Monday, August 25, 2008

Read a business book in 3 days. Cover to cover.

From great failure, comes great success. And my success in learning how to quickly read business books came because of my utmost failure to read the book on photo reading.

Like many small business owners, I would find myself gravitating towards the business section every time I visited the local bookstore. During slow business months, my eyes would lock on to the "Sales & Marketing" shelves. At other times, I would scan through the Operations and Management books. Regardless of how business was doing, I would walk out with at least two books. But somehow I could not read these books past the first few chapters.

Slowly, the stack of unread books expanded into a shelf. And the shelf expanded into a wall full of shelves. Shelves weren't the only thing expanding. My guilt was expanding in proportion. The guilt of starting a book but not finishing it. Along with the fear of not benefiting from the thoughts of great business thinkers of our time. This was getting all too much. Then the photo reading idea hit me.

If I could Photo read all my books, I would come out ahead. So I bought a book on photo reading but could not get past the third chapter. Then I tried to photoread the book and I did. Only one little problem: I couldn't recall any of it.

This was a private failure. Nobody knew. If you have a stack full of unread books, you know what I am talking about. Anyway despite my guilt, the shelves kept expanding with no end in sight.

One fine day I picked up a random book from the shelf and read the whole thing in 3 days. Then I rested for a day and picked up another one. Then another and another and another. Eventually I started reading a book in 2 days instead of three. With every book read cover to cover, I could read the next one in even less time with more retention. This new found capability made no sense.

I mean there was no "Eureka!" moment. An apple didn't fall on my head. My Apple notebook did fall on the floor once but that doesn't count. Does it?

Anyway, the point of this post is to show you how you can do it. Its easy and fun. You will have a hard time wiping that smirk off your face every time you finish a book in record time.

But first, there is one exception: In your lifetime, there will be around 17 books, which you should read at least 7 times each. This method does not apply to these books. And it should not.

For all other business books, you just have to instill 6 core ideas into your head. One you get them, you will be reading effortlessly. Here they are:

1: Double Pareto
80 percent of all the business books are written for big companies and hopefully you are not one of them. Of the 20 percent books written for small business, only 20 percent of their material is specific to your business. Your goal is to extract this material and discard the rest. Nothing more.

2: Level with the author
Many business books grow out of business articles. A recent example is The Long Tail. Your goal is to identify such books and read them in the same time as it would take you to read the article. Just because an author expands an article into a book doesn't mean you have to blindly read the whole thing.

Many big name authors write big books to land big consulting gigs. Most of their stuff is a sales pitch for their expertise. Don't take it seriously. In fact use a crayon and draw big X's on the pitch paragraphs.

3: Forget grade school
You won't be tested on this material. There are no trick questions embedded in dark corners. Relax and breeze through. If something is relevant to you, you can slow down and reread it. All else is irrelevant.

4: Cheat
You are not supposed to take this shortcut. But take it anyway and do it with conviction. You are getting even with the publisher who made the author write the extra stuff to make the book look more valuable. You are beating the system.

5: Make notes
If you come across important ideas in a book, underline them and also write down your own notes on a separate piece of paper. Keep this paper with the book. This page will become more important than the book itself. Someday you can collect all these notes and write your own book for free.

6: Set a short deadline
It is well known that long campaigns, long wars and long projects invariably fail. Keep the deadline to 3 days or less. Remember that quickly reading a book from cover to cover will give you far more know how than thoroughly reading only the first two chapters.

That's it. And remember that if you are applying the double pareto to *this* post, then please take away only one thing: Go half ass all way instead of going all ass half the way.

Now back to the success and failure thing. Can you recall any failures of your own. Can you convert them with a shortcut?

No comments: