The modern age of hyperconnectivity, social media and innovative industries has changed the way we interact with the world. With so much technology clashing with humans, it makes sense that author and angel investor, Tim Ferriss, says that his philosophy of choice, stoicism, is the best “personal operating system” to use.
The idea of becoming better, faster and smarter has creeped its way into every detail of our lives. This includes career, art, hobbies, exercise and everything in between. The sentiment is about being your best, and finding the most efficient approach and philosophy to tackling the many challenges and obstacles you’re sure to encounter in life.
But what one tool is equipped for this tall order? Feeding us with philosophy, information, and oftentimes an “operating system?”
Books. Lots of them.
Even those of you sitting there thinking, “yeah, but I don’t have the money to buy a book,” have access to this tool. You have friends who love to let people borrow things. Access to public libraries is cheap. Surely you have co-workers and an office that probably has some reading materials lying around.
Worst case scenario, you can use the tried and true method of going to a bookstore and reading the entire book in one sitting...just don’t say I told you to do so. But why’s reading such a useful tool to use in order to navigate life? Here’s five reasons, though I’m sure you could add your own:
Someone Had Your Problem First
The most important reason? You can find solutions to your problems.
Whether that’s the answer to a stock market riddle, learning how to clean a roof gutter, methods for raising a kid, or trying to find an answer to life's greater riddles. (Not that you will, but books help at least.)
Currently, I’ve been reading much of Ryan Holiday’s work, author of Ego is the Enemy, The Obstacle is the Way, and various books pertaining to public relations and marketing.
I’m not certain he made up this quote, but it’s where I heard it from, so he gets credit. Roughly paraphrased, he says that any problem you’ve ever had, someone has had it first. And chances are, they stopped to write about it. This means they’ve covered their strategies and approaches they used to navigate the issue.
So what are you waiting for? Take their sage advice and see how they overcame that specific issue and apply that knowledge to your life. Find those authors and use them as your tool and compass. And hey, if you’re convinced that you’re the first human to have said problem, then you might as well be the first to write about it.
Never Stop Learning
Once you graduate college and leave the world of academia, there’s no longer pressure to learn. There aren’t essays or midterms that have to be written, and your boss isn’t going to give you an A+ or a C- on your work. Whatever learning you want to do is now up to you. No one is going to tell you to do it.
In order to rise the ranks of the working world, shape our careers, and continue to grow and develop as friends and family members, we have to keep learning. We can’t stop the process the moment we turn the tassel to the left and toss our hats in the air.
Anyone who has done something great never stopped being a student. They realized that life is continuously a learning process, and no one can ever know enough. Even if you’re the grand master, there’s still something that you can learn from your students. The best in the world all have teachers. Michael Jordan had Phil Jackson, Beyonce has a singing coach. Don’t ever assume you know enough, or that others can’t provide insight.
Keep reading. Keep listening to podcasts. Learn from those that are above and below you. Every person provides a different opportunity to learn and grow from.
Focus Your Mind on the Present
The social media age has led to what many researchers, psychologists, and others have called “addiction.” Whether they are right or not, at the very least we each have a constant temptation to check our smart devices. For those of us that work on the internet, the temptation of clicking onto another internet tab is always there.
Reading is a tool that helps the part of the brain that needs to focus on the present moment. With a book you have no other distractions. No additional tabs, apps or games.
To make this part of the hack even more intense, get out there and read a book at the park and leave your cellphone at home.
0 to 100. Real quick.
Slowly you’ll begin to realize that you aren’t getting as distracted as you used too. Focus gets a little easier and you feel more in control of not indulging in the temptation of checking your smart device. But it’s a constant battle that won’t go away anytime soon, the internet will only get cooler.
Become a Better Writer
In Ann Handley’s content marketing book, Everybody Writes, she dismisses the idea that writing is only for authors and professional communicators. She points out that anyone with an email or social media platform (just about everyone) is a writer.
On a daily basis we are each churning out content to our audiences on our individual platforms, and at the very least we’re engaging with each other via text messages.
For those of us who work in media, communications, or other fields that require copious amounts of writing, there’s an even greater emphasis and need to get better at our skills. That’s where reading comes in.
Reading is a quick trigger to improving yourself as a writer. Even if you’re reading a nonfiction series about something completely unrelated to your day job. You’ll begin to notice sentence structure, how other writers manipulate words, and at the very least, you won’t be intimidated by large bodies of text.
Small Talk at Parties
So you’ve embarked on the journey of being a reader and you’re still sitting around pretending like you haven’t gained much from deep diving into books instead of wading in the water for so many years. (Though we both know you’ve gained a lot, even if you don’t want to admit it.)
At the very least, you can use your new found hobby as a source for chatter at the next cocktail party or happy hour event that you attend. Now you’re versed in your craft or topic of interest, like deep ancient philosophy or maybe you discovered Viktor Frankl's meaning of life.
Even better, pair your newfound readings with the Netflix knowledge you have and you’ll surely be able to hang in any small talk environment. After chatting you’ll end up with a new TV series recommendation AND a new book recommendation. Except this time you might find yourself opting for the book tip instead.