Each day I live
I want to be
A day to give
The best of me
I’m only one
But not alone
My finest day
Is yet unknown
I broke my heart
Fought every gain
To taste the sweet
I face the pain
I rise and fall
Yet through it all
This much remains
I want one moment in time
When I’m more than I thought I could be
When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away
And the answers are all up to me
Give me one moment in time
When I’m racing with destiny
Then in that one moment of time
I will feel
I will feel eternity
It may seem counterintuitive, but absorbing information through old-fashioned books gives your brain a break.
Imagine being the founder of not one but two companies dedicated to books and not finding the time to read any. That’s the situation that Hugh McGuire, founder of LibriVox and Pressbooks, found himself in a few years ago. Like many of us, he was battling an onslaught of digital information, and his beloved paperbacks were collecting dust. After a while, though, he realized he sorely missed the quiet time he used to spend with a book in hand. He also realized that he was tired all the time, and struggling to focus in every area of life.
Writing for Harvard Business Review, he explained:
“I was distracted when at work, distracted when with family and friends, constantly tired, irritable, and always swimming against a wash of ambient stress induced by my constant itch for digital information. My stress had an electronic feel to it, as if it was made up of the very bits and bytes on my screens.”
He found that a slower form of information, books, was the antidote to his information overload. So he made them part of his routine again. According to McGuire, “Reading books again has given me more time to reflect, to think, and has increased both my focus and the creative mental space to solve work problems.”
As any entrepreneur will tell you, problem-solving is critical for launching or running a business. But so is giving our busy brains a rest, and books help with that too. According to neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, focused reading uses about 42 calories per hour, whereas absorbing new information (e.g., scanning Twitter or the news headlines) burns around 65 calories per hour.
Research has found that reading novels improves our brain functions on a variety of levels, including the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes and flex your imagination. It also boosts our innovative thinking skills. Take it from Elon Musk, arguably one of the most innovative minds of our time. He’s said that growing up, he spent more than 10 hours a day pouring through science fiction novels. In today’s rapidly changing world, innovation is necessary for any business to stay competitive.
Reading is the best, not to mention the easiest, way to shore up our creative thinking and give our brains a break from digital overload — which, according to a 2019 Workplace Productivity Report, more than half of the workforce experiences. With that in mind, here are some strategies for making quality reading time a part of your daily routine.
1. Stash your devices
It seems simple, but detaching from our phones and tablets is often easier said than done. New information — like the ping of a new DM or refreshing our Twitter feed — triggers the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in our brains.
On top of that, our devices are designed to be addictive: Just ask a slew of former Silicon Valley big wigs, like Google’s former in-house ethicist, Tristan Harris, who have become whistleblowers for the addictive and unhealthy nature of our phones. Even the guy who literally wrote the book on getting people addicted — Nir Eyal, author of “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” — has done a 180°. More recently, he wrote a book with the opposite sentiment of his former title: “Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.” It’s a guide to freeing people from the pull of their devices.
Say what you will about Eyal’s flip-flopping, his book includes smart tips for maintaining your attention: like don’t hang out on Slack, limit meetings to just one laptop, and keep your phone on silent. I like to go one step further by putting my phone completely out of sight — in a drawer or even another room — when I need uninterrupted focus time.
It’s impossible to concentrate and fully immerse yourself in a book when you’re constantly checking your messages. So stick with the old adage: out of sight, out of mind.
2. If you don’t have hours, read in short intervals
As CEO of my online form company, I don’t have uninterrupted hours each day to dedicate to reading. But as Wharton professor Adam Grant writes, “Leaders who don’t have time to read are leaders who don’t make time to learn.”
If the most successful entrepreneurs manage to find the time, I can, too. Sometimes, that means being a little thrifty: like reading in short bursts throughout the day — on the way to work or waiting in line at the coffee shop. Or, instead of zoning out with Netflix before bed, try squeezing in a few chapters.
What’s more, research has found that we retain more information when we learn in short, spaced-out intervals, rather than trying to cram it all in at once.
If you’re struggling to concentrate or just having an off-day, the Pomodoro Technique can be highly effective. It entails setting a timer for 25 minutes, committing to concentrating during that time period, then giving yourself five minutes to do anything — grab a snack, take a quick stroll or something else non-work-related. Once you’ve completed four “pomodoros,” you can give yourself a longer break.
Even if you only do one or two pomodoros, you’ll be surprised at how the time flies.
