Read Nonfiction For Fun And Profit

Whenever a trader on Wall Street loses all his money, one of the most common criticisms you’ll hear from an experienced trader is that the gentleman spent all his time with other traders.

You can always spot people within a bubble. Many poker players have severely dated strategies because they spend all their time with other poker players. They don’t understand how normal people are thinking about the game.

This is why you should develop interests outside of poker. This is why you should develop relationships outside of poker.

One way to befriend pretty much anyone is to know about their industry. This information can be found through reading.
In addition, one way to make more money than you deserve is to be well read. This will allow you to share interesting conversation with powerful individuals, and sneak into jobs that were previously unavailable to you. In normal life too, people enjoy a friend who is balanced and can offer both sidse of an issue in a rational way. They also enjoy anyone who genuinely seems to care about understanding the world around them.

Finally, stealing concepts from other industries that apply to poker is one of the most enjoyable endeavors in the world. Why would you wait for some poker trainer to make a concept too popular to use when you can swipe an obscure concept that Soviet chess pros were using in the 50’s?

If you can’t tell by now, I love reading. It’s fun to think more fully, and it gives you an unfair advantage in life. There’s a reason Mark Cuban says he reads for four hours a night, and the average CEO reads 50 books a year. Or so I’ve been told in Facebook ads.

If you want to read nonfiction correctly, however, there’s a method to it.

For one, pick books that have stood the test of time. This means it’s either an ancient text that people still use today, or the concepts have been so widely discussed that a large error would be discovered.

Notice I did not say the concepts were accepted. I just said "discussed." If no one can find an error in an argument, but it is unpopular, you must hop on that book.

Don’t be swayed by a book just because it was written by an expert. People will hand me a book and say, "read this, an economist wrote it." These people fail to realize that every market crash that has hapened in the past few decades occurred while several thousand economists were consulting for large investing firms, and almost none of them spotted it.

Look for someone who has some skin in the game, as Nicholas Nassim Taleb would put it. You want to see that the person’s money or personal safety is wrapped up in what they’re saying. You can be fairly certain that Ayaan Hirsi Ali, for example, is telling you what she believes is the truth, because there’s a good chance that she’ll die one day for what she’s said.

Typically, contrarians are fun to read. They have a lot riding on what they write. If they towed the popular line of the day, they’d make a tidy profit and could cry, "everyone else said the same thing!" if it turned out they were wrong. If they’re saying something wildly different than the norm, then they’re risking looking like an idiot if they’re wrong.

Popular science is interesting, but it doesn’t apply to your life that often. Learning how the brain works is akin to learning how the heart works. It’s fascinating, but it won’t help you control your heart beating.

Biographies are fun and inspirational, but remember there’s a huge survivorship bias in what biographies you’re reading. No one writes a biography about someone who flamed out in the business world, yet if they did you’d probably see the same character traits of the successful entrepreneurs: Willingness to trust their instincts above all else, an appetite for large risks, etc.

Teddy Roosevelt said a man must read with his interests. If you want to read a great deal, you’ll need to fan whatever flames are kindling. Once they peter out you can go back to reading what you feel you must read.

Feel free to read more than one book at once. I know a bunch of people who could grow their consulting prowess greatly by reading more, but fail to do so because they find a terrible book and insist on finishing it before they go to another.
I’ve read thousands of books over the last few years, but only finished around 150 of them.  The others I read the leading chapters (where most of the good stuff is anyway), any follow-up chapters I found interesting, and I skimmed or ignored the rest. It’s not uncommon for me to get halfway through a book and just give up. They’ve taken my money already. I don’t need to give them my time.

Many people insist on using Blinkist to get 20-minute summaries of every new nonfiction book that comes on the market. I think that’s a good idea if you need to be somewhat aware of what’s in a book for a business setting, but I can never remember a damn thing I learn from a Blinkist summary.

"I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me." ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I can never remember a Blinkist summary I read, but if I read the actual book anecdotes will continually ruminate within my memory.

What Blinkist is really good for is reviewing books you have read. If there was a book that helped you a great deal, rereading it might take too long. However, a Blinkist summary will help you recall key concepts which perhaps didn’t apply to your life during the first reading.

Seneca discussed in one of his letters how men are better off learning deeply from a few texts as opposed to skimming hundreds. John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, was taught by his father to approach learning in a similar fashion.

You start books precisely to abandon them. If the text doesn’t do anything for you, then nothing is going to change that.
If something really resonates with you, however, you should read that book twice.

Read it through once to get the macro lessons. Then, read one page a day. Read that one page and highlight what’s truly important. E-readers make this much easier now.

Go about your day with just the highlighted passage in your mind to absorb it.

A year later, go through the Blinkist summary again to see if there’s anything you missed before.

Be sure to discuss any ideas you get with some intelligent person with an incredible BS detector.

"If you want to really learn something, teach it," as Richard Feynman put it. Presenting ideas you’ve learned to someone is a great way to make the material part of you. Delivering these transmissions to an intelligent person with a different psychological bend than yours is beneficial for helping you identify your blind spots. 

This is why men should try to have female friends. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve presented an idea my male friends and I have loved to a female friend and had a very obvious hole poked in the concept. Different perspectives are helpful.

Finally, if you want to get more reading time in, get an Audible account and start listening to books on your commute and while you do errands. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to finish a book within a week if you have a subway commute and the habit of cooking at home. Just be aware that you will not retain as much information from an audiobook as you would if you were reading a paperback.

As someone who practically grew up in public libraries (I would often sleep at one between poker games), I cannot tell you how much reading has helped me. It is no surprise to me how many great men have been readers.

If you think about it, it would be incredibly powerful to occupy one person’s body and feel the thoughts they think while you occupy it. How much more would you understand the world if you could literally see through the eyes of another person?

The closest you’ll ever get to that is reading.

It’s magical. A mind that has been gone for thousands of years can still harmonize with yours through the written word.
What books should you read specifically? Whatever helps you feel as if you’re thinking at a higher level. I don’t think it’s my place to make those recommendations. That’s on you to find out.

I hope these tips have been helpful to your poker game and life. Good luck to all of you.

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