How To Become A Learning Machine (And Triple The Number Of Books You Read In 2019)

This week on Seeking Wisdom, DC and DG re-visit one of the most popular episodes of all time to share their secrets to reading more books. Why? Because reading is key to transforming you into a learning machine. And that means helping you get ahead in your career.

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Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends! You can connect with DC and DG on Twitter @dcancel @davegerhardt.

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In This Episode

00:37 – Did you vote? Who are the copywriters for ballots?
2:00 – Why we made this episode
3:54 – You’ve been taught the wrong way to read
5:50 – The key to becoming a learning machine
7:30 – James Altucher: “Idea sex”
9:07 – Stop reading boring books
10:54 – How to stay inspired and keep learning
14:19 – A six-star review from Ethan

Full Transcript

Dave Gerhardt: Ladies and Gentlemen, today on Seeking Wisdom we’re gonna talk about the 2019 marketing budget at Drift.

David Cancel: X-Nay. X-Nay on the Budget-ay.

DG: I try to sneak it in. I try to sneak it in.

DC: Good try.

DG: We’re back at it.

DC: If you’re watching the vide, which I suggest you do on YouTube, on the Youtubes as they say. Subscribe to Drift because the young boy Gonzales trying to get some subscribers. But if you see here, what’s this on here?

DG: You voted. I voted today.

DC: Today, I hope you voted today. You’re probably hearing this delayed, but I hope everyone voted.

DG: Be the change.

DC: I like what he said.

DG: DC told me that the lines in Essex were not, so, I told him I’m in the south end if you hadn’t heard from this podcast. It was a real “who’s who”.

DC: Posh. Posh.

DG: A real “who’s who” of voters.

DC: Yeah, yeah, posh. That’s not where I vote. Where I vote there’s clammers and-

DG: You vote with the people.

DC: Also, I always wonder every time I vote, “Who comes up with these questions? Who are the copywriters for ballots?”. Because most of the ballot questions, I read 7 times. And I was like, I still don’t understand this. And I’m like, “How does anyone else understand this?”

DG: And they wonder why people don’t vote.

DC: Confusing.

DG: It’s confusing.

DC: Half the ballot questions, “yes” meant that you were actually saying “no”. Half of the “No’s”, when you voted no, it meant yes. And some of the No’s meant no’s.

DG: This is like having a conversation with DC. He said, but it means yes.

DC: Yeah. It’s like “Yes, but it actually means no”.

DG: No it is crazy.

DC: I’m lost.

DG: You would not be a good government employee.

DC: No, I ripped everything in pieces.

DG: But it is crazy. It’s this long.

DC: So what are we talking about today?

DG: Today we’re gonna talk about- so a couple of weeks ago, I was getting coffee with Sam Boyd, who’s the sales director here at Drift. And he said, the reason we went to get coffee is he said, “Look, I’ve been listening to Seeking Wisdom since the beginning”. Not the beginning because he missed his lesson. “And I like what you guys talk about, but I cannot read. I do not like reading, how do you do it, what is the secret?”. So that made me think, so we went for a walk, we went all around Boston, walked, whatever. And I told him all the stuff that we’ve talked about and that I’ve learned by osmosis. I was like, “You know what? I bet you that we haven’t done an episode of this in a while”, and then I looked back, this was actually Episode number 2. I can’t bring myself to listen to that, but…

DC: Oh my God, it must be so bad.

DG: Episode number 2 and and I thought we could bring it and talk about this, because I actually think this the core lesson of Seeking Wisdom. So we’re going to talk about today, the secrets to becoming a learning machine.

DC: I love it. I will surprise you, shock you, by saying that I actually can’t remember any Seeking Wisdom’s past five episodes ago. Isn’t that shocking to hear?

DG: That’s great.

DC: I definitely can’t remember number 2.

DG: I can remember them all. Not all of them. There’s some, there’s some. So, and really, I think this whole thing is anchored by this quote, which is why this podcast exists in the first place, which is the quote from Charlie Munger, which is, “I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they’re learning machines, they go to bed every night a little wiser than they were when they got up and boy, does that help. Particularly when you have a long run ahead of you”.

DC: I have often said, many times, that if that could fit on a tattoo on my chest, it would be there.

DG: It could fit.

DC: That would be small writing.

DG: No, we would just go full body.

