Know what you’re talking about: Read.

By Joe Truncale
In April 4, 2014

If you are old enough to remember that line (in fact, the only line) in a public service television spot that ran some years ago, you are in good company.

The spot featured a group of young men in a diner discussing something, and although there is no audible dialog (just background music) it is clear that the discussion/debate is quickly becoming heated and may very well come to blows. Just then, another young man walks in, calmly joins in the discussion and very quickly, all involved cool down and listen to what must be words of great wisdom. Frowns turn to smiles and nodding of heads, even handshakes. The camera pans in to reveal a paperback novel in our hero’s back pocket, followed by the narrator’s voice intoning, “Know what you’re talking about: Read!

I remember when my son was in fourth grade and I went to parent-teacher night. I met with his teacher who said how glad he was to meet me, how well Alex was doing in class, and how interesting and advanced he was. Nice for any parent to hear, for sure. He told me that Alex was far ahead of the rest of the class on a variety of topical subjects, domestic and world events, contemporary issues, history, etc. He then said something I will never forget: “Alex reads a lot, doesn’t he?”

I answered that yes, he does, and he has done so for as long as he could read. In fact, we are a family of readers. His response: “I thought so. He knows a lot about a lot of subjects, and you can only get that from reading”.

As I continue to work with an increasing number of successful executives, I’ve noticed something. They read. Business journals, business books, industry updates (such as NAPL’s State of the Industry Report, white papers, and case studies), what I call “wisdom literature” (everything from William James to The Screwtape Letters), biographies, historical works, and, yes, even a novel or two.

We have conducted any number of senior level executive searches for our member/clients here at NAPL. One question I always ask a candidate is simple, direct, and very revealing: “What are you reading right now?” Try it. The answer may surprise you, and it will provide great insights into the learning system of the person across from you.

So whether your medium of choice is online, on a device, or on good old paper, casebound or paperback (mass market or trade), make the time to read. Be selective if you must, but consider investing at least a little more time in this worthy pursuit.

Know what you’re talking about: Read!

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