I’m a voracious little reader, when I want to be.
You know the victorious feeling when you get to the end of another life changing book, and slam it on the “finished” pile……
……only to pick up another?
You may already know the top CEOs in the world claim to read an average of 60 books a year. Better not get left behind!
Maybe you’ve even considered, or tried, learning to speed-read, so you can take up the gauntlet laid down by Tai Lopez of reading a book a day.
Surely, if the world’s top performers read 60 books a year, then reading 300+ books a year would make you, like, a super-duper top performer, right??
Nope. That’s not how we work.
The nature of the human mind tends to make adding new things difficult to do by requiring repetition, physical action, and some overcoming of emotional resistance. This is a very good thing! Otherwise our brains would re-wire themselves at the slightest provocation, and there’d be no consistency to our minds.
I’ve read a small pile of absolutely life-changing books over the past year alone.
Yet my life hasn’t really changed.
Maybe you’ve experienced something similar.
It’s a trend I see repeating itself year after year in my adult life.
As Andy Drish rightly says in the 78th episode of The Foundation Podcast, the only way to stop yourself from repeating the same mistakes is to first reflect on the past with honesty.
Trying to get through as many books as I can hasn’t transformed me like I hoped it would.
Is there another option?
Have you been filling up a warehouse with the books you’ve read, or are GOING TO READ? Maybe you shouldn’t. (Les Chatfield, cc)
##Don’t Be The Sucker – Decide
Tai Lopez’s “Book a Day” theme is a decent marketing hook for my demographic.
But, as he himself says, “Don’t be the sucker,” and realise that it’s not possible to gorge yourself on that many books and actually implement the good stuff they contain. At least, not if it’s a new book a day.
Tai advises fast readers to push their speed as high as possible, “…see if you can get to the ‘holy grail’ – a book a day.”
That’s an awesome ability to have for times when you’re searching for the next good book to go deep into, but that much information cannot be assimilated into new behaviours, unless you read some of them over and over.
In his podcast episode titled “Why You Shouldn’t Get Addicted To Self Help”, amid other solid advice, he says, “Don’t be afraid to read the same book over and over.” (Stitcher link, go to 01:30).
Leaping from one inspiring book (or TEDtalk or podcast episode, or blog post) to the next, without studying any of them, is exactly what I’ve been doing since getting into secular self-improvement. I’ve become a self-help junkie, properly implementing maybe 0.5% of what I consume, and keeping up at most 0.1% of it over the long term. Actually, that estimate sounds a little generous.
I’m in denial no longer! It’s time to break the cycle.
There are many books I’ve read that I would like to “upload” into my head, and have them become a part of the way I think, and more importantly, of the way I live.
If I want any chance of that happening, I’m going to have to cut down this deluge of information.
I’m going to have to decide.
##How To Make Sure a Book Changes Your Life
Chris Brogan suggested a solution to our problem a while ago, I think in October 2012, in an article titled The Three Book Diet.
If you want to melt a book down and let it soak into the crevices of your mind, you’ll need to focus on it and ignore the others.
You’ll need to get a little monk-like about it.
You’ll need to devote yourself to it.
Brogan rightly observed that “people don’t really work very hard on implementing the lessons of the books we read”.
He took this problem of a lack of devoted implementation, and put an interesting structure around it…
(Which I’ve modified a bit… see the original article in the link above).
###1. For one year, read only three [non-fiction] books.
Read just as much as you do normally, but limit yourself to those three books.
Brogan said they can be any genre, any kind, which sounds nice and inclusive, but actually means you’re either not going to ready any fiction, or you’ll have to read the same ones over and over! No thanks. Instead I’ll allow myself as much fiction as I like, as long as I continue to read from one or more of my three books every day.
I’m going to choose ones I’ve already read that contain things that would make my life far more awesome if they truly became a part of my everyday life.
###2. Implement what you can.
This point is just as critical as the ‘diet’, and deserves plenty of attention.
Simply re-reading books over and over will do a little something for your subconscious, (as Tai Lopez says at the start of this episode). However, on the second or third re-read, it will be time to start thinking up ways to translate the wisdom in those pages into tiny little habits, implemented consistently, that will lead you into your new reality.
I’m going to combine this book-diet with my 90 Day Challenge thing, which I’ve already used to turn myself from super-lazy to reasonably productive, and from an incorrigible social-drunk into someone who can have a great time without a single drop.
