Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Streamline Your Mind

From successful businessmen to politicians and entrepreneurs to investors, a penchant for reading seems to be a common trait existent in many of the world's top leaders.  From President Obama to former NFL quarterback Fran Tarkenton, many start their days scouring the local and national newspapers and favorite blogs. 

"The Week" published a wonderful article in 2013 describing Warren Buffett's and Charlie Munger's reading habits.  Here's an excerpt:
Warren Buffett says, "I just sit in my office and read all day." 
What does that mean? He estimates that he spends 80 percent of his working day reading and thinking. 
"You could hardly find a partnership in which two people settle on reading more hours of the day than in ours," Charlie Munger commented. 
When asked how to get smarter, Buffett once held up stacks of paper and said he "read 500 pages like this every day. That's how knowledge builds up, like compound interest."

The article goes on to describe how possible Buffett successor, Todd Combs, has heeded his bosses advice and reads up to a thousand pages on some days! 

Mr. Munger further describes how to properly read and gain the most from your efforts, "You have to have a temperament to grab ideas and do sensible things. Most people don't grab the right ideas or don't know what to do with them."  This is opposed to skimming idly through your favorite sites, with no plan to take any action.

Buffett adds that neither of them read opinion pieces; they read to gather the facts, think, and form their own ideas and opinions. 

The question becomes, how do you find time to read?  The key is to make it a priority - as cliché as that sounds.  If you can force yourself to wake up an hour early just to read, the magic of compounding knowledge will pay dividends down the road.  Half hour commute?  The Rolling Stones can wait.  Get an audio book from your local library.  Lunch break?  Bring an apple and a sandwich and plow through 15 pages of "Business Adventures" instead of running out to Chili's and chatting to coworkers about your half point fantasy football victory.  Better for your budget, better for your health, and better for your mind.

But still, we all can't realistically spend the majority of our day reading like Berkshire's executives.  No matter how much of a priority we make it in our lives, we have families and day jobs and other obligations.  So, we need to make the most of the time we DO have to read. 

Lucky for us, we live in the age of the internet and information is at our fingertips.  Unlucky for us, our fingertips often type in "Facebook" or "Twitter" in the address bar (not saying relevant news isn't broadcast over these mediums, but from my experience, they typically act as time wasters).  Have the discipline to type in "Bill Gates reading list" and pick out one of his recommended reads.  Or, better yet, type in "The Economist" and educate yourself on the world around you. 

We all have goals that we hope to accomplish.  If you're limited on time, narrow down your preferred reading to literature that will enhance your knowledge in your field of interest.  If you have additional free time, randomly select a book from Mr. Gates' list - I doubt you'll be disappointed and will likely come away with a new, more worldly, perspective.

With tablets and iTunes and Amazon, we really have no excuse not to continually educate ourselves about the world around us.  We can't do everything, but reading allows us to learn from others' mistakes and experiences in abbreviated fashion.  When you're lying in bed at night, think about what you've read throughout the day.  This is your idea time; try to pull all of the different pieces of knowledge you've accumulated throughout the day into a coherent thought and decide if any action can be taken from your newly formed theories to bring you closer to your goals.  That's how you create a well-informed opinion and construct an achievable action plan.  Poof!  You are now better prepared for the day ahead of you tomorrow!  As Mr. Munger says, "Go to bed smarter than when you woke up."

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting and unique post, DP. Just think, if cubicle employees (I consider myself one even though I work from the comfort of home) would spend even half our time broadening our minds reading on the job, how much more productive we'd be. Rather than sending hundreds of useless emails and looking busy, we might actually add value. Of course, employers need to be appreciative of creative minds in the first place. In my experience, sadly, they are not.