So naturally, I stretched the goal this year and set my GoodReads challenge to 80 books.
I’m hitting a point of diminishing returns. Let me explain.
I love reading. It calms me down and makes me feel like I’m entering another person’s mind while applying lessons to my own life. I also keep an extensive collection of notes with each book I read.
But 80 books is a lot. For the first time in my life, it feels like I’m reading to meet a quota instead of reading because I’m feeling pulled to. (I never read a single book in school.)
Not that that’s always a bad thing. I don’t always want to go to the gym but I force myself to go three times a week. That’s a number I have to hit because I know it’s good for me.
But the difference with reading books has been my lack of retention. I looked through my 2022 GoodReads list the other day. There were at least three books I didn’t remember reading at all.
I’ve been flying through audiobooks. If I don’t take notes, then within a week or two, all that I learn has left my mind. And even when I do take notes, it’s not like I’m reviewing what I capture every week.
Would you rather read 50 books you forget about or 5 books that change your life?
My point is: “I read 80 books this year” sounds sexy. It sounds impressive. It sounds like something you tell your friend who doesn’t read to make yourself feel big.
But I won’t be doing it again. I’m sacrificing enjoyment for quantity. It looks cool on the outside and feels grey on the inside. It’s like a gorgeous Instagram influencer who’s severely depressed. (Does that make sense? I’m not depressed.)
Goals can be great. But we have to know why we’re pursuing them. “Because it sounds impressive” is a terrible reason.
This blog won’t be much different than the one I wrote last year on how I read 64 books in 2020. Well…the difference is about six books.
In my coaching conversations, I’ve heard many people say they want to work on their reading habit.
Let’s start with that last word.
1) I make a habit out of it. (i.e. I read every day.)
Even if it’s just two pages.
In a session yesterday, my client said, “.1 is more than 0.”
Something is better than nothing. Let’s put that into perspective.
If we read 10 pages a day, every day for a year, that’s 3,650 pages.
That means we could read Infinite Jest, Moby Dick, five 200-page novels, five 100-page stories…and still have 408 pages left.
I like reading for 10-30 minutes as part of my morning routine. Sometimes I’ll read as I wind down before bed.
Not everybody has the luxury of working for themselves like I do. People have jobs and families. But I find it hard to believe a person never has ten minutes to themselves for a bit of reading.
In short, it’s about consistency, not speed. I’m a wildly slow reader. Reading practically every day compensates for that.
2) I don’t read shit I don’t like.
If continuing to read something feels more like a chore or an obligation, I put it down.
I’m not saying other people should do this. I have friends who feel accomplished when they stick with dense and challenging reads all the way through. That’s great.
But personally, that’s not why I read. I want to enjoy myself. I’m not in school anymore and I’m not looking to challenge my brain. I want to be entertained, to be intrigued, and to learn things I can use in the real world.
Time reading something I don’t like is time away from something I could possibly love.
3) I keep book notes.
In my Notes app, I keep simple, bulleted takeaways from what I read.
I try to put them in my own words to make it easier for me to remember and apply them.
I’m not certain this allows me to read more, but it definitely makes me feel more engaged with what I’m reading. It also allows me to go back a year from now and revisit what I got out of a book.
4) I log what I read on GoodReads.
To anyone who cares about a reading habit, I strongly encourage making a GoodReads account.
There, one can…
• set reading goals • see what their friends are reading/have read • get recommended new books • keep track of everything they’ve read
I just finished Douglas Murray’s book The Madness of Crowds. Here’s my review.
It’s one of the most important books I’ve ever read.
I’m not a super political person, but whenever people ask me where I stand politically (which is an impossibly loaded question), I say:
“My dad thinks I’m a Communist and my friends think I’m a Trump supporter.” (Neither are true.)
I have a lot of problems with ‘the Left’: social justice warriors, woke culture, etc. Despite being well-intentioned and fighting for seemingly just causes…I find most of what the loudest voices are doing and saying are in fact shoving us backward, not progressing us forward.
Unfortunately, many of the books or videos I’ve seen with this same opinion have the vibe of: Leftists and liberals are brats and snowflakes and here’s more detail on how stupid they are.
“Murray is basically saying ‘Look at this insanity. This is going too far. And here are strange and startling examples why.'”
Douglas gives us an articulate, elegant, and well-sourced reminder that the social issues we’re facing today are complex and incomplete. The rules are not yet solidified or agreed upon, yet the mobs on Twitter and on college campuses are acting as if these rules should be common sense at this point.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who believes in social equality and liberty, but who doesn’t think shaming, canceling, or silencing is the best way to achieve that.
