You read business books. You love business books.

Problem is, everyone else does, too.

You can learn a lot from the classics. That’s why they’re classics. But sometimes it's fun to read a few books other people aren't recommending (because, after all, recommending the classics is easy.) If you want to find a new approach, a new take, a new outlook, try reading a few books most other businesspeople aren’t reading.

Here are five non-business books that will make you think differently about how you lead, how you make collaborate, how you make decisions, and even about the future of your business and industry:

Entrepreneurs think. Entrepreneurs strategize. Entrepreneurs take stands yet also have to compromise.

So did Jefferson. Meacham’s biography is a study in how to balance lofty ideals with pragmatic compromises, when to stand firm and when to improvise, and when to lead and when to follow.

Take the Louisiana Purchase. In essence Jefferson followed the classic entrepreneurial motto of, “Do it first, ask for permission later,” feeling the ends justified the outside-his-scope-of-powers means.

"Politics" always play a part in getting things done, and Jefferson was a master. Who better to learn from?

Skip the section on how music evolved because of where it was played and heard. Skip the section on stagecraft. Skip the sections on technology.

You’d be foolish to, but hey, go ahead and skip them. And feel free to skip the sections on creativity and collaboration, even though those subjects are important to any entrepreneur, go ahead.

But read carefully the section on the business of music and how technology has made a seismic shift in how music is created, promoted, distributed, and sold.

Why? Someday a seismic change will come to your industry. Start thinking about it now.

Then go back and read everything else. It’s fascinating and will change your perspective on music, performance, stagecraft, the intersection of creativity and craftsmanship. David Byrne is one smart dude.

Always listen to smart dudes.

His cabinet didn’t respect him. They didn’t even like him. One had called him a “long armed ape.”

Sound like a few people on your management team?

Lincoln set aside his own feelings and picked people like Seward, Chase, and Stanton because he needed them. He smoothed out the ego conflicts, found common ground, motivated and inspired and led... well, you know the rest.

Sometimes you can’t get the people you want. Sometimes you can't get the people you need. No matter who winds up on your team, Lincoln can show you how to get them to pull together in the direction you want them to go.

Do you claim to be an expert?

Here’s an expert: Simmons approaches old topics in new ways, brings fresh perspective to conventional metrics and analysis, and creates a few of his own barometers.

If you want to be a “thought leader” then you must truly think differently than other people and then find ways to embrace those thoughts in ways newbies will instantly relate to and understand so that even the most jaded of industry insiders will think, “Wow, I never thought of it that way.”

While the book is about basketball, pay attention and you’ll discover a number of ways you can apply his basketball insights to your business.

And then you might really become an expert.

One reason I like this book: The subtitle is “Retrain Your Brain to Conquer Fear, Make Better Decisions, and Thrive in the 21st Century.” Can’t beat that.

The other reason is how it’s short on theory and long on practical tips you can actually use. One let me reduce my heart rate by 6 to 8 bpm in less than a minute. Take that, Zen masters!

Need to better manage discomfort and stress so you can perform better? (Wait--why am I asking? Who doesn’t?)

This is your book.

He came, he saw, he conquered, and he uttered some of the most famous last words,"Et tu, Brute?" a person never actually said.

He also would have fit perfectly into today's business world: He was a master at building a personal brand (and a pioneer of the comb-over.) He played politics like a maestro, networked like a fiend, built a vast web of clients who owed their careers and fortunes to him, and backed it all up with superb fighting and leadership skills. As a side project, he helped turn a republic into an empire.

If you're looking for inspiration, read this: By the end you'll be itching to build your own empire.

Comb-over optional, of course.

Published on: Apr 9, 2013
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