"How do you not delude yourself with a story about your business but stay focused on the vision you have for it five years down the road?"
The power of story is a common theme in business today, but in our third Thinker in Residence installment with Ryan Holiday, he cautions that it is probably not a good idea to tell them to yourself.
Q&A with Ryan Holiday, author of The Obstacle Is the Way, on business, books, and business books
1. What is the one unanswered question about business you are most interested in answering?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the role of ego and vision. Why does the sweeping narrative work sometimes—but produce catastrophic failure other times?
How do you not delude yourself with a story about your business but stay focused on the vision you have for it five years down the road? It’s something I’ve been thinking about and researching a lot. But I think what I’m finding is that when we tell ourselves stories we are prevented from having any sort of lasting success.
2. What business book has influenced you the most?
If we are talking strictly modern business books, probably The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable or The 48 Laws of Power. If I could expand that to biographies, there are almost too many to list, but Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., The Fish That Ate The Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King, Edison, and Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed The Art of War would be a good start.
4. What business book are you reading right now?
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz.
I'm sure you'll want to learn more after that brief exchange. You can do so in our first conversation with him about his new book, and then go back and read our take on the book in our first installment in this series.
And to dive more deeply "how we can turn our own adversity into advantage," how we can eschew the rose colored glasses of the stories we tell ourselves for a more relevant, realistic, clear-eyed, and stoic view of the world we work in, go out and get yourself a copy of The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumph.