Lessons from Red Notice (now one of my all-time favorite books)

“Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice” by Bill Browder just became one of my all-time favorite books. It combines almost everything I like reading about all into one book. 

Inspires to be a better person and do good in the world? Check. 
Contains lessons about investing and business? Check. 
Teaches about interesting history? Check. 
Exposes evil and corruption? Check. 
Gripping like a Mitch Rapp or Jack Reacher spy novel? Check. 
Makes me appreciate the life that I have? Check. 
Couldn’t put it down? Check. 

It would make a great fiction novel, but the crazy thing is that it’s a true story. 

It starts out like an autobiography. It’s important (and interesting) to understand how the author rebelled against his American Communist leader grandfather and far left-leaning parents by becoming an ardent capitalist who built the biggest hedge fund in Russia.  

Early in his career he becomes interested in Eastern Europe at around the time the Berlin Wall came down. While based in London and working on consulting projects in Eastern Europe, he discovers companies being privatized at insanely low valuations. 

He saw huge opportunity to invest in Russian privatization. After having difficulty convincing his employers to invest in Russia, he sets up his own hedge fund. He becomes wildly successful, which made him the target of corrupt Russian oligarchs and even Putin himself. Instead of backing down, he embarks on a crusade to fight the corruption.

After discovering and trying to expose a massive fraud by government officials, he gets banned from the country and his local companies stolen. His Russian lawyer gets arrested, tortured and eventually murdered in prison. His efforts to make the perpetrators pay leads to Congress passing a law imposing sanctions on Russian officials. This leads to a retaliatory law passed by Putin’s government banning Americans from adopting Russian children. 

This is this short version of an incredible story that I recommend you read yourself. Here are a few lessons I learned from the book. 

Don’t be afraid to choose your own path

Browder came from a long family history of far left political views. His grandfather was a Communist and his parents leaned far left. He wasn’t afraid to break that mold by becoming a capitalist. I’m not suggesting rebellion just for the sake of rebellion, but we should have the courage to choose the path that fits us best rather than simply complying with tradition. 

Choose a destination even when you don’t know how you will get there

The author decided early in his life that he was going to be a capitalist and early in his career that he wanted to do business in Eastern Europe. He didn’t know how he would get there, but having that goal made him ready to jump on opportunities as they arose. He actively sought chances to go in that direction, such as taking jobs with firms involved in Eastern Europe and making colleagues aware of his interest. 

Don’t back down from a fight

When the Russian oligarchs began targeting his investments and stealing his companies, he didn’t back down. He let them know that he wasn’t going to be an easy target. He used hard work, creativity, and relationships to fight back. 

Remain loyal to your convictions

Browder’s Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, valiantly fought for his client and for his convictions against corruption. Although his friends warned him to get out of Russia before something bad happened, he resolved to stay and fight. Further, after Magnitsky was arrested, Browder fought until the day Magnitsky died to get him out of prison. After his death, Browder fought for years to bring some measure of justice to those responsible. 

But count the cost

On the flip side of these lessons, it’s also important to count the cost. Don’t be afraid to fight, but make sure the fight is worth it. Remain loyal, but make sure loyalties in one area don’t override more important areas. For example, where doing both is not possible, remaining loyal to your work is not as important as remaining loyal to your family. 

I encourage you to put Red Notice on your reading list. It not only reads like a gripping novel, it’s a true story that will open your eyes to evil and corruption in the world. It will teach you lessons about life and business and hopefully inspire you to do a little more good. 

Question: What did you learn from the book?