When I was a child, I would read a lot of books. I read the standard Little Golden Books of my era, any magazines I could get my hands on, and those little books that had all of the great classics such as Gulliver’s Travels, Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Wind in the Willows… I could go on. It wasn’t until I delved deeper into J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion and The Hobbit that I actually became more interested in literary works of this degree. I went on to read more girthy books, but then something dire happened — I grew up enough to care about what others thought of me.
It was during this era of middle school where my favorite bully picked me up by my shirt and hung me on the coat hangers in the Gym. I started school about 2 years earlier than the other kids because I was born in Germany while my father was stationed there. I was much smaller than everyone else, and kept pretty much to myself. Of course, this made me only that much more vulnerable to being picked on. That is exactly what happened. I buried myself into books and schoolwork which really only served to give me a wild imagination about what my next encounter with my troll bully would entail.
Would I have to wield a large magical club and shield to defend myself against the cave troll? Would I have to train in super speed to be able to outrun it? Well, I went on to read about hero after hero selflessly diving into the thick of despair for the greater good of all, and decided to do the same. I confronted my bullies. I developed the power of choice and analyzing the situation like Sherlock Holmes, created my own advantages and strategies against possible counters. I learned how to diffuse other conflicts through tact and grace.
Then I stopped reading.
My young self, not mature enough to control the power that reading at a college level gave me, spun out of control into a blatant young knucklehead. I didn’t continue to read to put more good, diverse input into my person. I had used to read to get away from everyone and I finally realized that reading made me more “nerdy” and a point of bully concentration. So I stopped. I didn’t realize that it was the power of books that was changing my life. For the years that i didn’t read, my academic scores plummeted. I failed classes. I had to go to summer school to pass Algebra because I failed it 5 semesters in a row. I actually failed my 9th grade of high school too. I’m one of those kids.
I eventually physically beat up all my bullies. I really don’t remember a bully that I didn’t squash after this point because in my head I felt like I was a powerful dwarf inside that could do anything. If I saw someone picking on someone else — especially “nerdy” kids — I got right in the fray and became the center of attention. I confronted the bully either first talking them out of fighting altogether or by duking it right out. Usually the situation went south quickly every time since we were teenagers. The problem was that my Army dad taught me how to fight well from an early age and I dispatched bullies almost artfully.
By the time I finally graduated, I had made up my mind to join the United States Air Force to actually utilize my “knuckleheaded-ness” and straighten out my life. The Air Force is responsible for teaching me a lot of things both good and bad. What I have kept close to my heart, however, is the Air Force motto: Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence In All We Do.
I still didn’t read! I had to read manuals and paperwork and that’s all. I spent my off time doing more volunteer work such as Charge of Quarters duty nearly every weekend, taking Airman Leadership courses, or binge drinking with other servicemen. I truly developed myself while in the military. I roughly carved out a professional in myself that still needed much further polishing. I’m still a knucklehead but my military experiences will always be a defining part of who I am in life. I was medically injured and discharged honorably from the service, and went to college.
While in college I was immediately faced with that demon again: College Algebra I. From the gates, that obstacle was set before me directly at the end of my nose. In middle school and high school I dreaded algebra. I knew I couldn’t do it. My dad was easily frustrated trying to help me do it. Mom didn’t know it at all. My teachers were not helpful because I was a little asshat. So I threw my hands in the air of the entire mess and just failed miserably. In college however, I was there because I served in the military and had been hurt, and on taxpayer money. It was important to me to do the best that I could possibly do.
I started reading again.
I tutored myself in algebra. I got the college book we were going to use, and before I ever set foot in the room I had been studying for a few weeks. I read the entire first chapter without doing a single problem. Then, I went through and did every single example problem in the book as I read along to the end of the chapter. Then, i took the end of chapter quiz. After this, I considered the chapter finished. So, I repeated the process. I re-read the first chapter, re-answered the example questions as I read, re-took the end of chapter quiz, then moved on to chapter 2. I read chapter 2 the same way once through, then I started back at chapter 1 to go through the motions ending eventually in chapter 3. Numerically, my sequence would look like this: 1,1,2,1,2,3,1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4,5,1,2,3,4,5,6,1,2,3,4,5,6,7…
I can’t remember but there were 12 to 16 chapters of this madness.
There were problems that I needed help for. There were mathematical concepts that I couldn’t wrap my head around. Some stuff I just couldn’t comprehend at all, no matter how I looked at it. The answers did not lie in the book. I turned to the internet. I went through various math-related Yahoo forums and places of nerdery such as accounting or technology related forums looking for anyone who knew complex math and geometry. I asked for examples and reasons why they used this formula versus another. I found these people to be massively helpful and for that I am forever grateful for their anonymous aid in my life. Eventually, I went on to pass that class with a 99%.
I had to continue doing more reading and further writing while in college for my English classes. I have never disliked English and used the classes as an opportunity to help the other students out. My professor appreciated it when i gave meaningful critiques that helped empower the other students’ writing capabilities. I read my other college textbooks the same way I did the algebra, by the way. As a matter of fact, I take this very approach with everything in life. Everything in this life can be worn down my persistent determination in one form or another.
