I listened to an interview with Kevin Hall, the author of Aspire: Discovering Your Purpose Through the Power of Words, and a founding partner of Franklin Quest creators of the Franklin Day Planner. As head of their Training and Sales group he noted that their top sales people earned more than $500,000 per year and their bottom people made less than $50,000.
He commissioned a study of the top 5% and the bottom 5% to determine what characteristics, if any, differentiated the two groups. What the study revealed was a consistent difference between the two groups came down to two things: firstly, the top 5% exhibited much higher interpersonal astuteness i.e. they better understood, related to and empathized with people and secondly, the top 5% read at least 2 books per month!
Hall concluded that readers are leaders, leaders are readers, earners are learners, and learners are earners.
The more you read the smarter you become. The smarter you become the more valuable you become. The more valuable you are the more opportunities you get. The more opportunities you get the more you learn and the more you earn. It’s as simple as that – earners are learners and learning projects you into a positive spiral of success.
Reading and writing are known to develop reasoning and thinking skills. Reading is also the primary mechanism to develop your verbal communication skills which in turn increases your effectiveness in whatever you do. The only way to expand your vocabulary and ability to structure ideas is to read.
I find it rather curious that knowledge is readily accessible at such a low cost and yet so many people claim they do not have time to read despite the fact that the vast majority of people who are in top leadership positions are avid readers. Interestingly, they, like all of us, have 24 hours in each day some of which they choose to use for reading and reflection.
So with that in mid here’s a little challenge. How about you get up in the morning 1 hour earlier and you spend that hour reading something other than a professional technical journal. That would give you nearly 30 hours per month of knowledge acquisition and 360 hours per year. There is absolutely no doubt that your value to clients, the value to your team and the value to your family will dramatically increase … so too will your income and sense of accomplishment.
To get you started here are five books that I would put at the top of your reading list. It would have been a lot easier to make a list of 50 books but I have chosen these because they are also books that you could recommend to any client who aspired to a better life through having a better business. The entire library of five books has a total cost of less than $100 but mastering their content would yield a return of millions!
Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – this book needs to be studied not just read! If you “read” it several years ago but you can’t recite the 7 habits, open it again and study it with a highlighter and a notebook by your side. It will change your life.
Ken Blanchard & Sheldon Bowles, Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach To Customer Service – I put this in my list because, in a disarmingly simple and highly readable way, it explains the essence of business—it’s primary purpose if you will: to attract and retain customers. It’s a classic as are all of Blanchard’s books.
Jack Canfield, The Success Principles – this title is on my list because I firmly believe that personal development comes before business development. Covey’s 7 Habits will give you a framework for success through greater effectiveness while Canfield’s book is packed full of anecdotal practical ideas that when applied to your daily life will change everything for you. I would bracket Canfield’s book with Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, the book that really started the personal development industry, but Canfield’s book gets my nod because of its contemporary context.
John Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of leadership – I have added this to the list because I believe that sound leadership is a key to success in business and life and this book is the most “readable” and down to earth practical summary of 21 leadership principles that anyone can master. There is no doubt that some people are born with a talent to lead but I believe it’s also true that all of us can develop better leadership skills and when we do our organization will be transformed.
Michael E. Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It – Gerber’s book is a must read if for no other reason than it reminds us that business is essentially a system and that anyone who approaches it in a systematic manner can master. I have placed this selection at number 5 but if I were giving this reading list to a client I’d start with Gerber. If the client was excited by what Gerber has to say then I’d know he/she is interested in creating a better business in which case the other books would have more relevance.