Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

The Objective of Reading

A classic 24hrs of my RAS in full effect in relation to reading and knowledge management (see the Encyclopedia Brittanica explanation of the reticular activating system or Karen Lynch’s post for views on how it’s tied to vision and goal-setting)

But rather than a full alignment of views, I’m feeling nicely conflicted. As always, Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s challenging book, Fooled by Randomness, which I am reading, seemed to reach out and slap me this morning. A couple of comments initially made me question my aims for excellence in knowledge management yesterday. Particularly my assertion that ‘I need to be able to access the greatest pool of knowledge, thinking and contacts possible’.

Taleb writes ‘I was at the age when one felt like one needed to read everything’ and just prior to this, ‘I do not know if it applies to other people, but, in spite of my being a voracious reader, I have rarely been truly affected in my behaviour (in any durable manner) by anything I have read. A book can make a strong impression, but such an impression tends to wane after some newer impression replaces it in my brain (a new book)’

First point is that, again, the feeling of immaturity/ inadequacy is good because it drives me forward. I still feel like I need to read everything. Yes, in relation to accessing the best knowledge for my objectives, but I have yet to shake a sense of panic that I’ll miss something important. Something that will materially impact me… 

Second point is that it is rare for me not to be impacted by what I read. I think it is to do with my objectives. It is rare that I randomly select something to read (does anyone?). Equally though, I don’t want to read things that reinforce or approach an area from a similar perspective to the one that I already have. I want to be shifted by the connections that I mentally make. I select books based on a feeling of connectedness.

In this respect I moved on from my original questioning of my aims after the rest of what Taleb’s wrote ‘……after some newer impression replaces it in my brain (a new book). I have to discover things by myself….. These self-discoveries last.’

Jim Estill’s posts (and their comments) as usual have brought insight to bear on the subject of the ‘objective’ of reading.

comment ‘Be selective in what you read. We can’t read everything, and not everything is of the same value, so you can *effectively* read much faster by being choosier, based on your goals… ?’ set me thinking though (Matt’s blog is at http://matthewcornell.org/blog/)

Do we ever become at risk of perpetuating beliefs by reading based on goals? Of course it’s better than not expanding knowledge. Better than no reading. But do we fail ourselves if we read and choose based on our goals, in attempt to access the ‘best knowledge for our objectives’ with the most effective use of time possible?

Do we limit the self-discoveries we can make?

Having said that though, I come back to my problem… my sense of panic that I’ll miss something important.

Answers on a postcard II please.

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2 thoughts on “The Objective of Reading

  1. First, thanks for the link and the fine post. Lots to think about here, including some new thinkers. Yum!

    > Do we ever become at risk of perpetuating beliefs by reading based on goals?

    This is a great question. It has to do with intellectual diet, I think. I’m an atheist, so do I choose to exclude all theistic writing? If I do, I’m limiting myself. But if my goal is to extend myself in those non-theistic ways, then hell – I’m OK. :-)

    > in spite of my being a voracious reader, I have rarely been truly affected in my behaviour … by anything I have read

    Now *that*’s a good one. I can’t find the quote, but there’s a related idea that the only kind of persistent value that can come from a bit of information is when it changes how we look at the world, or impacts our behavior.

    Thanks again!

  2. Pingback: NLP, Modelling and Scenario Planning « Just Seven Things

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