I just finished The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber.
It was a super helpful, albeit cheesy book on running a business.
Here are my two biggest takeaways:
1) Being a Technician—i.e. being skilled at your craft/service—does not qualify you to be a business owner.
Great bakers, coaches, or carpenters don’t necessarily make folks who are great at running bakeries, practices, or home remodeling companies. Running the back end of a business is a completely different ball game.
In short, there’s a huge difference between working in your business and working on your business.
2) Your business is not your life; it should fuel your life.
I needed to hear this.
For the past year, I’ve been growing my first ever business and have become more and more passionate about it as it grows each month. Thinking about my business—creating clients, scheduling calls, inviting people to coaching sessions….I would be focusing on this stuff almost 24/7.
I wore that like a badge of honor, but I had to be reminded that that wasn’t my life. My life is my friends, my family, my health. My life is the freedom I enjoy with the people I love. I want my work to give me more freedom, not chip away at it.
If anyone owns any kind of business, or is at least considering it (no matter how big or small), I would consider this book mandatory reading.
Last night, I finished another chapter of Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things. It was my favorite one yet.
The book consists of captivating Dear Sugar columns; people write in asking for her advice and she tells gripping, emotional stories and gives life-changing insights.
The chapter I read before bed last night was called “Write Like a Motherfucker.” In it, a woman wrote in looking for much needed motivation. She’s a writer who doesn’t write. She’s often paralyzed by her depression.
“I’m…a high-functioning head case, one who jokes enough that most people don’t know the truth. The truth: I am sick with panic that I cannot—will not —override my limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude, to write well, with intelligence and heart and lengthiness. And I fear that even if I do manage to write, that the stories I write will be disregarded and mocked.”
What powerful vulnerability. And what a concrete example of someone who wants something but believes there’s something in the way.
To be clear, I am NOT downplaying the role of mental health here. I love that Cheryl opens by recommending professional help to this woman. The power of not having the energy to do what we want to do is stark.
But the reason I love this chapter so much is because Cheryl throws down some masterful tough love.
The phrase tough love often gets a bad rep. People tend to get distracted by the first part, tough: possibly unpleasant, firm, or uncomfortable…that they forget about the second part entirely, love: coming from a place of “I care about you and your wellbeing.”
I believe in accepting others for who they are and showing consistent compassion to ourselves and those around us. But I also believe in challenging ourselves and those around us for the sake of pushing humans to be better.
Cheryl hits her with this hammer:
“The most fascinating thing to me about your letter is that buried beneath all the anxiety and sorrow and fear and self-loathing, there’s arrogance at its core. It presumes you should be successful at twenty-six, when really it takes most writers so much longer to get there.”
Wow. No pity party here.
I can only imagine how much this stung to read. But Cheryl does a fantastic job in relating her own experiences and assuring her that this all comes from a place of love and care. Plus, the point is not: Does this sting? The point is: Is this true and is this useful?
Going through mental chaos is God damn difficult. In many cases, it can be debilitating. But unfortunately, that doesn’t remove the work that needs to be done.
Cheryl describes humility: not being up too high or down too low, but on the ground level. She writes:
“We get the work done on the ground level. And the kindest thing I can do for you is to tell you to get your ass on the floor. I know it’s hard to write, darling. But it’s harder not to. The only way you’ll find out if you “have it in you” is to get to work and see if you do. The only way to override your “limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude” is to produce. You have limitations. You are in some ways inept. This is true of every writer, and it’s especially true of writers who are twenty-six. You will feel insecure and jealous. How much power you give those feelings is entirely up to you.”
The negative feelings we experience are absolutely valid. But the work still needs to be done. It’s up to us to continue to show up and do it.
“Writing is hard for every last one of us—straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig…
You need to do the same, dear sweet arrogant beautiful crazy talented tortured rising star glowbug.
So write…Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.”
Here are all the things I’m proud of at the moment:
• The strength of my relationships • My fitness • My coaching business • The fact that I know at least basic martial arts skills • My intermediate chess abililites • This blog • My ability to listen to, connect with, and coach other human beings
What do they all have in common?
They’ve taken a fuck-ton of time (in metric units).
The cliche goes:
“It’s only taken me ten years to become an over-night success.”
Perhaps there are freaks of nature who are naturally good at the things they do. Good for them. But for the other 99% of us, getting great at the things we care about will take countless repetitions.
