‘Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary’
It was in June 1904 that Gandhiji made a long journey in train from Johannesburg to Durban in South Africa. When the train was about to depart, one of his friends, Henry Polak came hurried to the station to say farewell to him. He opened his hand bag and took out a book and gave to Gandhiji so that he could read during his journey. The book was Unto This Last written by John Ruskin.
Gandhiji eagerly read that book at one stretch. The reading of that book was a turning point in his life. He once confessed that this book brought about an instantaneous practical transformation in his life. He even wrote about this in his autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth’ under a separate chapter, titled as ‘The Magic Spell of a Book’. In 1908 he summarized the contents of the book Un to This Last in Guajarati as Sarvodaya in nine installments.
This shows the magical power of a good book to influence one’s attitude and thinking, to change one’s personality and personal life. Orhan Pamuk, the famous Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, once revealed; ‘I read a book one day and my whole life was changed’. If we study or observe the success stories of the greatest men in this world, we can understand that main source of their success is the knowledge they acquired through the habit of reading. Regular reading motivated their minds with novel ideas and noble wisdom from great thinkers and writers. There are so many examples for this. For many, reading was a golden gateway to greatness. It will be interesting to examine how these men used reading as a great source of motivation and success.
Gandhiji was a voracious reader as well as a great leader. When he was a boy he used to read Ramayana before his father since he was interested to hear it for solace while he was bedridden in Porbander. Gandhiji acquired vast knowledge about various subjects by his voracious reading. He developed self discipline by the regular practice of the principles he acquired from the books. He loved reading and books very much. The ideas and principles he got from books were a great motivation for him to lead a rich value driven life.
Abraham Lincoln was a great leader with an ardent passion for reading. He was so zealously fascinated to reading that he had no hesitation even to virtually beg others for good books. When he was not able to buy new books, he approached book lenders or lending libraries. Even when he was as busy as the president of America, he dedicated much time for serious reading. His habit was to read books loudly so that he could hear his own voice. He once confessed that his habit of loud reading highly helped him to become a great orator.
Lincoln used reading books as an easy way of managing his stress and cope up with the mood swings. He once revealed; ‘The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who will get me a book I want to read. The taste for reading gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others’.
Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of America is considered as the most well read president; perhaps one of the most well read men in history. His favorite hobby was reading. He had a special talent for reading and evaluating books with great speed. He used to read books he liked, several times. He had a habit of keeping the list of books he read. In spite of the busy schedule as the U.S. president, he could find time to read at least one book per day. Usually he would try to read a book fully before breakfast every day. It is estimated that he read tens of thousands of books in his lifetime. He believed that the habit of reading opened the door to greatness. He once said; ‘I am a part of everything I have read’.
Thomas Jefferson was the third president of America and he led a controversial life among great victories as well as serious allegations. His life was extremely stressful and he once confessed that he could not live without books. He liked purposeful and meaningful reading. He devoted much time for reading good books. He was in the habit of reading books before going to sleep.
Reading was a great passion and hobby for George Washington, the first president of America. It is said that he used to engage in reading even during riding on a horse. He liked to read anything and everything but preferred books related to agriculture.
Margaret Thatcher was the first woman prime minister of Britain. She was the most charismatic leader of her times and was very fond of reading. She has revealed that her habit of reading contributed much to her personal development and her achievements in life. She rose to a powerful political leader and able administrator of the 20th century through her prudent decisions and timely actions. She was known as the ‘Iron lady’ and her policies were well known as ‘Thatcherism’.
From the very childhood Vivekananda loved books and reading very much. When he was a student itself he completed reading most of the classic books in Bengali and English. He studied the history of India in detail. He had an extra ordinary power of remembering and grasping everything he read.
When Swami was in America, he took a big encyclopedia from the library. The next day he returned it. Then the librarian asked; “Why did you carry this book to your room. Obviously you did not get time to read it”. He replied; ‘No. I read and studied it completely’. Librarian disagreed; ‘So quickly? It’s impossible’. Then Swami challenged; ‘You ask me anything from any page of the book. I am ready to answer correctly’.
