My sister-in-law recently asked me if I retain what I read. I didn’t know how to answer that. I can tell you the exact premise of some books while I can’t remember anything for other books.
My philosophy lately has been to immediately implement one idea from each book that I read. This philosophy may not be as applicable for novels, but there can usually be an idea, mindset, way of doing things, or activity that I can change. In turn, this slight change actually can assist in retaining what I’ve read.
For a recent example, book 4 of this Books of Titans was Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall. I was fascinated by the book. Towards the end of the book, McDougall highlights a two-week diet/exercise test that endurance athletes have tried with interesting results. As a runner, and one who is continually pushing my endurance limits, I thought like this sounded like a neat test. The test is to avoid all sugars and stick with fatty foods for two weeks. During this two week period, the goal is to avoid going over a specific heart rate for all physical activity. The heart rate is 180 – your age. So, for me, that’s 144. I am used to comfortably running at a 7min 30sec pace. In order to keep a heart rate of 144, I had to slow down to 10 minute pace per mile. That was really hard to do, but the idea is to train the body to work off of fat instead of sugars. Working from fat will propel the body for longer distances, something that could be beneficial for my upcoming marathon.
This 2-week test was something I could immediately implement. It also had the side benefit of helping me to retain more of what I read in the book. Every time I talk about why I’m doing this diet and heart rate monitoring, I end up talking about Natural Born Heroes.
Other examples are books on productivity and getting things done. Those books are stock full of so many ideas that they can become overwhelming. But, if I can just hold on to one idea and start making the change immediately, the book can have a lasting impact on my life, be it ever so slight.
As I get older, I see how very small incremental changes over time can have a tremendous impact. In the financial world, this is called compound interest. A small amount of money put away consistently over time will grow through the power of compound interest. The same goes for changes in how I do my work, eat, exercise, and think.
I encourage you to try to implement just one thing from each book you read. Don’t go crazy trying to take copious notes that you’ll never refer to. Just take one idea from the book and experiment with it. It might just change your life.