So, in which arena do you want to succeed? Professional success? Lasting and meaningful connections with family? Pursuing personal interests for the pure joy of it? Do you want to succeed in managing your stress? Do you want to succeed in personal growth?
Can reading really get you there? I believe it can. But the real question is how can reading lead to success? Reading leads to success when you read in your field, read as a family, read to solve problems, read outside of your field and read self-help.
If you want family success, read together
Reading together to make lasting connections
Sarah Mackenzie from Read Aloud Revival has a lot to say about making meaningful and lasting connections with your kids through books. She literally wrote the book on it.
There’s something about the shared experience of reading together that binds a group together. There’s inside jokes and the shared memories of taking the journey together.
We used to read to as a family on road trips. We logged a lot of miles on those trips and we read a lot of books.
The best books capture the attention of kids and adults, because as CS Lewis says, “I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story.”
Reading to your kids increases empathy
Stories introduce kids to people in a variety of circumstances, some will be greatly different from their own. They will have the opportunity to walk a mile in their moccasins. They can crawl into their skin and see life from their perspective and have empathy for the difficulties they face.
Reading in our formative years shapes us
Ben Carson, in his autobiography, Gifted Hands, credits reading to putting him on the path to success. His mother required Ben and his brother to read on a regular basis and limited their television viewing. They even wrote book reports for her to check. Somehow, she was able to hide from them that she was functionally illiterate herself.
Books opened up new worlds for Ben. He began exploring topics that interested him. He began succeeding in school. Eventually, his academic success led him to medical school. He enjoyed a brilliant career as a pediatric neurosurgeon.
His life story illustrates the truth of Kathleen Kelly’s quote from You’ve Got Mail.
“The books you read as a child influence you in a way that no other reading in your life ever does.”
Growing up, I read biographies that impacted me. I read fiction that impacted me. I identified deeply and personally with the books that I read.
If you want to grow as a human, read self-help
Strengthen your mental, emotional, spiritual or physical health
Reading is a great way to improve your health in all aspects. To start with, you can read books that are written to help you improve your health. Mental health profesionals, pastors, doctors and counselors as well as ordinary people who tell of their own experiences. So many resources that can serve as a guide for you to improve your health in any aspect.
The truth is, we need the wisdom of the ages. We can’t rely only what people are saying today. We need the classics that have stood the test of time, the ebb and flow of history, and have proven true through the years. In this way, we stand on the shoulders of those who have come before.
The best way to do this is to read what they’ve written, and put it to the test for our generation.
In this way, we are no longer limited by geography or even the era we are born into. We can enter into the conversation that has been expounding for centuries.
We need to wrestle with the deep thoughts and form our own conclusions.
Thinking is hard work. It’s easier to let someone else do it for us. To just trust them and swallow it whole without question. But, someone needs to be brave enough to cross-examine the status quo, to question the logic and see if its sound.
To to this, we must read.
In order to be original thinkers, we must read. To join the conversation, we must read. If we are to be influencers, we must read.
We were educated by reading. Now we teach by writing. Even though mediums of communication are changing, books endure.
If you want to lower your stress, read engaging books
Take vacations from the stress in your life by escape reading
I don’t know that the study specified what kind of reading has that affect. It could be that engaging non-fiction can be just as engrossing and helpful as fiction.
Many people, though, find escapist fiction to be the most relaxing and helpful in taking a vacation from the stress of life. Immersing yourself in another world takes you away from whatever you’re facing in real time.
Hopping aboard a guided journey to another reality helps you let go of whatever negative situation you might be in the middle of. In depends what you choose to read of course, but most stories written from the American mindset are stories with happy endings that leave you satisfied and full of hope.
I believe that’s part of the Western world view, that eventually, justice will be served, evil will be punished and the righteous will live happily ever after.
Reading books with this foundational philosophy will be uplifting. They will leave you in a better mental state than where you started.
Sometimes the best way to experience our own emotions is to borrow them from a character in a story or identify with the life story of a real person.
Vicariously experiencing someone else’s emotions can be a bridge to our own emotional health.
Borrow the courage from the heroes of the the stories you’re reading
Some stories are called inspiring for a reason. Watching someone else, real or fictional, scale the mountain or fight the dragon or win the war can inspire us to fight our own dragons. We can borrow their courage after seeing their victories and successes. We can stand on their shoulders to reach heights impossible without their example.
Develop empathy for those in different circumstances than your own
There’s nothing like reading someone else’s story for getting your focus off yourself. Finding out what it’s like to walk in their moccasins will change you, if you let it. Getting down in the trenches with them will help you develop empathy for the lives they live and the circumstances they face.
It’s all possible through the miracle of reading.
If you want to pursue personal interests, read to satisfy your curiosity
Curiosity is a great motivation to learn all the things. The quest to learn becomes effortless when married to a healthy curiosity. The best part is other people can benefit when we share what we’ve learned.
