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The Ledger - EST. 1978 - Nashville Edition

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VOL. 36 | NO. 49 | Friday, December 7, 2012

Become great by choice

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There are those who continually improve their knowledge and skills and have accumulated 30 years experience. And then there are those who simply repeat their initial year of experience 30 times, learning very little along the way.

It is not difficult to choose which of these approaches to take. However, there is a third option. Choose to accelerate your progress by becoming a self-motivated serious learner. And the key to accomplishing the third option is simple – read more. Become a voracious reader. Reading is low-hanging fruit for those who desire to gain and maintain a strong competitive advantage.

I ran across an American Booksellers Association survey a few years ago. Basically they asked high school and college graduates how often they read books after graduating. I will not repeat the percentage of people who said they never read another book after graduating because I find the survey statistics to be somewhat unbelievable. However, even if you cut the number in half, it still lends strong support to the fact that those who continue to read good books after graduating will typically gain a strong competitive advantage over non-readers. Think about it. The shelf life of a formal education is extremely short these days.

As a young man, I picked up a biography of Abraham Lincoln. I was immediately hooked by the fascinating stories about my new friend Abe. So I continued reading other biographies about people who had accomplished great things during their time on Earth. It did not take long for a pattern to emerge. Quite often the biographies identified these extraordinary individuals as voracious readers. So I looked up the word “voracious” and it sounded like a pretty good strategy for a young man like me. I too, like Abe, Ben, Thomas and others decided to become a voracious reader. Among other things, reading seemed to be one of the best ways to level the playing field among people from all walks of life – including a youngster like me from a small Alabama town.

I thought of all of this today because last week a friend gave me a copy of Jim Collins’ new book “Great by Choice.” Now let’s get back to the third option I mentioned in the beginning of this article. Collins’ book basically explored the performance secrets (which are basically common sense ideas) of eight extraordinary companies. He tracked what worked for them over a 30-year period (1972 to 2002). I was able to read the book in less than a day. So, in less than a day I was able to tap into the wisdom that it took others 30 years (and the group of companies collectively 240 years) to gain. And the ideas in the book are very solid and very transferable to any business. These companies figured out what worked, why it worked and built their companies on these proven foundational ideas.

Consider the third option. As Collins advises in his book, become great by choice. Choose to read more.

Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through www.dmetraining.com.