Entrepreneurs with a Reading List That Include Novels, Biographies and Business Books Massively Increase Their Chances of Success
“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” – Confucius
I cannot overemphasize the importance of having a reading list in terms of personal success and business success. This list should include novels, fiction, non-fiction, biographies and business books. I’m also an advocate of books on tape, but feel like they are not a good substitute for reading.
Communication is based on language, and language is based on vocabulary. Reading books is the most powerful way to build your vocabulary, and to expand your creativity.
I’m also an advocate of reading the newspaper, blog stories, on-line news feeds, magazines, and trade journals, but it is not a substitute for reading books. It is important to spend at least 30 minutes a day reading a book.
Charles Ickowicz extensively researched the vocabulary of America’s most successful leaders – CEO’s, senators and members of congress as the foundation for his book Word Power: Vocabulary for Success. He determined that a person’s vocabulary is the single most important predictor of business success.
Robert Kiyosaki, author of the popular book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, wrote, “If you want to be rich, you have to have a rich man’s vocabulary. Words can make you rich, or can make you poor.”
As E.D. Hirsch, the famous literary critic and editor wrote in his article entitled A Wealth of Words, “The key to increasing upward mobility is expanding vocabulary.” He went on to say, “The reason is clear: vocabulary size is a convenient proxy for a whole range of educational attainments and abilities—not just skill in reading, writing, listening, and speaking but also general knowledge of science, history, and the arts.”
Here are five excellent reasons to have a reading list:
(1) Regular Reading Expands Your Vocabulary and Ability to Communicate
In Understanding Vocabulary, Francine Alexander says, “Comprehension improves when you know what the words mean. Since comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading, you cannot overestimate the importance of vocabulary development. Words are the currency of communication. A robust vocabulary improves all areas of communication — listening, speaking, reading and writing.”
In Vocabulary Essentials: From Research to Practice for Improved Instruction, Camille Blachowitz states, “If you can’t communicate, how can you understand others, and how can you have others understand you?”
Outside of reading novels, one of the best things I have ever used to build vocabulary is the book Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis.
As George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
(2) Reading Increases Your Understanding of Key Concepts & Specialized Knowledge
This is where it is important to have a reading list of books about various aspects of business, and books about your specific technical domain. I have worked for half a dozen product companies in my career. All of these companies had very technical products, but each was different. I had to learn enough about the specific technology to understand the value proposition and features/benefits. I have an engineering undergrad, but I haven’t done design work since the mid-1980s. However, as a business leader it was essential to have a working knowledge of the underlying technologies in my companies.
It has also been a critical part of my career to read business books. I have read over 100 business books on a broad variety of topics, and this doesn’t include the business books that I read as part of getting my MBA. It is important to expand your mind about ways to get things done.
(3) Reading Increases Your Empathy & Creativity
Reading novels is an excellent way to increase your empathy. Well-written novels bring characters to life, and allow you to internalize their thoughts and feelings. How many times have you seen a movie at the theatre and heard someone say, “It was really good, but not as good as the book.” In fact, it is impossible to build the depth of characters in a two-hour movie that you can develop in a novel, even academy award winning movies like Gone with the Wind and The Godfather.
Jessica Stillman, in the Inc. article, An Unexpected Tool of Great Leaders – Art, states, “…it seems that curling up with a good read can actually boost your sense of empathy–also known as your ability to understand and deal with other people’s perspectives, foibles and emotions.”
In a Psychology Today article, Reading Improves Brain Connectivity and Function, Christopher Bergland says, “Neuroscientists have discovered that reading a novel can improve brain function on a variety of levels. “ Based on a study at Emory University, titled, Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain was recently published in the journal Brain Connectivity. The researchers found that becoming engrossed in a novel enhances connectivity in the brain and improves brain function.
(4) Reading Makes You a Better Writer
Writing is a critical skill of a business leader. Historically, the most important parts were preparing for investor, customer, and employee meetings. However, in today’s world, it is just as important to convey your ideas and concepts in blogs and company communications. Having the ability to convey your ideas, in writing, to critical stakeholders in your company, can be an invaluable tool in your communication arsenal.
In the Huffington Post article by Mike Hanski, Want to Be a Better Writer? Read More, he gives these reasons why reading makes you a better writer:
- It helps you find inspiration
- It lets you gain new knowledge
- It helps you learn your genre better
- It provides you with wider vocabulary for your own works
- It makes you understand the language better
- It helps you learn from real gurus of writing
- It helps you reveal the secrets of this job in practice
In How Reading Can Make You a Better Writer, Joel Goldman states, “Reading improves your vocabulary and your ability to craft sentences in different ways – ways other than the boring, straightforward ways you learned in your freshman writing class at college. As your ability to express thoughts more clearly improves, others will have a deeper insight and understanding into what makes you unique and interesting.”
I hope that I have sold you on the importance of reading books. There is no other single thing you can do to improve your communication skills, domain knowledge, business skills, creativity, empathy, and writing ability. For ideas on what should be on your reading list, I will share my favorite business books with you. Aside from that, read classic novels, fiction, non-fiction, and biographies. Read some challenging stuff and read some page-turners. It doesn’t all have to be drudgery. It can also be fun.
This is Patrick Henry, CEO of QuestFusion, with The Real Deal…What Matters.