I had a simple goal for 2017: I wanted to read one book a month. That’s it.
I thought if I could do that, I’d fall back into my stretch goal of two. Surely, I’d have to go for broke to accomplish such a Herculean feat. My unread pile of 32 books sat, waiting.
I was plagued by self-doubt. My hectic schedule, though, didn’t change the fact that I needed to read more. My reasoning was twofold: growth and relaxation.
Watching TV to unwind has never really worked for me. I end up vegging out for a few hours and feel more exhausted but unable to sleep well. No real relaxation there. I admitted to myself that if I felt stressed before TV, I’d feel stress after TV.
Instead, I set my ambitions on reading more. And I did. A lot more. In all, I ended up reading 103 books last year — fiction and non-fiction, how-to, sci-fi, fantasy, philosophy, biography, theory and classics.
Related: Read These 10 Books to Start 2018 Sprinting Toward Success
A funny thing happened on the way to surpassing my goal: I learned lessons well beyond the text contained between those books’ front and back covers.
Reading is like exercising.
The more you do it, the easier it gets. It’s a skill. Hone it. Eventually, you’ll read faster and faster and retain it all. No more re-reading the same page when you get distracted. Either you’ll stop getting distracted, or you’ll stop forgetting the information on the page.
It’s easier to focus on things when you need to.
An unexpected benefit that came from all this reading is my ability to focus. I guess focus is like an exercise too, because it’s kind of easy for me now.
If a task demands my attention, it’s easier to get into “the zone” and focus as hard as I need to.
Related: 7 Books Most Millionaires Read Before They Turn 30
I avoided audiobooks for the longest time. They seemed like cheating. After some convincing from friends, I finally gave in.
Wow, was I wrong.
It turns out you can retain just as much from audiobooks as print books. I still love printed books, but audiobooks are a big part of my rotation. I suggest you get in on that as well.
Taking notes boosts retention.
Remember the important things and the key principles. Even if you never read the notes again, you’ll commit them to memory when you write them down.
Don’t read on the same topics over and over again, as there’s not much new to be said. You’re looking for one or two great takeaways you can use to improve your business and life right away.
Related: 13 Tricks That Will Help You Read More Books
Common themes are everywhere.
Biographies, entrepreneurship, business, fiction — you’ll be surprised by the threads that connect the messages.
Many of the lessons found in a biography of a historical figure also are in that hot business book from last year (or even as a moral in a great work of fiction from 50 years ago). There are only so many new ideas or concepts in this world, so it makes sense that common themes can float across the pages of different books.
It takes only one insight.
You can read 10 books on building a business, and each one will have its own point to make. Each author brings a unique perspective when trying to solve the same problem. If you have the time to read all 10, identify the one or two concepts in each book that stop you in your tracks. Then, apply these ideas immediately to your own life.
That’s what it’s all about: improvement. Improvements in your life, your business and everything around you. Reading can help you get there.
Related: How Do Your Reading Habits Compare to Elon Musk’s, Mark Zuckerberg’s and Warren Buffet’s?