I’ve been writing this blog every day since October 2019. Those first pieces make me cringe. I had no idea how to string ideas together and I used big words to sound more academic. And for months, each blog was averaging two readers: myself and my super supportive friend. (Thanks Grace!)
Now, there are hundreds of folks tuning in each week and I couldn’t be more grateful. But that hasn’t happened because I’ve found the perfect way to market my stuff or because I’ve shoved it in the faces of enough people.
It’s like that because I’ve sat down each morning and typed out my thoughts. Eventually, I got a little better at writing. My average of two readers went up to three. Then four. And so on…
I’m always skeptical when I see ads like, “Get 100x MORE followers in ONE month!!”
Maybe methods like that exist, maybe they don’t. I personally have zero interest.
The only thing I care about is consistently showing up to do the work.
This leads to improvement, which leads to higher quality, which leads to more value, which leads to more people interested, which leads to improvement, and on and on it goes…..
• Poetry • Drinking more than one cup of coffee • Jazz • Classic novels • Card games
I remember forcing myself to listen to weird hipster music and painfully spending hours reading books I wasn’t enjoying. All the while thinking, You like this, you’re enjoying this.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t dig these things. I’m just saying that I don’t.
You should always keep an open mind and be willing to experience new stuff, but you can’t force yourself to like something.
It doesn’t matter how much your friend loves this movie. If it doesn’t resonate with you then it doesn’t resonate with you. No amount of explanation or argument on their part will bring you much closer to the love that they feel for it.
A good analogy for this is when I tell people I hate smoking weed—it makes me insecure and diminishes my social skills.
I always get the same response from marijuana advocates (Jesus I sound like a 60-year-old Republican):
You just need to find the right strain.
Yes. I need to keep experimenting with this thing that makes me feel miserable until I like it.
I could just do a little bit once in a blue moon to the extent to which I’m comfortable.
It took me until I was 26 to come to terms with the fact that I simply don’t enjoy most classic novels. That’s okay.
I pick one up from time to time. But I never pressure myself to enjoy it (or even to finish it).
When I was in high school, I would literally play music my friends liked and I hated because I didn’t want to admit that my favorite bands were Blink-182 and Green Day.
Again, fuck that.
Life is too short to read books you hate.
You can be open minded and challenge yourself, but there’s no need to torture yourself with something just because other people love it.
Put on some American Idiot. Open your Harry Potter books. And don’t apologize for the things you enjoy.
I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you fucking like something, like it.
As strange as it sounds, I was extremely lucky enough to take advantages from the lockdowns. I quit my full-time job and started two businesses. I worked on passion projects. And among many other incredibly useful habits, I solidified my routine of reading.
I will surely write a blog about my favorite books from the year, but in the meantime…
I don’t read particularly fast. You don’t have to if you read every single day.
The easiest way to do this is to make a routine of it. Make it part of your morning. Read a chapter as you sip your coffee. Read a chapter as you wind down for bed. Do both if you can.
There were many days where all I read was one chapter of Harry Potter. That’s about 20 pages. 20 pages every day for a year is 7300 pages. That’s like reading Infinite Jest 6 times and Moby Dick once.
Everyone has different schedules. I’m lucky to structure my own days so I give myself plenty of time to read. But all you need is 10 minutes a day and you’ll be reading way more than the average American.
2) Read what you enjoy.
This might sound like elementary advice. But you’d be surprised how many people approach reading as some sort of chore–traumatized by school assignments and essays.
I had a coaching client ask me to help him build a reading habit. He wanted to dive into all these business and personal development books, but he hated reading.
He kept talking about willpower and grit. I asked him, “Well, what do you enjoy reading?”
He said, “Honestly, my guilty pleasure is the Divergent series. I’ve read through them like 4 times. I love all the blockbusters. Harry Potter. Hunger Games...”
“Great,” I said. “We’ll start there.”
He was confused. He didn’t want to waste time reading simply for pleasure.
But if reading isn’t a part of your daily life, and you want it to be, then you have to attack the habit first, then the content.
Before worrying about best sales tactics or goal-setting techniques, we spent two months getting him used to just sitting down each and every day, and reading at least 10 pages of Lemony Snicket…or whatever he wanted.
This made it as easy as possible to build the habit. He looked forward to it. It wasn’t a chore. Then, slowly but surely, he replaced a few reading sessions with some of the denser books he wanted to read. After two months, he was reading for both work and pleasure every single day.
If you’re dreading what you read, you’ll never make a habit out of it. Turn your guilty pleasures into pleasures and embrace them.
