Back in grade school, we were required to read books, which was often followed by that hefty book report that made you (and perhaps some other family members) lose some sleep the night before it was due. Fast forward a few years, and you may have found yourself engulfed in a trendy chapter book series (shout out to all the Harry Potter fans out there) or maybe even a biography of your favorite athlete or role model. But do you remember the first book you read that really inspired you? Or one that gave you a new push for motivation? Or just simply changed the way you view challenges or opportunities?
Looking across the nation, Americans read fewer and fewer books every year. In fact, a 2017 study found that only 43% of US adults currently read literature that is not specifically required for work or school.(1) On the flip side, another study shows that active readers are more likely to have annual incomes that are five times greater than those who spend little or no time reading.(2)
So why (and how) do successful professionals and leaders such as Warren Buffet and Bill Gates find the time to read? Here are just a few of the benefits we have heard from them that highlight the reason they continue turning those pages: (3)
- Builds Knowledge – Warren Buffet says, “Read 500 pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”
- Promotes Time Management – understanding that every single person has 1,440 minutes in a day turns into the question, how do you spend that time? Even if you spend just 20 minutes a day reading, that turns into 7,300 minutes a year (or just over 121 hours) of reading.
- Gain a Competitive Edge – Mark Cuban quotes, “I feel like if I put in enough time consuming all the information available, particularly with the net making it so readily available, I can get an advantage in any technology business.” The data points above also prove that by simply reading, it already sets you apart from others.
- Reliable Source of Information – Bill Gates says that he can travel anywhere and meet with anyone, but reading is still the main way he learns new things and tests his knowledge.
- Sparks Passions – Tony Robbins says reading sparked a passion inside of him. “I took a speed-reading course and read 700 books in seven years – all on psychology, physiology, anything that could make a difference in life.”
Although these leaders have found time in their busy schedules, one of the most common reasons people fail to read these days is lack of time or energy. Luckily, nowadays reading is not just limited to a library setting.
Audio books are incredibly popular for those constantly on the go. Whether you have a long commute in the car, are working out on the elliptical at the gym or just tune in while going for a quick lunchtime walk, this is a great way to listen to books on the go.
Another alternative is to subscribe to book summary sites, such as getflashnotes.com or Paul Minors book summaries. Here you can read a CliffNotes version of books, usually in under 20 minutes. By simply blocking 30 minutes one day a week, you can dig into some great reads and continue to grow your knowledge base and outlook.
Last, but not least, is the conventional reading of hard-copy books or ebooks. With busy professional and personal lifestyles, you really need to carve out dedicated time to do so. Either by going and finding a comfy spot at the public library or posting up at a local coffee shop with a cup of joe, this is a great way to not only read, but also relax. In fact, this simple act of dedicating some “me” time can go a long way for your health and well-being.
Another approach is to dedicate time to turn a few pages right before going to bed. This technique has actually been proven to help you sleep better at night, and both supports and encourages a consistent daily routine. Whatever suits you best, the key is to continue self-learning through different books to broaden your view and develop new ideas.
So what books are worth your time? Of course you can Google it and find many great options (although this can get overwhelming pretty quick with all the options and opinions out there). You can also use online tools such as Goodreads, which allows you to enter titles or genres of books you enjoy and it will provide suggestions, or WhichBook, which uses the specific criteria you enter to find relevant book matches. Or, here is a tried-and-true list of the Top 15 Business Books for Achieving Success provided by LifeHack (2):
- Zero to One, by Peter Thiel & Blake Masters
- Leaders Eat Last, by Simon Sinek
- The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, by Walter Isaacson
- Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, by Nir Eyal
- Mindset, by Carol Dweck
- Crazy Is a Compliment, by Linda Rottenberg
- The Happiness of Pursuit, by Chris Guillebeau
- Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want, by Alexander Osterwalder
- How to Speak Money, by John Lanchester
- The 7 Day Startup, by Dan Norris and Rob Walling
- Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, by Jeff Sutherland
- How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life, by Russ Roberts
- Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, by John C Maxwell
- Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, by Liz Wiseman
- Entrepreneurial Strengths Finder, by Jim Clifton and Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal
This list could go on-and-on because luckily, there is no shortage of great books out there to peak your curiosity, challenge your thinking and open your mind up to new ideas.
In addition to fueling your professional growth, reading has also been known to provide long-term heath benefits, such as decreasing stress, depression, and dementia. It also can be contributed to enhancing confidence, empathy, decision-making and overall life satisfaction. (4)
So don’t make excuses and find reasons not to read. Instead, turn it around and find new ways to get involved in the conversation. There are great opportunities to join book clubs, LinkedIn groups or even blog about new ideas you come across. Because at the end of the day, inspiration is a powerful thing that drives not just ourselves, but those around us too.