Brian Ma's Blog (@zealoustiger)

Weekly insights from an Entreprenuer: To spend one year as a tiger is better than to live forever as sheep

How to get Smarter… read.

This seemed so obvious, I don’t know why it took me so long to realize it.  Influential people read.  It makes them smarter.  In fact, that’s what we’ve been taught to do since we were young.  Warren Buffet is a machine at digesting business/economic news and company reports – that’s why he’s so good at investing.  Bill Gates takes weeks off of work to read about new technologies – how else does he see trends and develop better things?  If someone has taken time out of their life to put their life experiences into a book, or a blog, or a news article, it’s worth your time to learn from them.


Ok, so I think reading undisputedly benefits us, so what should you read?  Everyone may be different, so instead of me telling you, let me just show you a sample of what I read:

Industry News – Everyone is part of an industry and everyone needs to stay up to date with the latest news in their area of expertise.  For me, it’s technology and the web.  So here’s a sample of what I tune into:

  • Techflash (John Cook’s tech news specific to Seattle)
  • TechCrunch (if you’re a techie and not reading this, you’re not a techie)
  • Mashable

Even narrower industry news – Everyone works in a niche.  When I was at Zillow, it was Real Estate.  Now at EggSprout, it’s HR and Recruiting.  If you’re running a startup, you better know what’s happening in your niche.  I like to seperate these between the official sources, and the individual sources.

Venture Capital – When you’re running a startup, you better be pretty in tune with the VC business whether you want to take in money or not

Other Startups – Better be staying on top of other startups if you wanna be successful at your own.  Celebrate their successes, learn from their failures.  It’s all about being part of the community.

Mentors and Heroes – Everyone has someone they look up to.  Or people they find interesting – I’ve found that my list changes over time, but here’s a couple I read:

Friends – I have a bunch of personal friends that I like to follow.  A bunch are on twitter, but a bunch also blog.  This category is probably where you get your most variety – your friends probably are passionate about many things that are not in your area of expertise.  You can learn a lot from your friends.

  • Hsu-Ken (has the most random entertaining posts)
  • Drew Meyers (brings deep insight into the world of microfinance, something I know nothing about)
  • Chris Chu (brings me stories from the far reaches of the galaxies)
  • Mr. CFO (Director of Finance at Zillow, must know something about the world right?)
  • Spencer (The real Zillow CFO.  Keeps on showing up on TV.  If I read his blog, I might learn something from osmosis.)

Hobbie: Real Estate – Everyone has hobbies.  Real estate is one of mine.  That’s why I like to read about stuff that’s happening there once in a while.

  • Downtown Bellevue (most amazing comprehensive coverage of Bellevue)
  • Seattle Bubble (Bubble, what bubble?)
  • Incolo (Friends startup.  Great content – and helping them with link love :)

Other Media Sources

  • Podcasts (I workout, have a bunch of great content updated daily on my Iphone)
  • TV (I eat, and like to multitask by watching the news.  It saves time)
  • Books (rare, but every so often, I run into some book some friend recommends)

Phew!  That’s quite a bit of reading.  And a ton of these sources get updated extremely frequently.  Talk about information overload!  I’ve learned to set a time limit for myself per day or I can easily get lost in the sea of information, but I do usually manage to get through all those everyday.  Read lots, learn lots, you’ll be glad you did.

Happy reading.

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