Why I Read 52 Books in a Year

I was never cool.

As soon as I could read I became a word nerd who enjoyed slipping into the world of words. The endless combinations of words and the stories they produced brought me comfort. Sure, I could converse with people but the truth is I always preferred the wonderment of books. I spent most of my childhood with a flashlight ready so I could read late into the night long after the lights were out. A librarian wanted to promote reading so they offered to dedicate a book to you for every 10 that you read. By the time I was 9 I had more than 12 dedicated to me--at just that library. One weekend instead of practicing for cheerleader tryouts I was engrossed with biographies on Martin Luther King, Pocahontas and Sacajewa. When it came to the tryout I did a halfhearted cheer -- and went back to reading my book. Of course I didn't make the squad, though I was on the journalism staff throughout high school. 

The Part Where I Lose My Love
In college I took every english class available in hopes that I could turn my obsession into a profession. Sadly, my obsession stayed a hobby.When I left the world of higher learning my reading continued but at a far slower pace. Books were soon replaced with the endless blare of the TV at night, a vain attempt at cloaking the days events with mindless blather.  I discovered that literally and metaphorically I couldn't read by the tv light. And so my books became dusty artifacts of a former love. My reading became more limited to articles and blog posts. When I read books they were nearly all non-fiction--anything that could be consumed quickly and turned into knowledge for my burgeoning professional life. 

The Return of Reading & A Big Challenge
A few years ago I found my way back to my beloved. Though my book binges weren't anywhere near my previous state, it felt good to be cradled inside stories again. I wondered how I could plot a more frequent presence of books in my life. My inspiration was Andrew Hyde and Tara Anderson Cahliman who had both recently finished reading 52 books in a year. For 6 months I tried to screw up the courage to attempt to read 52 books in 52 weeks. A book a week when I was barely reading one a month? (gulp) What if I failed? What would it mean for my love of books if I didn't make it? Worry danced in my head like flame on a campfire. One day I just decided that I could do it. Or at least, I could try.

Why read 52 books in a year? 

  • Open myself to new ideas different cultures
  • It was time to pry myself away from the tv 
  • To rediscover my former love affair with words
  • Reading good writing makes you a better writer
  • My intuition kept egging me on
  • To see if I could do it

The biggest reason I did it was to challenge myself to do something that mattered to me even if it didn't have a direct impact on my business.

So, I did it. I actually read 52 books in a year.

I started (and finished) my first book Apron Anxiety on September 16, 2012. I read the last line of my final book Born Standing Up on August 12, 2013. 

Now that you know why I did it, in my next post I'll tell you how I did it and how you can too. (You know you wanna...and I know you can.)


How to invoke your instincts

"For me, travel has rarely been about escape; it's often not even about a particular destination. The motivation is to go--to meet life, and myself, head-on along the road...On the road I'm forced to rely on instinct and intuition, on the kindness of strangers, in ways that illuminate who I am, ways that shed light on my motivations, my fears. Because I spend so much time alone when I travel, those fears, my first companions in life, are confronted, resulting in a liberation that I'm convinced never would have happened had I not ventured out. Often, the farther afield I go, the more at home I feel."

Andrew McCarthy, The Longest Way Home

Steve Jobs on Your Inner Voice

“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Steve Jobs


So...what are you waiting for?

Intuition: When Should You Trust Your Own Counsel?

This tweet started a twitter firestorm. It's awfully difficult to communicate complex thoughts in 140 characters so this blog post attempts to sort it out with a few more words. 532 to be exact.

There's a delicate balance in the listening to others vs. listening to yourself equation. I suspect that people who are ardently on either side of the equation are probably there because of an extreme experience. Perhaps they blindly followed someone else's advice to disastrous results. On the other side is the guy who didn't listen to anyone else's advice and failed. The problem with both sides is a lack of openness. It's a tricky thing to be open and yet follow the guidance your heart to make the decision that is most compelling for you.

The Role of Others' Opinions

When I was in my twenties and wanted to do something different with my life my dad would always advise me to run it by my siblings--particularly my older brother. Sadly it led me to make some poor decisions because the advice was taken cart blanche. The thing is--my brother is very wise--as is my dad--but they can only make decisions that are right for them. Other people see through a completely different set of eyes than the ones in your own skull. It would be folly not to recognize that. Gaining the perspective of others can help you see things that otherwise might have evaded your own gaze. The rub is that you have to take their context into account. This context may mesh well with yours but it may not. Perhaps you can take a nugget or two from them to mix in with your own dreams, hopes, fears and goals to find something that makes your heart say '"Yes!"

Don't Ignore Your Gut

Looking back I don't think my dad wanted me to take the advice without running it through my own counsel. If we could time travel back I'm certain he would say something like...Run it past someone who thinks differently than you to see if there are any ways to improve upon your idea or things you haven't thought about. Then listen to your gut. The context I ignored in my twenties was that my dad, while an engineer, is also an incredibly intuitive man who truly trusts his instincts. This was a guy who built incredibly innovative concept cars by using both his analytical and more instinctive sides of his brain.  He lived his life according to his own set of inner rules. I see now that he never would have advocated abdicating responsibility for your life and decisions to others.

It's Not An Either Or Game

These days I love to surround myself with people who are much more linear and analytical (accountants, lawyers and generally practical people) than myself because they always give me a different perspective. Their opinions show me new ways of thinking about a situation and often I end up listening mostly to my original idea tweaked a bit by their thoughts.  Be open and listening to yourself aren't mutually exclusive. 

You just need to keep the opinions of others in context while you grow your intuition.