Your Future Depends On Your Reading List

“He who graduates today, and stops learning tomorrow, is uneducated the day after.”
Newton D. Baker (1871-1937) politician

You may be an oddball … and not even know it. On one episode of the “Today Show,” the announcer said, with breathless excitement, “Coming up next, we’ll interview the woman who read a book a week for a year and has written her own book about the experience.” Apparently, if you’re an avid reader, you’re an anomaly.

Sad but true. Despite our vehement attacks on illiteracy, not very many people take the time to read … to really read. We’re becoming a society that wants to have all our information spoon fed to us. We want the news to be digested for us in a quick and simple Internet e-mail or TV sound bite. And we limit our reading to headlines, stock quotes, and sports scores.

Of course, you may think, “What’s the big deal?” You may think I’m sounding rather old-fashioned and stodgy, pushing reading in a world that is so busy and so filled with electronic messages.

The big deal is if you skip reading … you lose the ability to interpret, evaluate, and consider information for yourself. You lose the ability to think. Or as actor Paul Frank (1901-1983) said, “The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it’s unfamiliar territory.”

I’m finding that more and more people want other people to do their reading and thinking for them. I see it all the time in my speaking and consulting business. I see it in individuals who want me to help them achieve their goals, and I see it in managers, leaders, and executives who want me to help them excel.

When such people come to me, I often start by asking them a number of questions. I want to know what books they’ve read, what seminars they’ve attended, and what CD’s they’ve listened to in pursuit of their goals. I’m delighted by the number of people who seek me out and ask questions on how to be more successful in their professional or personal lives, but I’m frequently dismayed by their lack of reading, homework and research.

For example, I got an e-mail from a man the other day who had several goals he wanted to achieve. He wanted to build a stronger team at work, a healthier relationship at home, and a bigger bank account overall. He wanted to move up in his company, enhance his leadership skills, and not lose his work-life balance in the process. He wanted me to tell him how to achieve all of that.

And I certainly could. That’s what my JOURNEY TO THE EXTRAORDINARY experience is all about.

So I asked the man what books he had been reading on these subjects. He sputtered and hesitated. Then said he was too busy to read. And I asked him which seminars he had attended to gain the success skills he needed. He responded that he didn’t have the money — or didn’t want to spend the money — on seminars. The bottom line was he had done nothing, zip, zero to move himself in the direction of achieving his goals.

I don’t mean to sound too harsh, but his answers were pathetic. After all, just about anyone can become competent at just about anything. There are books, seminars, CD’s, newsletters, teachers, coaches, and associations that can offer an abundance of information on any skill you want to acquire or on any problem you want to resolve.

Put simply, ignorance on any subject is fixable. Stupidity … on the other hand … well, that’s another story. If you want to have more, you’ve got to become more. And part of that becoming will require additional reading on your part. Here’s what I’ve learned.

=> 1. Readers Maintain A Healthy Curiosity.

Forget the old adage that “curiosity killed the cat.” Curiosity is the very thing that uncovers opportunities and makes people financially secure.

Through reading, you put varied ideas, viewpoints, examples, and the experiences of other people into your mind. It’s the raw material through which your subconscious mind will sift, sort, and match up with other pieces of data so you can occasionally yell out “Holy Cow” as you find something valuable.

Key point: You can’t make something out of nothing. You can’t pull success out of the air. You’ve got to start with some raw material. And that means you’ve got to read. Reading feeds your mind and keeps your curiosity working for you.

=> 2. Readers Take Advantage of O.P.E.

Unlike so many other people, readers don’t have to learn everything the hard way. They don’t have to go through the painstaking process of trial and error. Readers use “O.P.E.” or “Other People’s Experience” … so they move ahead much more quickly.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that ALL you have to do is read and you’ll be successful. No! There are lots of people who sit on their butts, and read, read, read … but that’s ALL they ever do. You’ve got to add action to the O.P.E. you get.

As Ivan R. Misner, a business leader, notes, “Working hard is only the first part of success. Making good choices is the second part, and it truly takes both to achieve success at whatever you do.” And good choices, I might add, come from reading the right books and attending the right classes.

=> 3. Readers Are More Fully Alive.

You see it in kids and adults alike. The kid who reads is often asking hundreds of questions a day. He’s filled with energy, creativity, and a zest for life. You won’t find nearly as much enthusiasm in the child who spends most of his time watching TV or playing video games.

The same goes for adults. The adult who doesn’t read or who doesn’t expose himself to other people’s thinking, soon finds his own range of thoughts shrinking in size. He becomes … in the classic sense … rather narrow minded … not to mention out of date … which is a far cry from being fully alive.

I implore you to read … and to read BEFORE you need to. I can’t tell you how many people have written to me and said they could have built an incredible work team or saved their marriage … if they had read my book on “Brave Questions: Building Stronger Relationships By Asking All The Right Questions” … BEFORE they had all their problems.

And many others have told me they wished they had read my book on “PIVOT” How One Turn In Attitude Can Lead To Success” years BEFORE. It would have made their lives a whole lot easier and a great deal more successful.

And yes, if you’re a reader, you may be an oddball … because so few people bother to read. But as I study success and successful people, if you’re a reader, you’re on the ball.

Action:  There’s obviously too much good stuff to read in the world. So find a way to discover the truly excellent stuff and get in the habit of reading at least one of those excellent books each month.