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How I Pick the Right Books to Read to Learn 10X Faster

How I Pick the Right Books to Read to Learn 10X Faster

According to a study conducted in 2016 [1], it was found that most people read around 12 books a year. This may or may not sound like a lot to you depending on how much you like to read.

To the average person one book a month is pretty impressive. But unfortunately, many of these books aren’t exactly intellectually stimulating. Fan-fiction books such as 50 Shades of Grey might be entertaining, but they’re not going to improve your life or make you smarter.

To get the most out of books, you’ll need to choose them carefully

There are around 134,021,533 books in the world[2], and the number is only growing. So many genres, so many writing styles. It’s like any other external element that represents you. The clothes you wear, the car you drive, it’s all a matter of preference and taste.

With all of this nearly overwhelming choice, it makes sense that choosing the right book for you could be difficult.

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Best-sellers are not necessarily the best for you

Many people refer to the best sellers list to get an idea of what they should be reading. Or sometimes they’ll just choose something at random, pick up a book and hope for the best. That’s fine for entertainment purposes, but not so much for your development.

It would better benefit us if we took the time to consciously choose what to read based on the skills we want to improve, or the mindset that we want to hone. If we don’t make that choice for ourselves, then the best sellers list will make the choice for us.

The real issue here is that while we’re wasting our time reading mediocre books, we’re missing out on ones that could really benefit us or even change our lives.

Never judge a book by its cover

The book cover and the content hiding inside are two separate entities. An author could have created great content, but their book will get overlooked if the title & cover are not eye catching. On the other hand, a book might have a great cover, but the contents are just full of fillers and empty statements. The plot is weak and you might even feel drained from reading such an atrocious piece of garbage.

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I’ve read so many books that aren’t necessarily attractive at first glance, but have resonated with me and benefited me greatly such as Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt [3].

Make use of tools to help you decide what to read next

Your Next Read is a little bit like Pandora in a sense. You enter the title of a book that you enjoy and the generator will supply you with a list of relevant suggestions.

    Bookbub is very similar in the sense that it matches your profile to books that appeal to your interests. They will also alert you when books on your list are available free or at a discounted price.

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    Check out the three-star reviews on Amazon

    There are two types of people in this world who choose to leave reviews. Those who truly loved the product and those who loathed it. Some people have incredibly high standards and can never be pleased, so you should never take their word for it; their opinions aren’t objective enough.

    Like I said before, it’s all just a matter of taste. What may come across as nasty to one person might be barely mild to you. A book that is revered by your peers may come across to you as boring and poorly written. When you look at the medium reviews (three stars) they typically will give you an overview of the good and the bad, giving you a more objective opinion.

    Ask for recommendations from like-minded people and your role models

    Since they have similar taste, you can trust their review of a book without having to do much research yourself. They won’t try to sell you like the marketers who promote the books on the best sellers list. They have your best interests in mind and know your personality, so they’d have a good idea of what you like.

    Know when to switch it up

    The issue with asking for recommendations from like-minded people, is that you end up falling into a cycle of reading the same material. We tend to read a lot of similar books with a recurring theme, because we as humans are drawn to what feels familiar. But complacency will never lead to progress.

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    The more you continue to read on a subject, the less information your brain retains. To always keep your mind fresh, try to switch it up a bit and take your reading in a different direction.

    Ask yourself before reading: will I be able to apply the skills in the book soon?

    I always try to read books that I know will contribute to my growth. When I read the book Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, I was double checking my organizational habits to see if there was room for improvement.

    As a writer, it is imperative that I read books on or above the level that I want to write at. The books that I read dictate the frame of mind in which I function and give me the inspiration I need to continue writing engaging material. If I feel that a book doesn’t match or inspire my writing style, I will move on to the next one.

    So the next time you go to pick up a book, consider how it will benefit you in the future. Don’t just pick up whatever is on the best sellers list. Find the authors that speak to you and help to shape you into who you want to be.

    Reference

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

    More About Goals Setting

    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

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