Pastor Blake Williams
Missions & Outreach Pastor, Shiloh Community Church
“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers” – Harry S. Truman
My dad told me all the time growing up that readers are leaders. He stressed the importance of being educated in various disciplines and understanding that every person on earth had a story to tell if you were willing to listen.
Those things have stuck with me my whole life. I’ve always enjoyed reading but the past two years I was challenged by something I saw from Jon Acuff on Twitter. He started posting brief book reviews in tweets with the hashtag #acuffreadsbooks and I was astounded as the number of books he read in 2017 got up over 100.
Because I enjoy listening to his audio books I went on the Overdrive App on my phone (free resource from the Phoenix Public Library that everyone should have (no I didn’t get paid to say that)) and picked up his book Finish. In this book he talks about how he used to believe that the biggest struggle people had in goal setting and goal achieving was starting. So he wrote a book to that end, only to find out that people don’t struggle to start, they struggle to finish. Enter book #2, Finish.
Jon’s style could be described as part self-help, part stand-up comedy. He has a very sharp wit, a broad scope of knowledge, but a huge heart to see people change their lives for the better. His idea behind Finish was to help people set goals that they could achieve, but to also be willing to readjust those goals if they didn’t hit them and still improve their lives.
In this book he talked about a personal goal to read 100 books in a year. Even reading that seems crazy but he exceeded even that. All while writing another book, speaking around the country, being an engaged father and husband, and keeping his social media game on point.
When he talked about how he achieved this it was an eye opening revelation for me. He said that he read short books, graphic novels (comic books), and listened to audio books (at 1.5 speed). Now it’s unfair to say that’s all he did because he also read long books (700 1100 pages) in the midst of his 100+. But the most eye opening thing he talked about in there was a conversation with a friend who said audiobooks and short books “don’t count.” His simple response was, “Why not? It’s my goal and I say they do count.”
How often do we limit ourselves in the things we do or what we’re capable of accomplishing because of what others think? This was such a freeing piece of advice for me and pushed me towards a similar goal. In 2017 my goal was to read 30 books and because of the freedom found in that little nugget, I was able to accomplish it. In 2018, I bumped that goal to 40 books and blew it out of the water by finishing 57 books.
Pastor Scott would always try to steer me down just like Jon’s friend did by saying my books “didn’t count” because some of them were audio books; but I always replied in the same way, “I still got the information and it counts to me.”
I realized that I drive at least 40 minutes almost every day, and many days I’ll drive for
over an hour. Just by consistently playing audiobooks rather than music while in my car,
I could finish a book almost every two weeks just with drive time. Then there are times
when I’m doing mindless tasks like washing the dishes or vacuuming the house that I
could have a book on.
These times were a wonderful blessing to me as I got to hear about people ranging from Benjamin Franklin to Tiger Woods to Billy Graham. I listened to books about marriage, leadership, goal-setting, habit formation, team building, parenting, generosity, risk taking, and more. All of this just by redeeming time that was always available to me.
I copied Jon’s idea of putting the hashtag on my reading list for each year so that I could keep track of them and it’s fun to look back and see that I’ve learned something from all 87 of the books I’ve covered in the last two years. I’ve also built a habit that I think will impact me for the better as I move forward both in life and ministry.
It’s my sincere hope that people can jump on board with this idea and find ways to broaden their scope of knowledge and interaction. The average American only reads 3- 4 books per year, and that number is really pulled up by people like Jon. Most people I talk to have never read the Bible cover to cover. They’ve rarely spent consistent time reading books for fun, and yet almost unequivocally they lament not reading more.
Eleanor Roosevelt was quoted as saying: “great minds discuss ideas, averages minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.” Without engaging in something more intellectually stimulating than social media, we’ll largely be reduced to the latter two. Let’s spend some time this year engaging our minds in something fruitful.