When I was young, I remember my parents making a deal w/ me (and essentially my siblings). As time distorts memories, this is my remembrance and interpretation: Do your best in school and athletics, and we’ll take care of the rest.

They instilled a norm of excellence; do your best because doing your best is the right thing to do. I never wanted for anything, and I knew my part of the deal was key in that reality. If I gave my everything, they would go above and beyond (their means, as they often did) to provide me every opportunity possible. They instilled, subtly, without me even knowing it, the importance of accountability.

I took to the academics as much as I did the athletics. They went hand in hand. “What good is a state champion wrestler if he doesn’t have the senses to do something beyond that accomplishment?” is the rationale I always worked with. I finished high school in the top 10% of my class and carried that over to Lock Haven University, graduating w/ a 3.985 (one A-).

From college, it was a brief stint teaching, but then I went all-in w/ athletics. I spent close to a decade pursuing one thing: to be the best fighter in the world. Academics, per se, was not part of my life. I was no longer in an educational setting, but my learning did not stop. I continued to read as a source of inspiration and comfort. Most of the books I read were biographies and autobiographies about athletes, icons, business people, and successful leaders. A constant in my life has been: if they can do it, I can do it. Reading gave me a front row seat to watching “them” do it. I’d occasionally throw in some fiction, but, for the most part, reading was my pat on the back and source of encouragement to keep on keepin’ on.

Post fighting (this is where I really want you to pay attention), I had no purpose. The transition period from fighting to not-fighting was lonely, extremely lonely. It was a loss of identity and purpose, as was finishing my wrestling career. I had nothing to do, no value that I could see. I had no job. My peers were no longer by my side daily. I was no longer fighting for a thing. It was a period of reflection and deep thought.

And then I found everything I was looking for in books. I devoted myself to learning. Reading and learning became my purpose. In time, teaching became part of that equation. By reading books and continuously learning, I was surrounding myself w/ positivity and growing daily. I was (am) becoming a better person.

I invite you to find your answer in books. Start. Pick one. Something that interests you. It takes time. You can’t fast track it. But you also can’t deny it’s benefits. Opening up a book is like opening up a whole new world. You’ll find, in time, you’ll become a better person, as well. You’ll become more aware of others around you. You’ll become more aware of your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll become more empathetic and understanding. You’ll understood more clearly your space in the world. And you’ll find a community of others, people who love books and learning. You’ll find a connection to the world.

I also invite you to follow along w/ my learning. Every M-F, I produce AMXbooks, which is part of The Spaniard Show. It’s eight minutes of energetic learning. You can read alongside me, or you can simply draw inspiration from the books I’m teaching. What books am I reading? Truthfully, it doesn’t matter. It’s the art and practice of learning that’s most important.

You can watch live on facebook.com/charliespaniard. You can watch on youtube.com/charliespaniard. And you can subscribe on iTunes/podcast app by searching Spaniard Show.

Need a book reference? I’ve put together my favorite at charliespaniard.com/readinglist.

Go read a book, and tell me about it!