How to Read

If it makes you think it makes you better.

Critical thinking is one half of the skill set needed to overcome obstacles. A big part of developing that critical thought muscle is the consumption of subjective viewpoints. This can be done through a variety of media types, but the most practical way to consume a large of amount of information is by reading blogs, books, journals and magazines. The great thing about written subjective views is they are plentiful and diverse. Unfortunately, normal people fail to take advantage of this because they don’t know how to read.

Experts and pontificators are not there to give you an instruction manual on how to be good at your job, but this is how they tend to be used by their readers. Most of the time normal people who are “well read” find a few authors they totally agree with and relate to and stick to them. They attempt to directly implement the things they’ve read into their job function. This is the wrong way to read because it develops critical thinking very slowly. For example, the rise of ‘ten tips’ articles has diminished the value of reading subjective viewpoints because they are used as instruction manuals with minimal thought applied by the consumer. This translates into continued mediocrity by employees and managers who mistakenly think they’ve got it all figured out.

The best way to read is to:

  • Pick fights – Choose who you read based on who ‘stretches you out’ the most, not just people you agree with or have an easy time understanding. Consuming subjective viewpoints is about learning, thinking about your work in new ways and relating to people you didn’t relate to before. Agreement is not valuable; we learn more from those who form different conclusions than we do.
  • Diversify – Do sprints (blogs), milers (magazine articles) and marathons (books) to get yourself in the best critical-thinking shape possible. Changing up your sources helps you adjust leadership methods when called for. You won’t be the guy who launches million dollar initiatives to solve tactical problems (too many books) or the manager who tells executives she will solve a major quality problem by giving the staff ‘mind breaks’ (too many blogs).
  • Tailor the application of ideas – You aren’t reading to be told what to do, you are reading to collect ideas that help you form a strategy that is unique to you. Don’t forget you have your own perspective to add to the mix!

Once you are a pro at reading the right way, you will find that your vision improves and you are able to solve problems quickly. You’re no longer reading to follow instructions, you’re reading to think better.

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Comments

  1. Henrii Nwanguma says:

    It is so lonely thinking critically. I can’t begin to count how many people value one’s opinions but will not give one the credit for the rigour of mental fermentation. I encourage people to read less and spend more time solving puzzles and real life problems. The mind is a like a muscle: develop it or it atrophies. In Nigeria, students read to pass exams, graduate, and then dumb down by reading soft sells if at all they read. To challenge this notion, my company is marketing an educational tool (see http://www.uberstix.com) that helps develop free associative thinking early enough through play. This becomes a gateway to seeking knowledge through a variety of media.

    • Phil Martie says:

      Henrii,

      Thanks – but, cheer up! It isn’t that lonely, is it? I generally think that people have the capacity to apply critical thinking to what they consume, but they form bad habits and tend to just reinforce what they already believe in by reading like-minded authors.

      I like the Uberstix product – cool way to develop young people.

      • Henrii Nwanguma says:

        Hi Phil. There’s not so much to cheer about right now given the level of mental laziness all around and its impact on society, but thanks for the comment.

        I see the “upper room” mentality a lot in people of all ages: Stuck at a very crowded level (physically and psychologically), but unwilling or unable to navigate their way to the level they desire because they lack the rigour to search or persist. Some get comfortable believing the crowd indicates the “rightness” of their present.

        You need to see the disconnect between wants and means here to fully understand what work needs to be done around here.

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