Learn the most important business lessons from… novels?

A couple of weeks ago Brad Feld forwarded me an email from Orr Ben-Zvy. Orr was frustrated because he couldn’t seem to find any business fiction books that explore the internal drama of startups. His email resonated with me because it was the exact problem that I had emailed Brad about a year and a half before. It was the problem that inspired Uncommon Stock. I’m a huge fan of giving readers a voice and Orr was kind enough to agree to share the story of his search.

Tucker Max is one of the most influential people in my life only I have never spoken to him, I don’t admire most of his life choices, and I have a completely different personality type. But he wrote an article that contained the single most important piece of advice I have ever read. The article was simple and thoughtfully laid out but the message can be whittled down to two words: READ BOOKS.

While in college, I took those words to heart and have since consumed hundreds of books. As an entrepreneur, books are an invaluable resource and guide through the journey of starting a business. I have read almost every book on Amazon’s 50 best sellers for business and the next 50 for entrepreneurship. That’s when I discovered something counterintuitive: fiction was much more useful than nonfiction.

The reason isn’t that business nonfiction books are bad. It’s how we consume the story. In nonfiction, the solution is presented and then an example is shown on how to solve the problem but (at least in my case) the reaction is almost always “Ya, but my issue is unique!” That’s why I love fiction. The characters struggle. The solution is vague and they fumble around searching for a light switch in the dark. As the reader, I get a secret window into their issues and thought processes. Whether or not it’s intentional, the author creates a business mentor who can share their story in a way that I will never forget.

Unfortunately, finding business fiction is incredibly difficult. People love to listen, read, and watch stories. We love drama. Starting or running a business is all drama. I never understood why so many people shy away from the subject. My frustration led me to cold emailing Brad Feld, who I’m pretty sure had one of his companies implant a book processing device. I wanted a recommendation for a fiction book with a positive outlook on business. He could only think of one, Uncommon Stock, and it hadn’t even been released yet.

I’m grateful to Eliot for sending me an early version of the manuscript and I highly encourage everyone to read it themselves. It was a fun and refreshing story that I have been searching for a long time. I often caught myself smiling along the way as the characters experienced some of the frustrations that I have endured and enjoyed learning a new perspective on how to solve a few issues I am struggling with today.

Lastly, I’m always looking for book recommendations (on any topic) and, if you’re looking for a few yourself, feel free to email me at obenzvy@gmail.com