An Investment in Reading

Warning: This is another post about reading. It is inspired by the book, The Art of Impossible by Steven Kotler.

Look at these figures below:

Blogs: Three minutes gets you three days.

Articles: Twenty minutes gets you four months.

Books: Five hours gets you fifteen years.

Chapter 9: The ROI on Reading

What does this mean? According to the author, the average reader reads at a speed of 250 words per minute. The average blog post of 800 words takes about three days to write. To read a blog post would take about three and a half minutes. A five-thousand-word article takes the author about four months to create. For the reader, it takes about twenty minutes to read. And for books, the numbers go even higher. The author’s book, The Rise of Superman, took fifteen years to write. At 75,000 words, the average reader would be able to complete it in about five hours. Hence, five hours gets you fifteen years.

By reading, you are getting a fast-track version of what it took someone to learn, think, and write about.

To use myself as an example, so far this year I have read:

If the average time to write a book is fifteen years, then in five months I have consumed 165 years of other people’s wisdom and knowledge. Even if I only retain 10% of what I have read, that still puts me at sixteen and a half years in five months.

My quest in life is to acquire wisdom. I understand this is not everyone else’s quest, but everyone can benefit from more knowledge, more understanding, and of course, more wisdom.

Jim Rohn said, “Miss a meal, but don’t miss your reading.” Are you getting in your recommended daily allowance? Imagine what would happen if you read only ten minutes a day. That book that only takes five hours to read would be complete in one month. That is twelve books a year at ten minutes a day. For 180 years of knowledge in a year’s time, you are only giving .7% of your day. Is there any other investment you could make that has that high of a return?

In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter) who didn’t read all the time -none. Zero.

Charlie Munger

Wisdom is calling us. She freely gives her fruit to those who would seek it. Heed the call and go pick up a book.

Moreover, books pay performance dividends. Studies find that they improve long-term concentration, reduce stress, and stave off cognitive decline. Reading has also been shown to improve empathy, sleep, and intelligence. If you combine these benefits with the information density books provide, we start to see why everyone from tech titans like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk to cultural icons like Oprah Winfrey, Mark Cuban, and Warren Buffet credit their success to their incredible passion for books.

Chapter 9: The ROI on Reading

Feature photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

Value of Books

Prudence 8/5/2019

Before the printing press arrived in Europe, books were an item that the average person could not easily obtain. Books in that time were handwritten and definitely not cheap. By the 1500’s, books cost about 1/5 of what they did before the printing press. Sure they were a lot less, but still more than the average person could afford.

In the early 1500’s printing presses were still relatively new in Europe. One of the greatest thinkers of that time was Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, or better known today as just Erasmus. According to the trusted sources at Wikipedia (uh-hmm), Erasmus wasn’t a wealthy person. But what did he say he did with the money he acquired?

When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes. -Erasmus

A few centuries later another notable scholar said something similar. In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “From a child I was fond of reading, and all the little money that came into my hands was ever laid out in books.” He went on to state that spending money on books was more important that spending money on food.

Even in Franklin’s time, books could have not been easily acquired. Yes, maybe easier than in Erasmus’ time, but nothing compared to today. Today, books are everywhere. Many are free or can be borrowed. You can get it in any way imaginable (print, digital, audio). There is information on almost anything your heart desires, all you have to do is Google it to point you in the direction you want to go.

This week, I was packing up my home office. Countless books were going into boxes. Some of the books, I may never get around to reading in my lifetime. Hopefully, that is not true of the ones on my Kindle.

For those that know me, they know I have a passion for reading. It has become a part of my identity. I like to read. If I am not paying attention, I can easily sit for hours engrossed in a novel. In my younger years, all I read was fiction. As I got older, my preference has turned to non-fiction only reserving fiction as a before bedtime routine.

Lately, I have started to wonder how all of this reading has helped me. I love to read books that teach valuable lessons. I believe they can in some way help me become a better person or live a more meaningful life. I consume one and then move on to another. Some I will read and afterwards wonder why I even wasted my time. Others leave their mark, but yet I still move on to the next. These are the ones that have me thinking that maybe I need to slow down. Absorb it. Maybe read it again or as Naval Ravikant suggested in his interview with Joe Rogan (#1309), stop and meditate on it. Would this not be of much more value?

The wisdom that I am pondering today goes back to the basics. Quality always wins over speed. At the beginning of every year, I lock in a goal number of books to read. Why does it matter if I am not getting anything from it? I need to slow down and soak it all in. And if I didn’t get it the first time, I need to go back and read it again