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What? You Mean I Have to Read?

Despite the social media revolution, the wealthiest, most influential people read books. My advice: Do what they do.

Bookstores have more hidden wealth than Fort Knox—and they're easier to get into.

Good article. Catchy title. Just wish it had more practical advice. Now I have to make another stop and buy a book before I can get the information. Would like more details next time.

This was one of the comments posted early this morning in response to my review of the book, Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months by Melinda F. Emerson. Ironically, earlier this morning, as I walked from the 14th Street PATH train stop to my office at Black Enterprise’s New York headquarters on Fifth Avenue and 18th Street, I was just thinking to myself how libraries and bookstores are like open vaults full of hidden wealth and buried treasure—they’re called books—yet so many people walk by them every day with no thought of ever entering and partaking in the treasure hunt. (Yes, that’s the kind of stuff that runs through my mind as I’m walking to work. My daily Bible reading during my morning commute was the fourth chapter of Proverbs. Check Verse 7, and my train of thought this morning might make more sense. Or not.)

Anyway, that was my mindset when I logged in as one of our web site’s administrators to read and respond to comments at BlackEnterprise.com, as I do each morning, only to be confronted with, “Now I have to make another stop and buy a book before I can get the information.” Wow. What a buzz kill. Now, I could be reading more into the comment than was intended, or misreading it entirely. But to me, the author of the comment was all but saying, “Awww, damn. You mean I actually have to read? Why can’t you just tell me?”

Well, the obvious answer to that question is, yes, you have to read, at least if you want to excel as an entrepreneur, as a business executive, or as a wealth-builder in almost any area of worthy endeavor. No, you don’t need to read to survive, or even to enjoy your life. But you do need to read to excel, especially in business. In fact, one of the most important habits of successful people is a steady diet of reading. And despite the rise and ubiquity of social media (and I’m speaking as an unrepentant Twitter and Facebook junkie), scanning the Twitter stream and Facebook status updates all day can never substitute for reading books. In fact, I get many of my best reading recommendations from my FB friends, Twitter followers and contacts on other social media sites. And I am passionate about returning the favor, which is why I and my fellow Black Enterprise editors perform what we believe is a really important service, both in the magazine and in our Book Review category at BlackEnterprise.com: reading and reviewing as many books as we can so we can screen out and recommend the best ones for you and help you to avoid wasting valuable time on the others.

Not to dwell too much on this, but if there is anything I’ve learned from my three decades of interaction with BE 100s CEOs, top corporate executives, accomplished entrepreneurs, top investors and leaders in religion, sports, entertainment, academia and politics—including at least a few U.S. presidents (yes, including President Obama)—they all have one thing in common. The wealthiest, most successful, most powerful people in the world read books. They reread books. They never stop reading books. They are endlessly committed to their own continuing education, to learning what they need to know to attain and sustain their wealth, power, influence and success. Are there exceptions? There must be. They just happen to avoid me like the plague, apparently.

One of the things I often require of people who ask me to be their mentor is that they read at least one book on business, personal finance, investing or business leadership each month. (For books to boost your financial literacy, check out these great picks from me and some of my colleagues at Black Enterprise). I’m sure they don’t all follow through on that commitment (it’s not like I ask them to write and submit book reports). But the most successful ones do.

There’s no way you’re going to learn everything you need to know to set and achieve your goals and objectives from TV shows, tweets, podcasts, magazine articles or blog posts. Attending conferences and seminars are good, but not enough. All of these are great resources, but none are substitutes. If you really want to succeed in business, you need to read books.

ACROSS THE WEB
  • http://www.OdomanianInk.com L. Michelle Odom

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Somebody had to say it! One of the saddest moments for me was sitting in a board meeting of a charter school district, listening to the members talk about how they had to dumb down their advertising materials because black parents wouldn’t read. The board members wouldn’t even entertain the idea that maybe they still needed to put a lengthier description of their school in a dense book covering several schools – for those parents that do read. We have to set the standards and people need to stretch a bit to reach them.

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Wow. Board members in a charter school district? SMH

  • http://ebonstorm.wordpress.com Thaddeus Atriedes

    I absolutely believe in what you are saying. It is unfortunate that our attention span as a nation has diminished to 15 minutes of audio, 5 double spaced paragraphs,  or 3 minutes of video is all people seem to be able to handle before their attention begins to wander. As a writer, I spend my time deciding what is most important to write and whether anyone will work to get to my ideas. It is one of the things that I see as the loss of the heart of our society. Only the rich will get rich. Everyone else will end up with American Idol. I have to keep writing hoping that the New Yorker will one day need something of substance. Keep up the great work!

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Thaddeus; I agree. The irony is we have access to more information at our finger tips than we ever dreamed possible even 15 years ago, yet we, as a nation, seem to be less informed than ever–and worse, we’re proud of it! People say its the Information Age, but I say this is the Entertainment Age, as symbolized, as you mentioned by American Idol.

