I had a conversation recently with a forty-something who was complaining about the lack of direction within his organization. It was one of those, “If I was in charge . .” kind of rants. Three different times during our discussion, I mentioned something I had read about his industry. Each time, he seemed genuinely interested by the information. As it became obvious that I seemed to know more about his field than he did, he said, “I really should read more. I just don’t have the time.”
Without really thinking, I blurted out, “If you don’t read, you don’t succeed.” I didn’t mean to lecture him. I was just surprised that he would limit his scope of knowledge to only the specific work assigned. In his defense, I understand the pressures most managers face to simply accomplish the tasks at hand. It’s so easy to get buried.
Then there’s influence of the internet. It’s no secret that many people struggle to read more than 500 words at a time, let alone interpret the key points. This number drops to 300 for high school students. According to some experts, a sizable percentage of new college graduates are unable to compare and contrast the points of view between two newspaper articles. At the same time, influencers such as Google, Facebook, YouTube and others argue that if you want to capture attention, the only way to do it is through three-minute video clips.
Some would say that I have the luxury of reading because I work for myself. The truth is I spent a good deal of time reading even when I was employed by someone else. Over the years, this has served me well. It has opened my eyes to the nuances of the industries with which I am working. It has allowed me to converse intelligently with corporate leaders. It has enabled me to anticipate the challenges that arise in my business due to downturns and product cycles.
I’m not attempting to lecture anyone by writing all this. I am simply testifying to the fact that reading has been an essential element in my success. Even 30 minutes a day with The Wall Street Journal or some industry publication will broaden your business perspective. During your commute, over a meal, on the toilet, take the time to read.