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How To Digest Books Above Your “Level” And Increase Your Intelligence

 I came across the following article on MEDIUM, sadly I think the article was taken down, as when I opened the link, it said the author had taken it down… (Luckily I still had it in my mailbox.)  II take absolutely NO CREDIT for myself I did not write this, but I DID enjoy the article and wanted to share it with you.

How To Digest Books Above Your “Level” And Increase Your Intelligence

To do great things, you have to read to lead.

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The best advice I’ve ever got about reading came from a secretive movie producer and talent manager who’d sold more than 100 million albums and done more than $1B in box office returns. He said to me one day, “Ryan, it’s not enough that you read a lot. To do great things, you have to read to lead.

What he meant was that in an age where almost nobody reads, you can be forgiven for thinking that the simple act of picking up a book is revolutionary. It may be, but it’s not enough. Reading to lead means pushing yourself–reading books “above your level.”

In short, you know the books where the words blur together and you can’t understand what’s happening? Those are the books a leader needs to read. Reading to lead or learn requires that you treat your brain like the muscle that it is–lifting the subjects with the most tension and weight.

For me, that means pushing ahead into subjects you’re not familiar with and wresting with them until you can–shying away from the “easy read.” It means reading Feynman over Friedman, biographies over business books, and the classics over the contemporary.

It worked wonders for me: at 19, I was a Hollywood executive, I was at 21 I was the director of marketing for a publicly traded company, and at 24 I’d worked on 5 bestselling books and sold my own to the biggest publisher in the world. I may have been a college drop out but I have had the best teachers in the world: tough books.

My apartment is filled with such books that on paper, I never should have been able to understand. It wasn’t easy to crack them, but with the secrets below I was able to. And the process starts before you even crack the spine of a new book.

Before the first page…

Break out of the School Mindset
The way you learn to read in the classroom is corrupted by the necessity of testing. Tests often have very little to do with proving that you know or care about the material but more about proving that you spent the time reading it. The easiest way to do this is picking obscure things from the text and quizzing you on them: “Name this passage” “What were the main characters in Chapter 4?” We carry these habits with us. Remember: now you’re reading for you.

Let’s say you’re reading the History of the Peloponnesian War. That there was once a conflict between Corinth and Corcyra is not really worth remembering, even though the proxy fight kicked off the war between Athens and Sparta.

(To write this, I had to look the names up myself, I only recalled that they started with a C)

What you should latch onto is that as the two fought for allied support from Athens, one took the haughty “you owe us a favor” route and the other alluded to all the benefits that would come from aiding them. Guess who won? Place. Names. Dates. These are unimportant. The lessons matter.

From Seneca:

We haven’t time to spare to hear whether it was between Italy and Sicily that he ran into a storm or somewhere outside the world we know–when every day we’re running into our own storms, spiritual storms, and driven by vice into all the troubles that Ulysses ever knew.

Forget everything but that message and how to apply it to your life.

Ruin the Ending
When I start a book, I almost always go straight to Wikipedia (or Amazon or a friend) and ruin the ending. Who cares? Your aim as a reader is to understand WHY something happened, the what is secondary.

You ought to ruin the ending–or find out the basic assertions of the book–because it frees you up to focus on your two most important tasks:

  1. What does it mean?
  2. Do you agree with it?

The first 50 pages of the book shouldn’t be a discovery process for you; you shouldn’t be wasting your time figuring out what the author is trying to say with the book.

Instead, your energy needs to be spent on figuring out if he’s right and how you can benefit from it. Plus if you already know what happens, you can identify all the foreshadowing and the clues the first read through.

Read the Reviews
Find out from the people who have already read it, what they felt was important. From Amazon to the New York Times, read the reviews so you can deduce the cultural significance of the work–and from what it meant to others. Also by being warned of the major themes you can anticipate them coming and then actually appreciate them as they unfold.

Tip: if you agree with their assessment of the work, go ahead and steal it once you’ve finished. You can’t copyright an opinion–this isn’t school, this is life.

The book itself…

Read the Intro/Prologe/Notes/Forward
I know, I know. It infuriates me too when what looks like a 200 page book turns out to have 80 pages of translator’s introduction, but that stuff is important.

Every time I have skipped through it, I’ve had to go back and start over. Read the intro, read all the stuff that comes before the book–even read the editors notes at the bottom of the pages. This sets the stage and helps boost your knowledge going into the book.

Remember: you need every advantage you can get to read a book above your level. Don’t skip stuff intended to add context and color.

Look It Up
If you’re reading to lead, you’re going to come across concepts or words you’re not familiar with. Don’t pretend like you understand, look it up. I like to use Definr or I use my phone to look stuff up on Wikipedia. With Military History, a sense of the battlefield is often necessary. Wikipedia is a great place to grab maps and to help understand the terrain.

