“We become what we think about.”–Earl Nightingale
I read a lot of books. But I don’t always finish them, especially if they don’t "hook" me in the first few chapters. Naturally, I have plenty of unfinished books taking up digital space on my kindle and physical space in storage.
The quote above reminded me of something I read this morning that was powerful and got me thinking.
I read every morning in the sun for 20-30 minutes. So earlier today I’m reading a new book on my Kindle in the 90 degrees Florida sun and I just couldn't get into it. Now, normally I would have given up on this book after the first few chapters but because it was so highly recommended I decided to keep going.
The book is called The Science of Getting Rich by William D. Wattles.
This book came recommended as: “The best book ever written about money.” Whether this is an accurate statement or not is yet to be determined. I’ve always been a sucker when I hear someone make a bold claim like this.
If you tell me that “insert book” is the most life-changing book you’ve ever read, I will buy a copy the same day. I’ve always figured that if a book provided me even an ounce of the value it brought a recommender then it would be a no-brainer investment. After all, $10 bucks is a bargain for the knowledge I will use for the rest of my life.
So I buy The Science of Getting Rich per a recommendation I read online and I’m halfway through it (it’s a short read) after 8 chapters.
Then finally I come across something powerful. I stumbled on a nugget of wisdom that I needed to hear. Like really needed to hear. To think I would have missed it if I had given up sooner is a scary thought (and a lesson in itself).
There I am, halfway through chapter 8 and I have a mini-revelation—which the quote above reminded me of—and it was like a bucket of water in the face.
Chapter 8 is titled, “Thinking in a Certain Way.” It’s about how you must visualize, as specifically as possible, what you want and what you are going after in life.
And while I've read this recommendation hundreds of times in hundreds of self-help books, I needed to read it now.
The idea of visualization and vivid goal-setting isn't new or groundbreaking. I’ve read about these concepts in all of the “get rich” books such as Think and Grow Rich, The Millionaire Next Door, The Richest Man in Babylon, and Secrets of The Millionaire Mind, to name a few. Each book covers the importance of using visualization techniques for your goals, and how becoming rich is all rooted in the mind.
Like I said: nothing new.
And yet, the fact that I "knew" this concept did nothing for me in my current situation, a time I needed it most. What I needed was a refresher. Simple as that.
This made me realize something about reading, books, and information…
Sometimes you need the right information at the right time.
While I’ve read about visualization techniques hundreds of times, I hadn’t recently. You see, I’ve been struggling with a sort of early-midlife-existential crisis as I try to figure out what the next step in my life is.
Reading this line was like a slap in the face that I thoroughly enjoyed: “You can never get rich, or start the creative power into action, by sending out unformed longings and vague desires.”
I realized that I had been doing exactly this: sending out unformed longings and vague desires. Because I have so many random desires and goals bouncing around in my head, I’ve been unable to figure out what I need to do because I don’t know what I really want.
And I realized that here lies the root of my problem: I must answer the question “What do I want?” before I can answer “What do I do?”
By first deciding what I want, and then crystallizing that into a vivid image in my mind, the rest becomes a cakewalk. I simply start taking the steps necessary to get to the want. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the basic premise to every self-help, get rich, motivational book was ever written.
“If a man knows not what harbor he seeks, any wind is the right wind.” -Lucius Annaeus Seneca
I am now trying to figure out what I want. Once I have this vision concrete in my mind (and down on paper), I will laser focus on it. I won’t have to struggle with feelings of discontent because I'll have a clear vision of where I’m going and what I’m doing to get there.
Back to books…
Bill Gates and Warren Buffet were once asked what superpower they would choose if they had their pick. They both said they would want to become the world's fastest reader.
I dropped out of college (I never did well in school) and had to learn how to self-educate. I studied business, marketing, management, math, history, writing, psychology, and philosophy by reading books and articles (and podcasts). Then, I apply the principles to life, and that's where the real learning comes in.
Whether you are in school or not, your education should be a never-ending pursuit. This is where reading comes in for great effect. I believe that reading is the most powerful thing you can do to become a better person.
Reading to chapter 8 in The Science of Getting Rich helped me figure some tough questions I had been struggling with for months. It's hard to say how long it may have taken had I not read that book at that time. The thing is, this isn't an isolated incident. Reading has helped me in my life in more ways than I can count. Knowledge is true power when you apply it to your life (not everyone does the applying part).
Reading is the catalyst that transfers knowledge and wisdom into your consciousness so you can then tackle life in a more productive way. There is nothing that can replace it. It is the most powerful thing you can do. That's why you should...
Start reading more!
I implore you to start reading more... and not just blogs or articles on the Internet, but books. You want to read the best books in the world because they have been professionally editing and curated (far more than any blog post or article) and because most of them stand the test of time. The best books in the world contain ideas that are timeless. We will never life in a world can not learn from history and make use of philosophy.
Be wary of wasting too much time with weak books filled with weak ideas. Seek out the best books with the best ideas. There are more of these than you’ll ever be able to read so it makes sense to be a bit of a book snob in this regard.
My tips for reading:
1. Stick with what interests you. There's too little time to read books you don’t enjoy. We all have enough interests to keep us reading great books for the rest of our lives.
2. If you aren’t enjoying the book, even it comes highly recommended, move on. There are types of fiction I don’t enjoy. The same goes for non-fiction books that read like a textbook. There are times you should give up on a book and there are times you might want to try a bit harder to stick with it (like in my example above).
3. Read fiction. There is research that suggests fiction makes you smarter, more articulate, and more “worldly.” I’ve seen this in myself and others. Some of my smartest--and most enjoyable to have a conversation with--friends are well-read. Reading fiction makes you better in more ways than you realize. It’s like doing complex math. While you may never use a complex math equation or formula in your everyday life, you still create brain synapses and expand your intelligence by working through difficult math problems. I think the same concept applies to fiction.
4. Skim sometimes. Certain books lend themselves to skimming better than others. Obviously, this applies to non-fiction. Most non-fiction books are based on one or two main ideas or concepts. The thing is, you can’t sell a book for $19.99 that is only a few pages and filled with one or two main ideas. This is why most books are stuffed with “filler” that makes the book “fatter” so it looks more valuable on retailer shelves. This is the publishing industry.
Sometimes you need to skim the filler to get to the meat. In the example I mentioned earlier, it took me 8 chapters to get to my first idea and it's a good thing I skimmed a couple of the middle chapters or I would have moved on and missed out.
5. Start listening to podcasts and audiobooks. We all spend a ton of time running errands, driving around, and waiting in line. You can use this time to become smarter by using your phone and a set of headphones as a portable learning machine. There are so many free, high-quality podcasts that you will always have something interesting to listen to. Audiobooks are also a great option.
I hope you were able to glean some useful insight from this piece. I also hope you will start reading more; and hey, if you made it this far—1513 words—that’s a damn good start!