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The Best Reading Advice I've Ever Received

Reading hasn’t always been enjoyable for me. In fact, I used to only enjoy reading fiction and fantasy books since I didn’t have to walk-away having learned something. Maybe it’s my personality or brain, but I don’t enjoy thinking deeply about what I’ve learned. I’m terrible at applying head knowledge to every-day life.

I only started reading personal growth and leadership development books because I knew I had to grow. I’d read 10+ books a year on self-improvement, and not know how to apply it. I felt guilty about it, because it felt like I was wasting my time.

After years of reading and barely applying the content, I became frustrated to the point of reaching out for help. I called my friend Doug Smith, who is an incredible leader and runs an amazing organization called L3 Leadership. I told Doug my problem, how I felt like I wasn’t retaining information or applying it. In the end, Doug helped me realized I felt overwhelmed with the amount of information I was reading. Somehow, I felt like I had to apply every detail of my reading, and if I wasn’t doing that then I was wasting my time.

Thankfully, Doug gave me the best reading advice I’ve ever received. On the phone with him in late October in 2015, I shared with him, “Doug, how in the world can I remember everything I’m reading? I feel like I’m doing it wrong or I’m stupid!” Doug’s response has since changed the way I approach reading.

Nick, I want you to pick ONE thing you learned from reading, and apply it.

That’s it. No reading habit idea, or mental exercise to improve knowledge retention. Doug told me simply to focus on ONE thing I learned from the book, and apply it.

His reasoning was pretty simple, “The reason you focus on one thing is so that you can actually take one step toward improvement.”

In other words, it’s about movement, not speed.

“Besides,” Doug continued, “you’ll have plenty of opportunity to read that book again and learn something else.”

How about you? Do you find yourself frustrated with the amount of content in a book, and guilty for not retaining it all? Now’s the time to end that guilt, pick ONE thing, and learn slowly.

It takes time and effort, but as Anthony J. D’Angelo puts it, "Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.”

One applied truth leads to a lifetime of learning.