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The Power Of Story – Why Reading Fiction Leads To Success

I’m Cameron Lee Cowan; I’m originally from Denver via Northwest Arkansas. I started writing in 2005 writing essays and short stories. I have a vintage flair in much of my work. All the twists and turns on my journey through music, fashion, theater and writing have provided the background for my writing.

 
Executive Contributor Cameron Cowan

As someone who has been reading since my earliest years, books have been an integral part of my life and I can’t imagine life without them. However, I speak with people who have trouble engaging with books, much less fine, literature. One of the great discussions I’ve had recently with Elijah Szasz is about books. Being a tech-type dude, he had never really read fiction and didn’t truly see it as valuable. However, I’ve started to show him that reading fiction books can help develop new products, generate new ideas, and improve thinking. There is a reason why, despite all the changes, books endure as a singular art form and experience of story.


Person reading a book while on commute

Engage with the story of humanity

Books serve as a record. They give us a peek into what brilliant minds thought at the time. Art is reflective of our culture, values, and our struggles. Some of history’s greatest moments were not told by historians but rather, by literature. What would World War I be without A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway? Steinbeck defined the Great Depression in the 1930s with Grapes of Wrath. Can both of these events be explained by numbers, graphs, and dry historical writing? Of course, they can. But it is the literature that defined the story of those events in our minds. While film, photography, and even television can often define a moment for us, literature has a timeless quality and personal experience that is unique to the medium.


Over the past 15 years, the humanities have been demonized as useless, without merit, too easy, and not worth studying. However, if you want to understand people, the humanities stand by with a tradition of insight. This is where reading fiction is helpful. It gives us a lens through which we can understand humanity. Things like avarice, greed, love, and other human emotions are a vital part of selling better products and growing a business or non-profit. The true value of being well-read is that readers understand humanity in a way that is unique.


Live other lives


One of the best parts of literature is the ability to live other people’s lives. Something usually reserved for actors, reading lets us into the world of another’s experience. In business, especially in the tech industry, many people have not expanded their experience beyond their backgrounds. This often means that the people in rooms, making decisions, are not thinking about the wide-variety of experiences that encompass humanity. This results in products and marketing that are out of touch with many audiences. We can not live other people’s lives but we can read about them. By reading we can take a peek into other lives and experiences and those stay with us and allow us to incorporate those experiences into our working and personal lives.


Learning about other lives creates a kind of intelligence that is hard to get in many other ways. We can only meet so many people, and we can only be so many places. That old trope that books are the portal to a million worlds holds true because they can live with us and allow us to travel without planes and automobiles. We can live other lives without having to entirely upturn our own. This intelligence is valuable because it is not just of the mind but also of the heart.


Deep heart meaning

Literature, even a decent genre, has a power to move us in a way that isn’t replicated easily in other forms of media. This is because each reader has their conception of the story, the characters, and the scenes. A book is a place that we can go to live inside of for a while. It is a universe where we can have experiences, feel all the feelings, and learn about something using both the head and the heart. If there is something that modern society lacks is a sense of feeling and heart.


Technology is cold, unfeeling, binary, and lacks humanity. This is the scion of our new age. For those who feel at home in that space, I always recommend them to read fiction because of all the things that they will learn. Many of these left-brained thinkers barely endured an English class and stayed far away from text that “didn’t seem to matter” or “didn’t teach anything.” The point of literature is to learn things, but it is not hard and fast skills like how to code python or JSON. It is teaching the stories that power our lives.


Life does not exist in a binary. Life has a richness and nuance that is often lost in the metallic nature of modern technology. There is much literature offers that can help inform the technologically inclined. Life is messy and full of human emotions and complications. Learning how to navigate that and understand not just the thinking, but the feeling of people involved grants readers the power of emotional intelligence—something lacking in today’s world.


Final thoughts

Stories are powerful. They are how we define our world and how our brains make sense of things. When we write down stories that last the ages, we learn timeless truths about ourselves, our humanity, and our shared values. The true power of story is really the power of us. Reading great fiction gives readers access to this wealth of knowledge. It may not be as simple or as straightforward as a plain technical skill, but it is important for understanding all the facets of life. This understanding allows us to build better organizations and products. It is as critical as understanding technical specifications. People may not be as easy as a computer, but they are part and parcel of how we live and work in society. Knowing people is invaluable knowledge that has applications all over each person’s experience.


If you’re looking for your next great read, please visit The Official Book List on The Cameron Journal to find your next great read.

 

Read more from Cameron Cowan

 

Cameron Cowan, Creative Director

I’m Cameron Lee Cowan; I’m originally from Denver via Northwest Arkansas. I started writing in 2005 writing essays and short stories. I have a vintage flair in much of my work. All the twists and turns on my journey through music, fashion, theater and writing have provided the background for my writing. I’ve seen exciting people and interesting things, and I do my best to find ways to tell those everyday stories and try to leave my readers with something profound. Whether I’m writing about the world around us at The Cameron Journal or creating a novel, I try to make an observation and leave the reader to decide for themselves how they think or feel about it.


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