It’s no surprise that if you choose something you genuinely enjoy, you’ll be more likely to follow through with it. Plus, fully immersing yourself in one captivating book will give you so much more than speeding through a dozen books while your mind wanders elsewhere. Only when we’re fully absorbed can we reach that priceless state of flow: the “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”
Colleagues often tell me that it’s too difficult or time-consuming to find great books. True enough, there are thousands of titles to choose from. That’s why I recommend delegating the legwork. See who your favorite authors or experts are reading. You can puruse Adam Grant’s favorite leadership books or author Steven Pinker’s ten titles he’d take to a desert island. I also like using What Should I Read Next, a website that uses a huge database to offer recommendations based on books you’ve already enjoyed.
Simply put: For productive, intelligent leaders, reading books is literally the oldest trick in the book. It gives your brain a chance to recharge and absorb new information, and there’s no hacking your way out that.
Rosh Hashanah: Not the New Years You Thought It Was
If Rosh Hashanah could be summed up in one word, that word would be; love, potential, and life. (Okay, so that’s three words, what are you going to do?)
Let’s take a look at each of these words and reflect on their meaning in the context of Rosh Hashanah. Follow me:
If you have heard anything about Rosh Hashanah, what you have probably heard is either that it is the “Jewish New Years” or that it is the Day of Judgment. Well, I’m here to tell you that while both are true, they are also very misunderstood. Let’s consider the notion of judgment. The truth is, the prospect of judgment is very uncomfortable and nobody likes to be judged. We don’t like to be judged by a boss, a teacher, and certainly not by our peers. At the same time, there is a very beautiful dimension to judgment. Think about parents and children. Parents are concerned about, and judge, a whole range of items related to their children. Parents are concerned about their children’s grades in school, what kind of lunch they have, what kinds of friends they associate with, what websites they frequent, and a lot more. From the child’s perspective, this can seem a bit intrusive, but the truth is, there is only one reason why parents are so interested in virtually every detail of their children’s lives: it’s because they deeply love their children. In fact, one of the most devastating things a parent can do to a child is not to judge. Why? Because a parent who isn’t interested in what their child is doing is sending a message that says clearly—“I don’t care about you.” A child who hears such a message will inevitably draw the conclusion that they are not worth their parents attention, and that, is about the most destructive message a child can absorb.
On Rosh Hashanah, when we say that God “sits in judgment” what we are saying is that God loves us: He cares about each and every one of us, He cares about who we are, how we live, and whether or not we are actualizing the potential He gave us. That the creator of the universe actually cares about “little ‘ol me” is a remarkably empowering and life-giving idea. The reality that we confront on Rosh Hashanah is one that highlights the intrinsic value and preciousness of every life in the eyes of God.
On Passover we celebrate the Exodus from Egypt, on Chanukah we celebrate the defeat of the Greeks and the miracle of the oil. Did you ever wonder what we are celebrating on Rosh Hashanah? Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of the creation of the first human being. The Jewish year begins with focusing on the awesome nature and potential that exists within each of us. When you look at the world around you, it’s clear that God is not only quite powerful, but very, very creative. That being the case, God could have launched Mankind with a family, a village or a whole planet filled with people: why did He begin with just one person? Jewish tradition teaches that God began with one person to teach us about the fantastic potential inherent in each of us. Each of us has the ability to have an impact on the entire world and each of us is capable of making a world of difference. As we stand at the threshold of a new year we ask ourselves some simple questions: “What can I do in the coming year to actualize more of my potential?” “How can I contribute, even in a small way, to making the world a better place?” “What can I do to make a difference in someone else’s life?”
Every Rosh Hashanah represents a vote of confidence from God in our individual, personal potential. Every Rosh Hashanah also presents us with a fresh opportunity to unlock more and more of that great God-given gift.
Throughout the Rosh Hashanah prayers, we ask God to “Remember us for life” and “Inscribe us in the Book of Life.” When we greet one another we say “May you have a good year, and may you be written and sealed for a year of good life and peace.”
Our prayers for life are meant to be understood at face value—we want to live—but they also have a deeper meaning. Consider this: I once met a Holocaust survivor who said, “I would choose to go through all those years in Auschwitz again rather than spend one day of my life as a Nazi.” That is an incredible statement, and what it means, I believe, is this: one can be alive, strong, and healthy yet be “dead” at the same time. A life lived in the boots of a Nazi, or under the flag of Al-Qaida or Hezbollah, is a life utterly drained of all meaning. You see, there are certain choices that we make, and certain courses of action that we pursue, that have the ability to infuse life with “life,” and there are others that drain life of everything God intended it for. On Rosh Hashanah, we not only ask for life, we strive to be people who embrace the kinds of values, ideals, and choices that will fill our days with life: With meaning, with goodness, with spirituality—with life!
I would like to wish all of you a Shana Tova, a good sweet year, health and happiness for the entire world. Happy Rosh Hashanah and Happy New Year to you and all of Israel with a sweet new year- a new beginning. May the Lord bless you and keep you Shalom