In ATLAS Points of Interest, we reach out to entrepreneurs with a question related to the issue’s theme. For this quarter’s issue which focused on principles at work, we asked our network: “What is a book, film or work that has significantly influenced your principles, and how has it impacted you as an entrepreneur?”
“The Thriving, Wilting World” by Anand Giridharadas
The first time I read this speech I cried. The second I had a deep sinking feeling. The third time I began to ask myself (and mentors, and friends) some very tough questions. As someone who works in impact investing, I believe deeply that entrepreneurs should sit at the center of our strategy to build a better world. However, in this speech Anand Giridharadas seeds a fundamentally destabilizing question: what if we've got it all wrong? What if the pursuit of a more just world doesn't mean doing more good by giving back, but means doing less harm? What if the tools we've designed to "do good" simply soften the blow of the system, and at their core preserve the system at all costs? Have we confused generosity with justice? This speech is one of those rare gems from which you'll emerge with many more questions, even fewer answers and much more wisdom.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People became my compass as a young adult. A significant value of Covey’s book was simple conscious competence, knowing some of my daily practices were scientifically supported as effective. And it gave me tools, especially his time management matrix for what’s urgent versus important and prioritizing understanding others over being understood. It also spurred my commitment to my physical health (which has admittedly lapsed from time-to-time). And though it would be a few years until I embraced his advice for mental and spiritual development, they have become integral to my personal and professional principles.
The Servant as Leader by Robert Greenleaf
Greenleaf lays out a case for leadership as an exercise in enabling those we serve to "grow as persons...to become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants." At a time when the hero-entrepreneur is in vogue, Greenleaf's perspective is soul-opening and urgent.
Andrew Smith Lewis
“Strictly Ballroom” by Baz Luhrmann
I believe that my outlook as an entrepreneur comes from a composite of experiences, including some great works of both film and literature. Books such as Start with Why have certainly had an influence on my perspective. And yet if I wanted to point to one piece that stands out in my mind at this very moment, it would be the Australian film “Strictly Ballroom” - an offbeat comedy with several profound messages. From questioning authority to persistence, to the ever changing roles of teacher and student, I always feel inspired watching this film and walk away determined not to let fear rule my actions.
Chairman, David Weekley Homes.
Monthly Team Reading
At David Weekley Homes, our senior management team reads a book a month together and afterwards meet to discuss our learnings and how they might positively impact our work and serve our customers. Whether Good to Great, Hug Your Haters or Endurance, these monthly readings help us stay engaged with an ever-changing world and remain relevant as we build the future of our business while instigating reflection and strategic thinking amongst our most senior team members. While each book offers different principles to learn and grow from, for us the very practice of reading these books and being lifelong learners fuels our principle of being forever-improving, one of the key pillars of David Weekley Homes.
Endurance by Alfred Lansing
After reading Endurance, a story about Ernest Shackleton's epic 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, an attempt to cross the South Pole sea to sea, I created a new mental model for myself that I'd use when contemplating any future endeavor. I called it the “Shackleton Sniff Test,” a question designed to probe if the endeavor I'd selected was simply the most audacious I could imagine. If it wasn't, it was back to the drawing board. If it was, I'd better get to work assembling the team that could make it happen.
Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz
I appreciate this book because it taught me two things I employ in my life every single day. First, that everything in life holds the opportunity for me to express my own innate creativity. Everything from how I run my business, to how I buy my coffee from my barista, to meeting new (or old) friends.
Every moment holds creative opportunity, it's how we choose to live it that creates it, so why not live creatively as opposed to being mired in the mundane!
Secondly, it helped me learn that everything in life follows the path least resistance. Whether that's a relationship or a company, I hold the power to set up a structure around it and the structure itself helps create resolution, so I need to consider how best to set up a structure of success around everything I do, big and small.
Gamestorming by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufo
This book is actually really ugly - in fact, you think it is a joke. At least that’s what I thought when I first got in on the recommendation of Austin design mogul Jon Kolko. You cannot, in fact, judge a book by its cover. The book is filled with practical group exercises that bring design thinking to life and help a group solve problems, generate ideas, and work better together. It has let me find freedom from boring 90 minute meetings with lame use of whiteboards. Instead, we look forward to meetings as a chance to build relationships, drive consensus, and actually have fun. The main principle this taught me is this: creativity is rarely an 'ah ha' moment in a laboratory; rather it is often the result of a small group of people generating and refining ideas in a way no one individual could have. Gamestorming is the playbook for living out that reality.
If you’re looking for inspiration on how you can discover and develop your own guiding entrepreneurial principles, the responses below are a good place to start. And if you have a work that has greatly influenced your entrepreneurship, tweet it to us @ATLASatActon with the hashtag #PrinciplesAtWork.