Reading your way into the future
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already bought into the whole idea that reading is a useful activity. It is, after all, a supremely effective way to find out which end is up, whether a cup contains a hot beverage, and what, exactly, the IRS expects you to do about Section 199a.
Most of us recognize how useful reading can be in the business of life: We read instructions, press releases, news stories, regulations, sections of the Tax Code, emails, exposure drafts, revenue procedures, computer prompts, dialogue boxes, tweets, blogs and much more, all with the goal of getting successfully through the day without dumping hot coffee in our laps or incorrectly filing a business return.
If you agree that these daily tactical applications of reading are useful, I want to suggest that you then go beyond them, and discover reading’s long-term strategic applications.
In its way, reading is one of the best and most reliable ways of visiting the future and returning with actionable intelligence on it. And I don’t mean just for year-end planning, or getting ready for next tax season — I mean for knowing where your career and your firm (and those of your clients) will be in five years, or a decade, or even longer. This is the kind of knowledge that you need for long-term planning, whether for your own career development, for structuring your firm, or for advising clients.
I’ve suggested before in this space that you should be spending an hour every week on this kind of future planning — researching what’s coming and blue-sky-thinking about how you’ll make the most of it — with much of that time given over to reading. And though it pains me to say it, the most valuable long-term reading may not be in shorter articles (no matter how great they may be!). For a good view of the deep future, you should aim for bigger reads — larger-scale white papers, for instance, and most important, books. Books like Richard and Daniel Susskind’s “The Future of the Professions” or George Gilder’s “Life After Google,” and many more offer indispensable foundations for strategic planning and future thinking (and you can find even more in the compendium of useful reads compiled by Jennifer Wilson and her team at ConvergenceCoaching, which you can see below). Even if you don’t agree with their conclusions, you can still shape your plans in reaction to their efforts to paint the future.
As someone who deals in written words for a living, I’m naturally biased toward reading — but it isn’t the only way to gather intelligence about the future. Podcasts are rapidly establishing themselves as a useful source, such as Ed Kless’ “Sage Advice” or Ron Baker and Kless’ “The Soul of Enterprise” or Darren Root’s “Better Every Day” or Blake Oliver and David Leary’s “Cloud Accounting Podcast” — and there are more popping up all the time.
You’ll also want to be sure not just to focus your future research on accounting. What are the forward-thinking books and podcasts your clients should be paying attention to?
In the end, this idea is not really about reading: It’s about getting ready for the future. And that future is here now, today, hidden between the covers of a book or in the middle of a podcast. You just have to devote the time now to uncovering it.