“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
– George R.R. Martin, American Novelist
About This Week’s Chat: a Literary Love Affair
My love affair with books and reading started a very long time ago. When I was three years old, I started bothering my dad every evening when he sat down to read the newspaper. He liked to read his paper at the kitchen table, and I stood on a chair next to him. All the time he was trying to read, I would point at words (especially headings) asking, “What does it say?” and “What does that one say?”
He figured the best way to get some peace and quiet was to teach me to read. So by the time I went to school I was already a voracious reader – and, at age 10, I broke the school record for reading the most books from the school library in one year.
The fact that my parents never owned a television contributed to my insatiable appetite for reading. I had to know everything the other children knew, and more. My father’s general knowledge was excellent, and he always encouraged me to read to improve my own. Not that I needed much encouragement! I was like a sponge, and I could never learn enough.
A Thirst for Knowledge
Even now, few things excite me as much as books. I love reading them, talking about them, and discovering new ones.
The other day, after going into a bookshop to look for a specific title, I left with a book about physics, another about astronomy, two psychology books, two business books, a book about branding, a book about social media, and a book about personal finances. (If I didn’t buy so many books I probably wouldn’t need the last one!)
And I never give a class without recommending a book or two – or 10! Here’s an interesting thing: when I’m working with a group of people I can often tell, without them telling me, who reads a lot. There’s something different about the way that readers think, reason and ask questions.
Books That Changed Your Life
But books don’t just give you knowledge. I know I must sound like such a nerd, but to me, books are also friends. They tell me stories, make me laugh, make me cry, and are always there for me. They’ve helped me through the tough times, and a handful of them have changed my life, and my career.
In our poll this week, we asked what situation would most likely cause you to buy a book to get help. “Breaking bad habits” and “Improving people skills” topped the list, each getting 30 per cent of the votes. Click here to view all the options and the results.
On that note, I’d like to share four books with you that mean a lot to me.
1. “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”
When Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” was first published, I’m embarrassed to say that I resisted reading it. Everybody was raving about it, and I thought, “It can’t possibly be that good.” But when I eventually came around to it, about 10 years later, I regretted not reading it sooner.
All seven habits are principles to live by, but two in particular had an enormous impact on me.
The first is to begin with the end in mind. Whether it’s a crucial conversation, a project, a relationship, your studies, or an exercise regime, beginning with the end in mind helps you to focus on the goal.
Seek to understand before being understood was the second habit that had a big influence on me. Saying you understand isn’t understanding. Listening without judgment, and with empathy, is where understanding begins. Imagine that the roles are switched, and ask yourself, “If that was me, how would I have felt?”
2. “QBQ! The Question Behind the Question”
Someone whom I had much respect for introduced me to this little book by John G. Miller. At the heart of “QBQ!” lies the principle of taking responsibility. This means moving from a mindset of making excuses, blaming and complaining to a mindset that asks, “What’s the best I can do in this situation, right now?”
When I was young, I was sometimes a bit of a “Negative Nellie” (even I find that hard to believe now). Learning QBQ principles helped me to reframe the way that I perceived challenging situations.
3. “When the Past Is Present”
David Richo’s “When the Past Is Present: Healing the Emotional Wounds that Sabotage our Relationships” isn’t one of the best-known relationship books. But for someone like me, who’s had to work through immense trust issues, it’s priceless.
Learning to trust again is a process, not an event. It helped me to understand why I sometimes seemed to fixate on unhappy past events. It also helped me to think differently about those events and the impact they had on me.
4. “The Einstein Factor”
I had the privilege of attending a lecture by the author, Dr Win Wenger, and he made a very big impression on me. To this day, his book The Einstein Factor: A Proven New Method for Increasing Your Intelligence is of my favorites.
Even if you’re only mildly interested in the power of creative thinking, problem-solving, and increasing your learning capacity, it’s a must-read.
Books That Changed Your Life
Now that I’ve shared some of my favorite books, I’d like to ask you a question: do you appreciate the gift of literacy? Do you give yourself the gift of reading often enough? If you don’t, remember that you have the power to change it! Who knows how the course of your life might change by reading a good book?
