Review: The Hot Seat (Dan Shapiro)

Let me begin by describing something The Hot Seat does not do.  A while ago I read Never Say Die, about how society talks about old age.  Sometimes I would want to argue with its factual statements (“old women have no access to sex”), but feel immediately aversive.  Eventually I realized that this was because Never Say Die spent a long time deriding anyone who believed anything good about old-old age as delusional or mean.  I didn’t want to be delusional or mean, so even in the privacy of my own head I resisted arguing.  This is a bad tactic for finding out the truth.   You don’t win arguments by deriding people who oppose you, you win them with facts.  And the facts are that old people in nursing homes get a lot of STDs.*

A lot of business books do this too.  “Other people will tell all a company needs is a website and a mascot, but we’re not like that.  We think you should have a product.”  It’s not quite argument from bravery– more like argument against stupidity.  It often follows statements like “we won’t sugarcoat this” and “fancy new economy idiots/stodgy old economy losers believe…”.  The effect is to discourage critical thought about what they are telling you.

The Hot Seat does not do this, at all.  It gives you information- both legal rules and the unspoken ones, from funding to people management.  I think it would be useful for someone planning on starting their own company, but that wasn’t my use case.  I want to be an early employee at a start up, and want to be able to tell good start ups from bad.  Hot Seat isn’t a complete book for that, but it is a very strong foundation that will make it easier to assess if I’m getting good advice from other books.  It is also extraordinarily readable, to the point I would read it for fun.**

*When I went to look up the numbers I saw that they counted everyone above age 65 or even 50.  The book’s main thesis is that people take happy statements about the (upper class) young old and inappropriately apply them to the old old (80+).  So the author may not have even been wrong, but I don’t like the way she proved her point.

**Other books I read for fun:

But I don’t read finance for fun, so this is novel.