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Cultivating Self-Discipline Through Reading
A short note on becoming more disciplined by becoming a better reader
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Cultivating Self-Discipline Through Reading
2022 was the year I experienced peak freedom.
After completing my master’s in June, I decided to run my startup full-time cos why not? Each day, I woke up with nothing but self-assigned work and deadlines. That meant that I didn’t have to work for, or report to, anyone. I really felt like I was living life on my own terms.
With all that freedom came the realisation that I wasn’t as disciplined as I thought.
I realised that a lot of the discipline I had cultivated was reactive. Reactive discipline is the kind of discipline that only emerges in specific external conditions. For example, I had to be disciplined during my time working at Meta because, as an employee, I had to report to my manager on my productivity and KPIs.
I was being disciplined only in response to the fear of getting fired/failed if I didn’t do an excellent job at work/school. I wasn’t being disciplined simply because I wanted to be disciplined.
As a startup founder, I found that I had no external impulse to trigger my discipline. Instead, my discipline is inspired by my conviction in our mission and its importance to the world. This time, my motivation had to come internally this time, and I didn’t know what to do.
This year, I want to pursue discipline simply for discipline’s sake. I want to be a disciplined person.
One of the ways I want to do that is by returning to the lost art of reading.
In my quest to cultivate discipline, I want to start by learning how to rein in the most stubborn part of myself—my attention.
In the present age of heightened internet-inspired distractibility, focused attention is one of the hardest skills to cultivate. The ability to focus singularly and deeply on one activity has proven to be a challenge for us Gen Zs, known for our abysmal attention spans.
As a child, reading was one of the ways I entertained myself while also subconsciously disciplining myself. Reading required me to sit down for hours sometimes, while mentally saying no to every other distraction that could force me to close the book I was reading to go do something more fun.
But as life got busy, I relegated reading to something I did only when all my devices were dead and there was literally absolutely nothing else to do but read. I went from reading over 25 books per year to barely reading any in 2022.
I stopped reading because my priorities changes, not because I didn’t have time.
This year, I want to become more disciplined by becoming a better reader.
What does ‘a better reader’ look like?
Being a better reader for me looks like three thing:
The only point of reading is if I can recall what I’ve read and if I can apply it into my daily life. To achieve this, I’m integrating things into my daily life that ensure that I read more relevant books, and more frequently too.
How am I improving my reading?
Reading fewer books from a handful of authors, and reading them multiple times. We don’t re-read enough books to properly assimilate the wisdom hidden between the lines. I want to be the kind of person who knows the page number of a particular quote from a book. Nobody ever gets to that level of understanding by reading a book once.
Using the Blinkist app to micro-read as a way to still learn from books I don’t read cover-to-cover. So many published books could’ve been an email honestly and Blinkist agrees. Using the Blinkist app, I can read summaries of books that may not be worth the time investment required for cover-to-cover reading.
Writing reviews of the books I read. Writing helps me recall more of what I read because it forces me to pay attention to the material enough to have stuff to write about when I’m done with the book. By writing about the book, I take my reading a step further by distilling my understanding of it into a coherent summary.
I write about reading a lot. It’s high time I went back to actually reading.
Some books I’m excited to read this year
Discipline is Destiny by Ryan Holiday
Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
Range: Why Generalists Thrive in a Specialised World by David Epstein
The Rise of Kyoshi by F. C. Yee
Blockbusters by Anita Elberse
Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative by Ken Robinson
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
On Being Different: What It Means to Be a Homosexual by Merle Miller
The Death of Expertise by Tom Nichols
Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant
What’re you looking to read this year? ⬇️
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