“Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.
Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.”
It happens to me all the time. I will be at a networking event, or I will be making a book synopsis presentation, and someone will ask me: ”Have you read _______?” More times than not, I will have to answer, truthfully, “no.” And then they say the dreaded words: ”It is really good. You’ve got to read it.” I know I should. But I am already behind, and now I am even more behind…
The number of books I should read is simply overwhelming. Amd, compared to some, I read quite a few books. (I frequently have the same feeling of feeling overwhelmed reading Bob’s blog posts. He reads a lot of books — and remembers what he read. What a resource!)
Suppose you read four books a week every week for 70 years. Allowing for a day here and there where you’re unable to read, we can call that 200 books a year, and 14,000 books over the whole three score years and ten. It’s a lot of books. But relative to all the books there are, it’s a tiny, tiny fraction. According to the guy who manages the Google Books metadata team, at the latest count the books in the world now total 168,178,719. Your 14,000 books are just 0.008324477724 per cent of that. You can think of it as follows. Suppose all the books in the world made up a single calendar year, and you were reading through the pages of that year, cover to cover. Then, 14,000 books – and that’s going some – would only get you through the first 44 minutes of the year. There’d still be 364 days, 23 hours and 16 minutes that you hadn’t read. And if you get through fewer than 14,000 books in your lifetime, it will look even worse. Comforting in a way.
So — keep at it, and you’ll still only get so far.
Bryant: Stepping back, what were the most important leadership lessons you learned over the course of your career?
Blankfein: I remember the first time I was put in charge; I was put in charge of the foreign exchange business. In the first minute, the business is going through something where we start losing money. I went to my boss. And I said, “You know, we’re losing money.” And he said, “Well, what would you do about that?” I said what I would do, and he said: “That sounds right. Why don’t you do that?”
His validation made it my idea if it worked, and his problem if it didn’t. And I remembered a second lesson. I turned to walk out, and he said, “Lloyd, why don’t you stop in the men’s room first, and throw some water on your face, because if people see you looking as green as you look, they’ll jump out the window.” I learned how you can inspire or defeat confidence.”
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To read a longer version of this interview and of several others of prominent CEOs, please visit nytimes.com/business.