Reading — in addition to being plain fun — can make you a better (smarter, more informed, satisfied) person. In my experience successful people are often voracious readers.
All successful people I know have one thing in common: they never stop learning.
That’s why so many CEOs, thought leaders, and politicians read so frequently. There’s a limit to how much time, money, and effort people are able to dedicate to formal education, which is why reading voraciously, as part of a dedicated personal routine, is one keystone of lifelong personal development.
I call it personal development because a big part of what you learn from reading is about yourself. I’m a student of writing and of words — reading helps me understand who I am, how I should approach my writing, and what I want to focus my attention on outside of my literary ambitions.
But that, of course, is not the only benefit of reading.
Reading keeps your mind balanced and sharp
The most successful people are both scientists and artists — they utilize both the left and right brain. As such, they consciously nurture both sides of the coin, often through reading.
One approach is to actively read both fiction and nonfiction. This is advice I give regularly: immerse yourself in the worlds and adventures of books like James Clavell’s Shogun: The Epic Novel of Japan, and educate yourself with biographies and intelligent opinions — such as Dwight Eisenhower’s account of World War II, Crusade in Europe, which I’m reading now.
Reading instills discipline
Reading doesn’t just strengthen or nurture both parts of our brain — it strengthens more intangible skills, too. For one, reading can make you more disciplined and foster an appreciation for learning and growth.
How, exactly? Well, people who make the decision to read everyday are actively deciding to engage, improve, and challenge their brains instead of doing more passive activities, like surfing YouTube videos or binge-watching Netflix.
That’s why some of our most effective presidents, for example, have made reading a personal priority. When President Obama was in office, he talked about how books were a sustaining source of ideas and inspiration during his terms. Books helped focus him amidst the maelstrom of world crises and 24-hour cable news analysis. Books also gave him a renewed appreciation for the complexities and ambiguities of the human condition.
That’s precisely what reading does. It’s why we see so many leaders in so many different verticals of human activity devote time to reading.
Reading benefits your business
There’s one last benefit that most people don’t associate with reading, and that’s the manner in which it can actively benefit your professional life.
For one thing, reading encourages curiosity. And people who are curious are, more often than not, high achievers. Understanding this, you yourself can use reading to feed your curiosity and acquire more knowledge.
But you can also apply this awareness to elements of your business life, like honing your hiring practices. At BookBaby, when we’re hiring a potential candidate, I always ask, “What are you reading right now?” or “What have you read in the last six months?” I know reading behavior can be a barometer in measuring a person’s level of curiosity, discipline, and zeal for learning — and curious, disciplined people who are hungry to learn are the sort I want in my company.
I don’t particularly care what these candidates are reading. I just want to see that they are reading.
It’s also true that reading helps people improve as communicators. As a student of writing, I appreciate great communication, and as the CEO of a publishing company, I see it as something of a requirement. A writer who communicates effectively with his or her audience can help readers do the same in their own lives.
At the end of the day, reading provides a variety of tangible and intangible benefits — for both the mind and the soul — and the simple awareness of this fact is the most obvious reason successful people prioritize it as a means of professional and personal development.
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