All successful people I know have one thing in common: they never stop learning.
That’s why so many CEOs, thought leaders, and politicians read so frequently. There’s a limit to how much time, money, and effort people are able to dedicate to more formal education. Reading voraciously and as part of a dedicated personal routine is the keystone of lifelong personal development.
And a big part of that learning is about yourself. I’m a student of writing and of words. Personally, reading helps me understand who I am, how I should approach my writing, and what I want to focus my attention on outside of my literary ambitions.
But that, of course, is not reading’s only benefit.
Reading benefits the mind because it helps you stay balanced and sharp
The most successful people are both scientists and artists — they utilize both the left and right brain.
As such, they actively nurture both those sides, which they oftentimes do through reading.
One example is always reading both fiction and nonfiction. That’s advice I give regularly: immerse yourself in the worlds and adventures of James Clavell, but educate yourself with biographies and intelligent opinions — such as Dwight Eisenhower’s account of World War II, which is what I’m reading now.
This is something many, many successful business leaders do, as it supports a healthy, more holistically capable lifestyle.
Reading instills discipline and an appreciation for growth
Reading doesn’t just strengthen or nurture both parts of our brain, though — it strengthens more intangible skills, too.
Namely, reading regularly makes people more disciplined and engenders an appreciation for learning and growth.
Why, exactly? Well, people who make the decision to read every day are actively deciding to engage, improve, and sometimes challenge their brains instead of doing more passive activities, like playing video games or binge-watching Netflix.
That’s why some of our most effective presidents, for example, have made reading a personal priority. When President Obama was in office, he gave an interview in which he disclosed how books were a sustaining source of ideas and inspiration during his tenure. They helped focus him midst the maelstrom of 24-hour cable news cycles, constant social media flurries, and compromised attention spans that gripped the country at the time. They also gave him a renewed appreciation for the complexities and ambiguities of the human condition.
And that’s exactly what reading does. It’s why we see so many leaders in all the different verticals of human activity invest in their own reading.
Reading benefits your business
There’s one last benefit that most people don’t associate with reading, and that’s the manner in which it can actively benefit your professional life.
For one thing, reading encourages curiosity. And people who are curious are, more often than not, high achievers. Understanding this, you yourself can use reading to become more curious and acquire more knowledge.
But you can also use that awareness to hone your hiring practices. At BookBaby, when we’re hiring a potentially key individual, I’ll always ask candidates, “What are you reading right now?” or, “What have you read in the last six months?” The reason is, I know reading behavior to be an apt barometer in measuring a person’s level of curiosity, discipline, and zeal for learning — and curious, disciplined people who are hungry to learn are the sort I want in my company.
I don’t particularly care what candidates are reading. I just want to see that they are.
It’s also true, however, that reading helps people improve as communicators
As a student of writing, I admire great communication, and as the CEO of a publishing company, I see it as something of a requirement. Writers who communicate effectively for his or her audience help readers do the same in their own life.
At the end of the day, reading bears a variety of tangible benefits — regarding both the mind and the soul — and simple awareness of this fact is the most obvious reason successful people prioritize it as a means of professional and personal development.
Put simply, reading — in addition to being plain fun — makes people better. And that’s why the best of us do it so often.
Spatz is a writer, marketer and President of BookBaby, a leading self-publishing company (www.bookbaby.com).