The 30 Book Challenge: What I Learned

This article was originally published on LinkedIn. 

During the first lecture of my Business Strategy course, the professor declared that the key to thinking more strategically was learning how to ask better questions. He discussed several tools to develop this skill, but one stood out – read a lot.

The professor shared that years earlier he’d set a goal to read 30 books in a year. He achieved the goal and when on to read 30 books a year for the next 10 years. He promised that reading consistently would strengthen our ability to ask better questions and think more strategically.

I have always loved to read, but as I grew older and my schedule got busier, I struggled to find the time. My dad, who once taught time management courses for Franklin Covey, had a standard response whenever I complained about not having enough time. He’d say, “You know, everyone has the same 24 hours every day.” The quote always annoyed me, but I couldn’t deny its truth.

Following my professor’s lecture, I committed to take the 30 Book Challenge. It was early January and the start of a new semester, so I had 12 months to read 30 books. It’s now been almost a year, and I’ve achieved my goal.

I found many benefits from reading regularly, but the biggest benefit has been the joy of constantly learning new things. Here are a few other things I learned during the 30 Book Challenge.

Reading enhances your writing skills
Reading and writing skills tend to go hand-in-hand. I’ve noticed that the more I read, the better I write. Stephen King said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

While most professionals don’t always view themselves as writers, we can all benefit from improved writing skills. Over the last few years I’ve sought to develop this skill, and reading consistently has helped considerably.

Reading is an escape from the daily grind
As a graduate student, I constantly feel pulled in a number of directions. The stress of classes, work and recruiting takes a toll. Reading has been a great way to eliminate stress. I find that reading good books relaxes me, reduces worry and helps me sleep.

Reading makes you more interesting
During my internship, I had several conversations with my manager and coworkers about books they had read. Over Thanksgiving, family members often asked about books I was reading, and it inevitably led to an interesting discussion. In the classroom, we often discuss leadership style and how to motivate employees. The books I read allow me to bring unique insights and relevant anecdotes to the discussions.

In no particular order, here’s a list of my favorite books from the year. Several of them are not business-related, but I found that those often provide the deepest career insights.

The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg
Ender’s Shadow, Orson Scott Card
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, Jon Meacham
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck
Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson
The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz
Catch Me If You Can, Frank W. Abagnale
The Obstacle Is The Way, Ryan Holiday
Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow
Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer
Zero to One, Peter Thiel
Creativity, Inc, Ed Catmull
Eat Move Sleep, Tom Rath

Looking back, I’m grateful that I accepted my professor’s 30 Book Challenge. I look forward to taking this challenge, once again, in 2015.

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