Your Time is Scarce – Read Books and Articles of Substance

You see it in so many places. Little hints. Bigger mentions. But the truth of the claim really is, if you look for it, inescapable.

People who really get ahead, and stay ahead, read a lot.

They read books. They read serious essays and articles.

And, they recommend such books and essays to others. In fact, they distribute them to others.

And, those who do not read as much end up falling behind.

And this is not a good era to fall behind, is it?

Radical CandorHere’s just the latest example. I have finished reading Radical Candor. Notice these excerpts:

(part of her advice on how to lead people):
Here’s what to do: make a list of how the person’s role can change to help them learn the skills needed to achieve each dream; whom they can learn from; and classes they could take or books they could read.

(about Drew Houston, CEO of Dropbox):
Drew has probably read and reread every book on management ever written.

(about something she did for/among her team members):
I circulated an article from Harvard Business Review (HBR) that explained how a culture that captures thousands of “small” innovations can create benefits for customers that are impossible for competitors to imitate. 
And I sent around again the HBR article showing how competitive advantage tends to come not from one great idea but the combination of hundreds of smaller ones.

Now, this is just from the latest book I read. I could find similar quotes and suggestions in book after book.

A couple of months ago, I presented my synopsis of Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris. I finished that book, and thought about just quitting. If I read every book that was recommended by Mr. Ferris and/or all of his podcast guests, I basically could never catch up…

And, that’s the point. If you don’t keep reading, you quit learning. You fall further and further behind.

Reading substantive materials – like good books, and good essays and articles – is what we all need to do.

I’m not talking about reading fluff. I’m not talking about reading tweets, or Facebook. I’m talking about reading materials dripping with substance. The kind of reading that deserves, and requires, our full attention.

I’ve just selected The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu for my June First Friday Book Synopsis Attention Merchantspresentation. Part of what helped me decide on this book is the last part of Jennifer Senior’s New York Times review of the book:

Many of us can relate when Mr. Wu asks, “How often have you sat down with a plan, say, to write an email or buy one thing online, only to find yourself, hours later, wondering what happened?”
And so Mr. Wu concludes his book with a cri de coeur, imploring us to regain custody of our attention. It is written so rousingly that it just may make you reconsider your priorities. He brings up the work of the psychologist and philosopher William James, who “held that our life experience would ultimately amount to whatever we had paid attention to.” He also quotes James’s quasi-palindromic complement, the ethicist James Williams: “Your time is scarce, and your technologies know it.”
We are what we choose to focus on, the sum of our concentrations. What will we choose? This is an age of glorious individualism. Yet never, it seems, have we belonged less to ourselves.

Here’s what I am trying to say. There is not a moment of time to waste. We have things to learn, and then tasks to perform. Wasting time by reading nothing, or reading fluff, is truly a very bad choice on how to spend our time.

Take your reading and learning seriously “Your time is scarce.” Don’t waste it.

My synopsis of Tools of Titans is now available to purchase for our “buy synopses” tabs at the top of this page.  Radical Candor and The Attention Merchants will be each be available shortly after I deliver my synopses in Dallas.

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