In the world that we live in, information is becoming increasingly important. Having the right information can mean the difference between life and death—quite literally.
Information guides everything we do. From something as complicated as determining what assets to invest your wealth in, to something as simple as determining whether you should go on a jog today or tomorrow, information is what guides our decision making process.
Therefore, in the world of information, he who has the most information wins. Yet not all information is created equal—and what’s more, is that our brains aren’t designed to easily and effortlessly store information. It takes time and it takes energy.
Every single day I see people looking at useless information, wasting away their time and energy on ridiculous #FakeNews stories and fear-based marketing. Little do they know it, but they’re giving away their most powerful asset: focus.
In the digital age, there’s more information available to us than ever before. We can get knowledge from eBooks, we can get knowledge from TV shows, we can get knowledge from YouTube videos, and we can get knowledge from good old fashioned books.
…but it doesn’t really matter where you get the knowledge. What matters is WHAT the knowledge is that you’re getting. It doesn’t matter how much you know about computer programming if you’re a BMW salesman. Your knowledge must be appropriate for what it is you’re trying to solve.
This is where the art of knowledge filtration comes in. Learning to effectively sift through information in the digital age is perhaps one of the most powerful meta skills that one could develop. Without it, you will be lost in a sea of inane and impractical theory, thus violating the Kybalion’s Law of Use.
Far too many people get lost in the sauce, not knowing that they’re filling their brains up with useless information. We live in the age of connection, but few realize that we’re connected to all the wrong things. Rather than consuming information that could grow your wallet, you’re consuming information about Susie’s latest escapade on Instagram.
How I Read a Book a Day
Have you ever heard the saying that you should read a book a day? I know that I certainly have, but unlike most people I don’t just hear the saying—I actually live by it. “How the hell do you read a whole book a day, Jon?” I can hear someone ask.
I can read a whole book a day, because I understand the power of knowledge filtration. Contrary to popular belief, the best way to read a book isn’t to read every single word from cover to cover. Yes, this is one way to read a book, but like I said before, you’ll just be filling your brain up with completely useless information.
Most books are 90% filler with a few good nuggets of wisdom. This isn’t their fault, though—editors demand it. You can’t publish a book that’s just 30 pages long (unless it’s an eBook that’s independently published) and expect to get sales. You have to fill it up with stories, anecdotes, and entertainment.
This is where the art of knowledge filtration comes in. I know how to read a book a day, because I understand how to discard all of the useless information. I don’t just mindlessly follow the way that my 3rd grade teacher taught me to read books—I take things into my own hands.
How to Not Die
I was reading a book called How to Not Die by Dr. Michael Greger and Gene Stone. It’s a 576-page long behemoth loaded to the brim with study upon study proving how to avoid common ailments like heart disease, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.
The book is phenomenal, and I recommend you check it out yourself—but don’t read it from cover to cover. Again, this is a newbie mistake. Good books are filled with helpful introductions, tables of contents, highlighted/emphasized text, and summaries. These are the nuggets you must soak in.
When I “read a book a day,” I’m scanning it for crucial information. I’m going to share this process with you in a second, but first understand that the MINDSET behind the process is to get as much useful information as possible, and to not waste time on useless information.
Most people would’ve taken weeks if not months to finish a book like this, but I finished it in under an hour. Did I read every single word in the book? No, of course not. Did I get valuable knowledge and nuggets of wisdom, distilled from a 60-year-old doctor’s lifetime of research, though? Yes. Yes, I did.
The Key: Knowledge Filtration
The process of knowledge filtration is pretty simple—it’s how I read a book a day, and it’s how you can, too. Like I said, it’s based on the underlying principle that you want to absorb as much useful information as possible and discard as much useless information as possible.
Here’s the process of knowledge filtration, or how to read a book a day:
- Read the summary located on the back of the book (1 minute)
- Read the introduction (3 minutes)
- Skim through the book, noting chapter titles, layout, and highlighted text (10 minutes)
- Read the table of contents, and mark any important sections to focus on (2 minutes)
- Read those sections and highlight/bookmark what should be remembered (20 minutes)
- Rinse and repeat on other books
“But Jon, aren’t you losing valuable information?” someone might ask. No, not really—let’s take the book How Not to Die as an example. What do I REALLY need to know from this book? Do I need to understand all 576 pages? No, of course not. I just need to understand the core ideas, and maybe some practical information.
First, I got a general idea of what the book was about. Okay, it’s about what habits and foods can reverse and prevent aging/disease. Second, I read the introduction—this tells me the author’s thought process and his general summary of the book.
Third, I skim through the book. This gives me a rough “layout” of how it works, whether the author emphasizes important information (in boxes, in bold, etc.), and how it’s written. The most important steps are 4-5, because here’s where you get the specialized and practical information.
As I looked through the table of contents, I saw a wide range of topics including:
- How to Not Die From Heart Disease
- How to Not Die From Lung Disease
- How to Not Die From Infections
- How to Not Die From Diabetes
- How to Not Die From Blood Cancers
So, what did I do? Did I read the chapters on conditions like blood cancer and diabetes, even though I have ZERO family history of these things? Of course not! Why the fuck would I? What’s the point in understanding how to minimize risk of these things, when my risk is already virtually zero?
Instead, I highlighted a few key chapters I was interested in—chapters on avoiding heart disease, spices that have the most antioxidants, and the author’s recommended “daily dozen” foods to eat. This is actual, PRACTICAL information that I can start using today, which is what I’m after.
Save Time and Energy
By only reading the chapters that really applied to me, I was able to save days of time and effort. I don’t need to understand how to lift weights properly, because I already know that—hell I’ve already written a BOOK about it, that’s sold thousands of copies.
What could I know more about, though? I’d like to see what the research says about avoiding heart disease, improving cognitive function, and the author’s general thoughts on diet and exercise. This is important information that only takes a few minutes to glimpse over and understand, but that could potentially save my life.
You should apply the same “knowledge filtration” process to everything else you consume, from magazines to blogs to YouTube channels to movies. Obviously there are exceptions, such as if you need to be specialized in something or if you’re just watching for entertainment, but in general this process holds true.
Are you trying to figure out the core tenets of cryptocurrency investing? Okay, then don’t bother reading a 700 page book that will just fill your mind with complex, theoretical information—spend 5 minutes reading my blog post about investing in cryptocurrency, to get the general idea of how to approach it.
You don’t need to know everything, especially not at first. Sure, if you want to become a doctor it will take a lot of study. Sure, if you want to become a millionaire you’ll have to read a lot about business…but even so, learning to just focus on what’s IMMEDIATELY APPLICABLE is the most important thing.
In conclusion, there are three types of people. The first type inundates their mind with stupid, useless information—they spend 10 hours a day browsing social media and reading about the latest celebrity gossip, which they’ll literally NEVER be able to use to improve their lives.
The second type of people is better, but not by a lot. Instead of accumulating completely useless information, they just accumulate 97% useless information. Will you ever need to know some random fact about how the Amazon Rain Forest gets an average of 430 inches of rain per year? Yeah, sure maybe. Is it likely though? Absolutely not.
In a world of abundant information, the meta skill of knowledge filtration is rapidly becoming one of the most important skills available. It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how skilled you are—if you can’t effectively find the knowledge that you need when you need it, you’re useless.
To quote the immortal Bob Dylan, oh the times they are a changin’…and indeed they are. Don’t resist the change, though—embrace it. We have more information available at our finger tips than ever before, thanks to advancements in modern technology…all we have to do, is learn how to use it.