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Why Read a Book When You Can Listen?

Thirty-three finish all high school graduates never read a book after graduating. Forty-two percent toss their books after college. This is according to Clair Belinski, author of Is America Doomed? Part III.

The fact is, it can be difficult to get through a book, considering the time, the interest in the subject, and the questioning of whether the benefit justifies the pain of the task.

Or, coming from a different emotion, what about the people who just don’t think they’re smart enough to finish a book?

For many people, reading isn’t just not fun, it’s drudgery. But what if you could flip the script and consider the task in a completely different way? One that charged you and got you excited about what book you would choose next?

For me, I can check all of the above reasons for historically not reading. I wasn’t good at reading comprehension so the act wasn’t fluid, which meant it required work. I also carried a secret that had consumed me since I was 16, giving me a plausible excuse.

When I was young, I learned something that has never added value to anyone who ever tested ON, BELOW, or even JUST ABOVE the line. Still, it’s something that millions of people around the country are confronted with every day. When I was in ninth grade, I learned that I had an IQ of 90 and that, according to the non-descript guidance counselor from high school in Greenville, South Carolina, I should consider a career in the trades where I could be more successful.

The impact of that statement from that point onward, regardless of my advancement up the corporate ladder and the hard work I put in, was that I believed I wasn’t smart enough to be where I was. I completed my undergraduate degree after 5 or 6 false starts and stops and thousands of dollars in student loans and dropped classes. I also went on to grad school and studied in both Paris, France, and Tokyo, Japan, with Paris being the city where I met my first wife.

Even with grad school, I remained paralyzed with the belief that I would fail, and once I moved into corporate life, the fear continued and even intensified. I was the imposter, and I knew my employers would figure it out.

This, unfortunately, translated to believing that I would have to change companies every 2 to 3 years…that’s the amount of time I believed it would take to performance manage me out the door, which in itself led to a self-fulfilling prophecy. A year or so after getting hired into a job and following the initial honeymoon period, I began to extend my energy to search for a way out.

That act translated to attention that should have been directed towards learning and excelling in the position, to instead being redirected towards my future exit.

Whenever I’d confide in friends, psychologists, and my family about my fears, I was always told, “You’re wrong, look at how successful you are. Look at what you’ve been able to accomplish,” as if that added value towards changing my thoughts. The encouragement, while well founded, was equivalent in my mind to telling a struggling anorexic, “You are perfect the way you are.”

We know that we are all different. I know that I have deficits in certain areas, just like everyone else; physical, psychological, intellectual, cognitive, etc., because we are all different. I had major challenges with confidence that were exaggerated by severe acne, but I also knew that I thought differently.

As I walked the corporate corridors with many of my white peers and, later, the young white consultants from some of the best business colleges, I knew they were smarter than I was in the task we were being asked to perform. Some of them were so young that they could apply the “new math” that I had challenges with while working with my kids.

I now know, however, that only about 5 percent of my challenge was connected to the differences in the way I cognitively process information. The remaining 95 percent was all about the fear of discovery and the fact that my brain always led me to flee. This would disable my ability to process the information requested.

One of my greatest, most elucidating discoveries further helped to solidify my increased confidence regarding my intelligence and abilities to compete cognitively with anyone else in my space of innovation and discovery. These were two ideas that emerged to explain our individual differences: individuation and multiple intelligence.


Twentieth-century psychoanalyst Carl Jung would refer to a word he called “individuation.” It relates to the way our souls arrived into our bodies, according to the ancients, as we made our way through the stars into the human form. The idea was that because we are born on different days, at different times, and in different years, we all make our journey into the human form through the 7 planets into ourselves. This means we all take on the characteristics of the stars at different times and thus are born with different impacting characteristics of those stars.

This explains why we process our experiences and the resulting interpretations differently. I consider this as the reason for Dr. Howard Gardner’s belief in the idea of multiple intelligence.

Multiple Intelligence

Dr. Howard Gardner, a retired Harvard University professor of Psychology and creator of the concept of multiple intelligence, has published more than 13 different books on the subject. The belief is that we all possess a combination of 9 different types of intelligence, such as mathematical logical, which aligns with the IQ test and the ability of executive function. But we also have some degree of the naturalist intelligence, as exemplified by the indigenous peoples worldwide, as well as the musical and the bodily kinetics intelligence expressed by musicians and athletes.

In developing an understanding of my intelligence, I was able to break free from the singular view of intelligence and I was able to lean into my own personal strengths. That made all of the difference as I learned that while my deficits were real, as individuals, so too were everyone else’s. As a matter of fact, psychologists say that 70 percent of all Americans suffer from Imposter Syndrome, with 25 to 30 percent of high achievers feeling the same fears. 

