The Art of Reading
Reading is not a mere accumulation of information, rather it is a method of organising your own thoughts and emotions. It is not that the information in the book that you are reading is distinct from you, the fact that you understand that information means there is some residual material of what is in that book that is also present within a part of you; and that part interprets it. But all of this happens unconsciously, if we want to make reading a conscious process, one of the aspects is to see how similar the trail of thought is, between the lines of the book and those of your own thoughts.
It is well known that we have five sensory perceptions, and all the information that we interpret is through them; everything that we know about the world is through these sensory perceptions. When a situation comes in contact with one or more of your senses, that situation becomes an experience and so you can say that you have experienced this or that particular situation. Now you might ask, how is reading related to this? Reading is an exceptional phenomenon since, to experience what the author has written in their book, one is not required to come in direct touch of the situation. If you read and are in a rather receptive state, you can cognitively experience what the author wishes for you to experience.
Writing is important regardless of you being a writer or not. Do you ever wonder how some lines you read here and there are so well articulated that you instantly feel like they have become a part of you? If you look closely, this has less to do with what is written but rather how it is written; if what is written becomes an extension of your psyche, then the ones who read it, regardless of their knowing or not, will imbibe that emotionally beyond the intellectual standards.
Why must I read? Is it needed?
Reading is no longer an option; it is a necessity. I often hear people talking about the success of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and such people despite them being college dropouts. What people don’t realise is that their learning, and their reading never stopped. They merely exited one institution and entered another field of learning. Bill Gates is said to have read around 50 books a year, that’s around 4 books a month. This is not merely a natural skill, rather it is an acquired skill, it is a skill that can make any human being invincible when it comes to knowledge.
There is a fine line between recycling information and imbibing more information. If you see a person who reads less, his opinions will be the same even if it revolves around different topics. This is mainly because the ideas that he would have are recycling themselves and taking different forms, but he doesn’t realise that it is the same information and thus, if you want to come up with creativity and new solutions, reading is a prerequisite so you don’t get caught up in the loop.
I want you to observe why people are creative, it is not because they are born creative. I want you to observe how two people look at the same object, how is it that one of their perceptions is richer, filled with more information and the others’ is not? The more information and experiences one imbibes through books, you will notice that everything about them seems to be fresh. They are constantly experimenting, debating with life; they are constantly challenging their current circumstances, they are never stagnant because with each book that one reads, it transforms a part of their psyche, unknowingly or knowingly they are assimilating what the author is trying to tell them.
How do I optimise my reading to the fullest?
1. Kaizen technique of incremental improvement, this technique is a Japanese productivity technique that is very much practiced in Japan but is still unknown to the world. The Kaizen technique says that if you want to improve a situation, you don’t directly touch the situation, you go for the elements that are present in the situation, incrementally you keep improving certain elements and the situation changes consequently. Now how is this reading-related? It also says that when man performs an action, it is never 100 percent, it is always less, after he is aware that he needs to push more, then he will ramp his action up. When one reads, the mistake that is often made is planning to read the entire book or an entire chapter. Especially for non-readers, reading a lot is a problem, so the technique states that to become an avid reader, just make sure you read one page a day, or a page in two days, you incrementally do so, by adopting small changes; maybe one page a day for three weeks and then increase it to one and a half pages, over time you will see that you have this sudden capability to read a bunch of pages, books and information much faster and with an exceptional quality that you did not have before. Thus, incremental improvements reap results.
2. Always assume that it is the last thing you will read and the last thing you will know. Read with a mindset as if this book, this chapter is the ultimate. As people, we are only intense in situations of great peril or happiness. There might be intensity in those situations, but when you read a book, bringing that intensity will change the way you read. The words will not feel like words, they will feel like a conversation, there are hidden messages in those lines themselves, they will reveal themselves to you.
3. Abandon what you know, If I hear you, if I listen to you and through that listening, I begin creating a comparison with what I already know, unconsciously I make sure that the probability of hearing something new is reducing, and my own experiences are overshadowing the new information. You don’t want to recycle what you already know, don’t interpret new information in terms of the past.
4. Don’t focus on memory. This is a rookie mistake for all those who read beautiful books. They want to remember the lines; they want to capture the experience in some way or the other and there is nothing more disastrous than that. Trying to remember those words that touched your heart are always retained through understanding and not mere memory. Especially in non-fiction books such as self help books, there are some lines that really touch you in a different way, they hit you in a different way and you want to remember this, you want to retain this. One thing I can tell you is that, if you have genuinely understood it, there is no need to panic, there is no need to write it down, it has now become a part of your system, when the time comes, you will see its usefulness.
I want to destroy the myth that proclaims that there are readers and non-readers. That is not true because everyone has the capability to read, and to read means what? To simply imbibe information and use it to your maximum potential. This information comes externally, all one needs for using it and extracting that information is curiosity and willingness. If you are hungry, you are not confused as to should you eat or not, isn't it? You just go looking. It is the same with books, here we are curious to know, we are curious to learn and through this burning desire to learn, we all can master the art of reading.