For as long as I can remember, people have referred to me as a bookworm. As a kid I was as likely to have my nose stuck in a novel - whether it was Doctor Who or The Brothers Karamazov - as I was to kick a soccer ball. When I was a foreign correspondent, I used to return to my Mexico City apartment from visits to New York with a suitcase full of books.
I believe extended reading teaches your brain to concentrate and that concentration is the key to original thinking. Unfortunately, smartphones often feed the kind of quick-fire checking-and-skimming that erodes concentration, rather than enhances it. And I must admit that as a busy 30-something dad, my concentration span isn't what it used to be. When I get on the subway at 7am knowing I have an epic to-do list, I'm not always keen to spend my commute reading an issue-long New Yorker piece.
A year or two ago, I found the solution: podcasts. And I was delighted to find that the extended format of podcasts (and audio books) fed the same kind of concentration as chunky books. Pretty soon I could be seen on the train with a look of deep concentration as I digested long-form discussions and the audio versions of American history classics.
These audios give smart people the room to really explore ideas behind what they're best known for. And it's impactful: podcasts have changed my opinion on the ethics of eating meat, why brands fail when they try to enter a new business and the dark side of Silicon Valley culture. Professionally, I've found that even very focused podcasts like CFO Thought Leader can have huge influence for the same reason: the right audience is listening, and they are listening for extended periods.
Podcasts show how smartphones don't have to lead to endless distraction. It's just about finding the right way to apply the bookworm mindset to a new format. And, of course, having the right story to tell.
You are what you read. The information that you input into your mind informs your thinking patterns, and it influences your output in the form of the decisions you make, the work you produce, and the interactions you have. That’s a huge incentive to prioritize a block of time to think about what and how you consume, and whether or not you read adequately relative to the progress you want to make. It’s a reason to maybe pause and consider if you can do anything to purposefully shape the direction of your mind.