Often people who achieve great success in life display a dizzying array of traits that most of us do not innately have. Focus, drive, ingenuity, discipline and an uncanny intuition about the “next big thing”. However, most of those traits are the result of developing personal habits that enable those traits to develop and grow.
The internet is rife with articles listing the habits of successful people. Countless books, seminars, and therapy sessions have been sold to help others learn the “secret” to success. But many, if not most people fail to implement one of the easiest and most efficacious habits of successful people.
When asked about the secret of his success, Warren Buffett pointed to a nearby stack of books and said “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”
Warren Buffett, admittedly, takes his reading habit to the extreme, devoting close to 80% of his day to reading. However, it's important that we recognise that life outside of the classroom is full of books. And, books not on the required reading list for your courses can be just as critical to your success as the ones that are.
But there is more to the magic of reading than just working your way through a good novel. Wealthy people primarily read to stay in touch. They choose non-fiction, trade publications, and biographies over novels and magazines. They read to be informed and for self-improvement rather than entertainment.
Many people who dropped out of college or university and became successful are voracious readers. They find inspiration and new perspectives in their reading. They also get a leg up on the competition. When talking about his reading habit and its’ relationship to his success, Mark Cuban said “Everything I read was public. Anyone could buy the same books and magazines. The same information was available to anyone who wanted it. Turns out most people didn’t want it.”
So, how do you develop a reading habit if you don’t already have one? Begin with a bona fide reason, or reasons. You need at least one compelling reason to create a habit, else it will be too easy to excuse yourself from doing something. Knowing what you hope to gain from a reading habit will helps you choose the material. This is step two.
Compile a list of 10 or 20 MUST READ books. They can be from a variety of genres and disciplines. Get recommendations from friends and also check out some of the favourites of people who inspire you. Ideally you should enjoy these reads, but always remember your rationale for the read.
Once you have chosen a list, set aside a specific time of day to read. I recommend at least 20 minutes of reading before bed or first thing in the morning. Research shows that reading before bed not only improves your quality of sleep, but lowers your stress levels (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/5070874/Reading-can-help-reduce-stress.html), helps you become a more empathetic person (http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0055341), and improve cognitive ability. Make sure that you choose a time when you can turn off your screens and focus on the page. Think of it as a mini daily digital detox.
Finally, carry a book with you. This is a much easier feat since ebooks make carrying your library as easy as putting your smartphone in your pocket. When you are waiting in line, sitting on the train or in a waiting room, pull out your “book” and get some reading done.
Many people find it helpful to share what they are reading with others. They blog about it or provide video book reviews. Connecting to the wider community of reading enthusiasts might help you to catch the bug and discover writers and titles for your list.
Whether you are seeking to return to your bookworm roots, or have never read anything that wasn’t assigned to you, developing a reading habit could be crucial to your success. Books help us to become a well-rounded, well-informed, thoughtful person. What you learn and how you implement it is one of the many ways you can set yourself apart from the crowd and find your success.
Simone www.alexanderpartners.org.uk 25th September 2017