First, a confession. If you visit my house, you will notice a rather prominent section of my bookshelves devoted to self help kinds of books. They cover everything under the sun from particular personal issues I have had to work through, to “how to” books on every success topic you can imagine.
I tell you this so you will understand that I am not writing this because I am somehow inherently wise or knowing, but instead I am writing this as one who has learned this lesson the hard way. I’ve lived this one.
If you are reading this, the odds are pretty good you have a similar collection of books. Maybe even some of the same ones I have. Like me, you often scour the bookshelves or the web looking for that book that will make a difference, avidly reading through the latest volume looking for that “ah ha” snippet that will change everything. (I happen to use yellow highlighters on mine.).
Part of me took a certain satisfaction in having read all these books. I knew stuff. I knew the way. Heck, I knew twenty ways to get to everything. So why then, wasn’t I “there”? Why, with all this knowledge, wasn’t I further along my path to where I wanted to be.
Then I got my real “ah-ha” moment. I read too much.
It hit me when I read Stephen Pressfield’s book, “Do The Work.” In it he makes this (for me) radical proposition. After you’ve read two or three books on something… stop. You know enough to stop reading and start doing.
You see, we can read and read and read, but until we put something to work, all that reading is useless. It’s theory. At some point we have to stop and DO. And all too often, it’s too much reading that keeps us from actually putting things to work.
Soon after I read Pressfield’s “Do The Work”, I started a new project. I took many of the books I have read over the past decade and created a huge mind map of what they said and taught, to get a feel for how much overlap there was.
And guess what? They were remarkably the same in what they taught. Oh, they had different turns of phrase and approach, but all in all, they had the same two dozen or so points. Read two or three of them and we actually have what we need to move forward.
Now, obviously I am not saying to stop reading. If you did, what would writers like me do? But I do see the point. Too often we spend so much time searching, when we actually have the answers right in front of us. We have what we need to begin.
There is no next magic bullet.
The magic comes from taking what we read and doing something with it, and giving it time to work, to simmer and stew and create that wonderful thing that is your life. Just like a cookbook, there is pleasure in reading about it, but the real pleasure, the deeper joy is in creating the dish, savoring it and eating it.
So maybe it’s time to NOT buy that next book. Maybe it’s time to think over what you have read, and jump in.
With both feet.