  • http://www.frostbitebeverages.com Chuck Carter

    Could not agree more. And you do not have to apologize for reading to much into that person’s comment, they are lazy. We need to read more & encourage other’s to do so. My wife & I even send gift subscriptions (like your magazine) to our grown & married kids as Christmas presents. Good article!

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Thanks, Chuck–especially for giving Black Enterprise gift subscriptions as presents!

  • Beatrice Hanks

    Is President Obama reading your blogs? When he commented that all our high-tech devices can be a distraction, he was saying the same thing: get beneath the surface. That’s how we find out what’s really going on, to say nothing of thinking critically.

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Is President Obama reading my blogs? I sure HOPE so!

  • elclary@mail.mccneb.edu

    I remember “back in the day” in grade school when the teachers would tell my Mom I was reading 2 grade levels ahead of where I was at. I turned out okay. Now I’m getting the same reports on my kids from their teachers — sooo proud.

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      You should be proud. Make sure your kids know you are, too.

  • Miracle H.

    This is a hott! article. The new social media feeds partial thinkers; where books help produce wholesome one’s. They both serve its positive purposes; part of the problem is the lack of balance between the two. (Now I’m Llooking forward to following you on twitter, @Miraclezlove).

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Thanks! I look forward to following you back!

  • http://ccityblogger.blogspot.com Stefan R.

    I’m just chillin’, surfing the web for fun for a change, and I ran across this fabulous blog post.
    The reason most kids can’t do math is because the new methods involve far more word problems then we ever had. If a kid can’t read we’ll never know if they can do math. We used to be given dozens of equations to solve before seeing a word problem. Sure, they were tough but we at lease knew how to solve an equation.
    The only books I see teens reading are the urban fiction novels and it’s the girls who are reading them. Great that they’re reading but the subject matter is way too adult for most of them.
    Adults don’t read books. Sure, there are a few ladies keeping the book club circuit alive but guys are hardly picking up the daily paper.
    I’m looking at my out-of-control book shelf now…books, manuals, magazines, and reference material all piled up in a disgusting heap of madness. And there’s the current read with a pencil sticking out of it.
    Books. Couldn’t live without ‘em.

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Stefan, The impact of declining reading skills on math performance is an excellent and often overlooked point. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.fonholloway.biz Fon R. Holloway

    Mr. Edmond, I could not agree with you more. We have to keep reading and encourage our children to do the same. I do have one question that I am interested in your opinion. What to you think about audio books? It is a good alternative considering the fact that it makes books available during driving commutes, etc.

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      I think audio books are great, especially for people who spend a lot of time in cars or on public transportation commuting back and forth to work or who travel a lot in general. Also, some people absorb information more easily by ear than they do from reading words on a page. I also like e-readers like the Kindle (I actually have a SONY Reader).

  • http://www.krucifiction.com Courtney

    Hi Mr. Edmond! This is quite a revelation for me this morning at approx 9:14am that I am reading your article.. My husband and I were up at 4:45 am this morning discussin WISDOM will take us to the next level in our life. Proverbs 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom adn with all thy getting get understanding. We have had a few setbacks within the last 4 years of our quest of entrepreneurship, and in our pursuit to happiness and building wealth. Like you mentioned in your article, we are in the stage of okay we have acquired knowledge, but now we need the wisdom to help us KEEP the things that we desire for our family ( relestate, cars, investments etc.. My husband and are book publishers and we are into the arts building upon a family dynasty. He’s a gifted author and playwright, I enjoy writing motivational stories, but my spiritual gift is promotion. I love to help small business owners, entrepreneurs promote their businesses through word of mouth, passing out flyers, email marketing, etc. I believe in building long last relationships and making the right connection with the right people to help you expand/enlarge your territory. This is why I love your article, and I can’t remember the last time I actually visited blackenterprise online. This is truly the answer! Read more books from those that have actually achieved what I desire in life! Wisdom will take my family to the next level very soon! My husband will be attending a men’s meeting this Saturday, and our pastor Bishop Dale Bronner stated that he will be giving away free financial books that has helped him prosper! Needless, to say I appreciate your advice this morning and I am definitely going to Barnes & Nobles today to get those books you refered us to. It’s amazing that I was in Barnes & Nobles yesterday and they are promoting their new E-device called “NOOK”, basically it’s like a held hand mobile library where you can download books from their catalogs. I’m assumed that even Barnes & Nobles had to create something electronic to get people to start downloading books just like they do with music and because so many people are glued to social media nobody get’s out anymore. However, I have learned that we have to MOVE, because the blessings will not always come through the computer, just like money blessings flow. Sometimes you have to rub shoulders with people, catch their eyes, and be in the right places at the right time to receive them. My day is already been an incredible one thanks to you! GOD BLESS! – Courtney P.S. Forgive me for the length of my article, I am just extremely excited to receive my answer this morning! :)

