Why Books Don’t Work

I absolutely love books. I am an avid runner and I download audio books like no one’s business. As a productivity coach I am committed to being current and knowing all the things I can possibly know out there so that I can serve you the best. The only problem is, it’s a load of baloney. Knowing makes no actual difference in my life or yours.

What happens when you read a book? Do you learn the 67 habits of leadership or the 10 practices of team performance or the 21 things every manager must know, etc, etc, etc? For me what happens is that I get totally lit on fire with insights galore, my dopamine and adrenaline levels go up and I get that buzz of happiness since now I know all kinds of useful stuff. In reality, I read about 10-100 things that I can apply right now and hold on to maybe one or two. When I try them out in real life and they fail even once, I forget about them too! I get some moments of happiness and deep thoughts and no other real results. This is why most thought leaders start with a book as a teaser to their course because without the course, you’re going to forget everything in the book. And guess what, you may forget everything in the course as well.

What’s missing? ACTION and STRUCTURE.

We need to take action with anything we’ve read or it is merely entertainment, a distraction or an escape. Don’t get me wrong, those all have their place but when you’re reading a self development book, is it just for entertainment? No! It’s for expanding ourselves, taking on new ideas and new behaviors.

It’s like reading about swimming. You can’t learn to swim by reading about swimming. You must swim, flail around in the water, struggle, almost drown and then remember something you know and try it out.

How do we become good swimmers? We follow a schedule where we go to the pool regularly, we work with others and we get coaching.

To make sure this article doesn’t end up in the same pile, consider trying this with your next read:

  • Take the first tactic, strategy, approach, tip or tool mentioned in the book – ONLY ONE
  • Set up a structure to remember it, apply it, test it out, share it with others
    • This could be the 3 min plan/5 minute reflect approach:
      1. Put a reminder in your phone or computer to take 3 minutes every morning for at least a week to plan specific moments when you will apply the new item (e.g. “today – practice principle 2 of Dale Carnegie How to win friends and influence people: Show respect for other people’s opinions, never say “you’re wrong”. Opportunities – the weekly staff meeting, my client call, my kids at dinner)
      2. Set a reminder at the end of the day in your phone that says “Did you do it? What did you learn? What worked? What didn’t work? Who can you share this with?” Make notes and tell someone else what you’ve learned. We get to keep the things we talk about with another person in our brain on a whole deeper level.
  • After a week or more of doing that new thing, take on the next item

Now you may think, “That means if I read John Maxwell’s The 21 Indispensible qualities of a Leader it will take me more than 21 weeks to apply everything!” The good news is that most development books build on each other from chapter to chapter. Also, once you start this kind of ritualistic approach to taking action in your life you get better and faster at taking action. It all becomes a lot less scary. You actual won’t need to read as many books because you’re too busy being in action and actually getting results. You may start to feel…satiated and satisfied.

We are information and knowledge junkies that would rather pick up more info than get into action. To get really good at swimming, you have to spend some time swimming and you’re likely going to suck at it if you have never done it before. It won’t feel good or natural at first but after a few times in the pool, you’ll learn how to breathe more easily and get across the pool without as many breaks. You’ll be “a swimmer” and you’ll be wondering what the heck those people are doing reading about swimming and not getting wet!

Please share with me what you think about this article. If you like it please subscribe and share with others. Better yet, let’s discuss your coaching program for a more productive and happy life!

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