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

To Take Your Reading to the Next Level: Use OPIR

One Take from the Week #8: OPIR

I cannot recall how many times I have found myself bogged down in the middle of a book that either lost my interest or was not pertinent to where I was in my life. Unless it is for pleasure (fiction before bed), I generally only read non-fiction. This is for the dual purpose of learning and growing. If I am not getting anything out of the book, then I consider it a waste of time. As William Penn once said, “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” My goal is not to have time as something I use the worst.

How can I make the most of my time and prevent a loss of it through wasted reading? I could quit the book like I mentioned in yesterday’s post. This would allow me to discontinue my investment in an underperforming asset. But there is another way. This week I listened to a Living 4D podcast with Paul Check and Ben Greenfield. In this episode, they discussed a method I have heard of from other prolific readers but have never tried personally. It is called OPIR, a way to know what you are reading before you invest (or waste) the time it takes to read the whole thing.

OPIR – Overview, Preview, Inview, Review.

*This strategy was designed to use speed reading techniques to get through business manuals. However, I am not a speed reader. I have tried it and never liked it. It might keep me behind the curve, but I prefer to read at conversational speed. Because I am not a speed reader, the following is my adaptions to the original design.

Overview

  • Start with the cover.
  • Look at the front and the back.
  • Read the information inside the jacket.
  • If you are not familiar with the author, then read the bio.
  • Look at the table of contents. Are you still interested? If yes, then move on to the next step.

Preview

  • Read the foreword and the afterword.
  • Go to each chapter and read the first couple of paragraphs. Skim the rest of the chapter and highlight anything that stands out to you.
  • Is the book worth the investment in time you are about the make? Proceed.

Inview

  • Read the book.
  • Highlight content.
  • Make notes.
  • During the overview and preview, you read the table of contents and glimpsed each chapter. Was there one that you did not find relevant or interesting? Skip it. If at the end, you feel like you missed something, you can always go back to it.

Review

  • Go over your notes and highlights.
  • Take any actionable steps.
  • Hopefully, this book changed your life in some way. The review process is intended to solidify those changes.

Using this process to read a book might cost you a day’s worth of reading. Compare that to a week or a month’s worth wasted in a book that was not beneficial to you. This strategy will improve the value of the content, keep you from wasting your time, and give you a greater ability to retain the information. Give it a try. If you do, I would love to know how it worked out for you. Leave me a note in the comments.

Quit Reading Books

Books can be expensive. Not just the cover price, but in the time it takes to read it. Let’s pretend you buy a 300-page book for $25, and you earn $15 per hour. That book will take about five hours to read which equates to $75 of potential income. Your investment into that book is $100. When was the last time you spent $100 on a book? Now, consider the last time a book cost you a $100.

Again, let us pretend that you purchased the book and have read half of it. You have come to the realization that this book is not doing what you wanted it too. Maybe it:

  • Has become boring,
  • Is no longer interesting,
  • Failed to educate you, or
  • Is not relevant to where you are at in life.

What are you going to do? Will you keep reading it because of that $25 cover price and investment in time? If this were an underperforming stock would you continue to invest in it? Absolutely not! So, what must you do?

Give yourself permission to

Quit the book!

What is a $25 waste compared to a $100 waste? Quit the book. Put it away and find another one that will give you what you are looking for. But how do you find the right book? That is an excellent question. Come back tomorrow for the eighth installment of One Take from the Week, and we will discuss a book reading process that is changing my life and could change yours. You don’t want to miss it, and you won’t if you subscribe below.

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Feature photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

From Reading to Being

I read Historical Fiction. I lived in a make-believe past. I read Fantasy. I went into a fairy tale world. Historical Fiction and Fantasy, with a dabbling of Science Fiction made up the bulk of my reading for over ten years. What do I have to show for it? I can sit for long periods at a time, and I have a rather decent reading comprehension level.

 And then one day, about four or five years ago, I picked up some Non-Fiction. I figured with all the reading I do; I might as well learn something. My life has not been the same since. I went from leadership and psychology to health and fitness. Whatever I came across that I felt had the ability to improve my life, I read.

What has been the benefit? Almost every facet of my life has become a little bit better. In my opinion, the transformation has been amazing. I think different, feel different, and may even look a little different. There is a quality of life I imagine living and every day I get a little closer to it. All because I changed what I read about.

What you read when you don’t have to determines what you will be when you can’t help it.

Oscar Wilde

Nobody forces me to read. And unless you are in school, nobody is likely to force you to read. It is a choice with a myriad of benefits and very few cons. Regardless of age or ability, there is a wealth of wisdom available to us. The only thing holding us back is us. Make the choice to read. What is the worst that can happen?

