What is the most important skill you need?
If you want to be successful, you’ll need many specialised business skills, but probably the most important one will surprise you: it’s the capacity to READ! Yes, READ!
You must develop the capacity to read, and to read FAST, and by this I don’t mean basic literacy. This is why I talk of “capacity.” If you’re on this platform, you’re someone who has more than basic literacy skills. You are the next generation of leaders.
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “(Great) leaders are readers.”
You must have the capacity to read a lot, if you want to be successful. All the greatest leaders I’ve ever met, from any walk of life, had this in common: they liked to read books, journals, and articles.
On one of my travels, I met someone who asked me a simple question:
“Where do you live?”
“I have a house in London and one in Johannesburg, but I spend most of my time in airports.”
“Where are your books?” she asked.
“Ah, that is where you live, because books are your most prized possession.”
You must BUY and own books. It must be a constant investment. You’re not a reader if you prefer only to borrow books. It means you’re not committed. If you have children, take them to bookshops. Buy or build them bookshelves. Encourage them to own and treasure books. Take them to libraries, galleries and museums… they’re generally free!
__For the African continent to grow and prosper, we must build a greater culture of reading in our young generations! There’s not a moment to waste.
The pastor of a great church asked a young man, “Where is your bible?”
“I can’t afford one, sir” the young man replied.
“Then sell your shoes!” the pastor replied.
This is the attitude you must build towards the ownership of all other books, too: “If you think books are too expensive then you have not yet realized their value to you, and your family.”
Reading is by far and away the thing I do most in my day:
# You all know by now that I start my day by reading the bible for at least an hour. I read it cover to cover at least once a year.
# Before I go to work or start my day, I delve through at least 5 newspapers that I subscribe to.
# Then I read reports, mostly about what’s going on in our various businesses. I also read the latest developments in our industries.
# I read emails (I don’t allow an email to go unanswered for more than 24 hours). Generally, I read every email that gets into my inbox. This is why I don’t like all sorts of emails to clutter my box. I manage emails very strictly because if I don’t, I’ll lose control of my agenda.
# Throughout the day, I’m reading reports and responding to them. I can read very fast.
I hate rituals, but if you must have a ritual, this is it: Read every day to understand, reflect upon and follow what’s going on around you that affects you. Remember what I’ve said before: things happening far across the world can seriously affect you, too!
You can train yourself to expand your reading capacity quickly and easily:
1. Buy and read books.
2. Buy and read books.
Did I repeat myself?
Buy and read books!
In closing, the other day I went to see a play in New York about Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s founding fathers. It was a remarkable musical production and worth all the rave reviews it’s getting. I only had one problem: it was a musical performed in “rap” by a mostly young African-American cast; for a long time, I didn’t understand a thing they were saying! But I could still follow the story very well, because I’d read the book on which it was based more than 10 years earlier. If I must see a movie, I need to read the book as well.
Someone who has a smartphone or tablet is reading (quantitatively) more than 100x what their peers read 20 years ago. Nevertheless, the key to reading capacity requires an interest in reading books, even those in electronic format.
Be smart, be wise; buy and read books. If you’re planning to get to the top, one book a week should be your minimum target.