Leaders are Readers - How and why I read a book a week - every week.
I’ve heard it said that nobody reads anymore.
For some of us that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The average person in the UK and US reads around 4 books per year.
Most CEOs and executives read 4-5 books per month. These are the leaders, the ones that create jobs, rebuild companies and to be blunt the ones that earn the most.
If they are reading that much, then clearly there is still some value in picking up a book.
According to brain fitness expert and speed-reading coach Jim Kwik there are around 64,000 words in a book and the average person reads 200 words per minute meaning it takes a little over 5 hours to read a book or 1 hour per workday to read a book per week.
Personally I alternate between good old fashioned books and audiobooks, my audible subscription is one of my best ROI’s and ROT’s.
I listen to audiobooks at 1.25 speed whilst rowing (my personal weapon of choice for keeping fit) given that I average 6 hours a week on the rower it’s easy to see how I manage to get through books pretty quickly. It’s a win / win – the book takes my mind off the boredom of rowing and the rowing increases blood flow to my brain helping me to concentrate on the book.
With paper books I have a 30 minute appointment with myself every day when I sit in my snug on a comfy chair or out on the patio – anywhere away from the screen and it’s constant distractions. In fact it’s one of my Atomic Habits (*one of my favourite reads)
I have also taken a speed reading course in the past and I make copious notes and follow up actions with mind maps if it’s a particularly interesting subject. I try and find and least one actionable item per book if it provides on more brick in the structure of my life then it’s worth the price.
In my job I meet many senior business leaders – the best are like sponges when it comes to the acquisition of knowledge, the development of new skill sets, and the constant refinement of existing competencies.
In fact the most successful people I know consume written content at a pace that far exceeds that of the average person.
Those who are “too busy” or “too smart” or “too important” to learn have no business leading.
How can they grow a company and develop a team if they are not growing themselves?
In short – if you want to improve your life, as well as the lives around you – read more.
While there are plenty of ways to learn (observation, experience, classroom instruction, relational interactions, etc.), reading preferably offline brings a number of benefits and skills such as –
Stronger Analytical Thinking Skills
Improved Focus and Concentration
Better Writing Skills
The list goes on……
Next action –
The question is not if you should be reading, but rather what should you be reading?
With an estimated 1000 new business books published per month plus all of the periodicals, trade publications and industry journals and digital media that are refreshed at a frenetic pace we are drowning in options so it can be hard to decide where to start.
Personally I select a book a month from the New York Times Bestsellers list, I always listen to the Bookworm podcast every fortnight for one of their recommendations plus Amazon’s algorithms are always ready to chip in.
Obviously one of the questions I ask anyone I find interesting is what are you reading at the moment?
It’s hard to choose favourites but here are 5 that have had a real impact on my professional life in no particular order –
Getting Things Done – David Allen
Atomic Habits – James Clear
Digital Minimalism – Cal Newport
The Poor of Full Engagement – Jim Loehr, Tony Schwartz
The 12 Week Year – Brian Moran, Michael Lennington
Keep learning !!