Someone once told me that the difference between high SAT scores and low SAT scores is how much TV vs. reading a kid did growing up. I grew up watching probably about 50 hours of TV per week and read maybe a book or 3 before the age of 20- and my SAT scores were 880…
I was reading Warren Buffet‘s annual report this morning. He explains how he came to his very unconventional outlook on how low stock prices can be a good thing for investors…
“Charlie and I don’t expect to win many of you over to our way of thinking – we’ve observed enough human behavior to know the futility of that – but we do want you to be aware of our personal calculus. And here a confession is in order: In my early days I, too, rejoiced when the market rose. Then I read Chapter Eight of Ben Graham’s The Intelligent Investor, the chapter dealing with how investors should view fluctuations in stock prices. Immediately the scales fell from my eyes, and low prices became my friend. Picking up that book was one of the luckiest moments in my life.”
I have had many similar experiences when something I read changed my thinking and actions substantially. For example, about a year ago I read a book called Worry. It said that toxic worry can be caused by any of 3 things- trauma, ADHD, and/or genetics. For years, when I laid down for bed at night, the concept of death would often hit me hard enough to keep me awake. Well, my father died of a heart attack at 49 while playing basketball. Bingo! It might seem obvious to an outsider, but reading this was a revelation for me. Knowing WHY I obsess over death (as I approach 49 myself) was a huge relief- and I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that every night since reading that book I fall asleep within minutes of lying down. That’s a BIG change in my life!
I once read an article profiling centurions. I’ll never forget what one of the women said when asked about dying- “As long as there are good books to read and nice music to hear, I want to stay alive.”
This issue has become so important to me, that I let my own kids watch about 10-15 hours of TV per year. And if I had to guess, they read about 400+ hours per year (they read more than an hour per day).
Given my aversion to authority and need for autonomy, I don’t think that higher SAT scores would have done me much good (i.e. I’m not very employable!)- but I feel that reading books plays a major role in determining whether someone lives a fulfilled life. I’m very thankful to have discovered so many great books in my middle-age.