I’ve always been an avid reader despite usually denying it; I found it too shameful to admit it back in High School because of a school culture that despised intellectual curiosity and preferred sportspeople or comedians instead. Thankfully I’m now proud of reading huge amounts in articles and books daily, a trait I view as being the most important investment in myself that I can make.
In a world that has such high rates of consumption, whether it’s TV, shopping, food, etc; it’s ironic that information is consumed so minimally by comparison – and when consumed, it tends to only be in a forced environment where thousands of dollars are spent for it at Schools or Universities. I’ve always had the opposite viewpoint, in that information is most worthy of consumption since it enhances your life as one of the most important investments you can make, and the satisfaction you get from being more knowledgeable.
But, even though information is such a valuable investment, there’s more junk information out there than nutritious information. And sadly, when most people consume information, it tends to be junk rather than nutrient-filled. From the obvious ones like BuzzFeed to slightly less subtle ones like NZ Herald and Stuff, to even more reputable global news sources such as the NY Times and the Washington Post. While these media outlets can often do a great reporting job, their main job is entertaining the masses with the most urgent, emotional news rather than sharing the most important information; basically junk information for the most part.
So where can nutritious information be found then? Well, more nutritious information can be found in niche media outlets not targeting the masses. Examples I use for niches I’m interested in include sites like The Economist for global political and commercial news, National Business Review or Interest.co.nz for NZ business related news. Since I read quite a lot, I like to use Feedly to aggregate all the information from websites that I find valuable, and categorise them into the areas of my interest to make my reading as efficient as possible.
And that was the stage I was at, but even these media outlets were more like the Subways and Pita Pits of the information world, being somewhere in-between junk and good nutrition. Only recently did I realise that the most nutritious information is found in books rather than news. While I’d been skeptical about this idea for a long time, since books seemed so long and such a waste of time for seemingly little information or reward, I’ve changed my opinion. Books can explore a whole concept effectively for you to grasp an entire concept rather than giving you a small snapshot of a complicated subject. For example, just compare an entrepreneur reading The Personal MBA who would benefit so much more than reading a cheesy Richard Branson “top 10 quotes on creativity” article, or similar Business Insider advice articles.
Now books aren’t the only source of nutritious information, in that some articles are in fact quite nutritious if you search out the right ones, and conversely many books are obviously junk too. The key is searching out nutritious information in your sector from experts who’ve worked a huge amount of time in the field, or recommendations from other well informed people – examples that I follow for book recommendations include Bill Gates, James Clear, and Mark Zuckerberg. I also found that book summaries (not reviews!) are often a great way of acquiring condensed information – quickly acquiring the main points that an author has often spent their lifetime to learn. Off course reading the whole book would be far more beneficial, but think about it, how many times are book recommendations made that no one can ever be bothered following through with? My advice and current practice is at least to read a book summary of any recommendation, and from there assessing whether it’d be worth investing more time to read the full book.
Off course the importance of how you read, how fast you can read while retaining information and understanding, and developing the right habits and systems to reading books are regularly are all also crucial for successful reading, but those can all be for another post.
And while it might seem ironic that I write this all in a blog post, the key message is improving the quality of information you read rather than only the quantity. For example, while most posts and articles, including my own, don’t take a huge amount of research and preparation to gather, my blog posts link to far more thoroughly researched articles or books in backing my argument, which hopefully provides condensed forms of nutritious information.
Like nutritious foods though, nutritious information is obviously far less exciting to the average consumer, even though it’s so much more rewarding once you commit to it. Your challenge is; will you choose to read junk information for the instant gratification, or will you push further and read nutritious information to extend your brain? Warren Buffet and many others emphasise nutritious reading, though they acknowledge the sad reality that most won’t act on their advice. At the end of the day the choice is yours on how much you read and what you read, just remember that the quantity and quality of your reading will be crucial in determining your long term success.