“Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists, to make his life full, significant and interesting” – Aldous Huxley
I sometimes find it strange but not inexplicable why books holds so much fascination for me. Even though I displayed a childhood penchant for words and the printed age, I didn’t necessarily understand its significance until 2007.
Quite an unfamiliar story is that I wanted to be a smooth rapper, you know the Mase and Diddy kind. And I was serious enough to record a single with a friend, Nnamdi that I never let the airwaves enjoy. It was just something for me, my friends and family.
Actually, It all began in 2007 when I met Nnamdi, who at that times had a few rap tracks to his repertoire. I was blown away by his rap skills. But there was more, he was not the sleazy, cussing kind of rapper but very intelligent.
What’s behind it I wondered until he showed me his library of personal development books. He had read before the age of 20, the kind of books most people have not read today even at 40 and I kid you not.
At least I was curious enough to discover how he knew things I didn’t know and expressed his thoughts in ways I couldn’t then. So instead of beating him, I joined him.
In less than 4 months of reading classics from James Allen (though I didn’t understand him like I do now), Napoleon Hill, Robert Kiyosaki, John Mason, Robert Greene, something snapped within me.
Oliver Holmes observed, “A mind once stretched by a new idea can never return to its original dimension.” I find this observation to be true beyond dispute. The stretching of my mind made me insatiable, so hungry for knowledge and wisdom.
Today I have a library collection of nothing less than 300 books (I say 300 because I have lost count for about a year or two now). That’s not far fetched if you have been committed to buying for 6 years.
More importantly is not too tell you how many books I have or how much I have read. Those things don’t matter as much as what a fervent pursuit of knowledge has done for me. “You can’t travel within and stand still without”, says James Allen.
Honestly, I thought it was just a fanatical decision on my part to be collecting books until Sam Adeyemi mentioned during a recent session at Daystar Leadership Academy, “When people were buying clothes, I was buying books. You need to invest in your thinking.” He mentioned that his biggest possession is his library.
I will share with you 10 amazing transformation that developed from my reading habit. My hope is that it will spur your own pursuit of intellectual, emotional and spiritual development:
1. My Reading Speed Increased
The brain is a muscle that becomes efficient and stronger with use. Having trained my brain over time to make meaning out of the written word, I’m able to read faster when I need to.
I can vary my reading speed to suit my needs. I read a lot of nonfiction and trust me, they are not read like novels. I’m also able to read typically difficult books with ease because I’m able to quick grasp the meaning of words.
I have never tested my reading speed but I can read faster than average. I’m currently experimenting with speed reading because there is a lot I have to read these days and not much time.
2. More Knowledge of the world and places
The mind will travel to places the feet cannot reach within the pages of a book. As long as you are interested, life is really interesting especially the kind within the pages of a book.
I often find myself reading books about foreign companies, economies, history, biographies simply out of curiousity. I’m able to put some matters into perspective and prepare my life for the kind of relevance I hope to achieve.
Understanding how things work elsewhere fuels the idealistic thinking I need to challenge the status quo. I have also come to recognize that principles are universal and they work irrespective of location.
3. My vocabulary expanded and hence my comprehension
When you read a lot, you encounter new words, which lack of familiarity can hinder your full understanding of the text. I have therefore found it important to always use a dictionary (I use a free version of Merriam-Webster on android).
Being able to read the hard stuffs like Harvard Business Review, The Economist, Fast company, opinion columns of major newspapers where you frequently have to pause to understand certain words, does a lot for vocabulary building. I also learnt from a professional speech and writing coach, Henry Agbebire, to always keep a list of new words and choice phrases to review later.
4. I became an accidental writer
I often wonder where I picked up my writing skills. First, I think I learnt how to write by writing. Second, by reading a lot. It’s just amazing how you unconsciously pick up words, phrases and ideas and store them away for the brain to use later.
When the brain is sufficiently stimulated and in the creative mode, it’s amazing the torrent of expression that pour forth. Having understood the power of outlines, I find it easy to create content of over 1000 words in an hour. Most of my writing time is spent editing not creating and I write from my phone most times, not even a laptop (I will share my secrets later on how I optimize mobile platforms to create content).
It reminds me of something Ralph Waldo Emerson said,”That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.”
