It was 1993 when I took my young family to Disneyland. During our stay, we stopped into a funky little bookstore in nearby Laguna Beach. While browsing, I found an audio cassette for sale for $2.00. It was by some guy named Jim Rohn. I learned later he was Tony Robbins' first mentor. The cassette was a crude recording of one his talks to Rotary or Toastmasters. It was probably recorded in the mid-eighties. In the recording he said in his unique baritone voice, "The books you don't read won't help. People who don't read books have no advantage over people who don't know how to read!"
The following year Mr. Rohn came to Seattle for an all-day seminar. I went. I invested $400 for all his books and audio programs at the end of the day. It's safe to say that was a watershed day, a day of days, and a defining moment in my life. He had that effect on a lot of people. It was the day I became a serious student of success. Over the next five years I pored over books and audio programs by the best in the field: Earl Nightingale, Brian Tracy, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, Charlie T Jones, Wayne Dyer, Lou Tice, Zig Ziglar, and Harvey MacKay, to name only a few. The common denominator in each great teacher's message was
if you want to be great at your work become a lifelong reader
. I met these men when I could. I called them up and asked them questions. I heard them speak when they came to town and offered to drive them where they needed to go. I invested in their audio tapes and books and devoured them. I wrote down in my journal what they said. I looked for similarities. I began writing what I learned. I started sharing what I learned with customers, colleagues, and family. I studied their speaking style. I was a sponge. I still am.
"If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads." -Ralph Waldo Emerson
"I would never read a book if it were possible to talk to the author for half an hour." -Woodrow Wilson
"There are many ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all." -Jackie Kennedy Onassis
"It's what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." -Oscar Wilde
"Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself." -George Bernard Shaw
Jim Rohn said, "If you read one book a week in your chosen field, in ten years you have read over five hundred books. That will put you in the top one percent of your field." In 2003, I decided to read two books a week. That was the year I began writing my monthly e-zine with the "Book of the Month" feature that matched the theme of the article. I'm still at it, 1,352 books and hundreds of articles later.
The Dead Sea is a marvel of nature. It's actually a three-million-year-old lake. It was once called "The Stinky Sea." Fresh water flows in from streams and rivers in, but it does not flow out. Books are like the water flowing into a lake. If the lake is to be pristine and beautifully blue, the ideas, insights, inspiration, and information we gather must invariably flow out. It has to. When I first started in sales, all I read were sales books. I read dozens of them in a short period of time. I read an hour a day or until I came across an idea I could apply to close a deal, improve a relationship, fill my funnel, or delight the customer with extra-mile value.
So why read books? Here is my short list of ten good reasons to read books:
- Your vocabulary will improve. Studies indicate improved vocabulary leads to increased income.
- It will improve your focus, concentration. and attention span.
- It will improve your imagination and creativity.
- Books are condensed wisdom. For many authors, their books represent a lifetime of learning on one topic.
- You will soar past the competition. According to one study, only one adult in seven will ever go to a bookstore to buy a book after they graduate high school! It's clear it doesn't take much effort, say 30 minutes a day, to lead in your field.
- You will model reading for your children, friends, and associates.
- If you are in sales, are a manager, teacher, coach, or CEO, others look to you for ideas, inspiration, insight, and information. Your lake won't be stinky.
- All leaders are readers. If you want to lead your field, reading books is a must. You will attract other readers to you. The quality of your associations will improve. Birds of a feather...
- It makes you interesting and attractive to the opposite sex.
- It improves your memory. Recall increases. It allows you to think on your feet. Like a rubber band stretched around a book, your memory never goes back to its original size.
Though I started out with self-help books and sales books that usually came in under 100 pages, my list has expanded in both quantity of categories and quality of titles. I never could have imagined reading
(1,200 pages) or
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
(787 pages) or
Autobiography of Mark Twain
(737 pages). Today, books of that size and quality have become fun for me to read. My reading list is balanced and eclectic: biographies, business, spiritual, economics, philosophy, wellness and nutrition, travel, and history. Did you know that 90 percent of books are read by less than 10 percent of the population? Why not move into the top 10 percent in your field? Reading is one of those good habits that will change your life one book at a time.
How to read?
- Choose books based on your goals. If you read the wrong books, you waste your time and money.
- Ask mentors what books they read. If one title keeps coming up, read that one first.
- Read with a pen in hand. Mark up pages with symbols like these: = ! * +/- $ >. (The local librarian really frowned on my habit of marking up books. so I began buying them.) Build YOUR library.
- E-book or printed? Do what works for you.
- Dog-ear or sticky note pages to review.
- Read fiction for entertainment and non-fiction for personal development.
- Read the truly important books three or four times. Repetition is the mother of skill. Important books include How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
- Use variable speed reading. Novels can be read at 500 to 2,500 words per minute. Non-fiction or poetry should be read at 150 to 300 words per minute.
- Consider the classics such as Moby Dick, Of Mice and Men, Old Man and the Sea, Lord of the Flies (or Rings), and To Kill a Mockingbird. I read those books to my boys beginning at age 8 to15.
- If a book simply isn't doing it for you after 25 or 30 pages, put it down and reach for another. No use in suffering.
If you make reading books a lifelong habit, your world will open up in ways you simply cannot imagine. You will become a person of substance and an object of interest attracting all manner of people, opportunity, and abundance.
Groucho Marx once said, "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." He also said, when asked about his opinion of television, "Oh, I find it very educational. When someone turns it on, I go in the other room and read a book."
Dr. Seuss said, "You're never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child." Now that I have a granddaughter, I will need to begin to buy books for toddlers and, eventually, books about inspirational women or classics written for and by women; you know, books like
Pride and Prejudice
. She will think I am doing it for her. Silly girl. Those classics never made it onto Grandpa's list.
My thanks to the late great Jim Rohn. The books I DID read helped!
A client recently suggested I add music and movies to the "Of the Month" feature in my e-zines. So, here we go. The Songs and Movies thematically match the content of the e-zine. I hope you enjoy this added bit of value.