Confession time: I’ve always been somewhat of a geek.
Not only have I always looked the part (I’ve been wearing glass since I was 3), I was that kid who actually asked my teacher for extra homework. I would do math problems for fun, practice cursive before they taught it in class, and always had my nose buried in a book. I still remember teachers scolding me for not paying attention in class because I was too busy getting swept away in yet another fantastical adventure.
Even after the novelty of school wore off, and I joined my peers in common hatred of all things classroom-oriented, I still enjoyed reading. So when got involved in businesses that pretty much required I read, I figured, “Piece of cake. I’m an awesome reader.”
Boy, was I wrong.
Turns out there’s a difference between fiction and non-fiction. Fiction books were an escape. I could be anywhere I wanted, hang out with anyone I wanted, all from the comfort of a cozy chair inside a fortress of solitude. Non-fiction, on the other hand, seemed to accomplish just the opposite. Not only was it not an escape, but every word I read made me more and more uncomfortable; it presented a concept that was a lot easier to ignore when my parents were suggesting a try it: growth.
That pesky little voice in your head.
I once heard someone say that when we read, we hear our own voice talking to us. While it may be easy to ignore what someone else says, it’s really hard to ignore ourselves. We tend to believe what we say. So we can either use that to our advantage or disadvantage. According to Harry S. Truman, “not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers,” and what those leaders read is a huge factor into what kind of leaders they will be.
“[R]eading isn’t a pass-time, but rather one of the best routes to fulfilling our natural hunger for gaining understanding, insight, and perspective…one of the biggest secrets to high achievement in life is to make reading your weapon of preparation…don’t simply read, study.” – Chris Brady, the number 12 leadership guru in the world and co-author of the New York Times best selling book, Launching a Leadership Revolution.
10 suggestions for effective reading
Brady goes on to list 10 suggestions for making your reading much more effective, which I will re-list here. Who better learn from than a the masters, right?
- 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.
- Read about both the principles and specifics in the area of your profession, vocation, or passion (blessed is the person who aligns all three).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ask yourself for each book read: What were the author’s key points and how can I apply them to my life right now?
- Write the date you begin reading a book inside the front cover.
- 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.
- 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.
- Make reading a priority. Eliminate the ‘good’ activities from your crowded schedule and make room for the ‘great.’
Reading stimulates the brain in a way no amount of television ever could. So go ahead. I dare you. Start reading on purpose and see where it takes you.