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  • Writer's pictureJim Mercer

SamTastic Weekly Tip: 2/20/24 - Happy Presidents’ Day.

Happy Presidents’ Day. 


Question:  What did you read over the weekend?  What do you plan to read, today? 


“Leaders must be readers.  Reading and learning from peers within, and outside your industry, enables you to grow in three district ways:  Reading challenges you; Reading reminds you; Reading gives you opportunities to interact with others.”  Forbes Magazine, August, 2021.


Reading, for me, increases creativity.  I often read something that has nothing to do with school leadership, a novel, for example, and it sparks a new idea.  In fact, that’s how I got the idea for today’s SamTastic weekly Tip.


Business leadership coach Michael Hyatt says leaders must be readers in order to be better thinkers and to relax.   One study compared reading to other stress relievers like walking, listening to music, or drinking a cup of tea. Reading was found the most effective, and it worked to lower heart rates and relieve tension in as few as six minutes.


Tim Elmore, CEO, Growing Leaders, identifies seven reasons leaders should read.


  • Reading enables you to sleep more and better.

  • Reading can improve your mental health.

  • Reading is how you acquire new knowledge.

  • Reading is how you expand your thought process and worldview.

  • Reading is how you spot new opportunities and create new ideas.

  • Reading helps you train yourself to concentrate.  

  • Reading is how you compress decades of experience into days.

Elmore also makes the case for reading books the old-fashioned way, with pages, rather than on screens, as it improves comprehension.  - Inc. Magazine, 9/23, reprinted, below.


The benefits range from mental and physical improvements to increased empathy and understanding. Reading should be your not so secret secret weapon.



SEP 4, 2023


We've all heard the axiom "Leaders are readers." Then, we began to hear that this wasn't totally accurate. We can consume information in so many other ways besides reading, right?

I want to make the case, here, for reading once again. It's transformed my life and leadership.

While I listen to podcasts and watch loads of TED Talks and documentaries, there's something calming about quietly reading an article or a book. If we read an old-fashioned book with actual pages, it removes the damaging light from a screen and allows our eyes to refresh themselves. When we read a page aloud, it takes on a different positive effect as we hear our own voices teaching us or reminding us of helpful content. Our brains light up in distinctive ways.

Consider these tangible advantages of reading.

1. Reading enables you to sleep more and better.

Studies show that 50 percent of those who read before bed report getting better sleep than non-readers. Additionally, the same study found that bedtime readers slept an additional hour and 37 minutes per week compared with those who didn't read in bed. While watching a TV or a laptop can prevent deep sleep, reading actually promotes it.

2. Reading can improve your mental health.

Reading has been shown to make you two and a half times less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease compared with those who spend their time on less mentally stimulating activities. We are revitalized and energized when our minds are engaged in reading. Research has shown that just 30 minutes of reading can lower your blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of distress.

Joseph Addison once wrote, "Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body."

3. Reading is how you acquire new knowledge.

While it's not the only way to digest information, it's a vital strategy to consume knowledge and improve our retention. "All the new information creates new memories. And every new memory creates synapses or strengthens old ones," writes Thomas Law. "Research has confirmed that reading stimulates a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain."

4. Reading is how you expand your thought process and worldview.

When I read, I recognize that my thinking systems expand as I explore the processes the author suggests in his or her book. I'm exposed, perhaps, to a different worldview and what lies behind it, enabling me to empathize. I think better thoughts and gain new perspectives. When Elon Musk was asked how he learned to build rockets, he replied, "I read books."

5. Reading is how you spot new opportunities and create new ideas. 

This is true especially when we read from an author who comes from a different industry than we do. Consider this: Orville and Wilbur Wright ran a bicycle shop when they began to study the flights of birds. The result? The first airplane looks a lot like a flying bicycle. Thanks to their work, two unrelated ideas came together to form a new industry.

6. Reading helps you train yourself to concentrate.  

When you finish a book, you've literally conditioned your brain to concentrate, focusing on the thoughts of an expert guide. In fact, I like to use different colored highlighters, one for each element I gain, yellow for big ideas, blue for quotes, green for stories, etc. It helps me focus in an era when much of what I read is social media posts or tweets with 140 characters. Cognitive abilities can decline. Our brains have a "use it or lose it" paradigm, just like our muscles.

7. Reading is how you compress decades of experience into days.

A book is often expanded content from an article that's written a year or two later. The author usually offers decades of experience, summarizing concepts for us. What's more, I've found if I read 20 minutes before bedtime each night, I can consume two books a month. That's 24 books in a year, gleaning from the experience of people wiser and different than me.

Let's be honest. In our day, reading is deep work. Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, says, "This skill is becoming increasingly rare due to constant multitasking, notifications, and social media apps." Time magazine shared a study by Microsoft revealing that people generally lose attention after just eight seconds. Truth be told, our lives were transformed when Johann Gutenberg gave us the printing press. We can read faster than speakers can talk, and we can retain and repeat information more quickly. We must take advantage of this game-changer. A person who won't read is no better off than a person who can't read.

When you're bored, pick up a book, not your phone.

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