Why You Should Start Every Year by Reading a Biography

If you’re making goals, you’re probably not meeting most of them. A systems-based approach to life (where you combine useful skills and behaviors on a routine basis) makes more sense. One part of your success system should be starting each new year with the biography of a successful man.

Why? Because quite frankly, today’s education system sucks. It’s only there to do two things:

  1. Cram isolated facts into your head to prepare for a test, most of which you’ll forget afterward.
  2. Flood your mind with as much politically correct propaganda as possible.

The result is that we have an entire generation of men with no connection to the past, present, or future. They’re disconnected from themselves as much as they are their heritage. It’s no wonder soyboys are legion.

A new kind of educational system is desperately needed. One component of that system should be for you to read a biography of a great titan every year.

To be a great man you need to learn from the great men that came before you. And you need to learn about them not in the superficial way you’re taught in school. More important than learning the facts of what they did is how they did it, what their habits and skills were, and what their personalities and mindsets were. None of this is ever taught to you in school.

Colossus of Rhodes
To be a colossus, you have to learn from previous ones.

Were you taught, for instance, that Caesar had an unrivaled social intelligence? No, you weren’t. That isn’t in any textbook you got in school. You only learned that he crossed the Rubicon and was eventually assassinated.

You need to associate with great men, not just read a bulleted list of facts.

You should read at least one big biography of a great man (or perhaps his memoirs) every year. The best time for you to do it is in the winter, since you’ll likely be inside with few distractions. For those of you in the northern hemisphere, that’s right at the start of a new year.

The new year is the best time for you to read a sizable biography because you can start your work for that year with a fresh perspective, reinvigorated with the knowledge of a titan in history, and able to apply it to your pursuits. Think of it as adding someone else’s powers to your own.

For instance, this year, I began with Titan, a biography of John D. Rockefeller, the richest man in American history. You’ll see me review it here soon. I’m only halfway through it, but I’ve learned many crucial things already. I’ll tease you with two.

  1. Don’t crush your competitors – hire them.
  2. The way to exercise maximum leverage is to be in a position of influence over the joints of your industry, especially transport.

Will you learn any of these things in school? No. You’ll learn that something random is racist.

This is why it’s important for you to read biographies of the movers and shakers of the world. Along with the Classics, they’re part of your real education.


You should read biographies of successful people because you’ll learn the reasons why they were successful. You won’t from your schooling.

Successful people aren’t always the smartest in the world but they eagerly learned all the information they required in their fields. That included learning from the great men that came before them, as Louis XIV said:

“The example of illustrious men provides very useful perspectives for war and peace, so that a naturally great and generous soul, contemplating these actions, would be inspired by them and ensure that the lessons of history can inspire others as well.”

“I have heard it said that all the great heroes of the past were conversant with literature and that part of their greatness was due to their literary study. Particularly I found the study of the past to be very useful in becoming wise in the art of war…”

“It is not sufficient for a prince who wishes to distinguish himself from others merely to know what is passing in his own time, but that he ought also to inform himself of every remarkable circumstance which took place at a more remote period. I considered that the knowledge of those great events which have taken place in different centuries, when meditated upon by a solid and active mind, would tend to fortify his reason in all important deliberations; that the example of those illustrious men and singular achievements which antiquity furnishes us with, would supply with useful hints either for war or peace, and that a generous and enlightened mind, intent on the ideas of those glowing virtues, would ever find a stimulus to the practice of great actions.”

Taking up the Sun King’s habit has been immensely helpful. I advise you to do the same.

You can start now with Stumped. Though not a complete biography, it will show you how Donald Trump succeeded against all odds, and what’s more, how his success was actually predictable.