Michal Ptacek, Officelovin' founder: Favourite Books & Why He Said no to Business Hype

“It’s funny – I’ve stopped reading most business and startup books, as I feel they’re mostly all the same and give you some basic tips written into 400-page books in order for their authors to get rich. What’s funny is that some of these authors have never actually shipped a product. Instead they only got successful by publishing a book about how to be successful. I find this a bit sad, and I don’t want to support it.”

The quote above belongs to Michal Ptacek, it’s from an interview that I read last week on Indie Hackers. While most people are extremely hyped about latest business and startup books, I loved Michal’s down-to-earth approach and no-bullshit filter. That’s why I decided to contact him and ask if he wants to be part of our series of interviews about books, and, gladfully, he accepted.

Before I jump to the reading-related curiosities, here’s what you should know about Michal: he lives in San Diego, but he’s from Prague (Czech Republic). He’s been an IT guy since he was a kid – it started when he got his first Commodore 64, and instantly fell in love with playing games and programming. He created the first website when he was only 13, and 2 years later programmed his first point-and-click adventure game.

Michal founded CzechCrunch.cz, the biggest online magazine in Czech dedicated to the tech & startup world. Three years ago, he decided to change focus towards the global market, especially the U.S. That’s when he launched Officelovin’.

Officelovin’ is a website that showcases the best offices from around the world. Michal collaborates with 150 architects (companies included) who present their best designs, and provide photos and informations about their projects.

I must warn you it’s extremely addictive! You’ll tell yourself you’ll only peek at one office, and end up admiring photos for the rest of your working day (and even week), dreaming about your future perfect office will look like. Officelovin’ featured the offices of companies like Uber, AirBnB, Spotify, Soundcloud, LinkedIn, and many others.

Read on to find out more about Michal’s favourite books, whose words influenced him, what books he recommends, but also what he thinks about working remote.

 

What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.

My most favourite book is Godfather by Mario Puzo. I think it is even slightly more interesting and better than a movie which is almost perfect. Total masterpiece 🙂 Another would be The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

Now this will probably sounds very controversial, but I don’t read the typical business/startup books anymore as I feel most of them are just about the same -> which is to make their authors richer by giving readers the same basic tips all over again (of course there are exceptions). However I really enjoy reading biographies etc. So I really enjoyed a book about Elon Musk written by Ashlee Vance. I think it has a perfect flow and Ashlee was able to describe Elon’s way of thinking very thoroughly.

I also really enjoy reading programming books.

 

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?

It is not exactly a book but a quote/post from Tobias van Schneider regarding the remote work. Most of my team work remotely and I agree with this 200%:

“This is by far the most important aspect of working in a remote team. You have to over communicate, almost to an extent where it feels like you’re talking to yourself out loud. The beauty and challenge with working remotely is that you don’t really know what other people on your team are doing. You can’t just check in with them on their desk, walk over real quick or exchange a few words over lunch. To sync up remotely would mean you have to schedule a call or bother them via chat, which basically defeats the purpose because you can’t just have meetings all day to make sure you’re catched up with everyone. My biggest pain when working with people remotely is when these people just not communicate. People who don’t ask any questions, who don’t tell what they’re doing or what they have accomplished. It’s easy to completely disappear and fly under the radar when working from home or any other remote place, you have to actively fight against it.” – Tobias van Schneider

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What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)

When I was a kid, I read a book about programming in BASIC for Commodore 64 :). After completing the book I immediately became hooked to technologies, making things and programming and knew right away this is something I want to do in the future. I remember it opened a whole new word for me 🙂

 

What books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)

Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture – by David Kushner: – This book simple proves that both John Carmack and John Romero were geniuses who influenced the whole technology industry. It also proves that anything is possible if you are smart and hardworking.

Another tip would be Elon Musk book by Ashlee Vance which I mentioned previously. It explains how much work and dedication it really takes to be the best at something.

 

I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?

I try to read 1-2 books every month, mostly fictions, novels etc. As I said I don’t read most of the business/startup books anymore as I just prefer to browse through Reddit, Quora, HackerNews, IndieHackers these days and get my knowledge there. I am more of a practical guy so I am learning most by actually doing it/trying.

I definitely prefer reading real books though. I bought Kindle few years ago and haven’t touched it since then. I just like the feeling of the paper when reading a book 🙂

 

How do you make time for reading?

Mostly before going to sleep 🙂

 

Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?

I have never done this even when I was studying for exams 🙂

 

How do you choose what books to read next?

Mostly by going to a bookstore and looking around for 10-20 minutes. Then I just grab something I find interesting, check the reviews on Amazon and that is it. I also use recommendations from my friends and sometimes I find good recommendations on Twitter or Facebook.

 

Last question: what book are you currently reading?

Currently I am reading the book called: The Black Hand. It is about Italian mafia in New York City in the beginning of 20s century.

Links where you can follow Michal Ptacek or find out more about his/her projects:

Books mentioned by Michal in this interview:

 

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