16 Jun

Laugh, Learn, & Lean In: Three Things to Read Every Month

Reading is fundamental. Reading the right things - that’s less fundamental, and much more intentional. So here are three things to read every month, and why to read them!

Laugh Early, Work Longer

According to the Association for Psychological Science, engaging something that you find humorous allows for increased productivity! And while cat videos are great, I have found that the best thing to read in the morning, is something that genuinely makes you laugh. So if one of your favorite comedians wrote a book, you should buy it. I’m currently reading Jim Gaffigan’s book FoodIt makes me laugh. And science is telling us that me getting a chuckle from an AM read is good for my productivity! So I get to start my day laughing, and then end it knowing I’ve been productive. 

Take the easy wins!

Learn Something Every Day

I think the actual saying goes, “learn something new every day”. But I’m not sure daily learning has to be new, every day. In fact, a lot of my best learnings have come from what I have reread, especially where I’m trying to learn something.

But I don’t take this learn requirement with any unnecessary rigidity. I am in marketing, but I don’t always read marketing books. I love baseball, but I don’t stick to baseball books exclusively. And I love books on leadership, but I have found that some of the best books on leadership are actually biographies. So I am currently rereading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals. It’s an incredible study of Abraham Lincoln’s empathy, insight, and humility, as he moved through politics, eventually creating a Presidential Cabinet made almost entirely of people that opposed him. Incredible book!

Reading, or even rereading, something is an engagement of the mind and the imagination, and gives us a chance to glean from brilliant authors, historical figures, and current leaders. The adage that leaders are readers may not be science, but it is something that has definitely helped me learn my industry, and much of the world around me. 

Lean In: Empathy Heals

Teddy Roosevelt once cleverly said that “no one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care”. What a profound statement… that we unfortunately wear out whenever we want someone’s attention or we need a poignant meme for our next social media post. 

But true empathy begins with listening. And there aren’t many better platforms for active listening, than engaged reading. So for this book selection, I am always trying to engage a unique experience. Maybe it’s an entrepreneur that came to business in a unique route or under different circumstances. Maybe it’s a book on a religion or subject that I don’t know much about. An autobiographical period piece that doesn’t reflect my life’s story. And there are always works to be read that are written by women, ethnic minorities, people from other countries, or people who lived in a different context than I was brought up in.

The key component here is leaning in to someone else’s experiences. Happy or sad, hopeful or hopeless. The important part is actively listening, and working to develop the high quality character trait of empathy. I am currently reading Stamped From the Beginning, by Ibram X. Kendi, a clear look into the history of racism and how racist ideas permeated American culture from the start of our nation. It’s not an easy read, to be sure, but it’s an important read. And I am listening.

Just Laugh, Learn, and Lean In

That’s it. Grab three books. One to start your busy days with laughter. One to teach you something you didn’t know, or to help you grow in an area you’re working to master. And one to hear from someone that isn’t like you, about a subject that may be entirely their own. 

To laughter, learning, and empathy… keep reading!

Brad Caldwell is the CEO of Spark Business Strategies. His opinions and views are his own, and may not reflect the corporate views of Spark. To reach Brad with questions, or for interviews and speaking engagements, email him at brad@sparkbusinessstrategies.com

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