You Don't Have To Be Ruthless To Win

Razroo Book Club - Intersection of Software + Business

Aleksandra Khmarskaia
January 12, 2021
4 min read

Why Read It

The book is truly the book of changes. “You Don’t Have to Be Ruthless to Win” is extremely crucial today, in 2021, despite being written in 2019. Today’s entrepreneurs begin to realize that the egoistic business approach is hopelessly outdated, and only authenticity, moral standing, and ethics matter.

The author, Jonathan Keyser, is the founder of Keyser, the largest tenant rep commercial real estate firm in Arizona, which developed so much due to the Selfless Service Model, and that is what the whole book is about. Read what happened when a tough real estate broker became the first selfless and giving professional in such a subtle business.


The book contents contain 2 parts with the personal story in the first and practical tips in the second. If the first part is breathtaking, the second teaches you step by step how to create a successful culture of service for yourself.

Jonathan Keyser created a heartbreaking story about himself, which sounds extremely familiar to any empathic entrepreneur. We all could imagine how tough the real estate business is. It even has a stereotypical image in the media. You should be a desperate man to defy the wishes of this industry.

All these “give first” claims may sound naive and maybe even irresponsible for business, but still make sense. People are not idiots. Between an indifferent brand which admires profit only and sometimes asks clients stupid small talk things and a carrying brand which is trying to solve exactly their problems, people will always choose the last one.

Interesting Points

Personal Story

Jonathan Keyser is originally from a very religious family, where sacrificing for others was the norm. He succeeds in the real estate brokers’ world but was depressed despite his wealth. He did have the heart to turn his life upside down. In the business where brokers called their clients from the car so as not to lose a client if some colleague tapped the call. That is a really exciting read.

The Problem Is Not in People

The author’s view is that people are great. Scams and lies to get some money are contrary to human nature. The problem is always in the system: “the pressure to perform causes people to behave in ways very different from how they would otherwise.”

The Three Levels of Reinvention

Keyser condensed everything he learned into the simple system called “The Three Levels of Reinvention”. This is the key to change your business approach whether you are new to business or a senior business leader with thirty years of experience. In short, these levels are:

  1. Reinventing yourself through selfless service,
  2. Reinventing your company culture through selfless service,
  3. Reinventing your approach to your clients and collaborations through—guess what— selfless service.

Well, that sounds simple.

Would I Read It Knowing What I Know Now?

Although the book is full of good advice, I would not read it again, but that is all about my subjective view. Keyser sets selflessness as the opposite of ruthlessness, but is it actually correct? I have always been sure the opposite of ruthlessness are empathy, moral standing, and tolerance. Selflessness seems to me as just another extreme.

Keyser says it is better to live for others than for yourself. I understand his point, but cannot agree with it. If you do not put yourself first, will you be sincerely happy or just pretending you are, trying to do “the right thing”?

Let us be realistic. Doing what seems right only to you is an excellent strategy for a happy life and efficient business. Serve others, “giving first” is right for Keyser, he does that, he is growing rich and he is thrilled. That is an amazing way, and it feels from the book that the author is blessed with his idea.

The Next Book: The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

In a week we will unlock a secret of successful groups with the New York Times bestselling author, Daniel Coyle, who is already well known by The Talent Code. The book is going to explain to us how to build and sustain a great culture in your team, or even strengthen your culture if it needs to be fixed. Look forward to reading it

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