If you have been following my blog, I’m sure it’s clear to you by now that I am bullish on reading books. Before last year I was never a big reader. I normally manged to read a Stephen King novel if I was going on vacation and I had started reading some of Eckhart Tolle’s books – which were very eye opening books for me – but that was about it. Nowadays, I promote reading in the same way I would promote breathing oxygen. I think reading is important and it has been a major factor in improving my mindset over the last year. In this post I want to explain why reading is important.
A couple of days ago, I saw a post on Instagram which inferred that reading is no longer important in a world where we have instant access to countless hours of free informational video online. I couldn’t help but to be a little miffed at this claim. Here’s the thing. Reading is not for everyone, I get that. Many people gravitate towards learning from experience or by observing others – and I do too! However, too many people write off books simply because they have never thought of themselves as the type person who reads them.
I honestly believe that most people out there don’t understand exactly how reading books can help them. It’s for this reason that I want to create this post. I’m going to talk about why reading is important and how building a reading habit won’t merely help you become more knowledgeable about certain specific subjects that you may or may not care about but has the power to transform your life in very real ways!
You should read books to cross-reference your experiences.
Stick with me. I want you to think about your whole life experience from birth up to this point in time as you are reading this post. What exactly do you know about the world we live in? How do you know it?
Let me make some assumptions on where you get your information from.
Obviously the most reliable source of knowledge is experience. You experience certain things in the world and then use what you have learnt through these experiences to guide your future decisions in life. The problem is that you are only human (I think) and the amount of first hand experiences you have is limited. It’s probably more limited than you even realise. It doesn’t matter how much of a varied life you live; your experiences are still going to be a tiny slither of the range of perspectives available.
It’s for this reason that you need to cross reference your experience with second hand information too. Where do you get your second-hand information from? Well much of it comes from what you were told as a child (from your parents while some of it from friends and other people you associate with in your life. The issue with this is that these sources of information are based around people who most likely have very similar experiences to you in terms of the type of world they are living in. Your parents have enforced their values onto you and you have accepted them without question – not to say that these values are necessarily wrong but you have still internalised them blindly.
It’s a similar deal with friends and co-workers. You are living in the same environment as them, you have probably internalised similar values from your parents, school and life situation – what this means is that you might well have fallen into a group think mindset without realising it. You parrot back the same predictable response because you believe it is true and this truth is naturally reinforced by those around you who hold the same truth – but is it true?
This brings me onto the media, which is huge factor in shaping what you think you know. Maybe you watch TV? Read the news? Watch Movies? Netflix? Advertisements? Facebook? Guess what. These things are influenced by the same modern culture that you and everyone else around you have become wrapped up in. Each of these mediums are haunted by the same Zeitgeist. For people living in western countries, a big thing to watch out for the Hollywood narrative. You have most likely been consuming Hollywood movies for your entire life and because of this, you don’t even see how your values are shaped by the engaging stories being pumped out by the same six companies. Really? Yes, really.
There’s an invisible narrative running through everything you consume and the best way to realise this is to break out of it and view it from the outside. Like a curious observer looking in. You can start asking questions like:
Why exactly do we do that?
Why does everyone I know take this so-called truth for granted?
How do I know what I think I know?
The reason why I would recommend cross-referencing your experiences with books is that they are diverse in perspective. You can spend a week reading a book on left-wing politics and then another week on right-wing politics. You read a book on scientific perfectives and then a book on a religious perspective. You can find books that tackle topics that you have never really considered before and may just find yourself finishing the book with a completely different perspective on reality.
This is exactly what I have been doing for the last year and I can tell you that it has really changed the way I think about the world in a variety of different ways.
Cross-referencing your experience in this way is an amazing thing to do because it gives you options. You are no longer tied in to one perspective but can choose elements of each perspective to build a more detailed mosaic of your life and the world we live in. The greater variety of books you read, the greater your field of vision becomes and with time you will be able to apply this abstract knowledge to your life situation.
You can change your life with books.
I have been reading self-help books recently. There is a stigma around self-help books. Not every self-help book is all that enlightening but if you can pick out the good ones, you will gain so much practical knowledge that can be used to shape a vision of your own life. I have found that reading these types of books have opened my eyes to things are crucial to my life that I never really considered before. Some examples for me include: work ethic, health and mindset optimization.
Of course, you can learn a whole lot of practical information from videos too and to be honest I have probably learned more overall from video content than I have from reading books, but one of the advantages that books have over video is that the format allows them to go deeper into specific topics rather than just giving surface level details. A great thing to do is use video content to explore different ideas and perspectives and then find good books on the topics you are interested in learning more about.
Remember the online world that we are living in is jam packed with people and organisations trying to get your attention in whatever way possible. You may be drawn in with a catchy headline but it doesn’t mean that the information provided will be of any use. Books on the other hand, because they are longer in form, tend to contain more thought provoking information. This isn’t always the case though – there are plenty of videos out there which are amazingly eye opening and plenty of books that are a waste of time. You need to work out which is which.
Also, keep in mind that video content is very new. Which means that pretty much all video content is influenced by modern biases in some way or another. On the other hand, you can go back and read books which are hundreds of years old – learning lessons from history and escaping the influence of the modern zeitgeist.
That’s about it for my views on why reading is important.
The things I’m talking about here are very real and are important to consider if you want to start living the type of life where you can think for yourself and make the right decisions for you own situation rather than being unknowingly influenced by external forces.
Going forward the main purpose of this blog and my YouTube channel is to promote and provide information on this self-directed way of living. A lifestyle that encourages individuality, creativity and independent thinking. I want to become a person who has a vastly open mind while simultaneously has a strong sense of personal boundaries. Someone who considers all perspectives but bows to none. I hope you choose to follow my journey!
Also published on Medium.