Over 400 years old…
Almost 1,000 pages long…
10 years in the making…
More than 500 million copies sold – making it, still, the best-selling novel of all time…
(Harry Potter? Pah! Don’t even. Series total sales don’t count)
I’m talking of course about ‘El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha’…
Otherwise known simply as ‘Don Quixote’
Yes, that big-azz book about two blokes (one possibly mad) riding around Spain getting into endless scrapes in the name of improving the world around them.
You know, windmills and donkeys and stuff.*
At 992 pages it may be the daunting source of thousands of literature students’ nightmares…
But there’s a good reason why director Terry Gilliam spent the best part of 30 years struggling like a man possessed to bring his recent version of Cervantes’ epic novel to the screen.
Don Quixote has also just been voted #7 in the BBC’s 100 stories that shaped the world, as a tale that has “endured across generations and continents – and changed society”.
And there’s gold in those dusty pages for entrepreneurs and biz-owners, too…
^^ This is the original title page from the book that inspired a thousand quests for truth, justice, revolution and independence…
…making it an unlikely key text for freelancers & entrepreneurs – even if many would rather be downloading the latest Jeff Bozos bio to their Kindle, or re-reading the Four-Second Workweek again.
But what’s that you say…
You don’t care about the ancient scribblings of an imprisoned Spaniard?
You couldn’t give two donkey-droppings about a book even your high-school English teacher considered “too long, just read the Cliffs Notes”?
Well, stay with me.
Cuz even if you’ve never opened this doorstop of a novel, don’t worry:
I’m about to save you 345,390 words of reading…
To give you the lowdown on why a book first published in 1605 can still be an inspiration to entrepreneurs and marketers like us who want to ‘Sell Unique’ in the 21st century.
Call me crazy, call me a lunatic, call me a windmill-tilter (one for the literature grads there)…
…I’m mounting my faithful keyboard (um, not literally) and sallying forth.
Well, read this wonderful quote from the English translation of Donny Q and see if it doesn’t appeal to your rebellious, entrepreneurial spirit:
When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies?
Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness.
Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”
Powerful stuff, right?
“To surrender dreams – this may be madness”
What biz-owner hasn’t felt that way when all seems lost and their passion project has looked in danger of dying on the vine?
Which freelancer hasn’t woken up at 3am wondering if they shouldn’t just pack it all in and settle for the safety of a J.O.B.?
Show me the entrepreneur who hasn’t looked at what the regular folks say is “just a windmill, dude” and instead seen an angry giant to be slain…
We’re all united in our desire to “see life… as it should be.”
Because Don Quixote is really about following your dream when everyone else says you’ll fail…
…but you do it anyway.
It’s about doing things your way, whatever it takes, because you KNOW you’re destined to be different…
You KNOW you have something more to offer than just toeing the line and settling for someone else’s story…
…you want to write your own.
That’s what Selling Unique is all about.
When you KNOW deep down, even when the odds are stacked against you, that there are people out there who need rescuing, and you’re the only knight who can save them.
Your customers RELY ON your unique ability to see life as it should be, to help them overcome their challenges.
Sometimes, like the frequently-battered (and occasionally incarcerated) Don, we pay for our devotion to the cause in bruises and scars…
But here’s another key quote:
The wounds received in battle bestow honour, they do not take it away.”
You should wear your scars with pride
Display them on your About page and in your company bio…
People want, even need to hear your Romantic tales of uphill struggle, of the giants YOU’VE fought in the name of truth and justice.
Nobody expects you to be perfect.
Perfect is boring.
We want our entrepreneurs and business pioneers to be a little… eccentric. To inspire us.
We’re drawn to the dreamers, the persistent, the battered but never broken, who repeatedly get back on their horse and charge again.
Because, as Cervantes wrote in Don Quixote:
Until death it is all life.”
And how you live yours is a key part of your business story.
People want to read it.
Go write it!
* PS – despite the flippant tone, I actually read Don Quixote once.
Every. Last. Page.
People are always surprised when I reveal my nerdy boast. But I wear this stat proudly like a medal of book-wormery.
It took me two whole summers (it was originally published in two volumes, 10 years apart, so I didn’t feel too bad about taking a year’s break) and for a while there I felt like I’d taken on my own insane/impossible, never-ending Quixotic challenge…
But I’m persistent when it comes to reading ‘difficult’ fiction.
I rarely give up on a novel, no matter how long (I’m a big fan of Stephen King’s IT) and there was something about the dusty Spanish middle-ages atmosphere that kept drawing me back in…
Hey, have you ever battled your way through a book but found it deeply rewarding in the end?
Hit me up in the comments!
I’d love to hear what epic but illuminating tales fellow readers recommend.