DC: Full body. Is that a comment on my girth?

DG:  No, that is not a comment. I knew you were gonna take it-

DC: I think that was a weight joke.

DG: Is the quote that is on the wall over there? Or is that a different quote from him?

DC: It is that quote.

DG: It’s that quote. We should cut to that, boom.

DC: Yeah, we have an entire wall that we just had done at Drift, where we have this quote on the wall with an interesting picture of Charlie Munger up there, that we “Driftisized”. But this is one of my favorite quotes. This is top 10 quotes. Top 10 quotes for me.

DG: Alright, so here’s what I want to talk about. Pretend like nobody’s heard this from you before. Let’s go all the way back, let’s talk about how you read books because you taught me some that early-on, about reading. So see if you can remember some of those lessons.

DC: Yeah, so the first thing that I learned about reading, and it took me a long time, so I’m trying to, the point of Seeking Wisdom has always been to help share some of the stuff that we have learned in order for you not to suffer through the pain that many of us have had to suffer through. And learn it the hard way.

So this is something I learned the hard way. I used to, when I was a little kid, I loved reading books. Then when I went to high school and college, I didn’t like reading books anymore. I actually didn’t do any work ever in both high school and college and didn’t want to read any of the books that I was told to read in there for a bunch of reason. So I kind of fell away from reading and then in my 20’s, I still wasn’t a big reader, and I figured out after much going back and forth, because I tried to force myself to read many times, was that the way that I was taught to read a book in school was wrong for me. Entirely wrong for me.

It works for some people, but I think for most people that I meet, including Sam Boyd here, who says he hates reading. I bet you have been taught the wrong way to read. The way that I was taught to read was to read from cover to inside cover to table of contents, to the entire book to the back flap to the back of the book and read every word there and read it sequentially.

DG: And don’t give up in the middle when it gets tough. It gets rough in the middle.

DC: Yeah and if I hated the book, I must read it, and I cannot stop reading this book until it’s done. Because I was taught, and I bet many of you were taught this way from most people that I talk to, a lot of people end up growing up hating books.

So what I discovered was, “Wait a second, why am I reading books this way? I already paid for the book, the author is happy that I read the book, why am I forcing myself, torturing myself, to 1) get through books that I don’t want to read that aren’t working for me. 2) To always have to read a book, one at a time and never to read more than one book at a time”.

Instead, I adopted an entirely new, different way of reading and mindset that was, look if I can get one lesson, two lessons, three lessons. But even if I can only one interesting lesson out of this book, I only paid $8 for it…

DG: Huge.

DC: Like, that’s less than a latte across the street here.

DG: No doubt. Especially if you’re talking about- most of the stuff we talk about is business books. Non-fiction books, right?

DC: Yeah, non-fiction books.

DG: So, usually, the reason that book exists first of all is because there’s one or two lessons, right?

DC: That’s it.

DG: Take Ray Dolly “Oh Principals”. That book is this big. There’s really one or two core methodologies or systems in there, you can learn about those and you move on.

DC: Yeah. So I made this discovery and ever since then, there’s many discoveries, but this one is the one that has helped me the most. Because all the sudden, I went from forcing myself to read books that I didn’t want to read, to reading multiple books at once.

If you ask me, I’m actually confused now when people ask me, “What are you reading?”, now, because I’m like, “I don’t know, I’m reading like 7 books right now, let me go down the list”.

DG: Yeah. And I’ve seen you pick it up, you flip through it, you see a chapter, “Oh this is interesting”, you read that, and that’s your lesson.

DC: Yeah. And then I put it down and maybe pick up another book and then I go back and revisit those books that I read one chapter in and then I keep reading. So, what happens because of this accidental discovery is that once you start reading multiple books, multiple sets of ideas in parallel, they start to feed off of each other and this thing that, I forgot his name now…

DG: James Altucher.

DC: James Altucher calls Idea Sex happens, right? These ideas come together and they form a whole new derivative idea that comes out of that. Amazing.

DG: Like you could be reading a book about copywriting and old school ads. Then also you’re reading the book about how Sales Force grew, and then all of the sudden, you put those two things together and you’re like, “What if we did this campaign?”.

DC: So, the number one thing when I talk to people who are having a hard time like Sam Boyd over here on reading, and they say they hate reading, is to first tell them, and relieve them from the guilt of having to read a book in it’s entirety.

