Discarded Anxiety - The Secret Power of Reading

“I HATE Reading!”

I have yelled, whispered, written and even thought this simple sentence a million times in my life. For as long as I could remember, I’ve always hated reading.

I hated reading assignments, books from school, books mom made me choose from the library… I hated reading anything.

Why?

I viewed it as a waste of time.

I craved experiences and figuring things out on my own. Reading got in the way of that. So I did my best to avoid reading as much as possible. But it wasn’t easy, the older I got, the harder it was to get around reading.

You see, my mom used to quiz me on the books I had to read for school. I often thought I could flip through it and from looking at the pictures or headlines figure out the story enough to answer her questions. But my mother, in her infinite wisdom, seemed to always know when I was trying to cheat my way out of reading.

I’d come out my room, announce that I was finished with my book, and would ask if I could go outside. But mom would stop me and always ask if I had really done my reading.

Like any good boy, I’d lie and say “Yes,” knowing that if I told the truth, she would send me right back to my room to do what I should have done in the first place.

She’d always say “Just a second…” as she thumbed through the book. Then she’d ask me my first quiz question. Since I didn’t do the reading, I would answer incorrectly. She’d ask another question, I’d get that wrong too. As she asked the third question, I’d just grab the book back and say “OK, OK… I’ll read it again (or for the first time)!”

I NEVER got away with it. I knew it would save me a lot of time if I had just read the book the first time around, but it always felt like a waste of time.

I guess hindsight really is always 20/20.

The problem was, books didn’t hold my attention. I’d start out reading a paragraph and by the end of the paragraph I had no idea what I read. Instead of paying attention to the words, I was thinking about what my friends were up to, what was for dinner that night, the basketball game coming up, or simply what could I do to get out of having to read.

I had decided early on, reading just wasn’t for me, and found ways to get around having to read. I wasn’t always successful, and sometimes, I suffered some harsh consequences, but most of the time I was able to get by doing minimal reading.

By the time I entered college, I had only read one book cover to cover, The Cage by Ruth Minsky Sender.

Robert Langdon

Then, during my junior year of college, at the encouragement of my father, I picked up Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

Growing up I had watched my dad devour books in a weekend. I remember thinking to myself, “how does he do it?

I didn’t understand until The Da Vinci Code, what it felt like to say, “it was so good I couldn’t put it down!

I would read all night long, foregoing sleep to get to the next chapter. Dan Brown’s style of writing really resonated with me. Plus, I loved the history, and symbology in the book.

The story featuring Robert Langdon as a modern-day “Indiana Jones” captivated me. I found myself rooting for him to figure things before it was too late. I enjoyed the book so much, I finished it in about 3 days. The next time I went home to visit, I borrowed my dad’s copy of
Since then, I’ve been reading non-stop. Sometimes two or three different books at a time. Not to mention blogs, e-books, audiobooks and anything else I can get my hands on.

All of a sudden, I can’t get enough.

What Made the Difference?

At first I didn’t know what caused my desire to start reading. I honestly thought I had just found a couple of books and blogs that I enjoyed reading and that it would stop there. But it didn’t. I kept craving more. That’s when I realized. It wasn’t the books or the author’s style of writing.

I wanted to learn and even more so I wanted to grow. I was tired of being the same old me. I was tired of doing the same things expecting different results. I realized that as smart as I thought I was, I couldn’t think my way through everything. I had to enlarge my knowledge base. I had to learn about different perspectives and broaden my own. Basically, I needed some new ideas and found them every time I opened a book.

As I became more engrossed in reading, I also learned that many of the great people in history were avid readers. Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt were all avid readers. Roosevelt is known for reading a book a day when he was busy, and 2-3 books a day during his downtime. Even Barack Obama is a voracious reader. This motivated me and further proved the importance of reading and expanding the mind.

Out of all the methods to obtain information, reading has stood the test of time. It’s the single most important activity you can do to change your life. That’s the secrect power of reading. It doesn’t take long, whether you read a book or a paragraph, that information, can change you. Just taking a few moments a day can change your entire world.

Feeding the Habit

Today, I keep a checklist of all the books I’ve read and more importantly, all the books I desire to read. I also joined a few online book clubs, just to get suggestions for books to read. One of my favorites is Ryan Holiday’s Reading Recommendation List, it’s completely free.

Every month Ryan posts an update about the books he read and recommends that month. I also write down books that are mentioned in other books, and add them to my list. So inevitably, when I check off a book from that list, I add several more, never making any headway on the list, which excites me.

It lets me know that there is always more to learn, more to gain, more to be added to my life.

