Don't let the underwear cover fool you, The Year Without Pants is not about a guy sitting in his apartment ordering pizzas for fifty-two weeks straight.
Scott Berkun is a lightening-in-a-bottle type, he recounts his time as Team Social lead at Wordpress through a unique lens of a savvy-veteran returning to the front lines to disrupt conventional thinking. Not only is he entering a management position at Automattic, where workers work remotely, he's trying to assimilate on a team that doesn't even have a lead and is already firing on all cylinders. The addition of Berkun to the team is an experiment.
The book directly challenges the way we've been told that business works. So many businesses follow a common pattern of mandatory collared shirts, dress pants and 9-5 work weeks because that's what they were told was the way to run a business. This type of premeditated structure suggests a company that does not take the time to be thoughtful and see what works best for them and their workers. What's proven at Automattic is that if you have faith in your employees, and they can work autonomously and have a real stake in the direction of the company, you will be able to trust them and they will go all-in for you.
In an interview with Wordpress.com, Berkun reiterates something powerful:
The single most important lesson is you have to dig deeper to be good.
What struck me most while reading the book was the significance of the message. There's a sense of urgency to it, as if to say to people as a whole, it doesn't have to be this way. You can take big risks and experiment and effect sweeping change.
I was out for drinks recently and a buddy asked me how my job was going and I said, "Awesome..." to which he said, "you don't hear that very often."
That's the whole point. It struck a chord in me not because I dislike my job (the web is both a passion and a craft for me) but because it allowed me to appreciate the importance of meaningful work. Dead-end tracks can break a man's spirit. Lofty ambitions can tackle the impossible.
I finished The Year Without Pants walking home from the "L" train, reading the last few pages as I glanced up to check crosswalk signals. I read the last page a couple of times to let it sink in, and was sad that it was over as you would be with any good book.
The nerve it hit was the one it was supposed to.