Contemplating Seneca #61: Mental Digestion

In his 84th letter to Lucilius titled On Gathering Ideas, Seneca makes a  few great analogies to prove a point that is pure wisdom.

Look at the bees. They gather what they need to make honey and then take it to their homes. In the hive it is transformed into honey, no longer retaining the form it had before coming in.

Likewise, the foods we eat transform within us. No good comes from food if it retains its same form when leaving the body. Food is only beneficial when it is converted and its nutrients are delivered to the cells.

The same can be said for reading. I grew up primarily reading fiction. This was an enjoyable way to build my vocabulary and reading comprehension. But after a while the reading became excessive, and I wasn’t growing. And if what you are reading is not beneficial, then what is the point? It is undigested mental food. Knowledge not put into practice is useless.

In this letter, Seneca also briefly compares undigested reading to a father and son relationship. Imagine reading a self-help book and following it verbatim. Regardless of what the author writes, you follow it without qualifying the information. This too is harmful. Rather than becoming an improved version of yourself, you are becoming a clone of the author.

When I think about clones, I immediately think of my son. Alec will often follow me and do the same things I do. I love that he does this, but the world certainly does not need another version of me. My hope is that he holds on to the good, discards the bad, and finds his own improved methods. He can be a good student while at the same time being his own person.

Proper nourishment of the mind, body, and soul requires the necessary transformation in order to succeed.

Examining Epictetus #31: Foolish Delay

The tanks lined up baking in the Georgia sun. Soldiers were trying to find ways to best pass the time. Some were napping, others playing cards, and one was reading. I asked him if it was any good when he finished it. He said it wasn’t bad and then offered it to me. I accepted it desperately looking for something to do to take my mind off the monotony of the day.

It was The Tale of the Body Thief, one of the Vampire Chronicle books by Anne Rice. I remembered watching the movie in the theater a few years before. I enjoyed the movie and thought why not give this book a try. It was the first time since High School that I picked up a book to read solely for pleasure. The year was 1998 and became one the turning points in my life.

That year, I caught a bug. It was a reading bug that I hadn’t had since my elementary days. After finishing that book, I proceeded to read all the Vampire books. Then I read all of Rice’s witch books. Over the next few years, I discovered Wilbur Smith, George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, and Bernard Cornwell, and read all the books I could get from them. When I was took a break from them, I went back to classics: Dickens and Dumas with a little Hemingway.

Then a time came in my life when I thought I could do that too. I could be a writer. And so I started to write. The ideas came from all over the place. I thought they were good. But my writing, it was bad. I struggled to convey my thoughts into words that would flow effortlessly onto paper. Yet I was determined to be a writer. After all, I had already told my closest friends that this was finally the calling in my life I had always been waiting for. I was going to make it work.

Then one day a seed of doubt entered my mind. I imagined all these writers were aged men and women of wisdom. I imagined that they had all lived lives full of experience, and only in their twilight years were they able to create their masterpieces. Who was I, one so young and naïve, to be able to compete with that? I had no life-skills other than that of an infantryman. Of the world, I knew very little. I was simply not ready to be a writer.

If you wish to be a writer, write. –Epictetus

I should have taken the philosopher’s advice. What I wanted to do wasn’t supposed to be easy. I wasn’t naturally talented, and at the time I lacked the discipline to keep practicing. When the motivation wore off, I postponed my dreams with the lame excuse of not being experienced enough. And how exactly was I going to get that experience if I wasn’t writing?

There is a silver lining in all of this reminiscing of a misspent dream. Somewhere deep within, I maintained a glimmer of hope that I could still be a writer. My appetite for reading never wavered, and in that I was still developing my literary mind. Of course if I would have kept practicing, my skills as a writer could have been much better. But as much as it pains me to think on this revelation, there is nothing I can do about it. The past is gone, never to be relived. But today, and the days to come, that is another story. That time is not yet spent and can be utilized toward that endeavor. I can become who I dream of being. I can become more disciplined. I can practice this craft and be the best I can be.

Epictetus asked, “How long are you going to wait before you demand the best of yourself?” It is a wise question worth keeping in mind. When standing before the Almighty on the Day of Judgment, you will not be asked how you measured up to your peers and fellow humans. There will be no comparison of bank accounts and social media likes on St. Peter’s ledgers. But if the Master asks you what you did with the talents He gave you, how will you answer? Will you say you buried them and kept them safe? Or will you take the talents you have been given and invest in them and let them grow? You can be a good steward of the gifts you have been given or you can be the lazy one? In the beginning I was the lazy one, but thankfully my eyes were opened before it was too late. In that I was fortunate to be given a second chance.

