Biographies vs business books
I’ve recently finished Gordon Ramsay’s auto-biography, I’m on to Andre Agassi’s, and next up is Ted Turner’s (I started reading it as a book, but I prefer audiobooks).
Biographies can be so much more revealing and enlightening that business books, because they tell the story of a life lived, not some attempt at an abstracted truth.
And besides, I remember hearing in Peter Senge’s “The Power of Presence” (or maybe it was in this one) how when they went and looked at what authors of books on negotiotion actually did versus what they wrote in their books that they did, the two didn’t match. They operated from an intuitive place where they couldn’t articulate all their rules even if they tried.
All of this made me recall a couple of folks I’ve read about who don’t read business books, but prefer to read biographies.
One of them is Blake Mycoskie from TOMS Shoes:
I’ve read a lot of business biographies. I dropped out of college when I was a sophomore, so those were my education in business. I’ve probably read 40 to 50 of them — on Michael Eisner, David Geffen, Howard Schultz. Ted Turner’s autobiography is really interesting, and so is Sam Walton’s. I read that one very early in my career. The great thing about biographies is the subjects have already been successful, so they’re not insecure about their failures. Howard Schultz doesn’t mind talking about all the dumb things he did when he started Starbucks. Reading about those mistakes taught me a lot.
Another, if I recall correctly, is Jason Fried. I can’t find the reference.
I think I’ve hard Gary Vaynerchuk say something similar as well. Can’t find a reference for that, either.
Anyway, it’s an interesting approach. It seems more real than the business book approach. Some business books are valuable, for sure, but there’s also a lot of crap out there. At least the stories of people’s lives are somewhat real.
What biographies have you read that you can recommend?