“I don’t want to read the book, just tell me what to do.” I’m an avid reader. I spend a large majority of my day reading for work, research, or pleasure. I almost always enjoy reading the book. If you are like me, you probably enjoy reading too. I’m a bit unique in the fact that I almost exclusively read non-fiction. But I enjoy a detailed and carefully informed argument about a topic. Most non-fiction books are just that. Especially the business, lifestyle design, personal finance, or self-help variety. To some extent, long form essays or blogs are similar as well. I actually enjoy reading the details and gaining context to understanding the ‘why’ behind a set of recommendations or suggested actions. Especially when it comes to life change.
But most people are not like me. Most people do not enjoy reading like I do. Well, maybe they enjoy reading their Facebook feed, but any long-form non-fiction is akin to pulling teeth. Trying to get someone else to read a 1,000 word blog post or even a short essay about a topic of interest can be surprisingly hard with some individuals. Most people don’t want to read the book.
When You’ve Discovered Something Profound
Maybe you’ve had this situation before. You’ve found or read something profound and you want someone else to read-implement-understand it. Maybe you read a book that changed your life. Maybe a book on finance, relationships, parenting, or spiritual matters. Something so profound you felt it needed to be shared with a close friend or relative. So, you send them a post or give them a book only to find out it remains unread and unimplemented indefinitely.
I’m sure I’m guilty of this. Since I learn from books, they tend to be one of my favorite gifts. I’ve read quite a collection of self help books over the years. So, often when someone is in need, I have likely read a book that outlines a great solution to their desires. However, I’m not really sure how many of my gifts have actually been utilized. I know a few probably have over the years, but many are likely forgotten and cluttering up some random shelf of a dear friend’s house.
I remember many years ago I started reading ERE and Mr. Money Mustache. I’d already graduated from Total Money Makeover and the basics of personal financial, and I was fascinated by people taking lifestyle efficiency to the next level. It radically changed my perspective; however I had difficulty explaining, with the same nuanced self-deprecation and humor, the ultimate context of financial efficiency or early retirement. It completely changed my approach to life, but I’ve had little luck sharing the information with people that internalize it in a meaningful way.
Personally, I often feel incomplete without understanding the why behind the suggestions. I enjoy books based on the fact that they can really explain the meaning behind a philosophy and back it up with example or data. It certainly helps me internalize the thoughts when I read a well written argument. I work with people every day, trying to help solve their financial problems. Through the blog, outreach, church, or my work, I’m constantly working to help people make better financial decisions. But I see even more people, including many that are close to me, continue to make poor financial decisions that lead to stressful and complicated life situations. In almost every case I’ve tried to instill wisdom through various communications, but often I know books that explain everything perfectly. Unfortunately, the individuals who are often unorganized with their money or life are also unlikely to prioritize reading a book about finance or making their life better.
The ‘Modern’ Podcast/Church/Blog Model
I’ve previously written about my frustrations ‘leading a horse to water‘, but I recently listened to a podcast that reminded me of something I’ve experienced personally. I’d imagine a few individuals reading this blog would identify as spiritual or religious, and many have visited or attend a religious service before. Regardless of your spiritual lean, a lot can be learned from examining how the modern church or bloggers convey knowledge. If you’ve been a big blog follower for long I’m sure you’ve seen almost everyone jump into the podcasting realm. It’s almost become the next step for many writers who’ve written all their evergreen content. The good news is that many people prefer the audio to actually reading on a device. It may be easier to listen to a podcast while driving, cooking, or exercising, than other forms of content. Spiritual organizations have mastered the art of multiple-environment learning. Many utilize learning from sermons, readings, group study, music, fellowship/example, serving, and prayer/mediation. Additional forms of content can be useful for people who do not enjoy your favorite content vehicle.
The Cliff Notes
There are times when even I don’t want the theory- I just want the action steps. I often find this to be the case when I read about different parenting strategies. I enjoy the activities that lead to meaningful change but many become self-evident without understanding the background psychology. The same can be true of other areas I’m interested in but not truly passionate. And luckily for me, although it still requires a bit of reading, our friend Derek Silver put together a comprehensive list of many great books all summarized into the action steps and takeaways. This resource has been helpful for me to identify new content but also to refresh on books I’ve read in the past.
So the takeaway is, if someone has made it midway through life and doesn’t want to read the book, then your gift (of a book) or subtle coxing is unlikely to move them in that direction. My new experiment is thinking through other mediums. When trying to help other people live a better life, information and motivation are often key. So I suppose I’ll try new things. I’ll be looking to documentaries, videos, podcasts, short-form essays, being an example, lunches, and of course ole’ fashion blog posts. I’m also looking for answers, so feel free to comment or let me know if you have found any way to help people who are unlikely to ever read the book.