As you should know by now we’re fans of books here at Startupbiz. Books are great tools for accessing knowledge and learning from other people’s experiences. This happens to be safer and less costly than learning through your own experience. I recall a discussion in a community about whether it was better to read lots of books or read a few and apply them well. As someone who has done both, I played a fly on the wall wondering when reading books (many or few) and applying them became mutually exclusive. You can do both but most important is to learn how to get the most out of the books you read. Here’s how;
Start with why
You are never short of book recommendations, everyone and their dog has a book recommendation. I find it works best to ask those who recommend books why you should read that particular book. You could save yourself a lot of time by avoiding the wrong books and killing your momentum. Make use of places like Goodreads which gives you access to book information and user-generated reviews of books. You’ll also find they do a good job of recommending similar books and they even help you with the next part if you don’t know how to do it yourself.
Keeping track of the books you have read, are reading and plan to read is important. This is the bare minimum of keeping track. Keeping track helps see where you’ve been and where you’re going. When reading non-fiction it is natural, almost expected to come out of each book with two or three book recommendations. You can add these to your list of books to read. You can also use your to-read list to guide your reading and plan it out. Say you’re on the book a week gold standard you could plan it out that each month you will read one on business, one on finances, one on skill and one biography. It’s up to you but keeping track makes the best sense.
One of the most powerful steps in getting the most out of books is journaling. Yes, making notes when reading books. See our memories aren’t as good as we think they are but encoding (learning) through more than one medium makes them better. Writing notes of the things you have learnt in a book (preferably the moment or day you learn them) gives you a reference point for the future. You can look back at things and refresh without going through the entire book or googling. You can do this on paper, in digital form, in audio or whatever else works for you.
Journaling is a great tool because it helps you know and recall lessons. Understanding is the next step after understanding. Fortunately, you don’t need a book for this as you can do it in your mind. This may require some time to think clearly. When you learn something in a book you need to relate it to something you understand and are comfortable with. For example, if you only have experience with goat herding and you read about stock market investing, relate the kids of the goats to capital gains and the dividends to products like milk, meat and hides. Relating gives you understanding which empowers you for the last step.
Applying what you learn in books is the final step. It doesn’t matter what the lesson is or how big or small it is, applying it will give it true meaning and impact on your life. Understandably not all lessons are practical and applying some lessons takes resources we do not yet possess. The reason we relate the lessons to things around us is so we can find ways to apply them in our lives today. If you are not reading a book to impact your life please go back to the first tip above. The application makes the difference and results show no matter the level you are at. So just because you read a book about how to invest or grow 1 million dollars doesn’t mean you should wait to have 1 million dollars to apply the lessons. Apply the lessons to your ten dollars. If the lessons can’t be applied to 10 dollars there’s a chance you either had no business reading the book or the book had no business being read.
Finally, one thing that will sneak up on you on this journey is the law of diminishing returns. The first few books you read on a subject will teach you a lot. But as you read more each book teaches you fewer lessons. You may start to feel like you know everything there is to know but don’t fall into this trap. Some of the most important books I have read only taught me one or two new things but those things were of immense value. Happy reading.