Best Fictional Books for CEOs and Entrepreneurs in 2022by Oudraa S
For established and aspiring entrepreneurs and CEOs, reading is seen as a fundamental activity to engage in to further your knowledge and creativity. There are countless articles and posts about books that are perfect for entrepreneurs, but they all seem to fall into the same genre: “10 things to do as an entrepreneur,” “the 5 things every CEO should be doing,” “the best qualities to have as a CEO,” “20 things to do to have a successful business,” and the list goes on. However, sometimes the greatest tips and lessons are not from the expected non-fictional books. Great insight and direction can sprout from fictional books when you're least expecting it.
Something else to realize is that not everyone learns the same way. The way outlined steps resonate with one individual will not resonate the same for another. Reading fictional books can inspire you differently. It will open up the creative element in your mind and allow you to consider problems differently. You may begin to see yourself in a character or plot, which could steer you in the direction of a solution you never anticipated. The idea is to stay open-minded and simply read for enjoyment and experience. Inspiration is often found in the most unconventional ways.
Read on for a list of 5 fictional and unique novels to read as a CEO or an entrepreneur. These novels may inspire you to see a problem differently or arrive at a solution faster. Fiction emulates real life more often than people realize. Step out of your comfort zone and consider other ways to formulate and grow your business!
The Fountain Head – Ayn Rand
The Fountainhead is a 1943 novel by Ayn Rand. It tells the story of Howard Roark, an architect who refuses to compromise his artistic and personal vision for worldly recognition and success. The book explores individualism, creativity, what Rand called the "primacy of existence," and the nature of art, as well as the importance of reason and individual thought.
Roark also struggles with what Rand described as "second-handers” - those who attempt to live through others, placing value on what others think of them rather than on their own thoughts and ideas. In this book, we see how Roark represents Rand’s idea of the perfect man who lives for himself and does not compromise his ideals for anyone else. The novel has sold over 6 million copies worldwide and has been translated into more than 25 languages.
Takeaways for CEOs and Entrepreneurs
Many CEOs and entrepreneurs will be able to relate to the struggle of not wanting to sacrifice their vision for worldly success. It is a constant battle between staying true to yourself but also trying to remain adaptable. In this novel, Roark goes on a journey of self-discovery in order to decipher between what he wants and what he needs in order to be successful. When you are trying to get your business to take off, you will have countless opinions from others suggesting which route you should take. It is easy to be swayed by those voices, especially if you have been trying things your own way and it does not seem to be working.
However, it’s important to remember yourself and your vision because if you are easily influenced by others, you will never develop the ability to stand up for yourself. You will end up chasing trends and outside thoughts instead of understanding the true trajectory you have for your business. Roark fights not to compromise himself or his ideas in the midst of others and that is an extremely important takeaway; never abandon your vision for the approval and recognition of others. If you believe in yourself and your business, keep working at it. Eventually, it will pay off.
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist is a novel by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho that was first published in 1988. The Alchemist tells the story of a young shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian pyramids in search of an extravagant treasure. Along the way, he meets an alchemist and learns about personal transformation and spiritual enlightenment. He also begins to understand his purpose and the power that lies within trusting the signs and accepting help in transcendent ways. Santiago faces many moments of doubt and despair causing him to consider abandoning his excursion to return home.
With each character that Santiago interacts with, he learns a little bit more about himself and the reason for his journey. The novel unravels truths in a subtle yet impactful way that keeps you turning each page. The build up makes you want to reach the end to find out if the main character is truly able to fulfill his initial task of discovering his treasure. Paulo does a wondrous job of allowing readers to understand Santiago’s fears throughout his journey – similar to the fears an individual may have when attempting to follow their purpose and fulfill their destiny. The Alchemist has been translated into over 70 languages and has sold more than 150 million copies worldwide since its publication.
Takeaways for CEOs and Entrepreneurs
Whether you are building or maintaining a business, you will inevitably face moments of discouragement and self-doubt. You can never be absolutely sure that you are doing the right thing because anything can happen. If you can relate to this, you will also likely be able to relate to the plight of Santiago. As a CEO or entrepreneur, you will often have to travel on the road to success alone. This does not mean that people will not help or support you along the way, but rather alone in the sense that if you cannot overcome your own doubt, you may not ever scale your business as largely as you would hope.
There will be times when you have to trust the signs or use tidbits of advice provided by others to lead you in the right direction. There were many instances throughout the book where Santiago did not know how he was going to get to his personal treasure but even so, he knew that working his way through the journey was half the battle. As a CEO or an entrepreneur, you won’t always have all of the answers. However, sometimes the beauty simply lies in the hustle and journey along the way. The people you meet and the experiences you live through can provide you with priceless life lessons that will help you make your business what it is truly meant to be.
Who Moved My Cheese? – Spencer Johnson
This book, written by Spencer Johnson, tells the story of four characters: Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw. It is a business fable that has been translated into more than 30 languages and sold over 20 million copies. The book’s plot surrounds the four characters searching for a new cheese supply once their own runs out. Sniff and Scurry are mice and Hem and Haw are “little people”.
The story highlights how each character adapts or chooses not to adapt to the moved cheese. Throughout the story, we learn how perception and adaptation to change can help an individual depending on their mindset. The book is written in a simple style using only fifty-five words that are repeated throughout the story.
The repetition helps readers remember important points about dealing with change in one’s life, career, or business. It also teaches readers about the importance of being flexible and adjusting when things change. This is an incredibly quick and easy read for individuals from all walks of life. You get to see how each character deals with change as well as their thought process behind their decisions.
The book was first published in 1998 and has been widely used by CEOs and entrepreneurs alike to inspire themselves and their teams amidst changing work climates. Since 1998, Johnson's book has been updated and the new edition contains content on leadership, managing change, team building and global competitiveness.
