Lessons from reading over 500 books in the last 5 years.
I just finished a great book: “ Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand, which depicts the amazing life story of Louis Zamperini. (Olympic Athlete, navy officer, 47 days lost at sea survivor and war prisoner during WWII)
A few years ago, reading became one of the most important parts of my life. Reading one book a day was even my 2014 new years resolution. I read over 30 books in January, then slowed down to 2 to 3 books a week but 3 weeks ago, I decided to focus on reading again and I’ve been reading one book a day for the last 3 weeks.
I used to think that reading was old school or for nerds and as a consequence never read, but today it is one of the things that I am the most of proud of. I remember when I was a child how my dad was always reading and encouraging me to learn. I just didn’t see any point in doing it and didn’t like reading at all. My dad was right and I wished that I could have listened to him earlier. In fact, if you could give me a chance to change one thing in my past life I would certainly choose to start reading extensively earlier in my life. If I could have one superpower I would certainly choose the ability to read faster.
After reading over 500 books in the last 5 years, I realised how much it benefits me in my day to day life and would love to share with you some valuable tips and ideas about the importance and necessity of reading .
How can you develop the habit of learning?
I never used to read and was maybe averaging 1 to 2 books a year maximum. One event in my life influenced me to become an avid reader. In 2009, after 18 months of hard work I had finally accomplished my dream. My partner and I created a company which was expanding worldwide and I was now travelling across 5 continents to meet our clients. Travelling expenses were huge and I absolutely needed to grow our sales. My competitive attitude and daily hustle weren’t enough to grow the business so I decided to finally pick up my first book on sales and business. The title was “The Ultimate Sales Machine” by Chet Holmes, an international motivational speaker, author and business coach. That book was a perfect wake up call and a way to finally discover what Socrates calls ‘True Knowledge’: “knowing that you know nothing”. It took me 29 years to realise it. A chapter of the book was on the importance of reading. The author mentioned that only 10% of the population had the learning mindset and having it will give you a massive advantage.
Chet Holmes recommended other books as well so I ended up buying a second book from Zig Ziglar. Zig was another self-development guru and mentioned something that struck me. He referred to it as the “Automobile University”. He said that each American commutes to work an average of 45 minutes daily and if instead of listening to the radio they listened to a business and self-development audio program, they would gain the equivalent in the knowledge of a bachelor degree in a period of 2 years. Luckily for me, I was spending 50 days of the year on the plane and had tons of time to allocate to reading or listening to audio programs instead of watching hours of in-flight Hollywood movies . I started to apply their recommendations and after a couple of weeks it became a habit and I haven’t stopped since. Today, I am so grateful that I developed this habit of reading and it plays a huge importance in the success that I have accomplished.
What and why should you read?
It totally depends on what you are interested in and want to learn. Reading will help you gain knowledge, become a more interesting person, develop your skills and become the best version of yourself. My favourite subjects to read on are self-development, business, sales, marketing, psychology & biographies. The two main things that I get from reading are knowledge and positive attitude.They help me develop self-confidence which in turn offers me more opportunities in life. As a result, I am able to live the life I want and it brings me a lot of happiness.
After my family, self-education is the second most important thing in my life. It even has more importance than business or success. Reading self-development books help me identify what is really important in life. We often spend too much time focusing on things that are not important and not enough time on things that really matter.
