Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted … but to weigh and consider.” – Sir Francis Bacon
Perhaps this is a silly quote of the week, for how few of us read these days (beyond blogs of course)?
In many organizations, if you express a penchant (noun: a strong inclination, taste, or liking for something) for reading you will be ridiculed.
I think the answer has at least two parts.
First, the American education system has taught us (quite sadly) that books are things that people do to you. Teachers, bosses, and parents force you to read books, think about books and report on books. Books = Have To. Books = Have To. Books = Have To. Books = No joy. No curiosity. Just Have To. UGH!
Second, we’ve somehow (and I haven’t figured out how just yet) been conditioned to believe that someone who enjoys doing a task we loathe is “maladjusted.” The reasoning goes: Someone liking what I like is adjusted. Someone disliking what I like is maladjusted. Perhaps this reasoning is infused in us during our teen years where we are taught conformity to the group norms as the highest virtue. You want to fit in, so you seek out what fitting in looks like and then you do that. Anyone who doesn’t must not be part of the group. Step this habit forward in time to the workplace. Readers are mocked in many organizations because the majority of the people in the organization aren’t readers, so ipso facto, the readers are maladjusted and worthy of ridicule. UGH!
So what do we do if we are readers and our organization is not?
First, don’t lead into your points in meetings by saying, “I read a book recently that said,…” No one is listening to your point after you lead in that way. Just make your point, and offer your source later. Remember the quote above: “Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted … but to weigh and consider.” As long as you’ve done the reading and weighed and considered the points, then state where you’ve arrived at, not how you got there. You can always bring that up later on if the discussion continues.
Second, don’t stop reading. What a huge advantage a curious mind is within an organization of non-readers. Imagine how much of the world and the combined thinking of all the great minds they have shut themselves off from by not reading. You get to join the great conversations because of your willingness to read. They may never know such enjoyment. Just keep reading. You’ll be glad you did.
Third (and this may be the most important), when you do find another reader in your organization, never stop sharing what you’ve read with them. Create a network of the readers and thinkers. They are a vast resource for you to expand the reach of your reading far beyond what you can do alone. I’ve had my life changed many times by the suggestions of my fellow readers. (Bonus: Make friends with the librarians…they make the best friends!)
Read. Read because you get to. Weigh and consider because you get to. Expand your mind because you get to. Enjoy it because you get to.
[Bonus #2: What have you read lately that’s worth sharing? I finished The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist by Richard Feynman this weekend and I’ve enjoyed reading to my kids every one of the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place books by Maryrose Wood