How to Read 50 Books in a Year

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“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.” George R.R. Martin

I never thought that one day I could have a “realist” goal of reading 50 books in a year. This is happening now. I’ve been asked by a few people how I read that much (I don’t think 50 is a lot, when some people a reading a hundred in a year). I don’t use fast reading techniques. You won’t find any hacks or shortcuts below. I’m actually a slow reader. I think anyone can do it with the proper mindset. Here are a bunch of ideas that could help you boost your reading in the next year.

*The first thing you should do is to make reading a priority. You probably watch TV for a few hours every week, play video games or browse internet (Facebook, Reddit, etc.). Instead of doing these activities, make reading your default option. I’m not saying don’t watch TV at all, but you can surely be creative and make more time for reading.

*One thing I do that help a lot is taking reading appointments. Whenever I have free time during the week, I’ll plug a 2-3 hours of reading in Google Calendar. Doing that will make you commit to do it. An other option would be to make a habit out of it, like reading 40 pages everyday. I don’t use that option because my days are never equal. But, I can see how it’s a great way to read much more.

*I suggest that you either always carry a book with you or one on Kindle (iPhone/Android). Dead times are underestimated. You easily lose few hours every week doing nothing. Read when waiting in line at the grocery stores, between gym sets, when waiting for meetings, in the metro or at any other dead times.

*I personally read 2 books at the same time. Usually 1 fiction and 1 non-fiction. Why am I doing that? Sometimes you won’t feel like reading a certain book. When you are tired, it will be way easier to read a fiction for example. You increase your chance of wanting to read something.

*It’s important to read stuff you like. If you don’t like what you’re reading, chances are that you will stop right at the middle. If you don’t like it, throw it away. As simple as that.

*I would say that one of the most important thing is to have a goal. Not aiming for an objective will make you fail. I know that I have to read 50 books before the end of the year and the goal is clearly inside my head. I track my progress and list each book I’m reading. I use a countdown to see where I’m at. It’s useful because you’ll know when you’ll have to read more. It’s just like project management, the closer you get to the deadline, the more time/effort you’ll put into your work.

*I think focus is mandatory. You need to make your reading a fun and relax activity. I usually make myself a coffee during the day or an herbal tea in the evening. Put your cell away. The last thing you want to do is check it every 2 minutes. And every time you stop, you’ll need to get your concentration back. I don’t use music when I’m reading, but some people like classical music.

Don’t know where to start? I did a bunch of book reviews if you need some inspiration: Moneyball, You Are Now Less Dumb, Steal Like an Artist, The Dip, 7 Years in Tibet, The Old Man and the Sea and Appalachian Trials.

Foundation

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The awareness that health is dependent upon habits that we control makes us the first generation in history that to a large extent determines its own destiny. – Jimmy Carter

Everyone should have a life foundation. Here is mine. They are what I do on consistent basis or almost. From time to time, I neglect them and things start to go bad. As soon as I make it a priority to do it, things start to go well again. I’m not promising overnight success or the you will become the richest person in the world. But I can promise you that you will feel way better, you’ll have more ideas than ever before and stress will go down. If you don’t have time, find it.

1. Excessive reading. Aim to read a lot. Like 50 books or more a year. Read all the fucking time. Read about every subjects: history, psychology, philosophy, biology, finance, marketing, business, etc. Books can give you an insane load of ideas. The more you read, the more benefits you’ll get out of it. Put more in the bank, you’ll get interest. It’s the same principle with reading. PLEASE avoid crappy and easy books. Read stuff that will make you grow. You don’t have any idea what you should read next? Start with some philosopher like Seneca, Epictetus, David Hume, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Read biographies about great men like Alexander The Great, Churchill, Rockefeller or Kennedy. Try novels by Tolstoy, Balzac or Mark Twain. I’m currently reading Law of Success by Napoleon Hill.

2. Write a journal. I’ve already cover that subject in The Lost Art of Journaling. Writing a diary is powerful tool that can help you during struggles and bad time. You will find after a while that similar problems keep coming back. That’s where your journal become a teacher. You can learn from your own past. Writing helps emptying the head of all your worries. That’s mean you’ll be less stress. I would suggest to write even if things are going well in your life. Keeping a diary doesn’t just help with problems. It will improve your memory, it will make you get more ideas and you’ll get better at writing. Do it everyday.

3. Write 10 ideas. This is an extension of the journal writing. I’ve learned that trick in James Altucher’s Choose Yourself. Find a topic to write about. It can be anything from struggles, problems solving, finding business ideas, travel ideas or anything else that is useful. For example, you could write 10 ideas about why junk food is bad for you. Detail as much as possible (20+ lines) for each ideas. Make your brain work really hard. Do that for a couple of months and you’ll become an idea machine. It’s a wonderful tool, but you need to do it on a consistent basis to get the rewards. Keep in mind that your brain is like a muscle. You need to exercise it. If you don’t, the idea muscle will simply shrink.