5. My creativity got a boost
Reading truly helps creativity. Excessive TV watching does just the opposite (please note the word excessive). This is because reading stimulates and engages the parts of the brain responsible for imagination, association and creativity.
According to Ben Carson, reading activates and exercises the mind. Reading forces the mind to discriminate. Reading pushes us to use our imagination and makes us more creatively inclined. Personally, my ability to think strategically and creatively took a surge through reading.
6. I found my Passion
It’s amazing that I discovered my life’s passion through the inspiration of books. As I read in my university days, I had a burning desire to share, so I would pick on my friends and room mates. I could literally talk people into reading a book even when they do not feel like it (except for the intellectual atheist who maintain an aversion to books).
As I shared, I discovered I could communicate with passion and eloquence. As I wrote, I found that words flow through me like a warm spring. The more I read the more I saw that I could help people and organizations achieve peak performance and live a life of contribution. I have not looked back ever since.
I often guess that the part of me that could have been a rap lyricist is what i have channeled into writing. My passion for stage or live performance has been channeled into public speaking.
It is my firm conviction that we never lose our innate gifts. Usually, they tend to find other opportunities for expression. 50 years from today, I know I will be found still speaking, writing and coaching people to maximize their potential.
7. I became empowered to live my dreams
I feel empowered because through reading, I’m understanding patterns and principles. I have started understanding that success is not luck. It’s not something you stumble into or else you won’t be able to sustain it.
Like they say, success is predictable – just do what other successful people do. Trust me its hard but liberating. I have become a diligent student of successful living for sometime now. I seek to know why people fail, how the power of self limiting beliefs hold people back and why success is not an over-night phenomenon.
I feel empowered because I understand the law of compound effect that small positive steps + consistency + time = success.
I suggest you drop that “life is supposed to be easy model” and get busy paying the price for success. Anything worth having in life will cost you something. When you are willing to pay the price, you are empowered.
8. An inexpensive source of leisure
As much as I wanted to be an entertainer in the past, I find it strange that I can now delight myself with a book. While I’m not elevating my lifestyle and still wish it can be more interesting, I would say few pleasures compare to a good book.
One of my greatest desires would be to have a group of like-minded folks who we can sit at a table in a restaurant and have an intellectually stimulating conversation. I love to learn and any opportunity to do so is fun for me. But before you conclude, I’m a smooth geek. Reading is not all there is to me.
9. It kept me out of vice
I believe reading kept me out of vice at a time when I was very vulnerable to it. My life would have been different if not for the wisdom I found in the books I read and the people I listened to. But there is more although not the subject of this post.
However, reading taught me to delay gratification, to be patient and to understand the seasons of life. Why have it now when I can have it later with peace of mind and maximum satisfaction. This is one of the most profound lessons of life I struggle with but which has been helpful to my growth and balance as a person.
10. I’m able to sustain motivation and get mentored by the best
If you will agree with me, It’s hard to stay motivated to do the things you know you should do. For this reason, I have resolved to read something that inspires me to become a better person everyday.
I can often trace my spiritual development as a christian to certain books such as Purpose-driven life by Rick Warren, Pursuit of God by A. W Tozer, Watchman Nee’s Normal Christian Life, Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis, Final quest by Rick Joyner, Maximize Destiny by David Oyedepo, Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Sanders amongst many others. Till today, whenever I read them, I find fresh inspiration like I had never open them before.
In business and personal development, I have been mentored through the books of great people such as Brian Tracy, John Maxwell, Jack Canfield, Zig Ziglar, Mark Victor Hansen, John Mason, Tom Peters, Daniel Pink, Michael Hyatt, Seth Godin, Ken Blanchard, Ram Charan, Robert G. Allen, Jim Rohn, Les Brown, Anthony Robbins, Brian sher. The list can go on and on.
In all honestly, I really find it strange that most people find good reading impractical. Instead, they subscribe to soft sells, gossips, celebrity news and political gibes. I will remind them about a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, ” Great minds discuss ideas; Average Minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.”
Nobody says it better than Ben Carson, ” What you need to know is determined by what group you intend to influence…..If you want to help shape the nation or the world, you will need still more knowledge and learning about what is significant in national and international scope.”
I’m yet to meet any genuinely successful person who doesn’t have a firm commitment to reading.
The moral is that you should choose your mental diet in line with your purpose and dreams.
In addition, please study the infographic below from business-management-degree.net.