  • http://www.krucifiction.com Courtney

    Hi Mr. Edmond! This is quite a revelation for me to read your article at approx 9:14am! My husband and I were up at 4:45am this morning discussing WISDOm, it will soon take us to the next level in our life. Proverbs 4:87 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom and with all thy getting get understanding. This is how Solomon the author of Proverbs became so wealthy, it was because he desired wisdom from GOD out of all things. My husband and I have had a few setbacks within the last 4 years on our quest of entrepreneurship, and in our pursuit of happiness and building wealth. Like you mentioned in your article, we are in the state of, “okay we have acquired so much knowledge, but now we need the wisdom to help us KEEP the things that we desire for our children (realestate, cars, etc.) We are book publishers and have passion in the arts. Jeff is a gifted, poetic writer and playwright, fashion designer, etc.. I enjoy writing inspirational stories but I have found out that my primary gift is promotion. I love to help promote small business owners, entreprenuers through word of mouth, passing out flyers, email marketing, etc. I believe in building long lasting relationships and making the right connections with the right people to help expand/enlarge your territory. I believe in being blessed to be a blessing. This is why I love your article! I really can’t remember the last time I’ve actually visited blackenterprise.com. This is truly the answer! Read more books by people who have actually achieved what I desire out of life! Acquiring wisdom will take me there! My husband will be attending a men’s conference this Saturday, and our pastor Bishop Dale C. Bronner will be giving away free financial books that have helped him prosper. Needless to say, I appreciate your advice, and I will definitely go to Barnes & Nobles to get the books you have referred. It’s amazine that just yesterday, I was in Barnes & Nobles. They are promoting this new e-device called “NOOK”. Basically it’s like any other hand held device where you can download books from their catalog like you would downloading music to your IPOD. I assuming that Barnes & Nobles had to come up with something this creative to get people to buy books too since their already tuned into so many social networking sites. However, for myself, I have learned that you have to MOVE! Blessings do not always come through the computer, as is money blessings continuously flow. Sometimes you have to rub shoulders with people, make eye contact, find out the true character of a person by being around them, be in the right places at the right time to receive a blessing. Thank you so very much! My day is already been an incredible one thanks to you! GOD BLESS! – Courtney :) . P.S. forgive me for the length of my article, I am extremely excited to receive my answer this morning. Will you be in Atlanta for the Conference next week?

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Thank you so much for your feedback! I’m glad my post was of timely value and inspiration to you and your husband.

      By the way, Bishop Dale C. Bronner authored one of my all time favorite books, Pass The Baton: The Miracle of Mentoring. It was given to me as a gift from one of the people I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring.

      And yes, I will be in Atlanta for the Black Enterprise Enterpreneurs Conference (http://www.blackenterprise.com/ec).

  • http://underconstruction LMG

    Being a bibliophile, poetess (no not a slam poet), writer and an avid reader-my main book the bible…I am flabbergasted and. yet I cannot give a complete response at this time (my break is over!). However I needed to say something.  Thank You for  sharing this with us and expounding albeit lightly ( I see a series, dissertation etc. in this scenario).  I do wish to reply more thoroughly very soon.  Appreciatively, LMG

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment even though you were pressed for time! I look forward to hearing what you have to say when time permits you to offer more in-depth feedback.

  • armand_eutsey@att.net

    Reading is fundamental….But every wealthy person does not like to read…So is reading blogs all day considered reading?

    • Alfred Edmond Jr.

      Reading blogs all day is considered reading. But it’s not a substitute for reading books. The point is that there are pros and cons to all forms of media and information delivery, but it’s to your detriment to not include books in your media/self-education diet.

  • http://jessemuhammad.blogs.finalcall.com Jesse Muhammad

    Although I consider myself a social media junkie, there is nothing like picking up a book and reading it! I love reading books so I thank you for this article. I am a read-a-holic who is involved in a righteous ring of trafficking books. :-)

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Uh, oh! A BOOK trafficker! You are one DANGEROUS black man, Jesse! LOL

  • http://www.empowerme.org Adrienne Graham

    Alfred, let the church say AMEN! I can’t stand it. We live in such a microwave society and people want information on-demand and free without making an investment in educating themselves any further than school. I am an avid reader and in fact, have a separate library in my home. If I don’t have the time to pick up a book, you can bet there’s an audio CD in my car. I tell people (clients in particular) that the”mobile university” can make up for the time they don’t have to pick up a book or three. I used to hate it when people said “if you want to hide information on success from Black folks, put it in a book”. And if I hear “give me the cliff notes version” one more time….Bottom line is we have to instill a love of reading into our children at an early age. That will help prepare them to be the successful business men/women and entrepreneurs of the future. Social Media, iTunes, videos, etc have their place. But it must be put in proper perspective. You can’t grow intellectually, financially or emotionally on just those vices alone. R.I.F.

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Preach, Sis! PREEEAAACH!!!