Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The One Most Important Key to Success

What do wealthy people have in common? What one activity do they all recommend you do? What one activity do they credit with their outsized success?

The answer is: they read. See Andrew Merle's post.

Wealthy people are voracious readers. But they do not read for entertainment. They do not read pulp fiction. They read to learn. They read to accumulate information. When it comes to garnering more facts no other medium does better than reading. You learn more in a shorter period of time from reading than you do from television.

What do they read? Of course, they read the business press. They read books about business and finance. They probably even read books about economics. They read about politics and history and science. They might even read biographies. As long as they might learn something from the book, they read it. If it is mere entertainment, they avoid it.

Nothing about it is complicated or mysterious. There is no magic potion or secret that will make you into a great success. But, the travail of reading, the time you set aside to become more informed about your business and the world… will inevitably serve you in excellent stead.

Read on!


Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...
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Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Interesting. I have a colleague who's been telling me the most successful people don't read newspapers. This is because the negativity will bleed into their psyche. Never made much sense. How do you know what's going on or what the trends are? I suspect the distinction is in reading the news and not being consumed by it. For many people, the "news" looks more like ESPN SportsCenter. But that kind of "news" is really entertainment, and the consuming kind is when the person doesn't have any separation -- the news really matters to them on an emotional level. Important to keep in mind.

Dennis said...

I guess we can assume that a significant number of today's college students are NOT going to succeed given that they need to be protected for anything that might harm their sensibilities.
Life is learning and facing the challenges that come with living. A good description of the material that will give one a good overall knowledge of ideas that can be applied to one's success.

Ares Olympus said...

Its curious to ask is there is a cause and effect. Does reading for knowledge make people wealthy, or does wealth help make people curious about their world?

I can certainly understand the value of reading for knowledge. The trickier thing is whether you read for depth or read for breadth. If you do the first, you can become more of an expert on a few subjects, and have some idea about the biases of your sources, while if you read only for breadth, your understanding is more shallow and you can end up just as much of a parrot as talk-radio dittoheads, not to say being a dittohead is a bad thing, as long as you also listen when people laugh at your parroted opinions, and consider counter information too.

I recall a biography of Bill Gates, he talked about as a child reading the encyclopedia A-Z as a child. We can wonder whether that breadth-first approach served him, and you'd think that approach gave him the knowledge to see where his Gates Foundation can make the most difference. Or at least when faced by thousands of people asking for money, he could help discern which ones were realistic and which ones were senseless idealists who can't see the limitations of their vision.

My Toastmaster club was also a good place for learning. My approach was always to try to learn something new, and then see if I could communicate it, and since Toastmasters brings together lots of divergent people, everyone has their interests and special attentions, and so there's always something to learn.

I remember we set aside a full meeting after 9/11 to discuss what had happened, and what America should do about it, and wide opinions, and lots of anger against Muslims, while I pointed out all the actual murders were dead, and we couldn't get revenge against dead people (unless we follow Trump's plan of killing their families I guess.)

In contrast political discourse usually is less useful, however much people read, at least party conventions tends to collect together like-minded people whose opinions don't contain enough diversity to really flesh out an issue.

I'll be at the DFL state convention on June 4th in Minneapolis, first time since 2000, so I'm sure all my arguments there will be devils advocate type, not that I'm not saying what I think, but I always just end up looking for what perspectives seem missing from a discussion.

priss rules said...

People who read quality literature tend to be relatively poor.

You don't get rich reading Kafka, Dostoevsky, and Faulkner.

priss rules said...

I think if Bill Gates read just 10 books a year, he would have done just as well.

He has very high IQ and he understood technology and hired good people for business.

Their advice mean little to most people of average IQ. They can read all they want, but it won't change anything.

priss rules said...

There is reading for success. There is reading for entertainment.

And there is reading for knowledge and understanding(with no apparent material rewards) or easy pleasure. That kind of reading is most meaningful, at least to the soul. It is the most overlooked, however.

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: If it is mere entertainment, they avoid it.

The question of "entertainment" made me think. The essay suggests rich people are interested in factual knowledge, things that can be stated simply enough to be either true or false, while I'm reminded that human existence contains something wider, perhaps the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

Can reading communicate wisdom as well as knowledge? And what is the difference?

priss rules notes "You don't get rich reading Kafka, Dostoevsky, and Faulkner."

I've not read Kafka or Faulkner, but I have ready Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov twice for instance, and saw his fictional works were more about trying to flesh out human nature, dividing different aspects into each brother, so the tension of the story contained different aspects of humanity in conflict.

You could say wisdom comes from what E. F. Schumacher called "Divergent problems" where reality is bigger than any single solution, so wisdom arrives through the tension of opposites.

So anyway, I wonder if fictional works can be read at different levels, one level might be called "entertainment", but it also contains questions about "how to live" and you can measure your values and morality within that fiction. So even within a very reductive story, of simple good guys and bad guys, there may be base entertainment there, but deeper levels for people who look deeper, or maybe we all find things in stories that are not actually in them, but things we put into them that apply to something in our lives.

Schumacher also recognized art could be entertainment, and it could be propaganda, but great art could transcend both, and communicate truth.

I recall religious folks saying the bible contains all the wisdom they need in life, and it seems senseless, but then since the bible contains so much contradictory content, it makes sense that the human mind can find what they want to see there. Well, I think I've heard the same thing about Shakespeare.

Anyway, for myself, the first value of reading is you can experience the mind of another person and see how they see, and see where I agree or disagree, or don't understand. And I can carry someone else's experiences as "provisional wisdom" that I can contrast to my experiences in life, and see how they work or don't work.

In my 20's I invented a phrase I called "living truths" which perhaps is an expression of character, each of us carries truths that are not objectively true, but a reflection of inner truths we want to express within the world whether it is found there or not. And what's "living" about them is that they change over a lifetime, and expand, ideally being able to expand what we can carry, and what we need to categorically reject can slowly shrink.

Anyway, learning about your own "living truths" takes a life time, but with reading, you can more quickly expand awareness of contrary truths that challenge our own, and the resistance we experience to the truth of others can tell us what parts of ourselves we're still rejecting and are yet to be seen. So you can do a lot of that work all in your mind via books, even if its only a starting place.

I never worried about getting rich, or my definition of rich is merely having enough, so needing less is having more, or having time is more important than money when basic needs are met.

Or what's scary about being rich is if you can't imagine ever wanting to be poor again. I'm impressed by rich people who will still take great risks, and are not afraid of starting over.

You don't want to be a slave to your status or wealth, both of which can be taken away. But knowledge, wisdom, and your character can't be taken from you as easily.

David Foster said...

It has been argued that reading fiction helps develop empathy, and there is at least some research supporting this conclusion:

...and empathy, in the sense of having some sense of how other individuals will act/react in given circumstances, is certainly of considerable value in making money...especially when management is involved, but also in investing.