The recent Disney+ delight, The Beatles: Get Back, shows us the full creative process. It is messy and slow, but it helps put the challenges of producing quality creative material in perspective. Sure, we all enjoy the pithy tweet or the poignant Medium article, but to truly develop meaningful creative content takes time, talent and effort. To succeed, the creative process must not only produce great work but also speak to both current and future audiences. Get Back helped me think through the books I read over the course of last year and provided context in the process.
This reminder of the hurdles of the creative process helped frame my perspective; I was challenged to find three books to recommend for 2021. I think that speaks to the challenges we face as consumers searching for something that speaks to us in this unique time. Writers and creators needed some time to catch up. That is not to say some enduring themes remain post-Covid, but we, as readers, need new perspectives to help us frame this new post-Covid world we are each living in. Fortunately, I think the creatives are beginning to produce and meet this new challenge. These three book recommendations for the entrepreneur met that challenge well.
Think Again by Adam Grant
The first book affirms some of my thoughts and approaches to start-ups and other organizations: Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant. Candidly, when I picked up this book, I initially thought “been there, done that.” I enjoyed his earlier work, but was skeptical about more of Adam Grant. However, this book proved a helpful read. As we approach work and entrepreneurship, the tendency is to draw solid lines – attack the market this way; invest in this, not that. However, in the real world, things are more nuanced. Grant not only recognizes this but provides useful ways to frame group discussions as well as individual rethinking and reframing your perspective. One such tip is to get a challenge group, but the book has many more.
Alchemy by Rory Sutherland
The second book is about behavioral economics, at least at one level. Particularly in the entrepreneurial world, I often had trouble wrapping my head around sterile economic concepts, like “Market” and “Demand.” Obviously, these concepts are hugely important in entrepreneurialism, but in that context, their definitions always seemed incomplete. Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life by Rory Sutherland clarified these issues for me. For instance, reason and logic will only get you so far, as reason and logic are based only on what we know today, not what the future holds. The unknown future will inevitably change our reasoning and logic. Understanding this from a business perspective is hugely helpful and added a dose of clarity.
The Ledger and the Chain by Joshua D. Rothman
The third book is a story about three business partners who overcome adversity and hardship to succeed financially and produce a tremendously profitable business. This (unfortunately) quintessentially American tale, however, is about the slave trade. The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America, by Joshua D Rothman is a well-written and well-documented account of three partners – Isaac Franklin, John Armfield, and Rice Ballard – who together amassed a fortune trading slaves from Virginia to Louisiana. First and foremost, I encourage people to read this book to gain a better understanding of the horrors and cruelties of the slave trade and the underpinnings that it has across America and the American South. The book is a well-written history of the slave trade, a piece of history too often glossed over too quickly, particularly for 50-year-old white men, such as myself. For entrepreneurs and business people, I also encourage a secondary perspective – profit does not equate to value, and just because what you are doing is profitable does not make it right.
I hope you enjoy these and if you have a recommendation for me, I want to hear it. While a tip of the hat is owed to the Beatles for reminding me how hard it is to produce good content, I am still short of good business books (of course, this is on me, not my good friends and great spouse at Thank You Books, where I encourage you to get all your books). I always enjoy the feedback I get from this annual post, so send it on, as the joy of reading is great – perhaps best summed up by the Beatles (who surely were talking about the process of reading books in addition to challenging The Who):
When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide
Where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride
Till I get to the bottom and I see you again