I was always a bookworm. In fifth grade, I was one of the only students in my class to finish every last book on the Battle of the Books competition list.
Fast forward a few years and here I am: one of those people who can’t stand the thought of reading on an electronic device simply because of the pure joy that comes from opening up a new book and turning each page as more new information is absorbed.
A few weeks ago, I walked into Books, Inc., a local bookstore in the San Francisco Marina. In my pocket was a list of names that I’d been taking down during conversations with different people, and in my brain was that familiar feeling of excitement and wonder that comes from buying new books. In the past, this feeling has usually led to me buying more books than I can manage to read. This time, though, I had a strategy.
Chosen five authors who I knew were experts on what I wanted to learn.
Spoken in detail with a few close friends and colleagues about the best book they’ve read on a certain topic. If someone else learned something from it, chances are I would too.
Signed up with GoodReads, read reviews, and saved the rest of the books I wanted to check out for next time.
Before making the final decision on the books I was going to pick up, I had also set specific goals for myself. What was I trying to accomplish? Typically, skipping this step is one of the biggest mistakes in the learning process. There is so much information out there, and if you don’t focus your efforts in phases, it will be difficult to move forward.
What would your five goals be? Here are mine:
Begin to think more strategically
Adapt an an entrepreneurial outlook
Help people and brands stand out in the crowd
Learn tactical skills involved in starting a business
Study the impact of business scalability on competition
With these goals in mind, I headed to the business section and found the five books I’m currently working on delving into:
- Whatcha gonna do with that duck?, Seth Godin
- Competitive Strategy, Michael Porter
- Onward, Howard Schultz
- How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie
- Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
So I’ve got some great books, but what’s the point?
After cringing just a little as I checked out, I reassured myself that this was going to be worth it thanks to one of the more interesting tidbits I’ve come across: Maryanne Wolf, the John DiBiaggio Professor in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts, and the author of “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain,” explained how the brain takes in information in a New York times blog a few years ago.
Essentially, our brains process visual, semantic, and phonological cues within 300 milliseconds, which is what allows us to read and comprehend words. Even more interestingly, though, the brain spends another 100 to 200 milliseconds processing on a higher level that links the simple comprehension of words to inference, reasoning, analysis, and creating our own thoughts based upon what we’re reading. Wolf refers to Proust and what he called the heart of reading, which is “when we go beyond the author’s wisdom and enter the beginning of our own.
Translated, this means that reading words on a page helps us create our own sophisticated thoughts based upon what we’ve understood from the author (read: an intelligent human with expertise to share).
Now, as I turn the pages of Howard Scultz’s wisdom-filled Onward, I find myself making marks, folding corners down, and being inspired to think differently and work harder. In a short period of time, I’ve already changed the way I think and find myself yearning to talk about what I’m reading with anyone who will listen.
I’m happy to be experiencing Proust’s heart of reading. What widsom has come from yours?