TADS Insights

Read Your Way to Success

1 December 2014

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I’m often asked the question, “What is the single most important thing a person can do to live a more deliberately successful life?”  I must confess that I do not know for sure what that single secret would be.  I can tell you, however, that way up there on my list would be the habit of reading good personal development and self-mastery books as well as the biographies of people you admire.

Reading books of this kind is a wonderful way of ensuring that you are always learning from the experiences of others and that you remain open to experimenting with new ideas in your own life.  With the best will in the world, without an active reading programme it’s very difficult to keep the momentum of self-development going.

For many people, however, “finding time” for reading is a major obstacle.  They cannot see how they can possibly find the spare hours to sit down quietly and engross themselves in a good book.
 
The problem with this kind of thinking is that, in practice, very little reading is done in such serene circumstances.  When you talk to avid readers you’ll discover that most of their reading is done “between” other activities in their lives.  You may be surprised by how much reading you can get done in the five or ten minutes while waiting for appointments, while travelling, or simply the minutes between things happening.

When you approach reading in this way, you’ll be surprised by how much you’ll get done every week.  If you break it down, most books are about 250 pages in length which means that you only need to read 35 pages a day to read a book a week.  When you get into the rhythm of it, this goal is certainly achievable.

If you were to read a book a week for 50 weeks of the year, over five years you would have completed 250 books.  Now that would put you in the category of “expert” in the most important subject of all: yourself and your personal mastery.

The key to reading in this way can be summed up in one word: preparation.  You need to know which books are on your reading programme, get access to them when you need them, and then have your “book of the week” with you throughout each day.  One way to manage your reading list is to have a file – perhaps on your phone – which you can access, and add to, day to day.  Once you have an established programme of reading, you’ll find yourself taking note of new book releases, recommendations from friends, and references you’ll discover within your current reading.

The best and cheapest way to access books is through your local library.  Most libraries are well stocked with the kind of books we’re talking about here, and if there is a specific title you need, they’ll get it for you.  As well as physical books, most libraries have extensive collections of audio books and increasingly e-books which you can borrow.

Be ready to read as your day unfolds.  The best way to do this is to always have your book on your person either in your bag or, if it’s an audio book, on your iPod or MP3 player.  Driving is also a great opportunity to enjoy audio books.

As you read, I recommend that you keep one question in the back of your mind: “What am I learning from this?”  This will ensure that your reading has a purpose and that you are extracting some value from your efforts.  If you find yourself answering “nothing” too often, perhaps it’s time to move to the next chapter or onto your next book.

For some people, note taking can really help with their reading.  It heightens alertness and solidifies the learning process.  If you’re one of these people, you might consider getting a journal specifically for this purpose.

Jim Rohn, one of my favourite authors, once said that reading and the building of a “personal library” is one of the greatest things anyone can do.  And if you begin to see reading as an “in between” activity, you’ll be well on your way to greatness.

-- David Keane