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Book review: Create Special

Create Special, Jim Duffy (Harriman House, 2017). Duffy is co-founder of Entrepreneurial Spark, a company that helps early-stage entrepreneurs. He has also been included in the Sunday Times Maserati 100. Speaking from his own personal experience of starting-up, as well as those experiences of the entrepreneurs he has worked with, Duffy shares his knowledge of how to think and act as an entrepreneur.

I haven’t read such a positive and inspirational book in a while. Filled with little anecdotes, movie references, and interactive activities, reading this book is a fun and personal experience. Duffy acknowledges the fact that most entrepreneurs are time-strapped (to say the least) so has written Create Special to be as concise as possible, with a view to encourage you to revisit it and remember his advice.

Create Special is bursting with happy contradictions. The ‘Think & Act’ sections scattered throughout ask you questions about yourself, giving you an opportunity to test your own self-awareness, which may be a new experience for some. Duffy wants to help you learn aspects of your character you may not have recognised before. Contradicting this pastoral approach to advice is Duffy’s brutal and no-nonsense attitude towards his idea of the people you should avoid at all costs. People who only ‘sort of’ want to help you but, in reality, are often more interested in what’s in your back pocket. They will crop up all along your entrepreneurial journey. Watch out, business consultants, Duffy’s looking at you!

Here’s another contradiction. Duffy recommends using his #GoDo lists to get your objectives in order, among more fashionable methods like practising yoga to ‘defrag’ your mind, as tools to find focus in this era of buzzing overstimulation. And just while you’re in that zen mind frame, Duffy wakes you up with a reminder of the rather disappointing truth that discomfort is key for entrepreneurs. Uncertainty, chaos, ambiguity, and volatility are all things that entrepreneurs are bound to experience and that will undoubtedly cause distress. But don’t worry, he provides a recipe for the art of feeling comfortably uncomfortable.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of business Duffy reminds us of is its foundation in emotion. If you are not likeable or trustworthy, then neither is your business. But here’s another contradiction (and possible my favourite of the entire book): an entrepreneur must be at once entirely authentic and gritty (realistic), and an avid ‘moonshot thinker’, a dreamer. Duffy’s final advice on this? Be entirely insurgent and unreasonable in your dreaming: go crazy.

This book is worth a read if:

-You’re an aspiring entrepreneur and want to find out if you’ve got what it really takes
-You need a hand: mostly to help you and assure you, but also to give you the occasional reality-check
-You want to create something special

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