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7 Hacks To Mastering Reading As The Ultimate Secret To Success

7 Hacks To Mastering Reading As The Ultimate Secret To Success

My secret to success is reading. Our mind is an amazing gift and the beauty of this secret weapon is similar to the accumulation of wealth. I read over 100 books a year and grow significantly from every one of them. Through reading we experience exponential growth through the accumulation of knowledge. The more we know, the more we are capable of knowing.

Successful people develop a hunger for growth and make reading a secret weapon towards success. Here are seven ways to hack reading and make it your secret weapon.

1. Read when your mind is at its peak.

“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” – Edgar Allan Poe

What time of the day are you at your best? When is your mind alert and at its peak? Reading breeds creativity. It’s as if ideas are transported to our minds when we read. I am up early and some of my best reading takes place first thing in the morning. However, the best time for me to read is right after a long run.

Figure out when your mind is at its peak. Find that time of the day and do everything humanly possible to read at that exact time.

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2. Plug-in and listen to audiobooks.

“Never wish life were easier, wish that you were better.” – Jim Rohn

I am always plugged in. Just ask my wife, I am always listening to an audiobook. One of the most enjoyable parts of my day is during a long run while I’m listening to audiobooks. With audiobooks, you can speed up the recording and complete books even faster. I am able to listen to audiobooks at 2x the speed. This is extremely beneficial when completing long runs, such as a marathon.

You can maximize your time through audiobooks. Think about all the time we spend moving from one location to another. I listen to audiobooks while I exercise, while driving, while stuck in traffic, while in the shower, and while doing household and outdoor chores.

3. Start reading as young as possible.

“Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.” – St. Francis Xaiver

One of my most cherished moments in life is the first time I read to my beautiful little girl. Our family color is purple and we are from Kansas, so naturally we are huge Kansas State University Wildcat fans (and graduates). The first book I read to my daughter was Bill Snyder: They Said It Couldn’t Be Done by Mark Jansen and legendary KSU coach Bill Snyder.

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The earlier you start reading to your child, the better. In fact, read to your child while he or she is still in the womb. The best time to teach your child to read is from zero to three years of age. Glenn Doman, author of How to Teach Your Baby to Read declared, “Not only is it possible to teach your babies to read; it’s a great deal easier to teach babies to read than it is to teach six-year-olds.”

4. Find the right book when applying for a job.

“The only thing that hurts harder than a failure is not trying.” – Apoorve Dubey

The best way to prepare for a job interview is to find a book related to the profession. Or better yet, find a book penned by the CEO of that same organization. For example, if you are applying for a job in process improvement or manufacturing, find the audiobook version of The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt. Listen to the audiobook during every available opportunity. Before you realize it, you will be discussing principles in the book and will appear as an expert.

This will also put you ahead in your profession. You will be amazed just how little people read, especially books in their profession.

5. Read books that expand your creative mind.

“It is only through a human’s effort that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

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It is amazing how ideas pop in and out of our mind. One of the best ways to get your mind in its creative peak, other than trying something illegal, is to read completely mind-blowing and strange books. I purposely go to the weirdest areas of a bookstore and find books that are exceptionally crazy. You do not have to believe everything you read in these books, however, they will get your creative juices flowing.

“Ideas spend eternity swirling around us, searching for available and willing human partners. When an idea thinks it has found somebody who might be able to bring it into the world, the idea will pay you a visit. The idea will organize coincidences and portents to tumble across your path, to keep your interest keen. You will start to notice all sorts of signs pointing you toward the idea. Everything you see and touch and do will remind you of the idea. The idea will wake you up in the middle of the night and distract you from your everyday routine. The idea will not leave you alone until it has your fullest attention.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

Some crazy books include: The 12th Planet by Zecharia Sitchin, Brave New World and The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley, Entangled: The Eater of Souls by Graham Hancock, and DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassman.

6. Read books that establish your philosophy.

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” – John Lennon

Books will not only transport you to the world of crazy creativity, they will also assist you in establishing your philosophy. It was not until recently that I had a clear vision of my political and social philosophy. I wouldn’t have formulated my philosophy without books. They helped me discover and put words into how I see life.

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Two powerful books that helped me establish my philosophy were both by author Ayn Rand. They were Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

7. Read books before, during, and after you exercise.

“Don’t give up what you want most, for what you want now.”

When we exercise, our brain produces a nerve growth factor called Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This is a protein that stimulates neurogenesis, which is the growth of brain cells and synapses in the brain. Think of how you conduct an exercise routine. For example, I run for one hour every morning. I stretch prior to the run, perform the run, then cool down. Think of your brain. Prior to the run, I am preparing my mind and body. During the run, I am stimulating the production of BDNF, leading to neurogenesis. After the run, my brain is firing on all cylinders and is at its peak and ready to grow. I listen to audiobooks this entire time. I do this in order to keep my neuronal wiring strong.

Your brain is like a muscle and it needs to be used and exercised. Visualize improving your bicep muscle. Your tool is the weight, you stretch the bicep prior to the exercise, you conduct the exercise, then you cool down and the muscle becomes stronger. Now visualize your brain. Your tool in this instance is an audiobook. You prep your brain, you perform the exercise while listening to your tool, then you cool down, and the brain grows and becomes stronger.

Featured photo credit: IMDB via imdb.com

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Dr. Jamie Schwandt

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Published on July 29, 2020

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

Have you been thinking of how you can be a more strategic leader during these uncertain times? Has the pandemic thrown a wrench at all your carefully laid out plans and initiatives?

You’re not alone. The truth is, we all want some stability in our careers and teams during this disruptive pandemic.

