Being a reader in a world of speakers

Sometimes you encounter a book with which you real­ize a lot of things about your­self. This kind of epiphany moment was exact­ly what I had when read­ing Managing Oneself by Peter F. Drucker which shed a light on sev­er­al things I encoun­tered in my life and things I couldn’t do that every­body was at ease with and I couldn’t under­stand why.

When everybody’s lis­ten­ing to pod­casts, watch­ing end­less YouTube video streams, when every recipe you can find is now pre­sent­ed in a video, when books are being lis­tened too instead of read, … And that I couldn’t do any of those things. Put sim­ply, if you make me lis­ten to a pod­cast for more than 5 min­utes, my mind will start to wan­der and I’ll keep noth­ing from it in my memory.

At 29 years old, I real­ized I was a read­er, mean­ing that I was under­stand­ing things in a clear­er way when read­ing them instead of lis­ten­ing to them. This might appear quite sim­ple, but this real­ly helped me under­stand a lot of things about myself, on how I should behave in my work, why I was des­per­ate for meet­ings min­utes and dread­ing hours long meet­ings but also that I shouldn’t force myself into things I couldn’t do. I had many pod­casts I sub­scribed to, after read­ing this lit­tle book I had exact­ly 0 left. They didn’t suit me at all, why should I keep los­ing ener­gy try­ing some­thing I wasn’t made for?

I learned also that I was a writer more than a speak­er, mean­ing that I had to write things down to mem­o­rize them. Something I already real­ized when I start­ed to build my Commonplace Book. As I was rewrit­ing quotes from my favourite books, sud­den­ly I start­ed to make a lot of con­nec­tions, I could remem­ber eas­i­ly which author was linked to which one, what com­mon theme sev­er­al books shared, … I under­stood final­ly why I learned so much dur­ing the MOOCs I fol­lowed and where I was tak­ing a lot of notes I didn’t even read back. I didn’t need to reread them, once they were writ­ten, they were clear­ly set in my mind.

Those two things made me real­ize why I had so much trou­ble going through school, where most of the teach­ing is bad on a lis­ten­ing-to-mem­o­rize mind­set for which I wasn’t made at all. And why I had so much suc­cess going through lessons by myself, by read­ing books and rewrit­ing things I need­ed, instead of lis­ten­ing to some­one talk­ing for hours.

Schools every­where are orga­nized on the assump­tion that there is only one right way to learn and that it is the same way for everybody.”
 — Peter F. Drucker (Managing Oneself)

This also helped me to under­stand why I’m  so weary when Digital Evangelists tell every­one that video is the new com­mu­ni­ca­tion media. This is not a bad idea per se, but doing so is for­get­ting half the pop­u­la­tion who is not at all at ease with a video / audio media (and I’m not even talk­ing about hand­i­cap sit­u­a­tions). Yes video are quite good when you want to present an idea to a board, and some text might look bor­ing, but both are nec­es­sary in our world.

The only thing I regret now is hav­ing learned this at the age of 29. But now that I know this, it’s some­thing I can build upon quite eas­i­ly, and this already helped me reshape the way I was work­ing in a more effi­cient way, suit­ing the way my brain is work­ing and using my strengths. I still have a lot of pal­lia­tives to find as our pro­fes­sion­al work is deeply con­struct­ed on an speak­ing / lis­ten­ing way of work­ing, but noth­ing is impos­si­ble now that I’ve clear­ly iden­ti­fied my weaknesses.

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Simon Vandereecken

Freelance UX Designer living in Brussels (Belgium), with a deep interest into philosophy, personal growth, self improvement, books, music, ... well in many things ! I use this website to write thoughts going through my head as well as ideas, observations and reading notes. Feel free to get in touch ;)