This isn’t really a blog post, it is a reply to an inspirational author’s post on LinkedIn. Before I get to that, I want to tell you about a dilemma I have been struggling with as of late.
Reading is one of my fundamental Life Rules. I have written about my Number 1 rule, and that it is my guiding principal to be a better man…
To Guide, Protect, and Provide for the wife I choose and the children I raise.
Coming from a man with nine children, you can believe that I put some serious thought into that rule being number one in my life. Guess where that rule came from? If you guessed ‘the book that saved my marriage’, you would be very close. I would give you full marks. I was actually divorced when someone handed that book to me. I give it credit for allowing me the opportunity to remarry my wife a second time. Without that opportunity, I regret to say that I would know almost anyone that I know today. That is a fact. I would be a different person and it would not be a better person for sure. My wife makes me a better man because I choose to be one for her.
A Dilemma… or Two
So the dilemma I struggle with stems from how important I find reading. I believe that it is my #4 Life Rule. It is more important than eating healthy. That doesn’t mean much to the people who know me but it is important nonetheless… trust me.
I struggle with a couple points with reading right now. The first is because I don’t belong to any reading clubs at the moment (this could be online, with a church or men’s group, book of the month club from Amway to Oprah, or any other system you use to figure out which books are important to you). Reading clubs take the decisions out of your hands, someone else picks a book and you just have to read it. But who do I trust with something that important? My time is a valuable and finite resource.
The second struggle I have, is that I have come to love spending time on my digital devices from my laptop to phone. I read almost all my stuff online now and spend a ton of time with e-readers and audio books. So even if I know what to read, I don’t do paper books very often.
And this creates my first dilemma…
How do I impart on my children how important reading is if they never see me do it?
This is closely attached to another dilemma I have… I am not sounding like a very decisive person here but I usually have little problems making choices. I make them, then correct them until I am 100% confident in my path. It is a gift and a curse, but it is a personality trait that I have no interest in losing.
This perplexing thought, and I have had this for a while now, I not so much about what books I choose to read, or the medium I use to read my books, but why I read them? I believe that reading is so important that I refuse to give my children high school diplomas without reading five books from my reading list. Yes, this is one of my favorite things about home schooling.
Books have changed my life as much and anything or anyone I have ever known. They have become an intricate part of my being. If I had more time in a day, I would work to spend it reading. I don’t read enough. I used to focus on reading one book a month because I had a busy schedule. Last year I read two books and one was a re-read. It doesn’t help that I am a slow reader. I also struggle with the focus because of the ADHD but that was another blog post.
But WHY do I read? For knowledge. For wisdom. For life lessons from people who have lived different lives, and the same lives, that I hope to live. Twenty years ago I was pretty confident that books were the solution. Today though, there are so many options out there. I love podcasts, I love inspirational posts on LinkedIn and Facebook, I love reading sayings on Instagram. I love blog posts and short stories and I even caught myself reading poetry a few months ago (what the hell ever happened to rhyme? Do they not teach it in schools anymore?). Heck, even YouTube and other Internet video channels have amazing speakers and stories… how many times have I found myself watching 3 hours of TEDtalks when I wanted a ten-minute break from a task? Even Netflix has some seriously amazing documentaries.
Can these replace my books… or some of them? Are they not a source of knowledge and wisdom?
I want to quickly tell you about an encounter at a book store in an airport in 1997. I know, you don’t believe the ‘quickly’ part but you are still here so suck it up.
I am standing at the counter in line behind a guy who was holding a book and talking to the cashier about the price. All I remember was that belligerent guy complaining about the price of a book and I had a $12 boat magazine in my hand. I don’t even know what the price of the book was but I remember experiencing a moment of grace with a higher being, whether you believe in God or not, there was some serious fate involved in the next 30 seconds of my life.
That guy pushed the book to the middle of the counter and told the girl at the register that he would never pay that much for a book. The cashier next to him became free, as if by destiny… I don’t recall a shining light washing over her from the heavens, but it was a long time ago. It was probably there. She raised her hand and beckoned me to stand beside this guy.
As I walked up beside him, I set my magazine down and looked at the bright purple hard cover book in front of him (purple is my favorite color… fate)… set my hand on it and slid it over to my cashier.
