I want to start this year with a single most important piece of financial and investment advice you will ever get, and surprisingly it is not about stocks, bonds, budgeting, or debt reduction strategies. They do not teach this in college even if you major in finance, and you will not find this in books about finance or investing, nor in materials for industry exams to trade securities and provide financial advice. Even if your work in the industry, unless you have a very good mentor, you will never know it.
If you will ever take away just one thing from everything I write here, please take away this. The single most important advice that you will ever get is invest in yourself. You are your own best investment. There is no other security, financial instrument, or trading strategy (yes, including bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies) that will give you such a tremendous return for the level of risk you take.
Never stop learning, exploring, and growing. Acquire those new skills and/or ideas to get a better paying job or start your own business. And you can achieve this by doing something that is splashed all over social networks starting from LinkedIn to Instagram but usually never attributed to the author of the original quote, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones. Follow his advice that says, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and books you read” and that “Leaders are readers”.
Usually, we acknowledge the power of networking because we hear about it all the time, we may even be good at it and enjoy some benefits of it. But reading is somehow always left on the back burner. Why should we do just one thing that can bring us success if we can do both?
I didn’t mean to write this post today. I did plan to talk about this but much later according to my roadmap. However, I came across this post on Instagram that said that 80% of Americans did not buy or read a single book in 2018. I wasn’t sure if this was true, and there was no link to the source for me to check, so I decided to google. You see I do my homework and my fact checking beforehand.
There is still no data for 2018. The year has just ended. The best I could find was data for 2016 and 2017. The numbers are significantly different. According to American Time Use Survey, quoted by New Yorker and Washington Post in 2018, only 19.5% of American population read in 2016, so it means that 80.5% didn’t; while Pew Research Center states that only 24% of respondents to their survey said they didn’t read a single book in 2017. I happen to believe the data of American Time Survey more because their sample size is a lot bigger and I hope a lot more representative. Their data is based on the sample size of about 26,000 individuals, while the Pew Research Centre interviewed only about 500.
I wanted to see Canadian statistics in comparison. I thought the numbers would be very similar to those in the States but surprisingly they are not. Even more so, they are quite the obvious. According to the most recent nationwide survey by a Canadian non-profit BookNet Canada, 81% of 750 survey participants read at least one book in 2017. And yes, just like in the US, the percentage of people who read steadily decreases every year, the situation in Canada is so much better in these terms than in the US.
To a person who, according to Goodreads, read over 300 books in 2018 (and I didn’t even count every single book there that I read until about May), these numbers sound pretty alarming. At work, we often have high-level executives and other successful people come to talk to us, give us a speech and answer questions. And you know what is the one thing they all have in common? They all read. Almost all of them ask during their speeches, Have you read this book? And in a department of over 200 people, on a good day about three to five people raise their hands, but very often it’s just me, and it so happens that I’ve read every single book they read and recommend. And I read very few business books.
I’ve recently read a New York Times article about former US president Barack Obama that says, “Not since Lincoln has there been a president as fundamentally shaped — in his life, convictions and outlook on the world — by reading and writing as Barack Obama.” And as per another New York Times article that gives the former president’s list of books, music, and movies he really enjoyed in 2018, “A love of books has always been one of Mr. Obama’s defining features. The New York Times’s former chief book critic, Michiko Kakutani, reported that nearly every night in the White House, Mr. Obama would read for an hour or so.” If such a busy person who literally held the fate of the entire nation on his shoulders had time to read for about an hour every day, please don’t say that you are busy. I’m sure you will be able to find that time too if you tried hard enough. Please make it your goal for 2019 to read at least one business book this year (the more, the better, of course). Invest in yourself. Read.