Book Review: Break The Wheel by Jay Acunzo

I first heard Jay Acunzo when he appeared on Jay Baer’s Social Pros podcast. He was there talking about his new book, Break the Wheel. He sounded like a smart guy, and what he said made sense. That’s a hard combination to beat, and exactly *why* I listen to industry podcasts.

So I looked his book up. There’s a link to the Amazon page behind the cover here.

Break the Wheel: Question Best Practices, Hone Your Intuition, and Do Your Best Work, by Jay Acunzo
Break the Wheel: Question Best Practices, Hone Your Intuition, and Do Your Best Work, by Jay Acunzo

I realize that’s a pretty soft opening, and if you’re still reading, I salute you, because damn the reward is worth it.

This. Book. Was. Amazing.

The basic premise of this book is to challenge best practice when you encounter it. That’s not to say best practice is meaningless, but Jay’s point is that best practice for the sake of best practice is a trap.

Listen to best practice. Understand it. But then apply it to the matrix of your own situation.

Throughout his book he uses real-world examples of people and brands turning best practice on their heads and finding success. Brands like Death Wish Coffee (“the strongest coffee in the world”) and the marketing firm Drift.

If you skim this book you might come away with the view that these successes are the lightning strikes that prove the exception to the rule. But a deeper reading shows Jay adhering to his own thesis: these brands built success out of adapting best practice, not slavishly copying it.

The Six Questions

The basis for Jay’s examination, and his method for teaching us to strive for our own best work, is six questions. I’m not stealing his thunder in giving you the questions–the meat is in the answers.

  1. What is your aspirational anchor?
  2. What is your unfair advantage?
  3. What is your first-principle insight?
  4. Who are your true believers?
  5. What are your constraints?
  6. How might you expand?

At first glance these seem like pretty basic questions. But Jay both walks us through several examples, and challenges us to actually apply some real thought to them.

I’ve probably already revealed too much. Go buy the book and read it. I’m not leaking any more of his recipe. 

Best vs Commodity

This bit really resonated with me. 

These people aren’t rebels, geniuses, legends, or weirdos, and any conclusion to the contrary can only be made in retrospect, when we put neat little bows on stories we tell. In reality, they are exactly like us. They’re mere mortals who want to do their best work and struggle against commodity crap. It’s just that they sought their answers within their context rather than clinging to best practices. They asked the right questions of their environments to act like investigators, not experts. They thought for themselves in the face of endless conventional thinking.

(the bold is mine, not his)

“Struggle against commodity crap.”

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