General James Mattis on the Importance of Reading

I have been working hard at increasing the depth and breadth (and speed!) of my reading.  To be honest, I’ve often felt guilty for taking time in my day to read.  I always thought, “How many of my church members get the luxury of sitting down with a book in the middle of their day to read?”  I have come to realize how short-sighted and, frankly, absurd that notion is.

My whole job is to make sure that I’m learning the answers to a thousand different questions.  I have to work to understand deep, theological concepts so that I can adequately and simply communicate them to people who are struggling, hurting or confused over something that has happened in life.  For me to understand the answers, I have to continually be digging and studying which, of course, means reading.

In some way or another, you have to continue developing, too.  Whether it’s in your job, your family, or your soul, you are charged to keep growing.  We are constantly learning.  The question is whether we’re learning the hard way or doing the hard work to learn the easy way, which rarely happens without reading.

I recently came across one of the absolute best articles I’ve ever read on the subject of “professional reading” which could also apply to the area of general “developmental reading.”  It’s about the reading habits of General James Mattis who was recently tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to be the next Secretary of Defense.  In the Business Insider article, General Mattis talks of the primary reason that carving out time for extensive reading time is so important:

The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.

Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.

What about you?  Do you make reading a priority?  I encourage you to expand your horizons, develop a wide-range of interests (history, biography, theology, etc.), and begin carving out time whenever you can to invest in personal growth through reading.  I highly recommend you read the entire article here and check out the following extra posts for some tips and guidelines.

Additional articles on the subject:

Albert Mohler on “The Reading of Books”

My article on 7 Tips for Reading Better, Faster and Smarter

On Teaching Them To Soar

It’s Friday morning, my day off, and I’m sitting outside at Rembrandt’s, one of my favorite spots in Chattanooga.  The temperature has finally dropped below 90, the birds are singing and a breeze is gently blowing.  The coffee is hot and it’s a great time to reflect on things flowing through my mind.

You can see the dad just above my screen.
You can see the dad just above my screen.

As I sit here, there is conversation going on all around me.  Most of it I don’t hear, or at least don’t comprehend, but there is one family sitting at one of the tables closest to me that I can’t help but notice.  It’s a middle-aged couple sitting with a young man having coffee together.

After a couple of minutes, it becomes clear the young man is preparing to begin college and the parents are preparing to say goodbye.  I don’t know where they are from, but it’s clear they don’t live here.  There is a sense of excitement in the conversation, especially as the young man is talking about this new chapter in life, but overshadowing that are clearly mixed emotions lingering softly over the table.  It’s something that I’m beginning to instinctively pick up on.  Perhaps that’s why I can’t pull my attention away from them.

As the mother gets up to go inside, it’s time for Dad to encourage his son to “call your mother at least every Sunday. She needs to know that you’re thinking about her.”  I find it interesting that he only said call your mother because a few minutes later when the boy also went inside for one reason or another, I could have sworn I saw the glimmer of a tear in his eyes.  Unmistakably, there was pain on his face.

It’s hard to deal with…children growing up and moving through stage after stage of life.  It seems as though we don’t have time to adjust to one that they’re already moving into the next, one series of painful joys after another.

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Look snazzy for picture day.

Maybe I’m thinking so much about this because I’m moving through yet another with Jacob.  For the last two days, I’ve ridden to his new school with him…in his own car…driving.  Wow, how could this little boy already be at this stage of life!  Somewhere along the line I blinked and found he is not so little anymore.  As he, himself, pointed out yesterday morning with a smile as he tied his shoes on the steps getting ready to leave for the first time in his own car: “Wow, Dad.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that you were teaching me how to tie my shoes.”  Now, I’m teaching him how to drive on his own.

I can’t even write this without feeling the lump in my throat.  With every passing day, I’m experiencing the series of heart-aches I know my own parents went through, usually without my ever being in tune with enough to make it easier for them.  Heart-ache that never really goes away.  How could it?  Your kids are always your kids.

So, it’s the mist of mixed emotions gently floating above that table that I identify with.  It’s painful to think of your kids growing up so fast, but it’s so amazingly gratifying to observe…and maybe even play a small part in…the development of their wings.  I’m so grateful to God for giving me two wonderful, talented and loving boys and the privilege to pour my life into and do all I can, through His power, to instruct them and nurture them, to correct them and train them in learning how to fly.

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