What Novels Can Teach Us About Business

Harry S. Truman said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

Ask any successful business person or entrepreneur and you’ll find their spare time is spent reading (or listening to audiobooks). And while a majority head straight to latest and greatest from the business section, others are finding inspiration in an unlikely place: novels.

As a recent article from Entrepreneur shares: “Novels don’t overtly teach us business lessons or the best way to scale a business; instead, what they teach are life lessons that, when applied to starting and growing a business, can lead to success.”

Star Cunningham goes on to share lessons she’s learned about business from popular novels:

1. Don’t underestimate the importance of community.

Heralded as John Steinbeck’s greatest novel, “The Grapes of Wrath” is the tale of Tom Joad and his family’s journey from their farm in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. “The Grapes of Wrath” deals with moral relativism, inhumanity to man, and holding on to dignity in the face of adversity. But the most important lesson for business owners is the importance of community. The Joad’s first community was their family, but without the help and kinship of their neighbors and friends… the family would not have survived.

Take away: Find your community and give and accept help when it’s needed.

2. The importance of applied knowledge.

One of the most famous Arthurian fantasy novels, “The Once and Future King,” is a compilation of stories about the rise and fall of King Arthur, his court, and Camelot. However, the first part of the tetralogy, “The Sword and the Stone,” is a book no entrepreneur should miss. It teaches the importance of properly applied knowledge. Knowledge is not useful until you can employ it. Arthur didn’t know why Merlin was teaching him about war and leadership. It was useless, until he withdrew the sword from the stone and became king.

Take away: Build a business to which you can apply your strengths and intelligence, once you do you’re at the beginning of true wisdom.

3. Work for the greater good.

Most people are aware of Upton Sinclair’s previous expose-style novel, “The Jungle,” but his social and political satire, “Oil!” should not be missed (also made into a movie in “There Will Be Blood”). The novel is about the son of an oil tycoon, Bunny Ross, and his relationship with his father’s oil empire. Upton Sinclair was a known socialist, and all of his novels are strewn with his political agenda.

Take away: Don’t let greed and extravagant wealth change you. While spoils and riches might be years away for most entrepreneurs, it’s an important lesson to learn early on.

Read more on Entrepreneur.com.