‘Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body’ – Joseph Addison
One is tempted to agree that Mr. Addison’s assertion as stated above is arguably the most apt description of the habit of reading. Imagine a young man who works out regularly –high intensity aerobics with prolonged gym time for about a decade. He has built up his fitness such that his muscles are so toned that he can perform high endurance tasks without breaking a sweat. Challenging such an individual to a decathlon would probably not be a good idea if you were potbellied.
See Also: 5 books every entrepreneur should read.
If we agree that athletes are nothing without constant training over many years then we must also appreciate the cruciality of habits like reading for businessmen/women. It is well documented that many successful entrepreneurs have reading as a common shared habit but beyond this, it may help to explore the scientific perspective to this. Does reading actually impact health or is it just a myth?
Benefits of Reading To The Entrepreneur
Entrepreneurs are known to be people of very high cognitive capabilities. They are able to observe prevailing challenges in their environment and deploy sheer brainpower in synthesising practical, sustainable, and, very often, commercial solutions to these issues.
The three core areas where the effect is most pronounced are intelligence, memory, and creative thinking. Findings published in 2014 by Science Daily suggest a very strong link between high IQs and early reading habits. As a businessman/woman, you want to be able to hold your own while conversing on just about any topic at all. You also want to pitch an idea as seamlessly and coherently as possible. Your bottom line may depend on it!
Another desirable attribute an ambitious business person ought to have and develop would be a sound memory. You want to be able to quickly connect bits and pieces of information you have remotely come across. What this does is that it imbues confidence in associates, employees and other stakeholders about the mental capabilities of such an individual.
The brain can be likened to a muscle and reacts similarly to frequent work-outs. As the well-exercised muscle is able to store elements of energy production to get work done, so also does the well-toned brain store up tonnes of information. Neurology, a scholarly journal, reports that reading has been found to curb age-related mental decline by more than 30% with significantly lower levels of forgetfulness.
The right brain is thought to house the creative centres of humans – where constant and unbridled synthesis occurs. Psychologists assert that reading rapidly transports the human mind into virtual worlds as described in the materials being read. By frequently visiting so many worlds in such a short time through books, a reader is exposed to minute details and elements that eventually come together at some point in the future in problem solving.
The human body is quite peculiar in its wiring. While there is a functional Circadian rhythm that usually controls wakefulness and sleep, the human body performs best when it follows a regular schedule of activities.
Reading is a healthy bedtime habit that does immense good to the human body. By developing a routine of reading in bed, the body is able to sense rest is near and so it basically begins to shut down slowly till sleep arrives. Again, the essentiality of good sleep for sound business minds cannot be overstated and must be taken with utmost seriousness to attain optimal performance.
As research findings from the Sussex University suggest, reading reduces stress by over 60%, helping the body relax and get in the right frame for a good night’s rest. There is however a caveat. Studies have also found that this sedative effect of sleep is limited to the good old paperbacks as e-reading actually has a totally opposite effect on sleep. What this means is you are better off with a book than reading on your tablets or kindle.
The human brain responds to use or disuse in a similar manner as muscles do. You often notice that people who have lost the use of one or both of any of the limbs are advised to undertake regular physiotherapy to keep the muscles toned. In the absence of this, the muscle is likely to shrink and become flaccid.
This is what happens to the brain also if it is not tasked regularly by developing habits like reading. Enter Alzheimer’s – a distressful loss of brain power that occurs usually as age advances. The risk of its occurrence is cut by over 50% according to a 2001 study published by the National Academy of Sciences.
You Need To Develop A Reading Culture
Unfortunately, the reading culture in Nigeria is quite poor. I figure this has something to do with a foundational problem during the formative years and is probably the most regrettable indicator of the state of our educational system.
I am reminded of my time in the U.K when you would get on a rush-hour train and find that you are just about the only one not reading a book, newspaper or magazine. You should not be surprised then that such a nation houses the financial capital of the world.
I always wondered why Richard Quest had a special segment in his anchored programmes on CNN called ‘Reading for Leading’. He often engages astute business minds on their favourite reads and how those books shaped their perspective and outlook on life and of course value creation.
I found it interesting that every single one of those guests on Quest Means Business had that one book that was pivotal in developing their ideologies about social responsibility, strategy, human capital engagement and life in general. Reading is truly for leaders.
It can be tough squeezing out reading time, especially in a city like Lagos, but get to it. You may not read tonnes of titles before the year runs out but you would have read a few. Believe it or not, those few chapters put you way ahead that fellow who has read none at all!
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Photo Credit – Huffington Post