I’ve heard people say that reading is the best way to gain experience without actually being there yourself, and I think that’s true.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve become a junkie for business books of all kinds. I read or listen to at least one book each week. I know a lot of like-minded people—clients as well as friends—and we routinely share book recommendations on everything from entrepreneurship to autobiographies.
I’ve read dozens of books on prioritizing, time management and organization because those issues impact my own business in lots of ways. Some of my favorites include Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy and Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. (Those are classics for anyone wanting to be more productive.)
I’ve found that it’s important to read books that are mentally challenging—in the extreme.
Books with extreme (maybe even disruptive), creative and expansive ways of looking at life and work are often the most memorable and impactful. That’s why I love books like The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss. Talk about a different way of approaching business!
Recently, one of my clients suggested that I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organization by Marie Kondo. At first I was skeptical. A magical book about tidying? Really? But I highly respect this client’s book recommendations (he’s a voracious reader), and, in fact, I read everything he suggests.
My skepticism only increased when I began listening to the book. This Kondo woman is beyond extreme when it comes to keeping things neat. Her ideas might even be revolutionary.
For starters, she says you should only keep things that give you real joy. She challenges readers to consider which things are moving them forward and which are holding them back. She talks to her items and will thank those she’s getting rid of for their years of service. She has her own very specific method of folding clothes. Check out her YouTube video here: http://bit.ly/2c42fie.
Kondo has attracted millions of followers to her KonMari method of simplifying, organizing and storing things. She’s created a lifestyle that applies to home as well as work. Her groupies use her name as a verb, as in, “I have a few minutes, so I’ll go ahead and Kondo my messy desk.”
I have become one of her followers.
These days, my wife puts the clean clothes in front of me and I fold them according to the KonMari method. It’s incredibly satisfying … not to mention neat and tidy.
Whether or not I adopted her methodologies is not actually the point today (although I do suggest you try them).
Her extreme approach is what this is really about.
I think we all have a better chance of making more significant changes in how we live and work if we read a book that is so powerful and dramatic that we can only comfortably embrace, let’s say, 20% of the concepts presented. Many times, that 20% of change is more than you’d adopt from a more traditional book on the same topic.
I’ve found that when I read extreme content I don’t focus on what I can’t do. Instead, I more readily embrace ideas and tips that I might actually put into action. Maybe it’s the passion of the author. Maybe it’s just that the suggestions are so far removed from what I’m currently doing. Whatever it is, it works for me.
You can experience this reading philosophy with all sorts of topics—time management, productivity, leadership, family business, selling, faith, exercise, marriage, diet, you name it—there is an extreme book on most every subject.
So read something extreme, and see if some of it becomes mainstream for you. Worst-case scenario: You’ll read a lot of compelling stuff along the way, it will no doubt be engaging and there’s no telling what you’ll learn.
This is one of the best ways I know to do what you do better.