Hello there! Welcome to the last lesson. Once again it’s Time 2 Read!
Are you enjoying your reduced control so far? I hope the Nothing Alternative has been fruitful for your reading time.
Today we’ll talk about one of life’s most underrated aspects. It’s something all kids are professionals in – even though it’s never taught in school. Out of all the things that make the difference between a good life and a great life, this is the easiest one to miss: having fun.
Warren Buffett vs. Pikachu
“Niiiiiiklaaaaaaas! Come do-hoooown, diiiinner’s ready!”
It must’ve been the 4th time my Mum called for me that evening.
“I’ll be down in a second, I just have to save my progress!”
Ha, right! As if there was any way to save your game during a Pokémon fight. It wasn’t that simple. You had to either win or lose first. Then you could save.
Needless to say I didn’t come down right away.
“If you stare at a screen all day you’ll get square eyes, you know that?”
Of course I knew that wasn’t true. Which is probably why my Mum and Dad had to pull the plug on me playing video games a whole bunch of times when I was a kid.
You see, it all started when I was six years old. My parents got me a Game Boy for my birthday. Remember the original Game Boy? The one that looked like a brick – and was just as heavy?
The moment I turned on this magical piece of machinery, I was hooked.
Guess what my favorite series of games was? Pokémon.
I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing those games. If not thousands. I remember at one point they even banned them from our school, because all the kids did during breaks was to stand around the schoolyard, trading Pokémon and battling each other.
To this day, I think most of those hours were well invested. Adults always tell children that video games are a waste of time. Even before gaming became a billion dollar industry that was wrong.
But now, since the most popular Youtube channel in the world belongs to a gamer (Felix “Pewdiepie” Kjellberg with 48,685,894 subscribers), paying attention to video games is well worth your time.
I swear, it’s not just me who thinks this way. Why don’t we ask one of the richest men in the world what he thinks?
On a beautiful day in 1940 a skinny, green-eyed kid with parted hair walks up to the front desk of the Omaha Public Library. He drops a copy of ‘The Nebraska Taxpayer’ right in front of the receptionist.
“Done!” he exclaims with a smile. And by “done” he really means DONE. The 10 year-old boy has just finished the last book of the finance section. He’s read all of the books about finance in the entire library.
His name is Warren Buffett, and he’s just getting started.
A little over one year later he bought his first three shares of stock. They were the first of many, some of which made him a millionaire 20 years later and the world’s richest man in 2008.
While a lot of things changed over the years of his career as the world’s most popular investor, one thing has always stayed the same: Warren reads. All. Day. Long.
In various interviews he’s stated that he routinely reads over 500 pages a day, an activity that takes up roughly 80% of his work time – or 5-6 hours daily.
Granted, most of this reading goes towards financial statements and annual reports by now, but you can also rest assured that at any given moment, Warren has a stack of at least a dozen or more books sitting at home, waiting to be devoured.
And his business partner, Charlie Munger, is the same:
“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads–and at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.” – Charlie Munger
Looking at how much Warren Buffett reads, you could almost think he’s playing a game – always eager for the next level, the next 500 page stack, waiting to be “beaten.”
In fact, much of Warren’s life is devoted to actual games. For example, he’s a passionate Bridge player and devotes up to 12 hours every week (!) to playing this card game – sometimes with fellow fan and Forbes list forerunner Bill Gates.
Warren loves to play mind games too, so when he’s not reading, playing bridge or at a basketball or Nebraska football game, he sometimes even makes up ones that he can use to teach others.
One of them is “the classmate game” in which you have to pick one of your high school or college classmates from whom you’ll receive 10% of all of their lifetime earnings and another one to go short 10%.
Think about who you’d pick for the former. What would you look for? The person with the highest IQ? The best looks? The most “well-rounded” résumé?
No. Probably, you’d pick the person who you think is most ambitious, honest, generous, loyal and dedicated. But none of these things are traits that you’re born with. They’re self-selected, good habits.
Of course, the goal of making such a list is to eventually acquire all of these habits yourself, because ultimately, you want to be the person you’d like to “buy” 10% of.
Looking at how Warren’s played the game of his own life, I’m pretty sure reading would make the list.
On July 6th, 2016, a little-known company named Niantic released a new game app. Within 24 hours, it was the most downloaded app of all time on both the Apple and Android app stores. Two months after its release, it’s made $440 million in revenue – or $7.3 million per day.
The name of the game? Pokémon Go.
20 years after the original game was released, the franchise made its first foray into augmented reality. Using the app, players can navigate the real world with a map, stopping at checkpoints and catching Pokémon in real life.
Thanks to camera-equipped phones it even looks like that Pikachu sits right in front of you. You can catch Pokémon, breed them, evolve them, and place them in arenas around your city to fight.
