Is reading important for success? Many people believe that the answer is yes, but it might be difficult to find real-world examples. An article from the The New York Times provides us with the examples we need. Entitled C.E.O. Libraries Reveal Keys to Success, it talks about the reading habit of some prominent business leaders such as Phil Knight (the founder of Nike) and Michael Moritz (a venture capitalist behind the likes of Google and Yahoo). Not only do these leaders love reading, they make it an indispensable part of improving their life and business.
How else can we better learn about good reading than from such successful people? Here is how they read (with quotes from the article and my comments):
1. They read to improve thinking
Serious leaders who are serious readers build personal libraries dedicated to how to think, not how to compete.
“My books have helped me develop a way of thinking critically in business…”
They are aware that the benefit of reading first and foremost is to improve their thinking. More than just giving knowledge, reading trains their mind to think better.
This is something I learn to better on. So far, I read mainly to gain knowledge, and only secondarily to improve my thinking. I should reverse the order, though I haven’t figured out how exactly I should use reading to improve my thinking.
2. They read to learn from the best
If there is a C.E.O. canon, its rule is this: “Don’t follow your mentors, follow your mentors’ mentors,”
For them, here is a great benefit of reading: by reading books, they do not just learn from their mentors; they learn from their mentors’ mentors.
We may not be able to meet face-to-face with the great thinkers of the world. But, by reading their works, we will have them teach us personally. It is as if we sit beside them and let them speak to us about their rich knowledge and experiences. Is there a better way to learn from so many great thinkers of the world than reading their works?
3. They read classic books
Forget finding the business best-seller list in these libraries…
This is surprising to me. Since they are business leaders, I expect them to mainly read business books. But the opposite is true. This is what Michael Moritz said:
“I rarely read business books, except for Andy Grove’s ‘Swimming Across,’ which has nothing to do with business…”
Instead of reading business books, they mainly read classic books. They find the most value and wisdom through the books which have passed the test of time.
This is something beyond my current reading habit. So far, I read mainly popular books. While I believe the classics are excellent read, I still read mostly recent books. Maybe someday I will reach the level where I read the classics more, but it’s not yet the case.
4. They read diversely
“I try to vary my reading diet and ensure that I read more fiction than nonfiction,”
I wrote about diversifying reading before, and that is something I actively try to do.
What I still don’t understand is the “reading more fiction than nonfiction” part. Maybe you can share with me why that should be the case? Now I mainly read nonfiction since I think I get the most value that way.
5. They read to find other perspectives
“I read for pleasure and to find other perspectives on how to think or solve a problem”
This is also something I actively try to do. Reading outside of our favorite topics is important. It gives us different perspectives and a lot of fresh ideas to use.
What do you think about the points above? While I love reading, I think their reading habit is far beyond mine. They see things differently and think differently. I hope someday I will also reach that level.
Photo by mclgreenville