The Danger Of Reading Too Many Business Books – Forbes

It’s well documented that leaders are readers. Reading the methods, stories and advice from those who have gone before us and succeeded (or failed) can catapult a journey and grow a business. Author Ryan Holiday takes it one step further, by declaring, “People who don’t read have no advantage over those who can’t.”
The danger of reading too many business books
Business books give first-hand experience of how someone else overcame the same challenges you are going through. They can teach tricks and spark ideas. They can show new ways of living or thinking, bring a fresh perspective or some much-needed motivation.
They stop you going down a rabbit hole of making all your own mistakes and learning what to do from scratch. Instead, you can learn from other people’s mistakes. You can spot the warning signs they missed and pivot before it’s too late. You can apply their tried-and-tested growth strategies without wondering if they are worth your time. You can have a direct line to their voice; an ally or mentor, right in your hands.
Reading too many business books, however, can be a recipe for disaster. Personal development is just that – personal. When you read someone’s advice, they project their experience and learnings onto you. Every book is written from a different perspective. If you don’t know your own mind, you could easily flit about, wholly adopting the strategy of the last writer you heard from.
Not only that, but business books vary wildly in terms of the ethos and ways of operating of the author. Whilst The Everything Store might make you want to set strict 7-point agenda meetings and storm out if someone arrives unprepared, How To Win Friends And Influence People inspires you to remember everyone’s name and go out of your way to be kind and reasonable.
The 4-Hour-Work-Week teaches you to eliminate or delegate for freedom over your time and a business that runs itself, whilst The Magic Of Thinking Big wants you to go big with your plans and put the hours in to match. The 48 Laws Of Power says conceal your true intentions but The Culture Code wants transparency to be your mission.
Reading every book and implementing each approach into your business means chaos and being pulled in different directions. Straddling multiple strategies is no strategy at all. Directly conflicting objectives and mindsets of writers will confuse you as the reader, if you don’t make a plan.
The danger of reading too many business books
So how do you read to your heart’s content whilst avoiding the pitfalls of being advised by multiple sources? Firstly, you must know yourself. Before you open any business book or seek solutions from others, get crystal clear on your own values. What do you stand for? What do you want? What is your personal version of success? Ask the difficult questions that require a lengthy ponder. On your final day here, when you’re thinking back over your life, what will mark a life well lived? What are you really here to give?
Don’t look to others for inspiration on the answers. Find them within you, and operate from a solid foundation. A deep understanding of who you are is strengthened by reading books. A vague idea leads to shallow imitation. Look to books to inspire and show you new ways of working, not to change your entire belief system.
Next, read in themes. If you’ve just finished a book you loved, that resonated with your world, look to expand on that exact knowledge. Find others on the same thread, or read the books the author referenced. Theme your reading. If you’re on a journey of spirituality, start with Gabrielle Bernstein, then Louise Hay, then Dr. Wayne Dyer, then move up to A Course In Miracles. Go from mainstream interpretations upwards, finishing with specialist and deeper texts. Keep going further back until you are reading the people who came up with the original concepts.
You can apply this tactic to reading on every topic. I read Stuffocation, then The Minimalists, then Essentialism and then The One Thing. Each offered different takes on doing less but doing it better; a theme I knew I wanted to learn about.
Themed reading builds deep knowledge and means your energy is focused. You can be inspired to address one area of your life or business before moving onto the next. I like to read a book then think about the lessons I want to take onboard and what to do next. Jumping between perseverance book GRIT and organisation book Spark Joy, followed by the very practical ASK and the contrarily practical E-Myth, wouldn’t be as effective as if a plan had been followed.
The danger of reading too many business books is confusion of which opinions and strategies to internalise and try out within your own business. That leads to confusion within your team and processes and doesn’t serve you as their leader. Reading business books without a clear idea of who you are and what you stand for will build on unstable foundations.
Instead, pick a topic that fascinates you and follow the thread of inspiration across themes. Notice when you’re taking on board what you read without questioning or verifying. Read every sentence as someone else’s opinion, not a direct instruction. Be acutely aware of the difference between observing another’s journey and following their guidance for yours.

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