How I read 1,500 books and failed

Steve Cunningham,

I read a book a day, but I hope you won’t hold that against me.

My business,, takes best-selling business and personal development books and turns them into twelve-minute audio, video, and text files. So you can imagine that how people learn is very important to me.

The story of how I got to where I am today has a few twists and turns.

I was a lawyer for exactly one week. In law school, you read hundreds of pages every single night. Then you come back the next day prepared to be grilled in front of the entire class by the professor.

When you’re in that situation, you get really good at picking out the main points of a lot of reading every single night! And after my brief career as a lawyer, I did the same thing in business.

After a couple of years in business, I picked up a book by Charlie Munger, who is Warren Buffet’s right-hand man in Berkshire Hathaway. The book was Poor Charlie’s Almanack.

In the book, he had this quote: “Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.”

When I first read that, I thought it was the most profound thing I’d ever read about learning! So I underlined it.

Over the next few years, I read about 1,500 books. Then I happened to read Poor Charlie’s Almanack a second time and stumbled across that quote again. It was as though I was reading it for the very first time. I had no recollection of reading it before. It was underlined and starred, and the page was dogeared.

I had done everything in my power to be sure my future self knew it was important. And yet I didn’t remember it, despite it being the most profound thing I’d ever read!

Against the bar set by that quote—doing the thing that ought to be done whether I liked it or not—I had completely failed.

If you’re not actually applying what you’re reading, then you’re failing too.

As I discovered, that’s a problem for a lot of people. Research shows that a lot of corporate learning is wasted. That’s what led me to take a deep dive into what it means to be a learner in today’s world, and that’s why I started

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