(The early bird catches the…other bird that’s sitting on the coffee table)
Not only that, since you have to go outside, you inevitably run into other players in the real world. In some hotspots hundreds, even thousands of players gathered at a time.
Just take a look at this crowd at the water tower in Mannheim on a casual Monday evening (photo courtesy of yours truly):
I know what you’re going to say. But yes. They’re ALL playing.
While it’s fun to feel nostalgic and catch all these Pokémon the way I wish I could’ve caught them 15 years ago, it’s just as fun to ask interesting questions about why this game is such a mega-success.
Here’s what I think is going on (and why Warren Buffett would probably love to play it).
The Pokémon Principle
So why are games so addicting? And what makes them so much fun? More importantly, how can you use this to your reading advantage?
To answer these questions, let’s turn to those who’ve committed their lives to studying games – I’m thinking about three scientists in particular: Nir Eyal, Jane McGonigal and the rather hard to pronounce Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (I think it’s mi-ha-yee cheek-sent-me-high-yee).
Nir would like to take the first question: why are games so addicting?
In his book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Nir describes a four-part model, which gets us to habitually adopt certain products into our daily lives. It looks like this:
This model is the reason you use some products as regularly as you do (for example Facebook, your TV, and hopefully soon books). Here’s what happens when you run through a hook cycle:
Something triggers you, either externally (for example a notification on your phone) or internally (for example a strong feeling like boredom or loneliness), to use the product.
You perform a very simple action, like scrolling through your Facebook feed to…
…get to the reward, which can be social, personal, material or informational.
In doing so you invest into the product, for example your time, energy, or money, which makes it better and more likely that you’ll use it again in the future.
Each investment leads to another trigger, which gets you to run through the cycle more often, which in turn makes using the product a habit.
For example, looking at Pokémon Go, this is what the model could look like:
External trigger: Knowing there’s a checkpoint (a so-called pokéstop) close by or seeing others play outside.
Internal trigger: being bored, fear of missing out.
Action: Keep the app open while walking around.
Reward: Catch Pokémon and battle with others in arenas.
Investment: Time and effort to get stronger Pokémon and collect them all.
Any of the terminology sound familiar? If you’ve been paying close attention you’ll remember that we set a trigger in Lesson 5 and notice that Lesson 6 was designed to make taking action as easy as possible.
We’ve been building our very own reading hook model – and today we’ll finish it!
Okay, so much for the sometimes addictive, habit-forming part of games, but that doesn’t exactly explain why they’re so much fun. A razor is also a habit-forming product, but I rarely throw my arms up in the air in excitement at the thought of shaving.
Care to explain, Mr. Csikszentmihalyi?
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has spent decades researching happiness and creativity. Fascinated by artist who seemed to get totally lost and completely absorbed in their work, he interviewed them about the experience in the 1970s.
The terms many of his interviewees used to describe this state of being what we would call “in the zone” these days often referenced the image of a river, like a water current that carried them along, as if in complete…
Today, the state of flow has been researched for well over 40 years and is one of positive psychology’s most prominent concepts.
In his book of the same name, Csikszentmihalyi describes three things needed to trigger a flow state:
An activity with a set of clear goals and the ability to make progress.
An immediate, straightforward feedback mechanism.
A good balance between the difficulty of the challenge and your level of skill.
This reads like a game designer’s instruction manual and it’s true: all games are designed to get you into flow.
The entire concept can be summed up perfectly in one graphic:
When you think about an occasion where you stopped reading a book, it was probably because you were either
bored, because it was too easy/dry/stuff you already knew or
tired from focusing for too long on a book that was too hard to understand.
In the same vein, your initially low level in Pokémon makes it easy to catch new ones, unlock new rewards and make progress fast. As you get better, the level of the challenge increases, because it takes longer to find new Pokémon and evolve and power up your old ones.
Games lead to flow and flow leads to fun. Okay, good, but how can you use this to make your reading better?
Thoughts, Jane McGonigal?
Jane is a game designer. But not just any game designer. She’s a game designer gone full-fledged scientist and researcher. In 2009 her biggest breakthrough came in the form of a serious concussion. Forced to lie perfectly still in bed she had to come up with a way to not go insane.
Her solution? To design her own game, entirely in her head. And while Jane the Concussion Slayer didn’t become a commercial success, her book how to gamify your life (and the accompanying app) SuperBetter did.
Out of the seven steps she says you can use to gamify your life (and thus create more flow), today we’ll focus on #2 and #4 to make your reading better:
Collect and activate power-ups.
Find and battle the bad guys.
Seek out and complete quests.
Recruit your allies.
Adopt a secret identity.
Go for an epic win.
Okay, so games create habits, fun is the key part of games, flow triggers fun and thus by making your reading more like a fun game, you can cement it as a habit.
But what’s the big idea behind all this? What’s the principle?
You might have guessed its name already:
The Pokémon Principle
Here’s the message: Whatever you do in your life, make it FUN.
At the end of the day, only the positive things in your life will make you get (and potentially jump) out of bed.
Even if your entire life consists of fighting against the bad guys, for example in the cancer ward of the hospital, it’s the fun you somehow, against all odds, manage to find in your day that keeps you going.
Fun is how you stick around long enough to the next level and fun is what makes all external triggers eventually obsolete.
Fun forms habits.
From working with almost 300 clients I can say that, in the end, all successful habit changes came down to switching focus from the negative (for example not drinking) to the positive (like running a marathon).
Ultimately, what kind of life you want to build is up to you, but I know that I want mine to be full of fun work that matters. It’s the reason we’re here (and the reason I’m writing this at 10 PM on a Thursday).
I want to tap dance to work.
Guess who coined that phrase and claims to do so every single day, even at 86 years old?
If you ever steal anything from him, make it that.
The Gamification Experiment
If games are fun and get us to build habits fast, then the next logical question to ask is: how can you turn your own reading into a game?
I’m glad you asked!
As you can imagine, there are as many ways to gamify your life as there are humans on this planet, but for reading, I think these will do well to reward yourself and keep yourself going.
For all three pairs below, pick one and write your decision down on a note that you will put in between the last 2 pages of your current book.
To create a reward in your hooked reading model:
Pick a material reward that relates to the book you’re currently reading (like a certain expensive food you’ll treat yourself with for a food book)
Pick an informational reward that helps you build on the knowledge from the book and implement it (like an SEO course if you read a book about marketing).
To add an investment to your reading hook and make sure you continue to read:
Start a Rucket List (a reading bucket list) of all the books you want to read in your life, beginning with the 3 most important, must-read books in the area you’re currently exploring
Create a little time tracking sheet to keep track of the time you’ve already spent reading (or use a free software like timeEdition to do so).
Lastly, to improve your chances of staying in flow as much as possible:
Pick your next book to read, considering how challenging your current book is for you – should you upgrade in length and complexity, downgrade, or stay at this level?
Set your new reading pace for whatever book is next, based on your skill level (remember The Basecamp Principle from Lesson 4?) – will you do better with shorter or longer sessions?
All of these are fairly easy decisions and take little time, so you should be able to fit them all on a single piece of paper and keep them where it gets serious: at the end of your current book (or with your e-reader, etc.).
Bonus: Spending money is one of the most powerful investments you can make – not just literally, in a hook model too. I regularly stock up on new books in batches, usually 2-4 at a time. If you can afford it, I highly recommend you insta-order yourself the three books you started your completion list with.
Closing The (Last) Chapter
Some of the products we use in our daily lives are like games, which is why they shape our habits. One of the world’s richest men lives his life like it’s one big game, which is why he has so much fun.
If you can make your life a life of fun, chances are it’ll be a successful life, much like the games of the Pokémon franchise.
By making a few small tweaks to gamify your reading habit, you’re finalizing a system that’ll make reading more fun than ever – and there’s nothing better to cement a habit than that.
It’s been quite a ride these past two weeks. Look at all the stuff you’ve learned:
How to get your attention span back
Why no one compares to you & how to take stock of your current situation
How to use a media diet to show yourself you DO have time to read
How you can make reading effortless by using The Basecamp Principle
An easy way to trigger yourself to read without having to remember it
How to use The Nothing Alternative to read consistently, every day
How to gamify your reading to make it more fun and ingrain the habit
But honestly, I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s the most important stuff I could think about to help you find more time to read and make it a daily habit.
However, I want you to have more than that. I want to help you truly master the skill of reading. Every aspect of it. The way you select what to read. The different types of reading, based on the situation. How to extract information (and actually memorize it). And, most importantly, how to use the things you learn from all these great books.
That’s why I’m working on a much more detailed, in-depth course about reading.
If the only thing I can ever give you is the gift of even just a little bit more time to read books, then that’s okay. If you have no interest in learning more from me, I want you to unsubscribe.
I’ll be sad to see you go, but from here on out, it’s all about mastering everything there is to know about reading and if you’re not ready to make that commitment, then it’s perfectly okay to say goodbye now.
Still here? Awesome!
Here’s what you can expect from me over the next few days and weeks:
Bonus lessons, book summaries and free books as I find or create them.
Discounts to apps, books or products that can make your reading better as I get them.
Info on the much deeper, paid course as it develops.
Access to all the stuff I create before anyone else gets it.
I hope you had fun the past two weeks and I’m excited to work with you on the next stage of Time 2 Read!
Rooting for your reading,
PS: Here are all the lessons again.