“Reading is Fundamental” is how the old saying goes. I remember my parents saying this to me as a kid as I argued with them to instead watch Saturday morning cartoons. I recall seeing the posters all over my junior high school “Reading is Fundamental”. I remember thinking (foolishly) that it was the teacher’s job to put stuff inside my head and I didn’t need to read more on my own. Finally, I remember countless school administrators and various other adults throughout the years peddling the same catchphrase as I rolled my eyes and obtained a stellar “C” average.
The truth is that I should have listened. It was more than a saying…It was good advice…It was a winning strategy. In this blog I have talked about the importance of having a “growth mindset”. Having a growth mindset means nothing if action does not follow. The best and most effective way to maintain a growth mindset is simple…..Read.
Why read? The evidence is clear…people who take the time out and consistently read are more successful. Sadly, over a quarter of Americans have admitted that they have not read a book in the last year (which means that the number is probably larger) (Pew 2016). This number has grown since 2014 when it was at 23%. When you look closer you can see the numbers directly correlate to success. For example, adults with a high school diploma or less are about three times as likely as college grads (40% vs. 13%) to report not reading books in any format in the past year (Pew 2016). Adults with an annual household income of less than $30,000 are about twice as likely as the most affluent adults to be non-book readers (33% vs. 17%) (Pew 2016). The non-reading rates for minorities and rural Americans (both white and non-white) are just as alarming as they are within the 29% to 40% range as well. These are the communities that are consistently behind in education statistics, employment, and wage earning.
If you don’t like statistics take it from some of the most successful people on earth. Take this quote from Warren Buffett (CEO Berkshire Hathaway, net worth 74.8 billion):
“It is one of the chief ways that I learn, and has been since I was a kid. These days, I also get to visit interesting places, meet with scientists and watch a lot of lectures online. But reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.”
You can read the full interview here: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/04/fashion/bill-gates-gates-notes-books.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0
Oprah Winfrey (CEO Harpo Studios, net worth 3.1 billion) has a world famous book club and say this about her joy of reading:
“Nothing, not one thing or activity, can replace the experience of a good read—being transported to a different land, a different realm, through words and language…..
I love being surrounded by books. For me, they’re like art, little pieces of sculpture placed all over the house, reminding me, always, of the power of the written word. Just looking at them brings me the purest kind of joy.”
The message is clear. Reading is fundamental. Reading should not end with your highest level of school. The only way to continuously improve is to continuously learn. Read whenever and wherever you have the chance. If you don’t have the time to sit down and read a book, listen to audio books. Most will not have the time or the patience to read the 500 pages a day a Buffett suggests this should not be an excuse to do nothing. Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
I understand that it isn’t easy to always read. This is especially difficult in the age of Facebook, Candy Crush and Netflix. Why read a book when binge watching “Master of None” is so much more enjoyable? As much as I love Aziz Ansari, I love my potential for growth and education more. Today, I ask you to start small. Read 10 pages a day or listen to 15 min of an audio book per day. Use your commutes, workouts, and household chores as opportunities to learn with audio books. Positive actions are reinforced by habits . You must commit to this life changing habit. The habit of reading has changed my life. I know it can change yours.