Haven’t you noticed that we usually spend too much time and money getting an education but then don’t spend any time on our self-education? We spend too much time wanting things we don’t have but don’t spend any time wanting the things we already have. We spend too much time planning our vacations but don’t spend any time planning our lives. We spend too much time planning our wedding and don’t spend any time planning our marriage. We spend so much time worrying if we are fat but don’t spend any time worrying if we are boring. We spend too much time entertaining ourselves but don’t spend any time educating ourselves. As far as the last topic, entertainment (TVs, gaming, social media, music, gossiping), I believe that it is the number one enemy of success. The first thing you should give up and replace by reading is entertainment. Entertainment is an addiction just like food, gambling, smoking or drinking. Entertainment doesn’t make you smarter or wiser but just more stupid and boring. Remember that when you are dead, you don’t know that you are dead. It is only difficult for the others. But it is the same when you are stupid or boring. So let’s be honest, I am not pushing you to live like a monk and stop any sort of entertainment but control it and remember that it will just fulfil
Haven’t you noticed that we usually spend too much time and money getting an education but then don’t spend any time on our self-education? We spend too much time wanting things we don’t have but don’t spend any time wanting the things we already have. We spend too much time planning our vacations but don’t spend any time planning our lives. We spend too much time planning our wedding and don’t spend any time planning our marriage. We spend so much time worrying if we are fat but don’t spend any time worrying if we are boring. We spend too much time entertaining ourselves but don’t spend any time educating ourselves. As far as the last topic, entertainment (TVs, gaming, social media, music, gossiping), I believe that it is the number one enemy of success. The first thing you should give up and replace by reading is entertainment. Entertainment is an addiction just like food, gambling, smoking or drinking. Entertainment doesn’t make you smarter or wiser but just more stupid and boring. Remember that when you are dead, you don’t know that you are dead. It is only difficult for the others. But it is the same when you are stupid or boring. So let’s be honest, I am not pushing you to live like a monk and stop any sort of entertainment but control it and remember that it will just fulfil.
So let’s be honest, I am not pushing you to live like a monk and stop any sort of entertainment but control it and remember that it will just fulfil short-term pleasures and will not help you in your long-term happiness, achievement or success. Identify the areas of your life that you wish or need to improve and make sure that your reading will help you to develop those areas. Whatever you decide to read, make sure to include self-development books. I read them pretty much daily and they constantly help me to be positive, have an abundance mindset and make me a better person.
How can you find the time to read?
You probably believe that reading several books a week and a book a day is not possible for your busy schedule. If you make it a priority, you can easily find a way to make time for it. I used to be an international swimmer and for 10 years I swam 4 hours a day. Despite my swimming career and my busy school schedule, I still had time for my friends, doing my homework, relaxing, taking time off, and doing other extra activities. The reason I was able to do everything was simply because training was my priority, so I organised the rest of my life around it.
Make reading a priority and habit in your daily or weekly agenda. If you are self-employed or have your own business, you should even make reading a part of your job. I am a CEO of an international company and don’t feel bad taking 1 or 2 hours of my daily working time to read. I could probably make more money by working a few extra hours but reading is a priority and I know that it makes me a better person and as a result, improves my performance at work. I attach more importance to being wiser than being richer and learned that outer wealth rarely leads to inner wealth, but inner wealth often leads to outer wealth.
The good thing is that you don’t need to be on vacation and have a full afternoon at the beach to find some reading time. Let me share with you a few tips for easily increasing your reading volume.
You need to find an easy way to buy books. I like to purchase them on Amazon. They have a lot of titles and deliver directly to my home which is handy. I like to read ebooks as well on my iPad through Amazon, iBooks, Kindle app etc.
Audiobooks allow you to read while you commute, drive, do chores around the house or even while you are working out. I recommend Audible.com. It’s an amazing app which is very easy to use on any smartphone or tablet and they have thousands of titles available.
Book summaries can be an excellent way for you to learn faster and increase your knowledge. I recommend:
-GetAbstract.com which has an amazing selection of thousands of great book summaries.
-Philosophers Notes (by Bryan Johnson) (summaries of hundreds of amazing business, self-development and philosophical books)
Remembering what you read:
People often ask me if I remember everything that I am reading. I wish I could but of course I don’t. I learned in my early reading days that you need to read something 6 times to remember 60% of it. So I used to read each book that I was buying 3 or 4 times because I really wanted to understand everything that I was reading. Today, I have a different perspective and realised that it is not a big deal if I don’t remember everything in a book. I don’t see reading as a task or an obligation, but rather a habit and lifestyle. It is not because you eat a healthy meal or do a good workout that you will instantly become a healthy person but developing the daily habit of eating and exercising will guarantee you to be a healthy person. I apply the same principle to reading,it is not what is in one book that matters but it is to develop the habit of reading. As said Richard Steele: “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”
Increasing your reading speed:
I try to allocate an average of 3 hours of reading time daily. I know that the average book will take me 6 to 8 hours to read so using speed reading or speed listening techniques are my only options to increase my reading skills and increase my reading volume.
