When he was in second grade, Harry Truman came down with a rare bacterial infection that paralyzed his arms and legs. The boy who could hardly stand to be indoors was suddenly and helplessly bedridden. “That’s when he started reading,” Truman’s sister recalled. “He couldn’t do anything else.” He read so much that when, miraculously and abruptly, he recovered, it was recommended that he skip third grade.
The infection would never come back but the reading bug was incurable.
The greats, Truman concluded, were all “readers of good books, particularly books of biography and history…Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
We’ve become really good at matching memes to our current reality.
I’ve always felt that words expressed by others sometimes capture what I want to express so well, (as Ryan Holiday did in the opening paragraphs of this post) that I needn’t reinvent the thought nor rewrite the prose. So I am all for using memes to support us in sharing ideas around leadership, careers, business, digital marketing and optimization.
I watch the mastery of other writers in awe. I have to take in the words bit by bit, as if biting from a sugary treat, making sure that I manage overwhelm, with tiny nibbles, chewing and savoring, the taste almost too much to bear.
One such writer is Rachel Carson
In a review, Brain Picking’s author Maria Popova shared…As The Edge of the Sea alighted in the world, critical praise and honors came cascading, trailed by invitations for lectures and acceptance speeches. Always uncomfortable with attention and public appearances, Carson became even more selective, prioritizing women’s associations and nonprofit cultural institutions over glamorous commercial stages. When she did speak, her words became almost a consecration, as in a speech she delivered before a convocation of librarians:
Reading allows us to discover new worlds. Memes provide thoughtful sentences that give us the information we want to share, in a small, digestible chunk.
What happens after?
More than any book read, or meme shared, is what happens after the reading and sharing. Are we applying, learning, gaining insights, or practicing, in our lives?
Is the intention to ride the meme wave to popularity or cull specific memes that help us advance our philosophy and influence real change?
We must turn our words into work
From March, 2020 to March 2021, Samuel Thomas Davies wrote a weekly newsletter called “Words Into Works.”
In it, he shared one big idea from one of the best nonfiction books of all time.
Reading is a shortcut, a way to get where you want to grow without having to learn by painful trial and error. As leaders, what we’re reading is leading us.
And how you read matters.
Are you taking notes? Are you integrating what you read into your daily life? Don’t just fill shelves on the wall. The goal is to learn so that we can lead. What we are reading will eventually lead us.
What is your philosophy and how are you leveraging your knowledge to help those you serve?