Why I Read and Why You Should Too

I have a friend who drinks apple cider vinegar every morning. He says it does two things: gives him really bad breath and keeps him healthy. There is not a ton of scientific research to back his second claim but I can’t remember him ever being sick. I tried taking ACV myself but it tastes so nasty I chased it with a mint and quit after one dose. I’m sticking with the health benefits of good ol’ H2O.

A lot of people treat reading like apple cider vinegar. They suspect it would be good for them but there seem to be so many better options out there. That used to be me.

When I was in my mid 20’s I remember an older leader asking me what I was currently reading. At the time I was an avid reader of Sports Illustrated, but of little else. I didn’t have a good answer so I said something about being too busy trying to learn my job and be a husband and new father. I justified my lack of reading because of my stage in life.

The truth was I just didn’t like reading and it wasn’t a priority in my life. Looking back at that era I must admit I had less success in my job than I have had in any job since. While there were other contributing factors, I know if I had been more committed to self leadership and personal growth through reading I would have been a much better leader of others.

For the last several years, I have read a book a month, but this year I am on pace to double that output. I am not a fast reader but I am learning to show up every day and give time to this discipline. Here are some of the results I have enjoyed from my reading.

Reading makes me a better leader.

I’ve heard all the quotes: “Readers are leaders; and leaders are readers.” “Your growth will determine your capacity to lead.” “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read.” “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

The more I read the more I realize these statements are true. Most of the books I read are about leadership. I have ample opportunities at home, work, church and in the community to apply the leadership principles I am learning. And application always results in growth.

Reading stretches my thinking.

Almost every book I read has some ideas that are new to me, or old ideas shared in fresh ways. New ideas require new considerations and result in my mind being expanded and/or challenged. Not everyone will agree, but I consider this a good thing.

I occasionally choose a book where I know I will disagree with the author.  My hope is to better understand a different perspective. Some might fault me for this as well, suggesting it is a dangerous practice and could lead to adopting a false ideology. While I am not looking for new ideologies I am not afraid of them either. I don’t mind being called narrow minded in my conclusions (aren’t we all?), but I don’t want to be narrow in my exposure.

Reading makes me more interesting.

This conclusion is certainly debatable, but I hope it is true that I have more to talk about and am able to connect with more people and make better conversation. I still have a long way to go before I become the life of the party or am confused with this guy:

Reading positions me to help others.

The most obvious benefit to reading more is that I have more to share with others. When I am in a coaching session or even a casual conversation with a friend I am frequently able to share an idea or insight I have recently read that applies to the situation at hand.

I am surrounded by people who read far more than I do, so to answer the following question seems a bit out of place for me. Nevertheless, I am sometimes asked…….

Where do you find time?

One of the things I often ask people who are trying to adopt a new practice is, “What are you now going to say no to?” It is impossible to add something to your schedule without depriving something else. The goal then is to deprive something that needs to be reduced or eliminated. For me it was screen time, especially sports on TV. I still love my Braves and I could get into the NBA playoffs, but I only occasionally indulge in either. I have even downgraded to basic cable (except during football season because I’m only taking this reading thing so far) to eliminate the temptation - and save some money for my books.

Here is the bottom line: one page per day = 1 book per year. This equation works even if you take the weekends off. So determine how many books you want to read and commit to that many pages each day.

Happy reading. It is better for you than apple cider vinegar.