Month: March 2017

The Benefits of Reading Biography


Reading is one of the great pleasures of life. The optimal situation is when reading is both pleasurable and productive. While we read for pleasure, we should also realize reading is the most powerful self-improvement tool available.

One of my favorite writers Mark Twain wrote, “The person who does not read good books has no advantage over the person who cannot read them.”

Tweet: The person who does not read good books has no advantage over the person who cannot read them

We tend to take our literacy for granted. We all would do well to take the time to read more books. The rewards in enjoyment and personal growth relative to the time spent make reading one of the best values available to us. We forego reducing our ignorance at our peril.

Books can convey knowledge in a variety of ways. Different genres provide different sets of lessons. Reading biography and autobiography are especially rich in experiential lessons. The best ones can be incredibly entertaining and fascinating so the medicine of learning and gaining wisdom goes down easy.

Great biographies are rare because it takes the combination of a fascinating character residing in interesting times, and an accomplished writer to convey the story in compelling terms.

Great autobiography is far more rare because all those attributes need to reside in the same person. Winston Churchill was such a being and he knew it. His quote says it all; “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”



Best Business Biographies

One of the most efficient and effective ways to take advantage of the experience of others is by reading biographies and autobiographies. This certainly applies to attaining business acumen. Check out these business biographies and autobiographies that represent enjoyable and profitable reads. Their take-away lessons are profound.

To cement the point, here are

Seven Good Reasons to read biographies and autobiographies:

They provide a sandbox for role-play and rehearsal

Biographies allow us to test our mettle by trying to figure out how best to navigate and negotiate situations in a risk free environment. Because history tends to repeat itself and human behavior follows relatively predictable patterns, we can learn from other’s circumstances and mistakes. Complex situations can be unpacked into component parts for future actionable reference.

They allow us to invert the harsh lessons of experience

The Cy Young winning baseball pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates Vernon Sanders Law said, “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards.” Pitchers must have a lot of time in the dugout between starts to think profound thoughts.

Tweet: Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards.

Reading biographies let’s you reverse the chronology and absorb the lesson first.

They help us practice and develop empathy and emotional intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is the capability of individuals to recognize their own, and other people’s emotions.

We use emotional information to guide our thinking and behavior. We need to be able to manage and adjust our emotions to adapt in different settings. In short we need to be appropriately social to get on in the world and achieve our goals.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Empathy is our ability to project into the situations of others and really experience their trials and tribulations as our own.

It is easy to read a biography and gloss over the trials and tribulations of the subject and those in their circle. We read of how they were ostracized and criticized and ignored or ridiculed; had diseases and illness; poverty and financial hardship, or were surrounded by war and death. We read these things and put them into the category of the stuff they had to overcome. Because we know the end of the story: that they triumphed either in life, or after with fame and glory, we diminish the immediate impact of these things that they must have felt.

Taking a moment to feel that impact allows us to develop our capability for empathy and understanding of others in our lives.

They help us see further

In February 1675 Sir Isaac Newton wrote to his good friend and colleague, the great polymath Robert Hooke, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Reading biographies captures that experience. They allow you to see further by vicariously experiencing what others have gone through and achieved. The practice is an efficient way to gain life lessons.



This idea of standing on the shoulders of giants didn’t originate with Newton. The original attribution of this is from Bernard of Chartres in the early 12th Century as recorded by John of Salisbury:

“Bernard of Chartres used to say that we [the Moderns] are like dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants [the Ancients], and thus we are able to see more and farther than the latter. And this is not at all because of the acuteness of our sight or the stature of our body, but because we are carried aloft and elevated by the magnitude of the giants.”

Obviously Newton was an avid reader.

We are reminded of the cyclical nature of events

The philosopher George Santayana wrote, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” There is not much new under the sun and we risk repeating mistakes others have made before us if we are not aware of them. If we make ourselves aware, we can hopefully avoid them.

A cautionary tale can help us recognize and avoid potentially bad situations. And biographies allow us to rehearse navigating these challenging situations in a riskless way from the safety and comfort of our armchair while sipping herbal tea.

This kind of foresight may help us but I want to temper this point with the fact that sometimes events are outside of our control and may proceed even if we are aware of the probable outcome. It’s like watching an accident unfold in slow motion. “Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. Yet those who do study history are doomed to stand by helplessly while everyone else repeats it.” When events take this type of turn, it’s probably better to read philosophy and swap the tea for scotch.

