Every piece of personal or professional growth you achieve in life starts with one thing: Self-knowledge.
Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher, who lived in the 6th century BC, put it best:
“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”
Whether you want to make a million bucks, build a strong relationship with your partner, or get in the best shape of your life — you can’t improve yourself without knowing yourself.
Self-knowledge is a skill, not a trait, talent, or divine insight. I used to live my life without one bit of introspection. Naturally, I had no idea who I was. Now, I’m getting better at it with practice. And the impact on my life has been huge.
When I grew up, it wasn’t cool to read. These days, every coffee shop is packed with folks that are reading a book while sipping on a latte.
That’s a great shift. I’m also reading more books than ever. But here’s the thing: It’s not about how many books you read, it’s about how much you retain from what you read.
Most people I talk to don’t have a reading strategy. They just pick up something and start reading. I used to be like that. But now, that’s unthinkable to me. Sure, you might read a novel for entertainment.
Over the past three years, I’ve read more than 200 non-fiction books. I’ve dived into Philosophy, Marketing, Productivity, Evolution, History, Biographies, and many other books you read to learn something.
Because that’s the main reason most of us read non-fiction, right? You read a book to get something out of it. And after reading a lot of similar books, you start noticing patterns.
One thing I’ve noticed is that non-fiction books of the past ten years are not boring to read. I think Malcolm Gladwell played a huge part in that development. His book The Tipping Point, published in 2000, also seems like a tipping point for non-fiction books.
Life is complicated. And I find it fascinating that people tend to make it even more complicated by not thinking practically.
One of the things that we never think about is the way we think. We waste a lot of time trying to solve problems that are not even problems.
Have you ever considered that?
For instance, one of the questions that I get asked often is: “I don’t know how to distribute my time. There are a lot of things I want to do in life. What’s the best way to do everything?”
I think: Why do you even want to do everything? By wanting that, you’re fabricating a problem.
From a practical point of view, you can only do a few things with your time, and that also means you can only do a few things in a lifetime.
Out all the different ways to learn, books remain my favorite way to absorb knowledge.
What I like about books is that I can read them by myself, in silence. It’s me and the author, one on one, having a conversation in my mind.
In the beginning of this year, I shared my system for reading 100 books a year. It was interesting to see how many people saw it as a challenge. But there were also many skeptics.
- Why would you read so much?
- This guy is full of shit.
- There’s no way I can do that.
Think what you want. Reading changes people. And fortunately, many people in this world read a lot. That’s a good thing.
I strongly believe that reading, and educating yourself, is the answer to a better life. And ultimately, freedom. Nelson Mandela said it best:
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Out of all the books I’ve read, I have a small number of favorite books. I always keep them on my desk.