Sunday, December 21, 2014

Making Sense of The King

The Best Business Book You'll Read All Year

I'm unsure if this is a book review, but I know this much: I'm still thinking about Dave Eggers' book "A Hologram for the King" a full two years after initially reading it. Why? Good question. Part of the reason, I suppose, is that I could hit the old Schwinn bicycle factory – the book focuses on the travails of a failed Schwinn ex-executive – with a brisk slingshot from our home here in Chicago. Another reason is we still do a bit of work at 3VERB for the bicycle industry. But, the last and most important reason is that Eggers has mapped out an awkward intersection of a fleeting domestic manufacturing base, late career instability, and the crush of dreams against the realities of an expensive college tuition and our sense of purpose and dignity in our working lives. That's a lot of ground to cover in one single book. But, this book felt worth it and valuable to me for every minute I spent with it two summers ago.

Here's my thought:

Pressed for time and meaningful information, many business men and women opt for non-fiction books or, more specifically, they opt-out of novels and literature where the real depth of story is often told. In the case of "A Hologram for the King" – and I won't give away the fine details of plot or the unsatisfying arch for the main character – the lessons are about occasionally finding yourself in a desert, trying to sell the next best thing to thin air, and still emerging on the other side, worse for wear, your dreams deferred. That's part of business often, too.

Here's my humble advice:

Set aside the next business guide or 'how-to' book and pick up a novel. Peter Thiel's book is excellent, but it can wait. Instead, take the opportunity to find the true human story inside a quality work of fiction. Let it re-center and inform your thinking about people, the consumers who will buy your products, their dreams and hopes. You might even stumble upon a character or two that looks like you. You might find the reason you are lost or lose the sense that you're all alone. It might be the best business book you read all year.

Have a great holiday season.

– Jon Roketenetz

Jon is the CEO of Chicago-based tech innovator GimmeAnother and founder of 3VERB.

Note: Eggers' book ("A Hologram for the King") was turned into a screenplay, then filmed with Tom Hanks in the lead role; it will be released in late 2015. The photo of Eggers' book (above) is from the publisher, McSweeneys. You can buy the book at their website.

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