I was once trying to read some books on the Civil War and got stuck. 10 hours of Ken Burn’s documentaries later, the books were easy to breeze through (see, looking stuff up can be as easy as watching TV) That being said, don’t get bogged down with the names of the cities or the spelling of names, you’re looking to grasp the meta-lesson: the conclusions.

Mark Passages
I love Post-It Flags. I mark every passage that interests me, that makes me think, that is important to the book. When I don’t have them, I just fold the bottom corner of the page. (I actually folded the corner of every page of Heraclitus’ Fragments). If there is something I need to look up, I fold the top corner of the page and return to it later.

I carry a pen with me and write down whatever thoughts / feelings / connections I may have with a passage.

It’s much better to do it in the moment than to risk losing the contemporaneous inspiration. Don’t be afraid to tear the book up with tags and notations–books are a cheap. Plus you’ll get more for your money this way.

After you finish…

Go Back Through
I have the same schedule with every book I read. After a mandatory 1–2 week waiting period after finishing, I go back through the book with a stack of 4×6 index cards. One these cards, I write out–by hand–all the passages I have noted as being important.

It might seem strange but it’s an old tactic used by everyone from Tobias Wolff to Montaigne to Raymond Chandler. (Who once said: “When you have to use your energy to put those words down, you are more apt to make them count.”) Each one of these cards is then assigned a theme and filed in my index card box.

The result of 4–5 years of doing this? Thousands of cards in dozens of themes–from Love to Education to Jokes to Musings on Death. I return to these pieces of wisdom when I am writing, when I need help or when I am trying to solve a business problem. It has been an immense resource.

Read One Book from Every Bibliography
This is a little rule I try to stick with. In every book I read, I try to find my next one in its footnotes or bibliography. This is how you build a knowledge base in a subject–it’s how you trace a subject back to its core.

Just keep a running list through Amazon’s Wish List service (here is mine). Last month I read a book on Evolutionary Psychology and discovered that I’d read almost 80% of its sources because I’d been pulled down the rabbit hole of a predecessor.

Apply and Use
You highlight the passages for a reason. Why type the quotes if you aren’t going to memorize and use them?

Drop them in conversation. Allude to them in papers, in emails, in letters and in your daily life.

How else do you expect to absorb them?

The more fulfilling an outlet you find for the fruit of your database, the more motivated you will be to fill it. Try adding a line to a report you’re doing, find solace in them during difficult times or add them to Wikipedia pages. Do something.

I give you Seneca again:

My advice is really this: what we hear the philosophers saying and what we find in their writings should be applied in our pursuit of the happy life. We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching and the spirited and noble-minded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application–not far far-fetched or archaic expressions or extravagant metaphors and figures of speech–and learn them so well that words become works.

Remember: we read to lead for moral and practical lessons. The point is to take what we’ve read and turn the words, as Seneca says, into works.

Conclusion: It’s on You

Of course, none of this is easy. People always ask me if the books I carry around are for school because they’re full of notes, flags and folded pages–why would anyone work so hard on something they were doing on their own? Because I enjoy it, because it’s the only thing that separates me from ignorance.

These are the techniques have allowed me to leap years ahead of my peers. It’s how you strike out on your own and build strength instead of letting some personal trainer dictate what you can and can’t be lifting.

It’s also expensive, I’ve purchased thousands of books and invested hours upon hours of time learning them. But how expensive is going back for an MBA? Or attending TED? I think there is more wisdom in the timeless books of the last 5,000 years than a conference or two–if you do it right and push yourself.

So try it: Do your research, read diligently without getting bogged down in details, and then work to connect, apply and use. It’s your job as a leader. And I think you’ll find that you’re able to read above your supposed “level” and that people will follow your example. If you put in the work, books, as the great writer and voracious reader Petrarch once said, will pay you back:

“Books give delight to the very marrow of one’s bones. They speak to us, consult with us and join with us in a living and intense intimacy.”

Enjoy the journey.

Like to Read?

I’ve created a list of 15 books you’ve never heard of that will alter your worldview and help you excel at your career.

Get the secret book list here!


This originally appeared on Thought Catalog.

 

This Simple NoteTaking Method Will Help You Read More (and remember what you’ve read) Honestly not exactly

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Posted by on May 16, 2018 in Writing

 

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3 reasons to read a book now

Have you ever wondered WHY some people read? There are certain things that reading can help you with.

The first thing is Books are usually used for education but they are not just text books or story they are (or can be…even if fiction and fantasy) experience in a single subject or topics in a subject. Think of them like this.

They are the summary of many years of experience.

Reason 1

Its the SUMMER! It’s reading season!

If you are a student now’s the time to read something you want to. (unless of course you get some stupid reading list, then I am so sorry but the faster you get through what you HAVE to, the sooner you could read something you want) heck you can even challenge yourself… read a the ones you have to all at the same time a chapter from say 1-3 of those books a day. Me If I had a questionnaire I would do that as I skimmed through the book.  You can read what you want when you go to the beach or pool, maybe something that you could finish in a day.

