In 2018, I read 27 books. Of which I completed 23.
Previously, I wrote about the 10 lessons I learned from reading. Since then I've been ruminating over Lesson #1: Loving what you read.
See, even for the 23 books I had read in the year, some have stuck in my mind more than others. It may be that some were better books with better content.
But I've found a major difference to also be my "engagement" level when reading. I'm continuously promoting the value of cultivating empty space and creating time in your schedule to allow for 'flow state' to occur but even with such time blocks some books were just much more engaging than others.
Some books were addictions where I had to force myself to stop reading to get other forms of work done while others required absolute focus and determination to get through each page. It's the ones where it just didn't hit my "quit now" mark so continued reading but I must admit many moments were just dull. Reading for the sake of reading.
Call me an idealist but I don't want reading to ever be a dull moment. The books I'm reading are not homework and they do not have an exam attached to it. So I started thinking about how I could consistently read books that allowed me to hit 'addiction' level.... get submerged into that flow state.
Why was it that I had more intrinsic motivation to pound through some books and not others?
I think the difference resides in a combination of two factors. 1) My purpose for reading and 2) The Book Selection
My purpose for reading:
Why did I pick up this book? To read about Warren Buffet to emulate him? For general knowledge, or because it's a bestseller and practically everyone else seems to be reading it?
I wish I could tell you that I had a purpose behind every book I chose to read. But alas, that is not true. Though what I've learned is that when I had a true purpose to learn something and applied it immediately, I retained it better.
When I would read "classics" that everyone had read but I had no purpose for reading it other than "this here is a famous book that everyone says is great", I found myself either quitting it or slogging through it without gaining much after finishing it. I just don't think"entertainment" or "general knowledge" is not enough of a motivating factor for me.
Nope, it's got to have a purpose. More often than not, the purpose is to solve a problem that I'm experiencing in that particular moment in my life. The way I see it, our life is just a continuous journey of obstacles and hills to over come. As such, in my childish naivete, I search for answers to said problems in books. Just seeking cathartic moments by reading the opinions of the author.
What I've learned is that the cathartic moment tends to happen as I progress through the book, and not when I finish it. But, such a cathartic moment would not happen if I wasn't looking for something. Maybe the fact that I'm looking for something may create a fake kind of bias but I think that's what separates people who end up loving a book and people who thought it was just "okay". It's when I've already determined in my mind why I want to read this book because I have a kind of expectation for what I'll get after finishing it. I would pound through value investing books when my purpose was to learn about becoming a better investor. I would pound through business books to learn about great CEOs to up my investing game. I would pound through psychology books in the hopes of getting my mindset right. The focus was immediately finishing it to apply the learnings to my life. That purpose and desire for applying it seems to be an integral factor in hitting that zone of addiction.
There can't be a right or wrong book. But there will probably be a better or lesser book for the purpose. I just won't know whether it was the right selection for me until I read it. So until then, it's about limiting the margin of error with the initial selection. If it's not serving the purpose I want, then I'll have to put it down and move onto another. Like a stock, there is no point holding onto your losers once you realize it is one. These are the three I look at before selecting a book.
1. Why did the author write the book?
I like to listen to as many Youtube or podcast interviews the author of a book does before buying the book, if the person is still alive. Generally, if you're alive and in the prime of your life then your book hasn't really lasted the test of time yet so I like to check up the author to see if it's an individual I would like to hear the opinions of. It's like how you don't want to be at a dinner party with someone whose opinions you do not respect. Same thing for a book. Disagreeable is fine. But some opinions just aren't worth the time and money of getting into. Thus, understanding why he author went through such a painstaking journey to write a book helps with the selection process. Most will have a branding and profit motive for sure but if I can get an idea of the primary purpose behind the book, what the author wants the reader to gain from reading the book and if that is something that intrigues me, then it's worth considering.
2. Who likes the book?
The referral of other individuals I trust and respect is another factor to consider when selecting a book. Especially if the author is dead and cannot vouch for him/herself on Youtube or a podcast then I have to rely on the individual who is vouching for that book. To that point, I have to research that individual to see who the person is and what their purpose for reading the book was. I'm not talking about New York Times bestsellers or the like. Most of those don't mean anything. They don't include perennial sellers and many can just pay their way through so that's not much of a validation factor.
3. How old has it been?
Back to the notion of whether the book has stood the test of time. Nassim Taleb talks frequently about whether the book is Antifragile. He notes that if a book is 10 years old, then more likely the case that it will last another decade. So if a book is hundreds of years old, then it'll probably go another few hundred years. If a book just popped out a few years ago on a trendy topic of "fuck this and fuck that" then it's probably not going to last another 5 years. This skews the reading material to something that went through millions of readers and was still deemed relevant. Most 'trend' based books do not have the content that is worth investing in because it will be irrelevant soon enough.
4.Have options because you never know which problem will come become the new priority.
Life is like a box of chocolates right? Never know what problem you're going to get. So I end up just continuously buying more books to fill up my self and as I finish a book, I end up choosing the next one based on what I have available on the shelf. Historically, I didn't pay conscious attention to whether I was picking a book to address a problem but I think now I will. Though to allow for that I will have to have a repository of various options so that's something I'll continuously invest in. It also motivates me to read more when my entire apartment is just littered with books on every table/shelf.
This is my realization at the moment. I can't say for certain that this is right. What I can say is that this is the result of my own observation and experience and it's something I will have to consciously test out further. The reality is that I only have a few years of data but hopefully this kind of awareness and tweaking will make the process even better.
Hence in 2019 my hope is to have read 24 books to completion with all hitting that continuous state of total engagement and flow that I'm yearning for.
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