After graduating from college I all but swore off reading. I had spent the first 20 years of my life in middle school, high school and college getting books slammed down my throat and frankly I was tired of reading. To be fair, I did read doctrine, instructions, magazines and my linkedin newsfeed but I came up far short when it came to deep reading.
This served me just fine as a tactically focused Platoon Commander, it served me fine as a staff officer working for three different Admirals and served me fine as an Executive Officer.
However, that all came crashing down when the first question of my command board was “So John, what are you reading?” Needless to say my answer did not suffice; as I recall I talked about a book summary that I had hardly skimmed through.
Rather than simply getting a down-check on that question and moving on to the next question my board members took the time to share some of their wisdom.
“John, once you graduate from college you now take full responsibility for your continuing education. It is up to you to keep yourself sharp, educated and current; reading is how you stay sharp. If you want to be an effective naval leader you need to start reading. Pick up fiction, non-fiction, history, and business, whatever you want but read. “
Fahrenheit 451 was the first nonfiction book that I had read in nearly 20 years and I became hooked. For those that have not read Fahrenheit 451 it is set in a dystopian future where firemen are employed to set fires to books. This is because books contain knowledge and knowledge causes one to question their thoughts and learn a very dangerous premise in this future world. What I found even more interesting is that even though books were outlawed other media such as news, info-trainmen, magazines, and the TV were just fine.
Fahrenheit 451 and the books I read after started to transform my thinking on reading, and in the months and years after I have become an avid reader. I have taken ownership of my learning, and am able to see current events through a historical lens. Reading has allowed me to be a better thinker, better leader, better father and better man.
Hopefully by reading, starting with this article, you can learn the easy way the wisdom I learned the hard way.