Norton: The only thing better than a good book is a great book (column) |

Norton: The only thing better than a good book is a great book (column)

Michael Norton
Valley Voices

One of my favorite conversation starters and favorite questions to ask someone is, “What are you reading these days?”

Some people are very quick with their response as they know exactly what they are reading, where they are in the book or story or that they just finished the book and are eager to give a review of what they had recently read.

As someone who reads a lot, I have a great appreciation for the types of books and articles people read. And more importantly what they get out of the book or article. For some, books are a getaway, they are pure enjoyment as they get lost and swept up in the story. For others, reading is their method for continuous learning and desire to grow, or out of natural curiosity and a desire for answers. For me, it’s a little bit of both as I enjoy a good and healthy mix of fiction and non-fiction, business and leadership, history and biographies, personal and professional development and faith-based reading.

I used to pride myself on the number of books that I was able to read each year. The problem was, as much as I was reading, the less I was learning, retaining and applying. By moving quickly from one book to the next, I wasn’t giving myself the time to reflect on the story or the message, the meaning or the lesson. Whether it was a thrilling novel that could have inspired creativity or challenged my thinking in some way, or a business book where I highlighted and underscored awesome principles and ideas but never took the time to apply them, I found that I was short-changing myself in my quest for more.

Until I took a “less is more” approach when it comes to reading.

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There was this sense that I always had to be reading the newest and latest book, the current best seller, I always had to be on top of the new strategies and tactics that were coming out. And then I had an “a-ha” moment while reading about one of my favorite historical figures, George Washington. The book is titled, “George Washington on Leadership.” As I read it, and highlighted Washington’s principles, values, strategies and tactics, I realized that all the newest books and articles I was so focused on making sure that I read, were all in some way based on the principles, values, strategies and tactics found in a book written about a man who lived more than 200 years ago.

That was almost 10 years ago that I had that revelation. And to this day, it reminds me of the saying, “It’s not what’s new that works, it what works that works.”

So how has this impacted my reading today? I actually spend as much time reading today as I used to read. However, I find myself taking the time to read, and then even re-read a paragraph, chapter, an article or maybe the entire book. I take more notes then I used to, and I dog-ear and bookmark more pages than ever before. I read classic novels and earlier books by some of my favorite authors not just the new releases. Bookstores are still my favorite place to shop. Whether I am looking for new, old or even used, to me there is nothing like the bookstore.

And speaking of used books, I am not sure about you, but I really enjoy reading a previously owned book and seeing where other people have highlighted a section, dog-eared a page, maybe even wrote a comment in the margin. And one of my favorite used books to buy and read is The Bible. I look for a Bible that is well worn and has lots of notes and underscores already in it. And just like the analogy above about George Washington, sometimes an old Bible will show us that someone, at some point, was reading and appreciating life’s principles and values, and learning through life’s victories and hardships, they were just going through it at a different time.

So how about you? What are you reading today? Can you share more about it? I sure hope you do, and as always, I would love to hear your story at And when we can remember that when it comes to books, both new and old alike, there is always something we can learn that will make this a better-than-good week.

Michael Norton is the president of the Zig Ziglar Corporate Training Solutions Team, a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker. He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.

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