Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Why Do I Read

By Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, October 1, 2013

You might also want to know, “What types of books have I read?”

Let me answer the second question first.  99% of what I read is non-fiction and consist of sales, business, goal setting, leadership, real estate topics and general self-improvement books and CD’s.  Why non-fiction?  Let me explain.

I joined the U. S. Coast Guard in my early 20’s.  For the first 15 years of my Coast Guard career I read only those manuals and regulations needed to perform my primary and secondary duties.  They were for the most part boring and I had no desire to read anything outside of work.  But what those boring manuals and regulations did provide was the basic knowledge required for me to do what was expected of me and hopefully a little bit more.  As a result I learned to “react” rather than “respond” and there is a difference.  To react is almost an unconscious reaction to a stimulus.  It could be routine like paperwork or it could be emergency like putting out a fire.  They served a clear and needed training purpose.  Thinking outside the box before reacting was not necessarily a good thing; in fact it could get someone hurt or killed.  Responding requires a little forethought where you consciously or subconsciously give thought or draw on your knowledge to provide a thoughtful response to an issue.

But then in my early 40’s I was introduced to a cassette tape series created by Lee Shelton entitled Creating Teamwork.  I almost memorized those tapes.  One recommendation Shelton gave was to read I’m Okay; You’re Okay and then read it again every six months.  I read it but did not read it again because once I started reading material other than what was required by the Coast Guard, it was like turning on a light that I could not turn off.  I read, and I read and I read.  I counted over 1000 titles that I have read since I turned 42.  I tell you that not because I want to brag on the number of books I have read.  On the contrary, let me explain.

During the early Coast Guard years I did primarily what I was told to do.  But then towards my tenth year people started coming to me with their Coast Guard related problems to solve.  Why?  It was because of my position, not so much my actual expertise as much as my perceived expertise because most of these people had never met me.  They simply assumed I knew what I was doing because of my pay grade, my specialty and my title at the time.  Nonetheless they brought their problems and expected me to solve them which I did.

But then about my 12th year a fellow who I had only spoken to on the phone came to New Orleans where I was stationed and stopped in just to pay a visit.  While he was there, several people came in to see me with their problems “to be solved.”   Before he left New Orleans he stopped back but this time he had a stuffed monkey under his arm that he gave me.  I asked him what the monkey was for.  He said, and I will never forget it, he said, “Jim, do you know what is wrong with you?”  Up until he asked, I was not aware that anything was wrong with me.  He then said, “Jim, people come to you with their problems.  In effect they come into your office personally or over the phone and every one of them has a monkey on their back.  But when they leave or hang up, YOU literally give them PERMISSION to place those same monkeys squarely on your shoulders and then all those problems become your problems.

That day I changed my life.  I changed the way I worked and would explain to people I am here to help you but that when you leave, your monkey will go with you.  People would laugh but they got the point.  I was there to help them.  To help THEM to solve THEIR problems not for me to keep their problem and solve it for them.

Towards the end of my Coast Guard career, I had a young woman who worked in my office ask me if I knew why so many people came in to see me with their problems, Coast Guard and personal type problems.  I said no and she said because even though you are in your late 30’s, you have silver hair and to people the color of your hair indicates maturity; that is why they come to you instead of other folks at the unit.  I made a point of asking some of those folks and they confirmed what she had said.  Still those same folks had a certain degree of expectation that I could help them one way or another.

Now fast forward to my 40’s.  I had become the Designated Broker for a real estate company.  Agents would bring their real estate problems and sometimes their personal problems to me and they too would expect an answer.  So how does one become proficient in a career to where they can provide answers without having to do extensive research?  They start reading!  They read and read and read.  And when they are not reading they attend seminars and listen to CD’s.  Then suddenly when their (my) career is almost over they (I) quietly contemplate and discover that they (I) have read well over 1000 books that helped me to be able to respond to inquiries from a position of knowledge that others came to expect and they trusted to be correct.

At first it amazed me how much I seemingly was unable to remember only to subconsciously be able to recall when faced with a situation that matched situation.  I may have read it yesterday or months or even years prior to the incident.  Yet when faced with an inquiry or a specific situation the solution immediately came to the forefront of my mind.  I probably could not tell you from which book or from which author only that it came to me like a light bulb being turned on enabling me to respond to the issue at hand.  This was never truer than when sitting with a buyer or seller of real estate.  I would be faced with a situation or an objection and an immediate response (light bulb) would come to mind that I had not thought of in years yet there it was on the tip of my tongue as if I heard or read it just that morning.  Had I not read it, this could not have happened and I would have struggled with a response.  In fact I would have reacted to the situation rather than thoughtfully responding.

There is a quote that I often repeat:  Education is what you get when you read the fine print. Experience is what you get when you don’t!  Think about that.  The key word is lost in the quote and it is “read” whether the print is fine or otherwise.  Education is what you get when you read!  Period!  I have also discovered that if you are ever quizzed on what you may have read days, weeks, months or even years ago, you probably would fail the exam.  Yet when you suddenly come face to face with the tiger you don’t have to think about running, your education subconsciously steps up to help you.

Initially I began my desire to read to help me.  Ultimately my reading fulfilled a personal goal to help others; maybe including you.  My personal life mission reads:  To help people do what they do to do it better!  Reading has enabled me to do that; at least I believe it has.

I maintain a blog at www.ReadForAChange.com where I now post short reviews of books that I have read or are currently reading.  I am not telling you about this expecting you to stop what you are doing to visit the blog.  No, I tell you this because of the name of the blog.  It has two distinctly different meanings:

YOU – can READ……for a change!
  Meaning instead of watching TV, you can read or read for the first time in years.


YOU – can read for a……CHANGE!
  Meaning if you really want to change your life, read instead of watching TV.

The choice is clearly yours to make.  If you were to ask me (glad you did) I would strongly recommend reading to effect a positive change in your life!  If you were to ask me (glad you did) which book I would recommend reading first, it would be Jeffrey Gitomer’s The Little Gold Book of YES!Attitude. www.JeffreyGitomer.com  There are many great books you can read but this book starts working on your attitude.  With the proper attitude everything becomes much easier and possible!

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