On reading stuff you don't like

Posted by scooletz on October 12, 2020 · 3 mins read

A few years back I was a different person. I’m far from stating that I know exactly what and in which percent changed me through these years. I know that there’s one thing that had an impact for sure. This thing is reading stuff that I don’t like.

Let’s read again

As a child I was a vivid reader. Later, through the years it fluctuated a lot. There were periods where I was reading only technology related stuff or some SF/old horror stuff. When finishing my studies I started reading whitepapers. I still do remember reading about Singularity and first reads related to the mighty Paxos algorithm. The second one was a bitter sweet experience of the complexity of distributed systems. But this was still mostly about tech.5

With beginning of 2017 I created my account on Goodreads. And the story began.

Reading with purpose

My aims was to read ~20 books this year, mostly about areas of knowledge that I didn’t touch that much in the past. It means stuff like management, psychology & sociology. Mostly non technical stuff that I didn’t learn purposefully before. The list of recommended books was growing faster. Still, to this day, I have around 100 on my TODO list.

Making this explicit was a big changer for me. It actually helped me in searching for the next book to read knowing, that I want to broaden the previously unexplored areas mentioned above . There was also a few things that helped me to read not only books but also a few other things.

Farnam Street, mental models are (not) so boring

Another big game changer was following up a few accounts on Twitter that I didn’t like at the time, like @FarnamStreet and a few others. You can ask:

How could you not like Farnam Street?

or

How did you dare to think that mental models were boring?

Guess what. I did. Maybe there are some people that are born with it and their first words are Confirmation Bias or Linda problem. I’m not one of them.

Including these accounts into my daily social media feed was a huge accelerator for sure. Instead of clicking on a link with a cat picture or watching a game demo I occasionally clicked on one of the links newly introduced to the feed. The same works for finding out how to use the mute button, not to mention filtering out some keywords on Twitter. After all you can be interested in some views from a person and be not interested in others.

Summary

If I had to summarize it, I’d say that choosing your mental diet is really important. If you structure it properly and keep it balanced, including the brocoli that you don’t like that much, at the end you’ll get healthier.