I once heard someone say success leaves clues. One of the ways that success leaves clues for successful people is when a book is written by or about a successful person. Often many years of experience is crammed into the pages of such a book.
Charlie Munger said “go to bed every night a little wiser than you were when you got up”.
Many people live their lives on autopilot doing much the same thing every day and never learning anything. And the same people often wonder how it is that some people can be so successful in life and they may even think that it is because someone else has been luckier than they have. However when we look at the habits of successful people it is often the case that among other things they are voracious readers. For example:
- Bill Gates reads one book per week.
- Mark Zuckerberg reads one book every two weeks.
- Elon musk is an avid reader.
- Warren Buffett spends about 80% of his day reading.
- Mark Cuban reads for more than three hours every day.
- Oprah Winfrey reads one book every month.
If you are a wantrapreneur or an entrepreneur or a business owner there is still much to learn. Of course there is more than one way to learn what we need to know. We can learn it on our own through making mistakes in our business; sometimes this route can have fatal consequences on our businesses. Or we can learn from other entrepreneurs through a coach or a mentor or an advisory board or even a mastermind. This type of source of learning has its place for an entrepreneur however these people are not always going to be available when we have to make vital decisions at every stage of the journey.
It is better to learn to be a good entrepreneur wherever possible in advance of challenges that may arise in running a business day-to-day. Of course some of this learning can come from other successful entrepreneurs who have done it before. But we can also learn a lot by reading books.
Reading is the best way of vicariously learning. We don’t always have to make the mistakes ourselves and we don’t always have to do everything by trial and error. It is so much better to learn from other people who have done what we have done or we have not done. Reading allows us to stand on the shoulders of giants and learn from people who have triumphed against the odds and overcome huge challenges and become successful.
Obviously we have to be selective about what we read. We can’t read trashy novels and expect to get any real benefit from them for our businesses; other than transitory entertainment. So we should make sure that we read relevant books that are educational – books that other entrepreneurs and business owners read. We can also read the biographies of other successful entrepreneurs to find inspiration, motivation, ideas and so much more.
Books help us in so many ways to succeed as an entrepreneur. They can be a source of inspiration, develop skills, and provide tips and business strategies. They can help us to become successful by providing the right knowledge, new ways of thinking, new insights and help us to develop necessary skills. Reading can also influence the way that we do business through personal development and leadership skills. We can get a lot of new ideas and tips allowing us to have multiple perspectives to join the dots and do things in a way that had never been done before.
By reading books we also develop cognitive skills which can benefit us in a multitude of ways by helping to improve our memory, develop literacy and verbal intelligence as well as increasing our strategic decision-making, boosting our brain power and reducing stress.
Not only can we learn from the successes of other entrepreneurs but we can also learn a huge amount from the failures of other entrepreneurs. It is very important to make sure that we learn about both perspectives.
Every entrepreneur, every business in every niche can benefit from the knowledge acquired through reading. Whether we are trailblazers of following in the footsteps of others there is so much we can learn from other entrepreneurs and we can always draw from the experiences of others. No business is so unique that there aren’t many things that can be learned from the experience of business owners in similar and different sectors.
Reading allows us to become better entrepreneurs, making fewer mistakes in business, making more good decisions faster, and making it more likely we will have the right approach from the get go. The decisions that we make in business are based on knowledge and/or experience. Knowledge that can be derived from experiential learning of discovering what works and what doesn’t or learning vicariously from someone else’s experiences that they have shared in person or in a book.
When we are faced with a new and difficult situation the outcome may be unexpected. Sometimes we don’t know the definite best approach to take. The more knowledge that we have either through reading or experience or data the better we will be able to make our own decisions. Obviously there are no guarantees and there are always going to be situations where even with the benefit of reading books and our own experience we will still make lots of mistakes, but we are more likely to make the right decisions more often than not.
Our problems and challenges in business are not unique. Probably every problem and challenge has been dealt with in the past by another entrepreneur as can we discover as we read more books. The answers to most problems are already available.
As an entrepreneur we have to learn and know so much – there are so many disciplines to master. Reading allows us to be smarter from the start and do things right from the beginning by learning how to from smart and successful entrepreneurs who have already dealt with the challenges we are and will face before us. It is very useful to get to understand how other entrepreneurs became successful not so that we can copy exactly what they did but to understand their processes, journey and mind-set.
Reading many books about entrepreneurs gives us a lot of perspective which allows us to realise that there is more than one way to do things. We get to understand the pros and cons of different approaches and we are able to select the best way for our businesses.Reading books about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurialism also provides inspiration and reinforces our confidence. We may already know what we want to become and what to do but we haven’t yet done anything about it. When we read we may discover confirmation of our existing knowledge and beliefs which may become a source of guidance and encouragement for us to do whatever it is we want to do.
