Reading or listening to books is very powerful. It feels as if I had a genius for a friend, an ancient philosopher for a teacher, world renown leader as an advisor, inspired elder as a storyteller. Since I began reading as part of my personal development regimen about 2 years ago, I was able to grasp the impact of books. I felt one of the best things a book can do is to plant a seed idea allowing it to grow over time watered by the reader's life experiences. While there are many books that focus on quick fixes, it is essential we maintain whatever that we do as a lifetime habit, so we'd never lose it.
Many great leaders, past or present, read daily and recommend it for a reason that I've yet to comprehend completely. I'm not a scholar, but I constantly wanted to be better; even if it didn't help me succeed in life or my career, I believe I would at least be on a better path. My first misconception about reading was that I felt obligated to remember everything that I read, so I wouldn't waste the time and energy invested in reading those books. I soon realized that having that mindset is as if we wanted to absorb 100% of the food that we eat completely and not pass any wastes out. What I learned about human growth is that nothing is immediate; what comes fast, goes away fast. We do not fall back on our optimal state but on what we fundamentally are. We're not growing our best, we are growing our base. It is now my 3rd year of constantly listening to audiobooks, and I noticed slowly my memories, analytical skills, and attention skills improved over time. What Lao Tzu once said, "千里之行，始於足下 (a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step)," inspired me to begin doing instead of preparing to begin doing.
Picking the First Book
The concept of "world peace" could mean very differently for different people: a war activist may interpret it as war brings peace while a peace activist may understand it as peace inspires peace. We see what we want to see. If we understand an idea out of context, harmful or selfish intent may manifest.
We read books or connect to authors who are similar to us. There's no guarantee we'll be picking a good book. Naturally I began with philosophy to search for my purpose in the world. Good things about timeless text is that it has withstood the test of time. In the beginning of my quest to search for meanings in life, ancient Chinese philosophy teaches us that we all must read 孝經 (Filial Piety) before any other book can be read ensuring the most altruistic context would be absorbed. This book about developing our sense of respect for parents inspired great changes within me: I began to treat myself, my family members with more respect and naturally soon people around me with more respect. The book became my moral foundation on how I would understand every future book I'd read: books on philosophy, business, personal-development, financing, happiness, and morality would all reinforce the importance of family, our nation, and our world. It is more than about respect for parents and elders but respect to everyone.
The Right Books
Books are more than knowledge, they are influences. I began by only picking out books of timeless integrity, but soon realized that modern scientific and research-based understandings of our world is of equal paramount importance in order to understand the world and us as human more holistically.
There's one experiment where people were asked to guess how many balls are in a big glass container. The average number guessed by 10 people missed by a great margin. The guess of a group of 100 may still miss, but when 100,000 people were asked to guess, the average of those numbers can come very close.
I used that study as a base to choose books picking out only the highly rated books from Amazing or Goodreads.com. Choosing top ranking books can still miss here and there, but the chance of finding a great read is reduced greatly. Within those good books, authors often explain how they got their source of inspirations. References from authors you already develop trusts with is one of the best ways to building a great inspired library.
If you enjoy what I share on this website, I've also compiled a library of all the books I've read and books that I'd recommend here.
Reading Order Matters
Our environment constantly changes, and we constantly change. Reading is like eating in a sense that we always tend to buy more food at a grocery store when we're hungry. Say we lack motivations now, so we buy all the good audiobooks on motivations. After reading 2 of those books do we realize we're ready to put what we know to practice and need to read about how to start a company for example. Do we continue to finish all those motivational books?
If we want to start a company, it's less beneficial to read about marketing or branding at the initial stage where we would have no context. We must read about ethics, social science, or politics to understand the purpose of your entrepreneurial journey more thoroughly. Once our vision is advised/contemplated, can we listen to books like John Wooden's view on being a leader and or books on how to write a business plan. If we're in a state of being upset about others' success, we could read about spiritual or psychology books on defining happiness and learn to celebrate others' good news. Only then, when we read books about entrepreneurship or becoming a millionaire can we relate the concepts of success with generosity and being a positive force to move humanity forward.
