In light of positive developments on the covid-19 front, and on the US political front, you could say that the tone of global events have begun to turn a corner.

After a year in which doom and gloom was almost celebrated, (I’m remembering the almost meme-like quality of hating on the 2020 calendar year itself), it seems like the new year has allowed us to wipe a slate clean and reset.

This optimism is of course founded on real developments, such as a scientific breakthrough, and a peaceful transfer of power. Notwithstanding these tangible beams supporting our new platform of positivity, it still takes a change in mindset and viewpoint to recognise that ‘things are on the up’.

It began with pile of dusty books

As an avid writer and curious reader, I like to share my thoughts and experiences from those fields when I write about mental health on Thrive Global.

It’s my area of expertise if I could be so bold to label it as such. Moreover, it’s my frame of reference. It’s a consistent lens through which I experience, and navigate many of the difficulties of life.

Some of my articles on Thrive Global touch upon the issues of writing, publishing and blogging. This is quite the opposite.

In this post, I’d like to explain how total book immersion, as I’ll term it, has helped me to reset my outlook as we begin this new year.

It all starts with a pile of dusty books. Personal finance books in particular.

It’s fair to say that in my university years, I went through a personal development phase.

I bought a wide range of self-help/ classic get-rich-quick / finance books at the time. Here’s a small sample of what sat on the shelf of my university accommodation bookshelf:

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

How to Read the Financial Pages by Michael Brett

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

It’s this neat stack of titles which I dusted off this January.

My initial motivation to bring them out was the sentimental angle. I was pining for the freedom I enjoyed in university. The freedom to socialise, forge new connections, and explore intellectual curiosity.

You could say that these were the books I read during a formative time in my life. These books helped shape the optimistic, strategic (and capitalistic) mindset which has stayed with me until this day.

Total immersion for a new perspective

I hadn’t read these books since 2007/2008, which meant that they felt very fresh as I slowly flicked through the pages.

It didn’t take longer than 5 minutes before I made a decision – I would read them all during January.

Having now reached the other side of that reading adventure, I want to share a few moments from that journey and encourage you to also pick-up a few personal finance books of your own (or on any other topic).

Reading 5 books in 23 days was a pretty tall order. I studied finance topics at university, not literature, so I have never had such a reading list to progress through at speed. As I’m also not furloughed at the moment, I had to do the reading in evenings and weekends.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. It takes 5 hours to read a 250-page paperback. The last time I binge-read a book was Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows! I had actually lost track of the time needed to read a book from cover-to-cover.
  1. There’s a synergy from reading books with complementary topics. If you examine the covers presented above – you’ll notice the common themes between them (success, wealth, personal development). But there are also stark differences: The Power of Now is spiritual, whereas How to Read the Financial Pages is capitalist. Exploring the boundaries of a topic from so many unique angles gave me the sense that I was mastering a subject – not merely skimming it.
  1. There’s a reason why the great centres of learning in the world (universities) are still shrines to the humble book. Libraries are still at the heart of most higher education institutions, and for good reason. By totally immersing myself in the minds of five different authors, I felt like in a handful of days, I was leveraging the wisdom acquired by five different people over several decades. How efficient!

Lifting my head up from the book

By the time I emerged on the other side, I’d lived in this ‘new’, curated world for so long, that I’d disconnected with the bleak narrative of the daily news cycle.

Of course, news being news, the headlines were back in my face within days of course. But this time, I was ready to receive them with a different perspective.

My slate had been wiped clean. I’d achieved a restfulness through reading.