11 Ways Reading Changed My Life (And how those things can change your life)

What if I told you that you could do something for a few minutes in the morning and a few minutes in the evening, that it wouldn’t take much energy or talent to do and it would catapult you from wherever you are right now to exactly where you wish to be in your life?

Would you do it?

I’ve told the story a million times from stage. It is also chronicled in Chapter 14 of my book, The CAP Equation. Bud Cole, who ran the insurance agency I was hired at when I was 18 years old, approached me. He towered over me, poking me in the chest with his stupid granny glasses. He told me to go down to the bookstore and buy a book. Not just any book, a specific book, which was Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill.

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I did go down to the bookstore on Ventura Boulevard and I ponied up $3.00 for the book.

I read it, and then I read it again.

And it changed my life!

Oh, by the way, the photograph of the book on this blog post is of the actual book I purchased that summer day in July of 1979. It’s old and tattered. The pages are falling out and the book is being held together by a rubber band. It is one of my most prized possessions.

Reading this very book started me down a path, a path that lead directly to my development of great wealth in sales.

After reading Think and Grow Rich, I bought a few other books, and then a few more. I became addicted to reading. I’m now convinced that if it weren’t for my love of reading I would never have become who I’ve become…not even close.

Almost everything good in my life has come directly, or indirectly, from reading!

In this blog I want to share what reading did for me specifically, and how reading can change your life.

  1. Reading opened up POSSIBILITIES for me 

I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth; it was more like a plastic spork. My parents didn’t have a lot of money. Nobody in my family had ever made a lot of money. As a result of my environment I had no idea what was possible and what I was capable of.

Reading that first book, Think and Grow Rich, changed all of that. Napoleon Hill opened my mind up to what was possible, even if I was born on the wrong side of the tracks. I read stories of people rising from nothing to attain great wealth and accomplishment. I began to realize what I might be capable of. I stopped making excuses. I started to believe I could achieve something great in my life.

  1. Reading made me more CONFIDENT

When I began to read I also began to feel better about myself. I began to feel that I had a slight edge over other people that were NOT reading. I knew a few things that they didn’t. This small advantage was enough for me to begin feeling and acting more confident, which brought so many other benefits to me.

  1. Reading made me a DEEPER thinker

When you read long-form writing, you’re digesting raw material, static words on paper or a screen. This forces you to form your thoughts, mental pictures and find connections in the words. When you’re reading, you’re studying someone else’s thought process, so you must analyze what you’re taking in and build arguments in your head.

Bottom line, reading forced me to think on a deeper level.

  1. Reading DIFFERENTIATED me

As I began to read, I became more confident and developed into a deeper thinker. People took notice of me. Those in positions of power and influence singled me out and asked me to speak at our Monday morning meetings. When they decided to promote another manager, I was the obvious choice to them.

Think about it, if you can illustrate your points from a book you’ve read or you can point to a historical event you’ve read about and elucidate it with somebody’s life, the more compelling you’re going to be as an individual. Frankly, it makes you more interesting and attractive to those of influence.

You will stand out from all of the rest, those that aren’t reading.

  1. Reading built my VOCABULARY

I have been accused of using too many big words. I imagine I do. However, when you’re reading, you come across words, phrases, nuances, things you wouldn’t see or hear in the normal course of your life. Reading expands your perspective and world.

  1. Reading taught me how to tell STORIES

In sales, telling stories to illustrate and cement your point is an invaluable skill. Learning how to tell a story properly is developed through seeing how others tell their stories. Reading, whether it’s a work of fiction, a novel or whether it’s a real-life story, can teach you how to tell a story. Knowing that can be powerful.

  1. Reading improved my JUDGMENT

I stumbled on some research a few months ago that was interesting. The findings compared the general knowledge of readers and television watchers. You could argue that they’re both input. If I’m watching television, I’m getting a lot of new ideas. If I’m reading a book, I’m getting a lot of new ideas. But the conclusions of the research were that readers not only knew more than television watchers, but they were also better at deciphering misinformation. This is because when you read you have to use certain cognitive facilities that you don’t have to use when you’re watching TV.

