Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always enjoyed reading. I was never a full blown bookworm but I read sporadically throughout my childhood covering topics of interest such as sports biographies and non-fiction. Emerging into early adulthood culminated in casting away this habit of reading about life and do more of living it. Inevitably I overindulged. On finishing college, I became painfully aware of how little I knew about the world. Books helped me find innumerable answers to the most vexing of questions.
Living life is great. However, you only ever really get to experience a small corner of the world. You can’t be everything, everyone, and everywhere no matter how long you live. Reading makes this possible though. You can transport yourself into a different world or another person’s shoes. This allows you to live their life, experience their struggles and see the world from a fresh perspective.
The Benefits of Reading
In the last year, I’ve read more about business, psychology, humanity and achievement books than any scholar. I quell any anxious thoughts of this representing wasted time by telling myself that Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and most successful entrepreneurs allude to their success coming from an unquenchable appetite for books. Now, I can only hope for the same success but I don’t regret “wasting” my time reading.
I spent a recent Sunday(hungover) listening to the audiobook Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. Those 7 hours were probably someone else’s working day. But I’m unrepentant. The knowledge gleaned from this book and many others have more than filled my intellectual cup priming me for the reality of creating a successful and lasting business. If I don’t succeed at least I can’t say it wasn’t for lacking the knowledge. Any Entrepreneur needs to both know and play the game.
So, yes I read and you should too. Here are some of the many great reasons you should drag those heels to the nearest library and pick up a book. Any book! And create a new habit that will reap the benefits for your business, professional or social life.
Harvest Other People’s Knowledge
Books are a powerful beacon of knowledge. But knowledge and information are useless if they aren’t applied. Ever since I entertained thoughts of entrepreneurship, I became a voracious reader. Since I started a business this leaning has not ceased. In fact, I often have to dampen my quest for more by balancing with the reality of needing to actually do stuff.
As with everything in life, you do need balance. If you spend all your life behind a book you’ll acquire enormous knowledge but you’ll never have experienced anything. Knowing what to do and actually doing it are two very different sides of the same coin. Experience teaches our brain that we can do it and instils confidence in our abilities.
The best minds and business people all have books detailing what they did to achieve success. You’d be a fool not to make use of them. Read their stories. Learn from their experiences. Then take your own lessons from the books. You should never mindlessly take someone else’s advice. Listen, then dissect the information and see if its relevant to you or your business or something you agree with. The world is full of people who’ve never done anything but eager to tell you how to do everything. But you can learn from anyone. Even if its a determination to never be like them.
Enhance Your Vocabulary
I keep an empty a4 hardback beside me when I read. Any words or phrases I hear yet don’t understand or especially impress on me, then I jot down. This gives me my own personal vessel of knowledge to access when writing blogs. It also reinforces the words to me. Writing information down makes you more likely to remember them.
I use the word read but often this means listening as I consume as many audiobooks as physical books. Audiobooks are great as they are much much faster to consume than reading as audiobooks require less cognitive effort. But listening can be difficult as it requires active attention. Having a copybook with you forces you to listen for great examples of vocabulary use, grammar or important quotes to jot down.
The end result is you find yourself using words in conversations or blogs you’ve never used before. Your vocabulary expands.
Learn From Other People’s Experiences
This ties in with using books to ethically plunder and purge other people’s knowledge. It also helps you learn from their mistakes which allows your ship to avoid sailing the same hazardous waters and running aground.
I’ve just finished reading a book on military leadership. Now, I’ve never been a soldier and hopefully will never be one. But knowing how to handle such an environment can prove beneficial in life. Many lessons in the military also carry into the business field – leadership and discipline being two great examples. Books put you in places and environments outside your comfort zone which is the only place you’ll learn. A wider base of experiences also stimulates creativity.
Spikes Strategic Thinking
Ever since I sharpened my reading skills, I’ve become so much more strategic in my thoughts. I’ve always been someone with a wandering brain which never turns off, perpetually thinking. Reading has helped me calm this mental noise at times while directing it in areas which help me solve problems for my business or others. Overthinking can be dangerous but can also be extraordinarily powerful if utilised effectively in the professional world. If you out think your competition, you’re more able to out manoeuvre them.
Reading books helps you analyse the whole business field before you. If you read books about human nature and psychology it will also help you know yourself better. This can help you to trick your monkey brain and get more done or handle situations better. Bonus tip: It also makes handling difficult people really easy!
Boost Problem Solving Skills
The wealth of knowledge accumulated from books can make you more cautious yet also brave in equal measure. Your familiar in situations you’ve never been in before because you’ve read books from people who’ve been through it. You understand how others have solved problems in their business and can query or test if similar solutions apply in your business. Marketing books, start-up books, psychology books, put together and you get a powerful cocktail of information to help you create a successful business.
Books help you understand issues more easily and can pool together knowledge to help you find infinite solutions. Want to start a business but don’t have the money? Read a book on starting a business on a budget. Having trouble getting people to visit your store or try your product? Buy a marketing book.
Books provide you with the wonderful ability to live another person’s life. When I read Nelson Mandela’s book it helped me understand the trials and tribulations he faced as a black man in South Africa. It also impressed how to handle struggles and persecutions with dignity and fight your way against oppression. Not to mention he provides ample anecdotal evidence of what you need to be a great leader in any field.
Books make you more empathic. You get to know someone else’s side of the story. You understand how they feel as a fellow human being. In a world purported to be in the midst of a narcissism epidemic, books will be an important tool to help you fight against your own drifts towards self-centricity. This compounds and aids your understanding of life outside the bubble of your own emotions, thoughts and feelings. This opens you up to feedback and advice often valuable currency in the business world and life.
If I have reached you and you’re considering picking up a book then consider accessing one of my blogs on the subject. 10 Books Every Start-Up Entrepreneur Must Read and 10 Inspiring Books To Read While You’re Still Young provide great examples of where you should start.