The power of reading isn’t a secret anymore. It’s no coincidence that, when asked how he learned how to build rockets, Elon Musk answers: “I read books.”
The common denominator between big-name billionaires? They read. In fact, the average American only reads one book a year while the CEO of a Fortune 500 company reads 4–5 a month.
“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.”
— Jim Rohn
A few years ago, reading was an uphill battle for me. Binge-worthy TV shows and Instagram sucked up my time; I couldn’t muster up the willpower to even crack open a book.
Now, I bulldoze through hundreds of books a year. Now, to me, reading comes as naturally as breathing.
So, what changed?
#1: I Didn’t Buy Into the Speed-Reading Myth
Woody Allen once took a speed-reading course and was able to devour War in Peace — a book with 1,225 pages — in 20 minutes flat.
When asked what the book was about, he said, “It’s about Russia.”
In our digital age where the reading lists of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Oprah Winfrey are only a Google search away, the Internet has started a cutthroat competition to plow through as many books as possible.
And as modern-day reading continues to evolve, focused reading is dying.
Read a book in a week? Great — now here’s a guy who read two books in a day. More often than not, it’s a race to see who can cram the entire New York Times bestseller list down their throats in a record amount of time.
As our external world pushes us to consume as much content as possible, we’re beginning to sacrifice attentive reading to settle for speed-reading flimsy snippets of information.
Most of all, we’re losing critical analysis and meaningful reflection.
“The books that help you most are those which make you think the most. The hardest way of learning is that of easy reading; but a great book that comes from a great thinker is a ship of thought, deep freighted with truth and beauty.”
— Pablo Neruda
Books are meant to be pored over, dog-eared, pages worn thin. They’re supposed to make you think — and I mean truly think — instead of acting as the next rung on the ladder, the next benchmark to meet.
The next time you pick up a book, resist the way your brain is wired. Stop, think, and feel. Sit back, process the information on the page, and reclaim your focus.
As Mortimer J. Adler once said, “In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.”
#2: I Read Books That I Genuinely Enjoyed
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of books that are considered “worthwhile” in today’s society — the books that satisfy our egos and give us the glowing chance to appear highbrow, to brag to friends and coworkers.
This version of reading is purely superficial.
When we treat reading as a chore, it becomes increasingly difficult to absorb ideas — just as textbook material seems to evaporate from our brains after a tedious exam.
Don’t read for the sake of reading. Don’t read a book on the President’s reading list if it bores you to tears. Don’t read finance books to impress others at dinner parties, read the science-fiction novel you’ve been meaning to pick up.
“If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.”
— J.K. Rowling
When you find the book that makes you tick, reading becomes open-and-shut. It becomes a source of pleasure, portable magic that you can carry in your hands.
This type of reading is one of the only ways that we legitimately retain golden nuggets of information.
There’s no better part of the story than when you’re utterly gripped by a plotline, a theory, an extraordinary thought. If you love to read, it will love you back.
#3: I Took Every Chance I Came Across
The average American wastes 21.8 hours a week. Why? We don’t think about how much value our minutes hold.
The few minutes before a meeting, a conference call, or waiting at the checkout lane add up, even if they’re routinely overlooked.
Each time you’re bored, waiting, or looking to kill time, take out a book. Read while you’re waiting for the train, or at the dentist’s office. Rewire reading into a built-in, knee-jerk reflex.
By reading a mere fifteen minutes each day, you can read roughly 18–23 books a year.
- Listen to an audiobook on the go. Although it continually goes unnoticed, your daily commute to and from work or school takes up precious minutes. Translating your idle time into listening to an audiobook is a great way to put that time to use.
- Read before bed. Keep a book on your nightstand and read before you go to sleep. It’s killing two birds with one stone, as studies have also shown that integrating reading into your nighttime routine allows you to sleep better.
- Read when you feel like taking out your phone. Don’t take your phone out of your pocket, take a book out of your bag.
Cash in your spare time for pages, and you’ll be surprised at how much knowledge you’ll begin to accumulate.
- Don’t buy into the myth of speed-reading at the expense of focus. Learn the capacity to read earnestly, thoughtfully.
- Rather than the books you think you should be reading, open a book that truly makes you tick — and turn the book into an extension of your mind.
- Translate your downtimes into superfood for your brain by reading every chance you get.
As Warren Buffett once said, “Read…every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will.”
Invest in reading, and it will become the highest investment return in history.
Mind Cafe’s Reset Your Mind: A Free 10-Day Email Course
We’re offering a free gift to all of our new subscribers as a thank you for your continued support. When you sign up using this link, we’ll send you tips on how to boost mental clarity and focus every two days.