Watching TV is a completely passive activity. You’re just sitting there, taking it in. The act of reading is a much more active practice. It requires your participation in the content. You’re constantly evaluating that content against the body of what you already know, hence, you must use those cognitive judgment muscles, and they will strengthen as a result.

As I read more and more, I instinctively became a better judge of people and scenarios.

  1. Reading improved my PEOPLE SKILLS

This may seem counterintuitive. You may be asking, “How could that be possible if our head is shoved into a book?” Here’s how it works; when you’re reading novels, history or memoirs, you see all of the personalities fleshed out and if the writer is good, you’re getting inside their head. You’re seeing what they’re thinking and what their motivations are. This practice expands your understanding of human nature and what makes people tick.

You will see life through a different lens. You’ll note how people interact within a situation or scenario. It may be a similar situation to one you have encountered, but you note that they connected in a totally different way. As I began to widen my reference of how people could and did react, I was able to see things not just one way, but appreciate—and even predict—many different reactions and responses and not be alarmed or taken off-guard by them.

Reading helped me better understand the base motivations people have, and this, in turn, improved the way I was able to connect with them and help them.

  1. Reading helped me become a better COMMUNICATOR

When you read well-written long-form books, you begin to reflect what you read. I actually began to imitate and emulate what I read. What I was reading began to heavily influence my own writing and speaking skills.

Good writers can say things succinctly. If you absorb this practice you will start to gain the ability to say things CLEARER and FASTER, which in this sound-bite world, can be a very handy skill, especially if your living depends on getting someone’s time and attention. Reading also helped me learn how to think on my feet better.

When I read books I’m always asking, ”What’s the methodology the author is employing in communicating this? What’s making this book work?”

  1. Reading helped me RELAX and learn how to FOCUS

When that crazy agency manager with the granny glasses, Bud Cole, poked me in the chest and told me to go buy the darn book in 1979, he also told me to read for 15 minutes each morning when I woke up and to read 15 minutes each night before I went to bed. Of course, I just nodded my head so he would go away, but his command stuck.

When I brought that book home from the bookstore, I opened it up and began to read it. It was after dinnertime and I read the book until I fell asleep that night. I woke up the next morning and started where I left off.

In fact, I didn’t just read for 15 minutes in the morning, I began the habit of reading for 30 – 45 minutes each morning. My hypothesis was that because I barely graduated high school, wasn’t going to college and wasn’t as smart as most of my friends, I’d need to double up. Reading in the morning put good, productive and positive thoughts in my head. Those thoughts created crazy-good energy and power inside of my mind and body. By 8:00 AM I was ready to hit the field and conquer my world.

I would also read at night. Bud Cole also told me that if I read before I went to bed at night it would help me relax. Reading slows your brain down and gets it focused. If you’re in sales and/or leadership it’s really hard to turn your brain off. You simply think about everything that happened during your workday and everything you didn’t get done that day. You sit and stew a little.

The great thing about reading in the evening is that it takes your thinking off your current problems and scenarios. You’re magically pulled into another world. Your brain becomes focused on something else, usually something positive. There was a recent study that compared reading to other stress relievers like walking, listening to music, or drinking a cup of tea. Reading was found to be the most effective. It worked to lower heart rates and relieved tension in as few as six minutes.

  1. Reading kept me YOUNG and USEFUL to my organization

They say older people make better entrepreneurs and leaders. They typically have advantages in terms of their knowledge, experience and contacts. (Younger people that are avid readers can also leverage some of these advantages)

Many research articles have suggested that reading helps us stay mentally sharp as we age. Getting older and staying in the game (and staying relevant) can be a real challenge. Our population is aging. We probably all know people who suffer from senile dementia or Alzheimer’s. It’s a frightening disease. Living older is only a good thing if the quality of your life can be good. If you are over 50 (like me), you probably fear getting older and losing your mental facilities, like I do.

