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Letter to my daughter: a secret to getting ahead

In another letter to my daughter, I espouse the value of one key behavior that can be such a career advantage, not to mention fulfilling.

millennial reading

millennial reading

Dear daughter,

Now that you’re getting the hang of your junior year and you’ve got your nose to the grind, we’re touring colleges and practicing your networking skills like crazy. Your career will begin before you know it, and you’re ambitious, so you’re planning on doing everything possible to get ahead and some day become the boss.

We’ve already talked about how your behavior in your future workplace impacts how people see you and treat you, and you know that if you want a raise, you have to ask for it. But we haven’t talked yet about one of my secret ingredients to getting ahead, to giving you an edge your coworkers won’t likely have.


Confucius said, “No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.”

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Your coworkers (aka your competitors for that promotion) will go home, crack open a nice bottle of Shiraz, flip on the Netflix and watch a Breaking Bad marathon before going to sleep. They’ll probably simultaneously Facebook some recipes or joke with their college buddies, and they’ll email their mom, but that’s about the extent of it.

You, on the other hand need to read. The secret to getting ahead is to never stop learning. I know you probably don’t want to hear this because you think school ends after college, but the only thing that ends is structured grading schemes. You then need to essentially homeschool yourself. Blame Confucius.

When you get home from work at night, enjoy some down time, then hit the books. Find interesting blogs that pertain to your industry and subscribe to them. Sign up for newsletters of industry research and read every news source relevant to your job. Then, subscribe to blogs and news outlets that talk about workplace communication, leadership, business skills, and so forth. Find content you love to read and read the hell out of it.

While your work buddies watch tv, you’ll be filling your brain with so much data that you’ll be so far ahead of the curve, it isn’t even fair for them. They won’t know what hit ’em.

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Besides knowing industry trivia, the value is being able to hold relevant conversations with your superiors and their superiors at work. You’ll know about that new study released yesterday that the company owner is chatting about during lunch, and your coworkers that went on a Breaking Bad binge won’t be able to hold a conversation.

Beyond getting ahead, reading books and news will keep your brain sharp, and I promise you that if you keep it as a habit that doesn’t die after school, you will be more fulfilled. Just ask Confucius.

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. bobledrew

    September 11, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Reading is a basic requirement. Like oxygen, or being able to blink your eyes. Reading is part of communication, and almost any career your daughter takes on will require her to communicate. If you don’t read, you won’t be able to write. If you don’t read, you won’t be able to think, analyze, criticize.

    I could not agree more with this post.

    One more point, though: filling your head with data is great. But don’t just read things that contain “information.” Find books that nourish your soul — fiction, nonfiction, biographies — it doesn’t matter what, as long as they speak to you. Read things that increase your ability to understand other people. Read things that help you empathize. Read things that make you laugh and make you cry. Be omnivorous.

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