“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”-Joseph Brodsky
“Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book.”-Jane Smiley, Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel
“Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”-Voltaire
There are two quotes that I’ve been thinking of lately. (Not the ones above, but those are great too.)
The first one is by Kevin Kelly when he answered a question question on The Tim Ferriss podcast.
The question was, “What is something (a certain habit/skill/hobby) that you believe can have a life changing impact for most people?”
“I think if you can read 10 books a year, all the way through, beginning to end, books of your choice, it would really change your life. And believe it or not, that’s it. Every year, read ten books, and your life will be changed forever.”
It was a simple answer to a big question.
He didn’t spend more than 20 seconds answering the question. He just instructed that anyone looking to change their life should read 10 books a year. That’s it.
Simple and profound… my favorite combination.
This quote has been on my mind a lot lately. This is likely due to my recently rekindled obsession with audiobooks, which I rediscovered after driving to Florida from Texas this past year.
You won’t believe how much reading you can get done with audiobooks. A chapter here, a chapter there; it adds up fast.
This is why Audible is my new favorite app/tool (and my Echo helps a ton). I've tried Audible in the past, but I remember thinking it was too expensive. Of course, I now see that I was thinking about it all wrong.
I’ve always put a high value on books because I know that whatever I learn from them will benefit me the rest of my life. So spending 10 or 20 on some knowledge that will benefit me forever (and compound) seems like a no brainer investment. Considering Audible is helping me get more books finished than ever before, I know see just how valuable it is; a realization that eluded me before.
So, yes, books are an “investment.” The caveat being: if you use them.
Buying books and not actually reading them is something I used to do a lot (still do but to a lessor extent). My backlog of books to read has undoubtedly increased Amazon’s stock price over the past couple years. (Which is sometimes the pitfall you get when there are so many enticing, and cheap, books around.)
A Thing I’ve Learned About Reading
I have a friend that had an aversion to reading because he felt he already “knew” or “understood” the content of most books (nonfiction).
He's smart, so he probably did.
Hell, I feel the same way most of the time considering I've already read so many books over the years and that most books nowadays are usually just trying to say the same thing with different words.
But that's missing the point.
Knowing or not knowing the subject you are reading isn’t the point. This is something I realized in the past couple of years as I’ve grown more passionate about reading and books.
I realized this thing about books when I was rereading a book I had already read. It was nonfiction, and I believe it was relating to sales. It might have been The Secret of Selling Anything by Harry Browne, which you should definitely read if this at all relates to what you do.
So, I decided to reread this book because I was working on some marketing and sales stuff in my new business (Wild Foods). Because I had actually read this book twice before, I wasn’t expecting to learn anything new. Instead, I was just looking for a refresher.
That’s when it hit me.
I had an epiphany. It wasn’t a groundbreaking idea or anything like that. It was just a stupid-simple concept that was going to be extremely valuable in my business.
Yet I hadn’t thought of it.
Yet as I read those pages, which I had already read before, I was smacked in the face with the realization.
Then I thought of the line, “Out of sight, out of mind.”
Shit. That’s it!
That’s the number one reason we need to be reading ALL THE TIME whether we think we “know” something or not.
Every time you read a book, whether you’ve read it already or not, two things will happen. First, you are going to pick up something new. Second, you are going to bring other ideas into your consciousness.
You are going to bring stuff to new and old into sight and into mind.
This realization has given me an entirely new appreciation of reading, especially books and topics I’ve read before.
Another thing I’ve been thinking about lately is the limited human supply of resources. We all only have so many hours in a day, so much energy and so much mental space. And using these resource to bring about productivity, health and happiness is really hard to do.
For example, with my new venture, I’m struggling to find the balance of these three. I'm also torn between so many things I could be doing that it's hard to know what I choose to do is the best thing.
Because I have a “to do” list that’s longer than Jack’s beanstalk—and ever growing—I have to be ruthless with how I spend my time and energy.
This has gotten me thinking more and more about the “out of sight, out of mind concept.” I wonder what insights/ideas/epiphanies are eluding me simply because I might not be triggering them the way a book, quote or article might.
One way I've been combating this is through reading books relating to whatever I’m working on at the time. When I’m working on marketing and sales, I’ll read books on marketing and sales. And so on.
Actually, this really isn’t anything new. It’s what got me into reading in the first place. When I was younger, and I had to deal with some tragic life stuff, I turned to books to seek “answers.”
What about you? What do you do when you are struggling with something?
Some people turn to stimulants or depressants. Some turn to escapism and some attack their struggles head-on. For me, I turn to friends, books, work and movies. These get me through whatever I need to get through.
If I had to rate them, though, books would come first because my brain needs to plan cohesive thoughts around my problems before I can talk about them. Reading helps me identify what I’m struggling with. It helps me put a name to the face. After that, I can turn to friends for advice and feedback. Finally, I let my subconscious get to work by doing something else entirely—movies, exercise, work.
Books Change You… and Always For The Better
I heard a quote recently on Maria Popova's blog, Brain Pickings, that went like this:
“If librarians were honest, they would say, No one spends time here without being changed…”
Aim to read 10 books a year and you will become a better person. Better yet, aim for one book a month.
Read them in their entirety, front to back.