The 100 Book Challenge

Amy Thomasson
August 12, 2021

Is your career exactly where you want it to be?
Have you achieved all of your professional goals? While I’m pleased with the personal progress, I’ve made towards achieving my full potential, I know I still have a long way to go. Which is why, when I learned in a survey from Fast Company that the average CEO reads 50 books per year, I decided to hit the books and challenge myself to read 100 books on business, professional development, and personal growth. In the hope of inspiring, you to start your own reading challenge, here’s how a two-year, self-paced reading challenge changed my life.

Exercised My Mind
We’ve all heard the adage, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” and it turns out that it couldn’t be more wrong. Advances in neuroscience have discovered that through skill development and repetition, we can create new neural pathways in the brain. “Reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding,” said Bill Gates. If Microsoft co-founder, billionaire, and intellectual powerhouse Bill Gates learns primarily through reading, you can likely pick up a few insights by grabbing a book.

I chose to organize my reading journey by selecting broad categories within business, professional development, and personal growth. I selected a few “stretch” categories that I’m less familiar with, like business technology, to challenge myself. And I added a few “personal passion” categories, like women in business, to keep me inspired and motivated along with way.

Boosted My Confidence
I love a good personality test or strength-finding assessment, and for those familiar with the Enneagram, it is probably abundantly clear by now that I’m a Type Three: The Achiever. Therefore, it’s easy for me to say that there is nothing more personally fulfilling than setting and conquering a goal. While you may not share my particular intensity for goal smashing, you still likely get an endorphin hit from crossing something off your list.

Although I don’t think I’ll ever consider my reading journey complete, each book finished, and each insight gained gave me additional sparks of confidence. It turns out that wave of good feelings isn’t unique to my experience. A survey by the U.K. organization, BookTrust, found that 76% of adult readers felt reading improved their lives and made them happier. Gaining new perspectives and ideas and making a concerted effort to improve our knowledge is the ultimate form of self-care.

Helped Me Connect with My Community
I began my reading journey by soliciting recommendations online through my LinkedIn connections, and in-person through coworkers and fellow volunteers. My father also retired a few years ago after a hugely successful career, and I combed his and my husband’s bookshelves. If you take one piece of advice from this article, make it this one: ask for reading recommendations and make sure you read them and follow up with the recommenders.

These recommendations have served as glimpses into the minds and hearts of my closest family and friends, as well as newer-to-me colleagues and peers. I loved learning what they’re passionate about through their recommendations and making sure I read those recommendations and shared my thoughts let them know I heard them, I value their opinions, and I’ve invested the time in their recommendations. Sharing my own recommendations has also been a great way to build my personal brand and provide value to the association management community.