In the course of a normal week I write three blogs, run an accounting practice, jog three hours, lift 3 hours, and read 3 or 4 books. I have thousands of books in my home and read countless more from the library. Some weeks I read fewer books, some weeks none at all, but I still spend plenty of time reading online and during the course of my work.
How can someone read so darn much while running a business and keeping his body fit? You smokin’ somethin’ WA? No, I am not smoking something. Besides, I always understood cocaine was supposed to keep you going until it burns you out and I don’t do that either. (Can you smoke cocaine?)
There is some truth about my sleep habits. During a normal week I sleep approximately 30-40 hours and meditate 10 hours. Meditation time can happen while walking or while sitting in a quiet room alone.
So let’s add up the numbers. There are 168 hours to a week the last time I checked. For arguments sake we will say I sleep 40 of those hours and meditate 10. I spend 40 hours dealing with issues in my tax practice and another 25 hours writing blog posts. Exercise takes another 10 hours (3 hours running; 3 hours lifting; 4 hours light aerobic). Mrs. Accountant and the junior accountants get 20 or so hours of my life each week. That leaves over twenty hours for reading and research. In fairness I sometimes read at the office (okay, I read a lot at the office).
There is one thing missing from my normal week compared to the average Americans’ life: TV. I watch limited amounts of TV and do not play video games or Pokémon. Any TV I watch is either background noise or educational videos. On rare occasion I will think through a problem while playing a mind numbing computer card game.
How the Wealthy Spend Their Time
Most weeks I do not finish four books. Over the course of a year I read 100-120 books, a bit over two books on average. Some weeks go by without any book completed. This week I drove a stake through The Fountains of Paradise, by: Arthur C. Clark; Meditations, by: Marcus Aurelius; The Fortress in Orion, by: Mike Resnick; and The Obstacle is the Way, by: Ryan Holiday. The remarkable thing about this week’s reading list is two novels are in the batch. Novels are less than 20% of the books I read and rarely for pleasure only. Novels I read generally illustrate a lesson I want to learn. For example: A Man in Full, by: Tom Wolfe is a great novel about Stoic living. A recent documentary mentioned a space elevator and The Fountains of Paradise, hence the addition to this week’s reading list.
Some books have more meaning than others. I have read Meditations online, but wanted a copy to take with me to read when I have a few minutes available. Meditations is the kind of book you read again and again. It is a short book, but takes time to read as each passage has meaning requiring reflection.
Therein lies a truth. There is a direct negative correlation between how much TV you watch per week and your income. The wealthiest people in our society watch modest amounts of television and what they do watch tends to be educational videos. Meaningful books are the one alternative to TV that will affect your income positively. What you learn from books has a direct application to real life.
The more books you read the more people think you are a speed reader. Nothing is further from the truth. I tend to read on the slow side and, with the exception of novels, go back a re-read some passages to fully digest the meaning. Where I get the volume of my reading in is during the 20 or so hours per week allotted to reading.
Those dead times in between tasks is also great for reading. Like Charlie Munger, sometimes people think I am a book with legs and arms sticking out.
Buy the Damn Book
A thousand or so books adorn my humble abode. My frugality is tested when books are involved. Many of the books I read I return to and review them again so owning them makes sense. There are times I read library books and later buy the book so I can return to it again and again at will. My vast reservoir of knowledge is not from some magical elixir. I know you want to be frugal, but knowledge is not where you practice frugality. I am into wealthy: wealth of knowledge and financially.
Books are cheap. Amazon sent me Meditations for $1, shipping included. I have Amazon Prime at the office so shipping is free. But come on. $1? I’ll wear Meditations out as I lug it everywhere reading passages at every opportunity. You read books like that again and again. Trust me, I’ll get my $1 out of that book.
The Meaning of Life
There is no other way to acquire the knowledge of the ages straight from the source other than books. Movies and videos cannot show you great men and women from past ages; they can only give an abridged and modified (to fit the format of television) version of the original. Stoics shared a wealth of knowledge from 2,000 years and more ago; I can hear their voices in the words they wrote. I can’t call Thomas Jefferson and jawbone ideas of polity; I can read the volumes he wrote. Even people still alive do not have time to tell everyone all the knowledge they wrote in books! Imagine all the stuff I share on this blog. If you stand around me long enough you will get a strong flavor of my beliefs, values, and ethics. But when you read this blog you get something more, plus you can return again and again reading and re-reading the information. It may sound strange, but I have to go back to my own work at times to relearn a lesson. Keeping all your knowledge front brain is not possible.
The other part of reading is travel. You can live in a hundred places in a thousand ages with books. You can travel strange new worlds and times all in one afternoon. You can be a child again or experience old age. You can join Viktor Frankl in the Nazi concentration camps without any risk. You can learn and experience with books.
Why Do I Read So Much?
This is a crazy question to my ears. How can you not read so much? Turn off social media and the idiot box and crack a book. Training videos can teach a lot, but nothing beats a good book. When I hear statistics like the average American does not read another meaningful book once they leave school I am perplexed. College is only a start, not an end game! Your education never ends. Only a small fraction of your education is formal and that is if you even attended college.
Every day you breathe. Every day you eat and drink to nourish the body. If you do not also feed your mind daily you will die just as fast as or faster than if you forgot to eat or breathe. I read so much because I am alive.