The Winning Gorilla: A Book Review of "The Lazy Winner"

“Yeah, sure no problem. I can get that done.”
I hung up the phone, a cheerful smile on my face, and turned back to my computer. Only to be faced with a staggering to do list awash in the red of late deliverables. Why the heck did I just say yes to another deliverable? I was already behind on a half dozen and the list of commitments just for this week was enough to keep me busy through to the new year. What was I thinking?
“You weren’t”
Sigh… And here comes the gorilla to tell me the error of my ways.
Hogarth perched on my desk, causing it to groan in protest at this 800 pound bulk. “There’s a wonderful word in your English language. You might be familiar with it. It’s the word ‘No.”
“Yeah, yeah I know about no.”
Hogarth pointed his banana at me, “But do you know how to use no?”
“Of course I know!”
“Really? Can you tell me the status of the Glitteratti regression testing?”
“At this time QA has not published their report so I don’t have an up to date status.”
Hogarth shook his head, “That didn’t sound like a no. Way to many syllables. What’s the status of the Glitteratti regression?”
I gritted my teeth, “I don’t have that status right now, I should have it…”
Hogarth waved his cantaloupe sized hand in front of me, “You know, never mind. I actually came in here to ask if I could borrow your car. I saw this great move on an old Dukes of Hazard that I want to try. So can I borrow your car?”
“NO!” I replied without thinking.
Hogarth smiled broadly. Leaning over he patted me on the shoulder, “see there, I knew you could say no!”
BOOK REVIEW: The Lazy Winner, By Peter Taylor
It’s not often I’m on the leading edge of a book. It took me close to twenty years to read 7 Habits and my last review was on the ten year old Good to Great. So the ability to read a book when it first comes out is something I take as a great joy.
Now I do need to give the disclaimer that I didn’t pay for The Lazy Winner. I received a complementary copy with the agreement that after reading it, I would write a review for it on Amazon. That said, being the gorilla talker means I’m not about to pull punches just because I didn’t pay the cover price.
The Lazy Winner steps beyond Peter’s first book, The Lazy Project Manager and seeks to provide helpful guidance for anyone trying to survive the daily grind of professional life. The Lazy PM was chock full of useful tips and techniques for the project manager and still sits in a prominent spot on my desk bookshelf. The Lazy Winner is both targeted at a wider audience and more narrow in its approach.
The book is strictly focused on you and how you can succeed in the work environment without killing yourself. And it is not a book that tries to promise the world. In fact Peter spends the first couple of pages trying to convince you not to read the book. You have to want to change to change.
The key to the book is five questions and then how you answer and define them:
Do I want to do this piece of work, job or task? Even if I do want to do it, do I need to do it?
Is the potential result or outcome worth my effort?
Do I have to do it myself?
If I have to do it then what is the shortest path to the point of success?
What exactly is the point of success and at what stage will I just be wasting time?
Revisiting the Pareto rule, which he first references in The Lazy PM, Peter then uses these five questions to help the reader learn how to channel what he actually does to the most important and value added items. And unlike many self help books, in this vein, he doesn’t try whitewash away the stuff you don’t do. There is a large factor to ensuring things don’t get dropped, even as you do less, but more productive work.
Peter even talks about the inertia against change. “But it’s so easy to just keep doing it this way…” Using some of his signature simple graphics he walks the reader through how to examine the value of change versus not change.
The Good:
This makes sense: Peter has a conversational reading style. Having listened to his podcasts, I could easily imagine him reading the words to me. He mixes a simple writing style, humor and just the right amount of formatting to make The Lazy Winner the kind of book you say “I’ll just read one more page and then I’ll put it down.”
Questions of power: I’ve understood the Pareto rule and I learned the hard way I don’t have to do everything myself. And even with that under my belt, the five questions make a wonderful level of sense and will be something I refer back to time and again.
Footnotes of laughter: Read the footnotes. I usually am one to skip footnotes as way to much detail but you’d be the poorer if you do that with this book. Read the footnotes for the information but more importantly for the humor.
The Bad:
Just a snack: The PDF copy comes in at just 162 pages with the Appendix (a very useful appendix) starting at page 121. Peter packs a fair amount into the book, but I can’t help but feel I’m reading the cliffs notes of summary copy of the book. Everything section left me looking for more. Then again, perhaps this was on purpose. If you give to much help in a self help book, people might not think for themselves. In the end, like the Chinese food Peter loves so well, this book left me hungry for more thirty minutes after finishing.
I’m ready for my close up: I love the cover to The Lazy Project Manager. It is simple and compelling. The kind of cover that catches your eye on a bookshelf or in an e-catalog. While the photo of Peter is a good one, I think it would be a lot better as the “About the author” picture. A laughing man, not looking at the camera doesn’t sell me “Winner.” If I didn’t know who Peter was, I might be inclined to say “Wow, what an ego, he used his own face.” I’d rather see art in the same style as The Lazy PM. A stylized checkered flag over a man racing a desk or something.
Ow, ow, my wallet: $23 US for the print edition of the book feels a little steep. It’s a smaller book than his first and still going for a similar price. Perhaps I’m just out of touch with prices but if I were to heft the print version, in a Barnes and Noble, I’d think it didn’t weigh what a $23 book should weigh. The Kindle version though is $9.99 and that’s in the reasonable (for Amazon) e-book range.
The Bookshelf Index:
The Lazy Winner won’t be joining The Lazy Project Manager on my desk bookshelf. It has some valuable insights, but the core meat are those magic questions and a couple of other points. I’ll be creating a one page of those to pin on my wall and the book will be filed away in my reference stack.
Well worth the read, but not something you won’t be reaching for again and again.  This book is perfect for electronic reading. Short, easy to read and you won’t be wanting to flip through the pages to refer to it like you might with The Lazy Project Manager.
NOTE: Passing on a shameless plug from Peter Taylor. The Lazy Winner is currently (Dec 14, 2011) free on the Kindle in the US Amazon shop. Take advantage of his largess while it lasts.
Joel Bancroft-Connors
The Gorilla Talker Project Manager
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