I read two books every year.
The first is the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris.
The second is Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield.
Why do I do this? They are two of the books that I have found shaped my life the most. One is a how-to and more practical. The other is the 4 Hour Work Week.
So yes, I’m saying Gates of Fire is my practical how-to yearly read. The best part, it’s fiction.
I don’t remember what year I first read the book but it’s been 8 or so years at this point. It was some time when I was in law school. Someone recommended it to me when they heard me talking about the movie 300.
Gates of Fire is about the Battle of Thermopylae. Except it’s not.
Pressfield gives a masterclass on how to tell a great story. He plays around with structure, time, and the descriptions throughout make you feel like you are in ancient Greece walking beside these warriors towards certain death.
The story talks about honor, glory, legacy, and also fear. It’s the dialogue around fear and it’s opposite that always struck me. It’s a leadership manifesto without calling itself one.
What I learn from this book each time is how stories can be entertaining but also the best teaching tool at our disposal. I don’t want to read a leadership book. I want to read a story. When that story gives me all the lessons behind great leadership, I have a must-read every year.
A lot of people read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius yearly or some other great work of philosophy, leadership, or another area that fascinates them.
I read the best story I’ve ever read.
And yes I read the 4 Hour Work Week too.
I believe in balance and this gives it to me.
See, one of the most common questions I hear from people is what they should read to become a better storyteller. Sure there are plenty of great nonfiction books that cover this idea. In fact, Pressfield has several nonfiction books. But I think this misses the point.
We learn how to tell stories by hearing, reading, or watching other stories. It reminds me of a talk I had with a good friend of mine Jamie Russo recently. He was talking about Morning Brew and their marketing strategy.
They focused on the newsletter. That was the focus. Not on YouTube, Instagram, or any other platform.
Then they grew their newsletter by sponsoring other newsletters.
Because that’s where their customers were.
It’s the same with great stories. If you want to learn them, study the great ones.
Read them once without any notes. Think about how you felt. If you loved it, figure out why.
If you hated it, figure out why.
Then if you loved it, re-read it. Take some notes at that point. Or, just enjoy it a second time. Because that’s the power of incredible stories.
That’s partly why I love the 4 Hour Work Week. Tim Ferris tells great stories about his life and experiences. It’s why it resonates so much with me. But it also helps me remember that I didn’t want to be stuck in a lawyer’s office for the rest of my life. I wanted to design my life.
That’s how I ended up here. Writing about great stories and authors I respect and admire.
I wouldn’t be here without these two books.
I wouldn’t be talking about my startup being acquired by On Deck.
I wouldn’t be working with founders on telling their stories.
And that’s why I will be re-reading these two books again in 2021.
Want to learn more about storytelling? Robbie@beondeck.com
Follow me on Twitter: @Robbiecrab
Program Director of On Deck Performative Speaking...coming soon