As a small businessman, young Ben made a point of being seen working long after others had closed shop. Knowing that hard work alone wouldn’t get him to his desired destination, he started a book club with likeminded peers at which they shared ideas and challenged conventional wisdom. As his business prospered, the young man was able to “retire” at the age of 43 and ultimately grew his personal library into what became the largest private collection in the country.
Of course, the Ben we’re talking about is Ben Franklin, the man who reminded us that “the doors of wisdom never shut” and “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Ben, a polymath whose only regret was that he couldn’t live to see all the inventions of the future, would be thrilled about 21st century audio knowledge vessels like audio books, podcasts and Great Courses. So in this newsletter we’re honoring Ben by sharing our eclectic late summer “listening” list.
Content Inc. by Joe Pulizzi
Without question, this is a “must-read” for anyone hoping to gain a competitive advantage via content marketing. Narrated by the author, Pulizzi delivers a comprehensive yet somehow concise guide that will benefit beginners and pros alike. Packed with real-world case histories, Pulizzi’s book also manages to be inspiring, which is critical given the time and effort it takes to build a successful content program.
Perhaps the most differentiating idea in Pulizzi’s book is that you should build an audience before you figure out what it is you want to sell them. Certainly this approach turns every other business model on its ear, but he backs it up with a myriad of examples of entrepreneurs who did just that.
As final proof of the value of this book — after listening to it a couple of times, we also purchased the hard copy to reference later on.
The Virgin Way by Richard Branson
A true renegade, we’ve long admired Richard Branson, the man who built an empire on the back of swashbuckling stunts like trying to circumnavigate the globe in a hot air balloon or driving a tank into Times Square.
Unburdened by the knowledge of other leadership books (Branson professes to have read not a one), this book is hardly revelatory, covering such basics as listening, hiring for passion, delegating and challenging conventional wisdom. Yet Branson’s highly entertaining book is well worth a listen. First, his stories of both his successes and failures are instructive. Second, a Brit narrates it, so the ideas all sound smart to an American ear. Third and most importantly, the real revelation is that Branson found success in well-established industries (airlines, banking, health clubs) by delivering a uniquely Virgin customer experience. This should inspire all businesses to take another look at seemingly entrenched and impenetrable categories.
The Art of Storytelling by Professor Hannah Harvey
If you’ve been reading our newsletter for a while, you know that Renegade is a big proponent of storytelling and see it as more than just a better way to get your brand message out there. In fact, we believe it could drive the first major strategic shift in the seven decades since Ted Bates proffered the Unique Selling Proposition, and that very soon businesses will succeed based on their ability to deploy storytellers.
With that in mind, it’s no wonder that we dove deep into storytelling research this summer, starting with Professor Harvey’s delightful 12½-hour lecture series (part of The Great Courses). As a professional storyteller, Harvey couldn’t have made the critical steps more absorbable, entertaining or inspiring. In fact, we were so galvanized by this book that Renegade is developing a series of courses for executives and employees to improve their storytelling skills — skills that will help companies with a profound purpose spread the word.
The Devil in the White City and anything else by Eric Larson
Taking a break from business books is essential to freeing your mind for complex problem solving or, frankly, just enjoying a respite from your challenges. For this purpose, we can think of no better author than Eric Larson, whose meticulously researched non-fiction reads like page-turning novels. His 2002 hit, “The Devil in the White City,” transports you to the monumental 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and while the main attraction is an incredible story of local chutzpah, the accompanying tale of an illusive serial killer makes the book nearly impossible to put down.
We can pretty much guarantee that once you read a Larson book, you’ll want to binge on his others. “Dead Wake,” his recount of the watershed sinking of the Lusitania in 1917, is riveting even though you know the tragic outcome from the outset. “In the Garden of Beasts” takes you back to the lesser-known story of an unlikely US ambassador and his spirited daughter who find themselves caught up in the foreboding rise of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1937.
Speaking of Books
“The CMO’s Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing” received a fantastic review on Inc.com and is on sale right now on Amazon. Reviewer Bill Carmody called it “my new favorite book on marketing,” adding “there is zero fluff … you can grab what you need and keep the book on your desk as a reference guide.” Featuring 64 of the brightest minds in marketing, how can you go wrong? And though an audio version isn’t available, a Kindle one is – just sayin’!
Try listening to your audio books and podcasts on 1.25x speed. It’s not for everyone, but we Renegades love being able to devour more goodness in less time. Be sure to let us know what books you’d recommend, and if you find this monthly newsletter useful, feel free to thank us by sharing it with a friend.