The Importance of Reading

 

Quiet ReadingReading

It was one of the easiest things you could do as a kid to get banished by your classmates to the corner of the cafeteria. It was what your mother constantly harped on you to do more often.

It was definitively not cool.

Only geeks read books for fun, let alone reading for class. But personally, I loved it (geek?). I read everything I could get my hands on, and although it was mostly science fiction/fantasy (geek), it set the groundwork for my reading habits today.

In fact, some of history’s greatest leaders were avid readers at a young age.

Napoleon Bonaparte was a voracious reader as a youth, often skipping meals to save money to buy more books, and frequently skipping out on activities with his classmates to “read everything that he could about the most ambitious leaders of the ancient world” (Napoleon: A Life). He copied many of his leadership tactics from what he read about Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, and even packed up over 100 books to take along with him in his Egyptian campaign to study and learn more about his upcoming adversaries.

Other historical readers include Theodore Roosevelt, who would read hundreds of books a yearThomas Jefferson donated his personal library to the Library of Congress it was so big. And Abraham Lincoln schooled himself as a youth by waking up early every day to read before he started his chores around the farm.

But it’s not just our past leaders that read to get ahead; the titans of our current era are also enormous proponents of reading. Warren Buffet, one of the richest men on Earth, has said “Of all the investments I ever made, buying that book [Intelligent Investor] was the best.

Mark Zuckerberg has a goal of reading one book every other week (2 books/month), and even started a book club for people to join him along the way. And studies show that the average Fortune 500 CEO reads about 4-5 books a month, or one book every week.

Turns out, reading is the single best thing you can do to succeed in life. There is nothing better you can do for yourself and your self-improvement than to read. Prodigiously.

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Reading opens up your mind to new ideas, allows you to study some of the great figures in history (and today), and serves as astimulus for your own mental creativity and development. Some of my best ideas have come to me while reading a book, ideas that I never would have come up with on my own.

Reading has changed my life completely. It hasn’t directly changed my circumstances, but it has changed how I think and feel about those circumstances. It’s made me bolder, more self-aware, better at critical thinking, and all around a better human being. It has allowed me to realize my ambitions, and it’s why I created this page in the first place.

This page is dedicated to becoming the best ‘you’ that you can, so that you can make a difference in this world. Inherent in this idea, is that in order to become the best you can, you must keep learning.

Your Personal Education

Reading is about developing your mental prowess. It’s about the long game. It’s an investment in your own education and in your future.

Reading is the education you choose for yourself. No one teaches you in school how to leverage being an introvert. Or how to build a company from scratch. How to prioritize your day, or how to best invest your money. When you read, you get to set your own coursework and decide what you want to learn about.

School teaches you the technical knowledge you need: where to put commas, how to add to 100, how combustion occurs. It teaches you how to study and prepare, and of course there is the social aspect. But it doesn’t always teach you the philosophies, strategies, and tactics you will need to thrive. It’s that soft knowledge that sets you apart from the pack, and its knowledge that you can only ever acquire from either a mentor or a book.

Or, your book can be your mentor.

Your Personal Mentor

The best way to get up to speed on a new topic is always to learn if from someone who has been there before. The bad news is that finding that person at the moment you need them can be very difficult, let along convincing them to distill all of their knowledge down for you.

The good news is that everything has been done before. Someone has gone through the exact thing you are struggling with or want to learn about, and at some point someone wrote down what they did and learned in a book.

“The biggest reason people don’t succeed is because they don’t expose themselves to existing information”

– Jim Rohn

For the most part, this is knowledge and information you can trust. People can be full of it sometimes, and you have to be careful with what advice you take from people you meet. But by nature, books force authors to explain their thinking in a clear, conscience manner, or else it won’t get published. This third-party verification system means that you are getting the best of what someone has to offer, generally speaking. I’ve definitely read some texts that don’t fit this description – but those are the exceptions, not the rule.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel or always go to the horse’s mouth.

Your Personal Time

And the best part of all of this, for an introvert, is that you’re good at it. We’re natural readers.

Picking up and digging into a book is something that introverts naturally excel at. It’s a passive exercise. You can sit back, retreat into yourself, not worry about interacting with anyone else, and just think while you read. It’s your quiet time, which makes reading to learn and grow an inherent strength.

A couple of excerpts from Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking:

 

“[Introverts] are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams”
“[Introverts have] been shown to excel at something psychologists call ‘insightful problem solving.’ Introverts think before they act, digest information thoroughly, stay on task longer, give up less easily, and work more accurately.”
“Introverts feel ‘just right’ with less stimulation, as when they sip wine with a  close friend, solve a crossword puzzle, or read a book […] your typical introvert would rather spend her vacation reading on the beach than partying on a cruise ship”
“[S]tay as true to yourself as you possible can – starting by creating as many ‘restorative niches’ as possible in your daily life. ‘Restorative Niche’ is […] the place you go when you want to return to your true self”

We know introverts need time to themselves, and through reading, you can find your quiet time, and still learn from some of the greatest minds the world has ever seen. Overtime, you will start to sense your mental perceptions shift. You begin brainstorming your own ideas, connecting themes across books, and relating what you are reading to things you encounter every day in life. It’s a very personal process that you can use to recharge yourself.

Admittedly, reading a book each week, or even each month, is not easy. Becoming the best ‘you’ you can be requires a dedication and consistency of effort. It’s easy to pull up YouTube or Netflix for an hour or two. It’s a bit harder to crack open a book and read about the character of George Washington.

But it’s the hard things in life that are always most worth doing.

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Now of course, the activity of reading is only half the battle. You have to also read analytically– reading for ideas and intellect, not just entertainment. Really internalizing what you read and looking for ways to apply it.

This leads to the second, and largest, part. Eventually, you must do something with what you are learning. You have to use and apply it, or it is all just academic. But before you act, you must know. Action without direction is meaningless.

So you want to leverage your strengths to make a change in your life? How about you start with a book. For as the famous quote goes:

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers”

– Harry Truman

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