Thursday, July 30, 2015

5 Ways Reading Books Make You a Better Worker

I like to read. I don't read nearly as much as I think I should, but I still manage to crank through a dozen or more books a year. Usually I read fiction, mystery novels or the like, as I find it an equally if not superior entertainment venue to the television. But over the past few years, I've started picking up more and more non-fiction books and, honestly, finding them helpful in growing.

The financial talk show host Dave Ramsey likes to quote Charlie "Tremendous" Jones with this great saying, "You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read." Think about that for a second. If you don't read books, your mind will not be exposed to anything new or challenging, and you will fail to grow as a human being. You will stagnate. You will stay exactly the same. Is that what you want? Couldn't you do just a little better? I think you can, and that's why I encourage you to read more books. So here's a quick list of reasons to read books and how they can help you at work

Learn New Skills

Books can teach you things that you did not already know, and they often come at a price substantially cheaper than classes or other mechanisms of learning the same thing. Customized two-day courses can often run $1000 or more, even when the entire content of the class can be captured in a 300-page book for $24.99. Books definitely require more discipline in terms of self-pacing and making sure that you are on target with the content, but if you want to learn how something works, chances are that a few books exist to teach you about it.

Discover Different Perspectives

Books can give you a different perspective on problems that you have already faced and dealt with, as well as arm you with tools that can assist you with those same problems or struggles in the future. Often times, books provide a pacing mechanism for you to walk through advice in your own mind and understand it and absorb it better, even if your best friend or spouse previously provided the same advice. Books offer the ability to re-read and re-read passages again and again for understanding, where a conversation might not.

Expose Yourself to Research

Unless you work in a research facility or university, chances are that you don't go seeking out academic research and statistics on a daily basis (maybe you do, but I'll tell you now that you are the exception).  Non-fiction books do require at a minimum some level of research, and they often reference some substantial brainpower, whether the Harvard Business Review or some focused think tank. Regardless, books can affirm or deny facts that you believed to be true, and they often provide data and detailed analysis to back it up. Understanding facts behind your belief structures helps you to explain those ideas to others with an authority and greater detail than just sharing opinions around the water cooler.

Branch Out

Often at work, we sit in a rut. Ruts are easy. Tires fit very well in ruts, and the more they run in them, the deeper grooves they cut, making it harder and harder to turn off the path. The same is true, sadly, of skills. If you do one thing long enough, you will forget many of the other things that you know how to do. The solution? Read more. Books can help you explore different areas that you had previously had limited exposure to. I am, at heart, an IT guy. I enjoy systems development and almost immediate satisfaction to code changes being made on the fly. But still I read books on marketing or finance or personal development, because, at the end of the day, my job will only ever offer me limited exposure to those areas because they are not part of my core duties. Reading will expand your horizon beyond the scope of your job.

Get Better At Things You Thought You Were Good At

Oh, you're an awesome manager, aren't you? Or you already know how to code, right? Not quite.  While you may have the skills to pass a rudimentary skills test, you can always improve. You can always be a little better. Often people work in jobs long enough to become complacent and happy with what they are doing, and it becomes easier to continue along at whatever pace they are working. By reading, though, you can pick a topic you think you already know something about, whether you do or do not, and you can learn more about it. Study what you want to learn and get better. OK?

What else do books prepare you for? What book are you currently reading? I'd love to know.