how to read books

How to Read Books: Attitudes of Ultra-Successful People

This article was last updated on September 5, 2017

Reading – It’s What the Successful Folk Do

Years ago a certain musical became a smash Broadway hit. The title was Camelot, and it was President John F. Kennedy’s favorite. He had read the book Once and Future King several times and always claimed that he gained many insights into leadership do’s and don’ts from the book.

One of the hit songs of the musical was “What do the Simple Folk Do?” Perhaps someone should compose a song, “What do Successful Folk Do?” And in that song, there would be a few lines about reading. As it turns out, that is one thing that all successful people actually do. They know how to read books and they take advantage of that skill.

Who Reads?

Of course, students read. They must as a part of their coursework. But once school days are over, many people do not develop a desire or a habit for reading. If they do read, it is solely for entertainment – that latest “steamy” novel or mystery thriller. Highly successful people, on the other hand, now how to read books and they tend to read a great deal. Keep in mind this list of successful people:

  • Warren Buffett reads about 500 pages each day
  • Elon Musk taught himself to build a rocket by reading a book. In his 45 years on this planet, he has begun several new companies; each one has meant some type of a career change. He will probably do this several times more, as his reading and learning continue to give him new ideas.
  • Mark Zuckerberg states that he reads a book about every two weeks
  • Bill Gates reads about 50 books a year.

What Do These People Read?

Most read educational books related to their business niches, books on success and self-help, and lots of biographies and autobiographies. They read other non-fiction unrelated to their niches, because they just have a “need to know.” They also read classics of literature and the occasional contemporary best-selling fiction piece.

How Do Successful People Read?

There are a number of things that avid readers do to ensure that they read enough and that they learn as they read. Here are their strategies – strategies that you can adopt too.

  1. They have a scheduled time for reading. It is not something that is optional. They build it into their schedules just as they do meetings, travel, etc. Can you find a time in your day or evening to schedule your reading? One of the things you can do is to take a good long hard look at your day. Are there periods of time when you are away from work tasks and “family time?” You may not be able to spend the amount of time that Warren Buffett does, but what can you do right now? A young mother might get up an hour before she has to get her kids up for school and spend that time reading; a busy career professional might plan his reading  in the evening when he has serenity. No matter how short a time you can schedule right now, do it. That time can expand through the months and years. The point is to set the habit of reading for yourself, so that it becomes a part of your daily routine.
  2. They read when there are no distractions around. This may be one of the most difficult parts of scheduling time to read. It’s impossible to focus, especially when reading a book from which you are trying to learn more about your career or business niche. And there are always selfish people who will not respect your need for quiet. If, for example, you are trying to read on your lunch hour and a fellow work continues to interrupt you with his/her needs, you will only become frustrated. So, find your quiet place, even if it is 30 minutes before you fall asleep at night.
  3. They take notes and highlight. Yes, just as if they were still students in school, successful people, when they read something that is important and valuable, find some way to remember it later on. They may use a program live Evernote or the old-school way of jotting something down, but they do it nevertheless. You might be reading a self-help book because you are going through a rough patch in your life. You may come across an inspirational quote from an author that will motivate you to believe in yourself and your abilities. Write it down somewhere visible. Make it your screen saver or post it on your refrigerator.

What Successful Folk Know About Reading That You May Not

Think for a minute how busy highly successful people are. They must play a strong leadership role in their organizations or businesses; their time is in demand by others much of their days (and nights); they support causes and often operate foundations to support those causes; they are the focus of lots of media attention. This is not to say that your life isn’t just as busy, in your individual world. It is.

But we do get tied up in that world and forget to do things for ourselves and our own betterment. Reading is one thing that will contribute to our betterment, and it’s a relatively easy thing to do. You don’t have to spend lots of money or attend classes in order to better yourself. In fact, you can use self-taught books to improve almost everything in your life. It’s just important to know how to read like a successful person.

Here a Few of the Benefits Successful People Obtain from Reading.

  1. Our Ability to Focus. Knowing how to read books requires focus above all else. We have to set the right environment for that focus, but once we do, it is a singular task. While we read our brain is working to absorb information. However, it is also being trained to focus on those printed words and what they mean. The more we read the more practice in focus we get, and this will then be applied to other areas of our lives without our even realizing it.
  2. We expand our perspectives. Every author has a point of view. And s/he is attempting to portray that point of view in such a way that you will understand it, even if you do not agree with it. If you know nothing about “new age” thought, for example, and you read a book or two by Wayne Dyer, you may be able to see the world from his viewpoint and gain some real insight about how those ideas and concepts could relate to your own life. If nothing else, you will gain insight into an entire demographic with which you have had no experience, and with insight comes great understanding and empathy. This will carry over to our own life experiences as we work to establish rapport with others in our personal and professional worlds.
  3. We expand our vocabularies. When we read about subjects outside of our own career niche we pick up vocabulary within the context of that subject. When we do learn vocabulary this way, we are then able to use it ourselves.
  4. We become better writers. There is a lot of educational research out there that concludes this about students. If they read a lot, they become better writers. The same goes for adults. Reading correct grammar and punctuation on a daily basis allows us to absorb correct sentence structures. We then begin to use  such structures ourselves. So, if you struggle with writing simply read more.
  5. We become well-rounded individuals. People who have a large general knowledge base are able to communicate and establish rapport with a wide variety of demographics – age ranges, sex, sociology-economic statuses. When topics of conversation come up in social gatherings, we have some general background and can participate. We just “look” and “sound” smarter, and this is impressive both personally and professionally.
  6. We use our time better. When we have down-time waiting for appointments, for example, we have choices to make. Either we can pull out our phones and play a game; or we can pull out that book use that time to get smarter.
  7. We have more relaxation time. When we decide to schedule reading into our daily routine, we have periods of time dedicated to relaxation. Quiet relaxation with a book is always good for mental health.

So, When Will You Start?

The answer should be right now. You have nothing to lose by picking out that first book that looks appealing and scheduling your time to read it. Once you are in the habit of reading, you will never want to be without a book in progress. It can become highly addictive, but there is no better addiction to have in this hurried world then knowing how to read in order to improve your life.

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