Why is America Falling Behind?
There are loads of reasons why America is falling behind. We can look to our failure to produce. We can look to our economy. We can look to our lack of respect for education. We can blame our culture, our morals, our leadership. Literally, we can go on forever looking to the variety of reasons behind Americas ever-lowering status on the world’s stage. But since I used the term LITERALLY, let’s talk about that:
Recently, I read that the global literacy rates are as high as 84%. However, what these studies are finding are that people are not reading anything of relative substance. They are reading “lightly.” In other words, in the age of huge information transfers, emails and quick sound bites over the Internet and TV, people are reading less substantial and significant material. It is as if we are trying to cover more ground and in doing so we can’t get the details of anything we pass by.
Every single demographic group of American adults has declined in their reading throughout the past decade. This is what the National Endowment for the Arts found in their last study. This is the first time in our nation’s history that less than 50% of the American adult population is reading significant literature. While literacy is improving in developing countries (India & China are taking the world economy by storm; funny that their literacy rates are skyrocketing), we in the US are reading less and less deeply than ever before.
Lack of depth is going to be a terrible harbinger for our future ability to lead. Leadership is founded in many principles, but the best leaders are almost always readers. Business leads the world and if our future business leaders read less and less deeply, then we are in trouble.
Why does reading “lightly” vs. “deeply” matter? Because reading deeply means studying character and decision making in process. Deeply reading teaches the reader about character and leadership.
The evidence and benefits of reading are solidly founded. Reading, specifically deep reading, allows the reader to develop all the high level leadership skills that are found in the fully-transformed personality of great leaders. Deep readers learn how to have empathy for their employees, insight into their company and can see into the future for innovation. Reading improves general IQ scores, leads to innovation, increases vocabulary, helps in creativity, increases your verbal skills, raises your social IQ and helps develop your emotional intelligence. All of these traits and talents are necessary to be a great leader.
This blog is founded on the Harvard Business Review excerpt by John Coleman. Coleman noted that greatest business leaders have all been serious readers. Steve Jobs (Apple), Phil Knight (Nike), General Petraeus (anything on Presidents Lincoln & Grant), even Winston Churchill was both an avid reader and an avid writer (Nobel Prize in Literature 1953).
Coleman makes five great suggestions in working deep reading into your life:
- Join a reading group.
- Vary your reading.
- Apply your reading to your work.
- Encourage others.
- Read for fun.
I personally read because it is relaxing; I do not like television, and I have a hard time falling asleep without something to calm my mind. I find that I learn more reading a great book than listening to a class over the computer. I hope, if you haven’t taken the time to pick up a great book in a while, you stop and grab one today.