16. Read What You Love Until You Love to Read

You should be able to pick up any book in the library and read it.

Read what you love until you love to read

Nivi: Before we go and talk about accountability and leverage and judgment, you’ve got a few tweets further down the line that I would put in the category of continuous learning.

They’re essentially, “there is no skill called business. Avoid business magazines and business class, study microeconomics, game theory, psychology, persuasion, ethics, mathematics and computers.”

There’s one other comment that you made in a Periscope that was, “you should be able to pick up any book in the library and read it.” And the last tweet in this category was, “reading is faster than listening, doing is faster than watching.”

Naval: Yeah, the most important tweet on this, I don’t even have in here unfortunately, which is, the foundation of learning is reading. I don’t know a smart person who doesn’t read and read all the time.

And the problem is, what do I read? How do I read? Because for most people it’s a struggle, it’s a chore. So, the most important thing is just to learn how to educate yourself and the way to educate yourself is to develop a love for reading.

So, the tweet that is left out, the one that I was hinting at is, “read what you love until you love to read.” It’s that simple.

Everybody I know who reads a lot loves to read, and they love to read because they read books that they loved. It’s a little bit of a catch-22, but you basically want to start off just reading wherever you are and then keep building up from there until reading becomes a habit. And then eventually, you will just get bored of the simple stuff.

So you may start off reading fiction, then you might graduate to science fiction, then you may graduate to non-fiction, then you may graduate to science, or philosophy, or mathematics or whatever it is, but take your natural path and just read the things that interest you until you kind of understand them. And then you’ll naturally move to the next thing and the next thing and the next thing.

Read the original scientific books in a field

Now, there is an exception to this, which is where I was hinting with what things you actually do want to learn, which is, at some point there’s too much out there to read. Even reading is full of junk.

There are actually things you can read, especially early on, that will program your brain a certain way, and then later things that you read, you will decide whether those things are true or false based on the earlier things.

So, it is important that you read foundational things. And foundational things, I would say, are the original books in a given field that are very scientific in their nature.

For example, instead of reading a business book, pick up Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. Instead of reading a book on biology or evolution that’s written today, I would pick up Darwin’s Origin of the Species. Instead of reading a book on biotech right now that may be very advanced, I would just pick up The Eighth Day of Creation by Watson and Crick. Instead of reading advanced books on what cosmology and what Neil Degrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking have been saying, you can pick up Richard Feynman’s Six Easy Pieces and start with basic physics.

Don’t fear any book

If you understand the basics, especially in mathematics and physics and sciences, then you will not be afraid of any book. All of us have that memory of when we were sitting in class and we’re learning mathematics, and it was all logical and all made sense until at one point the class moved too fast and we fell behind.

Then after that we were left memorizing equations, memorizing concepts without being able to derive them from first principles. And at that moment, we’re lost, because unless you’re a professional mathematician, you’re not going to remember those things. All you’re going to remember are the techniques, the foundations.

So, you have to make sure that you’re building on a steel frame of understanding because you’re putting together a foundation for skyscraper, and you’re not just memorizing things because you’re just memorizing things you’re lost. So the foundations are ultra important.

And the ultimate, the ultimate is when you walk into a library and you look at it up and down and you don’t fear any book. You know that you can take any book off the shelf, you can read it, you can understand it, you can absorb what is true, you can reject what is false, and you have a basis for even working that out that is logical and scientific and not purely just based on opinions.

The means of learning are abundant, the desire to learn is scarce

The beauty of the internet is the entire library of Alexandria times 10 is at your fingertips at all times. It’s not the means of education or the means of learning are scarce, the means of learning are abundant. It’s the desire to learn that’s scarce. So, you really have to cultivate the desire.

And it’s not even cultivating you’ve to not lose it. Children have a natural curiosity. If you go to a young child who’s first learning language, they’re pretty much always asking: What’s this? What’s that? Why is this? Who’s that? They’re always asking questions.

But one of the problems is that schools and our educational system, and even our way of raising children replaces curiosity with compliance. And once you replace the curiosity with the compliance, you get an obedient factory worker, but you no longer get a creative thinker. And you need creativity, you need the ability to feed your own brain to learn whatever you want.

Chapter 17 >>