40 bucks is a cheap way to get a lifetime of someone’s wisdom for the flight home.
I don’t know if it was $40 exactly and I never looked at that guys face beside me to see if I had pissed him off as much as I had hoped… but I sure felt good buying his book out from under him. Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad went on to change my life as well but that is another blog post.
What Were We Talking About?
So now that you know some of the things I struggle with, I want to share with you a story about an author I had never heard of, but one I will be reading in the very near future… Gary Burnison. He has a new book out called Lose the Resume, Land the Job and it sounds amazing. I read an excerpt on LinkedIn and was blown away in how much I felt it could teach me about communication. If you know me, or read many of my posts, you will know how valuable (and lacking) I believe communication is in our world. I perk up at any opportunity to improve my own skills.
Then at the end of Gary’s post, which was mostly about his first job and lessons he brought to it, he asked a question…
I’m interested to hear about your first job. Tell us your story in the comments.
My mind raced, I immediately started typing… how could I fit my story into one little reply? This isn’t Twitter, but I can’t put 500 words in here. But then when I started typing, as always, my mind took me somewhere else… could I put 1000 words in here?
It got ridiculous in a short time. But I still wanted to tell my story. Then I was sitting in my little red stool… wondering how I got here. I wasn’t looking for a new author, a new book, or anything to do with resumes or job interviews. How did I even get to LinkedIn?
I actually went back and looked at my browser history and found it, and article that Gary Burnison wrote for CNBC titled “Stop asking ‘how are you?’ Harvard researchers say this is what successful people do when making small talk”.
I figured I could invest a couple minutes learning about “communication”… and that was why I was thinking about communication while reading about Gary’s first job… and then he ended with that question and tied both articles from CNBC and LinkedIn together for me with a bright purple bow.
My First Job
You might want to read the LinkedIn post before this, but it isn’t necessary.
Your phone book story reminded me of how I got my first F/T job after high school… This isn’t exactly how it happened, but here is the gist of the story, about the lessons I brought to my first job, and how it affected me…
I had just hit a curb with my car and my mother wouldn’t pay for it. I knew better than to even ask, so I asked for advice. She told me to fix it myself. I told her that I didn’t have the skill or the money to repair it.
She handed me a book called “The Go-Getter” by Peter B Kyne and told me if I read that book she would help me fix my car. I didn’t think she even had the money to help me but the book was way too thin to not risk the time investment and I finished the book that morning. I went to her and told her it was a great story… now about the car…
My mother then handed me the yellow pages (for millenials, that is a book with advertisements and phone numbers for businesses before the Internet). She opened the 3″ thick book to “auto body repair” and circled Aardvark Auto Body… she told me to start calling one by one, “tell them that you have no experience but were a hard worker, fast learner, and willing to work for whatever they could pay”. It took me a couple hours but I spent that next year working at D&G Auto Body.
I never ended up fixing my own car or becoming a mechanic, but I did make enough money to pay to have a professional fix it. Which of course, was much easier with my staff discount. Like Gary Burnison, I brought lessons I had learned my whole life to that role. Was I the best employee? No. Was I a hard worker that they appreciated? Absolutely.
So How Do I Teach Life Rule #4?
Did I learn lessons from my single mother? Absolutely. I have brought them everywhere. But I learned way more from the books she made me read and from the interest that she gave me in books.
I would love to give her credit for actually giving me a love for reading but that would have to go to men like Jack Lambert and Mark Crawford. Each of those men helped me grow in ways that no single person ever could, that is, without the help of authors from all different walks of life, all different backgrounds, and all different points of view.
Now the big question… how do I get my children to have an interest in reading? What can I do to help guide them down a path to find mentors in their life that can take any interest that I have planted, and nurture and grow it into a love that they impart on my children?
So many people lose sight of this, and I have come close many times myself. They lose the perspective of their goals. If I wasn’t as close to my children as I am, these opportunities would not even exist. I would be here as an old man.. well, an older man… trying to figure out how to teach my grandchildren the things I failed to teach my children.
Maybe I would write about it and they could read it after I was gone… if someone taught them the importance of reading.