The Fastest Way to Learn Anything
My teammates hated me.
I had no idea how much, though, until the day after a long double-header where game 2 went extra innings. On the long bus ride home I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was one of the team captains telling me to turn my light off and put my book away as I was bothering the guys at the back of the bus.
You see, after our typical day-night double header, we’d be riding home on the bus from away games and all the lights would be off….all except one.
My teammates would be trying to catch a quick nap during the 2-3 hour bus rides, and I’d try to spend that time reading. Trying to squeeze every ounce of time I had out of the day.
Most of the time I was reading baseball books (I was 100% convinced that I had the chops to be a General Manager of a Major League Baseball team someday, you would call it my “Dream Job”). I devoured the books, usually able to read a book within 2 away trips. During the season, I’d get to read an extra 5 or 6 books that I wouldn’t have normally been able to.
I’d hear disgruntled comments all the time from teammates, especially those who sat near me, as they wanted nothing more than to have complete darkness. And this would not be the last time that someone physically came over to me to try and get me to stop reading.
At first they couldn’t understand what I was doing. Why I was reading books instead of sleeping like everyone else (not a surprise when 28% of Americans haven’t read even 1 book in the last year). But the truth was I never truly fit in with the rest of the group (my teammates would probably admit that). I understood what they wanted and I realized that I was a slight inconvenience for them.
But I couldn’t stop.
Just sitting there in the darkness was a waste of time for me. And besides, these books were just so good. I knew they were going to help me get where I wanted to go. They filled a deeper intellectual craving for knowledge, and mine was insatiable.
Now, this was not some new found activity for me either. Even in high school I was always more nerdy than the typical star athlete and always had a spare book with me in my backpack. This ritual of reading on the bus to and from games started well before I got to college. In my baseball bag I ALWAYS had my copy of “The Science of Hitting” (by former Red Sox great, and my baseball idol, Ted Williams). For road trips during basketball season I always had a book in my gym bag, at that time I was reading books about video game design for my first venture with my best friend (a fellow athlete, he was a great sprinter on the track team). Those teammates did not really get it either.
Eventually, my teammates understood that I wasn’t going to stop reading, but they still hated it for those bus trips. In college, their first experience with my reading habit was during our spring training trip to Florida my freshman year: I read an entire book on the ride to the airport, while waiting for the plane, and during the plane ride itself.
Total time: approximately 5 hours.
This habit ran the course of three seasons, over 50 different players who had to deal with my obsessive habit. I’m sure some wanted to throw stuff at me, and looking back, the best answer would’ve been to have me sit all the way in the back of the bus and reading in the corner, but our bus rides were like high school all over again, where basically the lower classes sat closer to the front. It wasn’t the most efficient manner, but it was no different than how anyone else did it.
Even when not on the bus I was doing a lot of reading. Obviously, I had my textbooks for class, I had a literary book for an English or writing class once in a while, but I was already reading non-fiction books, mostly about sports, sports business, or business and entrepreneurship.
When I Learned to Read More Efficiently
After graduating from school, a previous mentor introduced me to the trainings of Mark Hoverson, an internet marketing expert who sold more than $20 million of his own info products in the past few years. I came across a primer video for one of his trainings about “Ultra Reading” and realized that I was doing everything wrong when it came to reading.
After reading the headline, I wondered to myself, “How am I reading books wrong? I’m going through them cover to cover. I’m not skimming it or skipping around. I’m trying to grab the author’s entire message.”
But that was exactly the problem.
The reality is most books are too long and contain too much information that by the time we finish them we miss the point of why we started reading them.
We read these business books not necessarily to learn, but to apply what we learn and get a specific result.
But reading the entire book takes too long, costs us our focus and we miss what we really needed to get in order to implement. Instead we need to look at books like a buffet of knowledge. You take what you want out of it and leave the rest behind. Trying to consume it all just leaves you overstuffed and not able to really do anything. And you do it FAST!
What Mark taught me was a way to pull key takeaways that suited where I was at in my business and be able to quickly implement them without needing to read the entire book, or even an entire chapter.
How to Ultra Read Like a Boss
Once I saw Mark’s primer video I was hooked. I was OBSESSED with learning the proper way to read the mountain of books that I had built up, especially those books that I had bought and hadn’t even gotten around to reading yet. I wanted to extract value from them IMMEDIATELY (I’m sure we all have those books on our shelves or bookcases that we bought with great intentions to read and just have not gotten around to it, for whatever reason…no judgment here…this post is a judgment free zone).
