Don't stop reading at 140 characters

publication date: Sep 2, 2011
 | 
author/source: Fraser Green
A man who doesn't read is no better off than a man who can't read. - Mark Twain

Here's a confession: I'm pretty much addicted to communicating. I love to ask questions, to listen, to learn from others, to find out what makes people tick. And, if you know me, you're already quite aware that I like to talk way too much!Fraser Green photo

I feel so fortunate to live in such a communications-rich world. I'm never lost for something to watch (thank you, ted.com!)  Something to listen to (thank you, SIRIUS). Someone to connect quickly to (thank you, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and text messaging to name just a few!)

Each medium has its benefits and drawbacks. Twitter is quick and highly interactive -but it doesn't encourage much depth. Ted.com speaker videos are deep and thoughtful - but they each take about 20 minutes to watch (which is a LOT of time in our world).

Depth and the time challenge

The main point I want to make with you this month is that there's no substitute for depth. In order to really grasp a subject - to understand it and appreciate it - you simply have to invest some time.

Time is currency today. Honestly, if I had the choice today between making an extra $50,000 a year and having a 30-hour day, I'd take the time in a heartbeat.

I simply can't remember the last time I had a day where I had the time to do everything I wanted to do. Highly demanding (but equally rewarding) job. Two kids at home - and one on her own that I talk to almost every day. Two Labrador Retrievers (who are a lot like kids in terms of energy). Yoga class. Getting stuff done around the house. Actually picking up one of my guitars for a few minutes. My life is nuts. Yours probably is too.

That's why I'm concerned about our reading habits.

Why reading matters

I know that reading books has done wonders for my careers. When I was a political strategist and campaign director, I read books on sales and marketing, warfare, leadership, history - and lots more. They were an incredible help to me. They widened my perspective and fuelled my imagination.

Now that I'm in fundraising, I read a lot about various spiritual traditions, psychology, persuasion, creativity, innovation, storytelling and (my newest favourite) neuromarketing.

You'll note that when I worked in politics, I didn't read a lot of books about politics. And now that I'm a fundraiser, I certainly don't just read books on fundraising and philanthropy. There's so much more out there that can make us better fundraisers. Try a book on body language. On business leadership. A biography of someone remarkable (as opposed to just famous).  On seduction! Shakespeare or John O'Donohue might open up your writing and speaking skills.

Buy, read, grow

This month's tip is a simple two-step process. Step one is easy. Step two might take some discipline.

  1. Before this week ends, decide on three books that you think might be interesting, challenging and stimulating. Once you've decided, go buy them.
  2. Read those books before Christmas!

P.S. If you find a book you really love, please pop me an email and tell me about it. If you persuade me to read it, I'll send you a free copy of one of my favourites from the past year. Happy reading!

Fraser Green is principal and chief strategist at Good Works, a consulting firm that works with Canadian charities to engage donors at a truly human level and build donor loyalty and commitment. Fraser welcomes your ideas, comments and criticisms about this tip. 

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