Seven days ago I came across a video on Tom Peters website. The video was called Out Read Your Competition, and I interrupted my 28 Articles series to put a quick post up before it was taken down. The following are three reasons you must read, and five ideas about reading.
Change is accelerating
Human knowledge is accelerating. What we know now doubles in just under 10 years, for some fields it doubles in half that time. This means that collectively we are all getting much smarter. But this also means individually, we are all falling behind and falling behind at a faster clip. This increase in knowledge is changing our world, and as a business person, it is changing the shape of our markets and how we do business. This change is accelerating. In fact, the acceleration is accelerating. Reading is the primary way to keep up with these changes and to increase your understanding of what they mean to you and your business.
It is the greatest shortcut to knowledge (and applying knowledge)
On my desk next to me is Howard Bloom’s The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History. I am re-reading this book because it is one of my all-time favorites. The notes at the end of the book begin on page 335 and finally end on page page 408. In those 73 pages, Bloom provides 797 individual citations.
To catch up with Bloom, a researcher par excellence, you could track down all of his research and begin reading it for yourself. And you might be able to get it done quicker than the 10 years it took Bloom. Or, you could simply pay $16 for the softcover book ($10.88 on Amazon.com) and gain access to all the work the author has done for you. Books are still the greatest value and the cheapest exchange of labor ever.
And not only are they cheap, they are fast. If you read 50 pages an hour, you can read Bloom’s masterwork by reading one hour each day.
Books have the potential to offer you a competitive advantage
Books are a lot like gold mines. They have the potential to be of great value, but you have to take action and start digging. In order for books to give you a competitive advantage, you have to pick up the book, read the book, and then use what you have learned. Peters is right. You have to read to remain competitive. Will most of your competitors give up ESPN to read for a single hour? Doubtful. Will they get up a single hour earlier to read a book? Shamefully, the answer is no. But you will, and here is how:
1. Write a Reading Plan
It is your responsibility to continually upgrade your skills and to take charge of your own personal development. Start by writing a reading plan. Make a list of the books you want to read and the books you need to read. Make a list of the books you will read in 2010. Will the list include more books than time allows? Absolutely. Then add reading time to your calendar. In an hour a day, you can read about a book a week. Schedule that time with yourself.
2. Read Narrowly
You should read narrowly. This means you must read a great deal in your chosen field or profession. For those of you reading this here, you have triple-duty. You have to read on your business’s field, your prospect and customer’s fields, as well as sales. Not to worry; you don’t have to do it all at once. Rotate books in the fields in which you need to be a subject matter expert into your reading plan (you did write your reading plan, didn’t you?).
3. Read Widely
In sales, and in business generally, you are going to come across all kinds of people with all kinds of interests. Reading widely will give you a great base of knowledge and understanding. As you read widely, you will find that you have more in common with more of your prospects and clients, because you have read some of the same books or similar books. People will notice that you are widely read, and this will lead to greater trust. And, you will have much, much better questions!
4. Read Daily
Reading is like exercise. The results aren’t immediately seen or felt. Like exercise, reading should be done daily. The value of reading is best obtained by reading in small enough time periods that you can capture and absorb the ideas. There is no cramming for increased knowledge. Reading a single hour a day does wonders, and it is easily worked into any schedule.
5. Take Notes
Take notes on everything your read. The process of taking notes seems to hardwire the ideas into you. Capture the themes and connections you notice, and make note on what these notes mean. I use Evernote, which allows me to tag ideas and capture the relationships between them, especially when the idea is spread across dozens of books. Capture the main ideas to share with others, especially the ideas that might make a difference for your prospects, your clients, and your business.
Be competitive. Read like it counts! You Must Read!