Embracing my Inner Nerd — One Book at a Time

Abhishek Paul
3 min readMar 8, 2018

Peter Drucker said “You cannot be a great leader unless you’re good at something other than what you’re doing. No one is really effective if they’re too narrowly focussed” — this was his call for Transdisciplinarity. An interesting titbit I just learnt about this highly under-read (in proportion to name recall) thinker is that when he first joined as a professor of management, the first course he offered was in Japanese Art! (you can dig deeper if interested).

Stepping back into my B school after 12 years, I asked a friend, “What did I learn here that I actually used / needed in my career?” I wish I was exaggerating, but I couldn’t pick out anything specific (could be due to the minimal time I spent in classes as well). My friend added that it was no wonder that the good folks across the road in the Humanities department condescendingly ask us “what book of knowledge are you creating?” (a polite way of saying that all management literature was either a fad / BS).

Mark McCormack articulated this very practically and wittily (did I just make up a word?) in his bestsellers — “What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School” series. One professor in fact said that all you needed to do to get an education in Management was read Drucker.

So if not the formal education, what did help me? Looking back, the one thing that stands out is my love for reading — reading widely, longly (I’ve created another word!) and a wide variety. The books that have helped me in my discussion with leaders range from business to self help to economics to politics to philosophy to religion. These obviously were read over a period of years and definitely not with the foresight that it would help in workplace conversations.

“Benefit” sounds very transactional / materialistic, these books helped me connect deeper with people, debate ideas at length / depth (not opinions), see things both in context and through multiple perspectives (ideas for scaling organizations from an evolutionary perspective). People are genuinely happy to discuss a book that they’re passionate about with someone who is not merely interested, but has also partaken of the fruit. It provides a peek into the soul of the person — and they like what they see.

It’s not just the relationships I’ve gained, but also introductions to other books, tools (Audible, Blinkist) and a renewed interest to spend more time reading older books (that have stood the test of time, not just marketed well).

Books / Authors that helped build bridges:

Nassim Taleb — Anti Fragile

Fyodor Dostoevsky — Brothers Karamazov, Crime & Punishment

Jim Collins, Tom Peters

Ravi Zacharias & William Lane Craig

PS: If there are books that have left an impact on you, do add them onto the comments section. Thanks!