They promote self-discovery

Biographies are chock full of teachable moments; some positive, inspirational and aspirational, and some that are cautionary. Ideas and approaches to life will reveal themselves through biographical narratives. Experiential learning is more impactful and satisfying, and thus more memorable, than reading a list of normative steps in a self-help or textbook.

They help us look at the world from novel angles

We need diversity of ideas and experience in order to break out of our creative ruts. Transformative ideas and revolutionary innovations come from lateral thinking; transposing a concept from one field to another or combining ideas in new and non-obvious ways. Biography is a resource for developing this super power.

They provide us with world-class mentors

When you read a biography or autobiography you get a glimpse into the subject’s mind and gain the advantage of “knowing” them. They become mentors as we ponder about what advice they offer related to the situations we face.

Best Biz Bios

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9 Ways to Validate Your Startup Ideas

Even if you think you have great startup ideas, it doesn’t mean you can simply make them a reality. These startup ideas have to be validated first to test whether or not the market receives those ideas well. One of the ways to validate a startup idea is by crowdfunding.

This is a process in which you put your ideas out there for people to see. If there are interested investors, they will fund your startup idea right away. It is like hitting two birds in one stone. If someone is willing to fund your ideas, it means that it has potentials to do really well. Also, since you already have funds, you can get the business rolling.

In crowdfunding, it is important to be really clear about your plan. Don’t make it too long. Present your ideas, the problems you wish to solve and how your ideas will help in solving those problems. Make sure you are patient in waiting for people to fund your ideas.

It doesn’t happen overnight. Take note that there are a lot of other people out there who also go for crowdfunding. You must be patient enough before deciding to simply change the entire idea or conclude that it doesn’t work.

Most of all, be open to changes. This is the ultimate goal of validating startup ideas. You can’t expect things to be perfect right away. With simple tweaks, your entire idea might blossom into something that people would surely buy.

The infographic below shows some other ways in validating your startup ideas. Just try these strategies until you can confirm that your ideas are worth implementing. Once ready, go ahead and start the business.

9 Ways to Validate Your Startup Ideas (SBO)

Books Can Help

The world is changing rapidly and we need to increasingly rely on ourselves to navigate our way. Governments, corporations and social institutions can’t provide the level of reassuring paternal oversight they once did. They are caught up in the same waves of disruption.

We are charged with figuring out where things are headed and where we fit in. We are challenged to adapt to a rapidly evolving landscape. Charles Darwin’s key insight wasn’t that the strongest survive, but the ones who could most successfully adapt to change. We are all called upon to retool in order to survive and thrive in this fiercely competitive economy.

This is certainly a clarion call. But our response shouldn’t be panic and worry that our skill sets, and we, are becoming obsolete or marginalized. One door closes, another opens. This is a time of unlimited opportunity and potential prosperity. The traditional gatekeepers and barriers to entry have evaporated across wide swaths of the economy. And more access and possibility is on its way. You no longer need permission. We have degrees of freedom undreamt of in the past to invent ourselves and create our life.

It is also a time to rethink what we can achieve in groups; groups that to a large degree can self-organize. We can use networking and communications tools to enhance creativity, collaboration, innovation, entrepreneurship, and community. We have transcended geography and soon will transcend language barriers. There is an old-school practice that remains crucial.

Mark Twain wrote, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.”  We all need to take time to read books. The value in enjoyment and personal growth relative to the time spent is one of the best deals on the planet.

Reading books, the right books, can accelerate our transformation.

One of the most efficient ways we can gain experience, expertise and skills is to read. To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson: “If we encounter a person of rare intellect, we should ask what books they read.” Through reading we can gain the knowledge that others had to suffer to get.

There are so many books; where to start? Check out this group of books I have read that I think are the absolute best at gaining a base of worldly knowledge.

We can appropriate the tested skills and experience of entrepreneurship coming out of Silicon Valley and elsewhere and apply them to crafting a satisfying life. We can develop an entrepreneurial mindset in order to assess and exploit the myriad opportunities that surround us in plain sight. An entrepreneurial skill set can serve us in our life journey by teaching us how to seize opportunity and be less fearful.

Here is a targeted list of the Top 10+ Books by entrepreneurs and academics about new venture strategies and startup culture. They aren’t in any hierarchical order but are curated to work as a whole. As a group these books serve a more general purpose in that they can transform the way you perceive yourself and interact with the world.

