We live in an age of shallow thinking and short attention spans. Most people would do well to read more.
If you want to grow more wisely, you need to develop specific practices. Time in silence and solitude, slowing down in nature, surrounding yourself with mature people, taking healthy risks to create more value in the world for others, and the topic of today, always seeking to learn.
In my experience, one of the best ways to learn is to read more.
Reading will help improve your thinking and imagination, expose you to new ideas, grow your concentration, and feed your curiosity. Since so many people are so bad at concentrating and sitting still to read, it is a competitive advantage for your career simply to read more.
Reading will improve your skills to have more thoughtful conversations, which will only further your learning.
Writing a book means the author has prioritized their best thinking and material. So you can quickly learn fundamental mental models, essential resources, and great insights in a single book on a particular topic.
There is also something fundamentally powerful about how reading stories engages our imagination more than watching movies.
Reading a well-written book is a fantastic trade of your time. If you read a good nonfiction book, it is the accumulation of at least a decade, or perhaps an entire career's worth of someone's best thinking and research. So you trade 4 to 20 hours to read the best of what someone else took 10 to 40 years to learn. That's a powerful leverage of your time.
A few quick tips on reading more:
1. Have a particular time and place you read. For me, it's most consistently within the first hour of waking up and right before bed. If you say you don't have enough time to read, you don't have the right priorities. Often you can read more if you simply go to bed a bit earlier. This gives you time when you're fresh in the morning to read. You will come to cherish this time if you prioritize it.
2. Always have your next few books ready. Not having another book to read can slow you down simply because of a lack of planning, and it is easy never to let that happen. Just have a list of books you want to read and always have a few of them on hand ready to go.
3. Give yourself permission to start and not finish books. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that since you started a book, you need to finish it. Your time is valuable, so don't waste it on a book you're not growing from or enjoying. Yes, it's great to push into a challenging book to read. But not at the expense of not reading. Don't read trash, but find the right balance of challenge in your books.
4. Read what inspires, excites, and fascinates. Follow your curiosity. You're not reading for school; you can choose whatever you want to read.
5. Find an author you love and read everything they wrote. This is a way of learning from an influential mentor, becoming engrained in their thinking.
6. Read multiple books at once. Reading books concurrently allows you to read what you're most interested in when you sit down to read. I often want to read different types of books at different times. I read books for spiritual or personal growth in the morning, for learning in the afternoon, and fiction or biographies at night. Reading a novel at night helps quiet my mind and calm me. If you haven't tried this approach, it's worth the experiment.
7. Set a budget to buy books. Prioritize reading by buying books. Simple, yes, but it's always helpful to have more books on hand! If you're not sure you can afford it, look at what you've budgeted for entertainment and cut that so you can afford to read. Or go to your local library, that forgotten place of sanctuary.
8. Use physical, digital, or audiobooks. Whatever helps you engage and read most is what you should prioritize. If you've never tried one of these mediums, experiment with it. If it increases your learning, keep it. Or use multiple mediums. You could choose audiobooks for driving or when you go on walks, and digital or physical books when you need to slow down to focus on a challenging book or when you can sit down to read.
9. Join a reading club or group. Knowing you will be meeting to discuss the book, having the community and accountability to read could help you read something you might otherwise avoid.
10. Learn to read at different levels. Meaning, read some books that are beyond your current understanding, requiring deep reflection and careful questions.
11. Don't let your self-talk limit you. Is telling yourself and others something like "I'm not a reader" helpful? Instead try, "I enjoy a good story." Or "I love learning!". Change your narrative, and you can change your behavior.
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested."
"Your library is your paradise."
Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus
Ask the people you respect most:
What are you reading? What books have most impacted you?
If there are any books you think I would enjoy, send me your recommendations! And if you want any suggestions on a specific topic, let me know what you want to learn about, and I'll share some favorites.
P.S. Share the joy of reading by sending Words of Wisdom to your friends.