“The average person doesn’t read a book a year; that must be why they’re average.” ~ Anonymous
Average people have no desire to be tremendous, let alone go beyond tremendous. They are content to sit among the majority at the base camp of life. Statistics show that the number of people who read has dropped considerably in recent decades. It’s easier to fill our time and our minds with TV, the Internet, or movies. Since you are reading this email, you are a reader. And there is one thing I know about you… you are probably a leader as well. Anyone who reads to learn, grow and, ultimately, share is, by my definition, a leader. For so many decades I only read material that helped me with the mechanics of my job. I thought that by being able to better accomplish my tasks that I was developing my person-hood. While know how is definitely critical to achieve success in this world, the only way you can truly go beyond tremendous is to know why. That’s where we find the key to greatness.
My father, Charlie "Tremendous" Jones was a book evangelist of Biblical proportions. He used to say:
Don’t read to be big, read to be down to earth.
Don’t read to be smart, read to be wise.
Don’t read to memorize, read to realize.
Don’t read to just learn, read to sometimes unlearn.
Don’t read a lot, read just enough to keep yourself curious and hungry, to learn more, to keep getting younger as you grow older.
I may have 99 problems, but there’s not one of them that can’t be solved by reading a tremendous book. In fact, whenever I am in a rut, the main reason I got there is because I slacked off in my reading. So I pick myself up and I grab one of the thousands of books I have at my disposal and I read. And immediately I begin to see more clearly, to feel better, to know what I need to do to get where I want to go. Reading is a sure-fire cure for whatever ails you.
In fact, like a doctor looking at a patient, I can tell by your very presence if you’re a reader. It manifests itself in ways you’re not even aware of. An open mind, a compassionate heart, and discerning eyes have a transforming beauty about them. W, Edwards Deming famously said, “Learning isn’t compulsory; neither is survival.” And I can tell if you’ve got the light of life in your gaze or the dead stare of vacuous vision.
Joseph Addison said that “Books are the legacies that a great genius leaves to mankind, which are delivered down from generation to generation, as presents to the posterity of those who are yet unborn.” In order to take life to the next level, we have to study the words and works of the greats who have gone before us. How else can we possibility know the next step to take?
Purposeful reading takes work. It isn’t simply an act of leisure or a pursuit for the faint of heart. Frederick Harrison said that reading “is a faculty to be acquired, not a natural gift.” It takes work to read in order to grow. Just as a pre-law student reads countless case studies in order to develop an analytical mind, or a salesman-in-training reads countless books on how to deal with various personalities, it takes work.
Those who study words, whether they hear them on audio, download them electronically, or thumb through them on paper, are my heroes. They are doing the work required to grow. They are learning about things, events and people they will never physically see. Yet they still have the desire to learn about them. These heroes will also be moved to share what they’ve uncovered.
There comes a time in life where you are going to look yourself in the mirror and wonder why on earth it is you do what you do. When you come to this point, you will have to dig deep to find your motivation to continue. If you found your dream job/spouse/house when you were 18 and life’s been a rosy bowl of contentment since then, I am happy for you; I truly am. But it didn’t turn out that way for the vast majority of us.
The older we get, the wiser we get, and the more at ease we are in our own skins. That means we get to ask the tough questions of ourselves, like “what exactly am I here on this earth to accomplish?” The urgency spreads as we feel our mounting mortality with each passing year. Time flies and then it blurs; there is less road ahead then there is behind.
Reading is a sure way to go beyond tremendous. So hit those books and never stop hitting them because once you stop learning, you truly die.