I once had a discussion with an accomplished professional business owner. I asked him, “What is the last great business book you’ve read?” To which he replied, “I don’t read business books or such reads anymore- they all claim to have the ‘holy grail’ and I don’t waste my time in them anymore.”
I was shocked. I had expected to get a reference for a new read. I read at least one great read about successful people or a business book written by someone who wants to share their success formula monthly. To hear that a successful man had read enough was startling to me. In fact, it befuddled me to a point that it actually bothered me, because I have such great respect for this person.
I wondered when I might reach such a state of knowledge that I didn’t need to discover anew anymore. I pondered how insignificant I generally feel in the midst of great business leaders anyway and thought more about his statement. Earlier in my career, I was accused of being a fire hose as I would study a great book, and try to implement some of its practices immediately. My team shuttered when I returned from my monthly CEO gathering… “What will he push on us this time,” they thought.
Over time, I learned more wisdom and used a filter of relevance to our particular business to figure out how a significant business truth or application could be used to improve our company. I began to understand more, what teachings applied to me personally, and to the company. Many times I learn something great that will improve me as a person and leader, and after I have learned to inculcate that teaching personally, then its application on a broader scale is more discernible.
I apply a few simple principals in my studies that you might want to consider as you study:
a. What morsels of truth might I glean from the book or study? The book may or may not be entertaining, but if the person writing it was successful, it may very well have some wonderful applications.
b. Look for the good in the read and don’t judge the writer’s style too harshly. For example, I am quickly turned off by writers that bring the focus of their companies success to themselves (it takes a great team to succeed- no one succeeds alone), but I wade through their self-absorbsion to glean the good that is there.
c. I focus on books written by successful people, not writers trying to make a buck writing about another person. In other words, I want to know first-hand from the folks. I feel the same way about college professors that teach business classes but have never met a payroll. Unless you have lived the life in business, don’t espouse the dos and don’ts of it. biographies are an exception to this litmus test as they are often written by a professional writer, but paint a picture that lessons can be learned from.
d. Let the great things you learn in good books garnish your life. The friend who has given up reading new reads on business, is akin to a person who never uses salt or pepper. Who can’t add some zest to their life through continuous leaning?
A quote attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson is a good reminder: “I no more remember the books I read than the meals I have eaten, but they have made me.”
Such is my philosophy on learning. We can never learn enough. I believe that whatever intelligence we attain in this life may well rise with us in the next. I really want to get a head start. Love to learn. Apply wisdom in its application. And always strive to improve your life, your contribution, and enhance the lives of those you serve. When it comes to learning, there can never be ENOUGH.