The Hidden Benefits of Reading a Book More Than Once

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Several years ago I was enrolled in a neurolinguistic programming course. The creator of the course said something that has had a profound impact on how I consume information.

Most people think they’re going to listen to something one time and change. But the problem is that the subconscious mind doesn’t work that way. There are so many things competing for the attention of your subconscious mind. It’s only when you listen to something over and over that it manages to cut through the noise and your subconscious realizes “this is important.”

In my mind, this applies to books, courses, seminars and just about anything else you consume in an effort to change your behavior.

  • Many of the books on my shelf I’ve read more than once.
  • There are some that I crack open on a regular basis to serve as inspiration for my daily writing session.
  • And of course, there are those very special books that as Darius Foroux says you should read once a year.

So let’s look at some of the hidden benefits.

1. You’re More likely to Remember The Information

While the best possible way to remember what you read is to write about it, revisiting it is another powerful way to remember it. The goal, of course, isn’t to mindlessly read something over and over. Use a system like Ryan Holiday’s notecard system or the index system that Cal Newport talks about in this blog post.

2 .You’ll Catch Things You Missed the First Time Around

Anytime I return to a book or program of some sort, I catch things that I didn’t the first time. I find new pages to dog ear, new quotes that catch my attention, and as a result, I have new thoughts and ideas of my own. You’ll be amazed at how much you didn’t catch the first time you read a book or listened to something. You might have missed the one sentence or one moment that would have caused the change in behavior that you’re seeking.

3.You’re More Likely to take Action on The Information

“If you read it and hear it, you’re much more likely to take action on it.” — Zig Ziglar

For many of my books, I end up listening to the audiobook and also buying the physical book.

For example, I originally listened to the audiobook of Broadcasting Happiness. I found the ideas so valuable, that I bought the physical book. I’m also planning on doing the same with Peak by Anders Ericsson. It also doesn’t hurt that I’ve been fortunate enough to interview both authors.

Seth Godin said the following about audiobooks in a post on his blog

There’s no doubt that a well-read recording of a novel can make a long car ride pass much more quickly. We’re eager to find out what happens next, and sometimes, it’s even worth sitting in the driveway just to find out……I’m more interested, though, in non-fiction audio, particularly the kind you listen to ten or fifteen or a hundred times in a row……One listen isn’t going to do you any good, but if you make it a habit, you might be surprised.

If a message is drilled into your head over and over again, you’re much more likely to take action on it.

4. The Impact of the Information Lasts

If you’ve ever been to a conference, a weekend seminar or some sort of motivational event, you’ve experienced the “high” that comes from such a thing. You sit there on the last day convinced that you’re going to completely change your life, write that book you’ve been thinking about, start that company, etc, etc. A day or two after you return home, the buzz wears off, and it’s back to the grind.

One of the reasons for this is your environment. The environment at these events is designed to elicit such a response. Fortunately, it’s possible to design your environment for optimal performance and creativity once you’re aware of the 9 environments that make up your life.

When you revisit something over and over again, the impact of that information actually lasts. It’s not the temporary buzz you get from motivation and inspiration.

In his program How to Stay Motivated, Zig Ziglar tells the story of people who say to him “you know Zig whenever I get down I put in one of your tapes and it gives me a little boost.” Zig says “why on earth would you wait until you get down? That’s like constantly waiting to fill your tank until it’s almost empty.”

The point that I believe Zig was trying to make is that when we revisit something, a book or program, the impact of that program lasts.

Putting It into Action

There are a number of different ways to go about this:

  • You can return to a book and just read a passage from it. Some of my favorite books to do this with are The War of Art, The Obstacle is the Way, Bird by Bird, and Unthink. I actually have one shelf dedicated to books that I refer to for daily inspiration.
  • Read a book all the way through a second time. I recently read Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake after almost 8 years. As somebody who is now and author, and somebody who has grown up as an Indian American male (the major theme of the story) I had a much deeper appreciation for it.
  • Play an audiobook on repeat until you’re sick of it. While that might sound torturous, when you realize just how much more powerful the ideas have become, you won’t dread it so much.

Don’t underestimate the value of reading any book more than once. A second read contains so many hidden benefits, far beyond what I mentioned above. You may not know what those benefits will be, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth giving any book a second read.

Before You Go…

If doing the best work of your life is important to you, you’ll love my free guide: “Optimizing Productivity & Creativity.

The tactics I’ve packed into this guide allowed me to write over 1 million words in the last 2 years. What could it do for your life’s work? Don’t miss it.


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