“I’m too busy to read”
“I’m too tired “
These are the two most popular reasons I hear almost every time I speak about reading to my audience. Strangely enough, most of those who gave the same reasoning were never short of time for tv, facebook, youtube and mobile games.
Perhaps, reading is not their thing. Perhaps, they needed larger fonts. Perhaps, reading is not a priority. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps..
Reading is, in fact, a very important element of personal and professional growth. Performance coaches and leaders in the personal development arena such as the late Charlie ‘Tremendous’ Jones have been strong advocates of reading.
Charlie ‘Tremendous’ Jones has been a great mentor to many speakers and entrepreneurs. One of the main conditions his mentees had to fulfill is – Extensive Reading… Not in terms of the number of books but to read for understanding in order to get the ‘nutrients’ from the authors’ minds and experiences.
Reading is a form of communication. Every Whatsapp messages, emails and Facebook updates requires reading. Every reading effort requires a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols that carries with it, information and meaning.
However, this article is really not about Whatsapp messages, emails or even Facebook updates. I am really referring to the traditional reading that revolves around an authored book.
So why is reading very important?
It took me a few weeks to carry out research on the importance of reading. I mean, these days, we have e-learning, mobile learning with all kinds of videos and a question came to my mind. Is reading still as important as before or can it be totally replaced with new technologies.
I mean, in the name of convenience, I could just turn up youtube and let its content feed my mind. With everything we have now, why do we even need to read?
What I found what was rather surprising to me and the ‘motivated’ me enough to start a daily reading habit.
1. Reading Exercises The Brain
Reading exercises the brain. The brain is really like a muscle and if you do not use it, you will definitely lose it.
I conducted an experiment on myself just to find out what take happens when i read. Now I am no scientist and I might be wrong in my the process of self-analysis but this is what I can conclude.
When my eyes see the symbols in the book, the brain retrieves data from its memory bank and makes connections to what each symbols or a group of symbols means. While the eyes focuses on each sentences, the brain tries to interprets the information from the book.
If the brain is unable to find anything from the memory bank, it will begin to use its creative ability to make sense of the information. For me, whatever I read turns to pictures and movies in my mind. Whenever I come across an unfamiliar word or phrase, I may get stuck for a short while but once I get that sorted out, the movie simulation continues in my mind.
This is probably why reading requires a lot more participation from the eyes and brains. Our eyes cannot afford to just see the words but it has to read (see and interpret) the words. Watching tv on the other hand, is a very passive activity where information is being transferred to the brain, through visual and auditory, with ease. I mean, in my self-analysis, I have never experienced a moment where scenes from a movie or cartoon get processed by my brain into another form.
According to healthhub.sg, a website owned by Ministry of Health Singapore, reading is one of the activities that reduce the risk of getting Dementia.
I have read a few self-help books, management books and biography of certain individuals. One of my favourite was an autobiography of Carlos Ghosn, the Chief Executive Officer of Nissan and Renault.
From that one biography alone, over a span of 2 hours a day over 7 days, I had a glimpse of his life; from the time he was born in war-torn Albania to working in Michelin and eventually to the Chief Operations Officer of Renault.
He was successful in turning a debt-ridden, global Japanese brand into a profitable organization that has even made sports cars that has gone head to head with Posche.
From that book, I learned about the meaning of a mission, I learned about the trade-offs one has to make in order to achieve something they want, I learned about respecting a culture, I learned about commitment and hard work.
Unless I am able to convince Carlos Ghosn to meet me for a full 14 hours or more to share his life’s experiences, over jugs and jugs of coffee, a book on him will have to suffice.
My point is, how else can I learn almost an entire experience of a person if not by reading his book?
I can always wait for a movie on him to appear on the screen but you know…if you have the ability to read and find out now, why wait?
When you have that increased amount of knowledge, naturally your confidence is boosted.
In 2014, I conducted a workshop on Developing Initiative & Enterprising Behavior for a group a working adults aged 18 to 64 and all of them were from different industries ranging from F&B to Engineering to Enforcement officers.
In that program, the students were taught different ways to ideate and generate ideas to help the organizations they were working for.
