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9 Feb

Stop asking for book recommendations.

Before we begin,

These are mere words. And words can only go so far when you're looking for a system that really gets you going in life.

For that, we have the ✨ Stoa Program ✨

So, if reading these newsletters and books hasn't helped (highly likely), try applying for Cohort 11 which starts on February 24, 2023.

Admissions close in about 10 days.

Shoot your shot here.

Now, let me get back to ranting.

What a waste of an opportunity it would be if you were to meet someone like Ratan Tata or Kiran Mazumdar Shaw or Kunal Shah and all you can ask them for is book recommendations and links to resources.


Being someone who is often on the receiving end of this question, let me tell you what runs through my mind when someone asks me for book recommendations:

Buddy, if you were really interested in the topic, you would go out, do your due diligence, read up a few blogs, and a textbook or two. These would then lead you to ten other books and blogs. And then, if you still had a question, it would at least have been a good one.

Heck, even Wikipedia has links to tonnes of primary research and works of scholarship.

But you probably just wanted to create the illusion of curiosity instead of being actually curious. You wanted to signal that you were a learner instead of actually learning.

After all, tell me something in all honesty:

How many books out of the gazillion that have been recommended to you so far by Twitter threadbois, entrepreneurs, podcasters, etc. have you actually read?

No, tell me. What's the percentage?

And when you read these books, what was the outcome? Did they take you anywhere? Did they get you going?

Probably not.

Let me tell you who benefits from books.

A person who is already trying to get somewhere and working hard towards it benefits from non-fiction books. And the irony is such a person never finds themselves in a position where they have to go out and ask for book recommendations.

They've already started. And trust me, once you get started, one thing leads to another and another leads to many others. Once you get going, you will never find yourself short of content in this day and age.

But the fact is that you've not even started. And you likely won't will. Even if I recommend some books to you, unless you have an immediate and pressing objective, you will not read them.

Then why indulge in this empty pretense and mental masturbation.

Instead, if you had asked me a very precise and pointed question that actually got me thinking and let me know that you know a lot about the topic, and that your curiosity isn't cursory, I would instantly want to engage with you and take the conversation forward.

In fact, if you're just starting out learning about a domain and want to avoid mistakes, the best question to ask would be,

"What would an amateur get wrong here that an experienced person like you won't?"

The "here" is key.

You need to ask questions in the context of a job you're trying to get done, or a business problem you're trying to solve. When you come to me for help, tell me what all you've tried so far. Tell me what your observations have been. Tell me where you're stuck and what exactly you need help figuring out.

The question must be asked in the context of a story, a case study, or a decision point. That question will get way more interesting and useful stuff out of me versus casually asking me,

"Hey, I'm interested in Product Management. What books and resources would you recommend?"

Your casual interest is not worth my time, sir. Ask a serious question. If you wish to start writing, come to me with 5 drafts that you wish to make better.

Don't ask me, "How do I start writing?"

Didn't they teach you that in primary school? Write an essay titled The Cow for all I care.

But write. Do the work.

Not because you want to make it look like you did the work. But because doing the work will help you arrive at much better questions.

And exploring those questions will be a way more productive use of both my time and yours.

I know this isn't some fancy MBA gyaan.

And I don't think you need fancy MBA gyaan to do well in life. Just get the basics right first. And not wasting an opportunity by asking a dumb question is basic.

Try it. Stop asking for book recommendations when you have zero intent of reading them. There already are tonnes of book recommendations for every domain under the sun. Ask ChatGPT. Do anything. Just don't waste a good opportunity with such an unserious question.

If nothing, at least save yourself from making a terrible first impression.

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15k+ business professionals act on our advice every day. You should too.
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15k+ business professionals act on our advice every day. You should too.