“Work hard at your job and you can make a living. Work hard on yourself and you can make a fortune.”
— Jim Rohn
Formal education wears most people into the ground. When they think education, reading, learning, they remember the monotonous grind of sitting in a classroom with 30 other kids forced to learn the historical implications of the Treaty of Versailles.
Their memories of education tend not to be good ones.
Even in university, choice of subject was really just an after-thought to choice of city, which depended on how good the nightlife was and/or which of their friends were also going there.
This means that, inevitably, this sense of apathy continues throughout higher education. Even those who find a genuine interest in their subject tend to get ground down by archaic teaching methods & the apathy of other students around them.
So when we get into the real world, we wash our hands of it.
Reading becomes synonymous with the back page of the paper you find on the Metro or a trashy ’50 Shades of Whatever’ that was on sale at the airport.
Anything more than this is considered above the call of duty. A burden only borne in a state of dire boredom or necessity, such as when the internet is out for a few days.
Yet one book can change your life.
“It completely changed my perspective on …”
“Oh my god, I never thought of it like that!”
“You’ve got to read this book. I’m super motivated to do … now”
Whether you can identify an example from your own life or you’ve heard a friend raving about a book, you know the power a book can have on you. Particularly one that comes at the right time.
Yet do we find ourselves avoiding reading precisely because of this? Is our apathy not so much a dislike of education, but rather a fear of the world that books may open up?
Dreaming is easy
Let’s say you’ve always had this dream to start your own business & travel the world. It’s easy when it’s just a dream. It’s a comforting thought that sits there somewhere in your mind. You call upon it now and again, when you’re having a particularly shit day. It’s a comforting thought, the idea of a hypothetical, idealised future sitting on a beach with control over your time & resources.
But you prefer to keep it as a dream, rather than a goal.
Yet what happens when you read something like The Four-Hour Work Week, which provides you with concrete steps towards a life like that?
Suddenly those dreams start to become goals. You start to see a path forming towards them. The first few steps become clear. After that they become hazy. Yet you hesitate. You don’t take that first step because you are afraid of the unknown, of where the path might take you.
You find any excuse to not plant your foot on that first step.
“The book is bullshit. It’s a marketing scam. It’s only for young, single high-achievers. It’s only for people working in tech. I don’t even like the author, so why would I listen to him?”
If only your creativity with making excuses could be transposed elsewhere in your life.
You will find a million excuses to not take that first step. Some of them will be valid, to some extent, but most of them won’t.
So you never pick the book up in the first place. You can see where it might lead, so you retreat into your shell.
Are you ready to take action?
Yet for those that pick up that book & turn over the first page, a world of infinite possibility opens up to them.
Those ideas you’ve always had floating around in your mind, still without form? There’s a book for that. Someone has thought about it a lot more than you have, researched it & written it out in an easily-digestible format.
Your thoughts become more developed, you discover new subjects you never even knew about, you turn dreams into concrete reality. All through reading.
Some books come at the perfect time.
When I closed my first business, I didn’t know what to do next, so I read Essentialism, which helped me focus on one clear goal & wade through the infinite possibilities available to me.
When I got fired this week, I started reading The Four Hour-Work Week, a blueprint for starting a business on your own terms.
When I started taking life – & myself – too seriously, I read The Ego is The Enemy.
A lot of the time these books just appear at the right time, or you are drawn to them without realising the nature of their content. It is, in a sense, as if some books know what the next step in your education on life should be.
Yet I know that there will still be voices of scepticism & excuses at the forefront of your mind as you read this. If you think that you are already smart or educated enough, then you are entirely wrong. If you think that it is only an intellectual hobby to read, then you are wrong. If you think that people who do not continuously educate themselves will be successful in the long-term, you are wrong.
Warren Buffett, the most successful investor of all time, spends most of his time voraciously reading.
Bill Gates takes a week every year for a private “Think Week”, designated for reading without distractions of his day-to-day role at Microsoft. He has done this for a number of years.
Many top leaders, such as Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, etc., also spend at least 5 hours a week designated for reading.
“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none. Zero.”
— Charlie Munger, Self-made billionaire & Warren Buffett’s longtime business partner
Where to start
If you are feeling motivated to take action, then start now. Whatever problems you want to overcome in your life, there is a book for it.
Here is a brief list to start you off. Start with whichever draws your attention & read each book with a purpose, a clear desired outcome:
Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days by Chris Guillebeau
How to start a side business whilst in full-time work. I’m using some of the practices from here to launch a freelance business in the next two months.
Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
How to create a framework to govern your life & your business by one of the most successful investors & leaders ever.
The Dip” A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) by Seth Godin
How to persevere through the inevitable dip, when you feel like progress is stalling. This has helped me persevere through language learning, programming & starting a business.
If This Is a Man and The Truce by Primo Levi
A look at the horrific reality of life in Nazi concentration camps & a look at the brutal nature of man by Primo Levi, an Italian Jew who survived the ordeal.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
A look at how habits form, persist & control over half of your actions. I’ve bitten my nails all my life. I finally stopped after reading this book & understanding the psychology surrounding habits.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
A refreshing response to a lot of self-help books out there. By not giving a fuck about what people think, you tend to do more of what you want to do & only worry about the important things in life, like being happy & helping others.
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
A great framework for dramatically increasing your productivity by looking at the psychology surrounding how we can optimise productivity. Be warned though, you’ll find it hard to accept your company’s work culture after the learnings from this.
Ego is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday
How to tame your ego & live a more care-free, happy life. Also, by seeing how your ego will inevitably lead you to disaster through real-life examples, you will avoid a lot of pain in future.
Sapiens by Yuval Noal Yahari
This book radically changed my entire framework of belief, just by re-examining human history with the most plausible approach I have read to date.
The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss
How to finally do the things you’ve always wanted to do, whether it’s having the freedom to work remotely, start a new business, or earn enough to live a more free life. It opens up a whole world of opportunity & has radically changed the lives of many readers, whose stories are shared in the book.
Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss
Does what it says in the tin. The best book for quickly finding lessons from the world’s best. A book I constantly refer back to for quotes, learnings & guidance in all aspects of life.