The Power of Reading: If you want to succeed in life, books are the key

IMG_5095It happens to me at least twice a week where some claim jumper tries to leap onto something I’ve worked very hard for, and they think that if they impose themselves at the finish line that somehow success will find them.  It is the human nature of lazy people to desire to mooch off the efforts of others so rather than do the work themselves they spend that energy looking for some easy way to get ahead in life.  I usually don’t get too upset about those types of things because I know what will happen next.  Once I notice such a thing I immediately give them the wheel to the ship so that they can see how difficult things are once I remove myself from the process—and they crash nearly immediately because they lack the skills to conduct themselves.  When you work hard to dig for the gold and haul it out of a metaphorical canyon up a muddy, slippery trail and at the top some claim jumper wants to then help you carry it to the market with a 50/50 split and call it “team work” I always call bullshit because of the effort is not rooted in equality, or even fairness—but in looting.  When people are willing to work as hard as I do at anything, they then might have the right to some equal portion of the credit.  And in that regard I find this little Twitter statement below to be enormously valuable to people who routinely ask me—how do you do what you do?

For well over forty years now I have read a lot, but once I was married at age 19 I have averaged at least a book a week over that entire time which puts me now at well over a 1000.  I say only a 1000 because some books take me three weeks sometimes, or a month to get through because they are big books or difficult—or both.  But on average it comes out to well over that number because some books can be read in hours or days like Donald Trump’s Think like a Champion or Marx’s Communist Manifesto.  Stupid people like those Karl Marx easy books and that is why they are attracted largely to communist ideas.   I read all types of books, business, fiction, philosophy, history, motivational, conspiracy—there are very few topics that I don’t read.  My favorites have been books by Joseph Campbell and my least favorite are by liberals.  I did just read a book that I picked up in England called The Red Dean of Canterbury by John Butler which I struggled with but learned a lot from.   I struggled with it because I didn’t enjoy the real life character of Hewlett Johnson who was the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral during the World War years.  I was at a book store in Canterbury and they offered the book free to me because I had spent over $200 dollars.  Never one to turn down a book, I took it and I read it mostly while my wife shopped in various English towns.  I always try to make good use of my time which is something else I have little tolerance for.  I’m never bored—I am always doing something and thinking.  Anyway, that book was about how the Dean of Canterbury was a communist who could not separate the philosophy of collectivism from the Christian idea of God’s Kingdom on Earth.  But he was right, there is a lot of similarities between communism and all churches which was not a pleasant read for me—but it was worth struggling through for the thought process of working out difficult concepts.  I don’t just read stuff I enjoy, I read things that often challenge me like James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake which is one of my most treasured accomplishments.  Very few people on earth have worked through that one because of the enormous difficulty in reading it.  It’s essentially written in a dead language where each word has multiple meanings spanning the history of the human race from a European perspective—so you have to know something of European history to even attempt the book.  But it felt good to get through it.

When people ask me how I can write so much, or when they wonder how I can talk for hours and hours about just anything without notes or reference pictures the secret for me is that I have read so many books that I have a massive archive of information to always draw from to apply to any experience.   When somebody asks me something I always have an answer—because after reading over a 1000 books somewhere at some point I encountered someone who had been through it before.  And the process of reading is a superior way of developing information in the brain.  You could read cereal boxes and the process of reading would still benefit you because of the way the eyes have to work with cognitive imagination to paint a picture in the mind to be retained by short and long-term memory.  Reading is simply the best way to learn something and it’s a very individualized experience—which is specific to the human condition.  So yes, I can write over 1000 words a day on this blog because I have millions of words of acquired knowledge bouncing around in my head all the time and formulating those thoughts into these little articles help put context to them for me.  The process of writing therefore puts those thoughts to work and strengthens the neurons in my brain for easy recitation later—when I may need it.  Having all that stored knowledge helps develop that needed gut instinct that is so critical in thinking on your feet under pressure.   That’s essentially how I’m able to extract gold that is valuable to so many people—it certainly isn’t luck.  It’s hard work from my very intensive personal development.

The picture provided is of what is next to my leisure chair in my home.  Often I watch television, review documents on my computer and I read books all at the same time.  I have learned to read while many other things are going on so that multitasking can squeeze in the most activity in any given day and I have found that this gives me a distinct competitive advantage over most everyone I may need to professionally deal with.  I don’t say that to rub it in, but as hopefully some inspiration to those reading this.  When you do something so many times you can get pretty good at it and I can now read a voluminous amount of material—even boring legal stuff without any trouble and still live a fun life—such as watching a football game or a movie with my family.  It is a good skill to develop—high reading comprehension of voluminous material.   However, some of the best days of my life were days where I was able to turn off everything in life and just read a treasured book without interruptions for an entire day or weekend.  That doesn’t happen very often—but when it does, I am a very happy person.

So to me it is quite an insult for anybody to think that they can do what I can without putting in all the hard work.  When people assume they are equal to me without doing the work—it honestly pisses me off.  As I told several people this past week who were obvious claim jumpers and they utilized that famous “team” designation, I explained to them that teams are not made of equal parts of a whole.  Teams are dictatorships where a leader implements something and the rest of the team shuts up and listens—and does what the leader says.   The crap people are learning in college these days where group think rules and everyone gets a trophy is completely wrong.  It’s the person who knows the most and can utilize that knowledge through leadership that matters most.  Teams are the pawns on the chess board that shut up and do what they are told—they are not equal contributors to success.  If you don’t want to be a pawn in the great chess games of life—read more so that you can become a leader.

I started reading to acquire an offensive weapon over my enemies.  When I was a kid—11 to 19 years of age I had already learned martial arts for hand to hand combat and I was a bull whip master—meaning I could put out a candle with a bull whip and pretty much hit any target I wanted using it as a melee weapon.  I felt I could handle any situation presented to me.   For instance, when my wife and I were dating and she was a hot to trot model at 17 years old I had her downtown in Cincinnati in the rough part of town before going to a play at the Taft Theater.  Three big guys on Liberty Street wanted to know why I thought I had the guts to come out of suburbia with such a hot little women and think I could get away with it unimpeded in their neighborhood.   Well, I showed them and we made it to the Taft Theater on time and with only blood stains on my cloths—not from me.  I loved doing that kind of thing and still do.  But it was obvious that the real world wasn’t so literal as those three thugs.  Not everyone fought you face to face, most people do it behind your back.  So to beat them I knew I needed to be smarter and faster minded than them—so I started reading as an intellectual martial art.  Now I do it because I like it, but I started it as an offensive weapon against my many enemies and it worked great.  “Knowledge is power” is more than a cliché, it is quite true.   At this point, it would be hard for anybody to catch up to me so I know going in to any situation that the people I’m dealing with are handicapped and will be easy to intellectually beat.  I don’t rub it in, but I do sleep very well at night knowing that most of the things I do, only I can do.  So a little lesson to those who wonder how and why just remember—you have to do the work.  If people aren’t willing to do that work jumping a claim at the end of a process won’t yield positive results. It will just give me something to laugh at as they struggle under the assumption that we are all equal.  Sorry, we are not.  Some of us work hard.  Some of us work DAMN hard.  And those that do know how to work fly while those who don’t crash quickly and predictably.  You can’t cheat your way through life when knowledge is literally capital.  The best way to get knowledge is to read. It is in my opinion the greatest skill anyone could give themselves and for those who do read a lot—it almost always guarantees success in any venture you might want to embark on.  Which is why the best CEOs out there read an average of 60 books a year—it quite literally is the difference between success and failure.

Rich Hoffman

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