So just how do you properly Ultra Read a book?
Step 1: Grab Your Non-fiction Book of Choice (1 Minute)
Ok, this one is not overly complex. Grab the book that you want to pull knowledge out of. Remember that this is only designed for non-fiction books and books that you actually want to be learning from. Sorry, no Harry Potter or Hunger Games allowed here.
Step 2: Set the Intention for What You Will Learn (1 Minute)
Once you have the book, take a minute to just imagine what result you want to get from reading the book. Picture a paradise, best case scenario for what future results the book can bring you.
Why do this? Two reasons.
The first is called adrenaline based learning, and it’s proven that you remember better when your adrenaline is flowing compared to a normal day. Think about your first kiss, you obviously remember that, right? I know I do. But now think back again, do you remember what you had for breakfast that morning before your kiss? Probably not. It’s because “adrenaline” was surging through your body when you had the kiss, thus locking the event into your memory.
But go deeper, this is more than just “I want financial freedom,” it’s got to be more specific than that. Think about the 4-Hour Workweek: imagine creating a system of automated income where you can live on that tropical island you always wanted to visit without having to worry about your bills being paid, not having to answer to a boss and making more money than the people that questioned why you ever got into “that internet business thing” when you just started.
The second reason is that setting the intention for what you are doing is the most important facet of what you will get out of it. Think about entering a room, what your intention is before entering the room will determine everything about how your experience in there ends up. If you set the intention, it can become unbreakable and you can get what you are searching for.
This pre-read work is vital to ensure that you are able to take exactly what you want out of the book. It gives you clear focus going into finally opening the book.
Step 3: Look at the Table of Contents for What You Are Looking to Learn (1 Minute)
Quickly scan the table of contents for chapter titles that are in alignment with your goals/results that you want to receive from the book. Then flip the page to that chapter to get ready to dive into it.
This section might seem silly, but trust me, you’ll want to save every second you can for the next section…
Step 4: Go Nuts Looking for That ONE THING That You can Apply Immediately (2 Minutes)
This is it! Here is where you go through the chapter FAST to find things that appeal to you. It’s a fast, high level scan, not speed reading. You want to turn pages quickly, your mind absorbs things at a far faster rate than you can “speak” them into your mind when reading at a normal rate.
Look for key indicators like highlighted words, italicized words or a bolded heading for a new subsection of the chapter, these will be clues for what the author considers important in the chapter and also will give you clues as to what that section is all about.
Again, think about this like a buffet. You’re just pulling out the parts that interest you and leaving the rest that do not serve you at this point and time (you can obviously always come back and do this again to pick out other parts of the book later). Find that one part that gives you the immediate actionable step you’re looking for.
Feel free to write or highlight or draw all over your book. This is your read, you need to do whatever it takes to get down what you’re learning in that moment. Some people will worry about the resale value of the book, but frankly if it’s a book that can help you get good results, why get rid of it?
Step 5: Write Down and Reflect on What You Learned…then TAKE ACTION on it
Once you have completed the 2 minutes of ultra reading, immediately pull out a notebook or journal and write down what insight you pulled out that you can apply to your business.
Then write down the ONE thing that you can do right now to start implementing.
Then actually go do it. Because all of this is great, but without any actual implementation it does you as much good as slowly reading the book all at once.
Bonus #1: Ultra Read Multiple Books in Sitting
If you have the time, do this process for 3 books in one sitting. The whole process won’t take you more than 20 minutes and you’ll have three action steps to take rather than just a single one. To do this you would simply follow the same five steps for each book. Do NOT do step 1 for all three books then step 2 for all three books etc. Treat each book like a separate ultra reading experience. Completely finish the process before moving on to the next book.
Bonus #2: Ultra Read in a Group
When I was with some of Mark’s other top students out in Arizona we would invade a Barnes & Noble, grab some books off the shelves and do group ultra reading. Everyone would go through the process, but instead of just writing it down for them, each person would share what they learned with the group. This can be anywhere from one to three books depending on how much time you have and how big your group is. If you are currently involved in other Meet Ups with people who enjoy reading books, this could be something that you introduce to the group as well (and it’s very easy and low cost for everyone).
Just imagine you and a bunch of your friends going through this and sharing key insights from some of the best business & leadership books. What would that do for you?