For years, I would pick up and read books like crazy.
If someone recommended it to me, then I went for it.
And while there was a lot of good in this, there was also a lot of waste.
And there was a lot of mental chaos created by reading so many books ad hoc.
Over the past couple of years, I've refined my process for selecting and reading books. In this post, I am going to share my mindset and my approach to this with you.
The problem with book recommendations
For a long time, I would just read anything. If someone more successful recommended a book to me, I went for it and assumed that their success was created by the book...
It's a crazy assumption but for many people early on in their career, it's easy to get into this trap of believing reading this next book will solve all my problems.
Yet here is what I have learned about book recommendations...
Books are valuable, not just because of the contents.
Books are valuable because they match a person's specific need at that moment.
Let me explain what I mean.
When I was in college, I started my first business. At that time, my mom picked up a book at a garage sale called "The Authoritative Executive."
It was a book about public speaking and improving your speaking abilities during business conversations.
This book rocked my world and was exactly what I needed at that point in time. As a kid who grew up with two parents who did not work in the business world, I could use some tips on how to navigate this dynamic.
But here's the thing...
To this day, I can't find that book anywhere online.. It's not even on Amazon. It's literally some book, so dated, that Amazon doesn't even carry it...
Which brings me back to my point.
It wasn't the contents of the book that were magical.
It was the fact that I read a book, on the topic, at the right point in time, when I needed the information.
Any book on public speaking or business soft skills would have done the trick.
And if I were to pick up that book today, I would probably laugh at how basic it was. Because at this point in my entrepreneurial journey, that book would not be valuable to me.
Hence the lesson, books are valuable because they match your need at that moment.
So the next time someone recommends a book to you, take it with a grain of salt. It may have changed their life, but just remember that it may have just hit them right when they needed it.
Too much reading creates mental chaos
Beyond the experience of being let down by a book recommendation, there is also mental chaos that comes from reading books at random.
So many early stage entrepreneurs that I meet struggle with "Entrepreneurial ADD", and I honestly believe reading too many books is a part of this.
With each book you read, you get too focused on the messages and concepts, and then change your whole business model or marketing tactics based on what you read.
This ends up leading to Shiny Object Syndrome, mental chaos, and not actually executing what any of the books teach you because you get distracted by the next book before you implement what you learned from what you just read.
How I choose to read books now
Today, I am intentional on the books I read. I'm not going to boast about reading 50 books per year like some people. Instead, I probably read 1-2 per month but I pick them with precision.
Here is my process.
Create a backlog of consistent recommendations
If one person recommends a book to me, I pretty much ignore it for the reasons I stated above. Even if they are insanely successful, I just don't trust a book recommendation on the advice of one person alone.
Now, if I start seeing this book recommendation popping up over and over again, that is when I take it into consideration and add it to a backlog of future reads.
On my computer, I keep a list of books that seem to keep popping up as recommendations. Typically, my filter is 3 disconnected sources that recommend a book before I will add it to the queue.
Note that these recommendations only get a book into my backlog of considerations, though. I don't immediately dive in until I pass it through my second filter below.
Choose books to fill your gaps
Today, I am extremely intentional on what books I read. I don't just read at random, but instead I read to fill certain mindset or skill set gaps that I may have.
For example, I want to start building some software products as part of the businesses that I am building, but I am a super newbie when it comes to actually working in software projects.
So I picked up a book on Scrum (a project management framework for managing software projects) so I could better learn how to manage software projects and lead teams of developers.
Another challenge I have is that at Content Allies, we are building a large team of creative professionals. This is an interesting challenge for me because a large portion of my Lead Cookie team are all operations professionals.
So I picked up a book specifically aimed at leading and managing creatives better.
Up next, I am picking up a book on financial management. I've studied this topic before but I still feel like my skills to manage business finances are weaker than they should be.
Instead of choosing books at random, I choose books to fill specific gaps in my mind sets and skill sets.
I'm consistently looking for where I am weak, and then I study to fill that gap.
Stop reading so much
Seriously... if you are a super rookie and in the early days of your entrepreneurial career, then consuming a ton of content is probably what you need.
But after year 1 or 2 of your entrepreneurial career, you will make far bigger gains by slowing down the fire hose of information and by being far more selective and intentional about what you choose to read.