I blame my mother. Every single morning, you would find me on my mother's lap, reading the morning paper along with her -- or as best as I could, at my age. As I grew older, I continued to devour as many books as possible.
Because of her, I'm now "that guy" who always says the book was better than the show or movie, and I read for both entertainment and education.
In fact, when I was deployed in Iraq, I had ended up having to ship a massive footlocker home that was stuffed to capacity with books I had been reading. Books I brought with me. Books sent by friends and family.
That’s why last year I set a goal.
One that I didn’t know if I was going to be able to achieve.
I decided that to continue my education as an inbound leader; to ensure that I brought my best to the team each day, I needed to read more than I had been -- even though I was reading one to two books a month.
So, I challenged myself to read a book a week -- 52 books -- in 2018.
I initially started a list of books to read in my notes tool, later transitioning to Goodreads as a place to not only track my progress but also to log and develop what to read next. (Thanks again, Marcella!)
I'm proud to say I’ve achieved my 2018 goal by mid-December, and actually ended up surpassing it, reading 54 books in total.
I’ve read a ton of business and leadership books, some fiction, some nonfiction, and a ton of books on mindfulness and Buddhism.
So, after a year of reading, here are a few things I learned.
Reading a Book a Week Is Really Hard
I’m glad I actually set a total number of books to read, rather than hold myself to a book a week. Throughout the year, there were weeks where I wouldn’t finish a book and others where I would finish three.
I found that to read -- when I say "read" I also include listening to audiobooks -- 52 books this year I needed to be reading multiple books at a time. I would also have to optimize my time to fit in enough time to not only read the books but to appreciate them, as well.
I found that listening to audiobooks at 1.5 speed allowed me to quicken my pace while still being able to fully take in the book. Any faster and I think I would have lost a lot of the context.
When I would start a book if I wasn’t hooked on the concept or the writing within the first 10 minutes of diving in, I stopped reading the book. This proved to be really helpful. I never felt that my reading time was forced or not enjoyable.
All that said, it took a lot of time and effort to get through all of the books, but it was time well spent.
I Noticed 2 Common Leadership Themes
While most books had their "one big thing," underlying all of those one big things were self-awareness and self-mastery. Surprisingly, this was my biggest takeaway from my reading adventure.
Self-Awareness Is the Heart of Leadership
The importance of being self-aware was at the heart of every single business and leadership book. Every author touched on it in their own way, but I found myself becoming aware of this principle everywhere. It was re-enforced exponentially in all of the mindfulness and Buddhist works I read.
I started to see the principles from those mindfulness books and my own mindfulness practice jumping off the pages. The idea that we must be present to lead.
That we must first be aware of and help ourselves to truly be able to help others.
Whether it was about team dynamics or one on one communication, you needed to be self-aware to get the most out of the situation.
Self-Mastery Follows Close Behind
The need to master oneself was a close second to self-awareness.
I found that there was a distinct thread in most of what I read --that the more we work on ourselves, the more success we and those we lead will have. In essence, rather than trying to answer:
"What’s wrong with my team?"
...we need to ask ourselves:
"How do I optimize and better myself?"
Memoirs Help (a Lot)
For "breaks" from learning, I chose to read a few memoirs.
After the first one of these "breaks," I realized there was just as much to learn about leadership as there were in the business books I was reading.
Hearing about the trials and tribulations of others helped me put things in perspective and gain hints of insight into situations I was facing.
Memoirs also add a different style to the mix.
Rather than the business or leadership book that usually has the "one big idea," I found that memoirs had much much more. They were filled with examples of those big ideas in practice.
Why Am I Sharing This with You?
While inbound leadership is an approach that yields greater organizational success through an almost maniacal focus on your people, it is not one that is achievement-focused.
It doesn't matter what you decide to get after in your pursuit of learning as an inbound leader; all that matters is that you define and document a goal of some kind, and then push yourself to achieve it.
It won't always be easy, but I hope I've shown you how immensely rewarding it can be to work on yourself, so you can then work on your team.
I know you can do it. So, dive in. Do the work.
What's Next for Me?
Here’s the deal -- I really enjoyed this year and working towards this goal. And my love of reading is only superseded by my love of learning.
So, am I going to do it again! 60 books in 2019, here I come!
No, just kidding.
I’m still going to read a ton, but I plan to slow down a bit in 2019 on reading, so I can focus more on writing. (You'd think after writing 8,000+ words last year on inbound leadership, I would have had enough -- but you'd be wrong.)