It was not the answer I expected, but I have no doubt it would have made my parents smile.
I'd just emerged from an incredible 48 hours spent inside a hotel meeting room with some of the most successful entrepreneurs, authors, and creative minds in today's marketplace.
And what emerged was a common thread, a common passion that seemed like a burning fire in the pit of each person's belly.
The Big Reveal
They talked about it over and over, in various ways and forms, but it was the common thread that made all these people in the room the most successful people in their respective industries.
It was something my parents (both English teachers) had tried to teach me from an early age, as I grew up in a home where the basement was literally lined from floor-to-ceiling with books.
So the big reveal, the common ingredient to the wild success of all the great minds in the room surrounding me, was ...
Lots of books.
Some of these guys read as many as five books a week!
"If I'm not spending at least two hours a day reading, I'm going to have withdrawal," said Dan Miller, the bestselling author of 48 Days To The Work You Love.
Ray Edwards, a top copywriter whose clients include Tony Robbins, talked about the critical role books have played both in his mindset and in building a successful online business.
Nigel Green, who helped grow a healthcare sales company from $94 million to $350 million of revenue in 36 months, told me he devours the biographies of great leaders from all walks of life.
Now the CEO at StoryBrand, Green shared with our small group one of the best presentations on leadership and building a successful team that I've ever seen.
He credited his fanatical obsession of reading about great leaders and leadership models as the reason he's been so successful in building companies during his career.
Give Yourself Permission
What stunned me most was how free everyone in that room was at giving himself permission to read as part of his "job."
In my own work running a LinkedIn training company, I've always felt guilty reading books (even business books!) during "work hours" or somehow believed I wasn't being productive.
Yet it was made abundantly clear to me during those 48 hours that the reason each person in that room was so successful was because of reading, learning and (most important!) applying the lessons learned in all of those books.
Needless to say, I'm giving myself permission to make reading a regular part of my daily routine.
For a kid who grew up loving Nintendo more than nonfiction books, I'm sure my mom and dad would be pleased with that sentiment.