The Power of Reading: Unlocking Knowledge and Wisdom


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 22, 2023

4 min read


The Power of Reading: Unlocking Knowledge and Wisdom

Great minds read a lot. As Otto von Bismarck once said, “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” Reading allows us to tap into the collective wisdom of those who have come before us and learn from their experiences. In fact, in my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time – none, zero, as Charlie Munger famously pointed out.

But it's not just about the quantity of books you read, it's about the quality. Reading great books, articles, and essays more than once allows you to truly master the best of what others have already figured out. The number of books you read doesn't matter if you're not absorbing and understanding the knowledge within them.

When it comes to reading, it's important to start books quickly but give them up easily. Our desire to finish what we start sometimes works against us. Good books have a way of finishing themselves - they capture our attention and we can't put them down. On the other hand, trying to finish a bad book is like walking through the mud with a wheelbarrow full of bricks. Life is too short to waste time on books that don't resonate with us.

To optimize our reading experience, we need to find a balance between skimming and deep reading. Some books only deserve a skim, while others deserve our complete attention. The Levels of Reading offer four different approaches to reading, from the easiest level of reading to entertain, to the hardest level of reading to master. Most of our time will be spent between levels 2 and 3, reading to inform and reading to understand.

While reading speed may seem like a vanity metric, what truly matters is what we absorb and retain from our reading. It's not about how fast we read or how many books we read in a year, but rather the depth of understanding we gain from what we read. The opportunity cost of reading something new is potentially missing out on re-reading the best book we've ever read and extracting even more knowledge from it.

Writing is an essential part of the reading process. It allows us to connect new knowledge to old knowledge and identify gaps in our understanding. As we write about what we read, we solidify our learning and gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter. Writing also helps us discover that we may not know as much as we initially thought, highlighting areas where we need to further explore and learn.

Learning should be a continuous process, and reading is one of the best ways to facilitate that. By reading widely and consistently, we expose ourselves to new ideas, different perspectives, and a wealth of knowledge. It's through reading that we can expand our horizons and challenge our existing beliefs and assumptions.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Prioritize quality over quantity when it comes to reading. Focus on deeply understanding and absorbing the knowledge within a few select books rather than trying to read as many books as possible.
  • 2. Embrace the power of writing as a tool for learning. Take notes, summarize key points, and reflect on what you've read. Writing helps solidify your understanding and identify areas where you need to further explore and learn.
  • 3. Be intentional with your reading choices. Seek out books that challenge your thinking, expose you to new ideas, and broaden your perspective. Don't be afraid to delve into different genres and subject matters to expand your knowledge base.

In conclusion, reading is a powerful tool for unlocking knowledge and wisdom. By reading widely, deeply, and consistently, we can tap into the collective wisdom of others, challenge our beliefs, and continuously learn and grow. It's not just about the number of books we read, but rather the depth of understanding we gain from them. So let's embrace the power of reading and make it a lifelong habit.

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