Librarian asked some questions and was surprised to hear the correct answers. Finally librarian exclaimed; ‘I have never seen such a man in my life’. Vivekananda could understand and remember the entire content of a page with a mere glance. It is believed that he had a wonderful photographic memory.
Benjamin Franklin is considered as the founding father of United States of America. He was a versatile genius. He was a leading writer, scientist, inventor, political philosopher and statesman. He loved reading from childhood. He spent whatever money he got for buying good books. His love and passion for reading helped him a lot to conquer greatest victories and positions in his life. He used to quip that the deposit in knowledge gives the best interest.
New age leaders
It’s not accidental that the most successful leaders of the world are great readers. Bill Gates once revealed his secret of success; ‘Reading fuels a sense of curiosity about the world which has helped me to drive forward in my career. When Warren Buffet was asked about the secret of his great success, he said; ‘read 500 pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest’. World’s successful personalities like Elon Musk, Tony Robbins, Mark Cuban are all passionate readers.
Reading is more important than university degree
Simon Dolan, the famous super rich British business man and entrepreneur believes that reading is more important than university degree for one’s success. He advises from his experiences that those who want to win in business must give importance to practical knowledge than university education. They have to read a lot regularly to keep them abreast with knowledge.
How to improve your reading habit
It is easier to cultivate reading habit in children. You can also improve your reading habit and reading spirit by deliberately practicing the following
- Firstly, understand the great importance and amazing benefits of reading.
- Try to be a role model for your children in reading habit.
- Keep a time schedule for reading books every day.
- Always keep a book with you whenever you go out. You will get enough time to read it when you wait in bus stand, railway station or airport.
- Reduce your TV and computer time to get more reading time for you.
- You can read interesting books to your children.
- Prepare a list of books you read with short descriptions about it.
- Visit shops for used books. There you will find wonderful books with great discount.
- Give beautiful books to your children as gifts. That will enhance their interests in reading.
- Plan in advance that how many books you have to complete reading and how.
- Celebrate reading week in schools. Reading competitions can be conducted during this time. Those who read more number of books and submit the written summary can be given special awards.
- Give opportunities to students in the classes to talk about the contents of the books they have read. Complement them for their style of presentations.
- Go to public libraries with your children. Help them to select good books.
- Make your children understand reading is a gateway to greatness. Tell them the stories of men who rose to greatness and glory through reading.
Warren Buffet and Bill Gates attribute their great success to their habit of reading. Always remember the words of William Godwin, the famous English novelist and journalist; ‘He that loves reading has everything within his reach’.
cover image credits: www.pixabay.com
About the author
Dr. John Muzhuthettu is a Human Resource Consultant, National Trainer, and Counselor. Formerly he was the Deputy Chief Engineer, Kerala State Electricity Board and is still working as an external faculty of HRD Programmes of KSEB. He is also a faculty of Department of Management Studies, Mar Augusthinose College, Ramapuram, under M.G.University, Kerala. He is the PG course co-ordinator of MHRM.
He is a columnist in several Magazines, like ‘Business Deepika’, ‘Creative Business’, ‘Donbosco’ etc. His articles have been published in many magazines and journals. His several speeches have been aired by All India Radio. His interviews on various subjects have been telecasted by Power Vision TV.
He is the author of five best-selling books
- ‘Stress-Manassasthra- Aathmeeya Pariharangel’. (Current Books, Thrissur) 4th Edition
- Vijayiyude Vyakthithwam (Current Books, Thrissur)
- Jeevitham Santhushtamakan, Nithya Yauvanam Nedan.(CSS, Thiruvalla)2ndEdition
- Emotional Intelligence-Jeevithavijayathinu (CSS, Thiruvalla)
- Vijayarahsyangal (Current Books, Thrissur)
As a trainer, he has conducted more than a thousand seminars and workshops for teachers, parents, students, executives and others, on several subjects like Stress Management, Time Management, Personality Development, Emotional Intelligence and Spiritual intelligence for Excellence, Communicative Skills, Assertiveness, Motivation, Study Skills, Effective Parenting, Counselling Skills etc. He is an external training faculty of Power Engineers Training and Research Centre of KSEB. He is an external faculty of IMG Cochin. He is also the Secretary of Upasana Cultural Centre, Thodupuzha.