The Dancing Puritan

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Reading as a Means of Loving People



I typically do not dip much into business books. After reading Love is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends by Tim Sanders, that may change. When the book was published, Sanders was the Chief Solutions Officer at Yahoo!. I learned of the book through another excellent book, What's Best Next by Matt Perman (Zondervan, 2014). Perman points to chapter two, "Knowledge" in Sanders' book. In this chapter Sanders encourages business relationships that are focused on building a stronghold centered on people rather than on the corporate structure.  He writes:
To create that stronghold, you have to put in some real work. By that I mean: Accumulate enough knowledge that you can share it with others--so that you can enable them to profit from your knowledge as much as you do. (67)
Sanders believes that: "The first step in cultivating value is to make sure you possess knowledge." Knowledge is "consequential." (67).  The knowledge that he is referring to is not the local gossip. It has everything to do with distributing knowledge that helps people. His favorite way to pass on knowledge is through reading and getting to know good books. Sanders wants readers to produce readers. He writes of the value of books:
Books should be your diet's staple because they are the complete thought-meal, containing hypothesis, data, research, and conclusions, combined in a thorough attempt to transfer knowledge. (69)
Sanders captured my attention with this:

And by books, I don't mean just any book. I mean hardcovers. A paperback is made to be read. A hardcover is made to be studied. There's a huge difference. I don't read a book just to say that I've finished it. I read it so that when I'm done, the inside covers are filled with enough notes that I can use this book for as long as I need to.  True, hardcovers are more expensive. But I'm talking about your career. If you can afford to party, or to buy new techno-gadgets, or to eat at fancy restaurants, you can afford a few hardcover books. And if that extra cost makes it a barrier-to-entry for your peers, remember that there are barriers-to-entry in any competitive field. Not only is this one you can easily overcome, but by removing those barriers you give yourself the chance to shine. The books you read today will fuel your earning power tomorrow. (70-71).

Do you want to help a friend? Read, pass on knowledge, and do what you can to help your friend become a reader. This is one way to love your neighbor and you will benefit as well. Thinking in business terms, reading can help you to grow, advance, and earn. And when you are growing then you can help someone else in their development.

For years I have believed in the superiority of hardcover over paperback books. Therefore, every time Sanders plugged hardcovers he won my heart a little more. He writes:
Simply put, hardcover books are the bomb. They are fun to hold. They become personal the first time you mark them up, the first time you bend back the binding. There's something wonderful about the sound of rustling pages. There's something exciting about writing down the ideas that interest you. Soon your book becomes more than just pages between covers. It becomes your ticket to success. Congratulations! You've just achieved traction as a student. (71).
How do you know what to read? Though Sanders focuses on business relationships, application abounds for every area of life. Regarding business he states, "Read books so that you own your job just like Deion Sanders owned his." (72)

As a Christian, I want to know God. Therefore, the book, above all books for me, is the Bible. I want to be so saturated with Scripture that, to use Charles Spurgeon's description of John Bunyan, if you were to prick me you would find that my blood is Bibline.  Since I am a pastor, it would be inexcusable, and a horrific neglect of duty, to not spend substantive time each week reading the Bible. Beyond that, I need (and want) to read theology, history, and biography. I then read in various areas that interest me. If I am interested then I will better be able to help others. For example, I want to become a better conversationalist and therefore a more interesting person. If I am a more interesting person, lovingly gaining the ear of friends, then I will be able to better help them. To be a good conversationalist I need (and want) to read very broadly. One of the books that I recently ordered is Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed Our World by Mark Pendergrast. I discovered this book after visiting a local coffee shop and doing some research on how to roast coffee beans. Learning more about coffee will put me on the front-lines of a topic that a lot of people are passionate about. This will further connect me to people that I may have the opportunity to influence (and be influenced by).

There are many ways to discover good books. A fun and very practical way, that Sanders recommends, is to visit bookstores. He writes: "Wander through the aisles. Be sure you have plenty of time. Look at books carefully. As you do, search for a set of key words that are important to you." (73).

Visiting bookstores is a lot of fun. Recently I was at Carmichael's bookstore in Louisville, Kentucky. I had a fantastic conversation with a lady who works there. Of course, we talked books. I mentioned to her that I had learned about author Wendell Berry through professors at Southern Seminary. She told me that Berry sometimes stops by the store and that the book, My Bookstore:Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop, has a section from Berry in which he mentions Carmichael's as a favorite bookshop. Well, guess what? I ordered a copy of My Bookstore. I love adding such books to my library and I am excited that my children have the opportunity to enjoy my selections. I want my library to be a fun and helpful place for family and friends. It is one way that I hope to love my family now and to invest in future generations.

Though Tim Sanders is not necessarily writing from a Christian perspective, his message is certainly one that Christians need to hear. Reading is not just about personal growth and development. Reading is an act of love. It is a way to help your friends to grow and develop. When you pass on knowledge, out of a deep concern for the well-being of others, then you are making a difference. Sanders would call you a "lovecat."