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Want Lifelong Learning and Leadership Skills? Let’s Start with a Book

Reading for Lifelong Learning and Leadership: A PICPA Blog Series

James Caruso, CPABy James J. Caruso, CPA, CGMA

Intellectual curiosity and a passion for lifelong learning are two attributes critical for professional excellence and career success – not to mention a more interesting life. One of the best ways to indulge intellectual curiosity and become a lifelong learner is to read. This may sound obvious, but since we spend a significant part of our workdays reading – and most of us spend plenty of personal time reading blogs, social media posts, and the like – not as many of us take the time to read books anymore.

Our workdays, and increasingly our leisure time, is spent in a mode of shallow – and at times erratic – scanning of a huge breadth of online content. In contrast, books offer depth: reading page after page, with deep focus. Going deep in a subject, following up one book with a second on a similar or related topic – perhaps selected from the bibliography – leads to discovering surprising connections and turns us into lateral, integrative thinkers as we connect unrelated dots and develop new ideas and ways of looking at the world. After years of reading, we accumulate a treasure trove of inspirational quotes and wisdom.

CPA reading for personal growthReading deeply and widely gives accountants and financial professionals a perspective they need to see beyond the numbers and partner with business unit leaders to navigate a complex world. For those who aspire to lead, reading is a must, according to retired Navy Adm. James Stavridis in The Leader’s Bookshelf. It exposes us to a variety of life experiences, allows us to get inside the minds of leaders – real or fictional – that we admire, allows us to think through what we would do in the situations we read about, and improves our own written and oral communication skills.

Personally, I find lessons about business and leadership in biographies about presidents, heads of state, and CEOs. As I read more widely, I find themes that interest me, and I sometimes find those themes in unexpected places. I have found insights about communicating financial forecasts in books about hurricanes, and warnings about cascading failures in leadership, culture, and systems in books about maritime disasters. This is among the most satisfying aspects of reading – discovering topics and ideas that interest you, actively seeking out more books on the subject, and finding further expressions of those same themes where you least expect them. Innovation and creativity arise not from inventing something out of nothing, but by collecting, connecting, and recombining existing concepts and ideas.

And that’s the concept behind my recurring blog, Reading for Lifelong Learning and Leadership. Each quarterly post will discuss a particular book, and some of the business and leadership lessons it provides. It will not be a book report, nor a summary or a review. Each will provide some overall context about the book, but the focus will be on one or more business and leadership insights – some related, others perhaps varied and random – gleaned from the book.

With Labor Day behind us, it is a time of reinvigoration that I like to call “back to school for adults.” While “back to school” is not quite the same in this year of COVID, I think we all still share the renewed energy, motivation, and focus as summer temptations and distractions fade away and year-end rapidly approaches. What better time to begin this journey of Reading for Lifelong Learning and Leadership?

If you would like to join me in my reading, the first book I will be discussing in my follow-up blog will be My Hurricane Andrew Story by Brian Norcross. As I brought up above, this book fits into the “insights in unexpected places” theme as I consider financial forecasting tips from a book on hurricanes. I hope you will consider reading this book along with me, and perhaps we can have a dialog in the comments section at the conclusion of my next blog.

James J. Caruso, CPA, CGMA, is CFO of Simplura Health Group in Yardley and a member of the Pennsylvania CPA Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at jcaruso@simplura.com.

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