Teacher: “Kyle, tell us what business books you have been reading while starting your business.”
This was a request made to me recently in front of a high school class I visited for the school’s Career Day. I nervously froze; trying to remember the name of the last business book I had received as a gift. A book I had, admittedly, not yet started.
The honest truth is I don’t like reading most books on business and markets. As an entrepreneur, I know I should be seeking information and I always visit the business section at Barnes & Noble. However, I rarely find a new book there in which I want to invest a lot of time and energy. It’s been my experience both as an undergraduate business student and as a business professional that most of business books are not very inspiring or enlightening, and in some cases they’re just plain boring.
What does inspire me are stories of people’s lives, their needs, and their problems. The role of business after all should be to meet unmet needs and solve problems. And that’s particularly true for the type of business we at Genesis Goods are trying to develop. As a result, I prefer reading books that expose me to other people’s perspectives, because they help me think about and view our world and its unsolved problems in new ways.
Recently, I read Trevor Noah’s book, Born A Crime. My in-laws purchased it for me as a Christmas present and I have never read a book so quickly. I won’t give away the best parts of the story, but as the title suggests, the book’s primary theme is Trevor Noah’s experience growing up as a mixed child in South Africa during Apartheid. At that time, it was illegal for people of different ethnic backgrounds to marry and procreate. Simply put, his very existence was a form of rebellion. He grew accustomed to the fact that he represented a subtle yet direct dissidence to the powers-that-be, despite his desire to be a normal kid. Over time, it seems he embraced his symbol of rebellion rooted in love, and learned to navigate the complex world where he was anything but the status quo.
His story resonated with me so much because I am currently finding my own voice and calling in the world, as we start our business. Genesis Goods seeks to conduct business in a way where profit exists but takes a back seat to ethics, responsibility, and consumer value. While this may seem like a “given” to some, sadly, our simple existence is a calm and subtle form of dissidence to the old guard of mainstream business education. As I progress on this journey, I too have had to become comfortable with the fact that what we represent may be different and controversial to others. I have had to be okay with knowing not everyone may agree with our stance all of the time.
Usually, the best way to conquer a challenge is to face it head on. Thus, this past weekend I walked with my wife in the Women’s March on Washington in Santa Ana, California. Rather than keeping my thoughts and desires for a more just society to myself, I decided to march with those who shared my vision. I stood at the beginning of the march and was incredibly moved seeing the thousands of Orange County residents in the streets. They were from all walks of life and were united in a message of love, compassion and hope for an even better society than we have come to know. It was incredible and I am proud my wife and I risked standing out to speak up and ask for more.
I have generally tried to steer away from politics but I hope, whatever your political views are, you can respect the common cause of making our society and economy as just and as wonderful as it can be. The only way we can do that is by listening to one another and trying as hard as we can to walk in each other’s shoes.
Keep reading, keep dreaming and keep striving to find ways and solutions in which we can all help each other be better. Enjoy your week!
“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” – Galatians 5:14
“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” – Ephesians 6:14-15