4. Use the power of gratitude. It’s another thing I do in my personal journal. It doesn’t take much time. I suggest that at the end of each day, you write was good about it. It can be something anything. It can be as simple as the time you spent with a friend or the coffee you took at Starbucks. For example, today I was grateful for having a meal with my parents, breaking a record in the gym, reading a book and listening to good music. It can be anything that made your day good. You’ll find even good things about your shitty days. We tend to focus much more on the negative and that is a problem. In How to Be The Luckiest Person Alive, James Altucher suggest to express gratitude even for the bad stuff. The best example, your tight on money…you should be thankful for learning to make a budget. Once you learn to be grateful, you’ll open the newspaper and you’ll feel instantly happier. Why? Grateful people understand that their first world problems are nothing compare to the shit that happen everyday around the world.

5. Minimal boozing. In a perfect world we wouldn’t drink at all. unfortunately, society is really pushy to make us drink. Try a month without boozing and you’ll say no a thousand times. Not drinking isn’t the norm. The problem is that the more we drink, the more depress we are. Alcohol is cool in the moment, but it’s effects aren’t that good afterward. It isn’t good for you health, you mood and your brain. Keep it low, don’t drink more than 2-3 drinks each day. Keep it even lower than that in bad times. You feel bad should mean don’t drink. We tend to do the opposite and it’s self-destructive behavior. Alcohol won’t save you anyway. Face your problems.

6. Eat clean. I can make comparisons with alcohol consumption. I usually tend to eat more crap when I feel bad. The result is simple, I’ll feel even worse. It should be a must to eat three good meals everyday. Eat plenty of protein and vegetables. Try to keep junk food to a minimum. That include soft drink, dessert and chips. I suggest cheating once or twice max a week. I’m not advocating perfection here. I know we’re human. Keep junk as a reward, not a daily habit.

7. The 6 Items List. I got that idea from The Ultimate Sales Machine. You take a piece of paper before going to bed and you write your 6 most important tasks for the next day (no more). It’s a great tool because you already have a plan for your next day. You have the blueprint of what your best day should be. You go to bed without worry. You wake up and you’re already in fight mode. Even better, you can set a definite time to complete each task. One of the best way to use that list is to start early and do some of the work before starting to read emails. Believe me, it will be your most productive time of the day.

8. The Weekly Review. I got that idea from Getting Things Done 7 years ago. It’s one of the best way to keep your things organized and move toward your life goals. You set a period of 2 to 3 hours each week where you review what you did good or bad during your week. You plan what you want to do for the next week. It’s a good time to take a look at your current goals, empty your email inbox and do all the small tasks you didn’t have time to do. I usually break my life in different fields like work, learning, writing, health, finance, voluntary work and active projects. I’ll write 10 to 15 lines for each fields. On my part, I usually do this on Friday afternoon. In my head, that means the week is over.

9. Be the early bird. I’m far from being the best at that, but I’ve found that the earlier I raised, the more I did during my day. You can take advantage of the quiet morning time. You don’t have emails to answer, no phone calls to return and you don’t receive sms. All those things take a lot of time and make us lose focus during our days. That’s why it’s difficult to keep up with the work we have to do. It’s a modern society reality. We can’t avoid it, but we can be smart about it. The best way to do it is to have a morning routine you like. Get a good cup of coffee and read a book. Then, attack your work.

10. Move. This one is a must. I’m always surprise when I hear about people who do nothing. Get up and do exercise. Lift weight, fight, jump, run, climb a rope or play football. I don’t care what you do, BUT FUCKING MOVE. Our body was built to move. We’re not triggered to watch TV all the time. Get a good dose of sport 3 to 4 times a week. It can only be positive for yourself.

11. Play It Away. This mean you can’t be working or doing intellectual work all the time. You should plan a relaxation night or afternoon every week (even 2 if you want). Go watch a movie, play a video game, have a board game night with friends or go to the shopping mall with your girlfriend/boyfriend. The idea is to do something else than your routine. Look at a week without any planned fun and it will be the longest ever. You won’t see the end of the tunnel. I would suggest to plan relatively big events every few week. I’ve noticed that it help the mood to have something to look toward.

A foundation is personal to each person. It is a suggestion. Take what you think that can be beneficial for you and adapt it to your life. I’ve put what I think is the most important, but I could easily add a lot of other items on that list. Remember that your foundation should be your life guide. Avoid it at your risks and perils.

Randomness of July 2014

In “randomness”, I’m posting about the interesting stuff of the last month. It can be quotes, books, articles, websites, movies or whatever I think you could find interesting.

I’m kind of late this month. I was in the Balkans for 15 days and I’ve come back a week ago. The trip was awesome. I had the chance to visit Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro. I won’t go in more details.

