Reading for Experience
To be a leader in a company or any organization, you will most certainly need to have both knowledge and experience. If you have knowledge but no experience, you are not going to be able to apply your knowledge to a specific situation because you will lack the experience that shows you what else is connected to a specific decision, and perhaps even your lack of experience will prevent you from identifying what you do not know but need to find out. If you have experience but not knowledge, you may be able to see a larger picture, but you will not have the technical expertise to know specifically what to do in that situation.
The good thing about knowledge is that you are largely in control of what you learn and keeping your knowledge current. A professional certification is one of the ways that you can learn the skills you need in your profession, demonstrate to others that you have mastered these skills, and also keep your skills current through the CPE requirements.
And while you are able to control your knowledge of level, the experience is something that you can gain only through time. Of course, you can put yourself into situations that will provide you with relevant experience and expose you to good leadership, but you cannot get 10 years of experience until you have worked for 10 years. There is a theory that a person needs to do something for 10,000 hours in order to become a master. If this is the case, then there are no shortcuts to working at something for 10,000 hours. (I will write about the importance of persistence separately.)
How to speed up the process of gaining experience
However, I believe that there is something that you can do to speed up the process of gaining experience. Other people already have experiences that you do not, so, if you can learn to access that experience that others already have gained, you can take some of that as your own. One way to gain experience from others is to listen to them. Listen to others at work who have more experience than you do. Listen to others in your life who have more, or different, experiences from your own. By listening to others, we can learn a bit of their experiences and take some of their wisdom that has come from their experiences and make it our own. My experience shows that most people are more than happy to share their stories and experience with anyone who listens intently. I remember a breakfast that I used to attend that was mostly attended by men in their 70’s and 80’s. The stories they told about their lives in the 40’s and 50’s and 60’s were amazing.
Another way that we can expedite getting our experience is by reading. When we read, we can listen to people from any area, any background, any culture, and any profession. And through reading what these people, places, cultures, and experiences, we can make a little of them into our own. Of course, reading is not the best way to gain experience, but it is better than simply waiting for experience to find you.
Reading is something that I do a lot of, and I wish I could do even more. I try to read fiction, nonfiction, business books, faith-based books, and books about life in general. Almost every night, I read before I go to bed, and ideally at least one other time during the day. And I am always in search of good books to read. Since my post about personal diversification in 2021 resulted in so many comments and emails, I thought that I would share a list of books that I have read in the past year or so that I thought were especially useful and/or enjoyable. I have tried to provide books from different areas to try to provide at least one book that you might find useful or enjoyable. So, with that as the introduction, here are some books that I have recently read that I recommend:
The Infinite Game, by Simon Sinek
The StoryBrand, by Donald Miller
Bad Blood, by John Carreyrou
Life Skills Books
Who Moved My Cheese, by Spenser Johnson
Atomic Habits, by James Clear
The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman
Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
The Body, by Bill Bryson
21 Lessons for the 21st Century, by Huval Noah Harari
The Library Book, by Susan Orlean
Doing Justice, by Preet Bharara
Because tastes in fiction are so different, I hesitate to recommend any fiction books. I enjoy reading historical fiction (David McCullough and John Jakes) and political/espionage books (Tom Clancy). My wife, Yulia, just read The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, and she gives it her highest recommendation. It will be the next fiction book that I read.
If you are a reader and you are looking for a good book to read, I hope that one of these above gives you an idea. If you are not a reader but would like to start, I think any of these books above would be a good read that would be well worth the time it takes to read. Remember, as you read, you are making part of someone else’s experiences and making them your own. And it is this experience that will help make you an effective leader in any organization you are part of.
Brian Hock, CMA, CIA
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