You Don’t Get a Medal For That

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Awhile back, I was reading some of Ryan Holiday’s work. Ryan has a distinct way of putting things into perspective, a different outlook on life that in many ways pushes against the status quo. In particular, I’m always impressed with how much he (and many other writers I enjoy) read. They seem to put away books with an insatiable appetite. The books seem to give rise to different thought processes and opinions. So, to give it a try myself, I embarked on a quest of sorts – not only to read more, but to consume, comprehend, and apply the material I was reading. I loaded up my Kindle and ordered some material books to stock my shelves, ready to stuff my brain with new knowledge and change the way I think.

So, where are we now? Well, I’ve certainly managed to read more. Over the past few weeks, I’ve read On Writing, Good to Great, David and Goliath, and I’m nearly finished with Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard. Am I thinking differently? Maybe. Do I walk around quoting book excerpts and viewing life from a different perspective? Not exactly. Have I enjoyed my recent reading exploits? Moderately.

When I started trying to consume more material, I was doing it for all of the wrong reasons. Instead of enjoying the art of reading, I wanted to have already read the books I was purchasing. For some reason, I thought that mimicking others would somehow improve me as a result. I was reading through the books to attain some different level of status rather than for actual enjoyment and learning. Often times, I think this rings true in other areas of our lives as well. Retail stores create products that are, by default, addicting. We buy toys, electronics, clothes, and other items, not because we want them ourselves necessarily, but to join some sort of club and to be looked favorably upon in the face of others. The same sentiments ring true for my reading experiment. Yes, I love to read, and I will continue to do so. But, I’ll read on my own terms selecting books for enjoyment rather than for the off-chance that I can namedrop in conversation. If I was truly honest with myself, I’d have to say that David vs. Goliath and Switch were the only two books I enjoyed out of the recent list. I had to basically force myself to read through the other two.

For those that aren’t familiar with the book, Atlas Shrugged is a book by Ayn Rand. It’s popular both for its content and for its mega length.

As the holiday season closes in, it’s important to reflect on our thoughts and actions. It’s easy to fall prey to the typical consumer mentality where the best reason to get something is because everyone else already has it. But, in the end, those products aren’t worth much. Instead, do things that are meaningful to you. Buy things that you truly need or will use. Don’t hop on the group mentality and attempt to join a club of sorts with that latest and greatest item. At the end of the day, you don’t get a medal for that. At the end of the tunnel, there isn’t a group of people waiting to congratulate you on finally finishing Atlas Shrugged. So, what are you truly reading it for? I hope that answer is because you want to. Don’t waste your time trying to do something in the hopes that it elevates you to a certain status level.

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