Make Time To Read

Jason Shen

I’ve always been a reader.

Growing up, I would read everything I could put my hands on. I read 20 books one summer to win a library contest. I love reading fantasy novels filled with dragons and spells and magicians – to the point where I’d hide books inside whatever reading in English and read during class.

As I got older, I started to enjoy non fiction, particularly business, psychology and personal development. I like that I can get useful, practical and actionable knowledge that I can use to make my work and life more successful.

Earlier this year, I ran into to a VC I knew. He had a friend with him who saw that I was holding a book – The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman (a book densely packed with wisdom, by the way). This VC’s friend asked to see the book and examined it briefly.

“When I was in business school, one of my professors was an angel investor. Made over 90 major investments and lots of money. He said he never read business books – they were a waste of time.” he said, as he handed the book back to me.

“My recommendation? Don’t read it.”

That guy is a complete moron.

That attitude really pisses me off. It’s one thing to say you don’t have time to read (which I respond – do you have time to eat? to sleep? to exercise? Because reading is on that level). It’s another thing to say it’s actually useless to read.

I once heard someone say that reading a book is like having a conversation with the author. Which means I’ve been able to chat with some really smart dudes: the former/current CEO’s of General Electric, Zappos and Amgen (one of the most successful biotech companies in the world) for instance. Those guys poured hundreds of hours into distilling decades of business knowledge into books that I’ve had a chance to read.

If you’re interested in succeeding in business and that’s not worth 15 bucks and a few hours of you’re time, you’re hallucinating.

Perhaps that professor was able to succeed without reading business books but that does not at all make it a broadly applicable heuristic.

Whatever field you want to succeed in, I guarantee there are books that you ought to read that would give you immense value and a competitive edge. So make the time. It’s so worth it.

I’ll end with a quote from Mark Twain:

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”

I know what kind of man the VC’s friend and his professor falls under – what about you?

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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and talent expert. He is CEO of a performance hiring platform called Headlight, a Fast Company contributor, and an advocate for Asian American men. Follow him on Twitter at @jasonshen and subscribe to his private newsletter.

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  1. The reasonable take on the “don’t read books” argument is that learning too much doctrine limits your ability to look at things from a fresh perspective and exercise your own judgement. The solution then is to read critically! Don’t simply accept what you read at face value but filter it through your own critical faculties. Read the things that you expect to be useful to yourself…don’t read the accepted texts simply because you are expected to.

    Refusing to read something that does prove useful because some professor told you not to is exactly the same sort of behavior that the professor was discouraging…

  2. Hi Jason :)

    I agree with your point here. As I’m finishing my PhD, writing regularly in my two blogs and starting to write an ebook on time management, time is scarce but I always try to find time to read interesting blogs and more importantly, interesting books. The problem comes when I want to do a review of them and have to hurry… or re-read them because in two weeks I may have read two books!



  3. The problem is when people use books to live through it. The other problem is when people shun them entirely. Read the books and get inspiration from them to help them guide your direct experiences.

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