A New Lens
Reading as a Superpower
Read as if your life depends on it because it does.
I have had numerous conversations over the years with friends about the value of long-form reading. The overwhelming majority of these conversations often include the following phrases “I just don’t have the time to read,” “I don’t even remember what I read, so it seems like a waste of time,” or “what does a book that was written over 100 years ago have to do with me today?”
I know exactly how they feel since my love of reading didn’t come until my 30s, and these excuses were exactly what I repeated for decades.
I often try in vain to convince my friend otherwise since I think long-form reading is the single greatest investment one can have in your growth.
The thing is, we are always reading; the only question is what we are choosing to read. In today's world, we are hit with a barrage of bites of information from the moment we wake up until we fall asleep at night. We feel it is essential to stay informed on the latest news and trends that are happening in real time, so we don’t miss out on essential information. And yet when we forsake long-form reading, we are doing just that. We are missing essential information that helps us be critical thinkers.
In Nicholas G. Carr’s book The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, he argues:
“What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”
Scuba Diving > Jet Skiing
I suggest to you, dear reader, that scuba diving is far superior to jet skiing for your growth.
If we were to take the ocean analogy further, where our goal is to understand the ocean and its inhabitants truly, I could see many benefits of being a scuba diver:
Being a scuba diver forces you to slow down. There is nothing fast about scuba diving, from the preparation to the execution and finally to the recovery. Everything has a reason, and you rush them at your own peril.
Being a scuba diver allows you to examine a topic that was previously outside your reach fully. I am reminded of one of my favorite documentaries, My Octopus Teacher, in which Craig Foster spent a year fostering a relationship with a female octopus on the coast of South Africa. By slowing down and doing a practice of visiting his new friend, Craig learns how she eats, sleeps, and defends herself from predators of the deep. More importantly, the octopus becomes a teacher to Craig, who is burned out from work and suffering from depression.
Being a scuba diver is a rewarding experience that will force you to develop skills that can help you to understand your environment in more depth and appreciation, giving you the satisfaction of personally exploring parts of the world that few have seen before.
Refining Your Filter
But the best reason to become addicted to reading is that it gives you a filter to understand how you think.
Reading is often seen as a tool to store and easily access information. However, if the information gained from reading cannot be remembered or used, then it could be argued the time spent reading could have been better spent elsewhere. Why spend two weeks reading a book if you cannot gain two weeks of immediate benefit?
I’d like you to shift your thinking about reading the same way you think of your photographs on your phone. When we used flip phones, we had one or two filters for photographs; when the iPhone first came out, we had a dozen filters, but now we have hundreds of filters at the tip of our fingertips. The same photograph can change in appearance based on the filter used on that photograph.
This is the effect that a book has on your thinking. Each book becomes a different filter through which you can see a different lesson as shared by the author.
Information Retention Is Not The Point
The primary purpose of reading is not the retention of information. I don’t remember 95% of what I read in the books I read, but I do remember the feelings I had while reading. I do remember thinking about how Teddy Roosevelt handled adversity in 1912 after losing the primary for his third presidential run and how I could use his decisions to direct my decision-making thanks to Candice Millard and her book The River Of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey.
Learn about a book with me in one minute:
Today’s Read: The River Of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard.
Why: It’s a study in resiliency both mentally and physically after Roosevelt had just been handed one of the worst defeats in his life.
— Nick Kennedy (@n_ckkennedy)
Jan 6, 2023
The point of reading is not to retain the information; the point of reading is the constant refining of the filter through which we see reality.
Living life with a finely tuned filter is the equivalent of scuba diving with a mask instead of swimming without one. It is exchanging Virtual Reality for brail.
How To Create A Filter For Your Life
The good news is that all you need to do create a filter is to read.
Like the response that I gave on Twitter to this question:
How to become a better reader?
— Josh Gonsalves (@joshgonsalves_)
Jan 3, 2023
— Josh Gonsalves (@joshgonsalves_)
Jan 3, 2023
Say Goodbye To The Old You
It may be difficult to appreciate the importance of a book written over a century ago, but the truth is that it can still provide insight and meaningful context that can be applied to our lives today. After all, the wisdom of the ages is still relevant, and by reading more, we can better understand how to navigate the complexities of this day and age. In our increasingly digital world, reading is a skill that can help us to think more critically, discern truth from falsehood, and to make informed decisions.
As Nicholas Carr found in his research:
So you need to answer whether you want to be the jet ski rider, skimming past the collective knowledge of thousands of years of human knowledge. Or do you want to be a scuba diver, willing to enter the ocean, not knowing what the future holds, but knowing that when you surface, you will be better off for having taken the dive?
After all, life is just a series of decisions and consequences thereafter.
So, read as if your life depends on it because it does.
Pick up a book and read. Start easy, and find a topic that really interests you. Do not start with Dostoevsky.
If you need suggestions, you can start with books that I recommend here:
I provide audacious coaching for courageous leaders, and when you're ready, there are four ways I can help your growth:
Check out Nick’s Good Books for a free list of books to help you create a new lens.
Online courses through The Good Entrepreneur Institute (Releasing six new courses in 2023)