A Simple Way To Be A Smarter and Stronger Person
Odds are that if you’re reading this you’re on a mobile device, or (if you're so old-fashioned) you're on an actual computer. Odds are that you discovered this story while scrolling through your news feed. So here you are, wondering what life hack is available to help you become smarter and stronger in life.
Well, the first thing that you (and I!) will have to do is to resist the temptation to scroll mindlessly on our news feeds every day. How much time we waste away by just flipping down what our friends have posted, and what our news sources are reporting. How are these things helping us become stronger and smarter people?
Quite frankly, I don’t think they are at all. Social media is shortening our attention span, as everything is becoming more bite-sized as time goes on, and large portions of the population can hardly sit still for a few minutes without looking around for their devices.
So what then shall we do? It’s a pretty simple activity, one that we were taught to do growing up and really ought to have continued doing long after school ended: reading!
I came across an interesting discussion by Isaac M. Morehouse, founder of Praxis. He was recently reading Ray Radbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451, and in the story he came across a passage where the protagonist has made up his mind to take up a particular course of action, but he is afraid to tell his boss. Why?
His boss has read a lot of books, and that is intimidating.
He asks a well-read friend for help. Tells him that, because he's not well-read, when he confronts his boss, his boss will use all kinds of words and concepts from the books he can mentally access, and it will be too persuasive to overcome in the moment. He needs guidance and coaching from another well-read person to be able to stand firm and navigate the situation.
It’s fairly easy to think about this kind of situation happening in real life. If you’ve ever come across someone who’s very intelligent, odds are that they have read a lot in their lifetime. Reading just does something to the brain that enables people to think better, write better, perform better, and to have more to contribute in any given situation.
If you want to be stronger, more powerful, and the driving force in your own life; if you want not to be tossed by every wind, irritated by every opinion, persuaded by every protest, losing yourself in the presence of dynamic people, read more books.
The more concepts, metaphors, and ideas you fill yourself with, the broader your conceptual and verbal language, the better you know yourself and navigate a world populated with the selves of others.
If you don't dive into long-form ideas regularly, you won't know how to think them or respond to them.
As I write this, I’m tempted to get out what I’m working on right now (Eric Metaxas’ biography of Martin Luther). The book is very well-written, and his vocabulary is often a little bit above what I am used to; it’s then that I look up what certain words mean, and can then incorporate them into my own vocabulary.
But alas, we all have work to do now, don’t we? Certainly we all do, but once they work day is complete and we go back to the comfort of our homes, why not pick up a good book and start reading it? Sure, it’s not as mindless as scrolling on the phone, but that’s kind of the idea. No one ever got smarter from mindless activity.
A former employer of mine mentioned to me that the most successful people in the world usually read about one book every month. If they can do it, why can't the rest of us?
For myself, I want to read more often. It’s only going to help me in the long term, where I will have more to offer to my employer, my friends, family, community, etc. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to start flipping some pages here…