This month we are going to look at something you can do to make a difference in the lives of those around you and it will lead to differentiating your company as well. A true key to success is simply to make a point to continually learn; and the primary gateway to new knowledge is reading.

Read—A simple word that opens countless doors. Reading teaches us practical lessons from history. Reading expands understanding of the human condition. Reading enables us to put a lot of life's experiences into perspective. Reading will just make you a better person.

A study comparing Fortune 1000 executives and “average” business people showed that the Fortune 1000 executive reads 6.7 books a year while the average business person reads 1.4 books per year.

Expanding your horizons will give you new insights into current challenges. Whether it is looking at new ways to be efficient on the job site or dealing with personal problems of your top management team, reading will expose you to how others have navigated through life's sometimes treacherous waters.

To coin a phrase, “there’s gold in them there books,” … and magazines, journals and blogs. Keeping current with the business world enables us to profit from others’ experiences. Why not set a goal to increase your business-related reading from now until the end of the year? There are lists of must-read books available through a web search.

It is true that we really learn by making mistakes. It makes us more resolute to find out the how’s and the why’s of the situation. Why not learn from other people’s mistakes instead of your own? Biographies are full of stories of success. When we read them we learn that “overnight success” most often is predicated by years of substantial failures. The wisdom embedded in the pages of books can help us in dealing with today’s problems as well as frame the moment with proper perspective. Reading will help you understand that with every storm there is a beginning and an end. With every year there are four seasons - all unique but seen as a whole will keep you from thinking that a winter season is permanent.

Developing a habit of reading for personal pleasure sets us on a road of continual learning. Whether it is history, fiction or even technical journals, there are so many new things you can learn and apply to your own life. You truly can travel the world, be transported through time, learn secrets of success, or get into the heads of some very interesting people - all while being curled up on the couch, or waiting at the airport gate.

Do you believe in time travel? Try reading and you can find yourself centuries in the past or even in the future. Much fiction contains amazingly detailed historical accuracy. And non-fiction historical books are written to give us a true glimpse of the past.

The reality is that reading will make you a more interesting person and it will draw people to you. Without thinking, you will apply principals that you learn in your literary forays. Problem solving will come much more naturally and your whole outlook on personal interaction will be affected in a positive way. How do I know?- I read about it!


Michael Bell is a 38-year veteran of the woodworking industry. He was deeply involved in the two-year project of melding the AWI/AWMAC Quality Standards Illustrated with the WI Manual of Millwork which resulted in the new Architectural Woodwork Standards. In addition to his work for AWI, he serves as a Woodwork Inspector for the American Arbitration Association. Bell studied Design at Southern Illinois University in the early 1970s under the noted futurist R. Buckminster Fuller. He has conducted numerous seminars for national and regional CSI and AIA meetings on the subject of specifying architectural woodwork and on the Architectural Woodwork Standards. He is also a member of the AWI Speakers Bureau and presents AWI Advanced Estimating Seminars. Bell is Director of Estimating with Allegheny Millwork & Lumber of Lawrence, Pa.

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