According to US News and World Report, over the course of your lifetime, you will spend eight months of opening junk mail, two years unsuccessfully returning phone calls and five years standing in line. Given this startling fact, one of the simplest yet smartest time management strategies you can follow is to never go anywhere without a book under your arm. While others waiting in line are complaining, you will be growing and feeding your mind a rich diet of ideas found in great books.
“So long as you live, keep learning how to live,” noted the Roman philosopher Seneca. Yet most people never read more than a handful of books after they complete their formal schooling. In these times of rapid change, ideas are the commodity of success. All it takes is one idea from the right book to reshape your character or to transform your relationships or to revolutionise your life. A good book can change the way you love as the philosopher Henry David Thoreau observed in Walden. “There are probably words addressed to our condition exactly, which, if we could really hear and understand, would be more salutary than the morning or the spring to out lives, and possibly put a new aspect on the face of things for us. How many a man has dated a new era of his life from the reading of a book. The book exists for us perchance which will explain our miracles and reveal new ones.”
How high you will rise in your life will be determined not by how hard you work but by how well you think. As I say in my leadership speeches, “The greatest leaders in this new economy will be the greatest thinkers.” And the person you will be five years from now will come down to two primary influences: the people you associate with and the books you read. I often joke with my seminar audiences that I play “Cinderella Tennis”: I try hard but I never quite make it to the ball. Yet when I play tennis with someone better than I am, something almost magical happens to my game. I make shots that I have never made before, gracefully floating through the air with an ease that would make even the best player blush. Reading good books creates much the same phenomenon. When you expose your mind to the thoughts of the greatest people who have walked this planet before you, your game improves, the depth of your thinking expands and you rise to a whole new level of wisdom.
Deep reading allows you to connect with the world’s most creative, intelligent and inspiring people, twenty-four hours a day. Aristotle, Emerson, Seneca, Gandhi, Thoreau, Dorothea Brande, and many of the wisest women and men who grace our planet today are just waiting to share their knowledge with you through their books.
Why wouldn’t you seize such an opportunity as often as you could? If you have not read today, you have not really lived today. And knowing how to read but failing to do so puts you in exactly the same position as the person who cannot read but wants to.
(Excerpt from ‘Who will cry when you die’ by Robin Sharma)