Cottrill Research, LLC

Finding Inspiration In Non-Business Titles

It is common for entrepreneurs and business professionals to turn to books that are found in the business section of bookstores and libraries. However, there is a treasure trove of wisdom that can be discovered in nonfiction and fiction books written by non-business authors. For example, Forbes contributor Carmine Gallo, in his recent post on leadership lessons from this year’s crop of bestselling nonfiction books, lists Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen and writes: “Springsteen’s songwriting advice applies to any leader or entrepreneur who wants to connect with consumers. Don’t be afraid to let readers in and show them who you are. As in songwriting, your words must reflect what’s in your heart.”

A quality of a good leader or successful entrepreneur is the ability to think with an open mind and to be curious and eager for new experiences. This allows him or her to see things through the eyes of others and understand different points of view. Open-mindedness is gained and maintained by continuous learning and the desire to acquire a broad base of knowledge.

One title that I recommend is the classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. There is a reason why this book is loved by so many readers, with its pleasing writing style and powerful message. Ilan Mochari, writing for Inc., states that one of the secrets to its staying power is “its illustrations of empathy…Dive into Lee’s masterpiece, and you’ll observe a master storyteller at work, weaving a tale that explores the concept of empathy, in all its forms.”

Books that draw us in and allow us to feel and experience new situations and environments (both harsh and extraordinary), expand our minds and intellect. One book that does just that is Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer. It is his personal account of the May 1996 tragedy on Mt. Everest where 8 climbers lost their lives. Krakauer’s descriptions of what it’s like to climb – and survive – in the piercing cold and brutal high altitude are riveting. Here’s an excerpt :

Above the comforts of Base Camp, the expedition in fact became an almost Calvinistic undertaking. The ratio of misery to pleasure was greater by an order of magnitude than any mountain I’d been on; I quickly came to understand that climbing Everest was primarily about enduring pain. And in subjecting ourselves to week after week of toil, tedium and suffering, it struck me that most of us were probably seeking above all else, something like a state of grace. 

A Stanford Business Insights article highlights Scotty McLennan, a lecturer in political economy at Stanford, who teaches a course entitled, “The Business World: Moral and Spiritual Inquiry through Literature.” In the embedded video featured in the article, McLennan shares books that help in understanding leadership. He mentions Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, “in which a man searches for meaning and spiritual fulfillment as he bounces between extreme wealth and dire poverty, ultimately finding the sweet spot between the two.” Other titles included are the “American dream” books, “which examine the costs and the rewards of success. Among them are F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and The Last Tycoon; Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman and All My Sons; and numerous works by Jane Smiley and Flannery O’Connor.”

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