One bit of housekeeping. This blog has a sponsor! It is supported by Greenhaven Road Capital. Thanks to Scott for his interest in clear thinking, making better decisions, and finding value.
It’s a new year, a new you, and blah, blah, blah about resolutions.
People sometimes email me and ask how I read so much. After some self-congratulating about my work ethic, early alarm, and productivity – I realized it wasn’t really any of those things. What actually matters is that it’s my job to read and write and I enjoy doing it.
In hopes of finding a better answer, I emailed Patrick O’Shaughnessy. He shared this tweet storm:
I agreed with most of it. But that really doesn’t matter to you. O’Shaughnessy’s reading style can’t be your reading style. Copying won’t work. Cherry picking, however, is encouraged.
“The point is not to treat anyone like a hero, but rather to consider whether Munger, like his idol Benjamin Franklin, may have qualities, attributes, systems, or approaches to life that we might want to emulate, even in part.”
Here are a few things that help me read more. Remix please.
1/ When to read. It starts here. If you don’t have time to read you won’t read. Seneca’s words inspire me most:
“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested…So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.”
Odds are good that you can find some time. Books have never been more portable, recommend, or easier to find. It’s the time that you need to find.
2/ What to read. Podcasts are great samples for books. When I heard Greg Ip on EconTalk I understood the big ideas in his book. The actual reading was faster because of it. Ditto for Eric Weiner’s Geography of Genius, and Jocko Willink’s Extreme Ownership.
I also like to read books in a cluster around a theme. In 2016 that meant reading a lot of book about biology and evolution; On the Origin of Species, Full House, The Beak of the Finch, and Darwin’s Dangerous Idea.
The same was true for when I wrote about Bill Belichick’s red teams.
Clustering will mean an overlap around subjects. That’s fine. Those parts are an extra reminder or a part to skip.
Skipping sections or entire books is underrated. It took me a few cracks to read Taleb. I still haven’t read the books I own on Chaos and Complexity. I didn’t know enough the first time. I’ll take another crack at them soon. If I’m ready, I’m ready. This isn’t school. There’s no deadline.
3/ How to read. However you’d like.
O’Shaugnessy reads one book at a time. Bully for him.
I do multiple books at a time, but none too similar. A typical mix is one science book, one business book, a biography, and a fiction book.
Polymaths, well, I don’t know what polymaths do. Go read Marginal Revolution to see what Tyler Cowen writes.
Financial advisors write that the best investment plan is the one you’ll stick with. That applies to reading too.
4/ Create hurdles and remove obstacles. One of my favorite books on psychology is Mindless Eating. The book is about food but the lessons apply to everything.
- If you make something slightly easier (i.e. Nudge(s)) people will do it more often.
- If you make something more difficult, people will do it less often.
To combine the ideas of Jocko Willink and Steven Pressfield, you’re flanking resistance. Make reading easier and something else harder.
Reading is easier when you have good books and have the prerequisite knowledge for them (#2). Reading is easier when the Kindle app is more accessible than the Twitter one. Reading is easier when you sit down with a book and leave your phone across the room.
5/ Reading is cool. Years ago I emailed Shane Parrish to thank him for teaching me about learning. When I graduated college I thought I was mostly done learning, at least from books.
I was wrong.
Reading Farnam Street was enlightening. What is this and who are these people?! There was all this interestingness and excitement, it was almost palpable. I hadn’t learned it all. Heck, I hadn’t even scratched the surface.
Successful people – in any domain, by any metric – have a growth mindset. Casey Neistat talked about this when he sold his company to CNN. He says that his career is like swinging through vines in a jungle. You have to let one go to reach the next one. You have to keep moving forward.
Reading is one way to do that.
Thanks for reading, I’m @mikedariano on Twitter.