In our Twitter chat last Friday, we discussed the books that changed our lives. Here are the questions we asked, and some of the responses:
Q1. What pleasure does reading give you?
@TwisterKW It feels like my own little world. Like going inside and hibernating for while, but at the same time, going beyond myself.
@JenniferBulandr Reading can be a wonderful escape, a chance to recharge my batteries and an opportunity to learn more!
Q2. How did you develop a love of books, if you have one?
Many of our participants remembered a parent, teacher or librarian who encouraged them to read. So, if you have young ones around, please do the same!
@JusChas My mom read to us each night. I remember it from age 4. She read with enthusiasm and as a character from the book, which made it exciting! I had amazing teachers and [U.S. kids’ TV show] “Reading Rainbow” was a massive trend when I was little.
@J_Stephens_CPA Wish I could remember how that love of reading developed. My mom used to ground me by making me go outside and play – otherwise I would spend hours with books.
Q3. Who shared a book with you when you were a child, and what was its effect?
@GThakore My dad is very fond of reading. Even at 84 he keeps on forwarding me some books!
@TwinkleTutoring Usually my grandad or dad. They used to enjoy it as much as me! Putting on different voices for different characters. Using intonation to build suspense, sadness, surprise. I would be transported into that world and it would help me sleep.
Q4. Where, when, and in what format do you read? How does this affect your experience?
Many of you still prefer hard copies, but you use e-readers or apps for convenience.
@harrisonia I still love tangible-cover, printed books. E-books are great for the sake of quick access and portability.
@MaryEllenGrom On air travel, using Kindle so I can swap between multiple titles. Beach, couch and car gets a hard copy. iPad for e-books. No matter the format – just READ!
Q5. What place do books have in a world of YouTube, Twitter and instant news?
@Ganesh_Sabari Books have the ability to cover a larger time period in one stretch. The time required to read it is decided by the reader’s ability to assimilate new information.
@GodaraAR Books are peace of mind. Twitter and YouTube are fast-paced sources.
Q6. What is the most life-changing book, work-related or otherwise, that you have read, and what was its effect?
Q7. What book do you pick up repeatedly for inspiration or ideas?
It seems that some older books, such as “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, are still very popular.
@Midgie_MT One of the books (of several!) that I pick up repeatedly for inspiration is “The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith” by @GabbyBernstein, as it reminds me to trust. Also, anything from @BreneBrown.
Q8. Which book have you not yet read that you really want to, or feel you ought to, one day, and why?
And @BrainBlenderTec voiced what many of us feel: “There are probably many but I just haven’t had time lately to single it out.”
Q9. What book would you recommend to someone you are mentoring?
One of our Mind Tools colleagues, Bill T, recommended “Changing Lenses” by Howard Zehr. He said, “This book teaches us that life has more than one perspective, and that using multiple perspectives, we may find the truth.”
And this interesting recommendation came from @ankitapoddar: “All Dr Seuss books! They’re fun, kids can read them, and everyone can learn from them.”
Q10. Please share one takeaway/lesson with us from one of your favorite books.
@Yolande_MT “Effective communication is not someone else’s job, nor does it begin with being understood. Rather, it’s about understanding the other person,” from John G. Miller’s “QBQ!”
To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat.
The term “psychological safety” was coined by Harvard Business School professor, Amy Edmondson. It’s the belief that you will not be punished or humiliated when you make a mistake, ask a question, come up with an idea, or voice a concern.
Next time on #MTtalk, we’re going to talk about psychological safety at work, and we’d like to know what you think will help to make your workplace psychologically safer. Click here to see all the options and to cast your vote.
In the meantime, here are some resources that may help you to improve your reading skills.
Mind Tools’ Top 10 Books This Summer
The Rhetorical Triangle
10 Key Steps to Content Curation Success
Leadership and L&D Lessons From History
Members of the Mind Tools Club can also access the full versions of the following resources: