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Read. A lot.
Warren Buffett says, “I just sit in my office and read all day.”
What does that mean? He estimates that he spends 80% of his working day reading and thinking.
When asked how to get smarter, Buffett once held up stacks of paper and said, “Read 500 pages like this every week. That’s how knowledge builds up, like compound interest.”
All of us can build our knowledge, but most of us won’t put in the effort.
“Go to bed smarter than when you woke up.”
Finding the time to read is easier than we think.
In an interview he gave for his authorized biography The Snowball, Buffett told this story about Charlie Munger, his longtime business partner at Berkshire Hathaway:
“Charlie, as a very young lawyer, was probably getting $20 an hour. He thought to himself, ‘Who’s my most valuable client?’ And he decided it was himself. So he decided to sell himself an hour each day. Everybody should do this, be the client, and then work for other people, too, and sell yourself an hour a day.”
It’s important to think about the opportunity cost of this self-selling hour. On one hand, we can check Twitter, read some online news, and reply to a few emails while pretending to finish the memo that is supposed to be the focus of our attention. On the other hand, we can dedicate the time to improving ourselves. In the short term, we’re better off with the dopamine-laced rush of email and Twitter while multitasking. In the long term, the investment in learning something new and improving ourselves goes further.
Commenting on what it means to have knowledge, in How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler writes: “The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks.”
Can you explain what you know to someone else? Try it. Pick an idea you think you have a grasp of and write it out on a sheet of paper as if you were explaining it to someone else.
Another way to get smarter, outside of reading, is to surround yourself with people who are not afraid to challenge your ideas.
Develop into a lifelong self-learner through voracious reading; cultivate curiosity and strive to become a little wiser every day.
“An idea is something that won’t work unless you do.” - Thomas A. Edison
Most people go through life not really getting any smarter. Why? They simply won’t do the work required.
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