Reading – III

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

Part 1 was a large overview of reading more. Part 2 was about my specific note taking for physical books I own.

For Part 3 I want to address three things.

  1. Preparing the mind.
  2. Preparing the body.
  3. Preparing the scene.
  4. Your reading goals (NOT books per year).

The mind. The presentation of classes in college catalogs always appealed to me. You take 101 and move on to 102 and then 103. I’m a linear thinker but life is not.

Sequence is important though because if you don’t know the elementary things you can’t learn the advanced things. Right now, for example, I’m reading more books about artificial intelligence and I don’t know where to start. Unlike college, there is no predetermined sequence. However, there are some things that I’ve found work well.

  • Podcast interviews are great. Authors explain their theories. Some favorite podcasts are; Intelligence Squared, EconTalk, Invest Like the Best, James Altucher, Recode Decode and Bloomberg’ Masters in Business.
  • YouTube videos fill this niche too. My notes on Peter Lynch, Mohnish Pabrai, and Charlie Munger all came from watching them on YouTube.
  • Amazon rankings also play a role. Find category links like “Books>Cookbooks>Special Diets” or “Books>Textbooks>Computer Science>Artificial Intelligence” and select the first one.

There has to be some kind of mental footing for your climb.

The body. In Part 1 we noted that reading takes time and energy. I find those ingredients between four and seven in the morning.

After experimentation, I learned that it’s easier to get up early if I do certain things. Red win – and all alcohol – would lead to groggy mornings. So too would junk food, cereals, and sugar in my coffee. Overall I have more energy throughout the day, not only in the mornings.

Physical activity helps too. I don’t know if it’s better sleep or if it helps me think in other ways, but the more I move the better I think. Plus, dog walks are great for listening to podcasts.

I don’t disregard sleep.  Rather than arbitrarily get up early I used the Sleep Cycle app to help me optimize how much sleep I need.

All these physical things combine to mean that I have energy in the morning. I convert that energy and excitement into reading.

The scene. My go to book for behavior change is Mindless Eating from Brian Wansink. The gist is that making things slightly easier/harder can have big effects. I use this to create a space where reading is easier and everything else is more difficult.

To make things easier: I try to always sit down with a book. I find books I’m excited to read. I find books that come highly recommended. I view books as a challenge, a game, or a puzzle. I think about the long-term rewards of reading.

To make things more difficult: I deleted Twitter from my phone and turned off the browser. I don’t open my computer or unlock my phone. I have pen and paper handy for taking notes.

Part of the reason this works for me is that I do better as an abstainer than as a moderator. It helps to know thyself. If you can “eat just one” then a bag of chips is no problem. If you can’t, then it is.


The goals. This Inc. article is so wrong. It doesn’t matter how many books you read a year. What matters is how many good ideas you get. Charlie Munger said that Berkshire succeeded because of two good ideas a year for fifty years. On a smaller scale Ramit Sethi said he keeps Wednesday free to read and think:

“Wednesday is my strategy day. I have a list of articles to read, a list of books and I just work through them…Most days, nothing really comes from it, I would say every quarter I get an interesting idea, and maybe once a year I get a big idea but that big idea can transform the business.”

Sethi, like Buffett, Munger, and Inc. article authors may read 200 books a year but that’s not the goal. The goal is to accumulate examples and cross-pollinate ideas. The goal -and long-term readers will see this punchline coming – is pattern recognition.

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4 thoughts on “Reading – III”

  1. […] Danny Meyer is a restauranteur, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, and author of Setting the Table, our source for quotes. This book was a delightful surprise because I knew nothing about Meyer and learned so much from him. This book matched my reading goals (#4). […]


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