I often read 5-10 books at once, so I can switch in between those books in a single day depending on my current state of mind. Reading all 5-10 books of the same or different genre can create a different dynamic understanding of their concepts. If we read about making money while reading about moral philosophy together, we're creating a subconscious link between making money and spiritual goodness; money, in this case, can be for good. If we were to read about making money along with listening to a podcast ranting about the negativities in life, we would relate making money with avoiding fears and superficial fulfillment. You could read the biography of great entrepreneurs while learning the field of your studies to draw connections on maximizing positive influences in the world.
To Listen or to Read?
To actually read a book is like watching a film with subtitles; it allows for a more conscious understanding. It's very handy when reading a more analytical book, ancient text, visually oriented books, or books written in languages that are not conventional or conversational in nature. Books that are casually discussed or illustrated in plain language, I strongly recommend audiobooks instead; you could exercise, do your chores, or drive while absorbing the same content. Below are what I came to understand some of the benefits for the 2 methods of reading a book:
The Benefits of Reading:
- It improves reading comprehension skills,
- It trains analytical skills,
- It allows note taking for later reviews,
- You can strategize the reading flow — pause to think or to skip familiar concepts/chapters.
The Benefits of Listening:
- It improves attention capability,
- It encourages memory skills,
- It trains multi-tasking skills (benefit of which may remain controversial),
- Preserve time spent on mundane activities.
Building Subconscious Links
When I was still in high school something had been puzzling me. Why would a music I listened to a year ago could remind me of the same exact smell and emotions when I listened to it again a year later. I started compiling a series of playlists and listen to them at a specific time of the day believing the playlist would record every emotional state. It worked. I thought this was exclusive for music, but recently I found out that it works for audiobooks too. I noticed that while revisiting 2001: A Space Odyssey while driving, the memory of the book came back and was literally dark. At first, I thought it was because that outer-space is dark, but I later realized it's because I listened to the whole book right before I slept. The environment was dark, and by shutting my eyes, my visual memory was dark regardless of what I envisioned in my head which was rather bright.
I started paying attention to the subtle workings of my subconscious when I stopped listening to audio books. I'm checking to see if my normal environment and activity could serve as visual queues to inspire me to generate thoughts. The result though may be bias, I'm beginning to experience a perpetual state of thoughts generation upon experiencing those visual queues. While stuck in traffic, I would begin to observe human behaviors, egos and the results of rushing things which I would quickly relate to investment — those who spend energies cutting between lines would eventually get tired and stuck at a slow lane and fall behind while believing and sticking to the fastest lane would eventually be ahead regardless of being slow at the current moment. Since I spend a great deal of time while driving, I could start designating what cars, traffic, the angle of the sun could remind me of by listening to the types of audiobooks; it could be a spiritual audiobook, so I can learn to be calm when stress arises due to traffic. It could be about investment, so the progression of the traffic could teach me about how human would react to immediate results. It could be management, so I could learn about human ego when drivers speed up when they see you light a turn signal. The psychological effect of this designed visual queue is extremely effective in designing a perpetual state of learning.
“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.” —Mozart
When I was still in my 20's, I understood successful people as those who act less like a human: sleep is for the weak, leisure is for the lazy, and play is for the poor. Now that I'm a little older, I'm beginning to understand just the contrary; those are myths against true progression. We often times just keep doing and doing what we thought was important when what we really needed to do was to take a step back, which many times is many steps forward. Sheena often compares human progression as a long race: do you want to run really fast or stay behind and build a bicycle.
When I began listening to audiobooks, I was amazed how I was able to capitalize on every little bit of wasted moments in a day. I listened and listened on. I never stopped until the end of that very same week; I was exhausted and couldn't listen to any more book; I could but I wasn't absorbing anything anymore. It was then I realized we could never be like Neo in the Matrix; we cannot upload knowledge and information like a computer into our mind. I began comparing listening to audiobooks as working out physically. If I wanted to grow strong, training too often or eating too much wouldn't help. We build our muscles during sleeps not during a workout. Listening to too many books too fast feels as though I strained my ankle at a gym. The time it takes to recover makes it less efficient over time. I learned that human growth is not about obtaining progress in the short term but about doing this for the rest of my life a little each day. Reading books is eating for the mind — we grow while sleeping not working.