What reading for 30 years has taught me
Before we get started I have a confession…the title is a lie. I am 30. I did not enter this world able to read, but also my parents did not keep track of milestones for child number 3 (aka me) so it is some number less than 30, but hopefully more than 20.
Now that I have gotten that off my chest.
When I read a story I immediately read as if every character is me. Their traits, their dialogue, the decisions they make, and along the way certain characters capture more of my attention. Both good…and bad. The reason is because those characters start to naturally become a mirror for viewing myself in a different context, from the outside looking in. A fictional story (honestly any story, but I have spent my years reading fiction) allows you to connect to behaviors, traits, and decisions you see yourself making and see how they effect the environment that exists around a character exists in a way you don't have the opportunity to do in your own life.
So, what has this done in my life?
If you are a reader this one is the obvious choice, but it is just too true to leave it out.
Reading inspires action in my life.
I usually read a very specific genre of fiction that highly indexes towards this emotion, and I literally can't get enough.
Reading about a characters emotions as they work hard and achieve a goal cannot help but trigger that hope inside of me that I can do the same. Also, there is a huge…trying to think of a word for this, but I think I'm going to draw a picture instead.
I feel like I don't need to say anymore. You get it right?
Reading pushes me off cliffs
Metaphorically! Probably a red flag if the book you're reading does this inserts word for something that sounds better than non-metaphorically
Being able to play out the power a single decision can have inside of a story has given me tools for doing the same in my own. With that ability cliff sized decisions in life feel a little and sometimes a lot more manageable.
Reading is great for vocabulary party tricks
I now have a randomly impressive, very contextual vocabulary for words that I only know how to use because of stories and words shared from a truly expansive demographic of people I would have never met in my life naturally.
It has surfaced as a fun game my wife and I get to play called “there is no way that is a real word” or “that can't be how that word is used”.
This is where reading has been less fun, but more important to my personal growth.
Makes me confront when I relate to traits that cause negativity
This one never stops stinging. When you relate to a characters journey you relate in the highs and the lows. It is natural to force yourself to numb the times when that leads you to confronting behaviors you see in your own life. Making excuses for how you would be smarter in that situation, but I recently saw a quote that I liked that sums up how it can feel in those moments and the importance of pushing through them.
The most gains happen when you're feel pressure and want to rush through it.
Loosely adapted quote from @Shaan Puri in this episode of My First Million Pod
Don't excuse your way out of the way you see yourself in a character during the low points. Sit in it, and find a way to improve.
Sorry, that one got a little preachy.
Everyone has a story. Mine isn't more important.
This is related to the previous not good thing, but has a specific nuance that is important. Reading has the unique advantage of letting you into the mind of every character in a situation. Not just the one you relate to. For me, this has always helped me notice when I may be judging someone for their actions without considering their own story.
It is a hard problem to stop our own thoughts, but we can always take time to challenge the assumptions our mind makes and that can only happen by experiencing stories that are not our own.
Yes, you are 432 pages into a story about a guy stuck in a magical time loop and coming to terms with how much you love it.
But in all seriousness, you can find yourself taking a step back and thinking do really like stuff like this?! it has led me to be comfortable being weird, and this has impacted me both personally and professionally. When people are weirdos (read passionate) there is opportunity. To connect, to understand, and (for all of you entrepreneurs out there) to build on.
Whew, that was…heavy. I find myself becoming a lot more self reflective as I age.
So, I wanted to end with this. Reading has provided these insights. However, mostly reading is just awesome. I have a giant portion of my memory bank that is filled up with moments from stories people have crafted that brought me through the spectrum of emotions. They have anchored entire time periods, and memories of my life just by how it correlates to what I was reading at that time.
So, if you are a big book nerd like me ooooor I convinced you to be one…
Let's talk about it! I want your recommendations and I would be happy to share some of mine. Shoot me a message on Twitter @wking it will make my day. Also, because sharing a list of recommended books publicly here would reveal way too much about the depth of my “nerd”. 😅