Reading Books Alone Won’t Help You Much. You Should Also Act

don't-just-read-act

My eyes hurt, my back is killing me, and my son is doing everything he can to make this activity impossible. I don’t want to be on my couch reading another book. I hate to read. Anybody who says they like to read is either liar or a social reject. After all, what kind of nerd wants to sit all day and flip pages written by some old dude who considers himself better than the rest of us? I could be playing video games or enthusiastically liking photos on Instagram and Facebook, like the rest of the world.

Yet again, here I am. Another day, another book.

I talk a lot about reading books and about the importance of finding quality sources of information that can serve as a substitute for the time-wasting social media platforms. And as you can probably already noticed, the way I make dollars out of this site is by offering premium subscription where people get full access to all of the book summaries published here.1

But more often than not, reading feels like a burden. Like a nasty chore.

When I was in school, I did my best to avoid this nerdish activity. Instead of reading the list of books assigned by my school teacher during my vacation, I either played video games or I was pretending to read.

But here I am today. After successfully avoiding reading for a bit over 25 years, I have now more than 100 books behind my back and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

Why?

Because reading can save your life.

Why Reading is Important?

That’s a bold claim: “Reading can save your life!”

But it’s true.

Don’t believe me?

Let me back that statement with some extra insights.

The main benefit of reading books is simple: You’re exposed to information that took years to gather and assemble. A single book can change the way you view the world, help you overcome challenges, upgrade your thinking, and give you purpose. Oh, and you also get smarter when you regularly read.2

But that’s not how I always felt about reading books.

When I was younger, I thought that authors are trying to punish people by not adding pictures in their books. And, by making them so long.

“Who are you trying to impress?” I thought.

But now I know that the final shipped product – a single book – is the best way to understand a complex subject.

Since writing a book involves a lot of research, personal experience, and heavy editing, the outcome after a book is published is a summarized version of various sources of information.

When done correctly, in around 300 pages – the average length of a book – you get exposed to an avalanche of information, you learn from the experience of others, and avoid failing on your own.

Books transform complicated topics into interesting to read chapters that can help us make better decisions thereby improve our chances of success.

What Happens If You Don’t Read Books?

Don’t like reading and you don’t see a point of flipping pages?

You’re not the only one. As mentioned, I was a book-avoider for more than 25 years. After all, there are a ton of activities that sound and feel more interesting – video games, board games, smartphone games, social media games, movies, traveling, going out…

It’s so easy these days to find an interesting activity to do. And unfortunately for writers, reading is the one that most often gets skipped.

However, if you don’t expose yourself to new information regularly, nothing really happens to you. Yes, on the outside it seems that you’re having fun and enjoying your life to the fullest. But on the inside – in terms of knowledge and intelligence – you stay the same.

if you don't read regularly
If you don’t read, the knowledge you gain through the years is not that much.

If you don’t read, the knowledge you know today will pretty much stay the same after 10 years.

In contrast, if you read only a couple of books per year, you’ll rapidly increase your expertise, problem-solving skills, you’ll become smarter, sharper, and a more interesting person. You’ll realize that the world is more complicated and more interesting than what you anticipated.

what happens when you read
Reading rapidly increases your worldview. You become more informed and more educated.

Or to put it simply, reading helps you become smarter while not reading makes you stupid.

After all, if we’re not improving we’re regressing. And regressing means stupid. It’s simple mathematics.

The Common Misconception About Reading

OK, reading helps. We all know that. I mean, I just convinced you, right?

But there’s a caveat.

If not done properly, reading can be just another leisure activity that doesn’t really add much in your life.

Let me explain…

There is a commonly used quote by self-proclaimed gurus that states something along the lines: “Not all readers are successful but all successful people are readers.” Meaning that if you happen to be mentioned by the Fortune magazine you’re most probably a vivid reader. And that’s good marketing for the wrapped pieces of paper.

Thankfully, big new publications are endorsing this valuable habit by sharing the reading habits of ultra-successful people. At some point, probably some of these titles appeared in your news feed:

And if you happen to read any of these articles, you’ll conclude that reading is so good that it can turn you into a superstar.

Yet, when I read such articles I always wonder: “Are people like Warren Buffett successful because of reading or they now read because they are successful and have more free time?”

After all, when you’re reading, you’re not doing anything. You just sit and read. It’s not like you’re building a business, starting a company, or becoming more productive. It’s a passive activity that often doesn’t do any good in your life – at least not immediately.

Warren Buffett has time to read because he makes millions out of his investments.

You and me? We can’t afford to read so many pages per day. We have a job to attend to and other stuff that are important for our survival.

Reading, per se, doesn’t lead to anything productive. Reading, if not done properly, can be just as wasteful as watching television.

if you read but if you don't do anything
If you read but if you don’t do anything with the knowledge you obtain, you stay the same person.

That’s what I was doing in the past.

