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Did you know that one billion people cannot read or write?

“Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I’ll remember. Involve me, I’ll understand.” The old Chinese praised activity as the most effective way to learn new stuff. Reading however is often a first step to get your head around an topic area. Its one of the first techniques we learn in school. Yet many people do know master this skill. Why’s that? Let’s check out causes and measures the ExperienceZone way.

How we learn by writing and reading

Writing and reading are basic skills. They go hand-in-hand. Learning new things traditionally happens by reading a text. Already in the stone age, our ancestors painted hunting stories on cave walls. In ancient Egypt, the hieroglyphs tell us stories of pharaohs and their allegiances.

Nowadays, first graders learn reading and usually thereafter writing in school. Especially early in life, reading and writing create new synaptic connections. Those increase our know-what and know-how alike. Whilst former helps you to appear smart at a barbecue party small-talk, latter makes you mentally flexible. In other words: Know-how reflects your ability to quickly come up with creative solutions to ad-hoc problems. A key skill in our increasingly complex world.

Reading and writing have a nature-nuture-relation and can create a virtuous cycle of mastery. By reading a text, you get a basic understanding. If you extract its essence by writing a summary in your own words thereafter or even enriching it with related knowledge, your mind starts to dig really deep into the meaning. This approach increases your memory. If you only read a text, you remember 30% of the content. Yet if you add other senses, like hearing and speaking to seeing, you memorize 70%. In case you even massage the content, it jumps to 90%!

Ergo: Usually it starts with reading. Then you top up by listening to stuff, discussing it or even adding your own flavor. An approach which education institutions follow.

Many people lack the basics

Due to various reasons, 6 out 8 human beings cannot read and/or write. Hence they face serious challenges to qualify for jobs. With increasing complexity across all industries and thus professions, reading and writings are givens in your corporate world. Moreover illiterates have a hard time in their everyday hustle and bustle. Text is our communication foundation. Signposts, newspaper and signatures. Anytime and anywhere we’re expected to read and write stuff. Those who can’t are socially disabled and run the risk to be isolated.

What can you do to make a change?

Take a two-pronged approach: Take care of yourself before you help others (freely according to the oxygen supply advises on an airplane).

  1. Focus and expand. There’re gazillion books. Every year more than ever get published. This is due to the fact that our collective knowledge pool grows year over year plus bringing out your own book has never been easier. So, check first into which areas you want to dive deeper into to fuel your employability to reinforce your career choice intellectually. Either you’re passionate about a subject already or you develop it through digging into it. Yet if it’s too far off your interest mark, reading about it will be frustrating. Find the right balance. At ExperienceZone, we believe in well-rounded T-shape skill-sets. Hence, put your expertise stakes in the ground and expand into related areas thereafter.
  2. Learn systemically. Yeah, if you made it to here, you can surely read (although my English is admitably sometimes hard to decipher). Yet you can always step up your game. Check out speed-reading for instance. Especially if you read a lot, it can make sense to do this more efficiently. Just bear in mind, that effectiveness, i.e. comprehensibility can suffer if you skim over text without really digesting it. Therefore you want to smartly combine initial reading with consecutive mind-mapping, talking and writing  summaries. Consider buying an eReader to save money, packing weight and volume during travels. Think about audio books, which you can listen too whilst almost any physical activity. Absorb knowledge everyday, yet take time to let it sink. Read inspiring light content unrelated to your profession prior to going to sleep. This enables recovery and expands your horizon.
  3. Support others. Reading and writing are privileges. However, they don’t need to be. You can help people to learn or improve their skills. Get to know NGOs, which help those having the short end of the literature stick. Check how you can support without only donating money. Give tutoring to people in need. Those can be the student next door or one on the other side of the world. Modern phone and video conferencing tools are available to transfer knowledge. Teaching helps you to master content. Plus you can make it a two-way street: Almost every other human being can teach you something. You are good in math and want to gain basic Mandarin language skills? Find a student in China interested in learning English and filling her math knowledge gaps! There’re no limits and thus excuses nowadays.

Why do successful people have large libraries and small TVs?

I stole that quote from a book I recently read. Why did it catch my eye? Well, every child gets told it should read a book instead of playing Angry Birds on the tablet. “Reading makes you smarter.” Yet is that really true? And if yes, why’s that? Once again, I played Sherlock Holmes for you to solve that case in an ExperienceZone fashion.

Why watching TV is a double edged sword

Let’s start with your beloved telly. It provides you information. So far so good. But the data is predigested. What does this mean? You get moving pictures with audio. Your minds (yes plural, since we’re talking brain, heart and gut) just need to consume the visual and auditive meal. No space for imagination and thus creativity. Even worse: Everything, which is shown to you sticks in your subconscious. Especially if it’s presented in a way that touches your emotions. Stuff that makes you move internally. That’s exactly what the producers and directors want! If you’re having an intense experience, you tend to switch into the same channel again. Or you’re even willing to pay for watching it. We’re addicted to sensations. That’s the reason why only bad news are good news. Why are action movies, thrillers and dramas way more successful than documentaries? Because they shake you up! Don’t get me wrong: We love experiences! But only the good ones. What happens if you watch a horror movie and go to bed afterwards? You configure your subconscious. Even if you don’t have nightmares, your subconscious will co-create a reality, which is similar to what it received beforehand. Do you want your life to become a horror movie? I guess not…

Books tease your imagination and creativity

Do you want to be street smart instead? Find the best solutions to challenges in your life? Get along with others better every day? Then start to read regularly! I can tell you in thousand words how honey tastes. You won’t get it until you try it. So, why’s reading so powerful?

Firstly, the act of reading requires focus. Focus is the silver bullet of success. Unfortunately many of us don’t train this exceptional skill. In contrast: Our daily hustle promotes distraction. Your phone goes. An email arrives. Someone comes to your desk whilst you’re working on the super-important board presentation. Life is about balance. If you spend more time on simultaneity, you will find it harder to work things through sequentially. Bear in mind that our brain is wired to process information in bits. That’s why reading line after line is an easily digestible way to build up knowledge. Even more than that: You need to make a mental effort. Your brain is a muscle and wants to be trained. Yet I often need to jump over the McGuire hump and read at least a page after a long day.

Secondly, reading makes you think about what you’re absorbing whilst you’re doing it. This triggers pictures in your brain. Especially, if you read a novel. You think about how the characters look like, how the environment and situation is made up. You make you own movie in your head. That is also creating new neurotic interfaces and makes you brain more complex. The tighter your neurotic network, the more flexible you become in your communication and behavior.

Enough said: Get some good books and read every day!

ExperienceZone is all about trying new stuff and cultivating new routines, which do you good. Here’s what I want you to do step by step:

  1. Check yourself. What are you interested in? Beautifying your home? Biographies of great men? Or actionable tipps and tricks to improve your life? Go library and flip through some books. Or on an online platform and check out some bestsellers.
  2. Get started and follow through. You need to start reading every day. It’s an exercise that trains your brain. So schedule some time with yourself. I’m reading before I go to bed. It has a positive tiring impact on me. Sometimes I only cover a page or two before I fall asleep with the book open in my hands. Also, I read a couple of books in parallel. Yet never more than three. Otherwise distraction sets in. I love having one lying next to me on my sofa or in my sports bag.
  3. Reduce TV time. I own a large TV. Yet I only switch it on occasionally. I don’t watch the usual program. Instead I watch documentaries and inspiring movies with happy ends. So be conscious about what you’re watching. You are a product of everything you experienced in your life. That includes media consumption to a large extent for many people.

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