(I’ll compile my thoughts on how to successfully pull off a 90 Day Challenge before long, and I’ll link to it here when I do.)
###3. If you’re studying something, you may read outside of your three books ONLY for your studies.
I’ve put this as a major point (with it’s own title and everything!) because for me, it’s essential.
I graduated from university in 2012, but I never stopped being a student.
And I don’t ever intend to.
I wrinkled my nose at the injustice of only allowing the “official” students to read other books for the purposes of their studies. Then I quickly realised that, this being a self-improvement technique, I can make it my own, as I did with the 90 Day Challenge.
If his point is that only a student can be trusted to read other books because they’ll be boring text books and locked in a pre-defined structure (the curriculum), then I understand his point. That isn’t quite the addictive fix that a “self-help junkie” such as myself is looking for.
So to get around that, I’m coming up with my own unofficial curriculum, complete with text books, assignments, and deadlines. I believe very few people (including myself) will be able to stick to this challenge for a whole year without reading any industry specific books for the purposes of their career.
Locking this wider-reading into a structure before getting stuck in will hopefully prevent me from getting too excited, allowing one thing to lead to another, and waking up one day in a pile of dog-eared paperbacks by Stephen Covey.</p>
##The Books I’m Going To Bathe In
After a day and a night of fierce deliberation, I’ve settled on:
- The 10X Rule, by Grant Cardone
- Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi
- The 4 Hour Chef, by Tim Ferriss
##The 10X Rule
If you ever catch yourself being inexcusably unproductive, or sabotaging the success of your dreams for literally no good reason, consider The 10X Rule for your own list.
I’ve had moments, especially last year, when my lack of being bothered to do anything shocked even myself. It seemed like acting with a work ethic similar to the world’s super-achievers was simply impossible for me.
Not so in 2015.
It’s nearing the end of January now, and in the first few weeks, I proved to myself that working like a bastard actually won’t burn me out or make me hate life (which was how my rationalisations for being lazy used to go). In fact, working really hard is a more enjoyable way to spend the day. Bizarre, and true.
Starting to re-read The 10X Rule during those weeks helped me do it. But I haven’t kept it up. The old neural pathways are strong, firing off beliefs that I don’t even agree with any more, and I’ve slipped.
This is natural. My brain wants to make sure I really want this change.
That’s why I remembered this Three Book Diet concept in the first place. I reflected, and noticed the same old pattern as before:
- Start reading a book and get excited about the possibilities it holds.
- Start implementing what it says, with a fiery excitement.
- Excitement wanes, implementation falters.
- Finish the book, reading a little faster now.
- Put book down.
- Notice how life is no different.
- Pick up a new book.
My new pattern for 2015 is going to change at step 2 and step 7.
###Step 2: Use the excitement to create a carefully considered plan, involving small, measurable changes that gradually build into a big change. It has to be intentionally slower than you want it to be at the time. Holding back is critical, because the excitement is peaking at this point, and will drop before it plateaus.
###Step 7: Either pick up the same book again, or another one of the three, but never an exciting new one.
Anyway, I digress, back to my choices of books…
##Never Eat Alone
If you have difficulty keeping in touch with friends, have a network like a sieve, and want to one day be a guy “with connections” (whatever that means), consider Never Eat Alone.
It’s nothing to do with food, by the way. It’s like, never have lunch without taking the opportunity to bond with someone in your network.
They say “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” and they usually say it with a cynical sneer as they think about someone more successful than them, who they would like to believe is less deserving than them.
I would rather leave the sneer on other people’s faces, and instead learn exactly how these enviable bastards managed to know the right people in the first place.
Don’t think that finding success through powerful connections makes a person undeserving. With a few exceptions, being part of an awesome network is hard work.
Keith goes into detail about the massive benefits to a consciously built network, and although I don’t intent to reach his level of volume (he says he makes hundreds of phone calls a day, just to touch base), I definitely do want to blow the dust off of my network, and be the guy who always keeps in touch with people (even if it’s through a simple Facebook message).
While the rest of our generation (and the ones coming up behind us), hide behind computer screens, I want to be one of the few that embraces good old fashioned one-to-one connection, and uses it consciously, as a tool to increase influence, as well as to be more useful to the world by making a positive difference to the lives of everyone in my network (which is essential when building one, Keith says).
It’s a tragedy when you get to know someone genuinely cool and interesting, make a mutual connection, and you both allow each other to drop off the face of your respective planets.
Not this year!
