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What Makes a Good Reader, Staying Current, & Three Things to Say

Resource: Vladimir Nabokov on What Makes a Good Reader
Description: Nabokov on what makes a good reader


A good reader is a rereader.

When you read a book for the first time, you have too many new things to grasp and process, so you’re not able to full take it in. It’s only after 2nd, 3rd, or 4th reading that you really begin to see the big picture of what a book is all about.

You can’t read a book. You can only reread a book.


“All attempts at gaining literary polish must begin with judicious reading,” -H.P. Lovecraft

On the value of rereading:

“Incidentally, I use the word reader very loosely. Curiously enough, one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader. And I shall tell you why. When we read a book for the first time the very process of laboriously moving our eyes from left to right, line after line, page after page, this complicated physical work upon the book, the very process of learning in terms of space and time what the book is about, this stands between us and artistic appreciation. When we look at a painting we do not have to move our eyes in a special way even if, as in a book, the picture contains elements of depth and development. The element of time does not really enter in a first contact with a painting. In reading a book, we must have time to acquaint ourselves with it. We have no physical organ (as we have the eye in regard to a painting) that takes in the whole picture and then can enjoy its details. But at a second, or third, or fourth reading we do, in a sense, behave towards a book as we do towards a painting. However, let us not confuse the physical eye, that monstrous masterpiece of evolution, with the mind, an even more monstrous achievement. A book, no matter what it is—a work of fiction or a work of science (the boundary line between the two is not as clear as is generally believed)—a book of fiction appeals first of all to the mind. The mind, the brain, the top of the tingling spine, is, or should be, the only instrument used upon a book.” -Vladimir Nabokov

Resource: Getting Things Done by David Allen
Description: Getting Clear, Getting Current, & Getting Creative


No matter what your lifestyle is, you need a system of weekly review.

Getting clear is about gathering up all the bits and pieces of data in your experience and getting it into your in-tray.

Getting current is about updating your lists, archiving old stuff, eliminated things that are no longer needed, and reviewing past items to see what needs to be included in future plans.

Getting creative is the what happens when you stay clear and current. We don’t have to be creative because being creative is essentially human. We merely need to remove the obstructions that hinder the natural expression of our creativity.


On the essence of the weekly review:

“Very simply, the Weekly Review is whatever you need to do to get your head empty again and get oriented for the next couple of weeks. It’s going through the steps of workflow management—capturing, clarifying, organizing, and reviewing all your outstanding commitments, intentions, and inclinations—until you can honestly say, “I absolutely know right now everything I’m not doing but could be doing if I decided to. From a practical standpoint, here is the three-part drill that can get you there: get clear, get current, and get creative. Getting clear will ensure that all your collected stuff is processed. Getting current will ensure that all your orienting “maps” or lists are reviewed and up-to-date. The creative part happens to some degree automatically, as you get clear and current—you will naturally be generating ideas and perspectives that will be adding value to your thinking about work and life. “

On humans be naturally creative:

“We are naturally creative beings, invested in our existence to live, grow, express, and expand. The challenge is not to be creative—it’s to eliminate the barriers to the natural flow of our creative energies. Practically speaking, it’s about getting your act together, letting spontaneous ideas emerge, capturing them, and utilizing their value. “

On the value and scarcity of “point of view”:

““Point of view” is that quintessentially human solution to information overload, an intuitive process of reducing things to an essential relevant and manageable minimum. . . . In a world of hyperabundant content, point of view will become the scarcest of resources.” —Paul Saffo

On the value of keeping up with what you have to do:

“do whatever you need to, once a week, to trick yourself into backing away from the daily grind for a couple of hours—not to zone out, but to rise up at least to the horizon of all your projects and their statuses, and to catch up with everything else that relates to what’s pulling on your attention. “

On the practicality of relaxation:

“Every now and then go away and have a little relaxation. To remain constantly at work will diminish your judgment. Go some distance away, because work will be in perspective and a lack of harmony is more readily seen.” —Leonardo da Vinci

“Whatever your lifestyle, you need a weekly regrouping ritual. “

“Your best thoughts about work won’t happen while you’re at work. “

“Thinking is the very essence of, and the most difficult thing to do in, business and in life. Empire builders spend hour-after-hour on mental work . . . while others party. If you’re not consciously aware of putting forth the effort to exert self-guided integrated thinking . . . then you’re giving in to laziness and no longer control your life.” —David Kekich

Three Things to Say by Frank Chimero
Description: Three handy phrases for situations that typically rely on meaningless small talk


Three phrases:
1) “I usually try X unless you recommend something else.” — This allows you to be decisive and express your opinion while giving others room to feel heard.
2) “Can you say that in more/different words?” — This allows people the opportunity to make themselves clear without feeling judged for how they expressed themselves the first time around.
3) “I don’t know.” — This builds trust because it establishes you as someone who isn’t afraid to admit your need to learn.


On asking people to share their interests:

“Everyone’s a sucker for talking about the things they love, so if you ask people to share their discoveries, you’re going to be taken on a magical, drunken journey with some new friends.”

On filling the gaps in our knowledge through communication:

“It’s difficult to communicate with a gap in knowledge, so sometimes it’s best to point out the gap and hope that a few more words can act as a landfill. Sometimes waste is productive.”

On the value of admitting when you don’t know:

“If you’re still uncomfortable with “I don’t know”, think of it this way: a person can only have so much expertise, but if you can sell your ignorance and ability to root out answers, you’ll be employable forever, understood frequently, and relatable always.”

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