sarcasm.

The book brims with actionable advice

His much-practical advice packs a punch. It’s actionable, teachable guidance from someone who had a harrowing time as an entrepreneur. Lennon does sound vitriolic and grouchy at times, but then he gleaned his wisdom the hard way.

Lennon’s from-the-trenches advice to the novice entrepreneurs strikes the right chord. He remarks that getting your business off the ground is the hardest part.

You must stay lean and grow small in the early days. Hence, any fantasies of a posh office peppered with mahogany furniture and funky chairs should be kept at bay until the business starts to kick in some serious money. Further

every mistake in the book

Work on top of each other. Forget about securing more office space until it’s impossible to move sideways without it. In twenty years, you won’t remember the expensive desk you have your eye on today.”

FJ Lennon, Every mistake in the book

Managing finance is a pivotal part of managing a start-up and the author had apparently flubbed it in his day. He urges the entrepreneurs to not take too many investors on board while starting a company.

A horde of investors – each with their tiny contributions – could lead not only to a piecemeal financing scenario but also to an awful ownership structure. And that is anathema to a new venture! Not the one to equivocate, Lennon asserts,

If you can’t attract the attention of legit venture capitalists, underwriters and banks, then you probably don’t have a business worth funding.

RJ Lennon, Every mistake in the book

If managing finance is not the most entangling aspect of a new venture, managing people surely is. For the benefit of both managers and entrepreneurs, Lennon shares a stockpile of advisory on leadership and people management.

I would hate to launch into hyperboles but I found Lennon’s counsel to be practical. It is more relatable than that of all leadership pundits out there. Here’s him on managers:

As a manager, learn to make suggestions, sometimes firm suggestions, not demands. Even when it’s your way or the highway, respect what people have to say.

RJ Lennon

The book’s narrative is fast-paced and devoid of any fluff or high-falutin parlance. That said, the book does have its fair share of imperfections.

For a large part, the nucleus of the book caters to people management and not entrepreneurship development. Marketing and Finance get a look-in but that’s about it.

Lennon’s emotions seem to get the better of him on several counts in the book. He opines like a giant flaming gasbag especially when he recollects accounts of his personal run-ins with crazy bosses, non-committal employees and apathetic clients.

The idea of calling your colleagues and subordinates snakes and wishing for disembowelment of your boss – no matter how rotten he is – may not sit well with a lot of people.


I recommend Every mistake in the book for all its originality even when he is throwing fits and expletives. On a different note, this book could have carried the impression of a Scott Adams imprint had he not been his original self.

In the end, Every mistake in the book doesn’t disappoint. It’s worth your time and money.

The whining tone of Lennon’s memoirs may induce you to categorize him. Admittedly, it did occur to me, too. I thought that this book was just a catharsis for a disgruntled entrepreneur. Someone who always got the short end of the stick. But how far you want to go with that notion as a reader is your call.

I discarded the idea since the positives appear to outweigh the negatives.

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