3) Listen to audiobooks.
I fought this for the longest time. Books on audio just didn’t do it for me. I’m not exactly sure what flipped the switch but when it did, I was hooked.
You can listen at double, sometimes triple the speed. Depending on the content and the reader, this does nothing to stifle your comprehension. (I typically don’t like to go too fast with fiction books––1.75x at the most.)
Laying down with your headphones in. Cleaning. Cooking breakfast. These are great ways to knock out chunks of audiobooks.
4) Get an online library card.
And a Kindle.
With this, you can borrow an endless supply of eBooks and audiobooks for completely free.
Connect your online card number to Libby, and you can place holds on what you want to read or listen to.
Since getting my Kindle and library card, I have read over 30 books in 3 months…without paying a cent.
5) Read with a pen or visual pacer.
If you leave it up to the voice in your head to set the pace, you can only read as quickly as you speak.
With a visual tracker like a pen, you force your eyes to move well above that rate.
6) Get a GoodReads account.
GoodReads is a social media that doesn’t rot your brain.
It’s a great way to connect with friends to see what they’re reading, what they think about what they’re reading, and what they want to read. It will also recommend books to you based on what you’ve enjoyed in the past.
My favorite feature though is the ability to set challenges for yourself (e.g. 20 books in 2021). This is like a subtle form of accountability. I liked that people could see that I was reading a shit ton of books. It made me read even more.
Tell me I’m good.
There’s not really any magic to it. Just sit down and read.
I don’t think you have to read anything you don’t want to, but I firmly believe that everyone could benefit from making it a consistent part of their lives. It makes me feel sharper, more articulate, and more aware of the world I live in.
Whether it’s People magazine, The Lord of the Rings, or 50 Shades of Grey…get out there and start reading.
I think I need to stop saying that books have changed my life so frequently. My friends seem to be more hesitant when I recommend they read what I just read. But Getting Things Done has changed my life like no other, simply because I have actually been implementing the system since I picked up the book.
By doing so, I have had nothing but a crystal clear understanding of all the things I need and want to get done, which eliminates 95% of the stress.
The most impactful concept is this: We have anywhere from 30-150 inputs at any given time. To-dos, tasks, obligations, things to learn, calls, meetings, events. The human memory is terrible. Yet we shame ourselves for not being able to perfectly organize and structure all 150 of these inputs in our heads.
We have to Capture everything. Everyyythingg. By simply writing down each and every thing I have coming up (from “Donate box of books to bookstore,” to “Choose new primary color for website homepage…” The simple art of defining each Project into clear, actionable steps has lifted all the weight off my shoulders.
At the heart of the GTD process, you must create a system which you accurately and constantly Capture all your inputs, and then you regularly review that system (weekly).
This all might sound super robotic, especially for the go-with-the-flow types. David makes it very clear though:
“GTD is not about getting more things done necessarily. It’s about having a harmonious, stress-free relationship with the things you want to accomplish.”
Although the series is an incredibly fun and easy read, there were times during this 870-page novel where I naturally felt I would never make it to the end.
This is my curse when reading long books. No matter how aware I am that I will surely finish them, there’s always a piece of doubt in my mind.
As most things do, this made me think about how it applies to life.
The difference between making it from page 451 to 452 is almost nothing in the grand scheme of things. But if you just keep reading, in no time you’ll look back and realize how far you’ve come.
I see most of my days like reading a page in an infinitely large book. I often feel frustration when I feel like I’m either not moving quickly enough or when I feel like what I’m doing isn’t getting me any closer to where I want to go.
The solution is the same for both the literal and the metaphor:
Just keep going.
Whether it takes you a day or it takes you a year…if you just keep going, you’ll have no choice but to get to where you want to be.
For about 8 years, I have been adamantly opposed to eReaders, Kindles, or eBooks of any kind. The feel of a real book in my hands and the look of a shelf full of books were qualities I was convinced I would never want to sacrifice.
Yesterday, my first ever Kindle came in the mail. Holy shit…see title.
I’ll always appreciate the aesthetics of a full and vibrant bookshelf, but here are the immediate benefits I experienced:
• It’s compact and lightweight so it’s effortless to hold and read in every possible laying and standing position.
• Its front light allows me to read in the dark; which I absolutely love just before bed. No more trying to find the right lighting for the page without being burdened by the same light.
• I connected my Kindle to my library and GoodReads. This allows me to borrow (for 21 days) a plethora of eBooks and audiobooks for totally free. You just place a hold on whichever book you’re interested in if it’s not available quite yet. It is all instantaneous. GoodReads also saves the highlights you make in each book you read.