They were given materials to read and I went through examples on how to execute the various divergent thinking as well as the convergent thinking methods.
There was one particular gentleman who stood who, to me, stood out from the rest of the class. While most people who signed up for the program hoped of a better standing at work, this gentlemen, who was working at a logistics company then, signed up for the course simply because he ‘was bored and just wanted to learn something”.
Almost a month later, he came to the class extremely excited. He said an amazing opportunity just ‘came’ to him. He explained further that the company he works for, has engaged a new General Manager and that general manager has set up focus groups and tiger teams to restructure the entire organization.
Apparently, his general manager ran the same divergent thinking process as the one that he had learned in class from the materials and lessons, and that got my student excited.
Upon seeing that my student understood the process, the general manager put him as a team lead of one of the focus groups and tiger teams.
Not bad for a storeman who just wanted to learn just “because he was bored”.
Tony Robbins is right. Knowledge is not power. It is potential power. Action to act on that knowledge gives power.
He had that knowledge from all that reading and learning from the workshop, took action on it and it turned out good. But if he does not even bother to read or take the initiative to learn, he might have lost that potential power.
So if you think that you have no time to read because you are too busy, think again. You can never know when that new knowledge might help.
Would you prefer to be prepared for an opportunity that has yet to show itself to you, or would you rather be staring at an opportunity, unprepared?
Helps In Your Writing
As a student many years ago, I love to read. Fiction books were popular among young students and teenagers. I remembered The Hardy Boys, The Three Investigators and The Bookworm Collections. On a side note, I was a member of the Bookworm Club for a few years until my dad felt that I was ‘too old’ for the club.
So when it comes to writing a composition, I was always driven to write something on adventure and mystery. During composition assignments and exam, I will use my imagination as if I was a movie director. My teacher got worries initially when I began writing after the rest of the class were already half way through.
One morning, I remembered feeling proud when my English teacher complimented me for ‘such interesting’ compositions. I even won a book prize for that.
Composition writing became my strength until I made a mistake of ‘being too busy to read’.
When I stopped reading, my ability to write engaging stories began to dim. I blamed the language for being too difficult. I did not realize the lack of reading worsened my control of the language.
It was more than 15 years later that I learned this lesson.
When I entered the workforce, I tried to pick up reading again but it was not as easy as before.
Reason is, apart from reading the sports section of the newspaper, I do not really read. Every passage I read did not seem to get into my head.
It took me about a month before I can get on track.
I don’t consider myself as a good writer but I have the ability to send written messages tactfully, especially when it comes to dealing with authorities and clients. When my colleagues found out about this ‘ability’, requests to draft letters came. Letters for embassy, letters of complaint, response letter to clients etc.
It wasn’t long before my bosses found that out and they began requesting for my ‘help’. Writing for bosses was a different ball game altogether but I managed to write every single one of them.
Soon after, my contribution was noticed by the management and that benefited me professionally and financially.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not promising that a big promotion will come your way once your pick your first book in 10 years. What I can promise you is that a whole new world will begin to unfold when you have that knowledge and confidence.
Remember what Tony Robbins said;”Knowledge is potential power”
How Can We Get This Habit?
A teenager in a workshop that I conducted a few years ago said that he never liked to read. Why? Every single time he tries to read, he either gets a headache or sleepy.
If you think you have the same symptoms, I have great news for you!
The brain and the mind have some of the most important functions of the human body. I visited the Singapore Science Centre recently and it had a showcase on the human body and the brain is one of them.
One of the exhibits shared that the brain has something called Plasticity, as what scientist call it, which is an impressive ability to change and adapt. So for example, a stroke patient who lost the ability to speak, will be able to regain that ability after extensive(& intensive) training.
So if you think reading tires you out or give you a headache, do not worry. Pain means weakness is leaving your body. Keep doing it. Your brain needs the work out. Your brain has the impressive ability to adapt to this habit.
If there is something that you can do that is good for the brain, boosts your confidence and aids in your career growth, would you be willing to make that change?
How different will you be in 5 years time? I don’t know. But I remembered a phrase by the late Charlie ‘Tremendous’ Jones;
“In 5 years time, you will be the same person as you are today, except for the books you read and the people you meet”