While you may not have touched any since high school English, classic literature achieves its legacy by being smart, witty, thoughtful, and informative – qualities every man should embrace. If you're not reading it, you're missing out on a lot of important life lessons.
By Kenyon Boltz | Photos By Jeff Buras
Great literature has followed us throughout our primary, secondary, and higher education periods. To some, it is a disdain; to others, it is a privilege. Reading classic fiction or great literature from historical orators, such as Aristotle or Plutarch, can reap larger rewards than expected. Some opinions have categorized these works as difficult, time-consuming, and inherently stodgy. But most will agree, the more effort invested, the greater the return- and it can earn high yields in your career and personal life.
There is an inherent civic role to anyone with power in business. Envision the moral weight behind duties of bankers, specifically finance distribution. Power wields authority and influence- so how does great literature compare?
Understanding characters' actions open inner resources to a person's intuition, logic and potential. Reaffirmation of good versus the shadows of our psyche are fleshed out in contextual arrangements, either as a pilgrimage of many or a journey to capture a particular sea creature. However, the current downtrend in business colleges, as spoken by Vigen Guroian, Professor of Theology at Loyola College, contends the lack of liberal studies to our aspiring business majors. He summarizes by saying the repercussions of consistent education in pragmatism, fatalism, and utilitarianism weaken the individual's inner self, primarily moral intelligence.
Is there a causal relationship of business education grooming a “cultural illiteracy of the business class?” The perspectives of renowned literary masters have been studied and criticized for their subversive shrewdness to current political, economic, and sociological events in their time. This compartmentalized slice of historical fiction constitutes the same critical paradigm film has accepted in the past 50 years. We could do a quick retrospect on our cultural fingerprint with a diverse collection of films over fifty years and see the trend. But how many times do we see an adaptation of a book to film and walk out saying “The book is better.”
Think about it: the book is better, on a straight comparison of the internal consciousness and voyeurism to a protagonist's inner thoughts. This transcendence has a profound impact on our learning and creativity modes: logical, linguistic, interpersonal, and intra-psychic. Our human nature predicates itself on being curious to other peoples' lives. We all share similar experiences with immense variations of degrees. However, the contrived situations classical author's create from their time period has tremendous retrospect. The spatial differences of Sir Thomas More to James Joyce to Norman Mailer to today's acclaimed authors will not share on the same dimension. This difference purports the claim of classical literature to a self-fulfillment.
Business has reached extraordinary levels of competition, educational requirements, and prolific experience earned. The education from nationally recognized institutions unleashes practicality through voluminous case studies, graphical data charts, and intricate statistics as its curriculum core. Understandable. However, consider how many fellow classmates or friends decide on a business major and when asked why, most will say there is a job right out of college or for the financial independence. Fair enough.
Now, as Vigen Guroian states, is it out of duty or work? This vital metaphysical realm of self-identity through power of authority or influence in the business sector can either thrive or wither. There is more to be learned than from a textbook or closing a deal.
Civic responsibility from ethics and moral intelligence is lacking more than ever before, as witnessed in the Wall Street meltdown. In this current climate of epic economic failure on debatable reasons, the study of humanities is in anorexic shock. Reading great literature can start one's journey to enlightened mind and spirituality.
Robert Brawer, PhD, University of Chicago, former CEO of Maidenform for 20 years, author of “Fictions of Business: Insights on Management from Great Literature,” speaks from a broad illustration of experience to incorporate values, office politics, work, stress, success, and self-empowerment from the works of Mark Twain, John Updike, Arthur Miller, and Geoffrey Chaucer and more. The chapters are broken into categories of self-individuality, stereotypes of corporate idealism, and other perspectives.
I, as well as Robert Brawer, understand how literature does not reconcile the financial statements for an annual report, maximize a profit margin, or re-align a product campaign, “however, … the values and insights we glean from serious literature sensitize us to ourselves… to problems inherent in managing people in an organization.” The underlying argument is the reflection upon the actions and consequences literary figures have on their attitudes, beliefs, and concerns. We will always encapsulate the desire for power, self-esteem, freedom, solidarity, and virtue. It is practicality toward the human condition we can assimilate and aggregate into our profession and personal leisure.
The superhighway of information overload is a crippling side-effect from our insatiable hunger for the most current news, trend, or market flinch. To “turn-off” is becoming more difficult. Be it family, workload, financial constraints, or other personal reasons, the crucial point to live life in the present for a better tomorrow makes a person free and a fuller human being. Our anxiousness to be always doing something, unable to be alone with oneself is a detriment. Reading literature provides a moral imagination with interaction. It is a supplement to elevate our worldly intuitiveness and rationality.
Time is of the essence and there is a daunting selection to choose from. Robert Brawer's book is helpful in the comparison of literary works to our everyday corporate contexts. If interested in being introduced to the expansive canon of great literature available, “Invitation to the Classics” edited by Louise Cowan and O.S. Guinness, provides a nudge in the right direction, one book at a time.