I made a post last week on Instagram related to this week’s article and wanted to take to this format to expand on it.
Throughout most of my professional career, I’ve heard time and again that if you’re reading a book that you can’t get into, then you shouldn’t waste any more time on it. Simply shelve it and move on to something else.
I understand this from a time management standpoint. We only have so many hours in a given day and energy we put in one place is energy we’re taking from some place else.
I’ve even shared the sentiment before that it’s better to give up on a book (or something like it) than to give up on yourself.
However, the more I think about “wasted time” on a book, the more it bothers me.
Depending on the types of books you read, the value may not grab you at the beginning. Many novels might fall into this category. The author might be weaving a slow burn of a story that doesn’t take hold until further along.
I read a lot of biographies (most of which related to music) and, in all candor, the birth and upbringing of many celebrities is less interesting to me than what happens once their careers take off. Of course, chronological timelines being what they are, those books begin with what I think is the least exciting part.
We live in a day and age where convenience is king. We don’t have to wait in lines for food, food can be delivered to us. We don’t have to be disappointed by empty, lacking shelves in retail stores, we can just “Buy Now” and Amazon will have our desired item at our doorstep in mere days.
There’s a small problem with convenience though.
It’s difficult to transform our bodies, our minds, our careers or our relationships with a “Buy Now” approach.
These things, as they say, take time.
One side to this argument is that perhaps it’s not even about time management. How many people do you know (myself included) who miraculously carve out time in their busy schedules to binge watch a streaming show. How many hours was that…3, 5, 10?
And we watch these shows to escape, to be entertained and sometimes, simply to be informed, lest there’s a fear of missing out on the “water cooler” conversations.
Books can be a nuisance because we have to think to use them. It’s not a passive activity.
I work and thrive in an industry that pushes back against many of the “get fit quick” schemes because an effective nutrition plan that works for your goals and lifestyle takes time to implement and execute on. An effective strength training plan won’t transform your body in two weeks but it could do wonders in two years.
We’re told to “trust the process” with diet plans and training plans.
We’re told to push through the discomfort when things aren’t easy and when motivation wanes.
We’re told that when we push through discomfort that action precedes motivation.
And these are the tools with which we transform our bodies, our lives, and our minds.
For me (and if you’re anything like me), the very process of finishing a book makes me happy.
To “finish what I started” is fulfilling, it is productive and it could help me help others.
Sure, I’ve read many books that I wasn’t a huge fan of, but taste is subjective. I finished them. That’s a victory, right?
Coincidentally, I’m reading a book right now that I very likely won’t come back to. I had asked a friend and trusted mentor many years ago what books he recommend I read and this one came up in the list.
I try to think about that person when I read this book and wonder: What about this resonated with them?
It’s not a long book but it’s just not my type of book.
I made it through 100 or so pages of a 180 page book before I came across a section that fascinated me.
Not because I necessarily agreed with it but it made me take pause and pay attention. Perhaps, those words will serve me at another point in my life.
But I’ll finish this book, like I have the others (and I average consuming around 150 books a year).
I believe that reading helps me creatively, I believe it helps me professionally, and sometimes there are books that I discuss with my wife (even though she may not choose to read them).
The overarching philosophy is this: if books don’t serve you, then by all means don’t read them.
But if you abandon ship just because you’re not instantly gratified, I think a lot of areas of life will disappoint you.