DG: So number one is, quit books.

DC: Yeah. I quit ’em all the time.

DG: Also, by the way, if you pick them up, you’re going to pick them up in different phases, different stages.

We talk about this a lot, one book early on at Drift we read with Jason Limpkin, “Impossible to Inevitable”. Read that the first year at Drift, reread it last year, meant something completely different.

DC: Completely different. Because you’re in a different context. That’s the other thing about books, the great books are the books that you can pick up- and you should pick up- over and over, over a long amount of time. Because in every time you pick it up, you’re gonna meet a different context in life and you’re gonna pull different lessons out of that book.

DG: So quit books is one thing. Pick out one or two lessons is such a good other thing. Think about it, on the last episode of this, we talked about “Thinking fast and slow” David Kahneman, who’s probably won whatever the award is in that world for…

DC: Lots of awards.

DG: Yeah, lots of awards, right?

But you’re paying him- the book is probably 600 pages. You buy the book for $9.99. Maybe you only read the first third of the book, or first half, or quarter.

DC: Guess what, David Kahneman is happy you bought the book.

DG: He’s happy but also, you just exchanged $12 for two ideas. Two new lessons that you learned from one of the smartest people in the world.

DC: Absolutely. And reminder: that’s only two latte’s. That’s across the street here in Boston.

DG: Yeah. So quit books, read for one thing. I also think that third thing is- this is a piece of what I got from you- is I don’t read things that are not interesting to me anymore.

DC: No.

DG: Right?

DC: Get rid of ’em.

DG: So it’s interesting because you have like, you sent me a lot of books and you also send Will a lot of books.

My guess is the difference in books that you’re sending us, right? So what was liberating for me is like, “Am I gonna get any better? Am I gonna be any better in my career, or at this company or whatever if I learn about Saas metrics and LTV to cac and all this other stuff?”.

DC: Please no. Please no.

DG: No. Will should do that. He can learn that stuff, right? So my thing was, what took off for me personally, is when I started to read, you started feeding me some of those books about stuff that got me excited.

And then I put it to work and then said, “Oh whoa. I read that book and that made me write this headline better, or made me better at this thing”. Okay, I’m gonna triple down there and now I just say, “Oh that’s about some VC thing, somebody else can read that, that’s not my appetite, I’m going to focus here”.

DC: It’s an important lesson, which I try to do. When someone asks me for a book recommendation, I try to make that book recommendation personal to them because what I want to happen is that I want them to be successful in reading that book and be happy because they can, and these are largely non-fiction books, but sometimes fiction- that they can feel like they’ve grown in some dimension by reading that book.

So I don’t believe in generic recommendations because there are lots of books that I would never read and have no interest in reading and will not help me. And there are other books that will help me a lot, and so for you, I try to give you books that I know are gonna stack on top of each other.

Sometimes I make mistakes, I give you Daniel Kahneman’s book too early in the process, when you’re a young Jedi and it’s overwhelming. I should’ve saved that one for later, that one might be for 10 years from now-

DG: Yeah, still not ready.

DC: So you gotta give people recommendations of books that are right for this time in their context.

DG: But ultimately, I think this actually is not a podcast about reading at all. It’s about this mindset of always be learning, of seeking wisdom, of- not to be corny, but- that’s really what it is about.

DC: That’s how it started.

DG: I think whether that’s books, whether that’s videos, whether that’s YouTube, whether that’s movies, whatever it is. To be seeking that stuff and then actually have a framework for it. Like, “Okay I’m gonna pick one out for it, I’m gonna read this until I get one thing”. Maybe you’re continuously hooked and then you end up on page 300 and you’re done.

DC: Yeah, maybe you get 10 things out of it.

DG: But if you get one thing out of that.

DC: Why is this podcast called Seeking Wisdom?

DG: Why is this podcast called Seeking Wisdom? I know this answer. Fun fact. Well, number one is a mindset. Number 2 is, there’s a book, “Seeking Wisdom from Darwin to Munger”.

DC: Yes. One day I will show a picture, I will post a picture of my nightstand. On my nightstand, there is only been one book for years now, and that book is called, “Seeking Wisdom” and it’s these lessons, largely from Charlie Munger, but also from other places and that book is a book that I often go back to and reference. It’s more of a reference book than a book that you read in a linear fashion, from start to finish. This is a book that you can jump around and pull out lessons from. In our kitchen, there’s a little area, there’s another book there which we have out here, which is Charlie Munger’s book.

