Tag Archives: education

Book Learning: How to study from a book

When you decide you need to learn something, probably the first thing you think of is to find a book on the subject. It may not be the best idea, but it will probably be the first.

And sometimes it is the best way; and it’s certainly the way I’m most familiar with, so that’s where I’m starting the series.

    Step 1: Pick a Book

    In some cases this may be done for you: in class, the teacher/professor may have selected a book and ordered you to read it — in that case, all you can do is hope that it’s good.

    But if you’re learning on your own time, for your own purposes, then you need to select one. At the library or bookstore, head to the right section, then just read through the titles. Do any catch your eye? Do any seem to be addressing the specific problem you’re having? Pull the likely ones off the shelf and open them to a random page. Does the advice make sense to you? Is it too complex? Too simplistic? Does it seem to actually address the specific problem you’re having?

    You can also do a quick web search or ask for recommendations from your friends/family/coworkers/geeky friends.

    Step 2: Get a recording medium

    Just reading a book does very little good unless you actually retain and — here’s the difficulty — think about what you’re reading. You may even disagree; that’s fine, as long as you’re thinking, analysing, and processing.

    And for that, you need some way to lay your thoughts out and look at them. I prefer to have a spiral notebook, because handwriting connects to my brain better than typing. My fiance prefers to type; in that case you could keep a document on your computer, use MS OneNote, or even start a blog. You could get a voice or video recorder, and tape your thoughts (and make a podcast or video podcast of it, if you’d like). Or you can start a book club, where everyone can put forth their analyses and discuss each others’. Just find some way to make yourself process what you’re reading

    Step 3: Read. Carefully

    If a sentence, paragraph, or chapter don’t make sense to you, then stop and re-read it. What doesn’t make sense? Are they using jargon you don’t know? Go look up those words. Does the logic not make sense, you can’t follow their argument? Re-read the section, starting with their premise and following the logic step by step. Do the data seem wrong? Do a web search and see if you can find any evidence for or against their claims. Do you think there’s a glaring flaw in their reasoning? Write/record/bring it up in your book club, and explain where you think the flaw is and how your reasoning changes the conclusion being drawn. Don’t proceed until you’re sure you understand what the author is saying.

    Step 4: Apply

    You got into this because you wanted to learn something, to solve some problem you’re having. So how do these lessons help? If you’re learning some background theory, then apply each lesson or chapter to your situation: what do these statements imply about your scenario? If you’re learning a specific how-to, then what would you have to do in order to actually do these steps? What would they look like in the case of your business/product/family/life? I like to do this throughout the book, but you could do it at the end of each chapter or section if you prefer.

    Step 5: Summarize

    When you get to the end of the book, look back over what you’ve read. Look over the notes you made. What were the most important things? Why are they important? Overall, do you agree or disagree with the author? Why? What do you want to differently as a result of your reading?

There you go: the book-learning methods they never taught you in high school.

Resources for Further Reading
Writing for you, and why it works at drawing others to your blog

Bureau of Idea Approval

Seth Godin describes our culture’s attitude towards implementing ideas:

    I’ve encountered thousands (it might be tens of thousands) of people walking around with great ideas. Some of the ideas really are great; some are merely pretty good. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of ideas. Ordinary folks can dream up remarkable stuff fairly easily.
    What’s missing is the will to make it happen.

    A lot of us would like to believe that there’s a Bureau of Idea Approval, or the BIA if you like acronyms. The BIA sits in judgement of ideas and blesses the best ones. Go ahead and hone your remarkable concept, submit it to the BIA, and let them do the rest.
    Alas, it’s not going to happen like that any time soon.

Naomi of Itty Biz puts it like this:

    “Do you really think this is a good idea? I told my husband and he seemed really lukewarm.”

    I hate to get all cliché on your ass but if I had a dollar for every time I heard something like this I sure as shit wouldn’t be living in Canada’s Snow Belt when there are perfectly good beaches in Bali I could inhabit.

    In the time I’ve been hanging out in the aforementioned Snow Belt doing home business marketing consulting, I have heard one bad idea. (If you’re reading this, it wasn’t yours. I’ll tell you right now that the creator of the idea in question does not read this blog.) Sure, there are lots of bad ideas in the world, but intelligent people reject them before they hit the discuss-it-with-your-loved-ones phase and the lame idea never sees the light of day.

    Why Your Loved Ones Want You To Fail

And yet, the idea persists. We feel like there’s some process we have to go through, some certificate we have to get, before we start work on our ideas.

By the power vested in me by me…

It’s really OK to try. I mean, you should engage in some serious thought before you, ya know, quit your job and move across the country to open a store selling organic notepaper. But there are lots of options that are less drastic… that are, in fact, very low-risk. Join some online forums about your topic, and figure out what hashtags are used on twitter to identify those discussions. Start a blog and talk about your ideas. Start a meetup where people can get together and talk about your ideas. Write a manifesto. Make an online store. Start a 30-day Trial.

I hereby give you permission. Thanks to David Seah, visual designer of inspirational awesomeness, you can even have a certificate.

I also hereby deputize you into the Bureau of Idea Approval. Whenever you hear an idea that’s worth spreading, present its creator with a certificate. Whenever someone approaches you to ask your opinion of an idea, give them a certificate when you tell them to give it a shot. Whenever a loved one is ready to surrender to the threat of an invisible mallet, give them a certificate saying that their idea is a good one.

Let’s make this world a more idea-friendly place.


Download: Bureau of Idea Approval Certificate

Note 1: I have typed out Bureau of Idea Approval each time, because the US already has a BIA, which stands for Bureau of Indian Affairs, and I don’t want anyone to get the two mixed up.

Note 2: The above product links are affiliate links. If you enjoyed and appreciated this information, you can give me monetary reward by buying products through those links. Learn More.

All You Need Is Time

Starting a business is hard. Any new monetization method is hard. Actually, come down to it, any new anything is hard. In large part because, well, you don’t know how to do it. You don’t even know how to start figuring out how to do it.

In Outliers, Malcom Gladwell discusses the 10,000-hour rule: that all amazing people, in any field, got to where they are by practicing for 10,000 hours: hockey players who make pro put in 10,000 hours of hockey practice; Bill Gates spent 10,000 hours playing with computers, and no virtuoso has ever gotten away with much less than 10,000 hours of practicing violin. You have to have a minimum amount of talent, sure, but beyond that, the only correlation to success is how much time you put in.

That’s all very well for geniuses and athletes — for outliers — but what about the rest of us? What if I don’t want to be an amazing business person? What if I just want to be a competent one?

Actually, the answer is the same. Naomi of IttyBiz just wrote a brilliant post on learning new skills called Mastery and the Average Factory Worker, pointing out that putting in time works just as well for beginners as for experts.

    “Don’t get marketing? Give it a month of 42.5 hours a week.

    Aren’t sure how to find your blogging voice? 20 full working days, baby.

    Need more clients? Make it your full time job, one from which you could get fired for not meeting your quota.

    Want more people to stop by your store? Devote 10,200 minutes to nothing but bringing them.”

The bad news? I don’t have a shortcut.
The good news? I have an answer that will work for anything you want to learn.

“Work more hours than the average factory worker.”

Resources for Further Reading
Mastery and the Average Factory Worker
Itty Biz

The above product links are affiliate links. If you enjoyed and appreciated this information, you can give me monetary reward by buying products through those links. Learn More.

A Modern Vision Quest

I had a conversation with a friend last year about the life stages of a human being. Although every person is obviously different, most people, we observed, will go through these stages at approximately these ages:

  • Childhood (0 – 7 or 8 ) In this stage, a person is new to this whole gig, and is just trying to learn about everything that’s going on. They’re overwhelmed by the amount of information out there, and don’t have the time, experience, or spare processing power to do much analysis of what is happening.

    My friend says that in jungle cultures, children are first allowed to wield a machete at age 7 or 8. In the Catholic church, children are considered mature enough to understand and take communion around 7 or 8. In US culture, although we have no formal rituals, 7 or 8 is about the time most kids are assigned chores of their own, and the earliest most parents would consider letting their kids have a pet.

  • Adolescence (7 or 8 – 30 or 33) In this stage, people continue to learn about the world, but their focus is now more on figuring out how they fit into it. Exploration of skills and talents, pushing your limits to see where they are, and trying out new things are the primary activities. Towards the later years, skills and talents should hopefully be clear, and focus is on how best to use those skills and talents to do something useful in the community.

    I realize that my age range here is controversial, because most places define “adult” now at age 18 or 21. But if you look at people who have changed the world, from Jesus & Buddha to Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr, the turning point in their lives, when they began to affect others and to devote themselves to their lives’ work, came closer to age 30 than age 20.

  • Adult (30 or 33 – ?60 or 65?) This is the period when most of your life’s work will be done, whether it’s ending racial injustice or raising great kids.

    Please note that this is unrelated to success in other areas; it is obviously possible for an adolescent to release a hit album, become a basketball start, or start a multi-million-dollar business in their dorm room. And all of those successes are awesome, and worthwhile. But they’re usually not the sort of thing that a person would count as their “life’s work”; most people who achieve all that will start looking for something more.

    What it means to you

    Here’s the main problem with our culture (and if you live in a place that hasn’t fully imported US culture, watch out for this pitfall): we don’t teach people how to be adults.

    The mechanisms of our culture do a very poor job of helping us figure out what our strengths are and how to use them, what our weaknesses are and how to compensate for them, and what unique value we can offer to the world.

    In the industrial age, this wasn’t such a big deal. The world had pre-defined slots, and you were going to be hammered into one whether you liked it or not. So if you never found your unique set of talents, it didn’t matter much.

    But now we’re in the information age, and you’re going to be self-employed one way or another. You need to offer something unique if you’re going to get ahead, and knowing your individual talents, skills, knowledges, and capability is critical for success.

    I don’t have an easy answer for you. But I have struggled with this for the last 10 years, and I have come across some things that can help. So the next few posts will cover ideas on how to find your niche in the world.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad Book Review

There are a lot of critics that dislike Robert Kiyosaki, some of them quite vehemently. So before I begin my (overall positive) review, let me address some of the most common concerns.

He’s a bad writer
He’s a terrible writer. To his credit, he recognizes and admits it. I can think of dozens of ways his writing could be improved. But the fact that his message is jumbled, poorly explained and obscure does not make his message less valuable.

He just says the same thing over and over
This is also true, and it relates to objection #1. He couldn’t really figure out how to say what he wanted to say, so he kept reshaping his words and trying again. Subsequent books in the series, rather than reading like sequels, read like second drafts. So, if you get to the end of the book and think you’ve really understood his message, don’t feel obliged to read the rest. BUT, if you find his message intriguing yet elusive (very possible, since he’s a terrible writer), reading the other books will help you “get it”. The local library is a great resource for this, so you don’t have to buy them all.

He doesn’t give you enough information to actually do anything
He doesn’t. But he also never claimed that he did. He specifically said that if you were interested in doing the things he described, you should go check out books, do some research, or find a mentor. The point of the book is not to teach you how to become an investor or business owner, it’s to explain to you why to become an investor or business owner. It’s to let you know that being an investor or business owner is a possibility.

He ruins people by encouraging them to try investments that they’re not qualified for
Please see above. When you finish Rich Dad, Poor Dad, you’ll hopefully be excited about learning how to develop passive income. But you do still need to learn it. The book contains nowhere near the level of detail you would need to actually get into this stuff and be successful. So don’t do anything stupid, ‘kay?

He has no idea what the definition of an asset is
Mmm… it would be more accurate to say that he uses a different definition than most people. What he calls an asset is what accountants call an “appreciating asset” or an “income-producing asset”.

On the one hand, it is kind of obnoxious to make up your own definition and then insist that everyone else use it. But on the other hand, I think we can all agree that accounting jargon is complex and confusing, and we’d rather have a simpler terminology. Kiyosaki’s definition cuts through the clutter and jargon, and leaves just the heart of what an asset means to you.: an asset is something that puts money in your pocket.

    If you’re filling out your tax return, use the government’s definition of asset
    If you’re filing for a bank loan, use your bank’s definition of asset
    If you’re trying to develop passive income and get out of the rat race, use Kiyosaki’s definition of asset.

On to the good stuff

In my first post I said that the idea of not having a job had begun to enter my consciousness about 10 years ago. I can actually peg that to a specific event: when my mother gave me Rich Dad, Poor Dad and said I should read it. I had not much interest in finance at the time, but we were on a road trip to California, and I was grateful for the distraction (I’d finished my fantasy novel by the time we got to Vegas).

The title of the book comes from Robert Kiyosaki’s experience growing up in Hawaii. When, at the age of 9, Robert asked his dad how to be rich, his dad admitted that he had no idea. But he suggested that Robert ask his best friend, Mike, whose dad was going to be rich someday. So he and Mike went to Mike’s dad, who agreed to teach them how to be rich. And so Kiyosaki got money advice from two sources thereafter — his “rich dad” and his “poor dad.” This gives Kiyosaki a unique opportunity to see exactly what the rich teach their kids about money that the poor and middle class do not — the subtitle of the book. And one of the things they teach their kids is how not to have a job.

As I said, there’s not a lot of technical detail in the book. In fact, that lack of technical detail is one of the reasons I’m writing this blog. But Rich Dad, Poor Dad does provide one thing that no other book I’ve found can offer to you:

He explains the concept of being rich. The necessary requirements for not having a job, and the attitudes required to achieve that state. What passive income is, and that it’s possible for you to get some of it.

My upbringing focused entirely on getting a job. What I wanted to be when I grew up. Getting good grades so I could go to college so I could get a good job instead of flipping burgers. Determining my strengths so I could pick a career that fits me. That I would have a job was never in doubt; the only question was whether I would have a “good” job or a “bad” job. The only problem was… they all seemed like bad jobs to me.

What this book said to me, for the first time ever, was “You’re right. They are all bad jobs. Jobs suck. And there is an alternative. Here’s another option.”

The you-need-a-job mentality is hard to break; it’s so pervasive in our culture. My mother keeps asking me when I’m going to get a real job, and she’s the one who made me read Rich Dad, Poor Dad! But nothing on this blog will help you until you understand and believe.. until you grok.. that money without a job is possible. Not easy. Not quick. But possible.

If that concept seems too strange for you to wrap your mind around, then read Rich Dad, Poor Dad. It’s worth the terrible writing.

Resources for Further Reading
Rich Dad, Poor Dad
10 Reasons You Should Never Get A Job
The Cashflow Quadrant

The above product links are affiliate links. If you enjoyed and appreciated this information, you can give me monetary reward by buying products through those links. Learn More.