Increasing the amount I read has had an incredibly profound impact on virtually every aspect of my life. From entrepreneurship and leadership to motivation and personal development to health and science, I have gained invaluable knowledge and years worth of wisdom through a relatively small investment of my time in these books. Furthermore, works of fiction and biographies stimulate the imagination and expand creativity and problem-solving skills. I wrote in my article on Implementing Small Habits to Create Big Change that the habit of reading daily has added more to my life and moved me closer towards reaching my goals than any other of the habits and routines I have. I generally strive to make the most out of my time by eliminating bad habits, minimizing frivolous activities, and maximizing the number of productive events in my schedule. Consuming books - either through reading or listening to an audiobook - is an extremely productive and rewarding activity that I find myself making more and more time for and continue to reap the benefits. I want to share this with you by not only providing motivation and strategies to read more, but also by distilling the information I have learned from my favorite, most life-changing books in a new series of AlphaNerd Book Club articles.
You've probably heard the old adage "leaders are readers", and this can apply to every area of your life, passions, career, relationships, and community. When Bill Gates was asked what superpower he most wanted, he responded, "Being able to read super fast." Warren Buffett, who was sharing the stage with Gates, agreed. Buffett has also been quoted as saying, "Read 500 pages like this 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." Mark Cuban also echoes these sentiments and has said that reading gave him the competitive advantage to succeed in all endeavors where others couldn't. These are three of the wealthiest men in the world touting the benefits of being an avid reader, and they are just a few examples of the ultra-successful that largely credit books for their knowledge, success, and riches.
Reading isn't just a game changer for the individual; the collective knowledge contained within books has the power to change the world. If I had the ability to make the world a better place through one wish, it would be that people read more. I could wish for long-lasting international peace, to end hunger or obesity, to solve water and energy crises and the conflicts that arise from them, or have people be more kind and philanthropic, or any other dilemma facing modern civilization. However, I would choose to make Earth a more well-read place. Why? Because I believe we would find the solutions to all those problems and more through the wisdom, experience, and creativity that books bring us.
Don't just take my word for it. According to a report from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), education is cited as the catalyst for development, poverty reduction, nutrition improvement, health gains, gender equality and empowerment, water and energy sustainability, economic growth, inequality reduction, environmental protection and resilience, and promotion of peaceful, just and inclusive societies. Books are probably the most basic educational tool, but have the potential to have the most profound effects on an individual and his or her community.
Unfortunately, in many parts of the world, people (children in particular) don't have access to books and many are illiterate. I commend the leaders that are taking action to bring books and education to all. For those of us that can read and have access to these treasure troves of information, there isn't really a good excuse for not reading every day, or at least on a regular basis. I often hear my peers complain about how "busy" they are and how much they'd like to read, but they just can't dedicate the time or energy to do so. I used to think that way too, so I can empathize; however, I now know that a change in mindset and habits can fix this life-hindering issue. Military leader General James Mattis had this to say about being too busy to read:
"The problem with being too busy is that you learn by experience (or by your men's experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others' experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men. Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn't give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead."
To re-emphasize the point using Warren Buffett again as an example, it is widely known that he spends about half of every day reading. If one of the richest men in the world has the time to read for hours on end, what's your excuse? These leaders - whether they have millions of lives or billions of dollars in their hands - invest substantial amounts of their day to reading, and I look to them as models for success. In the article I wrote on Habits, I explain how I have made reading a non-negotiable part of my day by having an intense desire to learn and by using my morning and bedtime routines to implement it as a twice-a-day habit. Even if it's just a few pages at a time, I reinforce the habit and continually feed my brain new information at the beginning and end of each day.
Another related habit that I started in 2015 is highlighting, underlining, and taking notes in most of the books I read. After completing a book, I consolidate my notes and save them in an Evernote file. This allows me to access the distilled information quickly from my phone or computer and review the key points and summaries of all the books I read. This process also helps me remember them more clearly and even brings me back to the inspired state I may have been in after completing a book. I also find that as I face new challenges, come up with new ideas, and grow as a person, the lessons I learn from books evolve or apply to my life in new ways. Sometimes I will even pick up on something that I didn't notice in the first place.
With the AlphaNerd Book Club, I will be sharing with you my favorite books - the ones that have had the greatest impact on my life and that I have learned the most valuable lessons from. I will also provide my notes to you so that you can also benefit from this information. I want to note that there is no substitute for reading a book in its entirety. You will not have the benefit of getting every detail, quote, or example given in the books. My notes will probably not convey the author's writing style or voice, and there may be some topics I interpret differently than you would. However, I still believe this will be a great way to give you some amazing information in a condensed format that you can take as-is, or you can use it to guide your reading choices.
My next article (coming very soon) will contain my suggestions for where to start on a journey to personal development and success - the Foundation. This series of books includes some classics that you have surely heard of, some you may have already read, and perhaps some that are brand new to you. I consider all of them essential reads for anyone who wants to be a better version of him or herself. Moving forward, I will continue this series of articles with books grouped by topics which are tentatively: Thinking Big, Building Life-Changing Habits, Learning and Mindfulness, Entrepreneurship and Business Startup, Stoicism, Financial Management, and Health. If you have any feedback for me or book/topic suggestions of your own, please reply in the comments below or email me at Erik@AlphaNerd.co - I highly value your feedback.
I hope that this has motivated you to pick up a book today (and tomorrow, and the day after that...) to begin expanding your mind and opportunities with the infinite knowledge provided by such a simple tool. I'm looking forward to sharing a little of what I've learned from some amazing books soon and aim to provide as much positive impact on you as they have had on me.