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Humans make progress and prosper when they learn new things.1

I entered the workforce in the golden age of online leadership tutorials. It was 2014 and voices like Michael Hyatt, Jon Acuff, and Jeff Goins were breathing new life into business blogging and podcasting. They synthesized their collective knowledge and shared it openly. Although their voices have quieted since then, those lessons shaped me professionally.

One of the primary lessons that these teachers shared was that, “Leaders are readers; readers are leaders.” Most adults don’t read. My son is a voracious consumer of books, and brings them up to the adults he encounters in his day. I took him to get a haircut earlier this month, and he launched into an explainer on his latest book with the barber. I sat in my chair, in pain, as the middle-aged barber told him that they didn’t read; they preferred movies. The reality is, although the total knowledge of the world is contained in books, most adults haven’t cracked one since they were last required to in school.

This juxtaposition caused a simmering curiosity in my mind for the last decade. What is it about the simple act of reading that turns someone into a leader? How can 5, 10, or 12 books a year take an individual from average to great? As I read the quote above from Arthur Books, it clicked.

The act of reading itself is unassuming; you, on a couch, holding a bunch of paper and ink bound together. That’s not what transforms the reader. Reading ignites the brain; it enables the brain to do what it was made to do. Our minds are like sponges, soaking up whatever information they can. When you feed your brain knowledge, rather than empty consumption, it pulls the mind closer to its fullest potential. It stores that knowledge, cross-references it with previously learned facts, and creates new synergies. New ideas are created, and energy is released that propels you forward, improving your productivity and performance and making you a de facto leader in your life.

Movies are great, and so is napping by the pool and taking it easy. When there is time for leisue, choose its highest form: reading. It will always leave you satisified.

  1. Arthur Brooks, Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier (New York: Portfolio-Penguin, 2023). [return]

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