Kind of a Rant about Feeling No Longer Young and thus Out of Touch – and Thinking about focused Book Reading


Many years ago, I spent some time, in conversation, and in speaking arenas, with a historian. He once told me this: “Randy, I live in the last century. And you live in the next century.”

I have always been enamored with what’s next. I’ve read books on future trends from my earliest days of my work life. (Yes, I read Megatrends, and Future Shock, and many other titles I could get my hands on).

But, though I still do that, I’m now feeling out of touch with the discussion about the future. I simply can’t keep up anymore.

I kind of feel like I am floundering here!

Maybe it is my technological illiteracy. Though I blog, and Tweet, and practically live on three devices (iMac, iPad, and iPhone), I don’t do Instagram or Snapchat, and if truth be told, I’m not at all sure how to use Facebook effectively. I do plenty on LinkedIn, but probably not all that effectively.

And, I don’t understand the technology of any of it.

And, I’m not the only one who may be slipping behind. Did you read this story?: You’re How Old? We’ll Be in Touch. It describes how JK Scheinberg, the engineer at Apple who led the effort that moved the Mac to Intel processors, could not get hired at the Apple Store for the Genius Bar, because he was “too old.”

I am feeling so far behind – in understanding, and in practice.

And, recently, I read a blog post by a Noble prize winner that I read regularly in which he described how he will be doing more and more Tweeting, partly because people read Tweets, and they don’t read blog posts as much… He wrote:

But the fact is that a lot more people read a tweetstorm than read a blog post.

Yuk!

And, then the conversation comes round to books. Who has time to read books anymore?

I’m reading that sales of physical books are holding up ok, and electronic books sales have leveled off. (Yes, I read most nearly all of the books I read these days on my Kindle app on my iPad).

But, regardless of where people read their books, if you really want to know about people’s book reading habits, here’s the latest from Pew, Book Reading 2016:

Click here for the article:
And click here for a chart with the details.

But, here’s the part of that article that is especially gripping to me, a book guy:

Some 73% of Americans report that they have read at least one book in the last year. That is nearly identical to the 74% who reported doing so in a survey conducted in 2012, although lower than the 79% who reported doing so in 2011.
Americans read an average (mean) of 12 books per year, while the typical (median) American has read 4 books in the last 12 months.

In other words, most people don’t read many books. And when you factor in that these figures are dealing with all books read (from good novels to pulp fiction to serious non-fiction to fluff), then this kind of proves what I think we all know to be true: there are book readers (who read a bunch of books a year) and non-book readers (for whom it’s a toss up between wanting a root canal or reading a book).

deep-work-cal-newportBut, here’s the thing, getting back to the start of this post. In an increasingly Twitter/Instagram/what’s next world, the focused work it takes to read a good book – to immerse oneself in serious content – is ever more threatened by distractions. Remember the subtitle of the book by Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.

No, I can’t keep up. But maybe some others could slow down a bit, and get back to a long-respected and time-tested path to knowledge and insight – read more good books!

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