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Some Classic Lessons To Learn From Classic Novels From Hamlet's procrastination to Gatsby's dubious morality, classical literature has a lot to teach young entrepreneurs.

By Ritu Kochar

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Books take you to a different world. A world with new places and new people. You travel without travelling and meet new people in your head. You build empathy for them and people around you. That's what books do! They help you survive in the world, giving you a glimpse at someone else's life. Making you realize that they have their bits of problems and happiness too. And when you connect with the world, you build relationships.

Building relationships is a very important part of an entrepreneur's life. It forms the foundation on which the business will stand. While there are many business books that could inspire you to the bones and help you start your business, we want to make sure that you are up to date on your classics as they have some pretty solid advice to share too. So, here we have some of the classic books that could teach you a thing or two about life and business.

The Catcher in the Rye

What could one learn from a book about a sixteen year old boy, on his way home after being expelled from school? Standing on the threshold of adulthood, Holden Caulfield's fear is something we all face –growing up.

Growing a business, like growing up, can be an infuriating process but it's all about channelling your frustrations towards something productive. It will make you think that the world is "phony' but also the social niceties that come with it are also necessary. In his own words, "I am always saying "Glad to've met you" to somebody I'm not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though."

This book by J.D. Salinger is one of Bill Gates' favourite. In an interview to, he said, "It's very clever. It acknowledges that young people are a little confused, but can be smart about things and see things that adults don't really see. So I've always loved it."


Although a revenge drama, Hamlet can make you question your own morals. However much existential crisis it makes you go through, this play is loaded with lessons that will encourage any entrepreneur. The best one being, "To thine own self be true." Because if you aren't true to yourself, what's the point of doing it.

"Assume a virtue, if you have it not." Replace your bad habits with good ones. If you want to acquire a quality, act like you already have it and it will come to you. It'll definitely make the way easier and you'll get there faster.

Another peculiar quality to learn from the charcater Hamlet is to avoid procrastination. It took him five acts, a couple of murders and deep emotional debates to do what he was supposed to do in the first act itself. And look what that led to! Procrastination led to loss of many lives in Hamlet, in real life, it could cost you your business.

The Great Gatsby

What makes Jay Gatsby so great? It is a question asked several times in the world of literature. From what I understand "it was his [an] extraordinary gift for hope'. Though Gatsby had his phases of dubious morality, the passion with which he waited for Daisy Buchanan is inspiring. Be it your business or love; put your every last effort into it.

Gatsby is a classic example of how to be successful but it is also an eye opener for someone who overestimates the value of money. Money can help you cover a long way on your way to success, but it will not be the sole reason responsible for it. Also, once you do get rich, money wouldn't keep you happy for long, your loved ones will. Gatsby understood this, only it was too late for him. This work of fiction by Fitzgerald is another one of Gates' favourite books.

The Aeniad

After the fall of Troy, Aeneas, with his father, son and some followers, is on a journey to fulfil the prophecy of becoming a great ruler of Italy. He lost his wife in chaos and the gods literally hate him. It is despite these troubles he decides to fulfil what was asked of him. Aeneas is an inspiration to all businessmen who have faced so many hurdles in life to get where they are that now it seems just another task.

Virgil's The Aeniad is Mark Zuckerberg's favourite book and one can surely draw parallels between them. Aeneas journey to be the ruler of Italy and Zuckerber's journey in building the greatest social networking site. He said that one thing that stuck with him was Aeneas's drive to follow his fate to build a city that "knows no boundaries in time and greatness".

It's not only about getting through hardships, but also perspective. Aeneas had to go through the underworld to be the king he was meant to be. Always remember, the going can get tough, but never as tough as going to the underworld itself and coming back. Your underworld might be the time you failed but it is only when you overcome them that will lead you to greatness.

What books have your favourite entrepreneurs read and got inspired? Share it on our Facebook Page Entrepreneur India.

Ritu Kochar

Former Staff, Entrepreneur India

Ritu used to work as a Feature writer for Entrepreneur India.
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