4 Ways Reading 52 Books a Year Changed My Life
Reading is the cheapest, most effective and accessible self-improvement hack available
What if I told you that you could change your life by investing only 30 minutes of your time per day? Would it be even better if I was not trying to sell you an online course or buy a seat at one of my seminars (not that I have one…yet)?
This product I am offering requires skills that are widely accessible to the general public and in this day and age, mostly free.
Let me introduce you to this crazy idea of reading.
Okay, sorry for the crappy sales pitch.
But I find it bizarre that we are living in an age where people are willing to spend thousands of dollars on coaching and seminars that are designed by people who are just good at sales and marketing.
I am no fortune teller, but I bet you could learn more by reading great books than you could from a self-proclaimed guru. And remember, anyone saying they can make you rich is just getting rich off you. Don’t be a sucker.
Every book you pick-up has the potential to change your life. I know, that’s a big call. But reading will cause you to change your mind, adopt new perspectives and abandon old ideas. Reading would not be worthwhile if it did not have an element of creative destruction attached to it.
In short, reading, alongside exercise, is a high leverage habit for improving your life. You don’t need a ‘life’ coach or an expensive program to get started. Just read what you love until you love what you read.
Here are some of the benefits I’ve enjoyed:
1. The compound effect of reading
In the world of finance, the compound effect is widely understood. But the compound effect applies to more areas than just the accumulation of money.
Knowledge works under the same principle. The more knowledge you have, the more knowledge you can get. Knowledge begets more knowledge.
There is a catch, however. The biggest misunderstanding about compound interest is that most of the benefits are enjoyed at the end, not at the start or the middle. If you were to plot it on a graph, the trend would look like a hockey stick growth rather than a straight line.
Consistency applied over a long period of time is why a lifelong learner will never be beaten by someone who occasionally engages in learning. Or why the average investor will never be able to be as rich as Warren Buffet.
Speaking of Warren Buffet, a 2016 Business Insider article details the billionaire’s reading habits, which includes reading anywhere between 600–900 pages a day. Even now, at the peak of his investing career, he spends close to 80% of his time reading.
“That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.” — Warren Buffet
As you can see below, exponential returns take time and a lot of patience. Invest early, consistently and you will enjoy the rewards for a lifetime.
2. Reading improves your skill stack and can help you make more money and get better jobs
Reading is instrumental. Books, especially non-fiction, function almost like money. They are fungible in the way you can use them to develop different skills.
Through reading, I have become a better writer, podcaster and public speaker. Being exposed to different ideas and styles of prose helped me to increase my benchmark of what constitutes good writing and increased my ability to communicate ideas and influence people.
In other words, I’ve developed what Scott Adams, author of How To Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, calls a ‘skill stack’ that makes me unique and therefore more valuable. As jobs become more fluid in this gig economy, our value will be determined by the skills we have rather than the roles we hold.
Scott Adams argues that it’s easier to be in the top 10% for a range of complementary skills than to be the very best in the world in one skill. It’s about having a variety of skills that work well together. Your specific combination of well-developed skills allows you to offer unique value to future teams and employers.
By developing related skills in writing, consulting, social impact, public speaking and podcasting I am offering a unique skill stack that not many other people possess. Not to brag, but since I’ve been reading, I’ve received a raise and promotion almost every year, been paid well for public speaking engagements and have come across opportunities I never really thought possible for my age.
Reading is a tool that you can trade-in to build your unique skill stack. You want to be world-class in a set of skills rather than world-class at a specific skill.
3. You learn about the world
There are two ways you learn about the world:
- You read about it
- You travel it.
Since visiting different countries will be limited for the foreseeable future, we need another way to learn about the world. Don’t let the inability to travel be an excuse for your ignorance.
Books can offer a cost-effective and safe way you can get new experiences, stories and adventures from traveling.
Books allow you to be immersed in living someone else’s life. Even just for a little bit. Their stories and experiences now become your stories and experiences.
You can’t always get the same travel experience, but books can give you the next best thing.
4. I am a more interesting person…not that I wasn’t before
I am going to end this article with the obvious: reading books generally means you know more things. The extra knowledge can come in handy when you’re in a conversation with someone you’ve just met and need some common areas of interest.
Simply knowing more things means you’ve got more potential topics to talk about. Reading increases your potential surface area of commonality.
Importantly, you don’t need to be an expert or know everything. Approaching the conversation with curiosity and being able to ask some great questions is often the fuel you need to strike up an interesting conversation. People love talking about their area of work.
I don’t mean you have to be that guy that corrects everyone or has an answer to everything. I don’t like that guy either and most of the time that knowledge is a facade.
The art of being interesting is being able to engage people in productive dialogue, not just a monologue about your knowledge.