It’s an absolute necessity for those who want to seize the entrepreneur-rich future to have excellent grit, work ethic, professional skills, communication, confidence, a network, and creative problem solving. These roll-up-the sleeves habits and skills must be mastered. But it’s also a necessity to read. A lot.
You need hundreds of mental models to draw from and lay over each other to find breakthroughs at the intersections. You’ve got to wrestle with age old questions like how to have a good inner life, no matter what’s going on with your startup or job. These cannot be gained by hacks or tricks. They can only be gained by a ceaseless consumption of high quality ideas.
I once heard said that the older the problem, the older the solution. Maybe SEO secrets are best found in webinars, but the secret to reducing stress and finding meaning in your work is more likely found in a time-tested intellectual tradition or great book. All the best entrepreneurs I’ve met are relentlessly philosophical and voracious readers. Not just of business books. In fact, business books are probably the least read among the most successful people I’ve met.
There’s so much great stuff out there. How can you consume it with all the demands on your time? You want to read Hesse, and Milton, and Seneca, and Feynman, and Hemingway, and on and on. But you’re barely keeping up on your email!
First, relax. Stressing about reading or doing it out of guilt is unlikely to do you much good. Try to enjoy it. Next, carve out an hour, or at least a half an hour, each day where you’re not allowed to do other stuff. Just read. Do it before bed to calm your mind and feed new ideas into your brain before you enter the dream world.
Then – and here’s the big secret that’s hard for me and most others I know – stop reading when the book isn’t interesting. Or skip ahead. Pick up a new book. Go right to the good chapter. Don’t treat books like sacred objects that must be read in their entirety, in order, or not at all.
You go to blogs and scan for a good post. You ditch it halfway through if it’s clear the headline was the beefiest part. You scan Twitter and Facebook and feel no guilt for not reading every word. Great books are deeper, richer sources of important ideas, but you don’t have to approach them with fear and trembling. Better to consume one good chapter of Walden than to keep it on the shelf waiting for that perfect weekend vacation where you’ll read it all and take copious notes. It’s probably not going to happen.
Dive in to great books every week, or better yet every day, and keep consuming them. You need a lot of mental models at your disposal to build great stuff and enjoy the process.