One Unmistakable Habit of Successful People

I have a confession to make. For years, I’ve been a secondhand reader. You know, so I can pretend like I’ve read the latest, greatest book at the party. My wife Sarah typically reads the book and I casually ask her what it was about and then I use my storytelling skills to act like I read it. Pathetic, right?



Yeah, I know. Now, don’t get me wrong. In the past, I’ve consistently read 1-2 books a month but that’s child’s play compared to Sarah. She regularly reads 2-3 book in a week. I don’t mean nice, short, pseudo-literature (the kind I sometimes enjoy). I’m talking about real books like Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch or The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer (a 1,300 page tome that admittedly took more than a few days).

Sarah’s love for books has rubbed off on all of our family of seven. Around our house, books are shoved into every possible spare space. This summer, we put two more bookcases in the basement, and we’re out of space again. We’re a family of readers. A few of us (Sarah, my oldest son Harrison and my daughter Katherine) are hard-core readers but all of us read. A lot. Why?

We just believe that generally speaking, books are better than TV or video games (although you really don’t want to mess with my fighting skills in any Zelda adventure) and that books make life better. Besides the fact that there’s nothing like losing yourself in a well-told story, there have been numerous studies done about reading and the link to success in business and life and its pretty unmistakable.

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking”. –Haruki Murakami

People read for a lot of reasons…to reduce stress, to escape, to gain new information or skills, and to improve socially by knowing importing events or conversational cues. All in all, from my experience, most successful people are readers. Some read journals or blogs or magazines. And some ready full-on books. But nearly every successful person I know reads.

Sure, there are some people who don’t read and are still successful. Woodrow Wilson once said, “I would never read a book if it were possible for me to talk half an hour with the man who wrote it.” One of my good friends, an amazingly successful film producer, admitted to me he’d only read six books in his life. But that’s the exception.

This summer I decided to really jump back into reading. Every morning, along with reading a few portions of The Bible, I scan a list of blogs that I enjoy and read up on current events. I have a habit of keeping a non-fiction and fiction book by my bed stand. Among the books that I’ve read over the past few months are Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown, Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, Erwin McMannus’ The Artisan Soul, Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull and Do the Work by Steven Pressfield.

How about you? Are you a reader? Do you think it’s important? What are you reading these days for fun or inspiration or insight? Why do you read? Let me know in the comments below.

  • Andrea Blasig Dedmon

    I totally agree with you, John! Life is more interesting with books. I try to keep a fiction and non-fiction in the rotation at all times…I’m currently reading Inferno by Dan Brown and The Marshmallow Effect by Walter Mischel.

  • John Bolin

    Thanks for the note, Andrea. Haven’t read The Marshmallow Effect…I’ll need to check it out!

  • pete gillam

    I love to read almost to a fault sometimes. Over the last couple of years I became deeply entrenched in reading books on faith, leadership, and overall personal development. I’m a huge fan of John Maxwell. I love Max Lucado, Timothy Keller and Andy Stanley.

    I believe reading is extremely important. I love hearing the stories of people lives and how they made certain connections along the way. I also like to hear the voice of other writers. When I’m reading a book, I often imagine how they would say it in person which is hilarious to me.

    Right now I’m reading an amazing book called God Is My CEO by Larry Julian. I am starting my second business with my wife and I want to do it right this time. I appreciate how Julian sat down with all these people, whom I had no idea were believers, and captured how they brought biblical principles to the workforce. Not only did it transform their own lives, but those that they lead. It gives me confidence to know that our Father cares about us and our purpose in life and that we can be a person of significance more than just a person of success (by world standards).