How to Crush Your Limits Through Reading?

A start

Are you someone who gets easily bored by reading? By being bored, I don’t mean that books no longer surprise or interest you, but more that as soon as you see that a topic takes more than one page to be explained you start thinking that it could be (should be) condensed?

For me, just the word introduction on any article screams: “this is going to be reeeeeeally long”. It makes me bored before I’ve even read a single word.

Does this behavior sound familiar to you?

Perhaps even now you’re feeling the pain of reading this article and would like to know the message behind it all already, so that you can move onto something else. People crave instant results, but I believe it’s the journey along the way that actually leads to fulfillment.

For those who can’t wait, here’s what’s coming: I’m going to share my personal struggle with reading and how you could learn to push your own limits.

For those who have time read until the end of this journey, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride—this is going to be a bit of an experimental post.

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A structure

Every book, blog post and video has a structure. This one too. I think this is what makes me so bored about reading. Everything that has a structure is somehow predictable. And everything that is predictable is obviously less intriguing, and therefore less fun. Knowing that, some authors will choose to break any kind of structure. We see many examples in art: like in some modern art museums where you can watch videos looping without an end, start, or middle.  The paradox is that you will spend minutes watching this looping video to try to figure out where it starts and ends. Somehow the brain needs to go back to a structure to make sense out of what it is watching or reading.

Most books follow the same road. They start in a certain context followed by some discoveries and explanations to end up with a conclusion. And most authors are trapped in this pattern.

I thought a lot about structure while writing this post. Would I read this article to the end if I wasn’t the author? Maybe not.

Therefore, I chose to create chapters that can be read independently of each other—in any order you like. Feel free to create your own connections among them, as I have not done it for you.

A context

In life, everything comes down to timing. Appreciating books came late for me. I had been advised to read books of many kinds: science fiction, thrillers, books about the economy, relationships, and more. It was always the same result. It was impossible for me to finish them and some were even hard to start at all. So what changed? My perspective—through three events:

  1. Mark Zuckerberg’s personal challenge. I learned that Zuckerberg had a New Year’s Day tradition of publishing his challenges for the coming year. For 2015, he vowed to read 1 book every two weeks. This was the first time I started to see books as an opportunity to learn and grow.
  2. Tai Lopez’s TedX talk. This striking observation by Lopez helped me clearly see the potential of books: “Some of the greatest mentors are no longer alive: Shakespeare, Darwin, Freud, Mohandas Gandhi. But, if I told you that all those people are in my house and they will be there Saturday answering questions, if magically I can make that happen, would you show up at my house? Of course everybody would buy plane tickets […] They are there, in my house. They are in my library; they can be in your library too.”
  3. My stage in life. Maybe it was the prospect of reaching the end of my 20s and the self-questioning that followed the breakup of a long relationship. Things that used to motivate me such as going to the gym, no longer seemed important. My priorities were shifting and a thirst for answers, learning, and growth drove me. Up to this point in my life, I had spent ample time working on my exterior and functioning with my left brain. It was time for me to take a step into new, unknown territory, to develop my inner self and allow my right brain to call some of the shots.

A trigger

For me, reading books was a step in the dark. It literally felt like changing who I am. I wanted to persist and not give up at the first opportunity. That way, I could find deeper meanings and answers.

With every change, comes work, fear of the unknown, and ultimately a lack of motivation. Most people are procrastinating in their own way, and tend to delay tomorrow’s changes, even if they are needed. Procrastination is just that—a sign that change is needed, but you won’t grow unless you can recognize the triggers.

In my case, it all started to take form at work. During a break, a colleague told me about a book she read and advised me to check it out as well. As usual, I was only interested in excerpts from the book and had no wish whatsoever to read the whole thing. I knew deep down that I would never would. Later on, I recognized this pattern in myself with other things as well. Even for movies. I wouldn’t mind knowing the end of many movies. I would never go to watch them. I had no time (and ultimately, no desire).

But, the next morning, when I arrived at my office, the book was on my desk. I could choose like every time before in my life to take the book, bring it home, read some pages, and give it back. Or, I could choose for the first time to do things differently. What did I have to lose? I was finally ready. No more escapes, no more lies to myself. I was motivated and I had a goal. Luckily, it was not the first time that I set a goal for myself (this whole blog is also one). I knew how to manage goals and how to take actions towards them.

Just like I advise to trade in morning Facebook time for LinkedIn, I would trade my sport and some hours on Facebook for reading.

A journey

Today I understand that by only reading excerpts of a book one can miss out on the whole meaning of it. While not everything is important in a book, some context can help you understand who the author is and what led him or her to make the choices they did. You can also miss out on connecting with the author on a personal level. Being along for the author’s journey means you are witness to their problem-solving process. Asking if they managed to reach the goal is an empty shell if you don’t know how the author went about doing it.

No one can scale Everest in a day. Climbers need preparation and training on smaller mountains before summiting higher ones. So far, what I’ve learned from reading is that the journey has only just begun.

There can be a higher pleasure in confronting those things you fear failing at, attacking things you naturally try to avoid. I sensed that before, but what was missing was my taking action. I realize that I could have never started the journey at all. So today, I’m thankful for all the people I met who tried to give me triggers.

The book, for me, was a world that was more convenient to avoid, yet each new page was actually a step in a good direction.

That is my wish for you—motivation to make a step in a direction that you are trying to avoid. It doesn’t have be reading. It can be drawing, singing, meditating, smiling—just try whatever you’re avoiding!  🙂

An End

So what can we learn from this? My big takeaway is to encourage you to go outside of your comfort zone—it’s not as far away as you may think.  It doesn’t have to require leaving everything and moving to another country.

Eventually by doing so, you will find yourself on the start of a journey on which you have set up a structure in your given context to reach your goal as an end. I hope this article was your trigger.

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One thought on “How to Crush Your Limits Through Reading?

  1. Hi Vincent,

    I like your article a lot. Funny is that I see it the same way. Just today morning I recognized how many other books I want to read once I finished my bachelor thesis.

    So far I read a lot business connected books about online/email/Facebook marketing. And I see that I speed up my understanding of tasks and execution of processes a lot better than before. Also I changed from following to many blogs and read longer books which handle a topic in a very detailed way. I realized that, even though I enjoy it, the “TOP 10 things you need to know/master…” are catchy but do not deliver the value I expect.
    In October I bought an ebook reader and I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad in two days only. I followed with a lot more other more or less complex books and admit, that I never red this much in my life (voluntarily).
    Now I tell my team to read more about things like marketing because I want them to know more and to achieve a level of expertise they easily could have for a year or longer.
    Keep up your blog. I enjoy it a lot.

    Best regards,
    Paul

    Like

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