This is a guest column by Amrutash Misra, the co-founder at Life Online which runs a Chennai based online library. Before that, he worked at Hindustan Unilever. And before that, he was a student at IIT Madras. For Amrut, the glass is never half empty. It’s always half full of opportunity.
Although the title of this article is “Books to gift to Entrepreneurs for the New Year”, I would, however, like you to think of this article more as — “What books should entrepreneurs read?”
First on my list is Outliers. In this gem of a book, Malcolm Gladwell sets out to profile successful people. He goes on to say that we worry too much about what successful people are like – we should instead pay attention to where they are from – their culture, their family, their upbringing, etc. It’s a good exercise to start thinking of success as a wholesome product of the people and their surrounding ecosystem.
In the same vein, one should read the wonderful biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. OH MY GOD, how much has this man packed into a single lifetime? The original drug-taking, apple-farming, back-packing inIndia, hippie who went on to build the largest corporation in the World, but not for the money! The man was full of action and intensity. Each chapter in the book makes you wonder — how was he able to do SO much in so little time? But don’t entrepreneurs have to do that all the time?
Steve was also a man of contradictions. While he operated in the logical technology world, he used his intuition. Logic can be quite a bummer in one’s entrepreneurial journey. Logical things don’t happen, especially in India. Nothing is black or white. Everything is gray. It helps to be used to nonsense. It helps to read Alice’s adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Sometimes we are so logical that it requires quite a bit of practice to get the hang of the impossible. SaysAlice, “There’s no use trying, one can’t believe impossible things.” Replied the queen: “I daresay you haven’t had much practice. When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
That’s the thing that entrepreneurs need the most: a childlike belief that they can do the impossible. Try to remember your childhood dreams. Read this book about achieving them: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. It’s an amazing book in many ways. I remember this one part where Randy Pausch says, “Don’t listen to what they say. Listen to what they do.” This book is full of stuff that entrepreneurs should be reading. Like this gem: “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people!”
Inspiration is one thing, but practicality is another. First on my list of books that are functionally useful to entrepreneurs is Blink, also by Malcolm Gladwell. Blink talks about decisions. And decisions are central to an entrepreneur’s life. Blink talks about how we take decisions. Blink talks about how some people can take incredible decisions really quickly and win. Blink talks about how we can train ourselves to take better decisions.
Another great book for decision making is The Bhagavata Gita. In management circles, it is rated on par, if not ahead, of the Art of War as far as management epics go. It is also a great book to get a good grasp on ethics from. Entrepreneurs need those too. If the entrepreneur you are gifting refuses to read the Gita in its original fury, do pick up the bibliophobe-friendly Amar Chitra Katha version instead.
Here is an incomplete list of other functional books that will be of help, in no particular order: Why We Buy; Predictably Irrational; The Art of the Start; Iococca; Crossing the Chasm; The Innovator’s Dilemma and the Innovator’s Solution; Delivering Happiness; Don’t Make me Think; Checklist Manifesto; Execution; Good to Great; Direct from Dell;
But, the best gift of them all would, of course, be a library membership.
What else would you like to add to Amrutash’s list? Do let us know!