Before taking the time to summarize the books I read, and actually doing something with the information inside, I was just passively reading. I was devouring books but not doing anything afterward. Or if I can rephrase, I’d say that I was a self-help junkie.3 I was obsessed with finding the best self-help books and expanding my library thinking, that this activity alone (reading) will make me uberly successful. I was convinced that by simply reading books I’ll improve. Sadly, this is not true.

It took me years to realize that reading alone, won’t get me far in life. Yes, you learn new stuff. You probably understand the world a bit better, you built your library and you can brag about it online. But if you don’t act, you’ll stay the exact same person.

In a sense, when not done properly, reading gives you a false sense of superiority. You start to think that you’re smart and stuff, but in reality, you’re the exact same person with few more words in your vocabulary.

if you read and if you act you get better
Only when you act on the information you learn you get to grow and become better.

To get the most out of reading, you need to have a clear goal. And more importantly, to do something with the insights you get from the books.

But how? How exactly should I read properly to improve my life?

Let’s take a look…

How to get the most out of reading?

You’re probably confused by now.

I surely was when I was writing the text.

So lets recap:

Above I said that not reading can turn you into a sluggish couch potato too lazy to get off his bed but I also said that reading can mold you into an egoistic all-knowing prick who pretends to know everything.

While contradictory, these both claims are true.

So what’s the essence of reading then?

You need to read but in order to get wiser, you need to have a clear goal when you’re grabbing a book. To have a plan, to take notes, and to act on the insights inside the volumes you consume.

And doing these things is not hard, you just need a strategy.

Here are a couple of steps that will help you get the most out of reading:

  • Have a clear goal: Why are you reading? Do you want to be entertained or do you want to learn something? Obviously, if you want to read for fun you’ll look in the fiction category or grab a comics. If you want to learn something specific though, ask yourself first what exactly do you want to learn: Do you want to become a better manager? A better leader? A better salesman? Search for the best books in these fields.
  • Do your research: Avoid buying books just because the title appeared on your device. Or, because some online dude said that the book will change your life. Yes, it might. But first consider your own goals. Is this book aligned with what you want to learn? If yes, add it to your reading list and schedule time to read it.
  • Best-sellers are often overrated: I said this before and I’ll say it again: the best-sellers that are dominating famous book charts are there because the marketing firm did a great job. Or, simply because the author is popular on social media. A simple example of this is the book by Simon Sinek, Start with Why. While the main idea of the book is quite interesting, you can simply watch his famous Ted Talk and get the whole point. The book is basically repeating the same thing over and over again. In contrast, a book like The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick, will never reach the best-sellers chart but it’s probably one of the best books on evaluating your business idea.
  • Create a GoodReads account: Probably the only social media platform I actually praise. GoodReads is a great way to keep track of the books you read and the ones you want to read. On top of that, the platform has a great yearly challenge that prompts you to set a reading goal. Thanks to this, I read 40 books in 2019 and I’m about to read 41 books in 2020.
  • Take notes: There is a reason students have homework assignments and take tests after a chapter in their workbook is finished – this helps students reinforce what they learn in class. Without homework, a lot of classroom time would be wasted with repetition. Taking notes while you read a book helps you focus and you better understand the main concepts. Good note-taking will improve your comprehension of material and retention.
  • Read summaries: OK, I’m not only saying this to convince you to register for a membership on my site – though you should consider it. I’m saying this because there are a lot of books out there. It’s getting harder and harder to find a great read. Besides, a lot of times books had to be articles but the author decided to stretch his simple idea into 300 pages and waste a week of your life. If you don’t have a lot of time, you can read my summaries. Once you find a book that sparks you interested, and you’re ready to devote 15-20 hours of your life, get that specific book.
  • Take action: In all of my book summaries, I add a worksheet that aims to do one thing: Motivate you to take action on what you just read. As I mentioned above, reading alone won’t get you far in life – you also need to act. While the goal of the author is often to promote his next or previous books, your goal should be to get the most out of the information shared inside the book you just read. And, as you can imagine, this can be done only by doing some work.

Some Closing Thoughts

Reading prevents crimes. Reading increases your chances for academic achievements. Reading has the power to save the world.4

Yet again, if not done properly, reading is just another activity that will consume portion of your precious time.

To get the most out of this ancient labor, you should act.

Take steps when you read the book. Do some adjustments in your life based on the content. Talk about it with others. Spread the knowledge.

By doing so, you have a chance to make your life, and the life of the people around you, better. To go where you want to go and become the person you always wanted to be.


Footnotes:

  1. If you don’t have time to read, I strongly recommend my membership program. By becoming a member, you’ll get access to all of the book summaries published on my site.
  2. And I’m not just saying these things because I can write whatever I want on my site, the following studies confirm these statements: LINK; LINK.
  3. A self-help junkie refers to someone who indulges in self-help (for leisure) and doesn’t follow-up with action.
  4. Source: 10 Ways Reading Can Save the World.