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Last Night a Blog Post Changed My Life

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015


I devoured books as a child. Couldn’t put them down.

Every Saturday I’d trot up the hill to my local village library, get kicked off the microfiche reader by the gorgeous librarian, and return home with a few books under my arm.

microfiche reader library reading

P. G. Wodehouse, Laurie Lee, Sue Townsend, Ursula le Guin, Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, then Twain, Harper Lee, Orwell, Le Carre, Len Deighton, to name but a few of my favourite writers.

I was the sort of child who’d buy a new LP/tape and, if I liked, play it over and over and over until I was bored. And so it was with books.

If I appreciated an author, I would read everything they’d written. Then move on.

But latterly, after finishing my education, getting a job/mortgage/pension/kids I’d gotten out of the habit.

Life’s so busy. Don’t you agree? There are only so many hours in the day and with young children, where do you find the time to sit down and read?

My Top 10

That’s not to say I’ve done nowt. Over the last 15 years, I’ve read some crackers:

  • A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
  • The Art of Running Faster, Julian Goater
  • Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky
  • Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts
  • A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving
  • The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
  • Eat and Run, Scott Jurek
  • Perfume, Patrick Suskind
  • The Count of Monte Cristo, Dumas

Books that stay with you long after you read them.

Books, whose memory now, is conjuring up images of an Indian tea estate, and a huge and hilarious New Orleans buffoon who introduced the 30-year-old me to the notion of an alternative “worldview”.

You’ve probably read some of these (apart from the two running ones, granted). In the same approach I take to wine-buying nowadays (if it’s not got a medal on, it ain’t coming in) so it is with book-choosing.

I get so little time to read that I may as well let the experts dictate my perusing pleasures. So best book lists are my friend.

What I make up for in quality I lose in quantity. Every year I swear the same (you would think) easily achievable new year’s resolution, and invariably come up short.

You wouldn’t think it was so difficult to read a book a month.

No matter how many books I bought, I just wasn’t making  the time to read them.

Then a Few Years Ago Something Happened

For most of my 18-year career as a PR consultant the blogosphere had passed me by. To coin a term unfairly used by the 1980s UK Chancellor Nigel Lawson to describe currency analysts and financial traders, I’d dismissed bloggers as “teenage scribblers”.

How wrong was I.

Over the past few years I’ve retrained. I describe the process here. And my primary sources of information, advice, enjoyment, and inspiration have been blogs (and bloggers).

On average I read one to two hours of long-form posts every weekday. Not spammy 300-600-worders but 1500-word+ writings of real value (yes, I know there’s a degree of enlightened self-interest for the author, but the wisdom they impart is worth the minor commercialism).

I bookmark and save them in an intricate folder system. So I can return later and use as reference material.

If I really like a post, I print it out, highlight the best bits, and make notes in the margin.

Then every week I rifle through the top 10 and choose four.

I stick them in a newsletter and say why I think they are good, and what people can get out of them.

This helps my subscribers and reinforces in my mind what I have learnt from reading the post.

Authors and Bloggers

And just like books, I have my favourite authors, whose latest offerings I devour. And I also rifle through their back catalogue. Credit here to Kevan Lee, Neil Patel, James Altucher, Andy Crestodina, Jeff Bullas, Stephen Waddington, and many more.

All this blog-reading has not gone unremarked. Family think I’m a bit bonkers, reading all these blogs and passing them on for free. Peers question the business acumen of such an activity. An older relative has even vowed:

“I’m going to have to take you to one side and have a chat about it when I next see you, David.”

I see it as an investment in my future, and in my clients.

In the fast-moving world of digital media, you have to be on top of the latest developments and have a keen understanding of how the previously disparate elements of digital marketing fit together.

And if you aren’t reading, learning, and doing, you’re not providing your clients with the best support.

Back to Reading

I went to a meeting at my kids’ primary late last year. It’s a great school and the early years deputy head is inspirational in a get-stuff-done kinda way.

I’ve seen her in action at a parent-teacher sports club I volunteer at. She’s a force to be reckoned with.

She got up and spoke for 15 minutes. The school hall was packed with hundreds of parents.

I don’t remember anything of what she said but this. What got her passionate (you could see it in her eyes and hear a pin drop) was her belief that the biggest thing parents can give to their children is a love of reading.

The school can teach the child how to read but the parents need to instil that love from an early age. THE most important thing you can do for your child, she said.

Reading helps kids and adults make sense of the world. It’s also one of the keys to business success. Eighty-eight per cent of self-made millionaires read books for more than 30 minutes a day.

Inspired, I Vowed that this Year Would be Different

Since Christmas I have read one book.

There, I said it. How ashamed am I? I’ll tell you. Very.

Granted, it was a very good one: Everybody Writes, by Chicago-based content marketer Ann Handley. But still!

And I’ve had so many stop starts with the excellent Chimp Paradox (running, and life) by Dr Steve Peters that I’ve given it up as a bad job. Busy at home and work I’d pretty much thrown in the towel. Until…

Last Night a Blog Post Changed My Life

Sorry, couldn’t resist. You were all thinking it. While you get that tune out of your head, I’ll continue.

Every week I get an excellent newsletter from Jory at Crew (makers of websites). Crew’s Weekend Reads, it’s called. In it was a blog about reading. And in that was a link to Ryan Holiday’s post.

As you know, I read a lot of blog posts. Thousands of them. Some are instructional, some move me, some make me laugh.

Very few are life-changing.

This one, from 2007, potentially, is.

Why you say?

Because it’s shown me the way to read books again.

And it turns out I should be reading books like I read blogs. With intent.

I’m not going to summarise Ryan Holiday’s wisdom here. I’ll leave that to him.

But if you are the sort of person who really really wants to read but doesn’t have the time…


  • Read these three posts.

How to Read to Lead

How to Read More

How the Most Successful Creatives Read

  • In that order.
  • Print them off.
  • Take what you want from them, come up with your own system, and put it into practice.

Last Night Blog Post Changed My Life

I started last night. I’ll let you know how I get on with rekindling my love of book-reading.

In the meantime, sign up to Ryan’s newsletter. His welcome email is quite simply THE highest value introductory emailer I have ever received. And I have subscribed and unsubscribed to a lot.

Thanks Ryan, I’m off to buy your book. It is the (very) least I can do.

Want inspiration for your next read? Want to find out what I’m reading every week and month?

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Photo credit: BinaryApe / Foter / CC BY


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