What book have you read that has changed your life?
The fact of the matter is, no book has ever changed your life. Books don’t change lives. Quotes change lives.
I used to say that The Four-Hour Work Week changed my life. I now recognize it didn’t. It couldn’t. No book could, because we are, in large part, the sum total of our memories, and I can’t remember entire books. Unless you’re some kind of savant, you can’t either. What we remember are tiny snippets of books–quotes, and it’s those quotes that change our lives.
For example, when I read the FHWW a certain part stuck out to me. To paraphrase Tim Ferriss:
You don’t want a million dollars, you want the lifestyle you believe having a million dollars would give you.
I’ve only read the book once (I think), and this is one of the few things I remember from the book. But that thought has gone through my head over and over and over again in the years since I first read it. Having that quote stuck in my head has constantly reminded me that money is not the goal, it’s just means to an end, and that I need to focus on the real objective because perhaps I can get it without money, or without as much money as I think I need.
The FHWW contains hundreds of pieces of useful information, but I probably don’t remember more than 10 of them, if that. But that’s exceptional. Most of the time when I read a book I can’t remember a single quote or lesson from it a year later. If a book is very good, I might remember one or two quotes from it. Here are a few examples of my favorite books and the lessons I’ve learned from them:
- Platform by Michael Hyatt. Lesson: “If you want to influence people, you need to always be looking for ways to build your platform and spread your message.”
- Getting More by Stuart Diamond. Lesson: “Hold people to their own standards.”
- Quiet by Susan Cain. Lesson: “Loud people attract our attention, but quiet people have just as many good ideas.”
- Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday. Lesson: “It’s a good intro to growth hacker marketing, so give it to other people when you want them to start learning about growth hacking.”
- Smartcuts by Shane Snow. Lesson: “Think laterally–don’t assume the straightforward way is the best way, and that when it doesn’t work well you just need to work harder. Work smarter, not harder.”
These aren’t quotes from the books, this is what I think about the books. It’s what is in my head. I can’t remember much else from the books, although if I came across a situation that is addressed by a specific part of Getting More, then I might recall that relevant lesson from the book, even if I can’t when you ask “What did you learn from Getting More?” But even if I can remember a lesson or a quote from a book in the moment, that doesn’t compare to having a quote constantly circulating in my head. The quotes that change my life are the ones I think of every day, even when not prompted to. This is what has happened when we say “This book changed my life!”
You might say this is just semantics, that when someone says “This book changed my life,” they’re not saying they remember the entire book all the time. Yes, of course you could say that even if you only remember a small part of a book the book has still changed your life. Nevertheless, it’s important to understand that it is quotes from books that change lives, not entire books, because understanding this allows you to take simple steps to make sure the great books you read change your life in ways far beyond one or two helpful ideas.
If you want a book to remain influential in your life, you’ll need to “quotify” the books you read. That means writing down the key points, and putting those points or quotes where you’ll see them regularly. For example, in Stuart Diamond’s book he lists 13 points or tips for “getting more.” I don’t remember what they are. It would take substantial work for me to memorize them. But it’s pretty easy for me to type up that list, print it out, and stick it on the wall of my office. Over time, those 13 points will become ingrained in my thoughts, applying them will become habits, and then those 13 points will change my life. Otherwise Getting More will merely be “that really good book I read and which I need to go read again sometime because I can’t remember now exactly what it said I should be doing.”
Are you reading a great book right now? Quotify that book, put the quotes in a prominent place where you’ll see them without having to remember, and let me know how it changes your life.Liked it? Share it!
Of course the quote means more if you’ve read the book. Otherwise it’s just one more awesome quote in the ocean. I do wish I had quotes from several books that I remember were great, but I’ve forgotten what they said. Like The Power of Habit and Mindset, recently. I wish someone else would take out their important quotes and lists and share them with me…
If you want a book to remain influential in your life, you’ll need to “quotify” the books you read. . Otherwise Getting More will merely be “that really good book I read and which I need to go read again sometime because I can’t remember now exactly what it said I should be doing.”
Well said! I’m going through “Getting More” as an Audible book right now and this post has me thinking that I ought to go through it in print. I find that reading in print (Vs audio) allows me to go deeper.
Regarding extracting value from books, have you heard of Ryan Holiday’s notecard system (adapted from Robert Greene -> http://ryanholiday.net/the-notecard-system-the-key-for-remembering-organizing-and-using-everything-you-read/)? I think you will find it valuable.
I wish I could go through more books in print, but I finish perhaps one per year that way, while I read 100+ each year on audio. I just don’t have time to sit down with a book or put everything else aside, but I have lots of time when I’m commuting, exercising, etc. when I can listen to an audio book.
I hadn’t yet heard about Holiday’s organization system with notecards. I just started checking it out. That could be quite handy for upcoming projects…although knowing myself I’ll probably try to figure out how I can create a cloud-based version.