How I Read

I still remember the feeling I had, when I looked at my freshly handed school diploma right after graduation and thought to myself: “So, this is supposedly proof now that I’m ready to handle myself intellectually and make a living in society?”

It was extremely weird, because although that diploma said otherwise, I felt like I had no clue whatsoever of how the world works and I still felt utterly unprepared to make educated decisions for myself and others later on.

Regardless of criticism of the education system and of lacks in parental upbringing, I made the wisest move of my life so far back then. I decided to stay a learner and to keep on evolving. I decided to be a student of life and become a daily reader of life’s treasures.

How come, I can be for years at a place supposed to prepare me for the world out there and never hear a single thing about how contracts work, how the tax system works, how I can make money, how relationships functions, how you efficiently deal with people and projects, how to eat, get in shape and many, many more?

I didn’t feel like most kids that age. The stuff I learned about animals in biology, about the French Revolution in history and about  every other topic wasn’t useless to me. Knowledge was always valuable, but everything I learned in school wasn’t sufficient. It wasn’t enough by far.

It was clear to me that a huge chunk in life is simply learned through experience and practice, but I wanted to compliment that with further ideas and mindsets of people further along the way, so that I could make the most of it.

Oftentimes we’re at the right place, but interpret it badly, because our map lacks detail and isn’t a good enough guide. Therefore we stagnate,  we waste time, things, people, resources or worst of all: we give up.

What if you cheated while married and the map you have to interpret the territory is one of a orthodox Jew? You’re in trouble. If you manage to keep it to yourself, you’re still in trouble emotionally, because you now know there won’t be any happy ending for you.

What if a better life was possible? A healthier one?

What if the world wasn’t unfair, but you? To yourself?

What if we’re not adults, but grown kids with capacity to act?

A buddy of mine who is a nutrition coach once said to me: “If you COULD have a sixpack, you already WOULD have one. You DON’T have one, so you obviously – at least right now – CAN’T get a sixpack.”

This really resonated with me and the logic behind that reasoning is true for many things in life. We’re oftentimes too unconscious and not able to look at things objectively without ego protection and confidence preservation.

If I was able to be a billionaire, I would already be one.

If I had what it takes to bang a 1000 girls, I would already have banged them.

If I had enough theory and understanding to transform my body into top shape, I already would have done so.

This is a crucial shift of thinking within the progretarian set of ideas.

So, as I’m not a billionaire and I don’t have banged a 1000 girls and I still could be leaner and fitter, I have to hustle and grind my ass off. I have to practice, practice, practice and work, work, work until I get there. That’s why the Matrix movies are so appealing to people. Neo and Trinity just call the Operator and demand their skills being downloaded. “I know Kung Fu”. And in order to get me to my desired goal fast, I have to use efficient, detailed maps to understand the territory.

And this gets me to the point of this post: In order to have detailed and efficient maps, you have to read, read, read and read even more.

Of course, you have to reflect your experiences with the expertise of other people, but at the same time you have to reflect things for yourself and sharpen your understanding in the most self-beneficial way.

There is no way around reading.

“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 do it.”
– Warren Buffett

If you’d look at the most successful people in any field, you were surprised by the amount of words they digest everyday. Books are dumbbells for the brain.

Put your brain under stress and it grows stronger. Don’t expose it to any stressors at all and it slowly atrophies to the point of no return.

Most of the tragedy in life is self-created, because people simply lack a better understanding of what’s going on. They arbitrarily formed beliefs about things in childhood and youth and stuck with those.

If you are 26 right now and you want to be significantly better off, when you’ll be 46, you have to understand that the 26 year old guy with all his knowledge won’t be able to pull this off. You have to evolve into something else. Similar to your first hour in driving school and your ability to drive today. There’s a journey of practice, exercise, reflection and correction in between.

One can’t have a rich, versatile and prmoiscous dating-life and keep his narrow-minded beliefs about marriage and monogamy. It’s obvious. If you want to improve, improve your maps to find the way to that place where you’re better off or correct your belief about that place.

 

The techniques:

