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Are Books invaluable or useless?

May 13, 2021

Some people say books are invaluable. Other people say that the real world can’t be found in a book. There are both successful and unsuccessful people in both camps. What’s going on?

When I was in college, I was rewarded with reading a lot of books. Read the book, take the test, win the college game. The same was true for most of my academic career. I also used books to learn a lot about other things like investments, philosophy, marketing, etc. However, something changed when you shifted from academia to practice. Sometimes, the answer isn’t in books.

During my medical school and residency days, I started having a disdain for books. They all said the same thing, more or less. And there are a lot of really and books out there. Maybe it’s about finding the right books and only having the right books in your collection? But how do you know what is the “right” book?

I started interacting with others who also de-prioritized books. These were entrepreneurial types with big dreams, ambitions, and weren’t afraid to do the hard work. My kind of people!

However, what I noticed I that the lack of reading books held people back. It took longer for them to grasp some basic well-known concepts. And sometimes, people’s disdain for books is actually a defense mechanism to protect their ego. They can’t actually comprehend what they read.

Then it dawned on me one day when I was reading Peter Thiel’s “Zero to One.” I found it to be an amazing book with great insights. However, I realized that he’s writing this book after he’s been successful with his understanding of the world. I realized that this is true for all books. They can only be written after the proof has been made (through some form of success), never before.

Books are great to understand what happened in history. But they can never definitively tell you what is happening in the future.

Success is about trial and error. Through trial and error, you understand the true reality of your circumstances. You can then make High Quality choices if your understanding of reality is sound. High Quality choices lead to good outcomes which then leads to success.

Someone writing a book has to have gone through the trial and error. Once they have processed the results, written the findings, reality might have changed. By the time the book reaches your hand, it is no longer at the cutting edge of our understanding of reality. It’s too late.

Books are great for processed information in the past. Sometimes, this information is very useful for a long time. But it’ll never be at the cutting edge of your industry or market. That requires you to do some trial and error on your own. Just don’t repeat mistakes you could have easily found in a book.

Dr. Eric

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2 comments on “Are Books invaluable or useless?”

  1. Hi Eric,
    only just discovered your website - don't know why it took so long.

    This article on the usefulness of books is a great piece of writing and contains many insights.
    Without reading books from an early age I could not have become the person that I am today.
    Your writing is as clear and fresh as all the comments I read in the FL Workshop.
    You have a real gift and you are using it to great effect. God is blessing you richly through this gift.
    I like the clarity of your website too. Did you do this yourself? I wouldn't be surprised as it looks unmistakably YOU - to coin a phrase.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. Yes. I wrote the whole thing myself. I spend every Sunday morning writing 2 newsletters. It's my way of connecting with the world. I hope you enjoy the future content!

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