There comes a time in every person’s journey where you must cease to listen to other people. And at this time, you begin to unlock deeper levels of your creativity, intuition, and awareness. This was something I realized whenI stopped reading, listening to, and watching dating advice content. I had several people whose content I followed and it was not bad advice. But I came to understand that past a certain point, it is counterproductive.
People put a lot of stock in reading. We all like to think that it makes us smarter or it makes us look smexy (smart+sexy). It’s the trendy thing to do; there are reading lists galore and YouTubers make videos about their book lists and starting book clubs. Especially with COVID and the quarantine. We oooh and ahhh at people who read 50 (or more) books in a year. Audiobooks are a booming business.
However, I think it is downright stupid to make reading X number of books in a year a goal in and of itself. I know it’s controversial to say but reading more than most people doesn’t even make you smarter. In fact, reading too much will actually hold you back and dumb you down.
This applies to any area of your life that you want to improve upon. Advice is great and it is necessary in the beginning but it is just that- the beginning. Nothing can replace your own actions and experience. The best way to learn is to do. You could have a child read all the books they can get their hands on about how to ride a bike without training wheels and the physics of it, but the only way to learn to ride a bike without training wheels is to ride a bike without training wheels. No one wins the Tour de France because they read all the books there are to read on bike racing. They win because they have done countless hours of bike racing prior to the race. They learn what works for them, what doesn’t work, and what small tweaks to make to give them their best chance of success.
Think of it this way: would you rather have a surgeon that has read every book and every paper and every study available (assuming it was possible to read literally every single one of those things) and always keeps up to date on the latest info, yet has performed only a few operations OR would you rather have a doctor that doesn’t read all that much, just a few interesting new studies here and there, and yet has performed hundreds, if not thousands, of prior operations and can state her (or his) success rate?
I know who I would pick. Yes, both surgeons need to read to graduate from medical school; reading is necessary at the start. But it is clear that the latter surgeon knows what she’s doing because she has actually, you know, done many surgeries.
I realized this truth when I looked at my Screen Time stats on my iPhone and saw how many hours per week I was spending on Libby (an app that lets you borrow ebooks with your library card) and Kindle. I felt like I had been getting nothing done recently and I suspected that reading, ironically, was the culprit. Because every time I thought about actually going to do something, I would read instead. In my mind, I was being “productive” by reading but actually I was just procrastinating.
The thing about reading too much that dumbs you down is that it lets you convince yourself that you are “making progress” or being productive” when really you are not and time is passing by while you are no closer to your goals being reality.
Instead of reading all the books I can get on entrepreneurship and starting a business, I realized the best way to learn to start and run a business is by starting and running a business. Sure, there is some prerequisite reading and research that needs to be done (Alberto Savoia’s Pretotype is the only one that stands out in my mind) but beyond that, the business won’t start itself and reading more books won’t make me more ready.
Another area in my life that I’m working on right now is my sexuality and how that relates to my spirituality. Right now, I am in the reading stage. I’m listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos, attending webinars, reading books, doing the guided meditations and just soaking up all the information I can find the time to consume. Some of it resonates with me and I accept. Some of it I reject. I’m planning to take an 8 week course in the near future since this specific course by this specific teacher has come to my attention at least 3 separate times at various points throughout the past 5 years so I feel that I am being drawn to this program for a reason. I don’t expect it to hold all the answers but I see it as part of my beginning.
I know that a time will come when I stop reading the books, watching the videos, going to the webinars, and listening to the podcasts. And that does not mean that my journey is done or that I have “arrived.” It simply means that stage 1 is over and I have enough background information and enough of a foundation that I can begin to try my own things and forge my own path.
It would be far better to try 50 different ways of doing 1 thing than to read 50 different books on 1 thing and try nothing.
As a personal example, I am always looking for ways to organize my time and plan my days. I read a book by Laura Vanderkam about time-logging every 30 minutes of your days for a week in order to ensure that you allot your time wisely and that you know what’s actually eating up your time. It’s not a bad book but it’s not groundbreaking stuff either. I even paid someone on Fiverr to make me a cutesy, customized printable planner with 15 minute time slots for the entire 24 hours in a day for a whole week but the time-log thing just did not work for me and I wasted a good chunk of money on that. But my tried and true to-do list wasn’t helping me get things done either.
So instead of reading more time management books, I decided to take a new approach and turn my to-do list into a game. I wrote down all the things I had to do in a week on to slips of paper and put them in a jar. Then, each day I would pull out a new task. Some would be simple like “call your Grandfather” or “clean the bathroom” others would be nearly day-long endeavors like “study for that chemistry test.”
It didn’t work for me. I tried it for a week and then dumped those slips of paper into the recycling. But I see this as a win instead of a loss. Unlike my custom planner from Fiverr, the slips of paper in a mason jar cost me $0. And more importantly, I actually tried it. I ever even used that Fiverr planner. But I tried the paper in a jar and I know it doesn’t work for me.
Now I’m trying something else. I designed my own weekly planner on Canva (for free) and it’s going well. I thought back to my experience in elementary and middle school and decided to give each day of the week a theme. I have so many hobbies and things I want to do but I’m always unsure of which to do when. So I gave each hobby a certain day and the little daily tasks like homework or random tasks like vacuuming the car get written down under that day. Monday is “Blogging Monday,” “Sketching Saturday” is for me to learn to draw, “Wash-Up Wednesday” is for cleaning the house, etc. It hasn’t magically made me get everything done that I want to get done but I am doing more than I used to.
The end of this “stage 1” means the beginning of something new. It is the beginning of true creativity and originality, where your intuition flourishes and your awareness expands. You don’t get creative and original ideas by copying other people but you do have to learn the basic rules to break them. That foundation and background reading is only the first step in the process of becoming truly creative.
Just don’t stay in stage 1 forever reading 100 books a year and think that it makes you smart or that it’s doing you any favors. Because it’s not.