Number of finished books is a vanity metric

I used to keep track of how many (non-fiction) books I’ve read per month or year. I’d casually drop that information sometimes on a conversation or use my GoodReads account to boast about that.

What a douche. 🤦‍♂️

Anyway, I never thought much about this until I saw a tweet or interview from Naval Ravikant saying that “number of books read is a vanity metric.” That opened my eyes about my behaviour and changed my general approach regarding non-fiction books.

Is the book super exciting and full of novel concepts for you? Good, keep at it.

There’s a whole section that covers a topic you already know? Skip it.

You found an interesting idea at the beginning of the book, and now you’re torn between applying that idea vs. going through the rest of the book to see if there’s just one more tiny bit of information or advice you could use? Screw that!

A book can be:

  1. Enjoyable
  2. Useful

If what you’re reading is boring and covers something you already know or something you’re not interested about, drop it.

Drop it. Skim it. Jump around. It’s your book.

No one will give you a prize for completing a book. No one cares. Take what’s useful or enjoyable, and then move on.

So many people get “stuck” on books because they think they should finish it. The result? They don’t move on to other books; they don’t learn anything; they don’t apply what they’ve learned; all because of guilt, because of “should”s or “supposed to”s.

“Oh, but I paid for this book, and now I should finish it.” Avoiding sunk costs is not a worthy way to live. Even if you “wasted” money, it doesn’t mean you should waste time, energy, and attention.

I bought Sapiens a couple of years ago or so, as it was recommended multiple times in different blog posts and podcasts. It sounded super interesting!

… but DAMN, it starts boring. I tried reading it two or three times and was almost giving up when I remembered Naval’s advice to jump around. I skipped a couple of chapters and was immediately hooked. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, one of my all-time favourites – and yet, I still haven’t read the first couple of chapters, and likely never will.

It doesn’t matter.

You’re not better or worse by reading the books you’re “supposed to” read, or reading them the way they should be read. No one cares.

Remember: if it’s not fun or useful, drop it and move on.

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