Work Hacks Wednesdays: Read an Outrageous Amount

Here’s an interesting thought. When people thought of their schedules, they always wished they exercised and read more than they did. There was absolutely no one who wished they exercises or read less.

Stories are a huge part of our life. Stories are how we communicate to ourselves. When the going gets tough and when we have a tough call to make, we scan our mind for stories of similar situations. If we find negative stories, we are deterred from taking action. If we find positive stories, we do take action very enthusiastically.

Sometimes, the stories we do have are not directly linked to the decision we need to make but we find key similarities and act on our hunches any way. When this goes well, we call it creativity. The more stories we have, the more easy it is to take these decisions. This, of course, is what we call experience. In essence, I think of experience as a collection of stories in our minds.

We are all capable of creativity in our own fields of interest. It requires a bit of belief and a bit of habit. Experience is of course a different game altogether. If you’ve been around, doing things and learning for 50 years, your life alone probably provides enough stories for that mental scanner. If you haven’t, what do you do then?

There are 2 ways of gaining stories aside from our own experiences – stories from the wise that comes from time spent with them and books.

If you have the opportunity to spend lots of time with the wise, that’s great. Often though, such opportunities are few and far between and they are beyond our control. Books, however, are completely in our control.

So, that would be my recommendation – read books. Read all kinds of books – dabble in history, human behaviour, psychology, philosophy, biography/autobiography, science, self help, business, management, leadership, persuasion. Start with what appeals most to you and then keep testing out new topics. Over time, you may find topics you like most or maybe you won’t. It doesn’t matter.

I can’t thank books enough because they’ve given me something of value to talk about during conversations with people vastly more experienced.

So, read outrageously. Read everyday. It’s not that hard, really. I’ve been doing 30 minutes of reading every day. Some days, this goes much higher but on most days, it’s at least 30 minutes. I’m sure you can do more, and better..

PS: When I say this, I fully recognize ‘reading’ is not for everyone. I ‘listen’ to books myself. If you are interested, do check out an earlier post on Audible.

PPS: If you are looking for help getting started, do feel free to check out ‘Everything Books’ or my book review blog

Hor Woan Shiang, Jessica

When I was in my final 2 years of High School, studying at NUS/National University of Singapore was the big dream. My mom had injected a lot of enthusiasm about studying abroad and Singapore felt like the perfect place thanks to the 100% merit scholarship that you could avail. That way, I could realize that second dream of not having my folks pay for my education.

It feels like a long time ago now…

Anyway, when I did get this scholarship in the 2nd year of my high school on the condition that I would be given the scholarship if I managed to secure admission (i.e. meet the cut off score required), the emails used to come from Hor Woan Shiang, Jessica. It was a good 10 months or so before I finally made it into university and all the way until then,

I peppered her with a few questions every once in a while and recall her patiently answering them. I remember not having too many. I just wanted to know when I’d know if I’m in. After the admissions hurdle was passed, it was questions around documents, admin etc etc and Jessica was always around to answer those questions. Jessica represented university to me before I got there. Jessica was my scholarship angel.

I remember my first dinner at university with a few friends and new senior year friends chatting about how we got there and munching on some fries from McDonalds. Jessica was a common link for most of us and funnily enough, nobody had met her. I made a mental note that I must meet her…

And thus, 4 years passed by very quickly. In the apparent blink of an eye, it was time to graduate and I remember putting together a list of things I wanted to do before I graduated. That’s about when I remembered that I wanted to meet Jessica. And I did. I sent her an email, found out where she sat and met her.

It was a brief 15 minute odd meeting. I am guessing she didn’t know what to make of it but I remember being so happy having met her. It made such a difference. All I could manage was a ‘thank you’. How could I explain how she represented a dream of a young and eager 17 year old?

We are in the age of email and every one of us has is almost certain to have an email angel. Sometimes, this angel is a customer service rep of a service we use, the assistant of an important client, the assistant of a very important person in our own company.. somebody we have wonderful exchanges with over email, and I’m sure there are a few. These people fill us with positivity when we see their names in our Inbox because we know they stand for good news.

It’s hard to thank such folks because it’s hard to explain what they mean to us. How can words ever describe a dream, a key mile stone or a break through that they played a big part in, unknowingly – just by being there?

I just hope we make that extra effort to go meet them. Or least, of all, speak to them over the phone and thank them.

We never know what sort of a difference it can make.

On that note, thanks Jessica! You made more of a difference than you will ever know..

‘Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.’