So many people say you’ve got a read a book a week or a book a day or a book a minute and that hasn’t ever been my way. Who says these kinds of things anyway? That’s not my disposition. I’ve always read very few books but I make them my own. I internalize that book so it becomes a way of life for me.
I remember once when I was studying Shakespeare and someone told me that if I wanted to be the greatest stage performer of all time, I would have to play five roles. Those five roles were all written by Shakespeare.
I can’t remember off-hand what they all were, but one was Hamlet, one was King Lear, one was Henry V and I’m blanking on the other two. But I remember being in a bookstore and just pouring over his plays and this lady sitting next to me was like a Shakespeare scholar. I’m a novice so I’m flipping through like, “Yeah, this is amazing. If only I could figure out what the heck he’s saying.”
After awhile, I started to figure it out and she said to me, “I’m so jealous that this is new to you, that you’re just reading Shakespeare. What you have in front of you is the rest of your life to get into what this guy was writing about 500 years ago and actually embody what he was writing that long ago.” I remember that being huge to me. She was 100 percent right because Shakespeare has come to mean so much to me. I’ve taken on those characters he wrote so long ago and made them part of every speech I do and every performance I do.
Find those books, and it shouldn’t be a lot, that mean everything to you—not the ones that mean everything to everyone else. What do they mean to you? If you do that, you’ll start to embody those things by reading them over and over. People always say to me, “Well, that’s boring, Bo.” What I’m saying is “No, it’s not,” because you’re always evolving. You’re changing. You’re getting older. You’re getting wiser. You’re becoming a mentor. These things change over time. I read Henry V for the first time 20 years ago. What it means to me now is much different.
I love books that really attack and go after the status quo. They go after the culture we’re in. I love the books that go counter to the culture and have a different perspective. It’s really easy to go with the culture. You’re a lamb just following along.
One of my favorite books is the Gold Mine Effect. It jumped out at me so much because it went directly opposite of our culture. One chapter in particular really got me. The title was, “You’re irresponsible if you’re not pushing your children.” In our culture today, the first thing everybody says is they let their kids do what they want and they’re not pushy parents.
I like things that make you stop, take a breath and go, “Did he just say that?” For me, it makes me think I was right all along. My instincts are right. Yours are too. You’ve got to find those writers that go counter to the culture so you have confidence that you’re on the right path. Find the characters that inspire you, like I did through Shakespeare. That will help you right the ship when you feel like you’re falling off.
Now, tell me if you’ve found those books and writers that truly inspire you. Who are they? What are the books? Share them with this community in the comments section below.