Charlie “Tremendous” Jones used to say, “You may not be able to make a horse drink, but you can put salt in his oats and make him thirsty!”  A large percentage of his parenting time was spent on developing an appetite for reading in his children. He tried various methods of making us thirsty; from paying money for book reports to locking all the TVs up in the attic so we “had” to read. As any parent knows, his time would have been better spent telling us not to read, or placing a book strategically where we would see it, in order to salt our oats. What makes some people naturally hungry and consumptive readers? I’ve always known folks that had a tremendous appetite for reading. I admired them greatly. They seemed worldly, educated, and thirsty for knowledge. I was not one of these. In fact, I was a late bloomer when it came to reading. I really didn’t grasp the transforming power of books until well into my 40’s. Well I’m here to tell you that readers aren’t born. Just like leaders, they can be made. Thank goodness for that! Charlie “Tremendous” Jones used to say “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” I always did well on developing as a result of the people I met. I enjoyed military and corporate jobs where there was a plethora of new individuals and challenges. Everyone I met had an imprint on me in some fashion. But I did not make reading for personal growth or development a priority. My reading was centered on advanced degrees and work related documents. I did not see how the reading aspect was just as important as the human aspect and therefore missed out on a tremendous opportunity for growth. About a year ago I moved back home to run the family publishing business. It was a scary time to leave a known job and put a house on the market during the gloomy economic outlook. But I learned a valuable lesson. Regardless of external circumstances, I will always remember that the focus must be on improving myself so that I can be of greater use to others. I now have the opportunity to spend my days meeting fabulous people intent on helping others achieve all they can out of life, as well as read a seemingly endless cycle of tremendous manuscripts for potential publication. I look back at different stages and decades of my life to see how I have changed in my priorities and attitudes. But I did not expect the dramatic change in myself over the course of this singular, past year. I did not intend for it to happen, it just did. It was a byproduct of all the people I met and the books I read. This is a tremendous message for all times, but especially these times, when optimism is at an all time low. Two of the greatest investments you can make in yourself do not involve money. Meeting people is free, and I mean the right kind of people at church, volunteering, or at social gatherings.  Reading books can also be free. You can go online, to the library, or my favorite, ask someone if you can borrow a book! What made this horse decide it was time to drink at this particular time? Circumstances, as well as being obedient and open. I was placed in a new job, continuing a family legacy, and decided it was high time to embrace the transformational power of books. When I look back at the things I now read and what they could have saved me from throughout the years, I could kick myself! But the good news is that that’s all a part of the learning experience as well. And now…I know better!

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