Diminishing Returns of Reading

Note to future self…

If the Typical Book Changes Your Life You Read Far Too Few Books

Today I came across this great quote by Scott Young. This idea resonated a lot with me so I want to make sure I create a mental note on it(:

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Illustration by Scott Young

Scott argues that reading, as any other activity, presents diminishing returns for every nth book that you read. For example, if you want to learn about investing the first book you read on the subject is incredibly illuminating. The 99th book you read on the subject will probably provide you a lot less insight. Again, Scott’s argument is that you should continue reading until the insights you derive from reading a book are equal to the cost of reading each book.

This equation is not intuitive because measuring its two variables isn’t straightforward. How do you measure level of insight? How do you measure cost? Is it based on time required to read the book or the actual cost of the book?

Frankly, I think this is beside the point. If it’s clear to you that every book that you read feels life-changing, then you’re nowhere even near the point of equilibrium. Lesson: read more.

Takeaways

The “diminishing return” for any given activity X is something that I should put into practice for everything else that I do. If I get $5 dollars in value for every $1 I put in, I will take that deal every single day. I feel this is true for reading, exercising, writing, and even meditating.

Experiment

While writing this post I came up with this idea of ranking my favorite activities based on current ROI. The idea is that maybe I can get a lot more value out of life if I keep doing those high ROI tasks until the diminishing returns hit drive me to an equilibrium point. I will keep you posted and see how it goes.

Now back to work…