For social entrepreneurs, few skills are more valuable than the ability to immerse themselves in another world and empathise with people whose experiences are often far removed from their own. No artform allows you to flex those mental muscles to quite the same degree as a good book.
The 2016 alumni’s choices run the gamut from non-fiction that has inspired them to draw parallels between extreme real-life situations and their own leadership challenges, to fiction that has moved them so deeply it has changed the way they see and live their lives. And then sometimes, you just need a story that will whisk you away from the high-intensity world of entrepreneurship and let you recharge your mental batteries.
Read on to find out why delving into your country’s history is a path to self-improvement and why one book enabled an entrepreneur to think of a world beyond his own.
Onicio Leal, co-founder and CEO of Epitrack chose Tudo Errado by Raphael Erichsen. “It’s a true history of the Mongol Rally, where the author went through the experience for real and wrote about how it gave him a new perspective on life and taught him to cope with adversity.”
WeFarm CEO and founder Kenny Ewan found inspiration in The Crow Road by the late, great Iain Banks.
“It’s a fantastic coming of age story set in the west of Scotland, where I grew up. As a teenager, reading about characters that came from the same place I came from, spoke like me and had lives like me, and yet did (what seemed at the time) glamorous and adventurous things, had a huge effect. It might have been the first time I’d thought about the possibilities that lay beyond small-town Scotland. I haven’t stopped travelling since!”
Charles Blaschke, MD of Taka Solutions picks Jill Jonnes’ Empires of Light, which explores the lives of Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse.
“It shows the astonishing ambition and innovation of a group of entrepreneurs as they raced to research, develop and deploy humanity-changing technology - all competing with each other by using different methods which ultimately changed the world forever.”
Maria Pacheco, co-founder of Wakami has an eye towards the mystical with her choices: “Celestine Prophecy and The Secret of Shambala – they showcase how energy and thought can transform the future, with the help of powers we’re unable to see!”
LocalAlike founder Pai Boonkam selects 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai’s autobiography, Unbowed: A Memoir. “It is a really inspiring book telling the story of a group of strong women who stood up to fight for equality.”
Or Retzkin, CEO of EyeControl is a big fan of Audrey Niffenegger’s romantic sci-fi weepy The Time Traveler’s Wife: “I think it’s a great book; very sensitive and chock-full of meaning between the lines. It was a book I just couldn’t stop reading.”
Mario Soto, co-founder of Diagnochip examines the past as a means of self-improvement: “I like to read about Chilean history, because developing a deep understanding of your nation’s history helps you become a better citizen.”
MotionECO founder Shutong Liu looks even further into the past, with a particular fondness for an ancient Chinese military treatise. “You can’t go wrong with Sun Tzu’s The Art of War - it teaches you to think strategically!”
Habitec co-founder Felisberto Capamba sticks to his contemporary entrepreneurial guns with Screw It, Let’s Do it: Lessons in Life by Richard Branson. “It’s utterly inspirational. He makes you believe in yourself and mentally equips you with the tools to keep trying.”
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