Why I read.

New knowledge, actively acquired, helps me point my life into the direction that I want. If luck is the clash that happens at the intersection of preparation and opportunity, then reading is a major way to help me prepare for those opportunities. Even more so, since I’m still young and lack a lot of experience. Certainly when it comes to business and living a good life.

Ever since it became clear to me that I, and only I, am responsible for my future well being, I have made reading an active part of my daily life. My life has taught me that I can not trust a third party system like school, society, government, employer,… to take care of my well being. They certainly can, have and still are doing so, for many people. But not in a manner that seems satisfying to me.

In my opinion, reading is underestimated and over looked by a lot of people. This is part of the reason why it is of such importance to me. By some, it is perceived as boring, tedious and time consuming. Rightfully so. People that look down on the effort that is needed to gain knowledge, do not deserve its full benefits. This is not to say that I think it is correct to look down on them in return.

Another part of my reason, it is by far the best way to learn from people that are dead or out of my reach. The lessons, stories, decisions that leaders from another era have learned or made are often comprised in this medium that allows me to learn from their entire lifelong careers, long after their demise. In a matter of weeks. (I read very slow. Because of dyslexia I silently talk to myself while I read.)

“Collect books, even if you don’t plan on reading them right away. Nothing is more important than an unread library.”
‘Steal Like An Artist’ by Austin Kleon.

Sharing knowledge? Sounds good.

For the last two years I have spent a large amount of my income on books. With a small private library as the result. Having books waiting on shelves to be read or re-read seemed like a waste. Certainly since I view their contents as highly helpful to other people as well. So I did the following.

After I had read a book, I would propose it to someone in my social circle. If they showed interest, I would lend them the book. Hoping reading it would have a similar effect on them as it had on me. After 10 months I stopped doing that.
I had handed out less than 10 books to people I knew and only one person had read theirs to the end. Most, never opened their books. It felt like a disappointment every time I found out. I knew the effect the book had on me and knew that those people would not experience it.

Now, I have learned that it is not possible to give people something and help them, if they do not reach out for it themselves. It is as if each person is a ship in the ocean with their own course. Blowing in their own sails as hard as they can, to go their own direction. Me handing them books is like blowing into their sails from a large distance, it has no effect and if noticed, merely irritating.

“How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?
Only one but the light bulb has to want to change.”
-A. Joke

The big picture

Another benefit of large amounts of reading are the meta-subjects that slowly become clear. All books are part of a larger whole. Each one contains a small part of that. (Creativity is closely linked to the following metaphor.)

It’s like the dots in a children’s color book or the stars across a clear night sky. Mankind has been connecting those dots and stars for ages. Creating new ideas on top of the old ones, continuously recycling in order to create something new. The fact that every dot known to man is already connected to something else, does not stop the process. The amount of connections is infinite, so are the dots.

The more I read, the more dots and connections appear. Several ideas, paradigms or concepts reoccur in several books. Although explained in different ways. By accumulating the material that I consume through reading, I expose and discover those dots and connections that become general truths in my life.

Starting out and getting good books.

Starting out is simple. I pick up books that I need to achieve my goals.
When I was thinking about starting a clothing line, I bought a e-book called ‘Thread’s not dead’. When I asked myself if I was leading a good life i.e. being a good person, I bought ‘Letters from a Stoic’.

I can give many examples like these. The real trick is not buying and reading a book. It’s choosing which book I invest in. Each book that is part of my collection has been recommended to me by others who’s opinions I trust. This network of recommendations is entirely made up of online personalities since I lack that specific expertise in my immediate circle. Including but not limited to Tim Ferriss, Ryan Holiday, Owen from RSD and Brad Branson. This circle of people is part of my inspiration and gateway to media that I deem valuable. These are people to who’s careers or lifestyles I look up and aspire to. All of them are my mentors and have helped me progress tremendously but I have never met or talked to any one of them. This way of learning forms the core of learning from reference, that is:

– Someone showing you HOW have to do something.
– Doing that something OVER AND OVER again until it becomes natural or fully understood.

A simple case of ‘monkey see, monkey do’. The trick is picking the right monkey to spy off.

Thank you for reading!

If you enjoyed my article and would like some book recommendations, take a look at the picture at the top of the page.

-Matthew Dawn

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