Harvey Mackay: Reading is key to professional development—and it’s fun!

Years ago, I was on a flight from Minneapolis to New York when a businessman sitting next to me reached in his briefcase and pulled out my first book, “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.”

I was going crazy inside, and blurted out, “How do you like that book?”

“Well,” he said, “my boss gave me a choice of three business books to read. I picked this one because it was the shortest.”

Talk about a letdown. But at least he was reading and I sincerely hope that the short chapters and many business lessons gave him plenty of take-home value.

In honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, March is designated as National Reading Month — a month to motivate Americans of all ages to read every day.

Reading is fun and has many benefits, regardless of your age. It’s a key component of education and professional development. Books illuminate your imagination, enhance your vocabulary, build confidence and improve memory, writing and communication skills.

Reading also has immediate and long-lasting health benefits, such as increased cognitive function, empathy and decreased levels of stress.

I love this quote from famed speaker Charlie “Tremendous” Jones: “Don’t read to be big, read to be down to earth. Don’t read to be smart, read to be wise. Don’t read to memorize, read to realize. Don’t read to just learn, read to sometimes unlearn.”

People’s lives change in two ways—the people they meet and the books they read.

Jones first uttered something similar to this, and I have repeated this point every speech I’ve given to corporate audiences. I believe it’s that important. You cannot open a book without learning something.

Whenever I read a book, I want to get at least one idea from it that I can use the rest of my life.

Books are easier to access now than ever before. I keep several downloaded on my phone and iPad when I’m traveling — much easier than when my briefcase was bulging with reading material in the “old days.” Audiobooks have long been one of my go-to pastimes.

Bestselling author Og Mandino said: “Many years ago, when I was just about as complete a failure as one can become, I began to spend a good deal of time in libraries, looking for some answers. I found all the answers I needed in that golden vein of ore that every library has.”

Radio, television, computers and the internet were proclaimed to be the final replacement for conventional books when each first became popular. But more books than ever are being published and more copies are being sold.

Here’s my prediction: Traditional paper pages will not become extinct anytime soon. There’s just something about turning the pages that keeps you engaged.

Books are a great source to learn from top mentors in all subjects, even when you can’t meet with them personally.

Books offer a remarkable flexibility. There are so many excellent books written every year, and if the information in one doesn’t grab your attention, you can try another author’s approach.

Inscribed on the Thomas Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress are the first eight words of this quotation by philosopher and writer Henry David Thoreau: “Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations. Their authors are a natural and irresistible aristocracy in every society, and more than kings or emperors exert an influence on mankind.”

Do you realize that just 200 years ago, only about 12% of the world’s population could read and write? Today, that number is between 85 and 90%. Just imagine the progress made as the world becomes more literate. The possibilities are limitless.

Mackay’s Morals: Reading helps install new software in brains.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.

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