For the Love of Reading

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{This is a guest post by my friend Claire Diaz-Ortiz, and it’s about something near and dear to me, something I do every day: READING. I pray it blesses you.}

Why You Should Read More

As a child, I loved to read.

In grade school, it was a relatively good thing. As I plowed through books like it was my job, my parents heard about how “advanced” of a reader I was. She reads at an 8th grade level! She reads at a 10th grade level! She reads like a college student!

In high school, the busiest time of my life until that point so far, reading took more of a back seat than I wanted. I slept little, did homework all the time, ran ragged at sports practices, and on the rare occasion that I had a free moment I spent it obsessing over college. But on vacations things were different. On vacations we’d go away for a week and I’d tear through ten books. This is what I was meant to be doing, I’d sigh. And then I’d be back in real life, where we read a mere ten pages a week in the cruddy English class at my cruddy high school.

In college, I had more free time than in high school (something about not having to be in class for eight hours a day helped that), and reading for pleasure and personal knowledge came back into my life. A bit.

In the years after college, though, my world opened again, like it had when I was as a child. Suddenly, I had so many more hours in which I could read. Sure there was work, and family and friends and all the regular sorts of life commitments we sign up for by the sheer nature of becoming adults, but—more or less—I owned my time more than I did in the past.

And it was in this era that I realized that not everyone read like I did. Worse than that, I realized that most people thought it was weird the lengths to which I’d go to read anywhere and everywhere.

When I spent the year traveling around the world with Lara, she once did a hysterical photographic series of pictures of me reading in places where I should have clearly been absorbing the view. It was as if, in my adult years, I became incapable of going anywhere without a book.

Which is exactly what it was, in fact. These days, no matter where I go, I have a book in hand, and it baffles me the number of people I see who don’t do the same. How many lines do I stand in where the vast majority of people around me are simply staring off into space? Decompressing is good, and taking a moment to zone out may be a positive thing, but can this really be our norm? All the time? For most people?

One early morning as I was passing through immigration in some port in the United States, this all came to a head.

It was five in the morning, or thereabouts, and the line was horrid. We’d been waiting easily for forty minutes at this point, and I’d been reading the whole time. Most of my fellow passengers were not doing the same, and those who weren’t trying to soothe wriggling babies or talking with their traveling companions just stared off into space.

At one point, two men traveling together looked at me, momentarily stunned, and said: “You’re reading? At five in the morning? How can you do that?”

I responded, just as baffled, “How can you not?”

We stared at one another awkwardly and then decided to part ways, the distance between our two perspectives too great to overcome. I’m a reader, you see. And that was the only way to explain it.

In reality, I think most people are readers at heart.

Tons of studies tell us why reading makes us smarter and more informed. Many thought leaders claim that reading is a key predictor of success in business and in life.

If you already love reading, you are lucky. Lucky in that challenging yourself to read more will simply include finding more time in your life to do so. If you don’t already love reading, however, you need to start there.

Either way, start small.

If you want to find more time in your life for the reading you already love, add ten minutes of reading a day on your lunch break or when you wake in the morning or right before you get on the elliptical or when you’re—yes—waiting in line at customs. Finding these moments and learning that these moments exist all around you will help you realize you have the power to create more.

If your challenge is finding a passion for reading (for the first time, or once again), start small there as well. Find a short book with a message that you can’t wait to learn about. Don’t go for meaty nonfiction, but rather something light, fun, and guaranteed to entice you. Short stories? A mystery? Find something that lights any spark of interest. Over time, you can build your reading muscle to start branching out into other genres.

Read more, so you can read more.

Your life will thank you.

About Claire

Claire Diaz-Ortiz is an author, speaker and Silicon Valley innovator who was an early employee at Twitter. Named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company, she holds an MBA and other degrees from Stanford and Oxford and has been featured widely in print and broadcast media. She writes a popular blog at ClaireDiazOrtiz.com and is the author of several books. The above is an excerpt from her latest book, The Better Life: Small Things You Can Do Right Where You Are

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