What the US Marines and Ender’s Game teach about professional growth

Ian Lurie

Never underestimate the Marine Corps. Here’s one of their reading lists:

marine's reading list

Yep. Ender’s Game. One of the greatest pieces of science fiction ever written. On the US Marine Corps. reading list.

That is awesome.

The Marines do more with less than any other branch of the military. They do it, in part, by encouraging creativity from the rank-and-file up to the top brass. Apparently, that includes reading some top-rate science fiction. You can learn a lot from that.

Learn from the Marines

There are great lessons in ‘irrelevant’ books if you take the time to look. Ender’s Game has amazing learning about teamwork, the consequences of war, indoctrination, tactics and planning. It would get any military trainee thinking a bit outside the box in productive ways.

You should do the same with your team, and yourself. Read outside your profession.

Want to learn great people management skills? Read Pillars of the Earth. Phillip is a master.

Need lessons in running a shoestring operation? Read Zodiac, by Neal Stephenson. It’s more about eco-terrorism, but man, they’re creative with their budget!

Saturday, by Ian McCewan, is a great story. But the main character is also the poster child for meticulousness, and for doing his job when his patient (read client) isn’t exactly his favorite person.

To excel in your specialty, get away from it

I’ve written about the dangers of overspecialization. Broaden your horizons and you avoid the trap. I have a 14-inch stack of books on my nightstand. They’re all business books. Sometimes, though, I gotta take a break and read something else.
And wouldn’t you know it? That’s when I usually get inspired.

I got the idea for select, don’t accumulate from Atlas Shrugged.
Lord of the Rings inspired me to start my company (loooong story).
I wrote 20 reasons you shouldn’t listen to a word I say after watching the Hudsucker Proxy.
Portent’s entire bonus system came to me after I read A Winter’s Tale.

You get the idea.

Reading all those self-improvement and technical books is just foundation building. You’re putting all the bricks in place. Getting away from that stuff is what will spark something really inspired. So be sure to do both.

Other stuff

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. Ha! Robert Heinlein’s “We Also Walk Dogs” inspired me to start my company.
    It isn’t quite what I envisioned…but it was still the spark that started the fire.

  2. Hey great stuff man! I find inspiration often comes from unexpected sources. Always happy to find new things to add to my reading list.

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