Ryan Holiday changed my life. Though we’ve never talked and may never, he deeply impacted me. Ryan has written extensively about reading and how important a part of his life it is. Most of what I have to offer on the topic merely echoes his teachings, but nevertheless has become so much a part of me that I can’t just ignore it or redirect attention elsewhere. I need to write about it too.
Ryan wrote about reading like it was essential to his survival. He explained that he classed it with eating and sleeping. This alone enabled a profound shift to take place in my mind about the way that I treated reading. I valued reading, no doubt. Many of my friends failed to read as much as me, and probably had little desire to do so. I had a pretty impressive collection of books in comparison to my peers. When the shift occurred where I came to regard reading in a similar way as Ryan, an insatiable appetite developed in me – or at least was allowed to finally come to the surface – for knowledge.
There was so much I needed to read.
He wrote about making a deal with himself that if he ever wanted a book, he wouldn’t let money or time or anything else stop him from owning it. He wrote about how owning it to him meant more than reading it right away. He might not read it for years, but it was there for him when he wanted it. He wrote about this resulting in several – or many – books that he hadn’t read, and rather than this being a negative aspect, he viewed it as his anti-library. The anti-library produced still more motivation for him to read what he was reading so that he could continue to move through all the books that he wanted to read, which he saw every time he looked at his bookshelves. He went into detail about his approaches to reading, to taking notes, to commonplacing, to doing all these things that helped him to give maximum function to his reading. He ultimately wrote about how it was essential to his writing process, and how one leant to the other, providing him with not only an effective way to self-educate, but a career that has thus far proved prosperous.
I, and many people I know and follow, have experienced life-altering insight as a direct result of reading a book. For fifteen or twenty dollars, my life could be significantly affected for the better. This low-risk gamble excited me and continues to. Unlike gambling at a casino, the stakes are low and the potential for gain is inevitable and guaranteed. The biggest cost isn’t the aforementioned price tag, it’s the time, energy, commitment, and seriousness one brings to the practice of reading.
It’s a decision. Simple as that. All Ryan did – other than display his enthusiasm by setting a detailed example – was give me permission to become obsessed with reading too.