It doesn’t matter who reads the most books.
That’s not the contest.
The contest is “who can build a sustainable gym that pays you really well?”
I’ll never tell anyone to read fewer books. I was raised by teachers. I have hundreds of books in my Audible account and hundreds more scattered between my office and my home. When I find a book I love, I buy 20 copies and hand them out to Workshop visitors.
I read a for nearly three hours every single day.
And it’s not enough.
I still can’t read everything. So here’s what I’ve learned:
When it comes to reading business books, I encourage everyone to read more intensively, not extensively.
Here are my rules for reading business books:
1. Don’t Plan to Read the Whole Book
Paraphrasing Nassim Taleb, “Most books would make a great blog post.”
Most business books follow a new format: one central idea, some supporting evidence, and stories of the idea being put into practice. I won’t explain why here (but I write about it more on the Two-Brain Media blog).
That means it’s really easy to understand the author’s point. But it also means you don’t need to read most of the book.
Read the intro and then the first few chapters. If you understand the idea, you can skip to the middle of the book—or even the end.
If the first few chapters make you excited to read the rest, keep going. Every chapter should sell you on the next one.
2. Don’t Pass the Halfway Point Without Action
When you hit the halfway mark in a book, pause and reflect.
Ask yourself: “What action have I taken since starting this book?”
If the answer is “none,” put it down. This information isn’t moving you forward.
If you can clearly point to an action you’ve taken or a habit you’ve created since starting the book, keep going.
And put it in your pile to read again in six months.
3. Avoid the Novelty Bias
When you finish a book, ask yourself:
“Does this book complement something I already knew or does this book replace something I used to believe?”
In other words: Is this new, supportive information or did it change my mind?
We’re all wired to believe that the last thing we read is the best thing ever. That’s a logical fallacy, and it keeps us constantly consuming more and more (but acting less and less).
I love buying books but force myself to go back through my library every three months and ask, “Should I listen to any of these again?”
If I’ve done a good job filtering in #2, the answer is often obvious.
4. Make It Stick
Summarize what you’ve read as soon as you’ve finished.
Pretend you’re teaching the book to someone else. How can you concisely sum up the book?
When you teach something, you get to learn it twice. And focusing on the key insights will make them stick in your brain longer.
This is why I started writing my first blog to help other gym owners in 2009: I was really just taking notes for myself in the most effective way. Dontbuyads.com translated the top lessons from business books into directives for gym owners.
If you had to tell me about the book in 1 minute and pass along its key lessons, what would you say?
These lessons aren’t just for books. Use them in seminars, webinars, podcasts, courses and even mentor meetings.
We used to have a “Books” page on this site, but I took it down. I wrote “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief” to help entrepreneurs filter through the noise, beat overwhelm and take action. You don’t have to read all of it.
Just take the test to determine where you currently sit on the entrepreneur’s journey.
Then read the intro and that section.
Which stage of entrepreneurship are you in? Take our 20-question quiz to find out and get the exact steps you need to take your business to the next level.