Books are awesome because they are condensed packets of wisdom, and the ideas therein have the potential to help you solve real and immediate problems in your life.
Ideas have power.
Good ideas have tremendous value and potential.
Regardless of how good an idea is, if it isn’t placed in the power of intention, it’s likely to fade and be forgotten, keeping you exactly where you were before you cracked the book open in the first place.
Why Do You Read?
Seth Godin said: “If you spend twenty dollars on a book and get one idea from it, that’s a bargain.”
I read all kinds of books for a variety of reasons, but the core reason I pick up a book these days will fall under one of two categories.
1.) To learn something specific that I can apply to my own life right now to improve it in some way.
2.) To expose myself to new ideas and knowledge. In other words, to expose myself to ideas and perspectives that will help me live a richer, more purposeful life. Books on philosophy by Montaigne, the Stoics, etc., for instance. Books written by people much wiser, smarter, and more experienced than I am.
Ryan Holiday has this to say about the value of reading:
“The purpose of reading is not just raw knowledge. It’s that it is part of the human experience. It helps you find meaning, understand yourself, and make your life better. There is very little else that you can say that about.”
“Very little else like that under $20 too.”
A few months ago I had some books on investing in my cart on Amazon. I was 1 click and 2 business days away from opening a box of books that would teach me to invest my money and watch it grow.
Tony Robbins’ Money was in there. One Up on Wall Street too. The Intelligent Investor, and a few others would have showed up at my door in less than 48 hours.
But before I placed the order I had this thought:
“Hang on a second, I don’t have any fucking money… what business do I have reading a single one of these books?”
Even if I did read all those books on investing with the intention of actually using the information at a later date, when future-Me has some funds to play with, there’s no way I would even remember a damn thing I read.
Ask yourself this question for every book you pick up:
“What is this book going to do for me right now?”
As an experiment for this blog, I decided to reach out to dozens of successful people I look up to and ask them about a time when a book helped them solve a real, immediate problem in their life.
I sent out emails to bestselling authors, entrepreneurs, CEO’s, leading figures in fitness, nutrition, marketing, and business.
The common theme among everyone who responded is that they are all activationists: they are people who do things.
In other words, they all read, they all get shit done, and they all accomplish great things on a regular basis.
Nate Green is a great example.
Nate is an author, speaker, and marketing and ideas guy for Precision Nutrition (he also launched this cool new course called Refocus which teaches you how to spend your time more purposefully and be more focused).
This is what he had to say about using books to help solve problems.
“I’ve found it helpful to do two things”
1.) “Limit the amount of non-fiction books I read (especially self-development and business books). I find that reading more than one a month leads to information overload and no action-steps. Sometimes I go a few months without reading any kind of “business” book. I find it much more effective to consistently practice the stuff I already know versus always learning new things.“
2.) “Every book ends with ONE action step. If I read a book about writing, I try to implement just one suggestion on how to become a better writer. If I read a book on business I try to do just one thing the author suggested. This allows me to actually get demonstrable value out of the book instead of simply “learning cool stuff.”
“Also, by focusing on one action step, I increase my chances of actually following through with it.”
I like Nate’s minimalist approach because it allows you to rig the game so you can win. If you take one idea from every book and run with it, that’s probably more than most people ever do.
Ideas and Actions
“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo
James Altucher has talked a lot about how ideas are the new currency of the 20th century, and it makes total sense. Everything around you, every accomplishment, invention, or creation in the world is a result of an idea acted upon.
An idea set in motion and a vision realized.
As I said before, I believe good ideas have tremendous value.
Sometimes a good book will plant the seed of an idea in your mind. If properly cultivated and cared for, that idea can guide you towards making better decisions, ensuring you trend towards accomplishing your goal, one decision at a time.
