I’ve been suffering from reading for several months. I’ll tell you why.
As a goal achiever and an avid learner, reading is one of my great pleasures.
I love sitting down and reading without having to look at the watch. Easy and cheap.
During the last years, I’ve been accumulating several reading sources: articles, websites, newsletters, courses… and books.
It sounds funny, but there’s a moment (I don’t know if you’ve ever been in this situation) in which anxiety knocks on your door.
You are a compulsive learner/reader, and you receive thousands of inputs every day. It’s like a drug addict receiving drugs for free every day. Like a child alone in a candy store.
It’s an overwhelming situation.
You don’t know how to start, what the most crucial source is, because everything seems to be critical, essential, a step further in your learning journey.
But your time is limited and, although I always say there’s time for everything, this (foolish) quote also has a limit.
This situation generates that anxiety you feel you have to tackle with it because you cannot live that way. And that’s what I did.
I decided to focus on books because it was the point driving me crazy, making me feel bad about myself. That craziness sensation we always have to avoid.
High-level goals vs. Low-level goals
As a goal achiever, whenever I’m thinking about something, I set goals.
It’s always the same formula:
- Goals equals projects.
- Projects equals tasks.
- Tasks equals action.
- Action equals goal achievement.
- Goal achievement equals fulfillment.
- Fulfillment equals happiness.
I invariably start with high-level goals because those are easier to think. Example: I want to learn.
Later on, I convert that high-level goal into a or several low-level goals.
Low-level goals must have these two crucial points:
- A deadline.
- A clear way of measuring.
Following the example above (“learning”) and, to make it easier, I will transform that high-level goal into just one low-level goal.
Let’s say, for instance, “Read 52 books a year” (I understand “reading” is a way to “learn”).
Setting those low-level goals makes it easier to create tasks (if you have a lot of them, you can create a project to include them to have a clearer vision. For me, a project is just a group of tasks).
52 books a year means a book per week. If we are talking about an average of 10 hours per book, to simplify things, you need an average of 1.5 reading hours each day.
It’s not an odyssey. I’ve done it for several years, and many more people even read 60, 70, or 100 books per year.
To make things happen, you need to start doing and track and measure as much as you can.
I started tracking my “book reading rate”, and it was going down and down, day by day.
With my previously explained overwhelming scenario (newsletter, articles, and so forth), this 52 read books a year goal became an important pressure item in my life.
I always say I (we) need the pressure to do things. That gives me motivation and energy. But it’s very easy to “overdo” pressure.
When pressure is a lot, performance decays. That’s why learning how to manage pressure is a key activity to work on.
I had pressure because of my low-level goal, but also because I belong to the “old-school”, that one who says things like these:
- You have to finish what you start. In our case, if you started a book, finished it. Even Bill Gates says so.
- Use sequential processes to perform better. In our case, simply start reading a book and finish it. Don’t think about anything else.
It sounds weird, but that’s perfectly engraved in my subconscious, and I feel bad if I don’t finish something I’ve already started.
It’s like I failed. Like I didn’t fulfill what was expected of me. Definitely, a source of anxiety.
This low-level goal focus drove me to stupid scenarios, such as reading a book that wasn’t giving me anything (no pleasure, no new knowledge) instead of exciting articles or unique newsletters, just because I have made to myself that f* 52 read books promise.
I hope you’ve already been in this situation just to feel accompanied in the stupidity.
My low-level goal (“52 read books”) prevented me from achieving my high-level goal (“learning”).
That never can happen. It’s stupidity at its greatest. We can never be stupids, at least, consciously.
I couldn’t keep on that way.
I just needed a little push to change my strategy entirely.
That little push came from listening to this fantastic episode, “Naval Ravikant: The Angel Philosopher”, in “The Knowledge Project” podcast, one I highly recommend to avid learners.
By the way, in that episode, Naval talks about life, my dearest topic, because life is what worries us. All our thoughts and concerns are about life.
Naval says many interesting things about reading.
He understands books as any other source: posts, online articles…
That’s why talking about books, he skims, he skips not interesting chapters, he leaves books unfinished…
Marvelous, fantastic, incredible! I needed someone to support my thinking. That’s kind of release when you find someone you respect and admire and tell you what you want to hear.
I felt relieved.
Freedom came into my life again.
I could not read 52 books a year, and still achieve my goals, feeling good, not feeling guilty about myself.
Here I write down some conclusions or takeaways I took from all this process:
- You need to pay attention to your high-level goals. Are you really doing the right things you need to achieve them? Was I going to accomplish my learning goal by reading nonsense books instead of exciting articles?
- You need to take out pressure whenever you feel it is hurting you. You can’t let performance decline due to pressure.
- You need to live life in freedom. You need to be able to breathe. Whenever you feel inside a cage, stop, think, analyze, and change your actions.
- Life is all about mindset, the way you look at things. Focusing on reading books was narrowing my perspective. Always look at the big picture. Learning is my big picture.
- Life changes very quickly, and so must we. We need to adapt our brain to a new reality, to keep on growing, to have that sense of peace we need to feel comfortable about ourselves. Old school principles use to be expired nowadays.
- Today, there are many different sources to grab ideas, knowledge. You don’t need a sequential book reading experience. You can jump from one place to another and keep learning, growing, and accomplishing your most meaningful goals in life.
- Don’t keep on doing things that make you feel you’re wasting your time. You have to feel comfortable, enjoying your reading experience. That’s when you are going to get the most of it.
With this change of behavior and mindset, I’m going to learn the same, at least, but without pressure.
And I’m pretty sure that it will take me even further, to better performance.
Now, let’s read, regardless of the format.