It was a book by Donald Trump I’d picked it up because I had a strong desire to conquer the “money thing.” The best I can remember, it was the first book after college I read on my own compulsion. I wish I could say that it sparked a hunger for lifetime learning, but alas, either Donald wasn’t that compelling, or I wasn’t ready, but it accomplished nothing. Next I remember reading part of a book on US Presidents and their secret wars. Next came an insider’s account of the Mafia. Broad, unfocused, and spanning at least a couple years, this reading was seasoned with a heavy dose of motorcycle magazines.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t read. It wasn’t that I didn’t like to read. It was just that nobody, anywhere, at any time during my six years and two degrees of education had ever gotten it through my skull (nor even tried, truth be told) that reading is one of the most important habits for lifetime growth. At best, I considered reading to be a pass-time, something one did on the beach, airplane, or at moments of boredom. At worst, I considered it a waste of time. What could possibly be beneficial about sitting around reading when one could be out doing?
Then my business association with Orrin Woodward began and he and other business leaders taught me the importance of a self-directed education. I learned that the right kind of reading isn’t a pass-time, but rather one of the best routes to fulfilling our natural hunger for gaining understanding, insight, and perspective. I also learned that although passive in appearance, reading is one of the activities that most awakens the brain, thereby ultimately leading the person to action – the best kind of action – the kind controlled by clear thought. In effect, reading correctly and with a purpose becomes a strategic weapon in a competitive world. Let’s face it: it’s the Information Age. Without the right information properly applied, one cannot hope to compete. There will simply be too many others willing to do the work to learn what they need to know to excel instead. In short, one of the biggest secrets to high achievement in life is to make reading your weapon of preparation.
I could go on, but my goal here is not to convince you of all the advantages of reading. Instead, I’d like to draw a distinction for you: don’t simply read, study. Here are some suggestions for making your reading much more effective:
1. Read the right kinds of books, with the specific intent of improving yourself as a person. You can (and probably should) read certain books just for their entertainment value. But these should be seasoning, sprinkled in among the more edifying works.
2. Read about both the principles and specifics in the area of your profession, vocation, or passion (blessed is the person who aligns all three).
3. Read broadly across many genres. Allow me to recommend some categories: Leadership (of course), Success, Theology, History, Economics, the Classics, Politics and Freedom, Finances and Investing.
4. Be reading through several books at any given time. This keeps any one author’s voice from becoming too tedious and extends the amount of time you can read and stay fresh and engaged.
5. Devour your books. Underline passages, make notes in the margin, summarize key thoughts, outline important points in the blank pages at the back, etc. In other words, make the book your own. Adding all these markings draws a deeper understanding as you read the book the first time, provides a succinct summary to review before putting the completed book back upon the shelf, and makes future reference much easier.
6. Ask yourself for each book read: What were the author’s key points and how can I apply them to my life right now?
7. Write the date you begin reading a book inside the front cover.
8. Keep a journal that includes a list tracking the books you’ve read. Record the title, author, genre, and date you finished reading each book. This allows, in one glance, a quick indication of the size and scope of your reading.
9. Promote books to others and help people solve problems and improve their lives by directing them to the books that have provided answers you’ve found helpful.
10. Make reading a priority. Eliminate the ‘good’ activities from your crowded schedule and make room for the ‘great.’
One may be tempted to think that a list such as this represents a lot of work. I would like to suggest that nothing could be further from the truth. As the saying goes, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work another day in your life.” What you will discover is that reading of this calibre becomes an enjoyable passion all its own. That’s because it will apply directly to improving your thoughts, knowledge, and understanding. It will increase your prowess and attitude. It will inspire you to dig deeper into mysteries and areas totally dark to you previously. One great book will lead to another. One deep insight will lead to further break-through thoughts and distinctions. Reading to the point of study will become a habit for lifetime growth, and a sustainable advantage few will ever match.
You don’t have to believe me. As a matter of fact, I don’t expect you to. If you are anything like I was as a young man, you’ve dabbled in a book or two and can barely relate to what I’m positing in this article. This is one of those things, however, where “try it, you’ll like it” rings true. Dig in. Start reading with a purpose. See for yourself how it develops into a passion. Watch the progress you’ll make in life. Not only will you be hooked – you’ll be hooked up. You’ll be joining the “great conversation’ among the strongest thinkers, the deepest probers, and the loftiest dreamers of the human existence.