Seth Godin wrote a post recently (see it here) that articulates something I’ve noticed happening for some time: A disturbingly smaller population is reading and is relying on TV to generate opinions for them. Even while the Kindle and iPad have made reading “cool”, a growing number of people would still prefer to tune out and let their favorite TV shows create an opinion for them. There is something hugely wrong with this picture–and it plays into the fact that our country is quickly loosing the education race. Besides the socioeconomic impacts of less book reading and more TV watching, there seems to be a more fundamental problem with this phenomenon–at least for me. That is, an apathetic, nonchalant coolness that in now largely associated with not having a well-formed opinion.
Less I be mistaken for a misanthrope, there are still a lot of very smart, well-informed people out there. And, I can’t definitively draw the conclusion that there are no intelligent, well-informed people out there who do not read.
What I can say is that I’ve never met a successful business owner who didn’t read–and generally, read quite a bit. With the internet, libraries and the relatively inexpensive cost of books (especially on Amazon), there really isn’t an excuse for not reading. To pull a quote directly from Seth Godin’s post:
“Access to knowledge, for the first time in history, is largely unimpeded for the middle class. Without effort or expense, it’s possible to become informed if you choose. For less than your cable TV bill, you can buy and read an important book every week. Share the buying with six friends and it costs far less than coffee.”
Among readers in my social and business circles, I’ve encountered three different types of reader:
1. “I only read fiction. Non-fiction is soooo boring.”
2. “I only read non-fiction. Fiction is a waste of time.”
3. “I read both.”
In my opinion (and that’s what this blog is, right?) both number 1 and 2 contained flawed thinking. They are one-dimensional. Reading fiction is important because it stimulates creativity, uses your imagination and can help improve your vernacular. Reading non-fiction is important for staying in touch with reality, forming well-rounded opinions and staying competitive if you own a business.
The key is to create some sort of symmetry between your fictional self and non-fictional self. For me, a fictional book is my reward for completing a business book. If non-fiction is your thing, try the opposite. Another key is to find a trusted source for book recommendations. Trim the fat and read as many good books as possible while wasting as little time on bad books as possible.
While book reading is important, there are other sources of written information that, at least in the non-fiction category, are equally if not more important.
Information changes rapidly. News happens around us constantly. New discoveries are made. Books may reflect on this information, but to learn about it as it unfolds you’ll need other sources. This is where blogs, magazines, newspapers, Twitter, Facebook, etc come into play. With the right RSS feeds, you can selectively view current information when you want. If you don’t already have an RSS reader, you are missing out.
Next time you find yourself sitting on the couch trying to figure out which cast member on the latest reality show you are most aligned with, consider turning it off and picking up a book, reading a magazine, or checking your RSS feed. That’s all I’m saying.