Growing up, I thought leadership was all about what you did. As I grew older, I realized a huge part of leadership is about what you read. Every day - usually several times - I reprogram the most powerful computer in the world, my brain, simply by reading. I learned this discipline, begrudgingly, in high school. That was when my father packed up all the TVs in the house and locked them in the attic. Now, I knew my upbringing was always a bit unusual, but this was beyond the pale.
Here’s what was on the agenda for summer “vacation” at the Jones house:
1. Work - got my work release papers at 14
2. Schoolwork - oh that’s right, school is out
3. Play outside - Yes!!
4. Travel - We’d go with my father in an RV filled with books to his meetings
Now I understand that children these days are scheduled to the hilt, running from one activity to the next and on and on. But, what do they love? Are they experiencing enough to learn the answers to those questions? Do they have the space to ask? I was never overburdened with excessive talent in my dorky teenage years. You see I was athletic, but klutzy; musical, but not a prodigy; and cerebral, but not scholarly. I was just an average, run of the mill kid. So, there was always time in the day to read.
My father had this crazy notion that the more I read as a young person, the more I’d develop into a critical thinking, motivated, positive go-getter of an adult. Truth is, I was never that into reading as a teen. I would rather be doing teen things like going to the mall, or dating. But I did know of my father's love for reading, that he was really smart and chose to spend time surrounded by very successful individuals who also loved to read and who touted its life changing powers. In an effort to light a fire under us, my father developed a reading contract whereby we’d get paid a certain amount for each book we read and wrote a report on.
Fast forward many years and many careers later. I had become a reader, but I still based my reading primarily on a need to know and not a need to grow. When I stepped into my father's role at the company, I knew there was no way to fake being hooked on books. Readers can always spot other readers. So, I dove deep and immersed myself into the world of personal development. And then I took the plunge and enrolled in a doctoral program which took my reading to a whole new level. Slowly but surely I, like my father, became a cultivator of readers, planting the seeds for others to tend and harvest.
And my how reading has changed my life. I have a home with four TVs on which I can watch whatever I want, whenever I want and they rarely get turned on. That’s because I’m reading, and researching, and writing, and reprogramming my brain. I am becoming more self-aware and a better critical thinker. I am more grounded in what I know and hungrier to discover what I don’t know. My self-assurance has exploded because whatever comes my way I know I’ll be able to figure it out by reading some tremendous books on the topic.
Now you may say that we live in a different world than the one I grew up in and kids could never live without their technology or TV. I say they can. But more importantly, they need to. They need to discover the life changing skill of discovering questions, learning new information, engaging with different perspectives and developing their own opinions on the world around them. Why not invest in them this summer and offer them the chance to do just that?
Remember, information does not equate to knowledge. That takes time to seek, digest and cognitively process. And it takes a lifetime to apply it. But the more we experience the learning process, the more we grow and flourish. We had a tremendous response to our teen bundle last week. And tomorrow we are going to roll out another special blowout sale that will help you figure out “how to” just about anything!