You Are Not Reading

Mitch JoelPosted by

We live in a world where most professionals are just skimming content.

You can blame Twitter. You can blame Facebook‘s newsfeed. You can blame YouTube. None of that really matters (because they are not to blame). It’s not the Internet. It’s not social media. For every tweet that you are thumbing through, the Internet also has a ton of amazing long form content. It’s not even that hard to find (in fact, every week, there is post called, Six Links Worthy of Your Attention, that I curate along with Alistair Croll and Hugh McGuire, and it’s filled with deep, rich and insightful content). Still, we (half) jokingly use terms like TLDR (which, stands for “Too long; didn’t read”), because we live in the era of now. Immediately. Who has the time to spend reading a book? It’s an issue. So much so, that Hugh McGuire wrote a Medium piece titled, Why can’t we read anymore?, that has become hugely popular. It taps into our need to skim, flip and use multiple screens to consume content. And, in that action, we are re-wiring our brains, and pushing it further away from a place of deep learning and understanding.

What a book means.  

I spent the morning giving a keynote address to a very senior team of marketers at Johnson & Johnson yesterday. During the Q&A, someone asked me a question that I frequently get asked: “where do I get my ideas for content?” What they really want to know, is what tools, applications and engines of curation do I use to get inspired. The truth is, that those are the most boring part of the process. The real truth is this: I read. A lot. Constantly. Not so much articles (though, I do love saving the more heady stuff to Pocket). I read books. A lot of books. Mostly non-fiction. Mostly business books. Why? You can call it “professional development.” I call it, “education.” I was never good at school (elementary, high school or post-secondary), but I loved to read, and I have an innate curiosity about life and learning more about it. I never let school get in the way of my education. I do not benchmark education against years, certificates or accreditation. Education and learning is a life-long pursuit. The only way to get serious about it, is to read books. Lots and lots of books. And… don’t be afraid to take notes!

Are you reading?

You are not reading. Sadly. SmartBlog on Leadership published an article yesterday titled, How much professional reading do you do each month? It was less of an article and more of a reader’s poll. The question asked was: How much professional reading do you do each month? Here was the response:

  • A ton — more than 5 books per month: 3.82%
  • A lot — 2-3 books per month: 13.25%
  • Some — 1 book per month: 24.5%
  • Little — a book every few months: 42.57%
  • None — I don’t have time for it or interest in it: 15.86%

Nooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Almost 60% of respondents do little to no reading about their work, the industry they serve… or business in general. If you think the lack of innovation or slowness to adopt to technology has something to do with budgets and bureaucracy, it could well be that the vast majority of business professionals haven’t spent any significant amount of time reading, reflecting and acting on the change that business has been cycling through. Look, this sucks for me to write. I feel like I’m asking you to eat your broccoli. It’s good for you. Trust me. It feels like I’m preaching to you. I read. You should read too. When you tell people to read, there’s this immediate sense of someone feeling a little too “holier than thou.” It can come off as pompous. Nobody wants that. Even writing this post makes me feel like I’m being all “I’m so smart, because I read a lot.” That’s not it. 

Take joy in reading. 

There are a tons of sucky books. Life is too short to read bad books. People read business books, because they think it will make them look smart… which is not the same as reading books because they make you smart. Life is too short for bad business books. Reading is also a habit. Reading is also a form of exercise. Reading expands your mind. Reading gives you focus. Reading does a whole lot more. Especially, in a world where it’s so easy to shift from your Kindle reading app to Facebook. 

Force yourself to read. Most people aren’t. It’s a sustainable competitive advantage. It will keep you employed. It would spark an entrepreneurial spirit. 

Not sure where to start? Try here (and read the comments too): The Five Business Books That Permanently Changed My Life.