I didn’t used to be a big reader, but the older I’ve gotten the more reading has become a staple in my life.
I love diving into books to learn about new things and to get some background and insight on interesting people, events from history, or just new ideas that I’d like to learn more about.
At the moment, I’m reading President Obama’s book, A Promised Land.
My daughter bought the book for me for Father’s Day and I’ve loved taking in a few chapters when I’m on my 40-minute train ride to and from work or when I’ve got some downtime on the weekend.
It’s a very interesting read and I’ve learned a lot about President Obama, especially his rise from community organizer to politician to keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention — a background that I didn’t know much, if anything, about before he seemed to come out of nowhere in 2004.
I really like reading autobiographies and biographies. I find people fascinating and am especially interested in reading about people who have overcome great odds and/or have accomplished amazing things.
But amid those extraordinary stories, what really lights me up the most is finding the ordinary touchpoints that make me realize that these people are just like you and me.
Like when President Obama went to his first Democratic National Convention with nothing more than a hall pass, which only allowed him to get into the hallways and the perimeter of the auditorium.
Then afterwards, he couldn’t get into any of the afterparties because nobody knew who he was!
I love reading about stuff like that — those details of “regularness” that are so relatable and then reading about how a person transcended from ordinary to extraordinary because of hard work, the right connections, or even a healthy dose of luck they had. Especially knowing that just four years later President Obama was back at the Convention as the keynote speaker and went onto serve two terms as President of the United States!
Books let us into those kinds of twists, turns, and evolutions — and I love them for that.
They also let us in on other people’s processes, insights, ideas, mistakes, and challenges.
In The Promised Land, I’ve been reading about Obama’s process for picking his initial Cabinet as well as the training he went through for giving speeches.
It was similar to the process and training that I’ve used in my own life as I went through my basketball career, or what I do now to prepare for certain things with work. And it’s also similar to what I’ve seen my wife, Delicia, do as a lawyer as she prepares for a case.
Books also are great for informing us of past events that we weren’t alive for our present during, so that we can still recognize the lessons and the insights that stand to be learned from them.
I love the book The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene for that reason. It distills 3,000 years of the history of power into 48 essential laws, drawing from the philosophies of Machiavelli and Sun Tzu, as well as from the lives of figures ranging from Henry Kissinger to P.T. Barnum. Not only did I learn a lot about history, but I got great insight into how to avoid repeating patterns that didn’t serve us then, and still aren’t serving us now.
And then there are the books that give us a totally new perspective on something that’s very familiar to us. That’s what my experience was reading How to Watch Basketball Like A Genius: What Game Designers, Economists, Ballet Choreographers, and Theoretical Astrophysicists Reveal About the Greatest Game on Earth by Nick Greene. For having played the game of basketball for most of my life, I learned so many new things about it — including how it’s evolved, how it’s continuing to evolve, and all the facets of our culture that go into making it truly special.
What books have inspired you?
I’m sure you’ve found many that have informed you, entertained you, or helped you in some way — just like so many books have helped me become a better leader, business person, husband, dad, and human.
If nothing else, I hope you will continue to explore the world of books and find the time to read them, because — as I’ve found myself — we’re always better off for having done so.