My 8th grade geography teacher used to say "leaders are readers". I was skeptical. It seemed like a clever phrase designed to trick us into reading, instead of watching another episode of The Simpson's.
It's been a few years, but I'm finally starting to understand the depths of the phase. After reading the biographies of the world’s peak performing billionaire leaders, it's clear... They read. A lot.
Here's a few examples of "Billionaire Reading Habits":
- Oprah Winfrey has one of the biggest and most popular book clubs.
- Bill Gates reads 50+ books each year and takes vacation time each year devoted to reading.
- Warren Buffet still reads 600-1000 pages each day and spends about 80% of his work day reading.
- Phil Knight was a reading fanatic and used the philosophies of great military and business leaders to build Nike into a multi-billion dollar shoe Goliath.
- Mark Cuban reads 3+ hours each day.
- Elon Musk taught himself to operate 3 multi-billion dollar companies (in different industries) through reading.
- Charlie Munger reads so much that his family refers to him as "a book with a couple of legs sticking out".
If you want to start your billionaire reading habit, below we'll outline a series of strategies that will help you to read at least 52 books a year. In part 1, we'll discuss the basics of starting a reading habit and in part 2 cover specific strategies to 2X your reading speed, improve your comprehension by 500% and build billionaire wisdom.
Part 1: The 3 Parts of The Habit Loop (Applied To Reading):
- Reminder/Cue - Many people tell me they want to start a reading habit and when I look at their bookshelf I see only 2 books: Harry Potter and 50 Shades of Grey. Anytime you're starting a new habit, you've got to make it easy on yourself. It's easy to read if you live in a library and your sleek and shiny smartphone ins't distracting you. It's hard to read when you check your social feeds and email every 5 minutes and your book collection only contains titles with the words "wizard" and "vampire". Make it easy on yourself by having access to many different books, audiobooks, and eBooks in your immediate view.
- Routine- Set aside a specific time for reading that precedes an existing habit. Like reading after you brush your teeth at night. You can also read each day during lunch or listen to audiobooks during your morning commute to audiobooks in the car or while sitting in your evening chair instead of watching another episode on Netflix.
- Reward - You want to create a strong positive neuro-association by using an immediate reward following a reading session. You can even be an evil masochist like me and withhold coffee until you've completed your habit. Or you can listen to inspiring music after. Or just give yourself a pat on the back. Or smell vanilla extract. Or eat a piece of 90% dark chocolate. I've used all of these rewards to "program" new habits (coffee works the best for me).
OK. Onto the good stuff.
Part 2: Practical Strategies for Reading Like A Billionaire
1. Read with Intention
In school, we learned to read without intent. We read because teachers assigned homework and we needed to pass a test. Many of us carry this "programming" into adulthood and we completely lose our passion for self-directed learning and discovery. We're not learning intentionally.
When your intent is clear, your Reticular Activation System (RAS) filters out irrelevant information and you focus on what is most important and relevant to you.
Today, I only read about topics I'm intensely interested in. If I read something up and it doesn't grab me within 15 minutes, I put it down and read something else. I read because there is a purpose and I know what I want out of it.
2. Implement What You Read NOW!
In all good books, there is a big takeaway or lesson learned from the story or teaching. Whatever you are learning, don't wait to apply it. When you procrastinate and don't apply what you learn today, it quickly turns into a mental habit and you transform into one of those people who knows everything and does nothing.
3. Make Notes and Paraphrase... In The Book!
You own the books. The books don't own you. Take notes in the margins, "dog ear" pages, paraphrase sections, highlight, bold and underline. The book is there to be mentor for you, so use it!
4. Retain 5X more information by Increasing Your "Buy-In"
Marketers and advertisers use Authority Bias to get you to buy their product or service. For example, if Warren Buffet describes how to build a successful investment portfolio, people are likely to listen to his advice and apply it, because he's Warren Buffet.
You can use authority bias on yourself to get more out of your reading time.
- Pick up a book by a new author (someone you haven't read).
- Read the front cover, back cover and table of contents. See what others are saying about the book and what the author has accomplished.
- Read all the testimonials, reviews and things written about the book, including all 5 Star Amazon reviews while avoiding negative reviews. You want to see how this book is going to help you, not read a bunch of whiny reviews.
- See what else the author has published and the number of people who have benefited from their work.
- Listen/watch interviews with the author on podcasts, YouTube or TV programs.
- Talk to other people who have benefited from the book and ask about how the book has changed their life.
Using this strategy, the new author has become an authority in your mind and you are bought into their message. You will follow their advice, learn their lessons and implement what you have learned.
5. Speed Read-- with Your Fingers
Most young children, naturally read with their fingers, as a result we associate reading with your fingers with youthful naiveté.
It turns out the kids were right. Neuroscience shows us that our brains are attracted to motion and underlining the words with your finger can double your reading speed.
Some studies have shown that reading speed increased by 20-50%, using this "childlike" strategy.
I didn't believe this was true, so I tested it out and was shocked when it worked within 5 minutes.
My Results implementing this strategy:
- My average reading speed prior to this technique: 200-225 WPM
- Using my left hand to underline words: 275 WPM (25% faster in 5 minutes)
- With a few months of practice + implementing the strategies in this article: 690 WPM (290% faster)
6. Get An Audible Subscription
Turn your car into a "University on Wheels". Click on the banner image below to get 2 FREE audio books when you sign up for an Audible Subscription (through this link only).
7. Teach Others What You're Reading
The more you think, talk and write about what you learn, the more likely you will retain it.
8. Teach yourself To speed read
There’s no better skill to learn than speed reading. Unless you live in a desert island, primordial cave or your parents' basement you'll spend a several hours each day reading. Learning to read fast is essential to today's top performer.
Check out the app Acceleread or software Spreader to learn the basics. Don't spend a long time mastering the theory, speed reading is 1% theory and 99% practice.
9. Think And Grow Rich -- Read Slow and Think Deep
Sometimes you don't want to speed read at all. Sometimes you want to read slowly and go for full comprehension. This way you can convert the information into long term memory.
Napoleon Hill and cognitive neuroscience agree on this point -- you remember what you think about and dwell on. This is one of the reasons I copy master writers by hand. Because I want to take my time with their words, copy in my own handwriting and let their rhythm, style and ideas become my own.
10. Think Like A Cave-Man: Re-Purpose Dunbar's Number
British anthropologist Robin Dunbar famously said that back in our caveman days, we evolved to live in 150 person tribes and therefore can only hold 150 active relationships in our minds at any given time.
You should approach your book collection the same way. You want to have 150 books you read over and over in a variety of subjects. This way you develop a relationship with the teachings, the author and return to the book when you have questions. The teachings become imprinted in your mind, are stored in long term memory and become part of your belief system.
This is far more effective than the new "book a day" method where you read a lot, but remember nothing. It's like having 150 best friends vs. 1,500 Facebook friends who you don't talk to.
11. Build A "Billionaire" Library -- Buy Used Books On Amazon
I get most of my books used from Amazon for $ 0.01. That's cheaper than the library (late fees). Check out Amazon's PRIME program for free shipping.
Jersey Shore or an infinite universe of wisdom and knowledge at your fingertips? Which will you choose?
Finally, I'll leave you with a final piece of billionaire wisdom, from one of my mentors Charlie Munger:
Article Inspired By 'Poor Charlie's Almanack'