Also published on Medium.
I realized in 2013 that I had stopped reading books.
It wasn’t intentional —things got in the way, like life, learning how to do venture capital, three kids under 8 years old, the Warriors improbably beginning to figuring out how to play professional basketball. Dumb reasons for not doing something so important.
I was at a dinner event and Tim Ferriss asked: “What book do you give the most as a gift?” — and I really had no answer to this question. Not only because I am a bad person who doesn’t give books as a gift, but actually because I wasn’t making time to read books. Naval Ravikant (our host) suggested The Secret Race, Tyler Hamilton’s absolutely fascinating account of the success (and cheating) of the USPS Tour de France teams, and I was hooked.
The key for me was getting hooked on Audiobooks with an Audible.com subscription. With Bay Area traffic and the dispertion of companies between the Peninsula and SF, plus living in Oakland, I have a lot of time on the road. I listened to podcasts before, but have found the switch to mostly books to be very gratifying — as interesting as they were, podcasts were more junk food and I get a lot more nutrition from books. I listen to both fiction and nonfiction, but one genre of audiobooks I have fallen in love with is memoirs, especially when read by the author. There are so many interesting people in the world who have accomplished and experienced so much — and hearing them tell those stories in their own words is always compelling.
I was brought back to the thoughts of an inspiration and mentor of mine, the great Irv Grousbeck. He’s both the best teacher I’ve ever had and one of the great entrepreneurs of the 20th century. He was inspired to work hard and found Continental Cablevision in part by reading. Continental Cablevision was a unicorn long before the term applied — founded in 1964, and sold in the 1980’s for $5.3 billion. In the 1980s!) Irv memorably taught that he was inspired to entrepreneurship in his late 20’s by reading many biographies of great men and women, and learning that the majority of these people had no significant advantages of him at their same age, and had not accomplished significantly more than he had by this age. He had no excuse, it was not too late. Well, he did, and ran with it.
It’s like Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s business partner, said: “In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads — and at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.”
My kids, Kenzo and Sachi, are books with a couple of legs sticking out, too. You could do worse than emulate the wisdom of a ten- and eight-year-old.
Hopefully, if you have decided that being an entrepreneur (or being whatever you are) doesn’t leave you enough time to read, I’ve inspired you to reconsider that decision. And to that end, let me run through some of my favorite audiobook memoirs (all read by the author) of the last couple of years: