“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
                                        – Harry S. Truman

This famous Harry Truman’s quote may be a tongue twister but is surprisingly a very hard fact of life. This facet of leadership which is steadily waning needs to be flagged off with the “LEADERS OF TOMORROW” who are besieged with Personal Digital Appliances (PDA) and the disruptive effects of social media.  I happened to interact with a batch of candidates preparing for the SSB interviews and my queries on their reading habits and tastes drew astounding and incredulous looks akin to be asked about going for a dental extraction.

The impact of inculcating this habit and the ill effects of not doing so should be put in perspective to the Gen Next in an attempt to motivate at least a small percentage into taking up this habit.  Getting people to scan this write-up is just the beginning and hopefully motivate a young and fertile mind to pick up a book and begin the transformation.

Why Should you start/continue reading

Elevation.        Reading elevates us from the current situation and the daily grind. It gives a reader a different perspective and in many cases reaffirms or challenges existing beliefs or ideals pulverizing the readers imagination and creativity towards uncharted territories and zones.

Multiplies Experience.   When reading other peoples experiences there is a great deal of empathy and willy-nilly your own experience is enriched without physically having to undergo the experience. Good authors and writers take pains to explain the rationale and logic in great details even in a fiction which a TV Sitcom or a Feature Film will not be able to express. This unique expression itself makes reading enjoyable as a hobby and recreation.

Interaction with Smart People.   A good read gives the reader an insight into the minds of smart people. I deliberately avoided using the word ‘CELEBRITY’ as one tends to associate this term with persons constantly under the media glare or are media hyped or created. One would have loved to interact with Rabindranath Tagore, George Bernard Shaw or even William Shakespeare or Aristotle. But reading their works gives you a definite feeling of shared experience and possibly knowing their mind and skills. Reading a book is like having a conversation with the author, listening to his stories and learning from his experiences. You can get ideas, inspiration and insights – all from a book! Every book you read becomes a layer of knowledge you can stand on. Every book makes you grow taller, just a little bit. Remember, in the supermarket of life, the best things are always stacked on the upper shelves. If you are not a reader, you may never be able to reach them.

Communication Skills.    Reading expands your vocabulary and facilitates multiple options to give shape to your expressions, thoughts and ideas. Reading leads to coherence, brevity and use of appropriate words and expressions optimally; displaying clarity of thought and a hitherto unknown level of confidence.  The communication skills attain a high level of proficiency and transactional communications are unambiguous and explicit. I state this with a fair degree of personal conviction as my voracious reading habit has enhanced my repertoire of thoughts, expressions and vocabulary.

Escape.   By reading a fiction book in can take us into another world and give us a break from what is happening in our everyday lives. We can enjoy the lives of the characters in the books we are reading or feel their sorrow. Simply, this break from reality is what might help us to get through a tough day.

Stress Relief.    According to a research conducted reading reduces stress levels by 68%, which is more than listening to music or taking a walk. Leaders need to read to set an example. Their followers and those they work with are watching them and if the leader isn’t reading consistently then why should anyone else? Lead by example and set aside time to read.

Half an Hour a Day.

If you look around, you will find that most successful people are readers. Visit their offices, and you will find books strewn around. Visit their homes, and you will find a well-stocked bookshelf. Take a leaf out of their books. Start reading. If you read for just half an hour every day, you could finish a 250-page book in just two weeks’ time. That’s twenty-six books in a year. A hundred books in the next four years. Just think what difference it would make to the quality of your mind, your career, your life? Just thirty minutes a day can do the trick, so stop giving excuses about not having the time to read.

Books are the best investment you can make. And worth every rupee you spend. So, do yourself a favour. READ. Sacrifice that serial on TV or that gossip session with a friend. American comedian and film star Groucho Marx once remarked that he found television very educating. He said, ‘Every time someone switches on the TV, I walk into another room and start reading a good book!’

So pick up and dust off that book on your shelf! Stop using that book as a coaster on your nightstand! Get the Groucho habit. Pick up a book. Today! Get reading! Take some time out of every single day to read. It doesn’t have too much but it needs to happen.

Col Ravi Nair is a veteran GUARDSMAN having commanded 18 GUARDS in OP PARAKRAM from 2001 to 2004. He has seen active service in the North East, J& K and in the PUNJAB sect. An alumnus of the DSSC, he has been the Brigade Major of a Mountain Brigade and an instructor in the ARMY WAR COLLEGE besides being the deputy commandant of the Guards Regimental Centre.