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Nick Ang

Why we should always make time for books

Why we should always make time for books Photo by freddie marriage

I love reading. It wasn’t always like that, but in 2019, I’ve started reading much more than I used to. This year, by my estimation, I have read 10 books so far. Each of them unique, and stimulated my mind into thinking about the infinite topics of life.

Right now I’m reading a book about employment, and slightly ironically, it is a book that was recommended to me by a colleague. You know, during my employment.

I’m not going to dive into details of that specific book now. What I want is to get my thoughts about books and reading onto the page, because it is something important.

All books have the potential to change lives

I realised that books are the last true equalisers in the world. If you have a job, any job, you should be able to afford a book a month. And with a library card, you may even borrow and spend nothing. For what? To gain knowledge. To stand on the shoulders of those who have been there done that in their respective domains.

Sometimes, reading a book provides more value in stimulating you to think than in the knowledge it is imparting to you. Books like that are usually in the fiction genre, for their ideas to be disarmed and palatable to the reader without them feeling attacked. As a reader of such a book, you’re made to see and hear things through the eyes mind of the protagonist. That person is not you, but because you can imagine, and you feel things when you imagine, you temporarily see, hear, and feel everything that the protagonist does.

But the book I’m currently reading is different. It is not fiction, but an in-your-face account of the author’s own battles with employment and entrepreneurship. It therefore appears to be unpalatable to some. For me, I like things being presented in a straight-up fashion. Don’t sugar coat it. Worse, don’t massage your words to make them sound like you know what you’re talking about. Tell me what it is you’re trying to say, and do it in as few words as possible while you try, please!

Other times, reading a book is about imparting knowledge or providing instructions for the reader to practice to attain and master a skill. I find books like that more outwardly appealing than the kind that stimulates thought. Complete JavaScript Guide for Beginners just screams useful compared to The Alchemist.

But which type of book is more useful? This is the part about books that appeals to me: your mileage will vary.

Your mileage may vary, but some mileage is guaranteed

If you’re currently at a point in your life where you are primed for making a drastic change, like when your parent just died, or when you noticed with clarity for the first time that you have forsaken your dreams, then The Alchemist is a stronger balm than, say, The Four Hour Workweek. Perhaps reading them both in that order would bring you even further.

I happen to be living in a foreign country and city for the very time in close to 30 years of existence. That puts me in a state of constant wonderment, fertile for entertaining new thoughts presented before me. For the first time I am starting to seriously listen to Techno music, considering to let my hair grow to my shoulders, and evaluating what is going on in my career.

The Millionaire Fastlane is a rare book that is simultaneously re-injecting into my mind thoughts about entrepreneurship and providing me with the tools to get to work. It’s a bit of a wake-up call because I just remembered, I had believed since before I went to university that I would be creating and running businesses that solved problems. Employment was supposed to be a temporary sidetrack, not the path I’m trotting down full-time.

I don’t think I’m about to quit my job any time soon. Working at has been the best work experience I’ve ever had in my career. Which company puts the bar for hiring so high and when they finally hire you, lets you execute your job more or less entirely autonomously? I have a lot of freedom in my role at this company and there’s still a lot that I am learning every day. Plus, I’m getting a decent paycheck.

I know that what I am experiencing is cognitive dissonance. You believe for a while that life is about entrepreneurship, and then you believe for a while after that that it is about gainful employment. But life stages are unique to each person, a culmination of their circumstances from before and after birth.

For me, I believed I had to be an entrepreneur because I wanted to create value for society at a scale that moved the needle. Then, I believed I had to be an employee so that I can be an apprentice and learn how to actually create that value and help it manifest through great products and services.

Now? I’m an employee having the chance to live in Berlin because of my employment. I believe they’re employment and being an entrepreneur are both equally valid ways of thinking about one’s career. Neither is more right than the other. It all depends on what stage of life you’re at and what’s the best course of action at that stage.

I’m currently of the thinking that it doesn’t have to be binary. Entrepreneurship can and has existed within established companies, and business owners can and have been employees of their own business. And so it goes, it should be possible to be in a situation where you’re kind of both an employee and an entrepreneur, and you can decide which foot to lean more of your weight on when you have more data on the actual mileage from each of those fronts, and clarity on what your stage of life calls for.

What is irrefutably bad is the decision to not pick up a book and let it help you think about and consider your options. Set aside a few dollars and 30 minutes a day to read!

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