Read Different, Think Different

Prudence 11/18/2019

Hitler. Talking over a few beers to his friends. They listened. It wasn’t too long afterward that he was raving his beliefs in front of a whole nation. They weren’t listening to anybody else, but they were listening to him. They burned the books that disagreed with his ideology. They killed the people that spoke against him. They exterminated those that were perceived as being different. One man. One thought. One nation plunging the whole world into war.

Beware of the person of one book. –Thomas Aquinas

If you were only to read one book, what would it be? Okay, that is not a fair question for where I want to go with this. Why would anyone only read one book? And don’t say the Bible, which is really a collection from multiple authors. Actually a better question would be: Why would you only get insight from one author, or from one influencer, whether it be from a book or [heaven help me] a celebrity, like one of those social media types?

If your pursuit is to find more wisdom in your life, you are not going to get it from only one source. You need to find it from books, mentors, and any other place wisdom can be found. Multiple sources. You are going to have to take it in, try it out, qualify it, and if it’s any good, then apply it to your life.

The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of the past centuries. –René Descartes

Now, Descartes put it well when he said this. A good book can stand the test of time. They are written by incredible thinkers driven by the pursuit of wisdom. Unlike today, it wasn’t easy publish books back then .And to keep them in circulation long enough to survive to our lifetimes, they had to be really good. Some of the books today will be gone and forgotten before the end of the decade. And the bad thing about some of the books today is…

The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones. –Joseph Joubert

The old books aren’t popular. They aren’t as easy to read and some of them are really long-winded. But they are worth it. Reading from them will give the reader a different perspective of how life should be lived. It will give the reader a greater appreciation for the things that matter. The old books will change your way of thinking. To really stand out in today’s world, consider consuming more than what is just popular now. Go find one of those old books that has withstood the test of time and give it try. You may find your way of thinking to become different than what everyone else is thinking.

If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking. –Haruki Murakami

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

In the Forge

It begins as a lump of steel. It gets forged with heat, so that it can be shaped. Then it gets ground down, filed down, and cut down. It experiences extreme heat and extreme cold. The steel continues to get stressed until it is hardened. Once the blade has its shape and its strength, then it can be polished.

The sword arm starts out in a similar way. It begins as a lump of flesh and bone, but in time it can be shaped. On the training grounds, it can be stressed until it hardens. And once it has its shape and strength, it can be the weapon that is worthy to wield the blade.

Without a sword arm, the sword is useless and dangerous. It could be a decoration on the wall, or it could be a grotesque tool in a clumsy hand. The sword’s true purpose can only be realized by the warrior trained to use it.

The pen is mightier than the sword. –Edward Bulwer-Lytton

It begins as a jumble of words and ideas. Thoughts fluttering in the ether waiting to be caught. Moved to paper, they begin to take shape. They begin to become solid. In the forge, they get ground, filed, and cut. All the superfluities removed. In time, once the process is completed, the result may be something beautiful and polished.

Just as a swordsman must prepare for the day of battle, so a writer must prepare. Daily practice. Daily study. The mind has to be shaped, and it has to be strengthened. The writer will experience extreme heat from the critics and extreme cold from the disinterested. If the writer can overcome these trials, the message can indeed be mighty.

A pen, not used as a decoration, can also be dangerous in the wrong hands. A reader’s mind has to be strong as well. This too can come from practice.

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. –Proverbs 22:6

It was a proud moment coming home from work when my son showed me a large pile of books and a new library card. This soon-to-be six year-old has a voracious appetite for reading and his skills are really accelerating. It is truly exciting to imagine the opportunities if he continues to cultivate this super-power throughout his lifetime.

Bo's lasting lessons
Could this be when Alec first developed his love for books?

I loved reading as a child but fell away from it as a teen. It wasn’t until a very boring field exercise in the Army that I started reading again. Once that bug infected me, I couldn’t stop. I developed my skill as a reader through fiction in those early days, and it truly has helped in my ability to read non-fiction. It was in those Army days, that I first began to realize that I, too, wanted to be a writer. But in order to be a good writer, a writer, as Epictetus says, has to write. And back then, I didn’t have the discipline to stick with it. I was arrogant and thought it would come naturally. What foolishness. It is on the training ground that a warrior learns the art that prepares him for battle. Likewise, it is in the training of daily practice, that a writer can master his art.

Epictetus: Wanna be a writer, write.