“PUT DOWN THE BOOK”!
I remember this haunting cry as if it were yesterday. I was sitting outside the gym on a fall day after football practice waiting to be picked up. I was a freshman and had just been yelled at by a car full of seniors.
Far from being embarrassed, I was confused. Why would someone tell me to stop reading a book? Didn’t they know what was in them? I soon discovered, they didn’t.
In fact, the average American reads about 6 books per year. And I’m not talking actual books. That includes trash like Nicholas Sparks and Fifty Shades of Grey.
So what is so important about books that I would write a whole article about them?
(If you already know the importance of reading, download my list of five books every man should read.
Read What Dead Men Have Written
Reading is one of the most powerful tools for acquiring more knowledge. Think about it for a moment, not only can you read the ideas of men who lived in ancient Greece but you can gain the knowledge that someone learned over an entire professional career. You can gain that experience in two weeks of reading for 30 minutes every night. All of the knowledge gained over the course of a thirty year professional career gained in two weeks. That is incredibly powerful.
I always like to joke that one of my favorite things to do is to talk with dead people. People think I’m weird, and when I tell them I actually read a lot, they believe that I’m even weirder. I believe that now, more than ever, it is critically important to be reading. For many of us, history begins the day that we are born. There is a reason why the clichéd phrase “history repeats itself” is a cliché.
Reading provides you perspective on what has come before so that you can accurately plot what your future holds for you. There is nothing new under the sun, the background merely changes. Men in ancient Greece struggled with the same problems that you grapple with today. The only difference is that you have a broader knowledgebase to draw on.
You may laugh at the idea that you can navigate the miasma that is your future with the wisdom of dead men. But it’s true. Steven Covey may have passed away recently but his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People contains timeless wisdom about personal and professional development. It has helped me immensely in my own life, and I can guarantee you that it can help you.
Average is Over
This point ties in strongly with my post about the death of the career man. Being average is over. We have entered an incredibly competitive era in human existence, and the only trend is that it is going to become more competitive as more and more people enter the global marketplace.
You need to provide an incredible amount of value in the current environment and to do that you need to expand your human capital. The time to acquire skills is not when you are out of a job but now.
I just want you to reflect on a moment about all of the companies which have died or have been gutted by the information age:
- Borders Books
- Circuit City
- America Online
These were just a few that I could think of off of the top of my head. One of the largest corporations in the world, IBM, almost went out of business because they didn’t see the personal computing trend coming.
This rapid disruption of ossified industries is not going to slow down anytime soon. Do not rely on those corporate jobs to be there for your entire life and do not expect a single skillset to get you through your whole life. You must remain flexible and adaptive.
Your point of differentiation in this new era must be your skills, knowledge and how you connect with another person. In other words, you need soft skills to add to your hard skills.