You’ll be the same in five years as you are today, except for the people you meet and the books you read. It’s a great quote from motivational speaker Charlie ‘Tremendous’ Jones. There’s a lot of wisdom in those words.
The Books You Read
What are you reading right now? What do you wish you knew? Is reading a hobby? For me, I’ve always been a reader. Since I learned to read, I’ve always had a book in my hand. Today, I have less time to read, but I’ve got a stack of books on my Kindle that I’ll eventually get through. There have been so many books in my life that have changed my course or given me a much-needed kick in the slacks. My favorite book is still “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London. Not because it’s the greatest book ever written, but because it was the first book I read and remember thinking “that was awesome” as I finished the last page. I was hooked.
Today, my book selection teeters between the latest business titles and stuff that would bore the heck out of most of you (then again, a lot of you are nerds just like me). The point is, to each his/her own. If you’re always reading, your brain will stay sharp, your vocabulary will be robust, and you’ll always have something interesting to talk about at cocktail parties.
So that’s the first part of the quote – read books. I don’t think that’s enough to develop as a person. On to the next part, the people you meet.
The People You Meet
I’ve always been a ‘networker’, it’s important in PR (well, it’s important in everything). I’ve slowed my networking down in recent years (though most people would call bullshit on that one). I could write a hundred blog posts on networking (here’s one), but the most important thing is to get out there and meet people. Relationships are currency. I won’t go so far as to say “It’s who you know,” but let’s face it, a lot of times it is. Have you ever met a successful person that didn’t know everyone? Exactly.
But can reading books and meeting people really make that big a difference in your life? I think so. Almost every turning point in my life to date has been influenced in some way or another by a book or person.
Read, Think, Share
I’d like to take Charlie’s observation a step further… for me, it’s not so much about the books you read and the people you meet, but what you do with that knowledge. Read books for self-improvement or self-enjoyment or both. Don’t just read it and nod – think about it. Talk about it. Put that gearbox in your skull to work. Above all, share your knowledge with others. Multiply your knowledge by discussing what you learn with others. Share your knowledge, particularly that infectious enthusiasm you have when you read something that really moves you. Maybe it’s something that helped you grow emotionally or spiritually. Maybe it’s something that helped you shave an hour off your workday. Share what you learn with others.
Share what you’re reading using tools like GoodReads or Amazon’s Reading List (which integrates to LinkedIn). You’ll be surprised by how many people are interested in what you’re reading. You’ll probably be interested in what your peers are reading too. Don’t be afraid to post reviews of the books you read – or to share your thoughts via social media. That’s also a good way to get suggestions for books too.
You can lock yourself away in a library and pick up a lot of book smarts. The real growth in life – my opinion of course – comes from the interaction you have with others. You learn so much from talking with people (notice I said “with”, not “to”). Listening is essential for knowledge absorption. It keeps your brain sharp and it fills a lot of that available space you have between your ears. Ever notice that the best networkers also tend to know a lot about stuff?
What do you think? How else do you develop beyond the relationships you have and the books you read? What books have influenced you most? What are you reading now?