In 2015, I read two books. And that was par for the course at the time. I would find one good book that I would read over three to four weeks and I wouldn’t pick up another book for about six months.
It’s sad to spell it out that way. But that’s where I was. I didn’t find value in reading regularly or making it a habit to read daily. It wasn’t on my radar and I had no interest in changing it.
By June of 2016, I had read exactly one book for the year. But it was also in June that I started talking to Mike Schmitz and we knew we wanted to start a podcast together. We just had to find a topic.
When Mike proposed Bookworm as a name for the show and the commitment to reading a book every two weeks, I was hesitant. I was reading two books a year, not 26. But for some reason, I said, “yes.”
And then I had to start reading more. As in, I had to read every day. Beforehand, I was reading about 20 minutes on Sunday afternoons and that was it. But now I had to read about 30-40 minutes a day!
And I have to say that it was hard to make that habit stick at first. I would often find myself cutting out some TV time at nights and reading an extra hour the day before we were set to record because I had 50 pages left in the book.
I had made a commitment and the world was waiting for new episodes and new books. So I made it work.
At the end of 2019, Mike and I had recorded and released 83 episodes of Bookworm. And in that time, I managed to read several books in-between the Bookworm books as well, which means I’ve read somewhere in the range of 120 books since mid-2016. That’s what happens when you commit to reading for 25-30 minutes a day.
When you read a book every two weeks, the value of the next-book-decision goes down. You’ll only be spending two weeks with it, so you don’t spend as much time choosing the next one. You tend to grab one even if it’s only somewhat intriguing. And that means you tend to branch out a bit more.
It also means that you start to see patterns in books and have lower expectations of them. When I was reading two books a year, the information in one book could easily become life-altering. Just listen to episode one of Bookworm and see how much we loved Getting Things Done. Compare that discussion to our view of Making It All Work, which was released just a few weeks ago. Those are vastly different. It takes a lot more to have the same effect.
There are now times when I read a book and realize the true value in it is the fact that it tells me or reminds me of things I already know, but that I don’t practice. I know the value of journaling at night. I have experienced it. And yet I fall off the wagon time and time again. It just takes one book with a reminder of the “why” behind journaling to prompt the habit again. It’s not ground-breaking. But it is motivational. And that is intrinsically valuable.
I choose books differently now and my expectations are different. I read books to keep me learning new ways to see the same old practices. I read them to keep me moving in the right direction. I read them to keep me from becoming lazy. I read them to prompt action over stale thinking.