However, this now requires a bit more effort than before and making the leap from merely surviving to thriving means buckling down to some serious strategic thinking and maintaining a determined mindset.

Is There a Way to Thrive Despite These Disruptions?

Essentially – yes, although you need to be willing to put in the work. Every leader wants to develop strategic thinking skills so that they can enhance overall team performance and boost their company’s success, but what exactly does it mean to be strategic in the context of the times we live in?

If you happen to be in a leadership position in your organization right now, you are most probably navigating precarious waters given the disruptions caused by the pandemic. There’s a lot more pressure than before because your actions and decisions will have a much greater impact these days not just on you, but also to the people who are part of your team.

Companies often bring me in to coach executives on strategic thinking and planning. And while pre-pandemic I would usually start by highlighting the advantages of strategic thinking, nowadays, I always begin these Zoom coaching sessions by driving home the point that this pandemic has now made strategic thinking not just an option but an absolute must.

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Assessing and making plans through the lens of a good strategy might require significant work at first. Nevertheless, you can take comfort in the fact that the rewards will far outweigh the effort, as you’ll soon see after following the 8 strategic steps I have outlined below.

8 Steps to Strategic Thinking

As events unfold during these strange times, you’re bound to feel wrong-footed every now and then. Being a leader during this pandemic means preparing for more change not just for you, but for your whole team as well.

As states and cities go through a cycle of lockdowns and reopening, employees will experience the full gamut of human emotions in dizzying speed, and you will often be called on to provide insight and stability to your team and workplace.

Strategic thinking is all about anticipation and preparation. Rather than expending your energy merely helping your company put out fires and survive, you can put the time to better use by charting out a solid plan that can protect and help you and your company thrive.

Take the following steps to build solid initiatives and roll out successful projects:

Step 1: Step Back, Then Set the Scope

One of the things that leaders get wrong during their first attempt at strategic thinking is expecting that it is just another item on a checklist. The truth is, you need to take a good, long look at the bigger picture before anything else. This means decisively prioritizing and stepping away from tasks that can be delegated to others. Free up your schedule so you can focus on this crucial task at hand.

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Then, proceed with setting the scope and the strategic goals of the project or initiative you plan to build or execute. Ask yourself the bigger question of why you need to embark on a particular project and when would be the right time to do so.

You need to set a timeline as well, anywhere from 6 months to 5 years. Keep in mind that your projections will deteriorate the further out you go as you make longer-term plans.

For this reason, add extra resources, flexibility, and resilience if you have a longer timeline. You should also be making the goals less specific if you’re charting it out for the longer term.

Step 2: Make a List of Experts

Make and keep a list of credible people who can contribute solid insight and feedback to your initiative. This could range from key stakeholders to industry experts, mentors, and even colleagues who previously planned and rolled out similar projects.

Reach out to the people on this list regularly while you work through the steps to bring diverse insight into your planning process. This way, you will be able to approach any problem from every angle.

Bringing key stakeholders into this initial process will also display your willingness to listen and empathize with their issues. In return, this will build trust and potentially pave the way for smoother buy-in down the line.

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Step 3: Anticipate the Future

After identifying your goals and gathering feedback, it’s time to consider what the future would look like if everything goes as you intuitively anticipate. Then, lay out the kind and amount of resources (money, time, social capital) that might be needed to keep this anticipated future running.

Step 4: Brainstorm on Potential Internal and External Problems

Next, think of how the future would look if you encountered unexpected problems internal and external to the business activity that seriously jeopardize your expected vision of the future. Write out what kind of potential problems you might encounter, including low-probability ones.

Assess the likelihood that you will run into each problem. To gauge, multiply the likelihood by the number of resources needed to address the problem. Try to convert the resources into money if possible so that you can have a single unit of measurement.

Then, think of what steps you can take to address these internal and external problems before they even happen. Write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Lastly, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different possible problems and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

Step 5: Identify Potential Opportunities, Internal and External

Imagine how your expected plan would look if unexpected opportunities came up. Most of these will be external but consider internal ones as well. Then, gauge the likelihood of each scenario and the number of resources you would need to take advantage of each opportunity. Convert the resources into money if possible.

Then, think of what steps you can take in advance to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Finally, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different unexpected opportunities and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

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Step 6: Check for Cognitive Biases

Check for potential cognitive biases that are relevant to you personally or to the organization as a whole, and adjust the resources and plans to address such errors.[1] Make sure to at least check for loss aversion, status quo bias, confirmation bias, attentional bias, overconfidence, optimism bias, pessimism bias, and halo and horns effects.

Step 7: Account for Unknown Unknowns (Black Swans)

To have a more effective strategy, account for black swans as well. These are unknown unknowns -unpredictable events that have potentially severe consequences.

To account for these black swans, add 40 percent to the resources you anticipate. Also, consider ways to make your plans more flexible and secure than you intuitively feel is needed.

Step 8: Communicate and Take the Next Steps

Communicate the plan to your stakeholders, and give them a heads up about the additional resources needed. Then, take the next steps to address the unanticipated problems and take advantage of the opportunities you identified by improving your plans, as well as allocating and reserving resources.

Finally, take note that there will be cases when you’ll need to go back and forth these steps to make improvements, (a fix here, an improvement there) so be comfortable with revisiting your strategy and reaching out to your list of experts.

Conclusion

A great way to deal with feelings of uncertainty during this pandemic is to anticipate obstacles with a good plan – and a sure road to that is practicing strategic thinking.

In the coming months and years, you’ll need to continue navigating uncharted territory so that you can lead your team to safe waters. Regularly doing these 8 steps to strategic thinking will ensure that you can prepare for and adapt  to the coming changes with increasing clarity, perspective, and efficiency.[2]

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Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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