Growing up I was never interested in reading books. Up until I join the military, I could count the number of fiction books that I had read on one hand. They just couldn’t keep my interest.
One of the issues with reading books is that I have a hard time focusing for more than a minute or two. And that is meant to be literal. What this means is that I end up having to re-read a sentence, paragraph several times in order to grasp it. This leads to a great deal of frustration and surprisingly peaceful slumber. To read perchance to dream 🙂
There was one day that actually changed my life, and the lesson wasn’t intended for me. I was standing in the hallway of the van that we worked in, when I overheard my sergeant tell another marine to read a book on combustion engines. My friend replied with “Why would I read about engines?”. The response is what lit the fire. The sergeant explained that reading anything, regardless of immediate need because it will teach you to learn and thereby improving your problem solving.
I took that lesson and ran with it. At the time, my job was as a calibrator (making sure things are measured correctly) and it was not very exciting. Once I got out I was working in the civilian world doing the same thing, and it was worse. It was a rat race, the only goal was to do as much work as we could as fast as we could to increase our billing.
I couldn’t stand to do this work to much longer, I have a hard time doing repetitive work, I go crazy. I decided that I wanted to write software to do the work for me (I will spare you the details). Taking the lesson that I overheard, I went to town.
I started reading books, magazines and anything else I could get my hands on to help me learn how to develop software. Somehow I was now able to read and read without falling asleep and staying up all night to learn more. Interestingly enough, I was learning to program on my own.
Here I am, 15 years later and I am still reading. Not as much as I would like, but things are changing. Remembering that I had the issue with having to re-read somethings several times I have been turned on to audiobooks. These are great because audible has the feature to go forward or backwards by 30 seconds. This works for me and I do work those buttons like a pro.
I still haven’t got around to listening to fiction, but there is always hope. I am on a leadership book binge currently and the next topic that I was to listen to is history. As I get older, I realize that you have to read and read often so that you can stay sharp and in my field, relevant.
I am not sure that I told me sergeant about the lesson that he taught, but it was one of the best lessons that I have learned in life and I thank him for that. I wish everyone could experience when that torch is lit.