[1] I rarely read fiction book and I want to make amend of that in the future. Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale was my first move on the good path. It’s the first book of the James Bond series. It’s more or less the same story as 2006 movie but in Cold War setting instead of the present. You can also take off the poker game by baccarat. A good book pack with action.

[2] I read a quick book just before leaving to Europe. It was Nate Green’s Bigger Smaller Bigger. The author take us in its adventure to get 20ibs of muscle in 28 days, lose 20ibs in 5 days, and get it all back. It’s interesting on the self-experimentation perspective. If you have any interest on getting muscle mass, I think it’s a good inspiration for it.

[3] I had the chance to see the legendary hardcore band Cro-Mags in show upon my return from Europe. I was surprise to see how many well-known rock bands say they were influence by them. One interesting stuff is that I thought the lead singer was in his late thirties…he’s in fact more than 50. I’ve done some research and the guy is an advocate of healthy lifestyle. He is the author of the book Meat is For Pussies about the lifestyle of being vegan, athletic and strong. I’m not vegan but the book look good and I would be curious to read it. Even the MMA fighter Jake Shields is a fan of the book.

[4] I’ve stumbled upon a quote from the business thinker Peter Drucker: “What gets measured gets managed.” Whatever you’re goal, if you can measure it, it will be way easier to achieve it. For example, if you goal is to lose weight you can measure your carbs intake or the calories you’re eating. I’ve noticed that the habits changes I wanted in my life were way easier to achieved when I was measuring the goal and tracking the progress.

[5] If you want to watch a weird documentary, I suggest Room 237. It’s free on YouTube. It’s about theories from fans on Stanley Kubrick’s Shining. It’s fun to see all those odds theories like the idea that Shining double meaning is the genocide of Indians. The fan show all the clues that point toward that theory. You’ll see theory like the Holocaust, the thematic of the Minotaur and much more. It’s nothing really serious, but it’s entertaining. My favorite part was the study of the set, I think it’s the best part.

[6] Do you like board games? One of my friend as a hardcore boardgamer and he always try new Kickstarter projects. Last time I went to his place, we’ve played a game of Kremlin. It’s an updated version of the old 1980’s game from Fata Morgana and Avallon Hill. It’s a strategic game of influence that take place in Soviet Union. The goal is more or less to take control of the Politburo.

[7] One of my favorite book is Letters From a Stoic by the roman philosopher Lucius Seneca. The book was written 2000 years ago and it could have been written today.  I’ve bumped into one of my favorite quote from the book last week: Now I bear it in mind not only that all things are liable to death but that liability is governed by no set of rules. Whatever can happen at anytime can happen today.” Whatever can happen someday, could happen today. You will die someday, but not rules says it shouldn’t be today, in a week or in 65 years.

[8] You’re serious about weightlifting but you don’t know how much alcohol you should take? I suggest you read Dr. Jade Teta’s article on the subject: A Lifter’s Guide to Alcohol. I’ve learned a bunch of things because of it. Seriously, a whole book should be written about that subject.

[9] I’ve got my hand on a cooking book. It’s La Technique by Jacques Pépin. Each recipes or techniques are shown step-by-step with pictures. That is must to learn and master cooking techniques. This is something I’ve been putting off since a long time. I like to cook, but since a year and half I’m really lazy. Hopefully, this book will motivate me to get the job done.

[10] We will finish with a quote from Jacques Pépin:”All the great chefs I know – Thomas Keller, Jean-Georges Vongerichten – they are technicians first.” This can apply to any fields, you need to understand and learn the techniques if you want to become good. It’s the same whether you are a cook, a martial artist or a pilot.

On Learning

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Learning is an important process in our lives. This is the most important way to grow and to improve ourselves. Learning can be done with different processes. Here are some good examples : reading a book, watching a documentary, writing in a journal, improve a skill, making a summary of a book, studying a language, travelling, visiting  a museum…you get the idea. To reach the beat of ourselves we must learn. Nobody became great by apathy and ignorance. Here are 10 great quotes about learning.

  1. Education is what remains after one has forgotten all he learned in school. – Albert Einstein

This is a great quote by Albert Einstein. He meant that once school is over, you shoudn’t stop learning. It can also mean that once school is over you’ll learn by your life experiences. Those life experiences will be your true education.

  1. If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The man of rare intellect didn’t become how he is alone. He found knowledge and inspiration from somewhere. That somewhere is more often than not in books. You would have asked Kennedy in the picture above about great book suggestions…and you would have probably ended with a list of dozens of books to read. A good point to start with the bookshelf of Bonaparte.

  1. The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing. – Voltaire.

I thought before my bachelor in History that I knew a lot about the subject. After 3 years and 30 classes…I came to the conclusion that I knew nothing. The more knowledge you’ll get, the more you’ll see that you don’t know much. Usually, people who learn a lot will become more humble about their own knowledge. They know that knowledge is infinite and that they only know a tiny part of it.

