In my first year at University I read Philosophy alongside Economics. I always remember during my first tutorial my Professor telling me that to attain all human knowledge you needed to read just two books. I could not wait for him to tell me what they were.
You can imagine my disappointment when he told me that the first book was The Bible – (my disappointment was purely on the grounds that I am not a practising Christian!) The second book was The Republic by Plato. He then made the bold statement that every other book written is a footnote to these two books – wow! It kind of takes the point away from reading!
I am always surprised when people ask “what kind of music do you like?” I feel sorry for people who confine themselves to just one or two genres. I like a bit of absolutely everything. And the same surely must apply to books. How can you say you only like reading one type of genre?
I meet lots of would be Entrepreneurs who are always reading business biographies and I find it strange. I do enjoy biographies (Steve Job’s is well worth a read) but I think too many people read these books for motivation rather than learning. Self-Help books are one of the biggest selling genres in the USA and I think the fact that they are is evidence that they do not work. I confess to reading a book 20 years ago called “Charisma – How to get that special magic”. A friend of mine saw me reading it and said “it was probably written by a genius like you!” (Thank you Donal Ahern wherever you are!) After that comment – I never read a book like that again. These books are like drugs; they are addictive and can not possibly work. The best book to read that puts this crap in its right place is “How Mumbo-Jumbo conquered the World”.
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So my advice on reading business books (for vocational reasons) is
1) Read them to learn – not for motivation. Motivation is an energy that comes from you and you either want to do it or you don’t. Starting a business requires so much energy – you will fail if you don’t have intrinsic motivation
2) Have balance in what you read. Try to read a wide variety of materials that give you a better understanding of the forces that shape our world. That is what makes great business people – their ability to understand change and exploit it
3) Avoid reading bestseller lists. Many business books are promoting a fad that will not last. Remember the book promoting Sven Goran Ericksson’s ‘magic’ management style? No, nor does anyone else but it was a best seller!
4) If you buy a book – read it! Has anyone actually read “The seven principles of highly successful people?” I see it everywhere but no one seems to have read it!
I will, of course, share you with some of the books in the business genre that I have enjoyed reading enormously. Here is a sneak preview of books that I have adored and will be talking about in future blogs;
1) Freakonomics – This is a must-read. Any book with chapters such as “What the Klu Klux Klan and Estate Agents have in Common” and “Why Drug Dealers live with their Mothers” has got to be brilliant
2) Wikinomics – great for understanding where we are going with the power of the internet and it gave me the idea for one of my businesses
3) Maverick – Ricardo Semler – fantastic to show you how business can be done
4) The Entrepreneurs Road Test – Jim Mullins – a must-read for any potential investor or someone looking to write a business plan. This is my Investment Bible
5) SPIN Selling – Neil Rackham. This book taught me how to sell