Chris Guillebeau, New York Times bestselling author of The Art of Non-Conformity and The $100 Startup read a book that planted an idea in his mind that inspired him to keep asking himself one critical question as he was in the planning stages of his first book project:
“When I read Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, I felt challenged by the true story of Dr. Paul Farmer. Here was someone who had given his all in pursuit of bringing healthcare to Haiti—and at a high personal cost. I knew I couldn’t do something like that, but it inspired me to keep the question of “What am I contributing?” front of mind as I planned my initial Art of Non-Conformity project.”
People need inspiration.
Without inspiration — without that spark — I wouldn’t have started this blog. I wouldn’t be into fitness or meditation. I wouldn’t have had the courage to reach out to all these cool people that I look up to for advice.
For me, books have always been my number one source of inspiration.
Success is inspiring.
Wisdom on life and love and business ignite possibilities in our own lives that urge us to scratch our curiosities to see what we can actually do if we dare to try.
Sol Orwell is a guy who seemingly knows no fear and fears no failure. He’s a successful serial entrepreneur whose LinkedIn title currently reads: “Quasi-Retired”.
He’s not even thirty years old.
Sol launched Examine.com which was recognized by Fast Company as a Top 10 innovative company in health and fitness in 2015, and was profiled on Forbes as a seven-figure entrepreneur. He is a master networker (seriously, he knows everyone) and marketing wiz, and all around effective human being.
When I asked him about a time when a book spurred him to action, this is what he said:
“Honestly – I think the best book that made me move was Robert Caro’s biography on Lyndon B Johnson. It just showed that the man was absolutely relentless, knew how to leverage his position, and did amazing customer service even back then (he was an aide to a congressman, and made sure that every single letter was personally replied).“
I think books are one of the best ways to spread wisdom, but most people who actually have wisdom to share probably don’t have the time, or confidence, or energy to put pen to paper and bust out a 200-word book.
And in this day and age, they don’t have to.
There’s this great company called Book in a Box, and their mission is to attract clients who have wisdom and expertise to share with the world.
Their mission statement? Turn Your Knowledge Into A Book. In 12 Hours.
In under 12 hours, the company will get you to spit out all your ideas and wisdom, and turn that knowledge into a book. We all have ideas, and good ideas should be shared, but we can’t all write books.
Book In A Box exists to solve that problem.
They take your knowledge, wisdom, and expertise, and turn it into a book, and make sure the book finds it’s way to the people who need it.
Since this whole project is all about books, I asked a few people from Book In A Box about a time when a book helped them solve a problem in their own life.
“The book helped me really make a leap in my meditation practice, and understand it well enough to actually do it right.”
To improve how the team conducts meetings, Co-Founder Zach Obront, read a book called Meetings Suck:
“Most recently, I read Meetings Suck and completely revamped the way our company does meetings. It’s made a huge impact on our productivity”
When I asked Kevin Espiritu, this is what he said:
“Reading How to Win Friends and Influence People helped me defuse a hot scenario between me and my landlord. He had concerns about the setup of the garage (I had a home office in there at the time), and I was able to figure out what he was really upset about, address it in a casual and upfront way, and completely resolve his anger.”
The common theme among these guys is that they each read a book and took action.
Tucker sought out a book to improve his meditation practice and implemented what he learned, Zach read up on increasing meeting efficiency and overhauled the way their team conducts meetings, and Kevin used Dale Carnegie’s timeless advice on the power of influence and social intelligence to smooth things over with his landlord.
The kinds of books Book In A Box churns out are created with the intention that the information in the books will help solve people’s problems. Plain and simple. Here are a few case studies of clients who have had great success in spreading their wisdom to the people who need it.
“Human beings have been recording their knowledge in book form for more than 5,000 years. That means that whatever you’re working on right now, whatever problem you’re struggling with, is probably addressed in some book somewhere by someone a lot smarter than you. Save yourself the trouble of learning from trial and error-find that point. Benefit from that perspective.”
– Ryan Holiday.
*More to come in part II: the gap between inspiration and action, how books fit into the trial-fail-succeed model, and more insightful blurbs from people who do interesting things.