Bobby Powers credits his childhood love of reading to something most nineties kids will remember: the Pizza Hut BOOK IT! program. “I loved reading as a kid, and it was partly because I just enjoyed it, and it was partly because I got free pizza and I got to go to free baseball games and I won all these cool things,” he says.
Unfortunately, as Bobby got older–and stopped receiving pizza-based incentives to read–his passion for books began to wane. “I totally lost that love of reading, and in some respects my love of learning, as I went through junior high and high school.”
Bobby would eventually rediscover this love and end up using it as a fuel to power his career in business. But it would take almost a decade, and some major life changes, before he picked up a book for fun again.
The first change came when Bobby entered college. Growing up in a conservative household and graduating from a small, private Christian high school (after having been homeschooled throughout elementary school and junior high), Bobby had assumed he’d attend the local Nazarene college not far from where he grew up in Boise, Idaho. But as decision time drew nearer and he started to consider what he wanted from his college experience, he decided instead on The College of Idaho, a respected liberal arts college nearby. “I could go to this small Christian university in the area, or I could go to this liberal arts college and test myself in different ways and be exposed to different things,” he says, reflecting on how he made the choice. “I am so, so thankful I made that decision.”
Having been raised within a relatively insular and like-minded community, Bobby says that, before college, he’d rarely been exposed to alternate viewpoints or perspectives and he hadn’t taken much time to question his own assumptions. That changed pretty much the second he stepped onto The College of Idaho’s campus. “I got to have conversations and friendly debates with students there because everyone was so intellectual and had their own way of thinking about the world. Those discussions really helped me figure out, what do I truly believe for myself? I got to make my faith my own and discover that, all of these things I have been raised with, these are the elements that I truly believe personally, these are the elements that I don’t really believe or that don’t resonate with me, and these are the things that I’m still trying to figure out.”
As his beliefs continued to evolve throughout college, Bobby says, the constant exposure to new ideas ultimately made his faith stronger than it had been before. “I would describe my faith and ideology as a whole before college as very rigid, very close-minded, very black and white,” he says. “And after college and through college, that faith and ideology instead became more like a trampoline than a brick wall. I could put pressure on it and test it and feel out what I believed. And gradually over time, I realized that there’s actually gray area in a lot of things, and the more I close myself off to hearing other people, the less I’m going to learn, the less I’m going to personally grow.”
This commitment to personal growth not only deepened Bobby’s faith, but also led him back to books. A few years into his college career, after hearing several people recommend it, Bobby picked up the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, and his life was forever changed. “I read Blink, and I had this sudden realization that, oh my gosh, reading nonfiction isn’t boring like I always thought it was,” he says. “I think over time that open-minded thinking crystallized even further as I started to read more and more and realized that there was so much more knowledge out there from all these different people that I wanted to consume. And the only way you can do that is by realizing that you don’t know everything yet.”
These days, Bobby is an unapologetically voracious reader, primarily of business books but also any books he thinks can help him better his life, both personally and professionally. He also runs a website, businessbookreviewer.com, where he summarizes and reviews business books and writes articles about leadership and personal development.
But reading is more than just a hobby for Bobby; it’s a core part of his life’s mission to use his knowledge to help others. “I’ve realized recently that everyone has their own things that they’re really passionate about,” he says. “And the thing I’m really passionate about is the idea of inspiring leadership and lifelong learning in other people.”
From an early age, Bobby thought he might like to pursue a career in business (a desire that was cemented after experimenting with a pre-med curriculum as an undergrad and realizing he hated biology). After graduating from The College of Idaho, he earned his MBA at Willamette University and immediately took on management positions at a few larger companies before coming to Gravity in the Fall of 2017. But upon doing some soul-searching, Bobby realized he didn’t need to be in the C-suite in order to have an impact. “Instead of having career goals, I want to have a life-impact goal,” he says. “My trajectory is going to be focused on what can I do with the impact of my life upon other people? There are a ton of different hats I can wear to achieve that.”
Bobby credits Gravity with helping him explore some of these options. Although he currently works in the finance department, he’s been exploring opportunities to expand his role since he started and recently helped launch Gravity’s Leadership Development University, a training and development program designed by and for Gravity employees that will teach skills like communication, leadership, and conflict resolution.
“It’s been really empowering to have been given the chance to go and pick up things outside of my day-to-day job,” Bobby says. “That’s not something I have ever seen another employer do. Every single one-on-one I have had with my team leads, or really anyone in management at Gravity, I have been asking, ‘Can I do this? Can I take on this new thing?’ And I’ve always been told yes and basically just, ‘Dream bigger.’”
Although the leadership development program is still in its infancy, Bobby hopes it will have a lasting impact on those at the company even beyond the workplace. “I want our training to not just be focused on making people better employees but for it to also be focused on making them better people, at making them better citizens and individuals,” he says.
It’s a goal that Bobby feels is fully in line with Gravity’s culture. “There’s a big company desire here to dream big,” he says. “I think that this concept is woven into the Gravity culture, and that’s something I need to do personally in my own life more. I’m learning from the company and the answers I get from people when I propose an idea and they say, ‘Yeah, do that, and then also do it way bigger than you’re imagining.’ That’s a really cool mentality, and I think there’s a lot I can learn from that.”