Every once in a while, someone says something that hits you like a ton of bricks. These three words were those bricks.
At the beginning of 2014, I felt mentally stagnant. Wanting to learn more and understand the world better, I went on a search to figure out how. Chatting with a friend about it, he said three simple words that changed my life.
"Read more books."
At first, the advice was almost too simple for me to believe it would be effective. But after thinking about it for a few days, I decided to give it a try and made reading one of my goals for 2014. My target was simple: read one book per month.
Looking back, those three words were easily the most impactful ones I could have received that day. Not only did I reach my goal of reading a book a month, it quickly became apparent how much of an impact reading could have on my life, pushing me to shatter it – reading 45 books in 2014.
Since that day, my mind has been opened up to more than I ever could have imagined. Through something as simple as reading books, I’ve had my mind stretched and opened up to topics such as human behaviour, the science of happiness and the economy, I’ve been transported to numerous major events throughout history, and I’ve got to peak inside the minds of some of the greatest humans to have ever lived.
Reflecting back on all of this, the impact reading has had on me was not only surprising, it was transformative. Mentally, I feel I am a much more refined person because of books. I feel more concrete in who I am and have a much better understanding of the world, myself and what matters to me.
And while it took me a few months to realize it, I started noticing some really incredible ways books can have an impact on my life. In a shameless attempt to try and convince you to read more, here’s just some of what I’ve noticed.
1. Reading makes you smart. A lot smarter.
In our world of 140 character tweets, two sentence summaries and sensationalized everything, books are still the richest source of knowledge there is. Simply put, reading them makes you smarter. A lot smarter. Of all the things you can do to get smarter, I believe consistently reading is one of the simplest formulas that will make you smarter over time.
Every good book offers an outstanding amount of information packed into a few hundred pages that can be digested much faster and cheaper than any course can be. So, if you want to get smarter, start reading.
2. Reading broadens your understanding of the world
Reading books expands your view of the world and the things that go on within it. They teach you about things you didn’t even know exist, give you insight into things you could not experience yourself, and distill complex concepts into digestible pages. As I read, I humbly realized that my understanding of many topics was simply a narrow slice of its reality. The more I read, the more I was opened up to the world and the way it actually worked. As well, the more I read, the more I realized I didn’t actually know. And while this could be taken as intimidating, more than anything it pushed me to keep reading and understanding.
I promise that if there is anything you want to learn about in this world, there’s a book on it. Go pick it up.
3. Reading gives you new lenses to look at the world through
Reading books opens your mind to new ideas, new thoughts, new cultures, and new world views.
Every book I read gave me another lens to look at the world through. It gave me different perspectives, as well as exposed me to many things I didn’t know existed. Each book gave me the opportunity to see the world in a way in which I was not naturally inclined to. As you read, you are given an opportunity to peek deep into the mind of someone else – exploring their life of thoughts, research, knowledge, opinions, views, experiences and morals. In some cases, a single book contains someone’s entire life work. All of this exposure vastly increased the ways I was able to look at my life, the world and the people inside it.
4. Reading makes you more interesting
The more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the better conversations you will be able to have. Reading books from a wide variety of topics has given me a ton of interesting stuff to talk about and has helped me engage in deeper conversations with a wider variety of people. And if you’re still not convinced, everyone knows that being interesting and intelligent is sexy.
5. Reading helps you discover yourself
Books provide an abundant amount of perspectives and thoughts on life. These new perspectives and thoughts allowed me to stretch my mind and discover life in new ways. Biographies & autobiographies exposed me to the lives of some the greats, greats, giving me the opportunity to experience things I never could have and learn the lessons, skills and traits that came along with them. As I read them, I began to learn what things I cared about, how I wanted to spend my time, and what mattered to me in life, among a myriad of other things. Books helped me find things in this world I didn’t know I cared about and, equally as important, taught me the things I didn’t. They have helped fast-track creating who I want to be.
6. Reading increases your creativity and imagination
Reading books has helped me see a world I couldn’t see before. With each book I read, my mind was better able to wander to different places and picture things I couldn’t have before. In this world, you are only limited by what you can imagine and each book has the ability to take you to a completely different place. Books help you expand your understanding of what is possible and re-imagine what isn’t. Reading books of some of the most creative, brilliant minds, helps take you to places in your head you couldn’t have gotten to on your own.
7. Reading helps you make better life choices
I’ve found there are some decisions in life you shouldn’t have to learn the hard way. One of the biggest benefits I’ve learned from reading books is that they help make sure you don’t have to. Books teach you how those before you have handled the challenges you are facing.
While the world of self-help is an endless rabbit hole that can seem so big its paralyzing, there’s some amazing knowledge to be found, if you spend just a little time figuring out what the good stuff is as well as what matters to you. It’s all sitting there waiting for you.
When you think about it, everything you need to know has already been put into a book. It's your job to find it.
Here’s the proof:
Want to be happier?
Want to figure out what to do with your life?
Go read biographies and autobiographies of people who have found purpose in their life, as well as self-exploration books.
Want to make a ton of money?
Posting quotes from Marilyn Monroe, but really have no idea what she's about?
Pick up any one of her biographies or autobiographies and learn who she actually was and what she was about.
Want to change the world?
Read books about those who have or about the biggest problems our world faces in the next 50 years.
Want to have strong, healthy relationships?
You get the point.
I could go on. These just a few examples of what you can learn about and all of it will make your life better. It’s endless: leadership, finance, emotions, different types of intelligence, friendship, love, relationships, war, history, sports, science. If it exists, there’s books on it.
Reading doesn’t have to be boring. If you think it is, you’re simply not reading the right books or reading about the wrong topics. Spend some time and figure out a few things you care about, then pick up a book about it and start reading.
The truth is, reading is a really simple formula for enhancing your life. It’s simple, but it takes work. Words can’t jump off the page if you don’t open the book and you can’t open a book if you don’t take the time to do so. But, if you do, and I highly recommend it, you will be amazed at how deep the rabbit hole can go, and just how amazing it is to go down it.