photo credit: Renee fisher @reneefisherandco – unsplash

“The more I read, the more I was led to abhor and detest my enslavers. I could regard them in no other light than a band of successful robbers. who, left their homes and gone to Africa, had stolen us from our homes, and in a strange land, reduced us to slavery…….As I read and contemplated the subject, behold! that very discontentment which Master Hugh had predicted would follow my learning to read had already come to torment and sting my soul to unbearable anguish” – Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass was a former slave who was deprived of education until his mid-teens, understood potential by the very fact that he was deprived of the opportunity to develop it as a child. On freedom, and education he said:

I didn’t know I was a slave until I found out I couldn’t do what I wanted.

Feedom is a road seldom travelled by the multitude.

Some know the value of education by having it. I know its value by not having it.”

Frederik Douglass’s story is inspiring. He was only first given the opportunity to read in his teens and then the whole world opened up to him. Reading took him out of slavery and into freedom. Through reading, he was able to realize and develop his potential and make an impact around him.

Reading is the single most important thing we can do to get where we want to g and be who we want to be. It is key to having a satisfying career, to having healthy relationships, to being financially secure and even financially free. Reading brings freedom in all areas of our life.

But what do we think of reading in general? Here are common responses:

  • It is just entertainment
  • It is for passing the time
  • It is boring (and sometimes hard)
  • It is hard to concentrate

These are very typical thoughts about reading. And the statistics on reading are quite telling. The following are American Statistics, but they are probably similar elsewhere:

  • 56% of youth read 10 or more books a year.
  • 50% of American adults can not read a book written at an 8th-grade level
  • 20% of Americans read below the level needed to earn a minimum wage.
  • 6/10 households do not buy a single book in an entire year.
  • 85% of juvenile offenders have reading problems.

Reading Is the Door to Freedom

Frederik Douglass knew first hand the enormous power of ignorance to put wealth into the hands of those who dominate the ignorant. He knew that true freedom starts with an educated and fertile mind and the ability to think critically.

Frederik Douglass was a slave with no access to knowledge or education. Like his fellow slaves, he did not know how much of a slave he was until he learned this through reading. Ignorance brings slavery. Education is the great equalizer; it can transform poverty and change the trajectory of our lives.

For Frederick Douglass, the difference between freedom and slavery was literacy. Because he learned to read, his eyes were opened and he was able to see the reality of slavery and ultimately work with people to fight against it to help free the people. Federick Douglas was, for all intents and purposes, a leader. He read first for freedom and then to lead.

Leaders Read Like Leaders

Arwood H. Townsend said;

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance”

Leaders read differently and voraciously. They read to make books become a part of them. For leaders, reading is almost never a passive activity to pass the time. It is always done with a sense of purpose to learn and to grow. In opposition to the way that most people read, they engage with the author, question, disagree, argue with the author and themselves. In this way, reading becomes an interactive and inspiring activity. The book entitled Turn the Page – How to Read Like A Top Leader with forward by author and speaker Chris Brady discusses the topic of leadership reading in-depth. Here are some tips to benefit from reading given in the book.

Write in Books 

Leaders write in the books they are reading. A good book to them is marked in various colors with notes, comments, and questions. Underlining or highlighting important points helps the reader to remember these, and refer back to them later. Leaders and depth readers write in their reactions and disagreements. For them, reading is a dialogue, not a monologue. This kind of reading engages the thinking process and produces increased understanding.

Argue with the Author 

This does not mean picking a fight with the author and discrediting what he has written. Simply, it means taking note of and writing down what you disagree with. If you already agree with the author, then the author has nothing new to teach you, you aren’t learning.  Leaders read to challenge themselves and their beliefs. Arguing ( or asking questions) helps them to see what they truly believe.

Disagreement is usually where the most important learning happens. If we agree with everything we read (or hear), what are we learning? And, while we are disagreeing with others, we should not neglect to disagree with ourselves.

Read Widely

Allan Bloom wrote:

“The failure to read great books both enfeebles the vision and strengthens our most  fatal tendency – the belief that the here and now is all there is.”

Reading widely means reading in different genres and from different periods of time. If all we read are books by popular fiction writers, it will be difficult to learn about our world both past and present. Reading widely gives leaders (and everyone) the opportunity to learn from the experiences of the great thinkers past and present.

Read Anywhere And Whenever

If you want to increase your success in any area of your life, get into the habit of bringing a book or two around with you wherever you go. Having a book is an excellent way to make good use of otherwise unproductive time (like waiting at the doctor’s office). Remember that you will benefit far more from reading a good book than texting. We typically waste a lot of time waiting and doing nothing. By reading during these downtimes, we might surprise ourselves by how much we have been able to read.

Love Learning

Leaders love to learn. When we truly enjoy learning we become hungry learning, desiring to discover and learn more. We also help ourselves in all aspects of our lives and we become more interesting conversationalists. Learning challenges our beliefs about ourselves and the world and challenges us to change and grow.

Find Mentors In Books

Many times some of the best mentors can be found in the pages of a good book. Some of the mentors may have lived in other countries and at other times. We can learn from the wisdom of their experiences and choices. In fact, the best experience to learn from is the experience of others. We can learn from both their strengths and weaknesses, from the successes and their failures.

Read Aloud ( And listen aloud)

Learning happens from reading, but we can enhance our understanding from reading out loud to ourselves or to others. It helps us to understand what we are reading in new and perhaps different ways. Reading aloud is a more active way of reading and adds in the elements of tone and inflection. For this reason, listening to audiobook versions of books you have already read, can help to reinforce your understanding.

Reread

No book read a second time is exactly the same book. Obviously rereading a poor book is a waste of time. But re-reading a book that has helped you can only be beneficial. I personally know this to be true as I have discovered new insights and been reminded of forgotten information by rereading a book. Often by rereading a book, we discover things that we may have overlooked in previous readings and the second or third time around, we usually have a different perspective, since we have already read the book. Finally, we are not the same person we were when we first read the book because we are always growing and changing each day.

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Diana Lynne’s passions are family, travel, self-improvement, and the pursuit of a debt-free life. She loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. Diana is a Quebec City girl. who loves living life.  You can connect with her through Livingandstuff.ca