Thursday, May 18, 2006

"All you do is read all day?"

After spending some time with me, a friend commented recently that it just seemed like I did nothing but read. This is a pretty apt description of my day. I do other things too, just for the record, like exercise, go for walks, practice guitar (and sometimes trombone), write in this blog, write in my journal, write random things, meditate, and comtemplate the meaning of the universe (maybe not so much time on the last one, but I do it!).

However, the comment that all I do is read cut to the core of my being. My first reaction to that comment was to put up a defensive: "What do you mean all I do all day is read? What do YOU do that's so much better? What do you want me to do, watch TV?" Then, after a deep breath and a moment to collect my Self, I realized that the anger at the comment didn't result because of the comment, but rather because of something inside of me that was trying to hide. Namely, the part of me that feels like all my reading is a giant waste of time. In other words, the aggression towards myself over my own behavior surfaced as anger towards another. A perfect example of the Shadow. But I caught Him this time. Take that, Shadow Man.

So, what's the problem then? That I read too much? Maybe, but I don't think that's the whole story. I think it has more to do with the fact that I don't actually DO anything with the information I read. Now, that may be a little harsh. I do a lot of things, like write posts on this blog, and other articles for myself. However, I still don't feel as if I'm getting as much out of all the reading I do. I often finish a book with the nagging feeling that there was more for me to learn from it, had I only actually taken action based on the ideas in the book. I feel like I've read the book, but it won't have any lasting impact on me.

So, what's the solution to this shadow? What will bring the shadow into the light? Instead of reinventing the wheel, let me offer this article by Scott Young1 about learning by doing. The article focuses on doing things related to personal development, but really the theory can be applied to doing anything. Actually, come to think of it, personal development IS everything.

After reading this article, I came to realize the reason that althought I have a lot more ideas than I had a year or two ago, I'm still the same bitchy, narcissistic ass-hole that's too shy to talk to strangers. The ideas don't make themselves into knowledge and street smarts. Only my actions can do that.

This reminds me of an article by Steve Pavlina where he discussed the "ready-fire-aim" approach to learning something. Basically, he says that you should just throw yourself into something new that you're interested in, and from there adjust. The idea is that with all the knowledge you'll get from actually doing, you'll be far more able to learn and grow than if you just read and read about the topic all day long. Public speaking skills comes from actually speaking, not from reading about speaking. Interpersonal skills come from talking to people, not from reading about talking to people.

Such a simple, yet powerful concept, and probably the reason I've often felt in a rut over the years. Dave McClung put it aptly when he said, "If life's all about aiming a canno to hit a target, do you want to spend you're entire life aiming the cannon, or do you want to just keep firing until you get it." Yes, that's it man, that's it!

So, yes, all I do is read all day. But reading leads to ideas, which lead to actions, which lead to knowledge. Remember, "the job of a teacher isn't not to teach something new every day, but to remind the student what they already know." Reading is a path, thought only one of many, of being in the world.


1 Damn, this guy is only 18 years old. Wow, he seems SO freakin' deep for his age. I look forward to his insight. It just goes to show you that you'll always be able to find a model out in the world to look up too. It's even easier now with the rise of the interweb. A young Steve Pavlina, anyone? Cool.

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