Why I read: the (open) secrete to mega-success

Bra Willy Seyama | eNitiate | Why I Read | Feature - 17 Mar 2020

I just a finished a book by Eugenia Cheng, titled The Art of Logic. It took me the best part of 12 hours to read it from cover to cover, and I am super-proud that this second time around I was able to stick to the task until the end.

I gave Cheng’s book a try in December 2019 but only got through one third of it (108 pages to be exact), and decided to switch to Martin Meredith’s The Fortunes of Africa, followed by Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. I then I went back to reading it [The Art of Logic] all over again yesterday and got to the last page at 4:30am this morning. 

How many books do I read over a given period?

I have tried to keep a count of the books read in the last 12 months, but this became a futile exercise, so I stopped. But having said that, I read out of discipline because I understand its value.

As you may guess then, I am not a voracious reader, whatever that means. This should become clear because in the last 3 months I only read 3 books. This is still a major achievement in my books, pun intended.

Here is a short story. 5 years ago, I could not pick up voluminous books such as The Fortunes of Africa (745 pages), The Scramble for Africa by Thomas Pakenham (738 pages), and the biographies of Sol Plaatjie by Brian Willan (711 pages), Oliver Tambo by Luli Callinicos (671 pages) and Rober Sobukwe by Benjamin Pogrund (427 pages). Such books were torturous to read. What do I mean? before I read any book back then, I first went to the last page to check the page number. Any book over 200 pages was too much to read.

I got over the fear – but actually more the excuse – of reading voluminous books through sheer determination. As an example, I read all the 5 books above in the last 16 months. Another great personal achievement.

My reading picked up momentum in 2016. I still consider myself a slow reader, but I keep forging ahead nonetheless, and continue to break down the barriers along this journey.

Bra-Willy-Book-Shelf-2016

Because of my slow reading, I am purposeful with my book selection, as part of which my chosen literature genres are mainly biographies, business, self-help and history books. The last genre was added in 2019. 

So why do I read? I could rattle on about a whole host of reasons, but here are the 4 most compelling, which I expand on in the rest of this blog: 

Digital detoxing

I spend a lot of time with digital gadgets due to my work that is also my hobby.

Here is something you may find odd. I spend most of my weekends blogging and working on passion projects, and the latter are mostly digital in nature.

I find Saturdays and Sundays great for time away from the daily business grind. Therefor, I invest a fair amount of this time on my creative projects that include blogging and passion projects 😎.

I identified the need for establishing digital detoxing days in 2018 to get away from my digital gadgets, albeit for a short while. I take a day a week, typically a weekday, to switch off all my digital gadgets and read a physical book, and catch up on sleep. It is not always possible to do this every week, but I do it as often as I can. 

Yesterday was such a day, after a hectic weekend of blogging. Just check the time this blog was published at on Sunday morning.

So, my digital detoxing day for this week enabled me to read The Art of Logic – a 304-page book, in one go!

Habits

Let me declare that I am over 50 years old, and I have been running eNitiate – the Pan-African digital communications company – for over 11 years.

It may be that long since I have been on my own, but business has not always been great. And I attribute part of the reason to some of my bad habits, as I came to discover through reading business and self-help books. Surprise! Surprise!

The ongoing self-discovery process of unlearning bad habits (e.g. listening to and watching the South African news, especially lately with negativity having become a staple), entrenching existing good habits (e.g. watching my language, being aware of my thoughts, determination, self-discipline and focus) and learning the new habits (e.g. mindfulness) has been greatly assisted by the self-help books.

Indeed, an old dog can still learn new tricks. This is why I call myself an eternal student.

Knowledge

Did you know that Warren Buffet, one of the wealthiest people in the world, reads between 500 and 1 000 pages a day?  

In fact, when Warren Buffett was once asked about the key to success, he pointed to a stack of nearby books and said, “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”

This qz.com article lists reading habits of some of the richest and most well-known people in the world, including Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and Elon Musk; and they all say the same thing – knowledge is found in books. 

Need I say more?

Stillness

I love digital technology. It has given me the opportunity to chart my own course, gave me access to information in the palm of my hand, enabled me to create networks on the continent that would not be possible before the era of the internet, and I can communicate with the world through my blogging and other online activities.

At the same time, I also dread the noise, the pace and constant interruptions.

Reading books, especially in physical format, has become my escapism into the world of stillness. Reading creates moments of calm, where I can hear myself think, and also do so at my own pace. 

I am learning to find more time to read, including bedside reads before I sleep. Interestingly, I could not do this in the past because I lost track – and sometimes interest – of the stories I was reading. But my retention is getting better with more practice. Another ✅

Two key take-aways for you?

The [open] secrete to mega success is in the books!

A habit for reading can be developed, and age is not a barrier.

Why did I do take 2 of The Art of Logic book?

The Art of Logic is not an average read. While Eugenia Cheng – a Mathematician by profession – tried to write it in everyday language and used a limited number of equations and numbers, it is still the type of a book that needs above-average concentration. Talk about that in this day of short-term attention span.

I am glad that I was able to give it another go and finish it successfully. It is little steps like these that keep me focused on the bigger goal, knowing that I have the determination to finish what I started.

What about you? How much of a reader are you?

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