##The 4 Hour Chef
If you’re addicted to learning and have a hunger for cool new skills, definitely consider The 4 Hour Chef.
OR if you want to become an astonishing cook.
OR if you want to learn how to hunt big game.
AND if you also want to learn how to memorise a deck of cards in one minute, swim for a mile without stopping, or make a camp fire out of some sticks and a bootlace, then you really need to include this book.
Most of the book is devoted to building the complex skill of cooking to world-class (top 5%) level. This is the content of the four middle chapters.
If that’s all you see it as, however, you’re missing the real value.
It’s really a book about accelerated learning, and the theory of skill-acquisition.
And because it’s written by a guy who really knows the theory of skill-acquisition, it’s about one fifth theory, and four fifths practical application.
He took himself from burning toast to mastering the roast. Here’s a link to a video of him before the book, cooking scrambled egg in a microwave, which I think perfectly illustrates his old attitude to cooking – just get it edible, then get it down your neck. Here’s another, more recent video of him teaching students one of the many sub-skills involved with cooking – slicing the veg.
He quickly learned this hugely complex macro-skill called “cooking” by applying the theory of accelerated learning, as he has structured it. The theory is in the first chapter, along with some of the things he’s applied it to, and the last chapter covers even more things, so in all you get the summary of learning new languages, memory parlour tricks, shooting basketball perfectly, swimming super-efficiently, building a fire that lasts for 6 hours without adding more wood, shooting guns, tying knots, and more.
It’s not the specifics that I’m most interested in, but more the principles behind the way he masters all these things. I want to become a learning machine.
I’m greedy for skills, and hungry for interesting experience.
If I attempt everything in that book, I’ll have one of the most interesting years of my life.
You feeling the excitement for the potential here? I am!</p>
#The Autodidact Curriculum – Protecting Your Career During The Book Diet
Autodidact = self-directed student, or life-long learner.
I’m a multipotentialite, but I’ve finally come to terms with the necessity of doubling down on just a few narrow things for the good of your career, and your income!
Although these three books are going to be amazing, and will hopefully advance my career like nothing else in the long run, they’re not enough. I will never stop improving my copywriting and marketing abilities.
I know myself well enough to respect the dark-side of my curious nature, and as such I won’t trust myself to have “free-reign” over the marketing books I read, simply choosing whatever strikes me as potentially useful for my professional life.
Instead, I’m going to define my curriculum beforehand.
For your own curriculum, recognise the reality of what will be most useful for you to get ahead, not what sounds most interesting.
Try to find an expert who will lay out a tough training process for you, as I have in Gary Halbert.
Maybe your life won’t require you to sell or market anything (although with the way the world’s going, I would be sceptical of that), but whatever it is you do, I’m sure there’s a way you can pick a critical set of skills within it, and construct a course for yourself that will take you to a whole new level of skill.
And who doesn’t want more SKILLS?
So, you may be yelling, “But James! This Autodidact Curriculum idea is a stroke of unparalleled genius in itself. Why not just do that, and forget Brogan’s 3 Book Diet?”
Because I don’t only want to become a better marketer this year.
I also want to hunt wild game for the first time.
And, a little more seriously, a self-directed Curriculum will be far more effective if you know how to optimise skill acquisition (The 4 Hour Chef), and you can learn all the marketing tricks in the world and it still won’t mean jack if you don’t know the right people (Never Eat Alone), or have the ridiculous work ethic necessary to make anything meaningful happen in this ruthless world (The 10X Rule).
##Which Would You Choose?
Go on, you’ve already answered the “What would you take with you to a dessert island” hypothetical before, right? This is just the same, only it might be the key to making your life awesome if you turn it from a hypothetical into a real commitment.
Which three books would you choose for your year-long 3 Book Diet?
Have I convinced you that this is the wisest way to go about self-improvement?
Maybe you should hold off your agreement until December ‘15, when I’ll write a post summarising the success or failure of both the 3 Book Diet, and the Autodidact Curriculum. Who knows, it might blow up in my face and be a terrible waste of time. Or I might be a powerhouse of awesomeness.
I’m going to say those are the only two possibilities, though. :) If you’re going to try this for yourself, then make sure you tell me about it, so I can feel all warm inside from having inspired someone to do something challenging!
For myself, the book-diet and the curriculum will start on the 1st of February, and finish on the 30th of November 2015. At least one month per year, maybe two, should be given over to exploring, and finding new books.