May 1, 2011

Reading: Caffeine for The Creative Mind

reading newspaper homeless man photo
Photo Credit: 30389326@N05
Reading is habit #5 of the 2011 30-day trial program for the month of May.

When did you last read a book? What was the last great non-fiction book that you read? What one book was so good, that after you finished it, you promised yourself that you were going to read it again?

Do you realize
that you can read a book in a few hours and learn what took someone twenty years to learn? You can literally pick someone's brain for $19.95. Learn to cultivate the joy of reading, and you will gain with ease what others have sweated for.

The simple habit of reading every day keeps your self-education moving forward. I favor books because the quality and organization is usually superior to what's found online.

Benefits of reading:
Reading makes you smarter – it helps with your memory, it helps with your writing, and it helps with your speaking skills – all things that are incredibly important. You'll be exposed to more ideas, and increase the size of your vocabulary. It keeps your brain in great shape.
Some of the areas that reading help you with:

1. Mind
Reading books and especially the literary classics brings richness to your imagination and linguistic challenge to your use of the English language.

2. Learning
Life is one constant school. From the moment you are born you start to learn, and I think the biggest mistake a person can make is to stop learning.

The more you read, the more knowledge you gain. There is no end to what you can read. With the wide availability of information on the internet, there's even more reason to read now than ever.

Read the papers. Read signs. Read books. Read the expressions on others' faces. Read everything. You'll be surprised how much you can improve your life from reading alone.

3. Brain
Reading books teaches your brain to adapt to absorb large amounts of information in shorter periods of time. Books challenge your thinking abilities and memorization skills, as well as boost vocabulary and critical thinking skills. Not only do you learn something from reading a book, but your brain power increases as you build up the book load.

4. Heart
Timeless reading has a way of gripping your heart and staying with you, a delicious feeling to carry with you throughout the day. 

5. A journey through time and space
You may command Socrates and Marcus Aurelius to sit beside you and discourse of their choicest, hear Lincoln at Gettysburg and Pericles at Athens, storm the Bastile with Hugo, and wander through Paradise with Dante. You may explore darkest Africa with Stanley, penetrate the human heart with Shakespeare, chat with Carlyle about heroes, and delve with the Apostle Paul into the mysteries of faith. The general knowledge and the inspiring ideas that men have collected through ages of toil and experiment are yours for the asking. The Sage of Chelsea was right when he said: "The true university of these days is a collection of books."

6. Writing
By reading, you show your brain how the language works and how good writers write. You're showing yourself examples of what great writing looks like, which then helps you write and express yourself better.

Too much reading can be harmful to you. The importance and pure joy of reading cannot be overstated. It is the quickest way to learn something about almost anything. It can also be a trap. What's the problem? 

1. Learning not Doing
"Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking."  ~Einstein 
It is too easy to learn just for the sake of knowing, but be unable to do anything with all that stuff in your brain. Learning something for the pure joy of learning is tremendous. But, if all you ever do is learn and never put that knowledge into action, maybe you're reading too much and acting too little.

Solution: Seek reading that makes you use your own brains. Such reading must be alive with fresh points of view, packed with special knowledge, and deal with subjects of vital interest. Do not confine your reading to what you already know you will agree with.

2. Blind Trust
Just because someone claims to have the answer you need doesn't make it so. Following something you read from any source without using your own intelligence and gut can put you in a world of hurt. Reliance on others for all your important decisions can be a downside of too much reading.

3. Living Illusion
Descriptions of someone else's life or ideas are in books or on the Web. Your life is not. Don't make the mistake of thinking that reading about life is the same as living it.

On a side note
Also worth mentioning: 

1. Speed reading 
Learning to read faster will make the learning process a lot faster. Some resources on how to speed up your reading: Double Your Reading Rate and Speed Reading.

Spreeder: This site is focused on teaching you one new skill:  speed reading.  And it does a great job of doing so.

2. Owning a Book 
"To master a worth-while book is to master much else besides; few of us, however, make perfect conquest of a volume without first owning it physically. To read a borrowed book may be a joy, but to assign your own book a place of its own on your own shelves--be they few or many--to love the book and feel of its worn cover, to thumb it over slowly, page by page, to pencil its margins in agreement or in protest, to smile or thrill with its remembered pungencies--no mere book borrower could ever sense all that delight."  ~from The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie

"Employ your time in improving yourself by other men's writings so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for." ~Socrates
"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them."  ~Mark Twain

For the month of May, make sure you finish reading at least one book.

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