“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life,” my favorite poet, the late Mary Oliver asks. As we move forward through this pandemic, this is a question I’m hearing more and more clients and friends consider out loud as they manage back-to-work schedules, school online, and day-to-day lives in an eventful year that is almost at its end.
I often find myself quoting Warren Buffet in suggesting that an entrepreneurial course might be the best one. After all, who wouldn’t want to “find the job that you would do if you didn’t need a job.” As we gear up for the Fourth Annual Authors & Innovators Business Ideas Conference, I’m also recommending a few books for those who might be open to this advice.
I’m looking forward to speaking with NPR’s Guy Raz, the creator and host of the incredibly popular podcast How I Built This, and now the author of a new book by the same name. Raz is the son of entrepreneurs and a former war reporter, and he’s pulled together an important “lessons learned” volume from interviews with hundreds of successful and inspiring entrepreneurs from across a wide range of industries. I received an advance copy of the book and finished it the same day; it’s that good. Of course, being a loyal fan of the podcast put me in the right frame of mind. Every chapter, with topics ranging from idea development and financing to executing, pivoting and creating buzz, centers on the experiences and hard-won wisdom from now-famous entrepreneurs with recognized brands and products. The stories are authentic, raw and inspiring, and Raz, as he is on his show, is an active listener and a consummate storyteller.
Sara Frey, CEO of Frey Farms, is a talented storyteller too and her new business memoir The Growing Season: How I Saved an American Farm and Built a New Life, easily is one of the most memorable business books of the year. Described by The New York Times as the “Pumpkin Queen of America,” Frey, one of 21 children of a colorful, entrepreneurial father, grew up on a farm in southern Illinois, where she learned the agricultural business literally from the ground up. You can’t help but root for this energetic, brash young entrepreneur as she confronts sexism, inconsistent weather, crazy delivery logistics, and the mercurial buyers and supply chains at Walmart and Lowe’s, all the while building a sprawling, billion-dollar enterprise of wholesale fruits and vegetables as well as an impressive natural beverage product company. Farmers, says Frey, are the ultimate optimists, and this just might be because they understand how best to plan and use the scarcest resource of all: time.
For more on that specific entrepreneurial and life challenge, you’ll need to read Time Smart: How to Reclaim Your Time & Live a Happier Life, the forthcoming book by Harvard Business School professor and organizational behavior expert Ashley Whillans, who studies how people navigate tradeoffs between time and money. This is a fascinating and incredibly thoughtful book and Whillans, a self-described “time nerd,” helps us think about and compare our own time balancing to central characters: “Taylor” who always prioritizes time more than money and “Morgan,” who values money more than time. Throughout the book, Whillans gives us specific and actionable lists, steps and exercises to become more “time affluent,” so that we begin to appreciate the cumulative effect of many small behavior changes in our lives. You can create that amazing new business and still have time to think about the purpose of your life and make a strategy for it.
These unusual and unsettling times have forced more of us to reflect and consider how we spend our time and whether we are striving to become the highest and best version of ourselves or just settling in for the week after next. You should check out these books if your plan is to be more intentional and possibly entrepreneurial when this pandemic ends. As with many things, hearing other people’s stories and comparing them to ours could be an important first step in making a pivotal change.
Authors & Innovators is an occasional column by Larry Gennari, a transactional lawyer, law professor, and chief curator of Authors & Innovators, an annual business book and ideas festival. Gennari also teaches Project Entrepreneur, a business fundamentals bootcamp for returning citizens, at BC Law School.