Over the weekend, my wife and I hung out with some of our neighbors in a “socially-distant” outdoor picnic in our backyard. We were spread out in our clusters–four different couples–and we had a nice time talking (with some food and drink) over several hours. This was the first time in almost three months my wife and I hung out in person with anyone (!), so we definitely enjoyed ourselves.
At one point, one of the neighbors complimented me on running 18 miles, which I did a couple of weeks ago. She said that she had run a marathon (26.2 miles), yet nonetheless she was impressed that I did the entire 18 miles by myself, without a team, or people cheering me on. I talked about how I have run regularly for years, building up gradually to the point where going 18 miles seems like a logical next step.
This inspired me to talk about my approach to accomplishing bigger things in areas besides running; that is, by consistently taking small, manageable actions that add up. I mentioned, for example, how last year I read Ron Chernow’s weighty (and excellent) 1000+ page biography of Ullysses S. Grant in exactly this way: one bite at a time, over several months.
The confidence to read such a weighty biography might have eluded me in the past. There was a time when I wanted to read more but often found it difficult to get started or all too easy to get caught up in other daily activities. Then my wife and I read a book called “The Success Principles,” by Jack Canfield. Among many other helpful suggestions, Canfield recommended that people read for an hour a day.
I decided to take that on.
That habit has served me well. Since the beginning of 2015, I have read 145 books and counting, including the following “big” books:
- “Les Miserables, ” by Victor Hugo (640 pages…admittedly, the edited version, but still…. )
- “The Goldfinch” Donna Tartt (771 pages)
- “Outlander,” by Diana Gabaldon (660 pages)
- “All the Light We Cannot See,” by Aaron Doerr (530 pages)
- “Children of Time,” by Adrian Tchaikovsky (600 pages)
- “The Secret History,” by Donna Tartt (559 pages)
- “Seveneves,” by Neal Stephenson (867 pages)
- “Seed to Harvest” Series, by Octavia Butler (946 pages)
- “Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life,” by Alice Schroeder ( 960 pages)
- “Titan,” (biography of John D. Rockefeller) by Ron Chernow (775 pages)
- “Grant,” by Ron Chernow (1074 pages)
- “Alexander Hamilton,” by Ron Chernow (818 pages)
- “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life,” Walter Isaacson (582 pages)
- “Money: Master the Game” by Tony Robbins (656 pages… I have actually read this three times over the past five years)
- “Debt: the First 5,000 Years,” by David Graeber (542 pages)
- “Common Sense on Mutual Funds,” by Jack Bogle (621 pages)
- “The Creature from Jekyll Island: A 2nd Look at the Federal Reserve,” by G. Edward Griffin (608 pages)
- “The Discoverers”, by Daniel J. Boorstin (745 pages)
- “The Intelligent Investor,” by Benjamin Graham (623 pages)
I probably I would have read a few of these anyway (mainly some of the novels), but it is highly doubtful that I would have read all of these had it not been for my systematic reading habit, which effortlessly helped me overcome the perceived hurdle of books being “too long.”
This habit automatically broke down the process of reading into manageable bites. Instead of living with the dissatisfaction of an unfulfilled wish, I have had (and will continue to have) the experience of completing many fine works.
Further proof of the indestructible power of the slow and steady approach!