We’re taught from a very young age that reading as much as possible is the pathway to success and fulfillment. Picture the smartest, hardest-working person you know, and chances are you picture them in a library poring over a variety of texts for hours on end. While simply being an avid reader does not ensure success, successful people are assuredly avid readers. And all of them have the following traits in common.
Successful people are able to focus on one task for an elongated period of time. Anyone who’s read Atlas Shrugged can tell you reading isn’t a quick process. It’s also not a singular process. Readers take breaks, naturally, but the most avid reader simply cannot put a book down for longer than a day after they’ve dove into it. Successful people feel the same way about any task they set out to do.
Along with focus, readers set goals for themselves whenever they sit down with a good book. Whether setting out to read a specific amount of pages before moving on to another activity, or deciding to read until a certain concept is solidified in their mind, readers actively try to accomplish something whenever they open a text. Successful people set goals for just about every moment of their life, and continue working toward the goal until they surpass it.
They might only have 20 minutes before they have to be somewhere, but instead of seeing “only 20 minutes” as not enough time to get anything done, they see it as 20 minutes that can be spent reading. Successful people view their time as incredibly valuable, and seize every opportunity they have to learn something new, or accomplish a goal. Readers realize that 5 wasted minutes every day over the course of a year is more than an entire 24 hours wasted that could have been spent reading.
Successful people are able to see all angles of an issue, because they have read a variety of literature from various perspectives. Two of Bill Clinton’s favorite novels are Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The insight gained from reading these novels undoubtedly shaped his perspective in dealing with race relations as a politician. Being an avid reader allows you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, if only for a moment; but once that moment’s over, you remember the experience for the rest of your life.
In addition to gaining perspective, readers are reflective about what they have read. While gaining perspective allows a person to see from the other side of the fence, being reflective allows them the opportunity to understand how they can be productive with their new-found perspective. Successful people see reading not as the simple act of staring at words on a page. They understand the profound effect that consuming a text can have on the mind, and how books can change a person’s life.
It’s no surprise that the greatest orators in human history have all been enthusiastic about reading. Successful people draw inspiration from their role models, and utilize this inspiration to further their cause. From Demosthenes, to Lincoln, to Nelson Mandela, people who remain cemented in history became such passionate and well-spoken lecturers by studying the great minds before them.
Readers understand just how powerful the brain really is. It can hold almost an unlimited capacity of information. The more you read and learn, the easier it becomes to retain information. Successful people don’t prescribe to Homer Simpson’s belief that learning something new pushes something old out. They simply continue to learn, and commit an incredible expanse of knowledge to memory, sometimes without even realising it.
Great readers also see the brain as a muscle that needs to be worked. Just like going to the gym every day keeps your arms and legs in shape, reading keeps your mind sharp and able to easily retain knowledge. Successful people exercise their mind on a daily basis through reading and other methods such as crossword puzzles and brain teasers. Successful people habitually create challenges to overcome, which in turn improves their minds’ capability to solve increasingly larger problems every day.
Successful people rise to the top because they have spent their time on earth learning. When they pick up a book, they don’t do so just to finish it, but to take something away from it. Reading textbooks was never just a school assignment to be completed, but was a chance to expand their knowledge even further. Even while reading fictional novels, successful people take with them life lessons that they carry with them forever.
Even the most successful people need to tune out the world every once in a while. But this doesn’t mean they turn their minds off completely. There is nothing wrong with reading a “trashy magazine” or graphic novel to unwind. Reading just about anything is more beneficial than watching television or wasting a Friday night at a bar. Again, successful people value every minute of their time, and even in their most idle moments they still strive to improve. And there’s no better way to chill out while keeping yourself fresh than with a good book.
Featured photo credit: Girl with books via shutterstock.com
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