My dad is a warm-hearted Lebanese man with the calm temperament you'd expect from someone raised along the Mediterranean Sea. Compared to most other parents he was pretty lax, rarely pestering me as I grew up.
Which is why what he did harp on stood out. Etched into my brain is him saying, "Nicky, you don't read enough!", usually as he rustled my hair. It didn't make sense to me, though.
"Why would I want to read?"
~ What none of us realized at the time was that I was reading. Where my dad grew up exploring history books, I spent my time scouring the Internet for articles and blogs on web development. Books were what I had to do for school. I would rarely think to open one up for fun and if I did it seemed too daunting to actually do. As I grew older, the idea of certain books began to intrigue me. Recently during an interview on Mixergy.com, host Andrew Warner mentioned that walking into a library makes him feel like he has a world of super powers at his fingertips. This is how I felt - but I just didn't have the experience to get me from wanting to read to having read. It seemed so damn hard. Fast-forward a few years later. I've left college a year early and feel committed to educating myself on subjects that matter to me. Slowly, I've been able to incorporate reading books into my daily life. These days I read around 50 pages a day, casually. It's relaxing and empowering. Best of all, I think I can help someone get from where I was to where I am.
You don't have to read. I know, it's hard to believe after all those years of reading assignments, but what you do with your time is actually totally up to you, reading included.
See that huge stack of books on your shelf? The ones you've really been meaning to get to. You don't have to read them.
That realization alone made me much more willing to actually open up a book. Allow yourself to read, don't force yourself to read.
Pick a super power. It's too easy to get caught up in the books everyone says I should be reading. The Classics. I'm sure there's some merit to them, but I have my own interests and I bet you do too.
Figure out what you really want to know more about or learn how to do. Find the best book you can on it and remind yourself that it's in there.
Divide and Conquer. Even today, when I get a new book and flip through the pages, I start feeling pretty intimidated by all those words. How long it could possibly take to go through all of them seems so uncertain.
What I've learned is to take a deep breath and think things through.
Go grab one of those books from your shelf and divide it into 50 page chunks. You'll probably notice there are less of them than you'd expect. At about one chunk per day I get through most books in a week.
Realizing a book wasn't an open-ended commitment and instead a quantifiable amount of paced reading totally changed the game for me.
Keep your friends close and your books closer. With so much entertainment just a click away, it's hard to remember to take some time out with a book. For me, solving this problem meant having a small cubby on my desk just for the one or two books I'm currently reading.
If I'm stuck on a design problem, taking a break to read 15 pages is always within an arms reach.
Start more than you finish. Books really can be great as my dad made them out to be - but not all of them are.
Opening a book is not signing a contract. If you stop feeling it midway through, don't worry about putting it back on the shelf. It will always be waiting for you if you want it again.
There are too many great books to spend time reading ones you aren't totally in love with.
If you're coming from the same place I was, a mountain of mental baggage is keeping you from tapping the incredible ideas and infinite knowledge stashed away in books. The strategies above are about gradually reducing that mountain to an anthill. They're about reprogramming what reading means to you.
Relax, trust your abilities and enjoy your new super powers.
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