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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
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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

Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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Published on November 23, 2020

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly
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Your neighbors downstairs are playing loud music. Again. How do they not get tired of partying? And why do they choose songs with such a heavy downbeat that the glass in your cupboard is vibrating every two seconds? What can you do to get some peace that you deserve? What should you?

Human mind tends to go in circles whenever faced with a problem without a clear solution. It becomes easy to forget the big picture and get lost in anger and self-pity, wasting our precious time, energy and enthusiasm.

Would it not be nice if we always remembered to put things in perspective?

Would it not be more efficient to face all kinds of problems, from tiny annoyances to life-changing emergencies, with a calm demeanor, sharp focus and fearless determination to promptly take the most efficient action possible?

Alas, humans are not like that. All too often we let anxiety or greed get the best of us and make a rushed or shortsighted decision that we quickly come to regret. Other times, we spend weeks or months at an impasse, rehashing the exact same arguments, unable to accept the compromise required to move forward with any of the available options.

Buddhists talk about getting lost in the “small self.” In this state of mind, we literally forget the big picture and focus on the small one. We start taking our daily problems too personally and, paradoxically, becomes less capable of solving them in an efficient manner. And this is the opposite of big picture thinking.

Let me share with you a story related to big picture thinking…

In 1812, the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia.[1] After a decisive Battle of Borodino, the capture of Moscow and therefore Napoleon’s victory in the war seemed inevitable.

Unexpectedly, the Russian Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Kutuzov made a highly controversial decision of retreating and allowing the French to capture Moscow. Much of the population had been evacuated taking supplies with them. The city itself was set on fire and large parts of it burned into the ground.

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After waiting in vain for Russia to capitulate, Napoleon had to retreat in the middle of a bitterly cold winter. He won the battle but lost the war. The campaign ended in a disaster and the near destruction of the French army.

What can we learn from this historical lesson?

1. Focus on the Consequences

Napoleon focused on the important part: capturing Moscow. Nobody could accuse him of thinking small. Yet he overlooked that the Russian army could still fight even after giving up the country’s most important city.

So was Moscow not an important target after all?

Success expert Brian Tracy has a litmus test: things are important to the extent that they have important consequences. Things are unimportant to the extent that they have no important consequences.[2]

When faced with a choice, ask yourself, what would be the consequences of each option?

  • Want to spend an hour studying or watching the new series on Netflix? What would be the consequences of each option? Netflix can sometimes be a better choice, but it helps to put things in perspective.
  • Want to maintain your apartment by yourself or to pay a cleaning service? Would would be the consequences of each option?
  • Want to meet up for coffee with this acquaintance of yours or catch up on your work instead? What would be the consequences of each option?

The choice can be different for different people. An aspiring filmmaker may have a legitimate reason for choosing Netflix. Personally, cleaning your own apartment can be relaxing and nourishing even if the economics of hiring a cleaner looks compelling because you are earning a high hourly rate.

This is where you will need a basic idea of who you are — what are your goals, values and aspirations.

2. Flip Defeat Into Victory

Kutuzov managed to turn Russia’s defeat into a historic victory by recasting the problem in a wider context: losing Moscow need not mean losing the war.

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Despite the symbolic meaning attached to the Kremlin, the churches, the priceless treasures that had been stored in the city for centuries, the outcome of the campaign was ultimately determined by the strength of the remaining armies.

If you can adopt this result-oriented perspective, many of your personal defeats may be flipped into victories as well. Few events in a human life are absolutely good or absolutely bad, and it usually takes many years to recognize in retrospect, what role a particular encounter did play in your story.

Therefore we have every reason to look for the good in the things that happen to us.

This is a very practical attitude, far from baseless “positive thinking.” After all, if something unfortunate has happened to you and you find good sides in this circumstance, you will then be better positioned to take advantage of those good sides.

Say your noisy neighbors are affecting your productivity. What if it is a blessing in disguise? How can you turn this defeat into a victory?

