Scott’s Thoughts: Leading Through Reading

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

Harry S. Truman, (May 8, 1884 – December 26, 1972) 33rd President of the United States (1945 – 1953)

President Truman reading.If I had to pick one habit which has consistently fueled my success at work and in life, it would have to be reading. From business books to stories which take me out of my day-to-day trials, seldom has an hour been wasted that’s been spent with a book.

With the rise of the internet and the many distractions it contains, books offer us a rare opportunity to practice sustained concentration and deeper thought. Instead of skating across the surface of the perpetual news cycle, a dive into the pages of a book is precisely the type of mental nutrition we’re hungry for when the world offers us a steady “fast food” diet of video and social media.

What’s more, books provide us with condensed experience. We learn from the mistakes of others. We are held in awe by the accomplishments of others. We are inspired and guided by the true and imaginative narratives of other peoples’ lives. Nothing is as efficient as a book for helping us learn from history and empathize with experiences outside of our own sphere.

If you’re in a reading rut, or feel you “should read more often,” I offer the following suggestions to enrich your reading life:

1. Read fiction. Don’t assume “true stories” are the only source of value. Sometimes art contains greater truths– especially those concerned with the nuances of human emotions. (Also: While your paperback thriller might be a lot of fun, it can omit the useful complexities of the human experience. Check out literary fiction, too, including those books you skipped in high school!)

2. Read against your tastes. Stretch yourself. Read things you think you might not like or that you might disagree with. Read someone whose politics are different than your own. Try subjects which might sound boring at first. What you find out might surprise you.

3. Read out of curiosity. Don’t let what you “should” be reading color what you’re curious about reading. Scratch the itch. Pick a subject that intimidates you and find a good introduction to the topic.

4. Read unselfconsciously. Afraid to be seen reading that trashy romance novel on the plane? Don’t be! The best readers read widely. Read high and low, far and wide. That includes those “Dummies” books with the yellow and black covers. There’s no shame in being a novice!

5. Read habitually. Set time aside to read. Read in the morning. Keep a book with you at all times. Stuck at the DMV? Congratulations, you’ve just hit a great reading opportunity. Exchange TV time for reading time. After all, books don’t have commercials. Keep a reading journal. Chart your progress. You’d be surprised how much a little here and there can add up.

What are you reading these days? What was the last book you loved? I’d like to know. My list of books to read is always growing.

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