Being Well Read Is Fundamental To Success Revisited

by Michael Haberman on August 30, 2012 · 5 comments


Don’t just say you have read books. Show that through them you have learned to think better, to be a more discriminating and reflective person. Books are the training weights of the mind. They are very helpful, but it would be a bad mistake to suppose that one has made progress simply by having internalized their contents.”

 Quote from Roman Stoic philosopher Epictetus

I came across this quote the other day and it reminded me of this post which I published on December 8th, 2011. Being Well Read Is Fundamental To Success. I thought it was important enough to republish. Enjoy and comment with your favorite book.

A presidential candidate discovered the other day that being well read is fundamental to success in the race, or at least in order to keep from being embarrassed. No I am not talking about the presidential race in the U.S.; rather I am talking about the presidential race in Mexico. The candidate, Enrique Pena Nieto, was asked by the press what three books have most influenced him. This is a reasonable request, after all most people want to know that their presidential candidates are educated. Unfortunately Pena Nieto did not demonstrate his education. He answered “I have read a number of books, starting with novels that I particularly liked. “  But he could not name any titles and then fumbled around tossing out confused titles. He did say he had been influenced by the Bible, which he had read ““parts of.”  This lead a great deal of criticism and to many people a confirmation of the observation that he is telegenic but hollow.

I point this out, not because I care whether or not this man becomes President of Mexico, but because I wanted to point out that I believe a leader should be well read. And I think many voters want to know that their leader, or potential leader, is well read. I can only imagine what would have happened to one of the Republican presidential candidates if they had answered in a similar manner.

My favorite leader in history is Theodore Roosevelt, who was perhaps one of the most well-read Presidents we have had. He always had a book with him even when he was in the Badlands, or Africa or the Amazon. He read voraciously, as have other Presidents. Jefferson was so well-read that his personal library became the foundation for the Library of Congress.

How Being Well Read Helps You

You make be saying to yourself “Gee thanks for the history lesson Mike but what the heck does this have to do with HR?” Here is the tie-in. In today’s business world HR professionals are stepping up to take leadership roles. You cannot possibly think of everything yourself. You have to be exposed to the ideas of others, in business, in HR, in politics and world affairs and to life in general. The greater exposure you have to the ideas of others the better your ideas will be. And this exposure can most easily occur through reading. It does not require your attendance at a meeting. It can occur on a plane or in your living room or at the local Starbucks.

The exposure to the ideas of others will give you a perspective on the world that will make you better positioned to take on leadership responsibility. You will be respected for you knowledge and education. But if someone asks you what books influenced you I would suggest you be prepared to answer.

With that statement I want to ask you “What books have influenced you in your career and in life?” Let’s start compiling a list.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jack Bruce August 30, 2012 at 10:12 am

Well said Mike. I have found that reading demonstrates our desire to learn. I always have 2 – 3 books at some stage of reading. It is not uncommon for me to interject a lesson learned in one of our team meetings or expound upon it in a blog. When I connect with someone on LinkedIn I often take a look to see what books they have listed in their Reading List (if they have included it). The challenges today for books, however, is the competition of T.V., social media and, of course, our great blogs! -Jack

Reply

Michael Haberman August 30, 2012 at 10:26 am

You are so right Jack. A lot of competition for our reading time. Although I love the feel of a book in my hand I have started using my iPad for reading as well. There is a great app for that called Zite. It aggregates blogs and articles around subjects I am intersted in.

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Bill Ramsey August 30, 2012 at 10:15 am

I don’t know that these are the books that have influenced me the MOST, but looking at the shelf behind me, here are a few random titles that made an impact:
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
The Go Giver by Burg & Mann
Thank You for Arguing by Jay Heinrichs
. . . and one of my all-time favorites, just because I tear up at the end, everytime:
The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald

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Michael Haberman August 30, 2012 at 10:27 am

Bill:
Some great stuff there. I recently read that On Writing Well is one of those books I should read. If you liked Pink’s book you should read Drive! as well. Thanks for the comment.

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Bill Ramsey August 30, 2012 at 10:39 am

Halfway through Drive! as we speak. Another interesting read: The Power of Habit by Duhigg.

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