Check out this list of the best business biographies and these reasons why reading biography is so important and useful.

Books invite us to take life at a comfortable tempo. The cadence of reading can be an antidote to the frenetic pace of digital life. The act of reading encourages us to be contemplative and imaginative.

“If you have a garden and library, you have everything you need.” Cicero

These books are a big part of developing the flexibility and adaptability to succeed in life, in monetary terms and also in the level of satisfaction that comes from being able to productively pursue your dreams, aspirations, and ambitions. They are the foundational texts that provide blueprints, roadmaps and inspiration towards success. Pick some and Level up!

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The Dream of Patenting Your Idea

Have you ever had an idea for an invention that you thought about patenting? It is now possible with a word processer and the database available from the US Patent and Trademark Office to research, draft and file your own patent application. And then you could use that intellectual property and competitive position to start your own company.

Patents have marketing value as a credential and investment value indication of enterprise value. Patents and patent pending provide a startup with an asset to fund around. You can file your own patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office for around $500.

An astute and experienced business mentor once advised me: “When in doubt, create assets.” A patent application costs less than $500 to file and an issued patent is worth $1 million on average. That is tremendous value leverage. This can be the basis of creating significant personal wealth.


Read the following and see if your idea meets the criteria to be patentable. If so, you may want to check out my book Patent It Yourself! and give it a go.

What are patents?

A patent is an exclusive property right for an invention and is granted to the inventor. A patent’s composition is structurally straightforward. It has a write up, a description of the invention and at the end it has one or more claims, each claim setting forth the concepts of your invention. A patent examiner reviews your application, and if they agree, issues you patent protection. A patent is essentially a twenty-year monopoly to operate in that space.

In the past decade the patent research, drafting, and filing process has evolved and the tools are now in place that makes it feasible for you to perform all the steps and file your own patent.

In the beginning of Edison’s career he wrote all his own patents. In one year 1883 he drafted 106 patent applications that turned into patents. Thomas Edison was awarded 1093 patents issued in his name. That is the record!

The process hasn’t gotten easier but the tools of word processing and the database on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website create an environment that empowers all of us to protect and commercialize our ideas and creativity.


Identifying Patent Opportunities

There are three basic criteria when analyzing whether an idea is something is worth pursuing for a patent.

First: is it potentially patentable. You can do a preliminary search of existing patents to check and make sure your invention isn’t already patented.

Second: is it technologically feasible. Many cool ideas are not necessarily inventions. Like wouldn’t it be cool if we had a perpetual motion machine. That’s not an invention. It’s a great idea but not an invention because, so far, it lies outside the laws of physics.

Third: is it commercially interesting. Just the fact that it’s a cool idea doesn’t make it commercially interesting. Is there a path to make the invention into some kind of product or service that will meet a need of customers.

If it is:

• Patentable,
• Technologically feasible and
• Commercially worth pursuing,

It meets the triple test of where to put your patenting efforts and dollars.

What is patentable?

Technological features, product features, products and sales, and processes can be patented.

There are four general categories of criteria that must be met in order to be granted a patent:
Eligibility: the invention must fall into one or more of four fields of subject matter:
o      New and useful process,
o      Machine,
o      Manufacture, or
o      Composition of matter
Utility: it must be specifically and substantially useful
Novelty: it must be distinguished from prior patents and public information
Non obviousness: it must not be an obvious combination of prior patents and public information

Prior Art

Prior Art is the term used to describe previous inventions that are patented or disclosed publicly. It is your responsibility to make a search of previous inventions and make sure that your invention is actually new and unique and hasn’t been detailed and described before. Luckily the research process has been greatly simplified by the introduction of the searchable database on the USPTO website.

The great thing is you can search the patent and patent application database on the patent office’s website The prior art patents, along with your descriptions of why your invention is different, gets submitted to the patent office as part of your application.

This is very important. There’s an obligation on patent applications to bring to the examiner all the prior art the applicant is aware of. Disclosing and addressing prior art will make your patent stronger because the claims will be crafted to avoid that prior art and be patentable over that prior art.

Do a thorough research of the prior art. Otherwise you will mistakenly craft broad claims that are already covered by previous patents. Any claim that is already part of an existing patent is invalid. Address the prior art in your application and get a strong patent.


• It’s got to be novel.
• It’s got to be non-obvious.
• And it has to be useful.

If patenting is of interest to you check out my book Patent Yourself!

Available through Amazon