What Ernest Hemingway taught me about business

There's honour in the struggle, says Nodal Labs founder Oliver Hibbs-Brockway.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 21 Aug 2019
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Food for thought

As part of a new series, Management Today is asking bosses to reflect on the books that changed their approach to business. 

First up is Oliver Hibbs-Brockway, who founded freelance recruitment platform Nodal Labs in May 2017, after a career as a stockbroker, vodka distiller and fixture of the German tech scene.

"The first and most valuable for me is The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. 

"It was given to me by someone who had a huge impact on my life, but when I read it I was frustrated by how it ended. The protagonist, Santiago, forms a deeply moving, compassionate relationship with the marlin. Though it’s the greatest catch of his life, he ends up with nothing (the marlin is eaten by sharks) but he still goes to sleep with a smile on his face. 

"This value in this story for me lies in the honour of struggle, defeat and proud acquittal. Hemingway illustrates that victory is not a prerequisite for honour, and that true success in itself is in having the pride to see something through regardless of its outcome. This has always served as a lesson to me on true commitment and focus.

"The second is Principles by Ray Dalio, the economist, philanthropist and founder of Bridgewater Associates.

"In the book, Dalio explains that everything is like a machine - you feed something in, the machine runs its mechanism and we can learn from the output, constantly tweaking until we get the desired result. 

"He codifies life in this way but also likens it to nature, in the sense that forward motion is evolutionary. 

"Evolve or die. This always stuck with me as a reminder to embrace change and ensure things are constantly moving, that my own machine is monitored and tweaked to get better and better results each time." 

Image credit: NARA (public domain)

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