My professor told me I was a “prolific writer” but I always see the mistakes I make and I always seem to leave mistakes no matter how much I edit. I also have the bad habit of writing too much. Maybe it is in my own head. For whatever excuse I may give you, I never really liked writing and have been hesitant to do any. I just happen to be somewhat good at it. The problem is, I know for a fact that if I just practice exercising my writing muscle enough I will become empowered once again. If I want to be better tomorrow than I am today, every single day, I will always be improving. I didn’t always realize that.
I was going to college for a nursing degree at the time. Again, despite my best efforts, I failed overall with a GPA of 1.1. That’s such a long story that I am not going to get into it, but it was just as much the government and the school’s fault as of mine for my failure. I didn’t try hard enough, and had more than i could handle going on at once. The school kicked me out, so i had to find a degree I could finish with the remaining time and money I had left. Yay! Graphic Design! (sarcasm)
The only importance in my life from this degree has been the fact that I have a college degree now, and that I have met some really good people from the Graphic Design industry. I do believe that the simple fact that I possess an Associate’s degree has been the deciding factor over any pool of applicants in most jobs, but it also has held me back from getting some jobs I would have enjoyed because I am “over-qualified.” (This is a form of discrimination worthy of lawsuit, by the way.)
The biggest thing that degree has ever done for me was get me a job in the U.S. Census Bureau. I really enjoyed the part I played in this experience. The most important thing about it however was when I was an Assistant Manager having a morning cup of coffee with my subordinate mail/storeroom clerk Joe. I try to empower the people I am in charge of as much as possible. I want to draw out their strengths and help them overcome weaknesses, real or perceived. I gave motivational speeches. I was a counselor. People confided in me and looked up to my leadership. Joe wanted to know if I had read any of the “7 Habits” series.
I told Joe I had no idea who he was talking about. I told Joe I had not read a single book since getting out of college other than training manuals. Joe was in his late 80’s and had even been in the Navy, had his own businesses, and a lot of experiences to tell me. I am sure that someone has heard far too many of his stories over and over but he could tell me ten stories in a day and that glass would always be half full, ready to pour out more. Moreover, he wasn’t a pastor at his church but someone else who was influential. He had an earnest glow about him and I really loved that man. He inquired as to why I didn’t read, and I really only told him because I didn’t want to and didn’t like to.
It dawned on me one day that he had asked me numerous times if I had read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by the late Dr. Stephen Covey. When a man as smart and wholesome as that one repeatedly asks you about something — investigate. I promptly asked Joe more about this book. He loaned me that book which I have kept on accident. I still have it. I hope I still have time to give it back.
I read the book and realized that the lessons I had learned in life through the school of hard knocks were outlined so very eloquently in this book! I actually HAD been teaching, instructing, empowering, and encouraging those I was in charge of using a lot of these principles. I also realized there were answers to exactly the problems that had been keeping me from moving forward. Not only that, but I finally had someone else empowering me through this book. It kicked off my reading of many other volumes that I would highly suggest to others:
Dr. Stephen Covey
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
- The 8th Habit – From Effectiveness to Greatness
- Living the 7 Habits
- Principle-Centered Leadership
- Rich Dad Poor Dad
- Cash-flow Quadrant
- Guide to investing
- Own your Own Corporation
Peter Lynch / John Rothchild
- Learn to Earn
Norman Vincent Peale
- The Power of Positive Thinking
- Think & Grow Rich
Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen
- Chicken Soup for the Soul
- The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
There are so very many more books that I have thrust myself headlong into that to make a list would be exhausting. I have found that reading a book constitutes an in depth, intimate conversation with the author. It is an unbroken, one-way communication in which the speaker has had the time and effort to transcribe their thoughts exactly as they mean them. You cannot interrupt them. You can take all the time you need to digest what they have just told you before moving on. They will be blunt and tell you the things you don’t want to hear. You can throw the book against the wall in frustration but you can always pick up where you left off. It will always stay true to its intent.
I have found that if you read something with the intent of absorbing the author’s intent, that book becomes a magical aid of empowerment. It could be a newspaper, or a manual, or a set of numbers. It could be a spreadsheet, a menu, or rudimentary instructions how to get somewhere else from where you are right now. Reading is the absorbing of others’ intentions and creation. Writing is the materialization and creation of one’s intangible thoughts to those that are physical manifestations in this world. Both are akin to the Yin and the Yang. Separately they may exist, but when together, they provide a continuing force that is unparalleled.
If you are not reading, or are reading material that is not good for your mind such as tabloids or other nonsense, your abilities will be diminished. If you only watch television or take other people’s word for truth, your perception of reality will be as distorted as the shadows on the wall in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Are you living life looking at shadows of reality, or reality itself? Do you even know the object which cast such shadows into your life? Do you know the objects’ true forms?
Garbage in, garbage out. Good in, Good out.
You can make a difference in your own life immediately by discerning good from bad in your life and rejecting outright the bad. Sometimes it is difficult because people will reject you for not wanting to participate in a bad situation. Remember though, you attract to you what you think about most. When you are reading or writing, you are thinking. Thoughts are things. Therefore, when you have thoughts, you are manifesting reality from your creative insight.
If you read newspapers, news websites, Financial reports, and the like, your life will be filled with anxiety and fear.
If you read comic books, watch mindless entertainment television, and live hedonistically, your life will be devoid of meaning.
If you read encouraging material, self help books, how to manuals, and live life by doing, your life will constantly improve.
What you read and think about most brings like things closer to you. It’s simply how the universe works. So think about it. You should read more. Be selective.
By the way, I write extemporaneously. So again, pardon any errors.