  • Perhaps you are too serious about life and could learn how to have more fun. Join your neighbors or go out for a walk instead of working;
  • Perhaps you only wanted to be productive while instead procrastinated on social media. Now that your procrastination has been interrupted, stop and acknowledge this much greater obstacle to your productivity;
  • Perhaps you are too sensitive to interference. Take this opportunity to practice ignoring the noise and doing your best anyway;
  • Perhaps you have a victim mentality and the feeling of unfairness drains you more than any actual nuisance your neighbors might have caused. Try accepting this lapse in your productivity the way you would accept bad weather.

Get used to finding opportunities in your problems. This is the quintessential big picture thinking.

3. Ask for Advice

Both Napoleon and Kutuzov had trusted advisers to discuss their affairs with. In general, getting a different perspective — or several — can only help inform your understanding and lead to better decisions. Just ensure that the people giving you advice are competent in the particular area where experience is needed.

Paying money for advice can also be a wise investment. Lawyers, tax accountants, medical doctors spend years learning how to assist people like yourself in living more successful, more fulfilling lives.

A quick legal consultation can save you a fortune down the line or even keep you out of big trouble. A medical check-up can uncover potential issues and help keep you healthy and active for years to come.

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Even big, complex dilemmas at your job or in your romantic relationship can be tackled more effectively by partnering up with a coach or a therapist or, of course, with the help of a wise friend.

4. Beware of Biased Advice

Many imperfect decisions occur in response to an imperfect piece of advice that you choose to act on. This advice often comes from a biased party.

For example, we are often encouraged to buy something that we supposedly need:

  • Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by using a special lotion.
  • Fortify your health by taking multivitamins.
  • Connect with your friends by sending them elaborate gifts.
  • Brighten your weekend by consuming a delicious pastry.
  • Become more productive by getting a faster computer.

However, most purchases are unnecessary.

Some, such as the sunscreen, do have legitimate benefits when used properly.[3] Others, such as multivitamins, only make a difference for a small group of people.[4]

Advertisers of those benefits inevitably want to narrow your focus in order to overstate the importance of their product. They frequently present it as the only solution to your problem, whether real or imaginary.

After all,

  • Skin can also be protected from the sun by wearing appropriate clothing.
  • Health can be better fortified by consuming a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
  • Spending time or talking on the phone with your friends is the foremost way of connecting with them, and it is virtually free.
  • Your weekend can be brightened by doing something that you love.
  • You can become more productive by focusing on the tasks that have the most important consequences. A faster computer can, in fact, decrease productivity by making it easier to multitask and by enabling your favorite distractions.

There are other sources of imperfect advice. Politicians also frequently want us to focus on a particular “big picture,” to the exclusion of the alternatives.

Even loving parents can be guilty of the same. They can advise their children to pick a career path that is safe and respectable, based on their “big picture” that in life one has to make a living. A child may disagree, however, based on another “big picture” that one’s life has to have meaning and fulfillment.

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Bottom Line

It is human nature to make rushed, emotional decisions based on incomplete information, then regret those decisions later on.

You can protect yourself from poor judgment by striving to attain the big picture when careful consideration is called for.

Focus on the consequences of your decision before considering how you feel about it.

Play with the cards you’ve been dealt, but look for opportunities in each situation and you will find them.

Ask knowledgeable mentors for advice, but beware of biased people who have an opinion, but do not necessarily have your best interest in mind.

Yet remember, true big picture thinking comes from hard-won experience. Legendary military commanders Napoleon Bonaparte and Mikhail Kutuzov were both injured on the battlefield.

Clear thinking comes from putting your big picture to the test of reality.

More Tips on Thinking Clearly

Featured photo credit: Haneen Krimly via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Wikipedia: French invasion of Russia
[2] Brian Tracy: No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline
[3] American Academy of Dermatology: Say Yes to Sun Protection
[4] Harvard Medical School: Do multivitamins make you healthier?

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