When Elon Musk was asked how he learned to build rockets, he gave a simple and striking answer: “I read books”. And though his reply might seem like a simplistic one, the unprecedented success of this serial high-tech entrepreneur casts no doubt on the validity of his saying. Or does it?
In any case, though we don’t claim that by reading books you’re going to build rockets — at least not in the near future — let’s see a few really good reasons why all of us, of course, but especially entrepreneurs need to read books.
How reading books helps us grow
No one can deny that reading books helps in so many ways. Apart from learning many different things, reading also helps improve our cognitive skills. By giving ourselves the opportunity to constantly delve into a wide range of topics offered within a structured form, we improve our memory, our analytical thinking, our decision-making process and, of course, our verbal skills.
But it’s not only about cognitive skills. According to a 2018 study from the University of Sussex, “even 6 minutes of reading a day is enough to reject the 2/3 of the daily stress a person faces.“Getting lost” within the pages of a book leads to absolute relaxation. Especially, according to experts, reading a book before bedtime is an activity that relaxes people and helps them deal with any stressful factors.” Indeed, this method is considered very effective in treating anxiety.
So, research has shown that reading has a great effect in preserving low stress levels. And the benefit to flow stress levels is the first one we all reap right away, contrary to skill building that takes time and effort.
We can see the beneficial long term results of reading books when we’ve finally managed to turn reading into a habit. Much more so, when reading is the last thing we do before we call it a day, leaving all troubles behind for a minute.
So, as an eventuality, who wouldn’t want to benefit from such an efficacious habit? Well, indeed reading books couldn’t be more essential to entrepreneurs than anybody else. Here’s why:
A million (and one) reasons of why entrepreneurs need to read books
To begin with, let’s set some things straight. Entrepreneurship is a really challenging undertaking; and reading books can be more than vital for entrepreneurs. Indeed, growth — contrary to stagnation — calls for learning and development, in so many ways. To grow our business, we first need to grow ourselves and our team as well. Not only in numbers but in terms of knowledge and experience, too. And if all that sounds like a lot of theoretical nonsense to you, it’s high time we quit beating about the bush and saw why entrepreneurs need to read books. Let’s see how cognitive skills building are affected by reading and, as mentioned above, how this has a significant impact on entrepreneurs’ core needs and daily challenges.
Reading books to communicate efficiently, and why that’s important for entrepreneurs
As an entrepreneur, there will be numerous times you’ll have to communicate your ideas with accuracy and brevity. For instance, within your team you’ll have to describe how and why you’ll have to develop a specific feature of your product. Then again you’ll have to negotiate important aspects of your business with partners. You’ll have much more to communicate at the negotiating table. Especially when pitching to investors needs you to be straightforward and effective.
Your ability to discuss ideas with clarity, communicate with flair and persuade different people will have a great impact in your career, in general. So indeed, reading books couldn’t be more essential to entrepreneurs than anybody else.However, before these ideas are expressed with clarity they first need to be shaped in our brains.
Develop your analytical thinking: you’re going to need it
Conceptualization phase cannot be omitted (thank goodness!); and analytical thinking that is, hopefully, empowered with reading, is way more important than any other skill you’ll build. There will be numerous times when, as an entrepreneur, you’ll have to identify a problem or an issue; you’ll then have to develop alternative solutions, test your assumptions, validate them and finally learn from the entire process. Truth be told, that’s what entrepreneurship is; more or less. You need to empower yourself in that part, too!
Make the right decision: read books
Now, let’s see how decision-making skills define your success. Oftentimes, you’ll have to make crucial decisions that will affect, if not define, your future. To mention a few crucial questions or dilemmas you’ll come across in your career:
- Should I pivot?
- Should fundraising be among my highest priorities at this stage? (By the way, if you’ve answered yes in the previous question please give it another try)
- Should hire/fire that employee?
Well, you get my point. That’s why building your decision-making skills is also of vital importance for entrepreneurs.
Knowledge is power
Mentioning all these cognitive skills inasmuch as reading is a major contributor to building them, doesn’t mean we’re ignoring the major value reading books offers. And what’s that? Well, it’s knowledge of course. By reading books we gain the potential to become experts in so many different areas. And entrepreneurs, indeed, need to build technical, managerial, financial and marketing skills. That’s apart from focusing on learning new technologies for tech startups.
It’s true, as an entrepreneur you’ll have to wear so many different hats, at least in the beginning. And though you might eventually spare yourself all these responsibilities as your company grows, you’ll still need to be in the know of how things work. Be it your financials or any other aspects of your business. Your objective, at the end of the day, is to better manage your company.
To put it another way, although you won’t have to be thoroughly involved in all these aspects of your business, you’ll still need to be able to supervise each department of your company at a higher-level. And building confidence in your ability to judge or evaluate the results presented to you, or the methods applied to get said results, will be enforced with reading, of course.
Grow yourself, grow your team, grow your business
Let’s return to growth as a general outcome and how reading can help you grow your company. Or in other words: How can you possibly grow your company without reading?
Once again, the answer is somewhat obvious. Learning from your mistakes can get you a long way. But learning from others’ mistakes is what makes you smarter. You’ll have to study all these methodologies and tactics that helped other entrepreneurs turn their startups into scale-ups, deeming them successful. It’s a long journey and you’ll have to delve into the Lean startup methodology, agile principles, customer development processes, and the list goes on. Your goal is to own them and then just get the nerve to apply them on your startup. And that’s not nearly the end of it; once you get started, you’ll soon feel the urge to level up. Besides:
“The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.”,
And again, it’s not only about unveiling new theories and acquiring new knowledge. In books you’ll get the chance to identify yourself in other entrepreneurs’ stories; relate to them as if they were your own. These are real stories that will give you the insights you need to take the next step.
Books: a tailor-made advisory board, in your hands
As you may have figured out by now, reading helps you validate whether you’re on the right path or not; and identify any adjustments required, in order to move on. This is of great value. Your undertaking is quite challenging and, as an entrepreneur, you need to ”surround yourself” with people that have actually been there, done that; and are now probably reaping the benefits of their efforts. Or, perhaps, they have already set off for new ventures. Having a great advisory board will be crucial for your future; and books can work as one.
In books — the right ones, mind you — you’ll find solutions to problems you’re facing; and even answers to questions that have not yet occurred to you. It’s as if you have a wide network of experts, scientists, businessmen, investors etc., who are always eager to answer your questions, help you, introduce you to some other expert friends. Numerous try-and-fail learnings are available for you to learn and understand. So is the methodology they followed, as is their eventual wisdom. And if we haven’t yet convinced you on why entrepreneurs need to read books then here’s our final effort. Mostly for those of you among the ‘skepticals’.
Does it have to be books?
The truth is, there is a host of different resources available to help you find answers to burning questions, learn new things and grow. These range from articles, tutorials and podcasts to research papers any other type of online content you can think of. But the truth is, reading books offers us a structured form of knowledge.
“Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today.” — Mark Zuckerberg
…and we couldn’t agree more.
We, ourselves, have set up an open work-space, with cool benefits and perks for our portfolio companies. We enjoy an open library, a running club, and endurance training. And we also enjoy well-being nutrition programs, free language lessons, free healthy snacks and more. In addition to books, we occasionally host an open Q&A or event focused around building successful businesses. That’s because we love diversity.
Keep your passion for reading books, burning
It takes a lot of reading to find your way to the top. Entrepreneurs need to read books, in a way to overcome obstacles and persevere challenges. No one is born with the absolute knowledge, wisdom or expertise already in their minds. The truth is found in books. And it’s waiting for us to make it our own. Go forth and read, then! And then you’ll be any the wiser.