Takeaways for CEOs and Entrepreneurs
As a CEO or entrepreneur, you will quickly learn that change is inevitable. You must be willing and able to adapt to different scenarios because nothing ever stays the same. If you are in a service-based industry, change will happen quite regularly because the needs and interests of your customers can fluctuate depending on the day. Knowing how to anticipate and adapt to change can save you time and money in the long run.
Handling change can be stressful and anxiety-inducing but if you learn how to overcome these stresses, your company can thrive no matter the situation. Who Moved My Cheese is a great story of changing your mindset in order to change your behaviour. You will quickly notice how easily the two mice – Sniff and Scurry adapt when they are met with a problem versus the “little people” – Hem and Haw who seemingly over-analyze the situation. As a business owner/leader, accepting when change is coming is an invaluable skill to have.
This book will help you understand why change is important and it can help to reveal flaws in your business model. The negative unknowns of change are what tend to hold us back but there are also positive unknowns that exist. If you find that doing the same thing over and over again is not working, why not give yourself a chance to experience success differently through change? This book will leave you feeling reflective and confident in the fact that change can be a great thing if you embrace it.
Animal Farm – George Orwell
Animal Farm is a dystopian novel about the animals who, tired of being exploited by humans, start their own farm. The story is set in England during an unspecified time period and tells how the animals take over Manor Farm from Mr. Jones and run it themselves as a cooperative enterprise. The slogan of Animalism, which they adopt as their creed, is “All Animals Are Equal”.
Animal Farm is a political satire and is considered a critique of the Russian Revolution and Stalinism. The novel reflects the events of the Russian Revolution in 1917, when Vladimir Lenin and his Bolshevik party took control of Russia after overthrowing Tsar Nicholas II. After overthrowing their human farmer, the animals adopt Seven Commandments to live by:
1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal.
This social contract allows the animals to live together under the agreement that although each animal will work according to their abilities, all animals are still equal. Although everything appears to be equal, free, and happy, the rebellion is eventually betrayed.
The betrayal is borne out of the dictatorship of a pig named Napoleon, who manages to convince some naïve animals that his ideas and rulings are to be followed. Due to this, the farm ends up in a state as bad as it was when the animals were under the control of their human farmer.
Takeaways for CEOs and Entrepreneurs
Animal Farm does a great job of showing readers that even in the most idyllic environment, a bad leader or idea can soil the surroundings. Sometimes it is not about the situation you are in, but rather your mindset or the teachings of someone very close to you. Have you heard of the saying, “show me your friends and I’ll know your character” or “show me your friends and I’ll know your future”? This is because friends or people you spend a lot of time around can influence your words, actions, and reactions, even on a subconscious level.
Many think that their friends don’t have that much of an impact on their behaviour but the opposite has been proven to be true time and time again. As a CEO or entrepreneur, it is important to be selective about who you spend time with and how they see the world. Of course, it’s possible to form relationships with individuals that do not agree with you on everything but a negative person for example, will surely influence the way you see the world eventually. You may not even realize you are being led astray because you trust someone and their insight, but it is crucial that you stay vigilant.
When you are building or maintaining your business, many will have opinions on what you should or shouldn’t do. However, you need to be able to weed out the noise and focus on your vision. Be open to insight but also have a solid understanding of your purpose so that you are not led astray. At the end of the day if your business fails, you will be held responsible, not your friend that gave you discouraging anecdotes throughout your journey.
The Tortoise and the Hare – Aesop
The Tortoise and the Hare is an ancient fable that teaches us to be patient. The story is about a race between the Tortoise and the Hare. The Hare, who was renowned for being fast, boasted that he could beat the Tortoise in a race. The other animals laughed at him for making such a silly claim. But when they saw the two animals at the starting line, they were amazed to see that it was true!
The Hare ran off with a lead, but soon stopped to lay down to take a nap. Meanwhile, the Tortoise plodded steadily on and eventually overtook the Hare by going slowly. The moral of this story is that it is better to be patient and take your time than to rush ahead without thinking. This fable holds many interpretations depending on how you look at it, but it is still a classic fable that we can learn a lot from.
Takeaways for CEOs and Entrepreneurs
Slow and steady wins the race. Many attribute this phrase to this fable. Everyone was sure that the Hare would win the race because of the Hare’s confidence alone and as such, they held no interest in the Tortoise’s ability to succeed. However, the Hare’s confidence aided in his ultimate downfall. Instead of remaining focused on the race until crossing the finish line, he chose to take a nap because he doubted the Tortoise in every aspect.
As a CEO or entrepreneur, it is of course important to have confidence and a strong belief in your ability to overcome any challenge. However, some acquire a small win or a few wins and begin to lose sight of a newly presented task. They become too confident in their track record and start to consider their competitors as weaker or inferior. Never underestimate your opponent, especially in business. There is nothing wrong with feeling good about yourself and giving yourself a pat on the back, but never ease up until you have met your goal.
As a business owner, you can also learn great lessons from the Tortoise. When you are starting a new business for example, you can expect to meet a lot of doubters. They may not believe in your abilities or think that your dreams are unrealistic. A lesson the Tortoise shows us is that no matter what, if you believe in yourself, you will always cross the finish line. Of course, you may not always come in first but each time you accomplish a goal, you gain confidence in yourself and in your work ethic.
Don’t let up until you have accomplished what you have set out to do. Maintaining a business will expose you to many ups and downs but it’s important that you don’t get stuck in the “downs”. Learn from them, give yourself grace, and move forward with the knowledge you’ve gained. This fable has been popular for decades because it is short, simple, and yet so incredibly thought-provoking.
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