How Books Propel Your Success

April is National Drop Everything and Read Month, also known as D.E.A.R. Month. It’s "a national month-long celebration of reading designed to remind folks of all ages to make reading a priority activity in their lives." I strongly believe that reading is a valuable means of furthering your personal and career development. I encourage everyone to make reading a habit, and to look at each book you read as an investment in your success. Here are my thoughts on the value of books and reading:

Ideas unlock new levels in your career. Ideas come from all sorts of places, like talking to friends, listening to pod-casts, attending meetings and reading.

For me, learning new ideas is like finding jewels. They have varying value, power and relevance depending on what is going on in your career and the market. These jewels form the basis of knowledge. Over time, the ideas and knowledge lead to wisdom.

When I walk through a bookstore, I feel like I am walking through a huge storage of treasure. I wonder how all of the great ideas, concepts and jewels can be so readily available to everyone and yet so inexpensive. As I started my career and had little income, I always felt that buying books was important. In my mind, it seemed so obvious that in our knowledge-based world, people who gathered up the pearls of wisdom and learned to apply them would have the most success. My first salary was $200 a week, $10,000 a year. I worked for a non-profit organization and had to live with a family to get by. But I gathered books as if I was gathering up golden Easter eggs. I knew that over time, the ideas would be very valuable to my work.

As a practical application of this way of thinking, I would simply encourage you to buy books. When you see a book online or in a store and it passes through your mind, even for an instant, that you could learn a valuable concept, then just buy the book. Spending $15 or $20 for an idea that can advance your career is the single best investment you will ever make.

As I began my career, I bought all sorts of books on business, technology, management (such as Peter Drucker), process improvement and more. In the first few years out of college, I found that I really enjoyed working with software and in particular, databases. My mind seemed to visualize data structures, and I had a knack for understanding and applying relational database concepts. So, I bought thick, heavy and expensive Oracle Certification study guides. At the time, it seemed that I was turning what little money I had into an enormous future for my family and myself.

I still feel that way today. Last week, I spent a few hours at our local Barnes & Noble bookstore. When I checked out, I had about 15 books. I just gather them up, and I have been doing it for years. Each concept is so valuable to me, my career, the team I serve with at Benefitfocus and my family.

Look at books as extremely valuable gems and jewels. Regardless of your current income, buy as many books as you can. Borrow them if you have to. Do not worry about reading them all the way through. Some you will, some you won't. But grab those ideas and trust that your mind will turn them into very valuable concepts. A breakthrough for you in any area of your life could be just a paperback away.

Here are a few that I am reading this month:

Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition
By T. Coin Campbell with Howard Jacobson
An eye-opening, paradigm-changing journey through cutting-edge thinking on nutrition

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business
By Patrick Lencioni
Best-selling author Lencioni makes an overwhelming case that organizational health will surpass all other disciplines in business as the greatest opportunity for improvement and competitive advantage.

Eleven Rings
By Phil Jackson
Legendary coach of both Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers shares his concepts that helped him win a record 11 Championships