A big pet peeve of mine is when I see a friend on Facebook who writes stuff like this in their ‘Favorite books’ section:
It’s one thing to downplay the fact that you read books. It’s another thing entirely to have a sense of pride that you’re an anti-intellectual. Here’s the thing: I know a good number of really smart, really successful people. Know what they all have in common? They read A LOT. Like, more than you can imagine. Seth Godin, for instance, reads about five books per week. Others have bigger bookshelves in their bathroom (in addition to their other bookshelves) than most people have in their living room.
The act of reading, of course, isn’t difficult. It just requires time, effort, and thought. Those are things that most people don’t have or aren’t willing to give. But the people who do read a lot clearly reap enormous benefits over the long run. They gradually accumulate knowledge over the years, until they’re so insanely far ahead of everyone that people stare in awe, thinking they’re a genius or even magical. Far from it. They just put in all those hours of work while everyone else was too busy chanting “git ‘r’ done” at Larry the Cable Guy concerts.
If you think you can acquire all the knowledge you need exclusively through experience, you’ll severely limit yourself. There have been billions of people that have lived their lives before you and a large fraction of the successful ones have recorded their mistakes and acquired knowledge for the public to consume. That alone should be reason to read as much as you can. A smart man learns from his own mistakes, but a genius learns from the mistakes of others.
Obviously, you can’t do the opposite and just read books while never taking action. It’s impossible for knowledge to sink in without a healthy balance of experience. But you can advance so rapidly in any field simply by finding the best 5-10 books on the subject, reading them, taking notes, and experimenting with changes those authors suggest.
I never thought I’d write a post like this, where I’m making an argument for reading, but it’s slowly been driving me insane how so many people just don’t read… AND THEY’RE PROUD OF IT!
Bill Hicks, as usual, says it better than I can.
And of course, this post is targeted at the wrong audience. I know that people who are reading blogs are also reading books. I really just wrote this because it’s been bothering the hell out of me for a long time. The tipping point for me was tonight when, at the half-time of a Colorado Mammoth lacrosse game, a guy was asked to spell ‘facetious’ to win a prize. He spelled it F-E-S-E-S-I-O-U-S. And there wasn’t a trace of embarrassment on his face.
On the other hand, I suppose I can appreciate the little bit of irony in that.