A bold statement? Maybe. I don’t have research to back my claim, only personal experiences. Experiences so noticeable it would be unethical for me as a coach not to share it with you.
Business is competitive with continuously changing targets. We leaders need to continually keep up with new ideas, trends, skills, and our own development as leaders. But how?
Yes, it’s better to collect experiences than things. Experiences create better stories; are more valuable for learning; and are usually more fun. Experience is what we want in our leaders and what we bring to the business table.
Unfortunately, experiences have their limits.
First, we humans have limited time on this earth. This forces us to choose a subset of potential experiences. We can’t do it all. We try to do it all. Fearing we may miss out, we cram too much into our days, skimming through experiences. Ultimately what we were trying to avoid (missing out) is exactly what results. We miss the value of the depth of each experience, focusing on quantity instead of the quality.
Second, the laws of physics limit our ability to have first hand experiences from the past or future or an alternate reality (at least so far). All we have is now. We can’t re-experience history to learn from it nor can we project ourselves into alternative future states to decide which to choose.
We can, however, use the a readily available tool: books.
By reading a diverse collection of books, I’ve laughed, cried, learned a new skill, and have grown in my profession. I’ve been able to see the world from someone else’s perspective, changing my own. I’ve followed characters on a journey of what might have been in alternate timelines, helping me to contemplate human behavior in real-world situations.
By reading more books and more diverse topics, I am growing and developing personally and professionally. My ability to use creativity in solving problems has improved. I’m learning to be more curious and open to others perspectives instead of jumping to conclusions or judgement.
I’m happier because I’m more successful. I’m more successful because I’m happier. And reading more is a big part of that change.
What do I read? I choose many books recommended by those I trust, while I discover others by browsing both online and in bookstores. I keep a wish-list on amazon and as I read one book or blog post or listen to an interview and something sounds interesting, I add it to the list. There are biographies, thrillers, history, tech, leadership, business, classics, and more. Though I love books, I also include movies. Some stories are best experienced on the big screen. Here’s a book sample:
Author: Dan Harris
This title kept showing up in my “recommended” list and on the kindle daily deals email. One day I decided to try a sample and once I did – I was hooked.
I’d been trying to meditate for years. I say trying because I really didn’t get it. Then I read Dan Harris’s description of his experience and it made total sense. Dan tells a great story with authentic language and a relatable sense of humor.
This book was both entertaining and informative. It helped me to better understand journalists and appreciate their perspective. I’ll never have those experiences, and his storytelling helped me see the world differently. It reminded me to read outside my comfort zone. Something a cherished professor taught in the masters program I attended. I appreciated the reminder.
Authors: J. Penn, J. Thorn
Always intrigued by human behavior, I found this book provided a deep dive into one team’s experiences and as Brene Brown mentions in her book Rising Strong: “I believe the most useful knowledge about human behavior is based on people’s lived experiences.” This is one of those experiences.
As an anywhere worker myself, (and one who coaches other virtual workers) I was especially interested in how these two successful professional writers tackled the obstacles of virtual team collaboration. Not only did they work across time and space, but also with different approaches to the project as well as uncovering some insecurities on each side.
I enjoyed their openness in sharing what could be a powerful case study for anyone interested in virtual collaboration.
Author: J.F. Penn
One of my favorite aspects of this book is the length. I love being able to loose myself in a story for an evening or afternoon and be able to enjoy the entire story. I normally don’t read thrillers but this one caught my attention because I know the author from her non-fiction works. I decided to venture out into a new territory.
I enjoyed the story very much. And I also appreciated that the same person that could write quality non-fiction business books could also be amazingly creative in her fiction works. It made me think about all of the people I meet in business and what interesting things they do outside of the office that would help me know them better.
Once we increase our creativity, we use it both inside and out of the office. What better way to expand our creative abilities than through experience? First in others works (books) and then in our own perceptions of the world.
Read more. Be more creative. Be more successful. Be happier.