Rebecca Page

Book Reflections: All In by Arlene Dickinson

I have a delicious stack of business books I purchased at the start of 2015 for a combination of reasons. It was part birthday treat with a dash of holiday splurge. In large part, it was an investment in my business and my own personal growth. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to write about my reading experience as the year goes along. So here goes the first one – Book reflections: All In by Arlene Dickinson.

Readability: Easy. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to Arlene speak (in addition, of course, to watching her on countless episodes of Dragon’s Den). This book is very much her voice, and it was like hearing her talk. It was a quick and easy read. What slowed me down was thinking about the content.

Content: Each chapter discusses at a different theme, all built around the central idea that to be an entrepreneur, you have to give everything. Be All In. There are stories and anecdotes which beautifully paint an honest image of what entrepreneurship is like. She shares her own experiences, which are not unfamiliar to anyone who read her book Persuasion. In All In, she adds to it by including the stories of other entrepreneurs, to show that her experiences are not unique. From artistic types building an identity in the music business (Jann Arden) to imaginative software types who have to create a market for their invention (Tanya Shaw), there are commonalities which are easily recognizable to anyone living the entrepreneurial life.

Best Quotes: “I’m reasonably certain that even if I’d had a formal business education, it wouldn’t have helped that much. Textbook cases are one thing, on-the-ground realities quite another.” p.139

“The best way I’ve ever found to manage my fears is to compartmentalize them.” p.121

Value: This book explains that it is ok to not have a clear division between work and life. As an entrepreneur, work is life, and life is work. Work is fun and a hobby and no apologies are necessary.

Another lesson from this book is that failure is more than an inevitable part of the entrepreneurial process. Failure is an important component of business success. There will be mistakes. There will be working with the wrong people, or having the right people in the wrong roles. All of it is ok, because it teaches you how to do your business right. It solidifies your vision. Makes the successes more cherished and a reason to celebrate.

Overall: I wish this book had been available back when I was first starting in business. Back then I read everything I could get my hands on.  I was limited to the Ottawa library system and the local Chapters. In 2000, Google and Amazon were not what they are now. This book is worthwhile reading for anyone with an entrepreneurial itch. It gives a clear and brutally honest account of what it means to run your own business. Like books about parenting, however – you have to live it to believe it.


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