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Hacking Your Way To A Reading Habit

 

 

Mohnish works on projects, nonprofits, and startups that matter. His latest project was designing the marketing materials for Robert Greene’s New York Times bestselling book, Mastery. Read his blog at www.mohnish.net and reach out to him at imohnish@gmail.com.

A few of Detroit Red’s favorite pastimes: cocaine, reefer, and armed robbery.

This was the 1940s. Yet, 10 years of prison and 7 years of parole later, Detroit Red was a changed man. He became a civil rights activist, and, yes, never touched cocaine again. What happened?

Books.

Cut back on the reefer kids. If you get addicted to reading instead, you’ll:

- Feel happier, write better, and have clearer ideas
- Be a better conversationalist and storyteller
- Live with purpose
- Achieve all-around Hackademic badassery

Of course, here’s the secret: there’s a step-by-step strategy you can use to catch reading fever. Without further ado...

The Six-Tier Strategy

Tier #1: Read Easy Books

The point isn’t to read Crime and Punishment on day one. The point is to get you reading. So start with what's easy and what you’re into. Seriously, guilty pleasures abound.

Once you've tested the waters (maybe 2 - 3 months), start to grapple with tougher books, maybe even the canonical texts. To use what you read, start implementing this strategy. Don’t worry about this until you’re hooked though.

Tier #2: The 50-Page Law

Life is short.

There are cars to drive, projects to finish, and girls to woo. If a book doesn't have you engaged after 50 pages, move on to the next one. I know this might go against your instincts, but forget it - your instincts stopped you from reading and made you watch all 5 seasons of Jersey Shore instead.

Tier #3: The Triple Offensive: Amazon, Shelfari, and Goodreads

You start with tracking the numbers.

Create a Shelfari Account or GoodReads accounts to track what you read and create a to-read list. Note recommendations from friends. On Amazon, go on a 30 minute search binge. Make a wish list. Buy books. Read reviews. Write reviews. Go nuts.

Tier #4: Ryan Holiday’s Reading List

Ryan Holiday has probably read more books than me, my grandfather, grandmother, and 7 of my cousins combined, and he totals 200-300 a year.

The man is a boss.

Sign up for his reading recommendation list, read his blog and you’ll get two things: a place to start and a love of books. His stuff has been priceless to me.

Tier #5: An hour at Barnes & Nobles

Barnes and Nobles is the Victoria's Secret for books. I promise: just being in the store will reinvigorate the drive to read. It can be any bookstore, but do this ritual, every other week:

- Set aside one hour (or more, if you're adventurous)
- Pick up whatever books look good.
- Sit at the cafe and flip through each book. Get a feel for the material.
- If any book catches your attention, note it down in your Wish List (Amazon works well here).
- Get your hands on that book, anyway you can.

Tier #6: The 20-Minute Law

Set aside 20 minutes during the day, find a quiet place, and just read - the longer, the better. This might be the most important step you take - reading book recommendations doesn't mean anything if you don't actually read and do it everyday.

When comfortable, add another 10 minutes to the regimen. The longer the trials, the more reading endurance you'll build up. With enough reading time under your belt, soon the reading gods will be calling your name.

To help you stick with the reading habit:

- My favorite: Use the Everest App to track yourself, and set push reminders everyday.
- No iPhone? Askmeevery.com keeps you accountable by asking you a question everyday via email or text. You’ll answer, and it’ll track your results. Simple.

Postscript

Reading is an investment. There’s no interest rates. There’s no blowback. No annoying telemarketers. It’s all upside.

Muster your firepower and follow the step-by-step strategy like it's Jesus Christ and your his Disciple. Print it out, put it on your bedside table, and follow. As soon as you start catching reading fever, not all the steps have to be there, because by then, it'll be just habit.

By then, you might even come out better on the other end, Detroit Red style.

“I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading has opened to me. I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life. As I see it today, the ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.”
― Malcolm X (known as Detroit Red in his younger days), in the Autobiography of Malcolm X.

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