I just realized right now, right at this moment, that reading business books is a total, complete, and utter waste of time. And what’s wild is that I wrote one.
If you think about it, the very idea that someone is allowed to drag on, for hundreds of pages, preaching their various theories on business and that we not only put up with it, but actually encourage it by paying money for them, is almost unimaginable when you stop and think about it.
By its very nature the process is flawed. How can anyone possibly expect to garner any real insight, any real wisdom, and any real useful information by reading a book that isn’t specific in nature, but instead covers the general spectrum of business as if the topic was shallow enough to consolidate into a paperback. People write books that are a thousand pages on the anatomy of a dragonfly. People spend their entire life studying and documenting lava rocks. For God’s sake, the bible is filled with almost 200 pages of begetting.
And yet most business books attempt to transcend every aspect of business, from starting up, to raising money, to management, to operational issues, to finance, to handling competition, and so on, without ever getting into detail on any one topic. And why? because in summary everything sounds smart. In summary, even the most absurd statements become philosophical treasures: ignore the competition, don’t lose site of your competitors, raising money too soon is a mistake, not raising money fast enough can kill you, promote from within, don’t lose site of talent outside your company.
Here’s a summary level business statement for you: don’t waste your time reading books on business. It’s like I tell my students at Kellogg. For most people who are interested in business or attend business school, the primary motivation is simple – to get rich. Those who give you another explanation are usually lying to you or themselves (if you don’t care about money, start a 501C3, not a company). And yet I think most of us would instantly agree there is no magic formula for getting rich.
So what’s the real secret that no one who writes a business book wants to tell you. It’s this – there is no repeatable approach to making money that can be taught and the only thing that really matters in business is being smart, working hard, and putting yourself in a position to be successful over and over again. It’s the millions of little things you do every day when you run a business, just as when you raise a child, that either produce success or failure.
If you’re looking to stimulate your monetary brain waves, or if your life is generally so boring that you find business books a form of entertainment more enthralling than American Idol, then keep reading them. but I doubt they’ll produce the result you are really seeking – mine included.