Three Types of Reading
Accomplished leaders take reading seriously. They guard it as a life discipline.
In this article I want to share three types reading that can best maximize our personal growth.
I completed my schooling at age thirty. Without question, books were central to my odyssey in academia. For me, reading was primarily an exercise to advance my education and career as a medical doctor. Unfortunately at that time, I rarely read for any other reason. I did not have time; and truthfully, I did not see its value or relevance to my life. Then something changed.
In 2008, my now mentor and friend Rev. Peter Rahme, shared a book called Personality Plus, which revealed the four different personality types. This new information tangibly changed my life. Since then, I’ve made it a priority to read regularly. And while there is much to discuss about the discipline of reading, in this article I want to share one simple idea that we should all be aware of: three types of reading.
Reading for Pleasure
Many read purely for pleasure. And that is certainly acceptable, although we must acknowledge that reading for pleasure usually does not add much value to our growth as leaders. For this type of reading, there are thousands of books that span all kinds of genres—mystery, romance, suspense, science fiction, etc. And if that is what you enjoy as a hobby, it may be a beneficial way to relax and unwind.
I have met many people who read voraciously. They always have a book in hand. And when I ask them, “So you like to read?” They proudly exclaim, “Oh, yes! I am always reading.” They believe reading is good; they prefer it over TV; and they encourage their kids to read. But is passively reading for pleasure helpful to us in the long run?
Unless you are learning how to read, or trying to expand your intellect with new literary phrases and syntax, I personally believe that it does not matter much whether you read or play video games. People spend countless hours reading tantalizing series like The Hunger Games or Harry Potter. This may be reading for fun. And perhaps it stimulates the imagination. But honestly, I just do not see much value in these kinds of books (beyond entertainment) for a person aiming to develop and grow themselves as a leader.
Reading to Get Information
A better way of reading to grow is to acquire new information. History, biographies, business, and leadership books all offer opportunities for real growth. To increase our knowledge base, we must gain information that we don’t already have. However, collecting information does not mean change, nor does it mean wisdom.
If we aren’t intentional to grow, the new information we gather will remain just that: random facts. For instance, I can read a book about the American Civil War and memorize the names of the battlefields and the generals. I can take in all the facts. Interesting information. And this would be very beneficial if I were a history professor or a civil war enthusiast.
However, as leaders dedicated to pursue intentional and steadfast personal growth, we must understand that it is not simply more information that we need. We must seek to gain a fresh perspective and wisdom. We must search for new thoughts that will prompt us to make better decisions in life and for the people and organizations we lead.
Reading to Get Wisdom
Ultimately, I believe this should be our goal: reading to gain wisdom. When I pick up a book, I remind myself that my goal for reading is not acquiring knowledge. Yes, I know knowledge is power. But that is not the entire truth. Actually, applied knowledge is power. And when we allow knowledge to change us, we gain wisdom.
I was recently describing these steps to a leader I mentor, and I gave her an example of a book I had gone through. If you follow my blogs, you may know that I just read quite an eclectic (and disturbing) book about Hitler Germany. The book describes how some theologians and Christian churches supported the removal of the Jews from society and portrayed Jesus as an Aryan and an anti-Jewish figure. I must admit, the book really piqued my interest. So for me, there was definitely an element of reading for pleasure. But I consistently asked myself throughout my reading: How can this book help me today?
Though the book is filled with details—an academic work, very scholarly and dense—as soon as its complexity became clear, I reminded myself I am not reading this work to memorize the details. I am not a history professor. I am not researching this topic or writing a book on the subject. I want to mine history to gain fresh perspective on the present, and on human nature, in the hopes that it will benefit me in some way today.
While I learned a lot of historical facts, I don’t believe the real value came from the pleasure of knowledge or from the discovery of astonishing historical facts. The value came when I stopped and asked myself, “What wisdom can I glean from this book?” Here are my take-aways: Religious leaders must not have ultimate authority. The Bible should. And secondly, it is possible that national politics can affect religious convictions.
It may be arguable that reading a whole book to gain only a few insights is not worthy of my time. Rather, I could read a book of principles (which I do) and get more out of it. While this may be a topic to be discussed in a later article, I think varied reading that includes historical, biographical, or societal stories can add tremendous value to our lives, but only if we stop and draw the lessons from them.
I hope this perspective gives you some ideas to think on. I always want to improve my journey as a reader in the pursuit of becoming the most effective person possible. I hope you join me on that journey!
Actionable Step: With the next book you read, ask yourself, “What wisdom can I apply in my life?”
Reading now: I finished reading The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. I highly recommend this book to you as a leader. It is practical and easy to read. I thought I already appreciated others well. But after reading this book, I will definitely be more intentional and targeted in my appreciation.
For Further Reading: