Two years ago, when I was graduating college with a philosophy degree, I started feeling some (well-deserved) anxiety about money. All my friends who studied computer science or economics were off to Silicon Valley or Wall Street, while I wrestled with the question of how I wanted to spend my time after school and earn a living.
So what does any good philosophy student do? Start asking uncomfortable questions, of course!
In the months before I graduated, I began asking everyone I knew this question: what would you do if you never had to worry about money ever again?
I asked my professors, my best friends, my sworn enemies, everyone!
Most people answered as if the question meant that they had a billion dollars in the bank — but that’s not quite what I meant. (In fact, it seems that billionaires sometimes have the most anxiety about money.) Rather, I wanted to ask people how they would spend their time if the part of their brains that stresses about money simply turned off.
Suddenly, people started giving answers that reflected their genuine desires and interests. One close friend of mine said he would ditch his job at a tech company and pick tea leaves in northern China. Another friend told me that she would move to San Diego and teach surfing lessons like she did before she started working for the UN. One friend told me he’d drop everything and join a circus as a juggler. The list goes on and on.
However, the most common answer to the question by far was one simple activity.
I can’t tell you how many people I met who wished they could read more books. It seems that everyone knows how a good book can open worlds, but there are so many amazing worlds to explore, and it’s very hard to find the time to make a habit of reading.
Luckily, reading is also one of the most accessible and enriching practices out there. There are local libraries almost everywhere and tons of free books available on the internet, and since even a single book can change someone’s life in such a meaningful way, a small investment of time can have an enormous impact. In my experience, reading is one of the best ways I feel I can spend my time.
Soon after I began asking everyone the question about money, I started asking a different question: what’s the book that had the biggest impact on your life?
The answers were no less varied, ranging from Harry Potter to the Bible. People shared how they could read a novel and feel more emotionally moved than by anything they experience in real life, while other people told me how reading a non-fiction book in a new field completely altered their career paths.
For me, I really click with audiobooks. I grew up with my mother reading stories to me every night, and I find that stories truly come alive when they’re read aloud to me. Also, since the narration speed is adjustable on most audiobook apps, I can listen to books fairly quickly. Before audiobooks, I would finish two books per year; now, I can finish two books per week. Before audiobooks, I used to think of reading books as a chore to be avoided; now, books bring me so much joy!
Later, I realized that I was in a unique position: since I started compiling a list of high-impact books, and because I would fantasize about spending all my time reading, I figured I could challenge myself to do something special. I wanted to listen to 100 audiobooks in a single month!
I hatched the idea because there are so many amazing books out there — so many worlds to explore — and if I choose the right books, I could learn and grow more in a month than I would by doing anything else.
I realize it sounds extreme, and I’m not even sure I’ll be able to pull it off, but spending time with books is always worthwhile and I know I’d love the journey, even if I don’t make it to the destination.
So, with a mixture of eagerness and nervousness, I’ll be listening to 100 audiobooks in March, 2020.
Wish me luck and follow my progress at 100audiobooks.com
And please, send me your book recommendations while you’re there! ❤