“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” – Oscar Wilde

Reading is one of the most overlooked benefits in life. People constantly ask me what I’d recommend to help them improve professionally. My response is usually a question, “What are you reading lately?” There’s a reason people say leaders are readers. The average CEO reads four to five books a month. (Refresh Leadership) If you want to succeed in life, you must bury your nose in a good book to learn from others what you don’t know.

My love for reading began with being able to read in preschool. My mom would take us to the library (remember those?) on a regular basis and we’d leave with arms full of books to devour. I read anywhere between 10-20 feature-length books a year and between 80-100 eBooks.

Read to succeed - writetojoncook Jon Cook

Reading rates among U.S. Adults

Seth Godin recently shared that 23% of Americans read zero books in 2014. Zero. Illiteracy is not all to blame with 14% of American adults being unable to read. (U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy) That still leaves over 27 million U.S. adults fully capable of reading who simply choose not to read.

With social media, radio, and TV clanging for our attention, the thought of devoting a few hours to consuming a book is seen as, well, “not worth our time.” If that’s the case, then why do some of the most successful people in the world, fiscally or not, consume the most amount of books?

I’m currently in the middle of reading six books and I feel like I’m still missing out. What I don’t feel is uninformed and uneducated. The power of reading transforms even the most obscure individuals into industry leaders and world-changers. Just by reading one book this year you will be learning and advancing more than over 75 million Americans.

How to create a reading habit

You may not be an avid reader. In fact, you may hate reading, but if you’re wanting to develop this life-changing habit, there are a few easy steps to grow as a reader.

  • Pick a nonfiction book your friends recommend. It doesn’t have to be several hundred pages long, but it should be at least 150 pages, give or take a few. It’s important to note “nonfiction” as the genre. Maybe it’s a book on a hobby you enjoy or a person you admire. The point is to feed your brain without kicking it into autopilot, which is what happens with a lot of fiction books.
  • Sacrifice one time-consumer in exchange for reading. Maybe you only watch six hours of Netflix each night instead of seven. To grow you must sacrifice.
  • Schedule your reading. Block out a half-hour or an hour of time for reading. It may be every night or every other night, just pick a regular time and stick to it.
  • Read. I know, that’s earth-shattering advice, so I’ll say it again: read. You may be bored and fidgety within the first few pages. Just let yourself get into the pages and focus on what you’re reading.
  • Discuss what you’re reading. Maybe you should join a book club or use an online discussion forum to talk about the latest book you’re reading. Other readers can draw out observations and experiences from books that you won’t. This will enhance your overall reading by learning from other readers.

I’d love to hear what you’re reading right now. What are some great books you’d recommend? What are some other tips or tricks for developing as a reader?