• David Strittmatter

How reading has changed my life

The world belongs to those who read - Rick Holland

Summary:

  • Books are a super cheap, highly underrated gateway to the knowledge of the best experts

  • Too many people believe that reading alone will change their life

  • Knowledge can only be harnessed if it's used


Practical advice:

  • Start slowly and stay consistent

  • Read books that can help you to solve a problem you would like to be solved

  • Write down three to-dos once you finished a book


Dear friend,


If you asked me what is the habit that's had the most impact on my life, I'd give you a quick and clear answer: reading.


Consuming non-fictional books and processing their information has changed my whole life - for the better: I'm happier, more self-confident, have more fun, can live life more to the fullest, experience more freedom, set and achieve ambitious goals, became more resilient...


In today's blog article, I want to share with you all the great benefits of this habit, illustrate how you can develop this habit too, and talk about the importance of practical implementation.


Tap a pool of unlimited wisdom


When I happened to read my first non-fictional book, I didn't know what was coming afterward. I purchased it because I received a book voucher and didn't want to waste the money. I hated reading in school, so it was quite challenging to get started. Since I deliberately selected a book that promised me to "make my life more successful", I gave it a try. Even though the insights were superficial, they stuck in my mind and I could implement them (for instance, always make a decision and make it fast and be consistent).


Today, dozens of books later, I made progress in various areas of life: health, sports, psychology, personal development, entrepreneurship, dating, goal achievement, motivation, and many more.


Books are a super cheap, highly underrated gateway to the knowledge and experience of experts in almost every subject. For only 10 bucks, you can get the manual to achieve a level of self-confidence you've ever dreamed of, a summary of the most important principles of the most successful entrepreneurs, the blueprint to build your very own personal brand, etc.

There're people spending (hundreds/tens of) thousands of euros for education, workshops, seminars, and other teaching formats. I'd guess that 99% of this knowledge is also stored in books, which you can find and buy in the library around the corner or on the internet.


Unfortunately, too many people - as I used to - don't understand the enormous potential of this pool of wisdom.


Just because you read it doesn't mean you learned it


What many people fail at and the main reason why many quickly give up this habit is the learning curve: Too many people believe that reading alone will change their life. It might be true that you sometimes (unconsciously) apply the knowledge from the books you read and advance in the respective field; however, without a deliberate effort and practical implementation of the newly acquired knowledge, nothing will really change.


This pool of experts' knowledge can only be harnessed if it'll be used; otherwise, you'll forget the knowledge faster than you can read.


For example, I read a fascinating book about geography two years ago. Since I didn't take notes or write a summary after finishing it, I forgot 99% of the content. When I subsequently read a philosophy book about the freedom of will, I took notes and build on that knowledge by researching. Today, I'm still able to talk about the key insights and have a discussion about whether we have free will on the basis of this book.


That was an abstract example. A more interesting one is the following: Before I flew to the USA, I had contemplated what I could do that greatly challenges me. I decided to build my own personal brand. So, I bought a book dealing with this topic. After reading it, I built my own website + blog, started a YouTube channel, expanded my personal brand on Instagram, and the next platform is about to follow.


The same goes for my personal development journey. In Tony Robbin's Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement, he points out the importance of defining one's own most important values. After reading this chapter, I took pen and paper and followed his manual to discover my personal values. You probably cannot imagine the impact of this little time investment, but I can tell you it's had an enormously positive one on my life so far.


How to develop this habit


If you're still reading this article or jumped right to this paragraph, you should definitely retain one information: Start slowly and stay consistent.


When I got started, I read 10 min max. My main goal, though, was to read every single day. No matter the circumstances. I read right before I went to sleep. And even when I was drunk from a party, I told myself I had to read. I was all about consistency.


As you can read in The power of habit (great book though), you'll need a lot of discipline at the beginning of the development of a new habit. Once you accomplished a streak of about 2 weeks, you'll need less and less discipline to stay consistent. After about 2 months, you probably won't need any discipline anymore. Eventually, you'll reach a state in which you have an inner desire to perform your habit. Not reading after you've done it consistently over a period of years will feel like going to school/work without brushing your teeth.


Thus, you need to stay 100% consistent when you get started. No excuses.


Moreover, you should optimize the circumstances so that you can maintain your streak as easy as possible:

  • Don't force yourself to read more than feels good (10 minutes is totally fine when you get started)

  • Read a book that can help you to solve a problem you would like to be solved (for instance, you want to learn dealing better with verbal confrontations, so you buy a book teaching you argumentation techniques)

  • Have a clear habit trigger and stick to it: For instance, you always read before you go to bed → Going to bed is your trigger

  • Use customer reviews to find a good book so that you don't waste time with one that won't help you

In order to make the most out of your reading time, you should take notes and/or use a marker to highlight passages you want to remember later. Moreover, I summarize each and every book I read. That allows me to rethink, remember, and grasp the most important parts.


Ultimately, you need to force yourself to take action and implement the theoretical concepts. Most of the personal development books have clear assignments which the authors incorporated in their works. However, if you read a biography, for instance, there won't be any practical advice. Thus, you need to create your own action plan.


A year ago, I started to write down three to-dos once I finished a book in order to put into practice the content of it. For instance, after I had finished The ride of a lifetime from Robert Igor, one of my to-dos was to write a blog article about Integrity (it was one of the key values he attributed great leaders) and to develop a habit that allows me to implement his concept of the relentless pursuit of perfection (as part of my weekly reflection, I ask myself What should I've done better this week?


You can use my strategy or find your own way. What's crucial, though, you need to put your readings into practice. Then, you'll clearly experience progress, no matter what you're trying to advance.

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