Do you have a mental list of “things I should be doing more of?”
Haha, trick question. Of course you do. Everyone does.
Is reading on that list? If you’re perusing a blog on personal development, it probably is. It’s definitely on my list.
We all know we should read, but making time to do so takes intention. So why carve out time to read?
Because reading a lot of books, especially nonfiction, will change your life.
Not “can.” Not “could.”
That’s quite a lofty promise, I know. So how, exactly? I’m glad you asked. Let’s look at what the humble book can do for you!
1. Reading Provides In-Depth Information
For breadth, you can’t beat the internet. It allows you to learn the basics of anything, and often amazingly quickly. But depth — structured, nuanced knowledge about a specific and narrow topic — is still hard to acquire online. For true immersion, you can’t beat a book.
Would you like to know what one of history’s greatest thinkers had to say about the human condition? Read Seneca.
How about some thoughts from one of the world’s leading psychologists on the usefulness of optimism (and when it might not be so useful)? Martin Seligman’s Learned Optimism might be for you.
Or a book on money habits that’s chock full of data but reads like a novel? You, my friend, need to check out The Millionaire Next Door, by Stanley and Danko.
You can find the basics online, but if you want to really absorb an idea, pick up a book.
2. Reading Teaches You Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know
It’s a constant challenge to respect our own ignorance, and it’s a good idea to do so. We’ve all learned a few lessons this way (some of them quite painful).
We can keep an eye on known unknowns (the things we know we don’t know), but we’re helpless against unknown unknowns (the things we don’t know we don’t know). In the 1950s, for instance, most smokers had no idea the damage they were doing to their bodies. They didn’t know what they didn’t know, and as a result they couldn’t make an informed decision about smoking. Our societal ignorance cost many lives.
Have you ever read a book that blew your mind? A book that made you think, “How have I lived my entire life up to this point without knowing this?” If you read habitually, you will come across books like this often enough to keep the reading habit going.
3. The Effects of Reading Accumulate Quickly
As with any habit, the results of reading start to pile up. Two books a month (my own current goal) is 24 books a year. Over five years, that’s 120 books.
Imagine two versions of yourself, five years from now. Version A is regular you, much the same as you are now. Version B is “Look-at-me-I-have-read-120-books!” you. Think about all the ways Version B’s life is different. Think of everything he or she now understands that Version A doesn’t.
Reading consistently can change your world right away, but the biggest benefit is in the long-term change.
Where to Start
What’s a thing you’d like to know more about?
– World War II-era submarines?
What if you read 3 books on the subject? How much more would you know about this thing? A lot more than the average person, for sure.
What if you then read 5 more books? You’d be a real expert.
There are ~130 million published books in the world. There is so, so, so much good information in book form that we can’t responsibly not read. We’re bound to have our world expanded in ways we can’t foresee.
So if reading’s not a major priority in your life right now, I’m asking you to make it one.
Start with a single book, make it a fun one, and start today!