Book Review - The Max Strategy


I decided to read this book because the head of mobile engineering at my company, whom I consider highly successful by any conventional standard, recommended it to me.

One Sentence Summary

Look for opportunities to experiment even when those opportunities deviate from your area of expertise or career “plan”.


Lots of people think they have it all worked out. They’re the type to confidently answer questions like “where do you see yourself in five years?”. They focus on improving in their area of expertise by imitating the success of others.

The problem with confidently answering “where do you see yourself in five years?” is that it leads to conformity and rigidity. The desire to stick too closely to a plan leads to undue fear of taking risks and experimenting. You could be mising out on incredible opportunities even when they stare you right in the face. The author follows up with several anecdotes which I will leave for your reading enjoyment :).

The problem with imitating the success of others in your area of expertise is everyone else is that imitation is easier than innovation, so (most) everyone else is doing it too. Competition is abundant, leaving you with a small chance and a very large investment in terms of time and energy. When I think about my industry, software engineering, there is an abundance of talented engineers. That’s not to say I don’t want to reach that level one day, but as a software engineer there is so much more to success than mere technical merit. And besides becoming more technically proficient there isn’t as clear a blueprint on how to progress. That means one needs to experiment. Furthermore, imitating someone’s outward appearance of success can be flawed from the beginning because key characteristics of their success are often hidden.

The book provides plenty of parables and philisophical phrases about this “max strategy” that leaves the reader wondering how it can apply to their own life. Near the very end the author provides some exercises and how to apply the max strategy, which I’m excited to try out at work.


In my humble opinion there were too many anecdotes about successful flukes and “flukologists”, as the character Max calls them. I understand the author is trying to drill the idea into the reader’s head but that could have been done with half as many stories. Nevertheless I give the anecdotes 5/5 for entertainment value. I think the author provided a very good practical method for trying out the “max strategy”.

As someone who likes to stick to goals, plans, and ordered lists, some of the content was difficult to ingest. A lot of it runs directly counter to my beliefs and conventional wisdom. However since a key point of the book is to not be afraid of experimentation I remain open minded and excited to start experimenting :).

Overall: 4.5/5

Selected Quotes

  • The silliest question intelligent people ask is “what do you want to do in five years?”.
  • Necessity may be the mother of all invention but coincidence is the father.
  • Once I used to ask people “what do you think?”. Now I ask people “what have you tried?”.
  • Get a reputation for being an experimenter and people will bring their ideas to you.
  • Most people don’t have ideas. They have suggestions.
  • It’s easy to experiment but hard to change.
Written on October 15, 2019