Learning About Business from Non-Business Books
I try to read a fair amount, typically taking the last 60-90min of my day to turn my screens off and turn the crisp pages of an exciting book. It helps me unwind, but in a way that I’m still feeding myself new information. Over the past year, I’ve mostly immersed myself in books on marketing, psychology, sociology, talent, etc. Some of these books helped me fall asleep fast, but as my company began to take shape, I found that if I fell asleep reading about business, I’d end up dreaming about business…not exactly the restful break I was looking for in sleep.
So, not wanting to give up reading, I made the conscious decision to take a quick break from “business” books and dive into fiction. Having not completed the Harry Potter series while growing up, I picked up where I’d left off with the fourth book, and it has been remarkably fun. The best part, I’m still learning about business.
Fictional books are written by authors who understand their audience, making them some of the best marketers in the world. They understand their customers in a way that most companies don’t because, to be successful, they have to attach to their readers on an emotional level.
So, what have I learned from reading J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (books 4 and 5 in the series)? I’ll sum it up in three points. 1) You are who people perceive you to be, 2) Accomplishment comes through collaboration, and 3) Misery loves company. If you haven’t read the books, there may be some spoilers below (you’ve been warned).
You Are Who People Perceive You To Be
Up to this point in his magical career at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry Potter has been a bit of an outsider, resultant from his run-in with "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named as a baby. When he is selected to participate in the Tri-Wizard Tournament, nearly the whole student body turns against him, accusing him of seeking attention and breaking the rules to do so. Harry did not want to be selected, he didn’t even put his name in for consideration (an evil wizard did), yet the perception that he had was enough to ruin his reputation. In business, your reputation is your life, and you must protect it. Doing things that are perceived as selfish, attention seeking, and defiant will ultimately make it difficult for you to grow professionally. Protect your reputation, be conscious of the decisions you make at AND outside of work.
Accomplishment Comes Through Collaboration
In every task Harry has to accomplish in Goblet of Fire, he receives outside help. When fighting the dragon, Hermione teaches him to summon his broom so he can swiftly dodge the beast’s fire. When diving to the bottom of the great lake, Dobby the house elf provides him with a weed that grows him gills. And, when navigating the maze, he works with Cedric to dodge the maze’s trickery. Moving into the Order of the Phoenix, Harry starts a Defense Against the Dark Arts club, preparing students for real-world danger, and ultimately proving useful as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named plans his return. We don’t accomplish anything significant in life without the help of others. Ask for help, whether it’s to understand a concept in a textbook, complete a project at work, or learn a new hobby. You will not get near as far by yourself. For me, this means continuously asking for people’s help and feedback. It’s how I’ve narrowed down my brand, improved my marketing message, and grown my services. I did not build my company by myself; you cannot succeed professionally if you try to go solo.
Misery Loves Company
As the Dark Lord’s power grows in Order of the Phoenix, Harry becomes increasingly irritable and starts to shy away from his friends. Not only is he making it difficult for his friends to approach him, help him, and guide him, he is seemingly increasing his connection to the Dark Lord. His attitude worsens, his temper shortens, and his feelings of dislike towards others grows into hatred. If you let yourself wallow in misery, the only people you will find around you are other miserable people. You end up stuck in a state of loathing that becomes increasingly difficult to get out of. If you feel like this is the path you’re going down, reach out for help now. Stop what you’re doing, recognize the state you’re in, reflect on how you go there, and reach out to someone. If you don’t have anyone close to you, reach out to me - I’m happy to chat with you for thirty minutes or so.
Maybe it’s time you take a break from business books. Appreciate the depth of fiction, the characters, and how they interact. You might learn more than you bargained for.