Business Books are a Total Waste of Time (Mine Included)


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.

4 thoughts on “Business Books are a Total Waste of Time (Mine Included)

  1. Justyn

    Bold post coming from an author 🙂 But I tend to agree. In addition, I find two things bothersome about most business books;

    1) They are written in hindsight. It’s easy to look back and present decisions that were made as the right way to do something. Truth is, those decisions were right for that person/business in that circumstance. That doesn’t mean they should be adopted by all. It’s the “history is written by the victors” mindset. The 4 hour workweek works for Tim Ferriss, but he already had the means to make it work.

    2) Readers must have the ability to discern what’s applicable and what isn’t, yet most of the business books out there present an entire model or mindset that’s to be adopted. I get a handful of useful ideas out of every book I read (which is a lot), I discard the rest. The dangerous thing is when you see an entire sales team (for example) change course every time the manager reads a new business book. Most books should come with a disclaimer “don’t do everything in this book, it won’t make sense in your business”.

  2. Dilip

    Yes I agree, most business books are written to enrich the author, and not to offer anything new to the reader.

    But there is still some value to business books, particularly for those who want to become entrepreneurs but don’t have a business background. For me personally, books like “The E-Myth” have given me an invaluable insight into the type of business I want to create.

  3. zort

    I’ve been thinking about the difference between being Abstract, and being Vague.

    By my measure, Abstract discussion conveys the most useful information about a subject relevant to the level of abstraction at hand. Like a table of contents in the context of a pre-perchase perusal.

    Vague discussion sounds and looks exactly the same, but conveys no real information.

    The only way to tell them apart is to have experience in the subject yourself. Part of the fun of being human I guess.

  4. You really help it become seem to be very easy with your presentation having said that i locating this matter being actually a thing that Personally i think I will never recognize. It sort of feels way too difficult and really broad in my situation. I’m just excited for your pursuing upload, I most certainly will aim to have the hang on of it!

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