On Retaining Life-Changing Lessons from Books and Blogs

By: Jonathan Guerrera In: Optimized Learning 3 Jun 2011

I often find that the powerful lessons and inspiration I derive from great books often fade within a month. I find it incredibly upsetting, and even frustrating, that I can experience such a powerful shift in how I view my life and the world around me, yet lose that perspective so quickly after.

In The Happiness Hypothesis, which is by far my favorite book on the subject of happiness, Jonathan Haidt expresses this frustration beautifully:

“Wisdom is now so cheap and abundant that it floods over us from calendar pages, tea bags, bottle caps, and mass e-mail messages forwarded by well-meaning friends…Quantity undermines the quality of our engagement. With such a vast and wonderful library spread out before us, we often skim books or read just the reviews. We might already have encountered the Greatest Idea, the insight that would have transformed us had we savored it, taken it to heart, and worked it into our lives.”

Prior to the Internet and the mass production of books, it was easy for someone to re-read the same book multiple times to really absorb the lessons and teachings it imparted (The Bible being a primary example). Nowadays, you could spend hours using StumbleUpon, catching up with dozens of well-written blogs, and then reading a few books on the subject of your choice. Your retention plummets when new information is consumed in this fashion day after day.

Therefore, I’m writing this post as a reminder all who are concerned with transforming themselves and their lives in positive, meaningful ways to create a list of books, movies, and/or blog posts that have strongly impacted you in the past. Re-read them. Let them soak in. Keep them close by to re-read again a week or a month from now. Just as in practicing a skill, repetition will bring you the results you desire.

If you’re interested in learning more about the dangers of the glut of information in our society, I strongly recommend some of my other posts on the subject:

http://www.livingforimprovement.com/how-to-avoid-information-overload/
http://www.livingforimprovement.com/skimming-a-side-effect-of-information-overload-and-how-to-avoid-it/
http://www.livingforimprovement.com/can-blogs-and-magazines-inhibit-long-term-learning/
http://www.livingforimprovement.com/are-you-reading-to-learn-or-reading-to-finish/

Happy reading!

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I'm Jon Guerrera, a life hacker at heart, and the man behind the scenes here at Living For Improvement. This blog documents all of my successes, failures, and lessons learned as I hack my way to happiness and fulfillment.


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