Interesting guest post by Ben Butler. Building @stripe in Europe. Formerly Law and Business @tcddublin. Used to only have to wear glasses for the blackboard. This post originally appeared here.

Reading has a lot of benefits, it broadens your horizons, expands your vocabulary, and, in this ever-increasing online, connected world that we live in, it can also bring you closer to people. In the weeks since I’ve started this blog, it’s been so lovely getting each and every Slack, LinkedIn and Facebook message from people enjoying the posts. My favourite thing has to be people sending me photos of newly purchased books that were discussed on the blog. And, thus, while the personal connection from reading is what I’ve enjoyed the most, this week, we’re going to take a look at how reading one book made one of my posts go viral.

First though, let’s take a look at The Book.

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The Hard Thing About Hard Things is the best business book I’ve read. I was tempted to add a qualifier to that sentence, but I think it’d be superfluous. A qualifier would be redundant, go read this book.

Why is it so good? Horowitz answers this question in his introduction, when he surveys the non-fiction landscape:

‘Everytime I read a management or self-help book, I find myself saying, “That’s fine, but that wasn’t really the hard thing about the situation.’”

This has been my issue with some of the books that I’ve read over the years. A book on marketing strategy might, for example, give a great outline and framework, but totally ignores the difficulty of implementing that strategy in an actual company, and getting real people behind it. As Horowitz puts it: “the problem with these books is that they attempt to provide a recipe for challenges that have no recipes.” Thus, the value of this book is the lack of a cookie cutter approach, the very value proposition of so many other business books.

“That’s the hard thing about hard things, there is no formula for dealing with them.

If I were to, as I’ve done before, pick out all the highlights of this book, I’d get in trouble for reproducing almost the whole thing. When reading these days, I place sticky tabs at interesting points, these are colour coded and broken down into topics like personal resonance, relevant for work etc. They’re quite handy, and I’d recommend picking some up for yourself. While you’re, actually, can you get me some as well? I used up a whole pack on The Hard Thing About Hard Things.

So, rather than talk about the takeaways, I would implore you to read this book. Horowitz’s honest, frank descriptions of how tough it can be to make tough decisions was invaluable, particularly in this world of survival bias and media spin. Read this book if you have, or want to have, your own business. Read this book if you care about how things work. Read this book because the author may just comment on your LinkedIn post and set off a crazy chain reaction that leads to thousands of profile views, hundreds of comments, and a fair few connection requests.

It all started rather innocuously.

You see, when I post these blogs, all my connections and followers will get a notification that I’ve done so. As this notification happens instantly, I usually see a spike in readers when I post, and then a drip afterwards. I’d noticed, however, that LinkedIn’s newsfeed seemed to keep some posts, particularly photos?alive for days, if not weeks. Could posting more regularly to the newsfeed supplement my bimonthly blog posts? It seemed worth a try. So, I posted that I was reading, and enjoying, the book.

I had started following Ben Horowitz on LinkedIn earlier in the day. So, when I started typing his name, LinkedIn’s autocomplete linked to his profile in my status, effectively tagging him and possibly notifying him. I shrugged, figured he probably gets hundreds of these a day.

I posted the status on a Sunday morning, and went about my day. My initial hypothesis of photos doing well seemed correct, as it had about 30 likes, high enough, but nothing crazy. However, it was only when I looked closely that I noticed a familiar name commenting below. This is my equivalent of a tween girl getting a shout out from Justin Bieber.

What followed was a crazy succession of social media activity, with hordes of Horowitz followers liking, sharing, and commenting on the post. From that, my profile views shot up too. Today, three weeks after sharing, the post has over 1900 likes, and is still growing.

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So, there you have it folks. Reading is great for the mind, for the soul, and for your social media presence!

Ben Butler is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, now working at Stripe. Recently bitten by the blogging bug, his posts are available on LinkedIn and Medium.

Follow Ben on Twitter @bengbutler.


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