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Theodore Roosevelt was known as a voracious reader.  He read what is estimated as tens of thousands of books in his lifetime.

Bill Gates has an entire website dedicated to the books he reads every year.

Warren Buffet says he spends 80% of his day reading.

These incredibly successful men didn’t become successful and then start reading when they’d “made it”.  They built up the habits of continually learning throughout their life.  You need to develop those habits.

Many people think that once they’re done with college, they’re not picking up a book again.  This is the wrong attitude if you want to have any sort of personal development.  Just as creating a personal board of directors deepens your insight, you need to be taking some personal responsibility to grow.  The best way to do that is through reading.

How does this apply to family business?  You cannot stop learning and growing.  The more you read the more you know.  The more you challenge yourself with the subjects and materials, the more you can apply them to your work.  Let’s face it – in family businesses the path is often fairly straight forward for us.  Sure, depending on what generation your business is in, or how your organizational chart is laid out, you can have competition to climb the ladder.  But it’s much less than a normal business.  Do not take that as an opportunity to be lazy.  Plain and simple, if you slack, the company’s performance will eventually decline and you won’t have the tools to turn it around.  Here are a few tips that have helped me go from almost no reading to reading 20-30 books a year:

20 Pages A Day

A few years ago my goal was to read 12 books a year.  In my mind, all I had to do was read one book a month and I’d meet my goal.  The problem was that I’d pick up a 200 page book and be done in a few days.  Then the next month I’d grab a 600 page book and stress myself out thinking I had to finish it in 30 days.  While discussing this with my brother Ross he gave me a tip.  Make it your goal to read 20 pages a day.  Seems easy enough, right?  If you do the math that adds up to 7,300 pages in a year.  A quick google search tells me the average book is 250 pages.  If you stick to the 20 pages a day plan, you’ll read 29 books in a year!

Change Up the Material

I get pretty burned out reading leadership and business books constantly.  So I try and rotate between non-fiction and fiction books.  It’s the reason I’ve created the book page on this site.  Business books can be dry and if you read a bunch of them in a row, the material sometimes runs together.  Which is where the fiction books come in.  I’ve read every book John Grisham is published.  Did I learn anything from them?  No…but I was entertained and it broke up the monotony of leadership books.

Biographies – An absolute must

Biographies are a new favorite of mine.  They can be extremely challenging to read, but they’ve also been very educational.  I’ve learned lessons from Lincoln, Roosevelt, Hamilton, Rockefeller, and many more.  They’re often challenging because of their shear length.  A Team of Rivals is 900 some pages, and the Teddy Roosevelt books were 700 pages in length…and there were three of them!  Still though, I consider them a must for anyone wanting to learn and grow.  What better way to envision a path of success than to learn from those who have done it in the past?