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Are you a lazy student?

Tell me what you are reading and I’ll tell you if you are serious about getting more out of life. The books you read are one of the things that can tell me whether you are a serious student of life, or whether you are content to let life happen to you.

So what are you currently reading? OK I’ll go first. I never have a single book on the go at any one time, there are at least 4 books on my beside table as we speak. The Treehouse - Naomi Wolff, (just finished) Thursday’s with Morrie – Mitch Albom; The Occulatum, In Search of Stones, M Scott Peck (yes he of the road less traveled fame) and Natural Magic. Why so many books? Well they all serve a different need depending on what I am thinking about at any particular point in time. However, one of my favourite books of all time is the dictionary - as strange as it may seem, but the difference between an average intelligence and an exceptional intelligence comes down to a few thousand words. But that does not mean you should simply read the dictionary, and be able to spell properly (although it does sometimes help). But knowing what the words actually mean. 

The reason the dictionary is one of my most thumbed possessions is simple - I consider myself to be ignorant in quite a few areas of life. For instance, maths might as well be written in Sanskrit, and legal jargon is exactly that. But I am a serious student of life, I have to be, Not only do I have to speak to you every day, I have the very important task of raising two exceptionally bright children. I don’t want them to come home from school and ask me a question and not be able to answer them properly, or at least not be able to find the answer somewhere. The difference between my children and myself, is that I will turn to books first, the Internet second. My children use the Internet first. They don’t know what it’s like to live their lives without the World Wide Web, I do, and whilst I can see the immense benefits of having access to the world’s information at my finger tips, the children have yet to learn that everyone can have a website, and probably has. And with that of course, everyone has their own version of opinion, bias and hearsay to share with the world – yes even me. Everyone is a publisher and whilst this can be a good thing, it also means that we have to be more discerning as a reader as to what we fill our minds with. 

So what happens when we plug in a few words into our search engine of choice? How many pages do you go through before you give up? One? Two? Half a dozen? The trouble with limiting yourself to this kind of search and information retrieval means that you are unlikely to find all the information that you need to make an informed decision. And today is not the time or place to explain why. But I will say this.

I consider myself to be an expert searcher, but even I struggle sometimes to find what I need on the search engines of the world, and the reason is quite simple. Any web site that sits behind a firewall, a password, a screen that needs you to ask a question before you find an answer, even the old frames based sites, are incomprehensible to the average spider. Hint – spiders are those bits of code that roam the world wide web and create the rankings that you see when you get a list of answers back to your question. How intelligent do you think your average spider is anyway? After all they can’t ask questions and they don’t have fingers to press the button that says – click this button to enter….

Which is why I rarely rely on a single search engine, or reference tool. It’s also the reason why I have more than one book on the go at any one time.

So my questions for you today:

  • Do you always read the same kinds of books by the same kinds of people?
  • Why?
  • Do you read non-fiction as well as fiction? Or do you prefer the supermarket tabloids?
  • When are you going to become a student of life rather than a follower of what other people do and say?
The final point – being a student and not a follower is essential – be willing to question – everything, don’t take things at face value, judge a book by it’s cover or any other cliché I can’t think of at this moment. It is only when you begin to question do you begin to learn.