  • Reading is habit formation. Start to practice right away with reading “The Power Of Habit” and “The Willpower Instinct”. Use the information in those books to hone your new skill.
  • Anchor your reading initially to a place and time. I read 30 minutes every morning after waking up and drinking a glass of water. The time (after waking up) and place (bedroom) are triggers to the routine reading and I reward myself with a nice paleo breakfast. Next to this I read 2 hours every night before sleeping. Place and time as triggers are similar and my reward is falling asleep nicely.
  • 2,5 hours daily is a lot and works for me. I’d suggest to start off with 30 minutes every evening. (Weekends are private time, so I don’t do this on the weekends, although I’m flexible in my thinking and schedules and things may change according to circumstances.)
  • I’m so used to reading at night that I can’t even fall asleep without it anymore. My brain is fully conditioned to be awake and sharp during that time frame that I literally feel like going crazy, if I just lay down without looking into a book.
  • On top of that I highly recommend audiobooks to make use of those transit-times during the day. Whether you use public transport or the car a lot, everybody has regular windows of time during the day where he can add an extra workout for the brain. I listen to audiobooks in the gym, when jogging, buying groceries, doing errands, walking to dates or clubs. I usually listen to non-fiction. Check out my Instagram for some inspiration. Audible is my preferred platform, because it’s convenient, has a decent price model and syncs over all your devices, but anything else works as well. Whatever you use, make sure you carry it with you to increase chances of trying it out. That’s why Itunes or Audible are great, because your smartphone is already with you.
  • I really prefer a Kindle to regular books, because I can hold it longer with one hand and read faster. It’s completely up to you and personal taste. Most hardcore, frequent readers are religious defenders of the physical book. Find what works for you. I travel a lot and enjoy doing so with light luggage. Plus everytime I’m interested in a book, I just download it and am good to go.
  • Read smart. Don’t just go linearly/chronologically through the book. Read the table of contents to get initial structure, then the back and front of the book. Peak into it and hop. Google things you don’t understand. After finishing the book, check out whether the Author has a blog or TED talk, follow him on Twitter for more interesting thoughts, read his Wikipedia and other books, if you enjoyed the first one. In one word: get contrast and context.
  • Read actively. The more proactive you interact with the content of the book, the better you might be able to understand and internalize what’s going on. Question assumptions, go back, read again and see whether the author answered your questions. Create an internal dialogue between you and the author. Give the “Feynman Technique” a try.
  • A lot of people like to underline, circle words or make notes into their books. I’ve personally come to the conclusion that those techniques are not efficient enough for me. They take a lot of time and produce little in return. The Kindles have a built-in underlining and mark-page function. I use those and usually end up with 10-50 underlinings per book. Those then can be viewed in your Amazon account within every browser. I then clip those notes from Amazon into my Evernote. That’s where I keep all my notes and have some sort of digital commonplace book. Most authors write articles, have blogs, smart tweets and various other outlets. I can incorporate those ideas as well and don’t have to limit myself to the book, when extracting notes. Plus I have the notes with me, when I’m on the computer, as well when I use my smartphone. Sometimes while travelling I put written notes into the notes app of my iPhone. You can have the notes app sync with Gmail and put an automatic filter into Gmail to forward all emails labeled “notes” to your Evernote Email address. This way all notes stay in one place. If I read a physical book, I take pictures of the sites I find interesting occasionally. Within the pictures app I have a shared photostream that syncs again with Evernote and all notes again are in one place. The premium version of Evernote has OCR and thereby photgraphed text gets indexed and searched as well. If I want to highlight or add anything to the photgraphed site of the book, I use the Skitch app from Evernote. It’s the most convenient way for me personally. If you prefer to put everything on paper and categorize that or if you don’t want to take any notes at all, all good.
  • I usually read a whole bunch of books by topic or major, overarching theme. I also keep a todo reading list within Evernote of books I want to read in the future and those lists are categorized by topic as well. I recently went through the topic of death and dieing. I read 26 books on it to give me a better understanding. I usually find those books via Amazon, Goodreads and things I find on blogs and Twitter. I use feedreaders like Feedly and Twitter only passively to stumble onto interesting things from people I find valuable. Major themes in my reading list are money, startups, Religion/God, Universe, culture, history, biographies and many more. It helps me to focus on one topic deeply for a while and get many different opinions adding more richness to it. If you don’t use Evernote, the Amazon wishlist function might be a nice alternative to have your reading list in the cloud.
  • The big plus of using Evernote as a digital archive for me notes in comparison to a regular commonplace book is the search function. Everything is indexed and fully searchable, I just have to enter one word and find everything I need over all notes taken. This leads to interesting synergies and cross conclusions. Plus, it’s just faster. But again, it’s personal taste. Any notes, are better than no notes.
  • “I don’t have the time to read” is an excuse. Shane Parrish addressed that well.
  • The second most common excuse I get from friends is “I don’t have the money for all those books”. Yes, it costs money, but those are not sunken costs, but investments with huge future pay offs. Decide for yourself what you value. Tyler from RSD once said his Amazon bill is bigger than his rent. That’s the mindset. It’s worth it.
  • If you still can’t make those investments, although the mindset is in place, try libraries. Hardcore readers and book fanatics like Ryan Holiday don’t find it appealing to not own the books, but as a young guy I got my books from libraries for years. Libraries are amazing places in most western countries. Knowledge for free, workspace for free. Make use of them.
  • I don’t remember where I read this first, but I like this example a lot: Do the math. 2,5 hours reading a day. 12,5 hours a week. 50 a month. Look at the times necessary to get adegree. Or look at the load of books necessary to get a PhD. It’s somewhere between 20-60 books. If you keep at your reading habit, you add another private PhD to your arsenal every few months. Knowledge is power.
  • People and societies can become really obvious in their functions to you, but have to get to a place high enough to see the whole territory.
  • Always remember the progretarian approach: Average is dieing & the future is about muzlti-disciplinary expertise. If you want to thrive tomorrow, you HAVE to educate yourself and keep on educating.

 

(I’ll add more thoughts to this over time.)

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How I Read

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