We may feel stuck in our current position with an idea and an understanding of what it takes to set up and run a business but we are paralysed by fear. Reading may provide an additional boost to the knowledge that we have already acquired and it may help us to get unstuck by overcoming the fear. The boost of the knowledge that something worked for somebody else may also bolster our confidence to try it ourselves.
Ultimately knowledge is cumulative it builds like compound interest. Over time with the right approach we can aggregate our knowledge about business and being an entrepreneur as well as about our industry. I believe that constant and never-ending learning is a real opportunity for us to become smarter than our competitors within our industry so that our businesses become market leaders. Successful people have the self-discipline to apply and maintain this approach to business and life.
As we acquire more information through ongoing reading we start to join the dots and connect information from different books and other sources. We discover things that have worked for other people in other industries and we see the opportunity to apply it in our own business. We also find that we connect information that we have acquired from books with ideas that we have had in the past allowing us to reignite something that we may have given up on in the past.
The never-ending hunger for knowledge will ultimately result in us making fewer mistakes as an entrepreneur in business. We will get new ideas about how to do things and how to avoid getting it wrong. Reading the books will give tips on the right way to do things.
One of the questions I often ask entrepreneurs in my The Entrepreneur Way Podcast is given the knowledge they have now how would they have shortcut of the learning curve. There seems to be quite a bit of confusion among entrepreneurs about the right answer to this question. When I say shortcut I don’t mean missing out essential things that need to be learnt but learning to do them properly quicker so we can increase the momentum of our business growth quicker. I believe that reading does allow us to shortcut the learning curve and accelerate our progress along the success curve. It allows us to avoid taking the knocks and learning the hard way; it helps to reduce the risk of ignorance and costly mistakes and ultimately may help us thwart the possible collapse of our business. Reading also provides us with potential shortcuts, new ideas and new approaches and possibly the recipe for success that has worked for other people dealing with similar things.
I have not written this post purely from a theoretical point of view but with the benefit of my own introspection and reflection of my entrepreneurial journey so far. During the early years of my entrepreneurial journey I read a very small number of quality books. In recent years I have read considerably more books. The biggest thing that I have learned is that I should have read a lot more in the early years of being an entrepreneur and all the way through to now; and I will do into the future. There are so many things that I could have done differently and better and possibly avoided some of the mistakes along the way.
Obviously reading doesn’t totally substitute doing and we will inevitably still make mistakes along the way. If you are a wantrapreneur don’t spend too long reading books it is advisable to start as soon as you can then read as you go every day.
You may be thinking that you don’t have the time to be reading everyday but I would say the reason you don’t have enough time to read every day is because you don’t read. When we say ‘no’ to whatever it is that is making us too busy, we say ‘yes’ to reading and learning potentially better ways of running our business and life. So rather than looking at reading as something that we are saying ‘yes’ to, think of it as saying ‘no’ to a way of running our business and life in a way that does not allow us time to do other important things that will produce big future benefits.
Reading needs to be something that becomes a habit that we do every day like a ritual that fits into our daily routine. To ensure that we read every day we should set aside a block of time for reading, for example 30 minutes a day. Obviously the amount of time can be less or more than this but we need to commit to enough time to make our reading substantial enough to be worthwhile. During this time we need to find a quiet place where we are not going to be interrupted or distracted ideally without television, computers, phones, et cetera. Either first thing in the morning or last thing at night is a good time for many people to read. As Jim Rohn said “What is easy to do is easy not to do” so it is important to have a daily routine so that we keep reading consistently.
As we read books we should also document our reading by keeping notes or writing cliff notes or a summary or creating a mind map or combinations of these. By doing this we then have something that allows us to easily refer back to important points. We can also read through our notes to quickly reinforce our recollection of the concepts learned in the book.
The reading books should be pleasant and enjoyable. There is a saying that says ‘you don’t know what you don’t know.’ The more that we read the more we will discover how much we don’t know. When we enjoy the experience of learning through reading we eagerly anticipate our next books.
It is also a good idea to start with a book list of quality books that map out our reading journey. A list of books such as The Top 50 Books for Entrepreneurs is a great starting point of ideas about what to read and provides some of the best books to spend our time on if entrepreneurialism, business and success are what interest us. As we discover new books we should add them to our list. Eventually we will get to the point where if we are enjoying the books we are reading we will be excited and eager to read other books in our ever-growing list of books to read. This can be a great source of motivation to continue reading every day.
If you are wondering what you should be reading I have asked hundreds of entrepreneurs for a recommendation of their favourite book for other entrepreneurs on entrepreneurialism, business, personal development, leadership, motivation etc and I have put it in a list that you can download today. I believe this list is far more useful than a bestselling list we might find on Amazon because it is based on the opinion of successful entrepreneurs and business owners who have read many books and therefore it is far more valuable than best sellers of the moment. You can download your copy of The Top 50 Books for Entrepreneurs by clicking this link.
You will become a better and more successful entrepreneur through reading books. If you don’t already read lots of quality books I implore you to do it and start right now.
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