In all likelihood, the list will never stop growing. But it’s not something that has to be accomplished. It’s something to experience, to take in, digest, and explore through your own eyes. I now believe there is something to be taken from each book. Something that can be applied to your life, either as something to embrace and weave into your personal fabric or something that perhaps you see in yourself that needs to be eliminated for a better you. Or perhaps the book just offers another opinion, a different angle on a question, event, or experience for you to consider to broaden your mindset.

Reading will help you improve you!

The process and activity of reading allows us to experience our lives and experiences in a new light. As you read, you come to understand that your stories, fears, and convictions are often shared with others. In fact, versions, of our own stories are being told every single day. And what better way to find different options for handling things, than to read about how other people did it.

I’m a firm believer that you can learn from any experience, be it good or bad. If it was a good experience, then you’ve learn what to do to recreate that in other areas of your life. If it was a bad experience, then you’ve learned what NOT to do. In both situations, you can improve your life.

So today, I’m issuing the 30-Day Reading Challenge.

If you’re willing to accept that challenge, I need you to do a two things.

First…

If you’re not already a reader, find a book that you’ve heard of , have seen mentioned, or maybe you read before, and start reading it (if you don’t know where to start, I listed some suggestions below). There are millions of books out there, and some of them will speak to you. Some of them will move you, some will even change you. But right now the goal is to find an interesting book and read it.

If you happen to be reading this and you see that this was posted some time ago, that’s alright. Take the challenge anyway and follow the steps.

Second…

I want you to start your own Reading List.

This will be a list of books that you will read. Notice I said that you will read. This list will be active, and you will cross things off and add things to it regularly. This is not just a collection of all the books you will someday get to, but a list that you are actively working on.

When you do this right, you will always have another book you can pick up upon finishing another. Also, If you happen to select something that doesn’t interest you, that’s fine. But keep that book on your list, it may not resonate with you right now, but a year or 5 years from now things may be different. So don’t foreclose on any books just yet. If the second time around, it still doesn’t interest you, then you can cross it off as not a good fit for you.

How do you start a reading list? Simple, the book that you decide to read for this challenge, will be the first book on your list. See, your list has been started!

As you’re reading your first book, pay attention to see if other books are mentioned. Most books offer a list of suggested readings. Add the ones that sound interesting to your list.

Also, the author of that book may have written other books. If you like his or her style of writing, add those to the list.

If you read other blogs, or magazines, or listen to podcasts, inevitably someone mentions a book that they love, or read or are reading. If that sounds interesting, add it to the list.

Ask your friends about the last book they read and whether they liked it. If it sounds interesting, add it to the list.

See how easy this list can grow?

Booklist Screenshot
Here’s a small snapshot of my Reading List

A quick word of caution

Don’t become so preoccupied with growing your reading list that you forget to do the reading. The reading is the meat and potatoes (or the quinoa and beans for my vegan friends) of this challenge.
Really dig into the book you’re reading and see what you can get out of it.

If you need help with finding a first book to read head over to the Resources page and check out the list of books there.  I’m sure you’ll find something that will peak your interest.  Also, don’t neglect your local library.  It’s a great free option for finding books to read.

Good Luck and happy reading.

Next Action Steps

Take the 30-Day Reading Challenge. 

In the comments below, share the title and author of the book you’re going to start and finish over the next 30 days.

For Example: I’ll be reading “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

Also, If you need an accountability partner to check in with you a few times over the next 30 days of the Challenge, shoot me an email and I’ll keep you accountable.

If you’re not subscribed yet, use the form below so we can stay in touch and encourage eachother during this challenge.


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hi Aaron! I just love reading about your family. Your parents both sound like they are related to me. 😉 I do the same thing as your mom with my 14 year old, except I have him watch biographies on TV instead of read because won’t read the books I suggest. This is wonderful advice you have given and you really motivate me to start my own list and pick up more books.

    1. Thanks so much Lisa! I can’t tell you how frustrated My mom used to be with me about reading. My dad used to joke (at least I think he was joking) about how he wasn’t sure I could read and thought I was just charming my way to good grades in school. I think your idea of watching biographies is a great way to get your 14 year old to learn. Lol, I would have given anything to be able to just watch something on TV than read a book back then. I’m sure you’ll be surprised by how your son responds to watching all of those biographies in the future. I know my mom is still shocked at the number of books I have and read now.

      I highly recommend starting a list of books you’d like to read. If you have a kindle, check out http://www.bookbub.com, it’s a free service that will send you emails everyday about ebooks that on sale for less than $3.00, sometimes even free. I’ve been getting a lot of the books I’ve wanted to read, and even some I never heard of through them. They link you right over to amazon most times to download your books to your kindle. Check them out.

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