I have a huge issue with business reads, startup reads, success/failure reads, and reads that reflect what you should or should not do in a business or what is good or bad to do in a given situation. (reads = books, essays, blog posts, etc.)
Those reads genuinely scare me. Why? They often, even subconsciously, shift my trajectory, hamper my creativity, and in some cases, make me conform while robbing me of unimaginable experiences.
I had a colleague once that loved explaining how to navigate certain business concepts/situations by saying “oh, you should read Paul Graham’s essay on that.” Hmm.
A major issue I have with such reads (your standard essays/books like PG’s essays, Crossing the Chasm, Four Steps to the Epiphany, etc. – entertaining reads, no doubt, the call here is to be mindful of what you absorb) is that in many cases they are retrospective. In retrospect, things are misleadingly clear. Why? Because the given individual has already gone through the scenario, experienced a given outcome he or she committed to while not having taken the opposite option in a choice situation and therefore is only able to really report on his/her unique direction taken. All comparative reports on the other potential choices are only speculative and shouldn’t be taken seriously.
Many people just tell me to read the great pieces of literature without letting them get into my head(!) – if only I was the master of my mind…
Another issue for me is that these reads fundamentally deter you from making certain decisions that in that exact situation, in retrospect, were the “wrong” decisions to make. So, you’ll follow suit and not “make the same mistake.” Right? That’s an issue for me.
What if, in a new, similar situation (they can’t be identical), you made the same mistake? It is entirely reasonable to say the outcome will be negative/wrong as described in the read. However, it is also entirely reasonable to think the outcome will be different. In fact, by definition, the outcome can never be identical. The entire sequence is never identical. Even if the outcome is exactly the same, let’s say “wrong”, as the read had described, you would be robbed of making a mistake that could have resulted in learning through your unique perspective or could have led to another ripple that produced a phenomenal outcome for you. The sequence of events is entirely unique per individual, per situation.
“We believe that we know something about the things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, snow, and flowers; and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things — metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities.” - Friedrich Neitzsche
These reads, whether they try to or not, alter your trajectory and in many cases make you less creative than you would have been if you had absolutely NO CLUE how to react in that situation. That elimination of creativity is alarming to me. It frightens me. The reads are often delivered by very successful, proven individuals with immense social proof. So, many blindly listen and absorb whether they want to or not. You may attain a direction that will keep you on the safe path and not “make the same mistake,” but is that really what you want? I’m not sure. But I like to remain determined to be unique, creative and never conform. Now what’s the best way to do that?