Americans are reading fewer books than in the past. That’s not good news, of course, but it does give you an easy way to stand out and get ahead by simply reading a few more books than the average.
According to Gallup’s latest State of Reading report, Americans read an average of 12 books a year, a lower number than recorded by Gallup in any survey dating back to 1990.
While book reading “appears to be on the decline,” according to Gallup, there appears to be no decline in reading activity among a subgroup of super achievers: entrepreneurs and business leaders, many of whom read between 11 and 50 books a day. year.
That means if you just read a book and a half each month, you’ll be way ahead of your peers and join an elite club of top leaders.
Avid readers who are leaders often have a reading system: they are selective and active.
Be a selective reader.
Stumbling across random books is a fun hobby, but if you’re busy starting a business or leading a team, there’s not much extra time you have in a day. That’s why you need to be selective about the books you read.
Podcaster Tim Ferriss asked billionaire David Rubenstein how he chooses the 100 books he reads each year. Rubenstein said that he is selective. For example, he spends most of his reading time in the nonfiction category that relates to his work and interests: business, philanthropy, politics, and history (Rubenstein donates millions of dollars to preserve historic documents and buildings).
Ask people in your field what they read. Listen to podcasts or read blogs from leaders you admire. Look for books that complement your career or passion. For example, when giving interviews or giving presentations on public speaking and communication skills, I do not recommend ‘public speaking’ books. One of my favorite books to recommend is Leadership in turbulent times by Doris Kearns Goodwin. In it, you can learn about Abraham Lincoln’s storytelling skills or Franklin Roosevelt’s amazing ability to simplify complex plots.
A history book is the best ‘communication’ book I have ever read.
Be an active reader.
If you are going to spend precious time reading a book that will make you a better person, then you owe it to yourself and others to incorporate what you learn.
Be an active reader: take notes, highlight ideas, decide which concepts to take on a test drive. You’ll probably throw away 90 percent of what you learn, but the remaining 10 percent could catapult your career.
I read between 50 and 75 books a year. I have a system to get the most out of each one. First, I read them with a yellow marker in my hand. Second, I review the highlights and write notes on a digital file. Finally, if I have the opportunity, I will contact the author to discuss the book or read additional material from the same person.
Most importantly, especially if you are leading a team, be an active reader by sharing the book with others. Together, you can use the ideas you’ve learned to enhance the success of the group.
For over fifteen years I have been speaking to companies around the world, reaching audiences on six of the seven continents. Almost all the leaders who invite me to speak with their team read far more books than the people they lead. But they don’t just read, they share.
I remember speaking at a large tech company in Los Angeles and finding out that author Dan Pink had been there a few weeks earlier. I learned that the founder of the company sends an email every two weeks with a brief explanation of how he applies to the company. He then invites the authors to speak at the company where all employees and major customers are invited.
It’s hard to stand out from the crowd. Take every opportunity to do so. Read a few more books than the average and you will stand out.