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Seth Godin on How to Read Business Books

Books2Seth Godin recently offered his thoughts on how to read a business book.  I wanted to wait a bit and think about what he had to say before posting my own thoughts.  Overall, I feel he makes some good points, but I can't say I totally agree with him.

Midway through the post he notes that "bullet points are not the point."  Excellent observation, although perhaps I was the only one who felt it ironic that he closed the post with a numbered list on how to read a business book.

I've read dozens and dozens of business books over the years and here's my dirty little secret: I doubt I've ever precisely followed a bulleted list of prescriptive advice from any of them.  In fact, I'm hard-pressed to say that I ever made "this decision" or came to "that conclusion" because of something I read in a business book.  It just doesn't work that way in the real world, or at least it shouldn't.

My favorite books (business and non-business) aren't the ones that tell me what to do in a hand-holding format; I prefer the ones that force me to think, not just perform steps 1, 2 and 3.  Most business books are either too abstract or too vertically oriented for direct application to every scenario, so why try to force it?

Btw, Godin refers to the mixed reviews of his own book, The Dip, as evidence of people who are just out there looking for quick-fix solutions.  On the surface it would appear that I was guilty of this approach when I wrote this review.  In reality, I just felt the book's premise was hollow and it wasn't an argument that made me think.  Towards the end of that review I mentioned a book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb called The Black Swan.  Now there's a book that I truly enjoyed and I don't recall it being filled with a bunch of bulleted lists.

The Black Swan forced me to think about what Taleb was suggesting and how it applies to my world.  As a result, I got a lot out of it and still think about the impact of black swans from time to time.  The Black Swan was therefore quite memorable for me, which is yet another key attribute of an outstanding publication.


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