• Which reminds me, you can fucking highlight and make notes! I cover my books in pen: ideas, notes, reminders, suggestions, diary-like entries at the end of chapters…With a Kindle, you can do all of this without marking up a book, decreasing its value, and making it slightly less-enjoyable for the next reader.
I have a lot to say about technology and the evil it presents us; but I have just as much to say about the beauty it provides our modern lives.
30/30 – As you finish the 30-day writing challenge, what are your thoughts on it?
At first, I enjoyed the automation of writing every day. I’ve been doing it for nearly a year, but after starting a daily vlog, I figured automating the blog would be a relief.
A week into it though, I began to feel bored with writing based on someone else’s agenda. I felt there were things some mornings I wanted to write about, but couldn’t because it had nothing to do with the prompt.
I would recommend someone do some sort of challenge like this; but only to build the habit of writing every day. After that, I’d say just write whatever the hell you want to write about. A paragraph is fine. 10,000 words is fine. Just write, dammit.
In this hour-long read, Pressfield masterfully illustrates why it is so hard for us to do the things we know we need to do…Resistance. It is our #1 enemy. It is why we skip the gym, why we hate sitting down to write, why we procrastinate on the projects we need to get done.
You have two lives: the life you’re living and the life you deserve to be living (i.e. the money you should be making, the relationships you want to have, the health you want to experience). The only thing standing in the way of those two lives is Resistance. It tries to kill you every day; and every day, you must unsheathe your sword and slay it like a dragon.
Newport has an almost disturbing ability to be perfectly and mathematically articulate with his ideas and arguments. In Deep Work, he highlights the absolute necessity for long, uninterrupted, and focused work. This includes building, learning, creating, writing, etc.
With whatever we’re trying to accomplish, we rarely have a focus problem. We usually have a distraction problem. Meetings. Chit-chat. Phones. Internet. Social media. News…
To get real results, turn all that shit off, go into hiding, and enter a flow state for a few hours.
It’s impossible to read this beautiful little book without a smile. If you have ever had an inkling to create anything, Kleon implores you to stop thinking and just start making shit. It may in fact be shit, but you owe it to the world to share your ideas, perspective, and creativity. If you don’t feel like you have any of those things, it’s probably because you haven’t ever tried putting it out there and developing it.
A year ago I started a YouTube channel. I had no idea what I was doing, what it would be about, or what value it would bring me or others. Today, I post daily. I get to share my ideas, and improve my storytelling abilities. It’s still super small, but I can feel myself improving and developing my voice, my style, and my rhythm. Start creating. It’ll be terrifying for a million different reasons; but a year from now, you’ll be glad you started today.
Not shitting you. This works. It will take practice, which loses a lot of people. But who wouldn’t want to double their reading speed (without losing comprehension)??
Read comfortably(using your finger or a visual pacer) for 4 minutes. Set a timer and read as you normally would. When the timer goes off, mark where you stopped with a pencil.
Now, set your alarm for 3 minutes. (Again using a visual pacer) Try to reach where you stopped at step 1 before the 3 minutes are up
Set your alarm for 2 minutes. This time, don’t worry about comprehension Try to get to that same point in 2 minutes. Go line by line and have your eyes follow your visual pacer as fast as possible.
Set your timer for 1 minute. Same thing. Don’t skip and lines and don’t worry about comprehension at all. Just follow the pacer with your eyes line by line as fast as you can to get to the same ending point.
Chill. Set your timer for 2 minutes again. Start from where you made the pencil mark. Read comfortably with your visual pacer for 2 minutes with comprehension. Count the number of lines you read, multiply that by the amount of words per line (add up the words from three lines then divide by three to average them out), then divide that number by two. This is your new reading rate per minute.
I got this from Jim Kwik’s book Limitless. It increased my reading speed by 52%.
Coming up with analogies to life can be dramatic or cheesy, so forgive me…
I think many of the things we have to do in life are like books…e.g. obstacles, tasks, goals, pursuits, dreams. Some are ten pages long and can be completed with ease in a matter of minutes. Others are tomes of hundreds upon hundreds of pages. These are the ones which intimidate and repel.
But the size and density of a book says nothing about your ability to finish it…just the amount of time it will take you.
If you picked up Infinite Jest (981 pages), and read one page everyday, you would eventually finish it.
The only books which don’t get finished are the ones that sit on the shelf untouched. The same is true for your goals, dreams, pursuits, etc…