Reading is not a Part of a to-do List

reading a book
Courtesy: @thesayanishere

I remember a friend of mine telling me how he manages to read 5 books per weekend. That kept me wondering how is that possible. I tried speed reading but failed. I tried book skimming but failed.

After self-loathing and quick failing for a couple of weekends, I did a quick Google search. This led me to a comprehensive method by Tim Ferris, to read “300 times faster“. Also, another article where a startup founder mentions his approach towards reading:

When I joined this X organization, I was approaching reading like I approached any other task. I’d make lists of books that were recommended to me or topped the bestsellers in the business section, and I’d try to read as much as I can.

I’d either try to be a super fast, using a technique similar to that of Ferris, or I’d try to hit aggressive goals like reading 50 books a year like Bill Gates.

I couldn’t help but wonder, do we really need this much information? Or ultimately, why are we supposed to do it in the first place? Aren’t we forgetting that reading is a pleasure in itself? Or rather a to-do list item to check off? Most importantly,

Why do we need to give life’s one of the greatest enjoyment, a KPI, a deadline or a target?

We already have benchmarks and rules to every possible thing we do in life- but do we need to regulate this too? *gasps*

Reading is a prerequisite if you want to be successful in life. Okay, we already know that! But it is not about how much you read. It is rather about how you read!

In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.

Mortimer J. Adler

Point being, you can’t “hack reading”. Deep reading takes time. And maybe shallow doesn’t. Or if you’ve “hacked” reading, you need to email me. Anyways,

One should read because they want to. Not because they feel they should. Or check it from a to-do list.

If you’re wondering what does deep reading mean? Or how what do you experience with such?

For me, it is when I can’t put a book down. When my brain freezes with the satisfaction of turning each page. Devouring a plot line. Remembering a character. Introspecting a theory. Just reflecting upon the relevance. Or mimicking a dialogue.

And ultimately, when I feel, “Yes, this is for me!”

This is the kind of deep reading which widens the attention spans and expands the vocabulary. And the ultimate truth which I’ve discovered over the time- when you read not for the sake of reading, the ingredients stays with us.

Contrary to that, when you read thinking that it is a task, you don’t really retain anything at the end (used to happen when I used to read for the exams).

Elon Musk & Co. attributes their success to a comprehensive and extensive reading because they read for a purpose. Purpose to apply that learning in the context which is wider in terms of their careers. And definitely, they don’t extrapolate from the huge volumes just to tick a box on a post-it. Nah!

What is Reading?

Reading is a telepathy and teleportation. It gives you the power to travel to any place without moving physically. It lets you peep inside the mind of some of the most talented people on the earth and give access to their wisdom.

And before you know it, here the side-effects which come along: the ability to hold multiple perspectives inside the mind, the practice to listen to the opinions of others and the ultimate which I’ve learned personally, that you’re not always right. Apart from this, it will embolden you. It will impart you the power to be empathetic.

However, it can also be fun. So, let us stop taking it too seriously and start enjoying for what it is: a productive time-pass but not a shortcut to a huge bank balance. 

Read slowly. Read carefully. Read to make yourself happy.

What’s the ROI of Reading?

Warren Buffer spends 80% of his daytime reading one or the other thing. Similarly, Bill Gates attributes his success to reading (he frequently shares his reading lists on his website gatesnotes.com, worth checking).

However, in the economy of instant gratification, most of the people struggle with investing their time in reading. And the reason being, they are confused about the ROI of the books. Because the returns aren’t immediate, you see!

If you are one of them, you are highly underestimating!

Also, books aren’t created equal. There are some of the most remarkable books written beautifully and highly insightful. And there are books which are meant to be pondered over, savoured with time, passed on to a friend just to receive back with more wisdom.

The process of extracting value from a book isn’t a one-time event. I often return to books again and again to reread a chapter. Sometime it feels like coziest part of a worn-in pajamas.

Matt Haig, the author of Reasons to Stay Alive, says that books have ‘saved him’. If you wonder why, here’s the deal,

Because, behind those words in the book, there is someone who understands. Someone who has been in that situation you’re finding answers for. Someone has faced that same thing. Someone has made that mistake already before you have and has got the knowledge you really need right now. 

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