“One of the most important things any person can do for themselves is to become a reader.”

These are the words my father used to say to me when I was young. But I was like most kids and looked at schoolwork as a chore to finish so I could go out and play. Where I grew up you could always find a pick-up game of basketball, football, or baseball and I wasn’t about to trade any playtime for reading.

Many years later, I found myself on an airplane with nothing to do and so I decided to read my travel companion’s copy of a biography of Vince Lombardi’s life. After reading for fifteen minutes, I looked around the plane and wanted to shout “can you believe what’s in this book?!” So many of the answers to many of the questions I had been searching for were written on the very pages I was reading. Questions like “What does it really take to become great?” and “How do great people learn to overcome adversity?” From that point forward I was hooked. I began reading every biography I could get my hands on, and found that the secrets to greatness were contained in every book I read.

For the last ten years I have had a goal to read five books every month. That’s a lot of reading, but I must admit it gives me an edge on my competition.

My reading challenge for you is to read a biography of someone you admire—whether in print or online—for just ten minutes every day or seventy minutes every week. Start with those greats in your field of interest, then consider researching great leaders in other fields or cultures, and others you would not normally consider. I promise you, you will learn something from each of them.

I have given this challenge to every successful athlete and business professional I have coached and I’ve seen how this practice has enriched their careers, their relationships with others, and their very lives.

I would love to hear from you in the comments below about books that you have read that have had positive impact on you in this way. I would also love to hear how you do with the challenge.

Dr. Jason Selk LPC, NCC is the Director of Mental Training for the World Series-winning St. Louis Cardinals, and author of 10-Minute Toughness and the newly released book Executive Toughness, The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance (McGraw-Hill, Nov 2011).

For more on Jason you can also visit his WEBSITE or on TWITTER.

* Photo by DavidR