What if you lost all of your money in a Wall Street crash? What might you do?
Jump out the window? Some people take that route.
Drink? There’s always an available bar stool.
Try your luck on Broadway? Now that’s crazy talk.
Except it wasn’t for a guy named Yip Harburg. The co-owner of an electric appliance company, Harburg’s business went bankrupt in 1929 and he found himself tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
Friends and family encouraged him to get back into business but Yarburg had other plans. You see, he’d always wanted to be a lyricist on Broadway and now he had the time and energy to pursue it. But that’s absurd, right? There’s no shortage of writers on Broadway.
But Yarburg didn’t worry about that, he went to Broadway and wrote stuff anyway.
So what happened? Yarburg wrote, Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? a tune that struck a note with the masses and became immortalized as part of the soundtrack of the Great Depression. He also wrote the lyrics for Over the Rainbow famously sung by, of course, Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. That little ditty—which happens to be known by everyone on the planet with a TV—won Yarburg an Oscar for his trouble.
Now what if Yip hadn’t lost all of his money? What if he never tried to make his Broadway dream come true?
What if, indeed.
These days, even with a Kindle, it can be tough to find time to read. You’ve got mind-numbing games and endless apps on your smartphone, hundreds of channels of reality shows on your FiOS, and all of those superhero movies downloaded on your tablet. But if wedging some reading time into your day is important to you, here are some tips to get started.
Keep a list. I maintain a list in my black notebook of all of the books I want to read. The list keeps me motivated. It’s a list that will never end and I find a certain amount of joy in checking off a book after I’ve read it. You can also create a list on Amazon to share with others.
Start with something. Never been a big reader? Relax, you’re not in school anymore so you can pick out books you want to read. Want a short biz book? Try The One Minute Manager, Poke the Box or Do the Work. And if you find yourself bored you can always set it aside and try another one, no one else is keeping score.
Mix it up. Biographies provide inspiration and insight, business books let you keep on top of the latest thought leaders in your industry and beyond, the classics expose you to the proven great thinkers, graphic novels can fire your creativity, and current bestselling titles provide enjoyment and convenient social ice breakers.
Steal time. I saw this tip in a book about JFK. The young president was an avid reader but naturally had a crazy schedule, so to adapt he always had a book handy and read while standing up. This trick lets you read a few lines while waiting for an appointment, on hold with the airline, or waiting for that baked potato to cook in the microwave. Reading a page here or there will help you get through books much faster than if you wait to find time to relax on the couch.
Make it a ritual. Instead of falling asleep in front of your flat screen, make reading a good book before bed a nightly ritual. Sleep experts keep yammering away that watching TV or playing Xbox just before bed isn’t conducive to a good night’s sleep anyway.
Jot notes. Sometimes you may want to take notes or underline passages for later reference, but how do you find them again when you need them? Easy. In a blank page in the front of the book create your own informal index. In pencil jot down the item and the associated page number. Something like, “Job search tip, page 53.” Writing notes, ideas and doodles gives a book character and makes it your own. (Librarians may not agree.)
Don’t let excuses get in your way. Sure you’re busy, but busier than Theodore Roosevelt? (NYC Police Commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York , naturalist, explorer, hunter, author, colonel, VP and President.) In addition to building out the most incredible resume ever, Teddy was famous for reading at least one book a day…amounting to thousands over his lifetime. (Oh, and he found time to write 36 of his own books.) Here is some advice to read like TR.
Use social media. Twitter and LinkedIn can help you find fresh new books and reintroduce old classics. Use Twitter to ask questions and interact with authors and other fans, and try LinkedIn to join book-related groups and discussions.
Educate yourself. Remember this Matt Damon line in Good Will Hunting? “You dropped a hundred and fifty grand on an education you could’ve got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library.” Some of us have sheepskins on the wall and some of us don’t. But no matter what you’ve spent on education it’s in the past and the future belongs to those willing to keep learning.
So what’s your reading regimen?
Photo Credit CEBImagery
Shimmering rows of new vehicles gleamed in the late afternoon sun as I pulled into the dealership. The latest models of every style and color awaited my inspection. Ah, the potential!
I was in the mood to hear some special offers. I was in the mood for that new car smell. So I strode into the dealership and six men in ties paused in their conversation around a reception desk.
“Hi,” I said.
“Sorry, we’re closed,” one of them replied.
“Yea, we’ll be open again on Monday,” another fellow added.
“Monday?” I looked at my watch, it was five minutes past the hour. They nodded then turned to resume their conversation as I sheepishly backed out through the doors.
Closed? I thought as I walked across the lot. And the more I thought about it the stranger it seemed. This wasn’t a dollar-type store, this was an establishment that sold 4000 lb vehicles with $45,000 thousand dollar price stickers. How did they know I didn’t have a blank check in my pocket? How did they not want to find out?
I know what it’s like to work long hours so I tried to think of ways to give them a break; maybe it was a really busy day, maybe they all had important post-work plans, like a wedding or funeral. Maybe management was strict about the hours—some kind of policy or something. Even then, wouldn’t one of them have wanted to get my contact info to follow up with me first thing Monday? You would think.
I thought about the lengthy, costly, time consuming process involved in getting me into the dealership: the vehicles had to be designed, then manufactured, then shipped, and marketed. All that work to get the vehicle on the lot and someone like me through the door.
As I drove away with a plan to go elsewhere all I could think of was that being a leader in whatever business you’re in means being open to opportunity beyond 9-5.
Today more than ever, right?
Photo Credit Olga Filonenko
Plan “A:” You can do something you might dislike (deal with angry customers) and get paid.
Plan “B:” You can do something you enjoy (watch movies) without getting paid at all.
You can do “A” as long as you can put up with your circumstances and you need the money.
You can do “B” as long as you can go without a paycheck.
You probably can’t do A or B indefinitely. So you might opt for Plan “C,” falling into a life working a job you don’t like and augmenting it by zoning out in front of your flat screen during the off hours. You can get away with this for years. People understand.
Or you can make a new plan, Plan “Z,” and put on paper how long you intend to stay at your job, evaluating your options for moving within the organization or moving on, deciding where opportunities are and how you can leverage your skills, experience and interests to take advantage of them.
But that takes some work, and you could fail.
And the TV does have 900 channels.
Photo credit Ed Yourdon
There’s an old Latin saying, “Qui docet, discit.” (He who teaches, learns.)
The best teachers don’t preach to others, they learn from others.
You don’t need to wait until you have a teaching certificate, a particular degree, enough gray hair, or a 100k followers to pass on knowledge and skills or inspire others.
You know more than you think you know; you bring your own unique set of skills, point of view, and life experiences to the table.
Don’t worry about not having all of the answers, you never will and neither will anyone else. Instead, approach each day with the question, “I don’t know but I’ll find out.” Then share what you learn.