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In all my studies on what makes people successful, I’ve noticed one thing that makes highly successful people stand out from the pack: They are committed to life-long learning, growing, and expanding. And one of the main ways they do it is by reading a lot.
As a vehicle for constant learning, books are perfect! They’re inexpensive and accessible. Reading a book is like conversing with a fantastic person and getting all their wisdom and insights. You can learn just about everything about just about anything. You can access knowledge that is centuries old and new ideas that are cutting edge today. And the best part is that almost all of us have the ability to read!
But we don’t.
A Gallup poll in 2022 showed that 17% of the people surveyed read no books per year. About 40% said they read 1-5 books (or parts of books) each year. Another 15% read 6-10 books, and 27% read more than 11 books in a year.
Sadly, we have this phenomenal resource that most of us are not using — except for highly successful people.
Related: 4 Reasons Every Entrepreneur Should Be Reading More
Leaders are readers
Bill Gates is an avid reader who reads 50 books per year. In an interview with the New York Times, he said, “It is one of the chief ways that I learn and has been since I was a kid. These days, I also visit interesting places, meet with scientists and watch a lot of lectures online. But reading is still the main way I learn new things and test my understanding.”
Books allowed Oprah Winfrey to dream beyond the circumstances she was born into and become the powerhouse she is today. Accepting the Global Humanitarian Award, she said, “As a young girl in Mississippi, I had big dreams at a time when being a Negro child you weren’t supposed to dream big. … Books allowed me to see a world beyond the front porch of my grandmother’s shotgun house and gave me the power to see possibilities beyond what was allowed at the time: beyond economic and social realities, … beyond false beliefs and prejudice that veiled the minds of so many men and women of the time.”
Tony Robbins says that reading books saved his life and inspired him to become a leader in the personal development field. Robbins said, “I took a speed-reading course and read 700 books in seven years—all on psychology, physiology, anything that could make a difference in life.” He took that learning and built an incredible career, coaching presidents and other world leaders and helping millions of people achieve success.
Warren Buffett reads eight newspapers and 500 pages of material per day. He read even more when he was starting. He told an MBA class at Columbia, “read 500 pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.” Can you imagine Warren Buffet giving you personal advice and not doing it!?
Mark Cuban credits his early success to reading 3 hours daily, mainly about the industries he was interested in. In his blog, he wrote, “Everything I read was public. Anyone could buy the same books and magazines. The same information was available to anyone who wanted it. It turns out most people didn’t want it.”
Related: The 5-Hour Rule Used by Bill Gates, Jack Ma and Elon Musk
Finding time to read
As an entrepreneur, I doubt you want to be like “most people.” Becoming an avid reader is one of the keys that will set you apart.
But right now, I can almost see you rolling your eyes and saying, “Great. So, where the heck do you think I’m going to find that kind of time?”
Let me share some of the ways I did it.
- Audiobooks: This is a no-brainer! So many books are available as audiobooks now. You can download a few and play them while driving, brushing your teeth, exercising, or walking the dog to log in extra reading time. I do this, and I end up finishing 2-3 books per month.
- Always have a book with you: You never know when you’ll have some spare moments to read. Bill Gates carries a backpack full of books wherever he goes. A friend of mine always throws her Kindle in her purse. I always have my smartphone with a plethora of books loaded on it.
- Read at night: Researcher Jessica Payne of Notre Dame researched memory and sleep. “Our study confirms that sleeping directly after learning something new is beneficial for memory.” The other good thing about reading every night is that it gets reading into your routine.
- Think quality, not quantity: As super-achievers, we might be tempted to slam through as many books as possible. But it’s more important to read books that will broaden your mind and enjoy! Some people use the “three chapter rule.” If a book doesn’t inspire you after three chapters, let it go.
- Have a book club: I have a charitable project where I have teenagers read an inspirational book every month, and we discuss it together. This means I have to read the book too! I also discuss books with my coaching clients. Having someone to discuss a book with is fun and keeps you accountable for your reading.
To become like other highly successful people, don’t consider reading a chore or a luxury. Start thinking of it as one of the foundations you need to succeed. Reading can inspire, enlighten, and give you ideas you would never have thought of. All you need to do is put those ideas into action.
The goal? I love how Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s closet partner, said, “Go to bed smarter than when you woke up.”
Related: How to Write Something That People Will Actually Read