Once I learned about the other areas where strengths could be quantified in tests, or at least qualified through action, then the fear dissipated into manageable but still occasional issues to be monitored. All I needed to do after that was to direct more attention to further honing my strengths by repositioning my perspective of the deficits to transform them into my positives. Enter my new quest for knowledge.

Reading Tactics for Success (My Process)

  1. Don’t read, listen

The first step to take towards capitalizing on the experiences and knowledge of others is reading a book for your own benefit to recognize the goal of the act itself – to gain knowledge. Reading a book activates areas responsible for visual processing while listening to a book activates the part of the brain responsible for language processing. Both activities involve the semantic processing of information in the same brain areas. Translation: Don’t read, listen instead. If you are one of 30 percent of Americans (according to NIH.gov) who learn auditorily, this represents a great opportunity to hyper-charge your knowledge and experiences with very little effort. Get an Audible account with Amazon if you are already an Amazon Prime member. You can try the service with two free books for 30 days for free to test out your newfound opportunities.

  1. Select the right book:

The bottom line with listening to or reading a book, especially early on, is that if you don’t like the subject, you won’t listen for too long. This means when you select a book, listen first to the sample narration to determine if you like it or, even worst case, can stomach the words coming out of the narrator’s mouth. The books won’t be 400 or 500 pages, but they may last for 10+ hours so make sure the person’s voice is dynamic and that it captures your imagination with the words being used and the way through which the meanings are expressed. When you find a really good book, you will find that those hours just fly right by.

Selecting the title

Selecting a book is really all about where you would like to go on your journey. There are over 42 different genres of books, with everything from science fiction and nonfiction to thrillers and action adventure. But the books I select and recommend have the common theme of adding content to my understanding of the places I am trying to go both figuratively and literally. My selections typically pertain to everything from ancient history and esoteric wisdom to motivational stories of success and business. And each one adds dots to my experiences I may be able to recall later in life. I strengthen that maybe to a definitely, as I add clips with notes directly in the Audible book so I can go back to the exact statement or lesson any time I want. That can reduce the searching of a 10-plus-hour book to just minutes or even seconds, depending on how good you are at capturing your areas of interest. 

Audible has more than 200,000 books that span the spectrum of interest from history to self-help to whatever it is that you could imagine. Select the one that interests you and captures your attention. Earn your badges and be proud of the knowledge gained in association with each badge and reward.

Figure 1

  1. Envie with TCH

A listening experience on cannabis creates a unique opportunity to learn something new, to take a fanciful journey of the imagination as you work to stay connected with the content while you allow your mind to take brief journeys in the directions of the things just heard. Remember to come back to the story you are listening to and take a long walk. I live in a very safe area with sidewalks and patient passersby but I still remain vigilant about what’s happening around me. I find that when I consume THC during a walk, I am even more aware of what’s happening around me, as brief periods of paranoia can emerge due to the sounds around you. But it’s easy enough to refocus. I find that smoked cannabis works best because it provides an impact within 10 or so minutes, but the high can last for several hours. That more than covers the time for a one-hour walk of focused ideation.

Additionally, the brain thinks differently when impacted by TCH and when moved into a High mindset position of focused ideation. As you walk, listen, fantasize, and imagine in the positive directions in which you are inclined to go, your brain will perform searches through what’s called the default mode network, which is a series of connections that are part of a network of regions in the brain. The searches, known as trans-derivational searches, work to recall images, sounds, and smells that are recalled from your experience and/or created from your memories.

The amazing thing about a walk combined with focused thought and TCH is that it enables the mind to perform multiple, simultaneous tasks as it moves between working to establish a reference to and understanding of what’s being heard, while potentially working on an executive function task or perhaps exploring the possibilities that may exist within one’s fantastical vision of possibilities.

As you walk and, depending on your interest in the topic you are listening to, you may be able to identify the exact piece of information necessary to close specific gaps in areas of thought you may be exploring.

At the end of that walk, you may find that in addition to gaining a greater understanding of the contents of the book, you may also find that you’ve been able to determine a like or dislike for the book, topic, or even the quality of the narration, which may provide hints for your next title.

  1. Repeat

The most important thing to understand about becoming a more effective investor in information is that you are building more raw materials for your tool chest in your specific areas of interest. But make sure that your interest doesn’t simply mirror the influencers who are doing what you think you would like to do. As with Steve Jobs, only his experiences could have created Apple. Focusing solely on where you think you need to focus can isolate you from the ideas that could help you to think differently. You become locked in an echo chamber, following someone else’s trajectory. 

As you listen to the different chapters of your audiobook, make sure that you continue to add clips to the chapters in the audio app because these are key reference points that you can return to at any point in the future.

