Small schoolgirl with purple hair happily reading

Back to School: Great Reads That Will Inspire Your Business and Life

It’s September, and you know what that means! It’s back to school time! Society has pulled itself away from the rest and relaxation of summer and gotten back to business. Seemingly every television channel is rolling nonstop Old Navy commercials pushing affordable apparel to make your kid look shiny and new for their first day, and business owners are fully geared up to get back into the swing of things. (No choreographed dance routines required.)

This month, Spring Insight is taking YOU back to school, too. We have a series of articles planned around the educational foundation of the 3 R’s:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • (A)Rithmetic

Just for fun, we are throwing in a fourth installment, gRades. Because we remember the most popular 7th grade question ever, “will this be on the test?” So in this first installment, we will talk about books and where inspiration comes from. 

This will sound weird, but I don’t admit very often what a voracious reader I am. I pretty much average a book a week, every week of the year. (For those asking how, they are mostly audiobooks and I have a dog that enjoys walks.)

Surprisingly, though, I don’t tend to go for business books. I always want to read more business books. Still, when the choice is a book about leadership or an epic multigenerational story about a Korean refugee family, the business books don’t often win.

That doesn’t stop me from finding business inspiration between the pages of the books that I am drawn to, though. And those are the kind of books I am going to share with you here. Here is a short list of books that I have read and the inspiration I have found from them.

Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life by Lulu Miller

What It’s About

This non-fiction debut by NPR science reporter and radio host Lulu Miller tells the extraordinary tale of real-life taxonomist David Starr Jordan. He dedicated his career to discovering species of fish and is credited with classifying nearly a fifth of fish species that were known to humankind during his career. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake sent thousands of his specimens crashing to the floor in their fragile containers. Instead of giving up on his life’s work, he started putting it back together, one fish at a time.

What It Teaches Us About Business

This book highlights the importance of tenacity and grit and coming back to things, even when they seem overwhelming or totally hopeless. Business leaders can live their entire lives thinking one thing but later realize that everything they thought they knew was wrong.

As the world evolves and your knowledge base changes along with it, your thinking changes–if you are open to new ideas. In a world ruled by chaos and uncertainty, businesses can prevail, if their leaders are willing to absorb new information, and see things through a different lens.

Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts

What It’s About

History has accounted in great detail the stories of the founding fathers of the United States but the story of the women who helped shape a nation remains largely untold. Founding Mothers sets the record straight. New York Times Bestselling author, the late Cokie Roberts, enlightens readers with stories of courage, perseverance, and contributions that were critical to the effort of establishing a democracy.

What It Teaches Us About Business

Even when you’re not the one in charge, you CAN impact outcomes and make a difference. Instead of simply throwing up your hands and believing you can’t effect change because you are just in a supportive position, you can draw upon what you have to influence change.

Leaders must empower those in their charge to lead themselves, with or without the official authority to do so. Further, those working in positions of support are invaluable and should be recognized as such.

Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City by Wes Moore

What It’s About

In April 2015 a black citizen of Baltimore, Freddie Gray, was abused by police officers detaining him for possession of a knife. He fell into a coma during the transport and never recovered. This death, on the heels of the city’s long history with police violence, was a breaking point. The result was an uprising that lasted five days. Wes Moore, one of Baltimore’s most decorated and famous sons (and Maryland’s newly elected democratic gubernatorial candidate), recounts the unrest from the perspectives of various witnesses and residents.

What It Teaches Us About Business

This book takes one horrific news story and shares multiple people’s perspectives on that same event, illuminating how no two people see things the same way. We each bring our unique experiences, teachings, bias, and privileges to bear when we encounter people, go through challenges, and witness events. Understanding this very real and relevant fact of human nature has implications to how we work together, lead and follow others, handle conflict, and more. 

Business owners and leaders must accept that these factors exist and often are unconscious. Developing self-awareness, seeking input from a diverse pool of teammates, and practicing active, open-minded listening help foster understanding, innovation, and productivity.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

What It’s About

Told through a beautifully composed narrative, scientist Hope Jahren shares stories spanning from her childhood exploring freely in her father’s classroom laboratories to building her own labs and seeking scientific discoveries in various locations, including the North Pole and Hawaii. The mysteries she uncovers about the secret lives of plants are revelatory and awe-inspiring. In sharing them, she shows all you can accomplish when you absolutely love your work.

What It Teaches Us About Business

Lyrical and beautifully written, this book teaches us all of the amazing and surprising things that happen in our world that are beyond our understanding or even our awareness. There’s a world that is happening that you don’t necessarily have a view of. Anything you see is infinitely more complicated than what you perceive because of the things that are happening in the background.

In business, one must seek to understand that which they do not know and cannot even yet comprehend without further exploration. Innovation can only be realized when we embrace the unknown and consider infinite possibilities.

In terms of leadership and management, every individual has innumerable factors that are operating under the surface, many of which are hidden from plain view. Accepting that we don’t know everything about a person, a challenge, a solution, or a circumstance is a path to greater connectivity, inclusion, and indeed, productivity among teams. Finally, love and passion for the work we do is a certain path to fulfillment, accomplishment, and work-life integration.

Find Inspiration In Unusual Places

Inspiration that can be applied to your business can be found in unexpected places, including between the pages of historical, scientific, or social-political books. Pick up a copy of one of these books, or find ones that speak to your interests. The sparks they ignite might surprise you as you read and let your imagination run wild.

Next up, I am going to take you back to writing class, sharing ways you can grow your business with carefully crafted content. If you are looking to work with a group of inspired, curious, and forward-thinking digital marketers who take learning seriously (but stay super fun) Spring Insight is for you. Book a free consultation with our team today.