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Read More to Lead Better

It’s Less about the Knowledge and More about the Skill

When you think about entrepreneurs as successful as Mark Zuckerberg reading their heart out, the first thing that probably comes to mind is that the types of books these people read are probably nonfiction and works related to their field. However, for these billionaires, it’s not as much about the information they might gain from a book than it is about simply reading.

Bill Gates put out his recommended list of books for 2021, and of the five books he recommended, three were actually works of fiction. The benefits of reading don’t only come with reading nonfiction books, but also novels from literary fiction to fantasy—while nonfiction can give you insight into the industry and the brains of a successful entrepreneur, fiction can actually encourage you to be creative and improve your empathy.

So when people like Bill Gates recommend that you read, they’re not telling you to read A, B, or C. They’re telling you to set a time to just pick up a book of your choice and just read.

Ways Reading Can Make as Good of an Entrepreneur as Bill Gates

It makes you more empathetic

We’ve all heard of how important it is to be empathetic as a leader and entrepreneur; in fact, empathy can give you the leg-up on the competition that you need—great empathy equals the ability to create relatable marketing copy, develop products and services that people actually need, and understanding what motivates your employees and keeps them going.

What’s one—at times, more cost-effective—way to learn more about different perspectives of people and their lives? Reading.

A great novelist or writer can come up with characters, plots, and conflicts that provide windows to a unique set of opinions, beliefs, and values of a number of people, even if it’s just a fiction piece and the whole story is made up.  Actually, studies have shown that novels—particular literary fiction—can help us better identify with people and more easily put ourselves in their shoes; in other words, it helps build our ability to empathize with others and understand their needs.

The more you read, the more you’ll know and understand the human psyche—you’ll be able to effectively communicate with your peers (now that you know more words and can express yourself more clearly!), stakeholders, and employees, and you’ll find yourself being more attentive to the needs and wants of your clients and teams.

It helps prevent burnout

Burnout is a psychological phenomenon that can affect us all at some point in our lifetime. Having healthy coping mechanisms in place can help make burnout a less-frequent occurrence in our lives, and reading can be a great activity to help protect you from burning out too often.

According to this study on burnout amongst physicians, reading has not only helped doctors experience burnout less often, but it’s also helped some doctors with their burnout symptoms. Whether you’re a doctor, student, or manager, reading—especially slow, mindful reading—can help drastically reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, which would ultimately reduce stress levels as well. Can you imagine that even as little as six minutes of reading can help reduce stress by a whooping 68 percent?

However, keep in mind that reading the news, a horror novel or thriller, won’t exactly help keep your heart rate down, so if you really want to fully reap this particular benefit of reading, try reading something “neutral” like a slow memoir or a long, drawn-out yet interesting piece of literary fiction like the bestselling novel One Hundred Years of Solitude.

It improves your focus and memory

What makes reading so interesting is that it not only serves as a leisurely activity, but it also puts your brain to work—novels, especially fiction, are complex, diverse, and require your full attention so that you’re able to keep up with the plot and events in the story; reading is your brain’s equivalent to physical exercise.

Reading is an active cognitive process that keeps different areas of the brain fully engaged, which helps build attention and focus. This mental practice can actually also contribute to improved memory function within the brain, so you’re also staving off dementia as you get older.

It goes without saying that as a manager or person working within an organization, that you need to keep your focus sharp and your attention on the end goal of the company. Reading might be just the activity that will finally get you focused on your work and improve your ability to keep your head in the game.

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