Diagnose problems that you have and find solutions by first starting with the pain or symptoms
One of our kids was struggling with reading in first and second grade. In the quest to find out why, we took him first to the eye doctor. His eyes were fine.
Then we started asking educational experts. Why is this a struggle? What’s the problem? What can we do to help?
Finally a special needs teacher suggested we look into dyslexia. After an evaluation and a positive diagnosis, the search for help began. Thanks to the internet, we were able to find an approach that was much more effective than the program they were using at school.
I learned so much about dyslexia in that search. It’s fascinating the way the mind of dyslexics work and the extraordinary abilities they have because of it.
So many things I would have never known without stumbling down that rabbit hole out of necessity.
Evaluate different approaches to the same problem
If you start with the symptoms or the pain, you might end up with varying conclusions to what is at the root.
But, even if you correctly diagnose a problem you’re facing, you still might have many different ways to address it.
So many of those approaches are at your fingertips, or will at least point you in the right direction to get started. Again, finding the right expert might be the hard part when they say different things.
If you want professional success, read in your field
Expand your knowledge
There’s nothing like reading to just gather knowledge. It’s an efficient way to increase your knowledge about almost anything. Warren Buffet claims to have read 500 to 1000 pages a day and has for decades. He credits his success to this ability to consume knowledge.
“You know what you’ll probably find on a successful (read: rich) person’s nightstand?Books.
But not just any books, according to Tom Corley, the author of “Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits Of Wealthy Individuals.” His research finds that rich and poor people alike are cracking their fair share of spines, but the key difference is that less financially successful people read for entertainment, while rich people read for self-improvement.”–Libby Kane, What Rich People Have Next to Their Beds for Business Insider
Learn things you never knew before
Reading can open up whole new worlds for you, worlds that exist and worlds that are imagined.
Become an expert in any area that you want to study on your own
In high school, my son developed an interest in aquaponics, where plants and fish form a symbiotic relationship. He started building little systems and then bigger systems. He researched, he shopped, he asked questions, he downloaded ebooks. Over the past four years he’s gained a wealth of information in the area of aquaponics. He’s tried a lot of things that haven’t worked and a few that have.
Aquaponics is one of a million interests that you can pursue and gain expertise in by reading. Of course, there’s more ways to access information than ever before. Accessing the information usually isn’t the hard part. The curiosity that drives the research is what’s rare.
If you want to expand your brain, read outside of your field
Educate yourself into a new career
Formal education is not the only path to success. You can be self-taught. You can orchestrate your own education by hiring experts and trainers to impart their knowledge.
Get to know people in different areas of expertise
Once you dive into a field, you start to learn who the gurus are, which philosophies of thought they ascribe to, and who their disciples are. You start to learn which circles they run in, who their network is and who they’re following.
Who should you trust?
How can someone earn your trust?
It will take time.
A good clue is the company they keep. Who endorses them. Who do they reference? Which circles do they travel in? Who’s in their network? Or are they a lone wolf with no connections? It’s hard to build credibility on your own. It’s better for someone else to vouch for you. What people say about themselves doesn’t hold as much weight as what other people are saying about them. It’s a good way to find out who to trust. Experts in the field can recommend other experts in the field.
Trust is the scarcest commodity.
Sharpen your writing, thinking and communication skills
There’s nothing like reading to challenge your brain. Without realizing it, you can pick up speech patterns and logical reasoning. That’s on top of increasing your vocabulary and general knowledge.
Extensive reading can prepare you for better writing. You know instinctively what sounds right and what sounds wrong. Subconsciously, you can pattern your writing after your favorite authors.
Other forms of communication, such as speeches, videos or email, are enhanced when our writing is influenced by what we read.
Deep work and deep thinking are a lost art. There’s nothing like great books to help us rediscover it.
How do you find the books you need? Sometimes just googling or searching on Amazon isn’t enough. You might have to do more research.
Sometimes people you read will introduce you to other people you need to read. Check the bibliographies if you’re reading non-fiction and trying to learn something new in a new area. Primary research is going to be more accurate than secondary research.
Many successful people credit their success to reading voraciously and discriminately. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are often touted as great readers. Bill Gates offers his favorite book recommendations online and on you tube.
Stimulate your brain rather than let it stagnate
There are activities that are passive as far as the brain is concerned and those that are active. Depending on what kind of reading you’re doing, reading can be very active.
We read fiction to find truth. And all the best fiction rings true and we know it when we hear it. We’re drawn to it, because it expresses the very truth that we could not express for ourselves.
Non-fiction stretches us by challenging us to new thoughts and ideas. We can learn from history. We can learn from all the leaders in all the fields– philosophers and economists, preachers and politicians, business men and teachers. They all have something to say.
You can create the life you love by choosing what you read. Focus on the dark or focus on the uplifting. Dive into the limitless knowledge of the ages or learn the cutting edge advances that are happening today. Choosing what to read is choosing your path to success.