A lot of people often assimilate speed reading to being a nerd or a faculty professor. I disagree and will prove to you that you or pretty much anybody can easily read more than 500 words per minute (the average being around 200 wpm). Research shows that reading speed is due to 80% of your capacity to handle eye movements. The reason that you are not able to read fast is simply because your eye movements create confusion, visual and mental fatigue. Some recent digital reading programs eliminate the necessity of eye movements and make speed reading so much easier! Take the test and check out the home page of Spritz www.spritzinc.com and you will be amazed to see how good of a speed reader you can be!
When we think, our brain operates at around 500 words per minute. We can easily process up to 500 words per minute while the average person speaks 125 to 150 words-per-minute. The Audible app gives you the possibility to double your listening speed, so a book that should normally be listened to in 6 hours can easily be completed in 3 hours. Download the Audible app and give it a try, after a while, you will be surprised to see how easy it is and how fast you can listen. I now only listen to audiobooks in double speed and even invested in a Sony mp3 player that plays up to 3 times the speed so I can listen to a 9-hour audiobook in only 3 hours.
Why is it so important to read?
“He that loves reading has everything within his reach” William Godwin
Knowledge should be your favourite currency. If you would give me a choice between having 4 extra hours to read a book or $100, I would take the book option. I consider reading as an investment. When I read a book, I know that I am growing my business, I am growing my net worth and I am even investing in my future retirement plan. I like to say that my conception of “having a productive day” is not based on the amount of work that I accomplish but on the amount of things that I learn.
A few years ago, Buckminster Fuller came up with the theory of the “Knowledge Doubling Curve”; he noticed that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By 1950, knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Today, human knowledge doubles every 13 months. According to IBM, we will soon see the human knowledge double every 12 hours! So by the time you go back home and the time you come back to work in the morning, the sum of human knowledge ever discovered will double! Now, the problem is that the current school system is based on principles established hundreds of years ago when getting a degree allowed you to use your knowledge learned at school throughout your entire career. Relying on your school education, university degree or current knowledge to be able to work and progress in today’s’ society is no longer applicable. Consequently, you self-educate yourself and develop the habit of learning new skills and knowledge throughout your entire life. Just like there are no shortcuts to experience, there are no shortcuts to knowledge so don’t wait anymore and start working on your self-education today.
On another note, the more I study successful people, the more I realise that they spend hours and hours a day reading. Warren Buffet reads 8 hours a day, Bill Gates or Richard Branson read several hours a day too. I absolutely love this quote from billionaire Charlie Munger who said: “In my whole life, I have known no wise people who didn’t read all the time — none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren(Buffett) reads — at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.”
I have a friend who is 93 years old. I met him four years ago when my wife was giving him personal training lessons. He had a very successful career and ended up as the VP of a major life insurance company in North America. He knew that I enjoyed reading business books so one morning, after his daily golf practice, he stopped by my house for a visit to bring me a few books. While we were having a little chat, he shared with me the following quote that I still remember today: “The difference between who you are now and who you are five years from now, comes down to the people you meet and the books you read.”
I hope that by now you are starting to understand the importance of reading and learning. Books are one of the ultimate secrets to happiness and success in life. As an entrepreneur and daily adaptor of self-development, I can assure you that I am constantly seeking things that bring me the best ROI and results in my life. Books cost almost nothing (free in a library) and allow you to pick the brains of experts that summarised and shared all their knowledge with you. So go ahead, buy or borrow books and start reading. And as the wise Benjamin Franklin said, you can always be sure that:
“An investment in knowledge always pay the best dividends”.