There are a gazillion business books out there that can help entrepreneurs take their lives to the next level, and another gazillion articles to curate those business books. While nonfiction can provide readers with actionable, life-changing insight from industry experts, oftentimes a fictional story is the best teacher.
In 2018, I encourage you to allow non-business books to make up a larger portion of your reading list. You just might find more wisdom in them than you ever did in a business book.
1. The Iceman Cometh, Eugene O'Neill
The Iceman Cometh is one of the most iconic plays written by American playwright, Eugene O'Neill. While there are a great number of themes in this classic play, one of them most relevant to entrepreneurship is the concept of pipe dreams (which are unattainable or unrealistic goals).
During the story, the characters sit around, drink pints and talk about how, one day, they'll make their hopes a reality. Early on in the piece though, you realize it's unlikely these characters will ever follow through with their intentions. The goals they have will never be anything more than bar banter.
This emphasis on pipe dreams in The Iceman Cometh is directly applicable to business. Without action, your visions will never come to fruition. That book you swore you'd write last year will be a pipe dream. That YouTube channel you promised you'd launch will be a pipe dream. That company you've always wanted to build will be a pipe dream.
The good news though is the only thing separating a pipe dream from an achievement is action. By executing, day after day, year after year, you can morph your ambitions into reality.
2. The Servant, James C. Hunter
The Servant, written by James C. Hunter, is a simple story that contains indispensable knowledge about leadership. The book illustrates that the best form of leadership is "servant leadership", which prioritizes compassion, service and relationship-building when it comes to defining true authority.
Remember, the best leaders put others before themselves, including employees, business partners, loved ones and more. Gary Vaynerchuk, marketing mogul and serial entrepreneur, sums up this idea perfectly when he said he has hundreds of bosses: his employees.
3. Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
To those rolling your eyes right now, hear me out. One of the things I love most about the Game of Thrones saga is the blurred lines between good and evil. Why? Because it's how life really is. The bad guys don't wear eye patches and the good guys don't wear capes.
Typically, fantasy and science fiction depict good and evil as black-and-white. Game of Thrones is different. Even the most ruthless characters (almost) always have a clear-cut reason as to why they're doing what they're doing, whether it's to safeguard their loved ones or something else entirely. The characters in this series are acting in their own self interest, just like real people do. This builds up a sense of empathy in the viewer towards certain, if not all, characters. It forces the viewer to always ask "why" when analyzing the actions of a character.
In business, there are few weapons sharper than empathy. With empathy, you'll be able to understand and identify pain points your customers are experiencing, have stronger relationships with your employees and colleagues, to develop more innovative products and much more.
4. Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl
Okay, okay. You got me. This book isn't fiction, but it certainly wasn't ever meant to be a business book, so it counts. Yet, according to Tim Ferriss (who has interviewed hundreds of world-class individuals on his top podcast over the years), this is the book his guests have recommended most.
Viktor Frankl, author of Man's Search for Meaning, was a psychiatrist and a Holocaust survivor, which gave him unfathomable insight into human behavior. The book documents Frankl's torturous journey through a number of Nazi concentration camps. Through it all, Frankl discovers the driving force in life (and survival) is simple: having a purpose and actively pursuing it. Frankl says: "Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost."
Frankl's work suggests that, as an entrepreneur, your aim shouldn't be wealth or fame. Instead, you should be striving to achieve your purpose in life through your business. By working to fulfill your purpose, riches and fortune are likely to come as a result.
Make 2018 the year you diversify your reading list by throwing in some illuminating fiction books. No matter where you're at in your entrepreneurial journey, a story might be exactly what you need to hear.