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A few years ago, my business was in trouble. We had major losses and it was hard to find a way to turn things around. I had to learn the hard way, one of the fundamental activities I had to do as a leader.

Read. When I started using a business coach, the first thing that she asked me to start doing is to start reading “5 dysfunctions of a team” by Patrick Lencioni. It was a wonderful book and concept, that I still use in the business today. However, it wasn’t this book in isolation that was important. It was the fact that I started reading again.

For a long time, I had started putting down business books. I wasn’t reading regularly and relying on my own knowledge and past experience, including my previous studies to get me through the challenges of the day. Unfortunately, it was wasn’t enough. I would see the same problems repeating themselves with no clear solution on how to solve them. This is where reading came into it.

I started reading about different scenarios, people, situations and new levels of knowledge. No one book had the answer, nor did I always know what questions I should be asking. However, the most important thing was that I just started reading. One of the most important things I learnt from Jack Canfield’s ‘’The Success Principles” is that success leaves clues. They’re usually in the form of books or information. Most problems I would have to face, someone had faced before. Often, they had written about it. I just had to read about it and be humble enough to learn.

I read wonderful books, such as “The barefoot investor” and “The Millionaire next door”. These taught me about the basic principles of budgeting and the base level of cash surplus needed to survive and grow. I read great books on leadership such as “Extreme Ownership” by Jacko Willink and Leif Babin. This book was about the principles of leadership in the Navy SEALS that could be applied to my business. Surprisingly, despite the extreme experiences and situations they described in their book, the basics people issues they had to handle were not that different to the situations I had to face in my business.

I read biographies and autobiographies of successful people, such as “The virgin way” by Richard Branson and “Shoe dog” by Phil Knight of Nike. These were wonderful because they gave me an insight into the lives, thinking and events that great business leaders had to go through to build their business. And, surprise, surprise all of them had struggles and often lived on the end of bankruptcy for a large portion of their working lives until they were successful.

These days, I have a routine of reading that extends and varies through the week.

Each Monday I listen to the “BNI Podcast” by Ivan Misner. It gives great tips on business networking. I also listen to Tristan White’s “Think big, act small” podcasts which interviews or gives lessons on leaderships in service based businesses.

Through the week, I love reading each edition of “New Scientist”. This is a great summary and insight into scientific innovations in the world of health, physics, computer science and the environment.

I try to spend some time on most days of the week, learning a new skill (usually in 30 minute blocks). At the moment, it’s computer programming, but the biggest thing I learn from this practice is that I can pretty much learn anything, as long as I put time and effort into it, and be patient.

Finally, I slowly, constantly read/listen to a business book in depth in 30 minute blocks on most days of the week. At the moment, I am reading “1001 ways to market your books” by John Kremer. Although it seems like only a short time each day, it’s surprising how many books you can get through with this habit and commitment in the long term.

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