Typically, on our life’s journey, we make certain observations that capture our attention…whether it be a website, a shape, a machine, or even a movement, for the person high on body kinetics. Unless we are extremely effective and organized, those observations, while offering great insights, are left behind when we move on to other observations.

This occurs in any number of ways: on our phones as well scroll through news feeds and find URLs that speak directly to our interests, as well as in our more general observations of what’s around us. Often we are successful at capturing the observations via a handwritten note, taking a photo, voice recording, video, etc., but inevitably, they seem to get lost from view and memory.

When you take note of a passage in an audiobook, you are able to capture that selection and quickly come back to the most important observations in the future. This in itself makes the observations stickier, allowing you to rapidly reselect the notes to recall the exact details of the passage.

Go back and listen again (Maybe)

After you’ve finished the book, move on to the next one that captures your interest but where possible, try to make sure that it again builds upon an area of sought-after knowledge either directly or indirectly. If the topics are related to a title you’ve recently listened to, even better, because even though there may be numerous gaps in your understanding of the book, know that knowledge layers, so any exposure you have to a topic will act as a foundation of understanding. This means that any additional topics you may choose that relate to or are connected to a prior book will build upon your knowledge and create an easier understanding of every related topic you listen to next.

Allow the process of discovery to take you where you are curious. There is an ancient law that states nothing comes from nothing, but from something comes something sub-similar. In understanding this law in greater depth, we can identify the fact that everything is connected. Connections in understanding, however, can only be made through the observations of the forms and functions we take note of through our experiences. 

Steve Jobs is noted for speaking of all of his ideas emerging only when he was able to connect the dots of his experiences. In doing so, he was able to conceive everything that he brought to market.

Gaining knowledge enables the connection of more dots, and the excitement associated with that awareness will strengthen the connections to even more diverse areas. While the first time you listen you may recall very little, and therefore specifics may be lost, if the topic was of interest, then the foundation of understanding has been more firmly established and you have been successful at creating more dots.

Establish the habit

At a certain point in our lives, we have to ask ourselves, what do I want and what am I willing to do to get it? Regardless of the individual answer, knowledge is required to build foundations of understanding, and the only way to build that knowledge is through exposure to the relevant information, regardless of how difficult you may find it to acquire.

Dean Kamen is a man who came to popular awareness during President Bill Clinton’s administration for his invention of a product he believed would change the course of the human experience. The invention: the Segway.

Though it failed to achieve the success he had touted, the story of his success touched me deeply because he was very forthright about the challenges he faced when he would read. He spoke of the fact that more often than not, he had to read the same passage multiple times, just to develop an understanding of the information presented in what he had read. He stated he basically had deficiencies in processing information, which required extra work to get through it, so that’s exactly what he did.

He worked extra hard and if the topic caught his attention, he knew that he would have to put in as much work as necessary to gain an understanding of that information. He had to put in the work, regardless of how difficult it may have been, because he desired the result at the end of the day – knowledge.

Oftentimes, we are embarrassed of our performance because we compare it to that of others, without evening knowing their stories.

Recently, I had a friend visit my home. This particular person was born disabled and had lived his entire life using a wheelchair for mobility. After about two hours at my home, he requested to use my restroom, which was basically a narrow corridor with a toilet at the end. I mentioned to him the situation and the fact that there would be no way for me to get him into and out of the bathroom – but that created no issue for him. He simply slid out of the chair, onto the floor, and pulled himself down the corridor to the bathroom, where he completed his business and returned back to his chair after about 10 minutes.

As I apologized for the situation and challenges with accessing the toilet, he responded, “It’s just part of the process,” without an ounce of shame or embarrassment in his voice.

Just like the challenges he faced in accessing the bathroom, deficiencies with comprehension should be treated the same way. Without complaints…. You do what you must do to move your life forward. Whether it’s crawling to the bathroom to use the facilities, or reading a book three times because the first two weren’t enough.

At first, this may be difficult, but you continue in spite of of the discomfort (boredom, short attention span, etc.) because regardless of how fruitless it may seem, knowledge is being gained, slowly, incrementally. Foundational layers are being established upon which more knowledge can be layered.

Each day, position yourself mentally for what you must do to move your life forward. Repeat this process through to the completion of the walk, the chapter, and even the book. And then do it again. When you reinforce a desired behavior with the behavior itself, your reservations, complaints, and challenges will begin to fade and if you follow the steps above and repeat it for five occurrences, then you will benefit from that increased knowledge and additionally from the health benefits of brisk walks and the enthusiasm it will create towards selecting your next title.

Once you have overcome the belief that you will never be able to learn from consuming the contents of a book, a new world of possibilities will emerge as you begin to search excitedly for the next title you have plans on listening to. And it all starts with your first book.

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