Today I want to talk about two libraries we all have access to. One is obvious (it is coming later), and one might be more initially interesting to you.
About a year ago, I had the chance to hear Emmitt Smith, the all-time leader rusher in NFL history, speak. Then, as the picture here shows, I got to meet him (and you can see why he’s smiling, look what he is holding!). I love getting the chance to listen and learn from people who have succeeded at high levels in any endeavor — there is always something to learn from them. Emmitt was no different — since his football career ended, he has built a very successful business.
Emmitt talked about his Library of Life. When faced with a challenge or situation, he talks about sitting down and paging through his library of life experiences and lessons for guidance, insight and direction. There are at least three wise pieces to this habit (which I highly recommend to you as well).
- Stopping to think. Too often we don’t take the time to think about a situation, as opposed to reacting or simply deciding. Time spent in reflection is critical to our long-term learning and success.
- Valuing our experiences. By realizing that our library of life has value, we give ourselves a better chance of finding something there that will apply. You may never have been in the exact situation you now face; that doesn’t mean that there are not experiences that can be helpful. Don’t reflect for an exact match, but for patterns and connections. Likely you will find principles that will help, if you look.
- Trusting the answers. If you are going to take the time to step into your Library of Life, you will be best served if you trust the wisdom of your judgment, based on what you find. This doesn’t mean that would be the only source you might tap, but if you are looking in your past, you need to value what you find.
Your Other Library
I’m a big fan of public libraries. I spent lots of time in them as a kid — in fact for a brief time I thought I wanted to be a librarian (that wouldn’t have been a good fit for my skills, but it shows you how much I love reading and books). And as valuable as a public library can be, I believe you need to build your own personal library.
I know I own more books than most people, so I have a biased viewpoint, but please don’t miss my point even if your library is much smaller than mine.
Whether you have one book or thousands, build your library.
Your acquired books can be a great source of learning and inspiration for you — regardless of what you read. I read mostly nonfiction, but even if your collection contains more poetry or popular fiction or the classics, my advice that follows applies. Here are a few things I would encourage you to do with your library.
- Read regularly. Read every day. Whatever it is that you like to read, whatever brings you pleasure, joy and fulfillment, read those things regularly. Look at top performers in almost any field and one of the things they almost always have in common is that they are readers. When you read regularly, you keep your mind open to new ideas and thoughts. And if you are trying to solve a problem or make a decision, an open mind is a really big asset.
- Read with a focus. I’m a believer in having learning goals — specific things you want to learn more about at any given time, and because of that, I am often reading several books on different topics either at the same time or consecutively. Reading with a focus is a powerful strategy for learning and growth. Reading with a focus means something else too. Keep your challenge or question in mind whenever you are reading (whether the latest James Patterson novel or the local newspaper), because with that focus in mind, you will find ideas and insights.
- Read broadly. Read a lot yes, and read with a focus, but also read all different sorts of things. I don’t read enough fiction really, but whenever I do, I benefit not only from the enjoyment, but from the insights and perspectives I gain. Don’t define yourself as solely a reader of one topic area or genre — when you expand your reading inputs, you will be glad you did.
- Read randomly. I will likely never read all of every book I own, which is OK with me. But sometimes when I am pondering something, I will walk up to the shelf, pull a random book and read starting on a random page. Nearly always this process helps me gain an insight into my situation that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Sometimes the specific solution will leap right from the page!
Hopefully you will take greater advantage of these two libraries in the days and weeks to come. Both will help you on your development path, if you let them.