10 Little Things I Do to Read More

I’d love to hear how you manage to read so much…and still run a business. I often feel like there many things to do but too little time… is this a constant challenge for the ambitious? – John McIntyre

I’ll tell you a secret. When I was thrust into a management position at a small company, I would close my door during lunch break (and often a few hours after) to read books. It might have looked like I was on an important call– and in a way I was. I was dialing Chet Holmes asking for a new sales strategy.

It gave me different ideas than those around me. I could summon lifelines to break our deadlocks and slowdowns– I just read a book about the problem and tried to apply a lesson. In a company of over 20 people, I was the only one researching the challenges we were facing.

Because of this, people with a lot more experience than me would want to talk about their business ideas. I could hang. And it got me ahead.

I discovered that reading a ton of business books can be a great career strategy.

I was pumped to find that, at least when it came to small business, my favorite hobby was turning out to be pretty damn useful.

What’s your “nature state?” Could you imagine a world in which you maximized your lifestyle so you could do mostly that? Would that be interesting to others or your business?

Luckily for me, reading books like a maniac wasn’t a line item I had to squeeze in. It wasn’t something that I recommended to myself. It’s what I wanted to do in the first place.

That said, there are plenty of things you can do to spend more time at the alter of knowledge. :) Here’s 10…

*  *  *

10 Little Things I Do to Read More

I find books, and the perspectives and ideas therein, valuable in and of themselves (even if they have nice side benefits). I must admit I find it mildly unpleasant when people say “are there any takeaways in that book?” The most useful thing about reading a book is getting inside somebody’s brain for an afternoon. It’s not the outline of their argument. I don’t read a book to get the to-do executable list, instead I’m looking to get a fresh perspective. That’s valuable even if I can’t see it in the bottom line.

I have a giant book budget. And because I do, I don’t mind ditching a book, or only reading one chapter.  Many books only have 20 good pages. Or 10. Or none. I’m pretty ruthless about cutting the crap and finding them. That’s the dirty business of reading a lot of books. Most books don’t need to be read. And that’s okay. Read a ton and you’ll often find yourself shelling out $12 on a book that is effectively 20 pages long. This okay too– it’s a low downside, high upside investment.

Keep buying them. Your book budget is a finder’s fee. You are seeking the one or two books every year that have the potential to change everything and set you free (and the many that will entertain and delight your imagination). Deploy this budget with abandon.

I don’t watch video content. Last year I watched less than 10 movies. Why? Because I read books. I have not seen Breaking Bad, and all the other great shows that have come out over the last few years, although I’m sure I would enjoy watching them. For me, I get the dual benefit of having more reading time and not feeling the post binge depression even the smartest of television shows makes me feel.

I don’t run a business. We work together as a team. We have SOPs like crazy, because they work, and it frees us all to do our best work. We have only a few scheduled calls a week.

Remember that episode we did called the “drama denominator?” We attract what we are. We see what we look for. It’s possible to run a big company without running around like a chipmunk. Just ask the bossman— that guy is slow and steady. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him raise his voice.

I got an Audible.com account. Almost half of my reading is listening. Getting an account at Audible.com has had a profound impact on my life.

Hypothetically, if Audible.com cost me $700 a month (and it was the only way to get quality audio books), I’d pay it.

I have developed a nasty walking habit. I walk everywhere. Everyday. Walking is for cool people. With walking comes my best thinking. And on most walks I take an audio book.

I translate my reading into my work. Reading and listening to great books inspires me. It helps me to make connections I didn’t see before. I’ve added systems into my life— things like a Kindle, and Evernote, and Scrivener– that help me to translate the connections that I’m making into my work. That inspiration comes out in proposals, strategy documents, emails, policies, blog posts, and podcasts.

I block off time to read. Every afternoon, I have reading time scheduled outside of my daily walk and run. Often I can’t help but to remember how lucky I am to have this (Recall I used to lock the door to my office and pretend I was on a conference call).

I tend to follow authors I love over topics I love. A college mentor once said it’s better to choose great professors than great subjects. His point was that the way people approach information is more important than what information they are approaching. Great authors make a habit of finding gold everywhere– check out David Foster Wallace on watching Roger Federer play tennis.

I hit the road. Even if you budget time everyday for reading and writing, those scheduled walls, even for the most disciplined, can start to collapse. Life gets busy. That’s part of the reason I love to pack up my stuff and head to the airport. There’s something about being in transit that brings out my reflective side. Moving gives me a chance to step back, crack open that Kindle, and jump into somebody else’s perspective for an afternoon.

For those of you looking for some fun books to dive into, here’s some that I’ve read recently and enjoyed:

David and Goliath, In the Plex : How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives, Liar’s Poker, Boomerang, Stalingrad, The Writing Life, A Short History of Nearly Everything, Benjamin Franklin : An American Life, Vietnam : A History, Be Slightly Evil, The Gervais Principle, Escape From Camp 14, Cockpit Confidential, The Checklist ManifestoCatching Fire : How Cooking Made Us Human, The Gate, Finding Ultra, The One Thing, Paris in the 50’s, Down and Out in Paris and London

Would love your suggestions as always.


PS, if you’d like to get on my mailing list you can sign up below: