Reading, and how I’ve been doing it wrong

I read over 50 books in 2016. My goal was 36, but I ended up going way beyond. 

Full disclosure, I count audiobooks, and I have a two hour commute each day. So racking up the pages is quite easy for me.

Anyway, 50 books. I started with mostly novels. Harry Potter had me Stupified by it’s wonderous dark magic. They were the most beautiful books I’d ever read. 

Plus, self-help used to put me to sleep. But now, that’s really all I read. I’m super into personal development right now. But if you don’t take notes, and set actionable next steps, it’s a waste. 

Here’s the thing: it’s not like I didn’t get anything from the books, the opposite, really. There’s almost always one thing I take from each thing I read. But it’s not storable or archived. I can’t search for it. My brain isn’t that good.

I read an article by James Clear about reading, and how to optimize it. He writes a 3 sentence review of each book he reads. Maria Popova of Brain Pickings and Tim Ferriss – author of Tools of Titans – both make notes in the margins. They both use the highlighter function on Kindle too. You can hear their conversation here.

Anyway, I didn’t do any of this. I was more interested in hitting that goal of 50 than retention. Which is fine for habit building. I wanted to read more, and I did.

But now, I’m 7 books into 2017 and I haven’t taken notes once. That’s 60 books in 16 months and I’ve only busted out the highlighter maybe twice.

So, this blog post is a contract to myself to start doing just that.

Got it? Great. Now you’re my accountability partner. 

If there’s anything I can help you with, let me know. I’d love to help.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s something to be said for reading for entertainment. Because you enjoy it. And that’s fine too. 

In fact – and my wife and I talked about this last week – I’d argue that self-help is just another form of consumption. It’s no better than watching The Real Housewives. Unless you take what you learn and use it to make yourself better.

Otherwise, it’s like scrolling through Facebook. I’m not going to call it a waste of time, because we all do it, and because time means different things to everyone. Not to mention, and, fucking duh, that why most people read.

But if you want to read to improve your life/trade/health, then you’ll need to do more than just read. You’ll need to get after it and work your ass off.

Side note: if you opened this and saw that I read 50 books in one year and got hung up on that, because you’d like to read more, here’s a tip. Pick a book, and read 5% of said book each day. So, if that’s a 300 page book, you’re only reading 15 pages per day. Which is very, very doable.

Anyway, there ya have it. Oh, and I’ll start posting those book reviews here. Keep me honest if I don’t, accountability partner.

Have a nice night.


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