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Read to win

I love books. I love the smell of them, the feel of them. I love adding post-it notes to indicate passages that are particularly useful to me. I love using my special Caran d’Ache pencils to make notes in the margins. I love returning again and again to favorites, old friends that I take down from my bookshelves and savor. Right, I guess you’ve got the message: Matyas is rather fond of books!

I read novels on holiday, but the rest of the time the books I read are all business-related, or from inspirational writers. It’s a habit I started as a teenager, and have never looked back. I knew then that the world was a very much bigger place than I could ever fully explore, unless I drew on the experience and talents of others. And that’s what I have been doing ever since, reading books with dedication, and thoroughly. I read books as part of my business practice, and my whole education process. Yes, I went to university, and yes I have been in business myself for around twenty years, and yet I still enjoy the challenge and stimulation of new ideas that comes from my reading.

Hitting critical mass

How many business books have I read? Well, I guess at least one a month, for two decades. I can therefore say that my knowledge of the thoughts and principles of business leaders, plus politicians and philosophers, has helped shape my career. There’s a point at which you reach ‘critical mass’, where the combined wisdom of others starts to influence your own thinking and actions.

Why am I sharing this information with you? Because I would like to convince you that for you too, reading can provide a pathway to learning and internalizing great messages and thinking. This is particularly the case now, when many of us are in lockdown, or working from home. What better time to order some of those books you have always meant to read, about business strategies, or creative thinking? Instead of kicking back and watching sports and series re-runs on the TV, or browsing magazines, this is a great opportunity to self-educate, using the power of the many great minds that have come before you. Read the stories of triumph, failure, despair, and the courage and conviction which got other business leaders through the toughest of times!

How to absorb the message

It’s never been easier to get books delivered to your doorstep, or for that matter to receive them as e-books. On the other hand, I have this need for the physical object, the contact with the author which somehow seems to be ‘transmitted’ better with an actual book. Lately however I have started a new practice, which I find very useful. When I order from Amazon, I also subscribe to, the service for audio books. So as well as reading the physical book, I listen to the same text, or use it when I am exercising.

It’s said that only 10% of people read a book right through to its conclusion, and of course not every book is great! Probably the Pareto principle applies here as with most other parts of life: 80% not effective, 20% effective. The more you read, the more you will be able to discern the most useful writers and trends to follow. And if you are not a ‘natural reader’, that’s OK. Start with baby steps and commit to just twenty minutes a day, then build up, like any other exercise program. Please make no mistake here: I am not talking about reading to entertain yourself! This is about serious, committed reading, with the real goal of helping you achieve more in your business life. You can learn from the mistakes and successes of others.

Reading changed my life

In the mid-90s, Jeff Bezos was working in the fund management company DE Shaw, and was asked by his boss to investigate what this new ‘internet thing’ was all about. When Bezos duly handed in his report, with the suggestion that internet use would continue to at least double every year (and it has!), his boss wasn’t interested in this ‘short-term’ phenomena. Bezos was however, and by 1995 had quit his employment, and was running a little startup called Amazon, from his parents’ garage. At first Amazon only sold books, and around 2003, I bought a book about the rapidly growing company, which changed my life. The book was ‘’ by Robert Spector, and up until then I was aware of the internet of course, but hadn’t really explored it in depth. Now, reading about the Amazon story, I started to switch the activities of my agency to online marketing. Because of this I was prepared and primed, when the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-08 came along, and was ready to offer new online services to multinational clients. My business took off, and I can attribute much of that success to sitting down and reading a book.

Explore the library

So I urge you to develop the superpower of reading, and make it a constant practice to help you learn from others in business, by reading the best of the best. Whether you do it electronically, or like me, also love the feel and smell of the printed page, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you explore the vast library of expertise and knowledge which is cost-effectively available to you.


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