  1. Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is. – Isaac Asimov

Written in 1975 in Science Past, Science Future, this quote by Asimov can be seen as an attack against school. Self-learning is the real and only education. It is the one that will follow you all your life. It is the one that will make you unique and build your character.

  1. You cannot open a book without learning something. – Confucius

Anytime you open a book, you have a chance to learn something great. That quote from Confucius is an encouragement to curiosity. In other words, read more books and you’ll get knowledge.

  1. “If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.” – C.W. Lewis

There will always things outside of you control that will distract you from learning. If you want to achieve something, you must seek knowledge without waiting for a more favorable moment to come. People who really want to achieve something will be eager to learn at any time.

  1. Change is the end result of all true learning. – Leo Buscaglia

For those who don’t know him, Buscaglia in an American author and motivational speaker (1924-1998). I think he means in that quote that the process of learning will change you if you truly apply what you’ve learned.. You’ll become different from the person you were before.

  1. Learning is not child’s play; we cannot learn without pain. – Aristotle

Aristotle (384-322 BC) is best known as a Greek philosopher and the tutor of the Emperor Alexander III (known as « the Great ») of Macedonia. He means by that sentence that learning will never be easy. You can’t avoid the pain period in any learning you’ll do. I suggest the book Mastery to learn more about that idea. You will always want to do something easier like having distractions (TV, video games, drinking, etc.). You will learn if you are eager to accept the pain.

  1. Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence. – Abigail Adams

Nobody will become succesful by chances, like nobody will get knowledge by chance. Someone who acquire a lot of knowledge, is someone who put a lot of time and effort in learning.

  1. Being ignorant is not much a shame, as being unwilling to learn. – Benjamin Franklin

If you have the chance to learn, you should learn. I know plenty of people who have all the intelligence they need to read books and learn. They have money to buy all the books they want. But, they prefer distraction like tv or magazines. Franklin is right, it is more shameful to refuse to learn, than being a plain ignorant.

Randomness #1

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Every months I’m posting stuff that were great or that will be great. It can be article around web, books, stuff (apps, useful tools, etc.), thing to watch (movie, videos, etc.) and something to drink.

(1) A Brief History of Male/Female Relations on MarkManson.org [History/Evolution] A great article that tell the whole history of male and female relationships starting from the caveman era to the present. I’ve learn a few things and the references at the end of the article can be great ideas for your next book reading.

(2) Identify Weak Points and Destroy Them on T-Nation by Charles Staley [Health/Fitness] It’s step by step guide to identify your weak point in weightlifting and how to destroy them. The ideas can also be applied outside of fitness don’t worry.

(3) How and Why to Keep a Commonplace Book on ryanholiday.net [Reading/Learning] Probably my favorite blog post of the week. Ryan Holiday tell you why you should keep a commonplace book. The article also tell you the benefits of having that kind of book. You will be surprise to see how much leaders from today and the past we’re keeping that kind of book.

(4) I Lived a Day According to Ben Franklin’s Schedule and It Changed My Life on The Good Man Project [Productivity] A simple article about a guy who lives in Franklin’s shoes for a day. He reproduce an entire day of Franklin.

Knowledge is Power

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“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was always curious about what was making a person more successful or more powerful than others. Why do certain people seem to achieve far more than others? With time, I’ve came to the conclusion that knowledge was a key factor in the rise of great minds. It can be education in school, but it can also be self-education. I remember reading an article on Tim Ferriss blog (author of the 4-Hour Workweek), he was stating that he had been reading 1 to 3 books per week for the past few years. He had been reading 50 to 150 books a year. No surprise to see how successful he is. You can also take the example of Ryan Holiday (Best-seller author) who writes a newsletter per month of the books he has been reading. Those newsletters usually suggest 8 to 10 books a month. I guess Holiday read 2 to 3 books a week. Is being a good reader the path to be a better writer? I don’t know about that, but usually good writers are also good readers.

“As you know, I kind of like to read books” –Richard Nixon

I was curious about successful politician or businessman. I search on reading habits of US presidents. First, Barrack Obama is also known to be an avid reader.  Clinton was also a huge reader. Bush peaked at 95 books in 2006. What about successful presidents from a century ago? There are claims that Theodore Roosevelt was reading at least one book a day. Franklin D. Roosevelt was known to have 22 000 books in his bookshelf. It is astonishing to see that people with the busiest jobs in the world find the time to read near a 100 books a year. It’s not a coincidence those people have success. Sir Francis Bacon said almost 500 years: “Knowledge is power”. He was right. Knowledge is leverage for power. Reading is a common habit you’ll find in most successful people. Now we can ask ourselves a simple question: Do I read enough?