Read Above Your Pay-grade

“The book you don’t read won’t help.”

Jim Rohn

The first book I enjoyed that was a little above my reading ability was Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Our class read it in middle school, but I don’t remember enjoying it very much. Probably because it was assigned. Written around 1813, it’s language and flows feel thick and difficult to read unless you are familiar with that level of reading comprehension.
But a couple of years later on a family road trip down to Savannah GA, I randomly decided to give it a second read on a whim. And I loved it. It had me at the first line:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Unlike the first time I recall reading it, I understood it. I didn’t feel like I was swimming in banana pudding. Sure, I couldn’t read it as fast as something like Harry Potter. but it felt possible. So I pushed through and ended up loving it.

Reading is a toolbox of skills. There’s a lot of hidden sub-skills you hear but also explicitly taught—vocabulary, muscle movement, speed, comprehension, reason, attention, making connections and memory. The expectation (assumption, perhaps) we will pick it up ourselves, but just because you can read, doesn’t mean you want to read.

Reading is one of the most valuable habits you can cultivate in life. What you read can have a direct impact on the quality of your life. A great book is like a great life mentor—all for around ten bucks.

The key is not to completely overwhelm yourself, but to reach for just a little further than what you are currently comfortable with.

When you think about reading is taught to kids, we don’t just plop Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky into their little laps and force them to understand it. Rather, we meet them on their level. We start with the literal ABC’s. In the early stages, books are more drawings and pictures with a few words here and there. You give them The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Dragons Love Tacos. They work their way up to Green Eggs and Ham, Charolette’s Web and The Little Prince. Maybe you show them Winnie the Pooh and Matilda. Eventually, it’s The Hobbit, The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe and Coraline. Each book has new words, new worlds, and new challenges. Each book takes you from one level of comprehension to the next.

A lower level isn’t something that is demeaning or less than. It’s just the level they (or we) are currently at. We’re all learning here. If you don’t understand Hemingway yet, that’s okay. But know that building up the ability to comprehend his and others’ work is possible.

If Moby Dick isn’t doing it for ya. Give the Great Gatsby or The Picture of Dorian Grey a try.

If you are befuddled by most of Shakespeare’s work, don’t sweat it— so I’m I!

Find where you are at, and then reach for that next level. and then go a little bit above it after that too.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #878

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Reading Muscles

Saying ‘I hate reading’ is like saying ‘I hate green foods’. You probably don’t know if you like it because you’ve barely tried it. You might still think broccoli taste awful, but maybe you or your family just sucks at making broccoli and are great at overcooking it. (Sorry mom, I didn’t mean it)

The biggest problem with reading is that people don’t tell you why you should read in the first place.

Reading is A straight path toward success. 

(Whatever success means to you. It could mean swimming in a hot tub full of money, or maybe just having flexible work hours) If you want to succeed, if you want to be more than a beginner, and if you seek change and have a desire to live an extraordinary life — start reading. 

Knowledge, Skills, the ability to learn and connect ideas is a surefire way to become a linchpin.

Reading opens up your mind to infinite ideas and possibilities. (Put that on a motivational poster and smoke it) Reading expands your ability to think and see, it wakes you up to new worlds and new perspectives on life. (And that goes for fiction and nonfiction too)

I can’t even count the number of ideas reading has sparked for me. Half of my writing ideas were prompted by a word or phrase that I️ read in a book. And that’s the crazy things about books: they are a summation of experience, expertise, and ideas. Ideas that can change your life, and the lives of thousands of people out there facing their own challenges.

It’s okay if you don’t quite understand a book. When did not understanding become a sign that your an idiot?! Not understanding simply means you haven’t understood it yet

How to Build Up Your Reading Muscles

The act of reading a book is like going to the gym. Each time you do I­t­ you’re working your reading muscles and getting mentally stronger. Reading The Count of Monty Christo is going to feel like you’re jogging through pudding compared to reading The Hunger Games. And reading Plato is going to feel like someone strap hippos to your feet compared to reading Make Good Art. (Both fantastic, but Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art is much easy to understand than Plato) You don’t start working out by going to the gym and bench pressing 400 lbs on your first go. You start gradually and work you’re way up.

Each time you read new a book, pick something that feels like I­t­ might be a little out of your comfort zone. 

Read EVERYTHING that interests you, and be open to new genres that might not. Ideas can come from anywhere. It’s okay to put a book down if you dislike I­t­, but never put a book down because you /think/ that you would dislike I­t­.

I­t­ bears repeating, reading is your path to success. Whatever you want to learn, whoever you want to be, there’s a book out there for you to help guide your way. Mastery begins with the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom.

Get reading.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

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Related Insights

“The best advice I ever got was that knowledge is power and to keep reading.” — David Bailey

“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” — Will Rogers

“Reading is a conversation. All books talk. But a good book listens as well.” — Mark Haddon