All Pastimes Are Worthy, but Some Are Worthier Than Others
Few weeks ago, various articles carrying the tag line “Want to know one habit ultra-successful people have in common?” were making the rounds on social media. It turned out that the habit in question was reading.
In a nutshell, said articles listed a number of famous and successful people – Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, and many more – who dedicate most of their free time to reading.
Furthermore, they point out research findings that link wealthy people to reading. While I am personally very weary of the trend of constantly having to use money to convince societies that something is good, I can relate with the reasons given by rich business people for having their noses constantly in a book.
Warren Buffett, hailed as the most successful business investor in the world, has been very vocal on the importance that reading has had on his life and his career. He once said in an interview: “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”
Admittedly, not everyone has the time to read 500 pages a day – I am lucky if I can manage 100 -, but it is the second part of his quotation that I find very true: knowledge builds up. Moreover, the great thing is that you are having a relaxing, pleasurable time while that happens – if you enjoy reading, that is.
I will give a case that I encountered few weeks ago. I met with a sale person from an international telecommunication company in Ho Chi Minh City. We met over coffee at 7 pm, and she looked so tired to prompt me to ask her how much she worked and what her hobbies were. Her reply was hardly surprising. She admitted that she didn’t have time for hobbies for she worked six days a week until late and, in fact, after our meeting, she was going to go home and work some more. Luckily, she enjoyed her work.
While she was describing her life routines, I realized that I started to think about The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell – a sociological book that explains how ideas, from political to marketing, are spread.
I read that book years ago purely out of pleasure, and not because I needed it for my job. At the time of this meeting, I could not help but think that books like The Tipping Point would be so useful for someone working in sales, who needs to understand the sociological and psychological reasons that lead people to gain followers and that make some products more popular than others.
The truth is that people like her probably will never read a book like that because they believe (or are lead to believe) that doing actual work is more productive than taking some time off to enrich your knowledge by doing one of the oldest pastimes: reading.
In truth, it is anthropologically unnatural for humans to read; it is often considered an odd habit for it is done in isolation, away from other people; and it takes time.
We already know the immense advantages that reading gives on a personal level – it enhances empathy, prevents stress, improves creative thinking and stimulates cognitive functions – , but it also enriches our knowledge that then can be used in our daily work.
In short, if you think that taking one hour off for lying on a sofa and reading a book is a waste of time, think again.