July 14, 2015

Career AdviceProfessional Development

Distinguish Yourself: Keep Reading

By: Roger Custer

Education doesn’t end when you graduate from college. One way to distinguish yourself is to keep reading throughout your life. Morton Blackwell, president of the Leadership Institute, writes, “People who don’t read cheat themselves. By not reading, you limit what you can achieve, make mistakes you could avoid, and miss opportunities that could improve your life.”

gaining-knowledgeWhat you read should be based on your own interests and preferences. If you like the Twilight series and the Hunger Games, that’s great. However, you should also consider reading the classics of freedom and business advice books to help get better at what you do. But where should you start?

One place to start is Morton Blackwell’s “Read to Lead” list which is available here, or in a more detailed format. You should also consider libertarianism.org’s recommended introductory books. Tyler Cowen makes reading suggestions as do Ross DouthatMatthew Continetti, and others.

To get more in depth, I recommend a book by Dr. Lee Edwards called Reading the Right Books: A Guide for the Intelligent Conservative. This book about books selects “101 books published after 1900 that a conservative can profitably read to further the right ideas in his life and work.” The majority of titles will be interesting to anyone (not just conservatives), and as Edwards notes, “Do not accept unthinkingly everything that an author writes. A book is a stimulant to our thinking.”

Business advice books are also helpful to distinguish yourself. While some ideas may not apply to a nonprofit or public policy setting, much can be gleaned from the wisdom of successful entrepreneurs and business leaders. Some I’ve found helpful include Jim Collins’ Good to Great (and its nonprofit companion Forces for Good), Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, Charles Koch’s Science of Success, Peter Sims’ Little Bets, and Brian Tracy’s Goals.

As Winston Churchill said,

If you cannot read all your books…fondle them—peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them, at any rate, be your acquaintances.

What are your favorite books? Which have influenced you the most?


Roger Custer is executive director of America’s Future Foundation.