The Best Business Investment I Ever Made


Updated 9/8/2009 to include links to amazon.com

OK, with that title, I know the room just got silent as you eagerly await this knowledge that will revolutionize your business and your life.

The best business investment I ever made was to get a library card.

WHAT? I hear you screaming…but it is true…especially if you are a creative person or any person for that matter who has to have their mind engaged.

I have recently joined a BNI group and as a part of being a member of the group you try to get to know the other members of your chapter by having what they call one on ones.  The sole purpose of these one on ones is for one member of the chapter to spend an entire hour learning about the other person so they can better understand who that person is and what they do. They ask questions about both your personal and your business life because they want to get to know you as a person, this is not just some business card passing group, they are truly and genuinely interested in getting to know you. Anyway, being the new guy on the block I have people coming out of the woodwork all over the place wanting to get to know me and one of the things that I ended up talking about a lot is that I love to read. My wife laughs at me but I usually have more than one book going at a time. Usually, a business book, a fun book, and a personal enrichment/enlightenment book. At the rate I go, I read about a book a week. I think I developed the habit from my dad who also loves to read. My dad always has a book with him. It just makes sense, especially when you are a parent and you always have to wait to pick them up. Why not use that time to read?

Now that I have digressed, I will bring this post back to why a library card is such a great investment. Many people will say that with the advent of the internet books are irrelevant, but I would disagree (obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this post). My main reason that books are not irrelevant given that the internet is so prevalent now is that the internet doesn’t lend itself to the discipline of deep concentration. Many people don’t actually read webpages…they skim them and are off to the next page or site. When people read a book, they don’t skim, they usually devote all of their attention to the information on the pages, you just can’t replace that. One of the main things that productivity books focus on is our ability to focus and how to best create an environment that allows us to do so. A lot of us in the business world have a strain of ADD that I believe could be cured if we would only spend time reading because of the nature of reading. I am not talking about reading magazines, they fuel our ADD because the articles are so short.

A second reason that reading books is so important is that it causes you to create images or scenarios in your mind which gets the creative juices flowing. This is especially true of fiction books, but is really true for any book. With fiction books you are required to create the image of the characters in your head. Every book requires you to interact with it, a business book causes you to think about how the content of the book applies to your business, a book about programming causes you to think about how what you are learning in the book applies to the problems you have to solve on a daily basis.  Non-fiction books are seen in the light of your present or upcoming circumstances and cause you to visualize putting the principles contained within the book into practice, TV or movies just don’t do this (don’t get me wrong, I love movies, but some of the fun in watching a movie that is based on a book is comparing how my view of the characters is similar or different than the view of the creator of the movie).

Finally, the last benefit I will talk about in this post is that the right books help us to relax. Relaxation is somewhat of a lost art in our culture. We are always on the go and we are always reachable via cell phone but sometimes we just need to come to a complete stop and relax, shut off our cell phones, email, pagers (Does anyone actually use pagers anymore other than doctors?), and whatever other noise maker you have (this could include your children so find some time after they go to bed) and just read, you will be amazed at how refreshed you can feel after reading for awhile in a really good book.

If you are not an avid reader at this point or you have forgotten the art I will give a couple of tips.

  1. Start with a fiction book. This may sound counter-intuitive to the business person who has a stack of business books they want to read but never has the time for, but the reason I suggest fiction books to start with is that you are less likely to give up on a good fiction book. Ask your friends what they are reading (if they aren’t reading anything, I suggest adding a few more people to your friendship circle) or go to the library and ask your librarian what their favorite fiction book is.
  2. Don’t be afraid to give up on a book. Some books just aren’t your cup of tea, and that is ok, that is why there are so many of them. If you don’t like a book get a different one. This is really easy if you are using your library card because you haven’t wasted any money on the book because it was free for you to borrow from the library. What you may find with some books is that it is just not the right time in your life to read that particular book and you will be able to come back to it in the future.
  3. If you are really having trouble getting in the habit of reading, ask a friend to join you in your endeavor. Meet with them once a week to catch up and talk about what you are reading and to encourage each other to continue to read and interact with what you are reading.

Before, I close the post, many of you will probably ask what I have read recently.  Here is the list of what I have read in the last few months or am currently reading (all links point to amazon.com in a new window/tab).

Good luck on your journey, stop by soon…

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  • Brenden

    Well said. I’d also make a plug for audio books as well especially for those of us who have a little commute. Audio books are also great to listen to while working out. I’ve got an account with http://www.audible.com and love it.