The most obvious advice I’ve ever given

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.

By Charlie Hoehn

9 comments on “The most obvious advice I’ve ever given

  1. “An idiot learns from his own mistakes, but a genius learns from the mistakes of others.”

    4 or 5 years ago, I remember reading that same quote on Tucker Max’s site and it really leaving an impression on me. I resolved to read as many autobiographies I could find (with Ben Franklin’s being, by far, life changing).

  2. It wouldn’t surprise me if I got that from Tucker. I wrote it down in my quote book long ago.

    And I actually butchered the quote. It’s “An idiot repeats his mistakes, a smart man learns from his mistakes, and a genius learns from the mistakes of others.”

  3. “And of course, this post is targeted at the wrong audience. I know that people who are reading blogs are also reading books.”

    I don’t know if this is necessarily true. Blogs are easy to read, books take a little more commitment.

    I think blogs give a lot of people the illusion of educating, when they’re actually much better at stimulating thought (two highly different things).

  4. Don’t drive yourself nuts about this. These people are idiots and are proud of it now because they are young. It will all even out when they get old and don’t have shit to talk about.

  5. I think that anti-intellectualism happens a lot – maybe because of the need to fit in, I don’t really know.

    I remember back in college hearing people say, “C’s get degrees” and I think it’s the same kind of thing.

    Lauding your lack of desire to expand yourself and learn really takes you down a peg.

  6. I think technotheory is saying that books aren’t the only ways to get new information and that your argument is really about needing to learn to help ourselves grow. Your point about books is a specific and poignant example of that idea.

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