It has been proven that reading helps you form new connections of thought. It helps you stay relevant. Think about it, when you’re reading new books you are automatically receiving the latest and greatest information. If you are reading newly published books, your brain will, by default, be constantly receiving new content, new associations for your brain.

In addition to helping my brain stay young, reading assisted me in becoming more USEFUL to my organization and the people I was leading.

If you are a leader you know that part of the game is about keeping your team focused on the same BORING set of Competencies, Attitudes and Pipeline practices that we know they must stay dedicated to. The problem is that we can begin to sound like a broken record if we simply harp on the same tired, old stuff without conveying it with a new twist, repackaged with fresh, cutting edge deliverables.

As I progressed through the executive sales leadership ranks, I worked my butt off to find new information, methods and strategies to wrap around the principles that we never deviated from.

If I hadn’t been reading…a lot…I wouldn’t have had the right INPUT to create fresh, innovative OUTPUT for my team. I would have sounded flat—like many uninspired leaders do—and I would have lost influence over the team.

Okay…so there you are. Those are the 11 ways reading changed my life and those are the very same ways your life will change when you begin to read on a daily basis…

…but I’m not done with you yet!

Here’s what’s going to go down in your head. You are going to agree wholeheartedly with all of this, but then have a thought… more like an excuse.

“This reading every morning and every night sounds great, but where do I find the time?”

It’s not a completely unfounded thought. You get distracted. There are the endless emails you get, business related and otherwise. You get those cute, funny cat-related YouTube clips your friends send you, texts and IMs. Oh, and there’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat…did I forget anything?

Then, there are EASIER forms of media that you can consume. You can play video games, read short blog posts, watch television, you can actually call someone on the phone, or better yet, you can FaceTime them.

There are a lot of distractions out there. There are more demands on our time than ever before in history.

So…good question, “Where the heck do I find the time?” The answer to this question can actually be found IN the question.

You FIND the time.

The reason you must find or create the time is that your career depends on it. If you believe that I’m not making this stuff up…if you believe that I was an 18 year old kid, rudderless, no formal education and from the (lower middle income) wrong side of the tracks…if you believe that the simple act of reading each and every day changed my life and enabled me to build a sizeable amount of wealth in sales, then…

…you MUST find the time!

“How,” you ask?

First, commit the time to your calendar. Literally put it in your calendar. Make the calendar commitment to wake up 15 minutes earlier than you usually do from now on. Make the calendar commitment to read for 15 – 20 minutes after dinner or before you go to sleep.

Put the darn time in your calendar! Things don’t just happen. You have to make time for them. You have to be INTENTIONAL.

In my opinion, reading is as important as eating a meal, time with your family or physical fitness. If your life is spinning completely out of control but you have to drive to work, then you should take advantage of audiobooks during commutes. You can go to www.audible.com . Audible.com is owned by Amazon and they are a great resource with tens of thousands of books on audio read by professional readers or by the author.

Okay, I’m done preaching about the benefits of reading, but just one more thing, if you haven’t had a chance to read my book, The CAP Equation, A Foolproof Formula for Unlimited Success in Sales, please click on the link below. It’s now available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1CdFi2t

The CAP Equation© website offers  great resources for commission salespeople and sales leaders. Please click on the link below for free instant access: http://www.theCAPequation.com/access/

 

Joe Buzzello is a nationally recognized expert on direct selling and sales leadership. He has built legacy sales teams and experienced unprecedented success in individual and business-to-business markets as well as the network marketing industry. Joe has held executive level positions for Fortune 500 companies, but he has never strayed far from the art and science of selling, which he loves. In early 2014, Joe began writing, speaking, and coaching through his proprietary platform, The CAP Equation©. Please visit Joe at: http://www.CAPequation.com

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