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Reading a Book for All It's Worth

Reading for Maximum Impact

We all learned to read at an early age, but what have we done to improve on those skills since then? Reading is the most common practice of highly successful people, but how can you maximize that so you get all of the benefit possible?

How many books are published every year? Search Amazon for Business Books. There are more than 2 million results. Where do you start? What do you consume? What will be the benefit? How do you decide?

I know that reading will benefit me. Deciding the value of what to read is more challenging than simply reading for volume. If my goal is to read 25 books per year that can easily be achieved. If my goals is to read one book that will increase my impact by 25 times that’s a completely different story. One will benefit me to some degree. The other can be life changing.

Thoughts that go through my head:

  • If I read the last 17 books written on time management what new thing can I expect to learn? Will that be a good use of my time?
  • If I read a book just to finish it, what difference does it make?  
  • What will I be quoting from that book 10 years from now?
  • What am I quoting from a book I read 10 years ago?
  • Is this book in alignment with my purpose in life?
  • In other words, we need to approach reading as deliberately as any other business decision. It’s a resource available to us. Treat it the same as you would a time or money resource. Give it the same care and consideration. Give it the same devotion.
  • I’m not talking about seeing how much you can consume. Reading one book in a year that increases my impact by 25 times is a 1000 times better than reading 25 books with no impact.

Selecting the Right Book

Here are the steps I follow to select a book:

  • I select what I’m going to read carefully including the aesthetics.  
    • What is the look of the book? There really isn’t any excuse today for a poorly designed book. It has to look appealing.
    • Does the front cover make the contents clear?
    • Does the back cover give me convincing reasons to read the book?

  • The author
    • What do I know about the author and his/her background that would indicate alignment with my purpose?
    • Have they demonstrated their ability to speak with authority on the topic? What are some of their past works?
    • Where can I find the author besides this book?
    • What do I believe his/her purpose is for writing this book?
    • What new unique perspective or voice will he/she lend that will benefit me the most?

  • Background thoughts
    • What other books have I read on this topic?
    • Have I read other books by this author?
    • How will those things influence my reading of this book?
    • Would it benefit me to go back and review what I have already read rather than starting again here? Revisiting a topic over and over again without taking action is a very bad habit.
    • Can I connect this “unknown” to my “known” to expedite the implementation process?

  • State my objective clearly
    • How do I expect this book to impact my purpose?
    • What do I expect to get from this book that I don’t already know?
    • A book can only fill one of three purposes:
    • Introduce you to a new concept, idea, position, or perspective.
    • Reinforce an existing idea, concept etc…
    • Challenge an existing concept, idea etc…
    • Where do I see this book on that spectrum?
    • How does that objective align with my purpose right now? If I don’t intend to consider taking some positive action on this topic then don’t let this book become some kind of rabbit trail.

  • Evaluate the contents
    • Read the the jacket. What did I learn about the book? The author? What did others say?
    • Scan the Table of Contents. How well organized is the material? 
    • Read the index (if it has one) looking for additional resources to supplement the book as well as contact information on the author.
    • Select 2-3 chapter titles that sound like they will fulfill my objective. Read the first 3 paragraphs of each of those chapters. Do they fulfill the promise of fulfilling my objective?
    • What is the writing style like? Does it move quickly or do I have to wade through a lot of fluff to get to the point?

Note: If I can’t get the full impact of the point in the first three paragraphs, then I will waste a lot of time even if the content is stellar.

What strengths can I identify in those 9 paragraphs from the author? What weaknesses do I see?

I do all of that BEFORE I decide to purchase/read any book.

You think that’s a lot of work?

A lot of work is reading something that won’t help me achieve my objective. Getting 150 pages into a book that's wasting my time and not moving me closer to my goals – that’s too much work. Better to spend some time on the front end than waste a bunch on the back end.

I’ve Made My Choice Now What?

Once I’ve decided this book is worthy of my time, I have another process that I follow every single time.

Note: I don’t read fiction so I never have to change my approach.

I follow these steps exactly every time I read a book.

First I prep the book for an easy quick read. I make sure to “break-in” the pages so it opens easily and I have no trouble manipulating the book.

  • I write my objective for reading the book inside the cover. This is just a sentence or two. I’m going to refer to this often.
  • I read through the book as quickly as possible. Almost at a speed reading pace with a pen in hand. (You can’t speed read and make notes.)
  • I put a tick mark beside everything that catches my attention.
  • I note in the margin where I have heard that topic before by the author’s name only. Example: Tracy.
  • I summarize the chapter with a single word or phrase that comes from my reservoir of “known” information. For example: Reading a chapter on “The Lies that Mislead Us.” I summarized with Accurate Truth, that is one of Napoleon Hill’s Seventeen Laws of Success. (I’ll talk about the value of this more later.)

I do this for every chapter until I’ve completed the book. Then I write a very brief summary on the inside of the back cover. I compare what I wrote on the inside of the front cover with what I write on the inside of the back cover to determine what I do next.

The Magic Happens in the Second Read

If the book summary seems like it has fulfilled the promise and purpose of the book, then I decide to give it a second read. This “read” is very different from the first go through.

I scan through the book stopping at every tick mark I placed on the first read. This time carefully reading the context of the thought that triggered the original tick mark. I might highlight the idea captured in context. I might make notes in the margin. Linking to other books and ideas is something I do frequently in the margins.

If there are chapters where the summary doesn’t meet expectations then I skip it on this second go. My goal is not to waste time, but to maximize it. A useless chapter will get no more of my time.

At the end of the saved chapters I now write a summary of the personal impact it has made on my stated purpose. This is important. This personal summary helps deliver me from the urge to just get finished. I now have a bigger goal. I’m out to develop mastery so I can improve.

Next I write a complete summary inside the back cover. I answer these questions:

  • How did this book actually impact my life and business?
  • Does this relate to other things I knew about this topic before I started?
  • How will I put this to work immediately?
  • Can I take this topic, using this material, and teach it to other people?

Maximizing the Impact

If I decide this is a topic that I could teach and other people would benefit from me teaching it. Then I proceed to the next step…

  • I’m going to scan through the book a third time. This time only pausing at the places where I’ve made notes. I’m looking specifically for “transferable” information. So I ask the following questions:
  • What attracted me to this topic in the first place?
  • What market (avatar/community) shares that same need and would be attracted to the same information if delivered by me?
  • Are there other resources or unique perspectives I could bring to this topic that would help people to implement this in their life/business? 

Note: This is one of the reasons I write the first thing I think of that is connected to the subject in its context. Because here I’m going to identify my unique perspective. When I read that statement the first thing I thought of was…, but it wasn’t the first thing the author thought. That’s my unique perspective. Those things come from my experiences. Often times my unique perspective and my unique experiences are the very thing some people need.

Next I identify the elements that will make up a basic step-by-step for “my friend” who needs to experience the same thing in their life.

  • I note the things that I would put in a basic outline.
  • Then I connect the outline with “links” to other supporting thoughts. I find these…
  • In my own experiences.
  • From the things I have read.
  • Stories from the lives of the people I know.
  • Finally I apply this to as many different means of delivering my unique discoveries to my world as possible. I pick the top three. Here are just few to get started…
    • Checklist
    • How to Guide
    • Step-by-Step Outline
    • Infographic
    • Webinar
    • Mind Map
    • Ebook
    • Membership Course

This is how you can read one book and multiply your impact by 25 times.

I created the Self-Directed Learning Project (SDLP) to teach you how to do this. The SDLP includes training on how to get someone to actually pay you for your efforts.

Self Directed Learning Project

Find out more about the SDLP 

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