What Are You Reading?

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Quick quiz: What do all of the following people have in common?

  • Bill Gates
  • Warren Buffett
  • Mark Zuckerberg
  • Elon Musk
  • Mark Cuban
  • Oprah Winfrey

Here are some possible answers:

  • They’re all financially set for life, as long as they die before their 25,732nd birthday (although Bill Gates could probably make it another 250,000 years if he budgeted).
  • They’re all wicked smart.
  • They all like coffee ice cream. [Full disclosure: I don’t know if this last one is correct. And anyway, I said these were possible answers, not necessarily accurate]

But here’s another answer, which is both correct and accurate:

They are all voracious readers.

Bill Gates reads about 50 books a year.

Warren Buffett devotes about 80% of each day to reading.

Mark Cuban reads more than three hours every day.

I just got back from visiting my Uncle Bob in Wyoming. He’s 93 years old and is easily one of the most intelligent people I know. He has started, led, and sold several successful companies. He’s been a city councilman and a mayor. He’s traveled the world.

And, at age 93, he still reads. Voraciously. Every day.


At dinner, on Wednesday I mentioned to him that I liked Bill Bryson’s writing. At breakfast the next morning, my uncle said, “I checked that Bryson fellow out. Interesting guy. I’ve already downloaded three of his books onto my Kindle.” The three books my uncle downloaded? The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way; A Short History of Nearly Everything; and Shakespeare: The World as Stage. Oh, and Uncle Bob is also currently reading a history of Haiti, a research paper on engineering, and some later Mark Twain.

Did I mention he’s 93?

And by the way, Uncle Bob also has deep knowledge of, and well thought out opinions about, current events, because he reads several newspapers each day — both national and international.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Uncle Bob, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, and the others are leaders. But here’s an important distinction. They don’t read because they’re leaders; they’re leaders because they read.

Leaders are readers. #leadership Click To Tweet

As a leader, it’s imperative that you keep fueling your brain with good things. Think of it this way. A world-class athlete doesn’t subsist on Big Macs and supersized fries. Take the current #1 tennis player in the world, Novak Djokovic, for example. He eats mainly vegetables, beans, white meat, fish, fruit, nuts, seeds, chickpeas, lentils, and healthy oils. He fuels his body with good things. That’s what you do if you want to be a world-class athlete.

If you want to be a world-class leader, you fuel your brain with good things. This means reading deeply (e.g., in your particular area of expertise as well as books and articles about business and leadership) and widely. Again, look at the breadth of reading that my uncle is doing. He’s curious about things. About life, about history, about how things work.

And at age 93, he’s still a leader. He can — and does — speak intelligently to experts in almost any field. Think of how valuable that ability is to a leader!

If you want to be a world-class leader, fuel your brain with good reading. #leadership Click To Tweet

So — what are you reading?


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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