Monday, September 5, 2016

Stop Reading Business Books and Start Reading History: The Stories Behind Great Human Achievements are More Inspiring and More Useful Than the Management Fad du Jour

by Michael Troiano, venture storyteller, lyrical gangsta. Actifio CMO, thoughts are my own,, Be Yourself:

Just finished The Great Bridge, the story of the design and building of the Brooklyn Bridge, by the Equally Great David McCullough.

It’s a detailed and artfully told human story behind one of the great works of modern construction, built at a time of remarkable social and technological change.

McCullough’s The Wright Brothers is another recent favorite in the same vein, as were 1776, John Adams, Brave Companions, and all the rest. Other authors have produced wonderful books in recent years like Founding Brothers, about the often complex and surprising relationships among America’s “Founding Fathers;” In The Garden of Beasts, about the role of the American ambassador in Berlin during the lead-up to World War II; and Over The Edge of the World, detailing Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe.

It occurred to me listening to Hamilton with my kids in the car the other day that we’re in a kind of golden age of history right now, a time where deeply researched, sensitively informed, and beautifully crafted stories of human struggle and achievement are more numerous and readily available than ever before.

Reading a few pages of these books at night helps me pull out of the harness of my day. They provide some context for whatever I’m up against right now, and help me connect to people from not so long ago - in some cases truly great, in others just like you and me - who did amazing things in places not so far away.

There was a time when I read nothing but business books, as I know many of my fellow entrepreneurs prefer to do. Each had something to offer, to be sure, though usually not much more than a single new idea or two, and often surrounded by an under-satisfying mix of data, analysis, anecdote, and fluff.

But why do that? Don’t you spend enough time in that world during the day? Might it not be better to connect to something a little bigger, a little more significant, in the narrow window of time you have to yourself?

Give it a shot. Here’s a list of my favorites … scan for one that looks interesting to you, and check it out.

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