Why You Should Read More Books (Even if You Don’t Want to be a CEO)
I used to be in a cult.
Ok, it wasn’t an actual cult, but it was close to it. The funny thing is…I developed the most valuable skill from joining it.
The cult in question is called Amway. It’s one of those MLM network marketing companies where you recruit other people to your team and get a cut of their sales, so on and so forth.
Anyway, what I did enjoy about the group was their dedication to education — mostly reading. They wanted the sales team to have the attitude required to grind it out and hustle vitamins and eco-friendly cleaning products.
I left the cult, kept the habit, and like 938,384,230,872,657,002 other people, I now can’t help but espouse the benefits of reading.
The question — what is the purpose of reading?
The answer — let’s start with what the purpose of reading isn’t.
The Purpose of Reading Isn’t to Become a CEO
You’ve heard this quote before, “the average CEO reads one book per week.”
So what? Who cares?
Most people are never going to be CEOs. Most people don’t want to be CEOs.
And even if you did want to be a CEO, the number of books you read wouldn’t cause you to become one. I suspect the average CEO reads one book per week because the average intelligent person period reads a decent amount and — ethics aside — most CEOs are intelligent.
I’m not sure why the average CEO quote has to be a part of the advertisement for “why you should read books” when there are so many better reasons.
That’s the first bad reason to dispel. Let’s move on to the second.
The Purpose of Reading Isn’t to Count How Many Books You Read
I admit it. I used to be one of those pretentious people who not only counted the books I read, but told other people how many books I read.
No more. I think people like me (in the past) and others who brag about how much they read can actually turn people off to it. In fact, I think pretentious attitudes about the entire range of self-improvement topics turns people off to the genre as a whole.
Nobody wants to feel bad about not keeping up with some arbitrary quota so they can become the next CEO. We all want to improve our lives, but we don’t want to hear our lives aren’t good just because we don’t meet quota ‘x’ — x being how many books you read, how many times you get up and do a morning routine or the number of goals you reached in a month.
So, at least I won’t be another person to tell you to treat reading like a sport.
The question remains…what is the purpose of reading??
The Purpose of Reading is Whatever You Want it to Be
When I was a child, the purpose of reading was to learn how to read. The Dr. Seuss days.
When I was in grade school the purpose of reading was entertainment…mostly in the form of Goosebumps books.
I lost my purpose in reading for a decade after that because I didn’t like reading — or any form of education — to be shoved down my throat.
Although I’ve read 100 + books (just using this for contrast), I’ve readprecisely zero books that were assigned to me.
When I was near the end of my time in college, I rediscovered reading and my purposes evolved over time. I started reading because I was down and out. I figured I needed to get smarter to improve my life. I discovered writing, then the purpose of reading became research and learning elements of style.
Now, I read because there are so many things I want to learn — evolution, psychology, physics, persuasion, economics, history, biographies, more. Starting to read sparked my intellectual curiosity. Curiosity works better thana desire for an outcome. Why, because curiosity can always be satisfied — you can wonder about something then find the answer — while outcomes aren’t always in control.
What should you read? Read whatever you want.
If you’re looking for some recommendations, here are some posts I’ve written about books I love:
The Elevator Pitch for Reading More
Ok, ok. There are some tangible benefits to reading. I saved the typical answers for last, but they’re still important and useful reasons to read more. Hopefully, they’ll stick since we removed the arbitrary reasons for reading at the begging of the post.
A Silent Devil’s Advocate
When people try to correct you, it’s natural to be defensive. Nobody likes it when other people challenge their worldview.
When an author challenges your worldview, though, you can examine the idea without taking it personally like you would if someone you knew said the same thing. Why? Because the author doesn’t know you. He or she has no ill-will toward you, no hidden motives, no agenda (at least not aimed solely at you). You can change your mind without judgment or feeling like you ‘lost’ the argument.
Brain on Tap
Some authors spend years to decades researching the subject of their book. Then, you get to absorb their life’s work in a few hours. That’s a pretty good deal.
When I read, I try to tap into the author’s brain and imagine what they were thinking and feeling while they wrote the book. I feel like I’m stealing little pieces of the souls of geniuses.
Smart people have figured out pretty much everything. The answers to your problem or the path to the outcome you want can likely be found in a book by someone who’s already been in a similar situation.
When you read one book, you can be exposed to all of the author’s other work or authors who write about the same subject, or authors who write about an adjacent subject.
Then, you read the other authors and the adjacent subjects, only to discover more authors and more adjacent subjects.
One day, you realize you’re never going to read every book you want to read, but you’re inspired to try in vain anyway.
Reading can put your curiosity on steroids.
Today I’m reading the autobiography of Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s. I’m curious to learn if he feels bad about building an empire on food that kills people.
What are you reading? Drop a comment.