Sunday, August 01, 2021

Life Lately: Self Assessments and How to Read More

Reading Decisive by the Heath brothers a few Saturdays ago at a nearby cafe

Happy new month people!

There are two quick thoughts in this week’s note.


I struggled to prioritize mindfulness in July. I felt that I had to make up for the gap that opened up when I was away from work in June, so I started skipping my morning meditations and diving straight in. I also went well over my budget, often excused with a muttered YOLO to myself. Lastly, I felt like I spent much of my time at work sorting out small housekeeping-type-stuff; you know – the type of stuff that keeps the business ticking along but is not necessarily transformational.

Why am I sharing this? To illustrate the practice I’ve had for a few years of asking myself “What worked? And what didn’t work?” at the end of every month. The answers to both questions help me double-down on the positives and address the opportunity areas before too much time passes.

I like these questions because they help keep my focus on being the best Koye I can be. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself. So as you head off into August – what worked in July? And what didn’t work?


It feels like a new person asks me every week how I manage to read so much and how they can read more. I think there are a few tips that can help everyone read more, but before I get into them – I’d like to say I think there’s a personality angle to my reading. I’m very curious and so I’m drawn to books, podcasts, long-form articles, talks – almost everything that contains answers, theories, or opinions. I’ve also long had the bad habit of escaping stressful social situations by withdrawing into a book. I’m working on this one.

More generally, I think James Clear’s laws of habit formation are very useful here. These laws are based on the cue-craving-response-reward model.

Make it Obvious (Cue). Have books or magazines lying around and decide in advance when you will read. For example, if you tend to doomscroll every time you sit on the toilet, leave reading material in your bathroom and decide you will only read something when you’re in there. Another good time for many people to try reading (or listening to a podcast or audiobook) is when they commute to work via public transport.

Make it Attractive (Craving). There are a few different ways to do this. One is to read books you really enjoy. Your desire to find out what happens (in a fiction work for example) will keep bringing you back. Another is to associate reading with something you enjoy. For example I have long associated weekend reading with a delicious cup of coffee. You may have noticed many of my book pictures tend to have a cup of coffee in them.

Make it Easy (Response). It needs to be as easy as possible for you to read (or listen to a podcast or audiobook). There are many levers you could pull here. For example, deciding in advance which book you will read next simplifies the activity when it is time to read. Switching to a Kindle you can hold in one hand as opposed to a computer or large tablet device will make it easier to read in public transport. Start with only a small number of pages. e.g. read five pages a day for starters - which should only take between five and ten minutes. And so on…

Make it Satisfying (Reward). Whether private or public, keeping a record of which books you have read and seeing that number grow provides some satisfaction, reinforces the habit, and makes you more likely to keep reading.

Two more things. One, joining a book club is a powerful commitment device. Two, don’t force yourself to finish books you don’t like. There are more books than you could possibly read in your lifetime. If a book doesn’t work for you, find another that does. For example, I returned Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights after only five pages. Between the weird font and his writing style there was just no way I could have finished that book.


What I’m currently reading: Which animal do you think is the deadliest human predator of all time? Lions? Wolves? Another carnivore? You may be surprised to find many experts think more people have died from mosquito-borne diseases than from any other cause of death. In The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator, Dr. Winegard argues mosquitoes have dispatched an estimated 52 billion people from a total of 108 billion ever to have lived. And as someone with the AS genotype, I carry in my blood proof of the mosquito’s impact on human genetics.

"Persons with the sickle cell trait have a relative resistance to falciparum malaria, are less likely to get the disease, run lower parasite counts, and are less likely to die." - The Natural History of Sickle Cell Disease, US National Library of Medicine Publication

What I’m currently listening to: I enjoyed Stage Fright from Hidden Brain. This episode discusses choking, that phenomenon when an expert suddenly loses their ability to do things they could always do easily, and what we can do about it. I first started thinking about choking while watching the Olympics during the past week.


Have a fab week!


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