This week we’re going to talk about a principle that can quite literally change your life. Reading, taking in new ideas and wrestling with them, creates a change in the direction of your life. What direction is that? The choice is yours.
Every thing you think or do is a cause set in motion.
For every cause there is an effect in your life.
For every result you start to create a direction.
For every direction there is an ultimate destiny.
Everything we do in life is an idea in our minds first.
Books are a way to put the best ideas of humanity into your mind. You may not be in a position to sit down with the best thinkers of today. You do not have the opportunity to sit down with the great historical thinkers who are no longer with us. However, by consuming their ideas you take in the very best of what that person had to offer. A conversation would be fun and emotionally impactful, but it would not be as intellectually rich as consuming the novel that same person poured years of their life into refining. Books are a tremendous opportunity.
People tend to have a varying relationship with reading based on their life stage. At first we are read to, then we are told what to read, then we often ignore reading in favor of what we believe to be more immediately gratifying experiences. We often come back to reading as empowerment, enjoy reading as pleasure, and then relish reading as reflection and expansion of self. That’s the norm, not the ideal. Read better books and sooner to find a more direct path to “success” and fulfillment.
Building on Principles of Philosophy and Physics
In philosophy, the law of identity equates to A = A. In physics, causality denotes agency and the effect one action has on another. The law of causality is the law of identity applied to action. Every action is caused by an entity. The nature of an action is caused and determined by the nature of the entity that acts; an entity cannot act in contradiction to its nature.
What the heck does that mean?
Why do I care?
As humans we can only act in accordance with our nature as humans. Our nature, scientifically speaking, is pretty well fixed in its capacities. However, when we think of an individual’s “nature” it is more akin to his or her identity. You will act to reinforce the identity you have created in your mind.
We do not do what we can do, we do what we believe we are.
Your goal should be to expand your identity, not to label, constrain, and let it atrophy. Condition yourself to be the person you want to be. Manufacture and expand your identity with the help of great thinkers that can help you get to the next level - whatever that level might be for you in this stage of your life.
The right book is only read at the right time. There is a fleeting moment when any given book will be most impactful. I used to physically accumulate books that I wanted to read. However, by the time I had worked through my queue there were other books that were more pertinent for me in the moment.
A better strategy is to aggregate books you want to read on a list (since I read on Kindle for the efficiency of highlights I use a private Amazon wish list entitled “Books”). When you are ready for a new book, choose the one that is going to fuel your passion in that moment.
How do you know you’ve chosen the right book at the right time? You’ll start reading it straightaway for one. Momentum will be on your side because it serves your present priority. Second, you’ll be gleaning what you need from the book; your highlighter will be working overtime or you won’t want to put it down.
Ensure the book's effect lasts longer than the time it took to read. I used to take copious notes. I read mostly non-fiction and I would write extensive book summaries after I had finished reading. I once wrote a "summary" longer than 30 pages of single-spaced type. Needless to say, although I “chewed” the material, I could not retain or apply in a principled manner. The volume was overwhelming.
Now I filter at every turn to distill the essence of each book. I highlight less initially. I transfer fewer of those highlights into my lessons learned document. Then I ultimately condense and cull until I have less than 1 page of notes - always. This distillation combined with regular reviews of key lessons learned has made all the difference. Now I can hold the key principles in my mind, which means I have implemented them with far greater frequency, and to far greater effect.
To learn from the book. Close the book. Don't recreate it.
Let's continue the conversation. What is the (1) book you have recommended more than any other? Why? Shoot me a quick email or leave a comment on the blog. I look forward to continuing the conversation.
Talk soon. Until then: Act. Think. Repeat.
Quote of the Week
Pay it Forward
If this letter helped you in any way please consider forwarding to a friend so the ripple may spread.