If you are a parent now is the time to read something (especially when you don’t normally get to)

I don’t know if any of you are off to stay home with the kid, but even if you can only do it the week or 2 you are on vacation) but while at home even  if you have to read during commercials, while the kid is napping (if they still do that), in the bathroom, while at the pool or beach, before bed (it will help you fall asleep and sleep better) in the bath, or if you wake before anyone else just read in bed just be careful not to make too much noise if reading a print book or even on a device. Also if you are working and take public transportation why not read while on that train or bus or plane!

 

Reasons 2 and 3  and there are many! 

Creativity— *and my favorite reason  I’ve written a few poems inspired by a line, or paragraph in a story, or was inspired by the story itself.  Sometimes the description of something gives me the picture in my head or a poem to write.

Relax— While there are true crime stories,  I find there’s plenty enough of that in real life.. WHY do you want to read stories like that when you can just watch it on the news or basically any night in a Police drama on tv? I always saw Books and movies and TV series to relax  and get away from reality.

Life.–sometimes they can be therapy. I recently finished a book about a character that was obsessive Compulsive.. While I don’t have that I do have anxiety and depression and I was able to relate in parts as the character mentioned things I went through or still feel. So in a sense it was sort of like I had a friend that actually understood me.

Learn– while yes there are text and workbooks there are others that instead of those sort can help you learn and improve yourself. Say buy a language phrasebook and try to learn at least one to 5 words (or phrases)  from it a day. You broaden your vocabulary. There are times I come out with a word and my mother is like where did you learn that word, or I shock myself and end up looking up the word myself  as I don’t remember learning it which means I picked it up from something I read, and am not always clear if its right to use in that moment.

Brain– Yours. write down your thoughts in a journal what you do or need to each day what movies and  ‘TV’ shows you watched  music listened to and  books you read or write your reviews for them it’s nice to look back after a couple of months and even years  to see what was going on. It also works as a record. Don’t want to have one like that Then have a common place book… keep your recipes, favorite quotes and lines and just keep lists (with a grade ‘review’ of the books you read movies and shows you watched and so on. You can do this for restaurants and such. This is what you’d call a brain dump.

Health – frankly I find writing in a journal diary whatever healthy. it helps when you air things out especially more so when you feel like you don’t have someone you can talk to about your problem, or everyone just always seems busy.

This post was inspired by 3 Reasons to read a book now

 
 

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Book lovers décor suggestions

Well it’s that time of year to start the spring cleaning. I hope you haven’t already as I have some organizer and decor ideas for you.

Though I hope if you have a love of books would not destroy them in such a way, especially those that are not old looking books they could be worth money! I can understand old school books for the hideaways or purse or maybe someone gave you a copy of a book you already have. I can understand if you want to do it with the extra but I would rather donate mine to a school, or someone that cannot afford books and has a hard time getting around (to a library)

 

I Iike the  color grouping and giant wall clock! I would use all the janet Evanovich books! That Scrabble letter holder idea, you could also do that with scraps of a type of moulding as that’s what those are. The storage bins ad omg the lamp of large thread bobbins but how the heck did they get them in the wall? and ceiling that I really like!  My favorite though has to be the stairs. I wish ours were like that or even ones that opened for storage.

 

http://writersrelief.com/blog/2015/10/book-decor-hacks/

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2017 in DIY, Lists, Uncategorized

 

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The Oxford Comma Controversey

Of all the stupid arguments I have heard on the news coming up, or glanced over a headline of online.. I came across The Oxford comma controversey.

I thought it was at least worth looking into considering the way people write these days. I’ve seen commas used way too many times in a sentence when they should have used a semicolon and a comma etc.

I wasn’t aware there were different ‘types’ of commas. In school I was just told where to put one and then you put one space after it (and 2 after a period) and then go on with your writing. The sample the site gives about I’d like to thank my parents, the president, ad the vice president they do not note that even with the comma, can still be mistaken as the parents ( especially if someone does not see well). This can be fixed by adding:

I’d like to thank my parents, as well as the President and Vice President, and I don’t know about you but to me  it’s makes you sound like you are well spoken, as well as much clearer on what you mean.

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2015 in Coherence, Grammar, Reading, Writing

 

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Grammar goofs

Grammar goofs

I noticed I have done these before, sometimes it’s from typing too quick 15 Grammatical Errors that Make You Look Silly

or someone bothering me other times Than & Then sound they could work for whatever. Print this baby out for reference to help while you write.

 

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Link
Writing break for a little reading….

They say write what you know, also I’ve read the more you read the more you learn to write. You may pick up a variety of writing styles maybe a little from one fave author, and another from another fave author.. so here I present to you an

 

Excerpt  taken from: THE JOB (Fox & Hare #3)   by  Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg

(posted by Janet on her official twitterfeed )

https://www.hachette.com.au/assets/HachetteAustralia/downloads/Extracts/TheJob.pdf

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2014 in Reading

 

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