Upping My Reading Game

Biggest takeaway

(My apologies for the long delay between personal blog posts. All I can say is “2020”. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )

When I was young I was a voracious reader. Lots and lots of books passed through my fingers. Once I discovered fantasy and science fiction the pace only increased. Being a socially awkward only child gave me lots of time to myself, and reading was one of the activities I thrived on.

At one point during my Microsoft career a manager turned me on to self-help and growth literature, and I was once again an avid consumer.

Fast forward <mumble> years and things have changed. I’m not the reader I once was. I watch my wife consume upwards of a book a day, while I’m lucky to do one or two a month.

I want to change that.

I think I have a plan.

Collecting takeaways

For the last couple of weeks I’ve done two new things.

To start, after many (many) failed attempts, I’ve picked up journaling, yet again. No real formal structure, I’ve simply identified a “random notes go here” place. I’ve made it easy(ish) to get to, and experimented with several approaches to adding information to it. I’ll document what I’ve come up with in a future post.

Probably more importantly, I’ve resolved to read something of substance each day — a chapter, an article, whatever — and identify one idea to “take away”. That takeaway gets saved in my journal. Along with whatever other random thoughts, ideas and things I want to note for the day.

As I said,  there have been many failed attempts in the past, but this daily takeaway is meant to put a bit of a structure to my attempt. Basically I’m forcing myself to a) read and b) visit my journal every day.

We. Shall. See.

But there’s more.

Everyone needs a deadline

It’s my opinion that the decision to publish a weekly newsletter contributed to significantly to Ask Leo!’s success, but not for reasons you might expect.

Yes, it’s wonderful to have an audience of around 40,000 people who want to hear from me each week. Imprecise tracking tells me around half of them open it, which I’ve been told is a pretty good number for an email newsletter. I’m incredibly grateful.

But another value is the deadline.

840 issues so far. 840 deadlines for which I had to have content ready to go. 840 deadlines I’ve not missed. As I write that number, even I’m surprised.

The same thing seems to be happening with Not All News is Bad. I started it as a project for myself, nothing more. After doing it for a little while I elected to set up a newsletter so that each day’s choice would be emailed to whomever might be interested,

1,360 items later (again, a number that  surprises even me) I think I can count on one hand the number of days I’ve missed posting something.

Deadlines. The value is in the deadline.

You can see where this is headed, right?

Seven Takeaways

I originally expected that all this would be part of my personal blog. Much of what I anticipated this very post to be was an explanation of how I was going to try to separate Seven Takeaways from my regular blogging and the emailed notifications that happen here.

However, I got a sign from the universe that the correct solution was something else. The sign? Seventakeaways.com and 7takeaways.com were both available.

Sigh. Like I needed more domains. (I have 55 57.)

So my plan is to set up a site archiving what will be a weekly newsletter for any and all interested.

Does the world really need yet another curated content newsletter? Probably not? Doesn’t matter.

Why? Because, and I wont’ say this over there when I set it up, this isn’t for anyone but me.

It’s a deadline.

Great creators are great consumers

I don’t claim to be a great creator, but those that are share at least one common characteristic: they consume a lot of information. They read, they watch, they listen to a wide variety of topics that interest them.

Be more like the people you admire. I admire several great creators.

What will I consume? Hard to say, but it’ll be eclectic, that I can assure you.

Entrepreneurial items will probably top the list. Writing better. Time management. Marketing. Basically anything that will help me to continue to grow my business.

Personal growth will almost certainly make appearances. As will technology (though some might well get diverted to Ask Leo! related channels. We’ll see.)

Don’t be surprised if Corgis are mentioned occasionally as well.

Coming soon

This post is like a “we’re expecting” announcement. It’s me solidifying some of the ideas I have into a solid plan.

I hope to share a birth announcement sometime soon. There’s some incubation that needs to happen.

However, let me share at least one of the takeaways I’ve collected so far. Think of it as an example of what I’m planning to collect. (Akin to an ultrasound?)

Why are people having difficulty concentrating? They’re trying to resolve an uncertainty that is unresolvable.” – Neuroscientist Oliver J. Robinson via an interview “Why it’s so hard to read a book right now”, which I discovered via “Why You Can’t Read Right Now” by Sarah Olson Michel on Medium.com. (Full disclosure: I’ve only read the later, which quoted the former.)

It’s a combination of relief, that I’m not the only one feeling this way, and understanding that it’s not necessarily permanent. While the big uncertainties currently holding our attention are very real, and by definition uncertain, we know there’s an end. Perhaps there’s even an end in sight. Taking steps to read more, as I’m doing, is one concrete thing to do, but it’s also important not to beat yourself up — as I kinda was — about the perceived failing. It’s not a failing at all. Perhaps it’s a coping mechanism, but at the very least it’s human.

That seemed … topical.

As  said: we shall see.

Everything’s an experiment.

Including this.


4 thoughts on “Upping My Reading Game”

  1. Leo,

    In 1975 I moved to northern suburbs of the Twin Cities and married a St. Paul girl. We just celebrated our 45th anniversary. She is always reading such is your wife. So in 2012 when I retired I started reading fiction stories mostly dealing with law enforcement.
    I have a iPad and we subscribe to Amazon Prime. I get “Free” material from their Kindle section that comes VIA e-books. I turned 73
    last June and have been enjoying the peaceful relaxing pace of reading these fiction e-books. Lee Child’s – Jack Reacher series and
    John D. MacDonald – Travis McGee series are great no-brainers and smooth story lines are some examples.
    I was born and raised in Portland, Orygun but my home is now here in Minnesota.
    Enjoy your reading now – it does take the edge off of the daily grind.

  2. Leo, I am now just past my 91st. birthday, and looking more than a few days forward seems rather risky, especially as we all go through this terrible pandemic. I have outlived all my side of the family and most of my (not quite as old) wife’s family. I live in the UK, where our leaders seem almost as incompetent as do yours in the USA. I have found reading to be almost the only way to make life bearable, but am beginning to run out of books that hold my attention. Like your correspondent Gerald Barbur, I read mostly fiction and I am also a quick reader, so a really exciting book will typically last me 2 or perhaps 3 days only. Because I have a damaged heart, I can no longer walk fast enough to keep myself warm as the weather gets colder (3°C outside today), so am restricted mainly to the house. I found your article fascinating. You have helped me keep my mind alive through your askleo series as I struggle with Windows 10. I cannot say thank you heartily enough.

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