DG: “The Tao of Charlie Munger”.

DC: We have “The Tao of Charlie Munger” but we also have the other book, which I’m just blanking on the name of. The blue cover-

DG: Oh, “The Almanac”?

DC: Yeah, “The Almanac”, Charlie Munger’s “Almanac”. “Charlie’s Almanac” it’s called. We have that out there, another great book, another book that you jump and reference.

DG: “Poor Charlie’s Almanac” The wit and wisdom of Charles T. Munger.

DC: Yeah, so we have that book out there. So these are books that sit around. But anyway, “Seeking Wisdom” because I had referenced this so much, written by Peter Bevelin, we created this podcast and we named it after that book because that is-

DG: You actually, I remember, this is crazy. I remember interviewing at Drift, and we were talking about podcasts and you said, “I’ve always wanted to start a podcast”. I said, “Oh cool, really? What’s it gonna be about?”. You said, “I’m not really sure, but I know the name of it”. I said, “What?”, and you were like, “It’s going to be called Seeking Wisdom”.

DC: Yeah.

DG: And then I was like- crazy.

DC: Yeah.

DG: But that also speaks to what we know about marketing, which is headline first.

DC: Headline first.

DG: You wrote the headline first, before you even had the pilot.

DC: Before I even knew what was in it.

DG: But do you see, “Poor Charlie’s Almanac” is $80 on Amazon.

DC: So what?

DG: Pay Charlie Munger 80 bucks.

DC: How much is those sneakers on your feet?

DG: These are $120.

DC: So he’s got $120 Nike’s, but he doesn’t have that book by Charlie Munger on his nightstand.

DG: I need to get my priorities right.

DC: What does that say?

DG: I need to get my priorities right.

DC: Priorities are screwed up.

DG: I’m wearing a free Drift tee though.

DC: Oh okay. Yeah, $120 in Nike’s.

DG: Alright, that is the secret to becoming a learning machine. How to read more books.

DC: Read more books.

DG: Apply that to everything though. Master class, YouTube-

DC: Yeah. Shhh, quiet.

DG: I’m not telling them what you’re watching.

DC: I’m on the new learning, but I’m not gonna disclose, but I’m going deep, deep. Wooo, some science. I’m going to disclose that in a future podcast, so you have to hold on to that, and maybe I will disclose that after you leave a 6-star review.

So something interesting happened here this week, we’ll post this on the- I already posted this on the IG, as the kids call it.

DG: The IG?

DC: Yeah, my story. Someone came into the office this week, who we didn’t know, he came with a framed note that he wrote, and he hand drew 6 stars.

DG: Hold on, hold on, hold on, this is quick, don’t move.

DC: DG’s gonna get it, for the people on the YouTubes, they’re gonna see this. But he hand wrote a note, which was his review that he left on I-Tunes. And you can leave one too. And then he hand drew these 6 stars. Look at this 6-star rating right here. Zoom in on this little 6-star rating right here. Huh? Look at that, that’s gonna be on the YouTubes, so check that out.

DG: So, let’s just talk about this for a second…This is someone who came into our office to have a demo from one of our sales people to be sold Drift. Brought a present for us on the way in. So you want to talk about the value of what we talked about with reciprocity and what we talked about with the sign and the ads and the poster that we got. This is why we do this podcast, this is why invested in this brand.

DC: 6-stars. This is from Ethan, shout-out Ethan. “6-stars. A must-listen for those starting out. DC and DG are a inter-replaceable resource for those just starting out either as leader or as contributors.” “Most podcasts tell stories, but Seeking Wisdom goes the distance to synthesize real knowledge from a place of humility, experience, and curiosity. 6-stars every time.” Woo!

DG: That’s pretty good.

DC: Huh! YouTube, you don’t have to create this framed version here, but at least you can go, if you’re listening to this, to I-Tunes-

DG: This actually looks like he wrote it in pencil, and then traced over it in pen to be right.

DC: To be right. That’s how thoughtful Ethan is.

DG: Thank you for the in-person review.

DC: But 6-star rating, go to I-Tunes, leave a little 6-star rating, little shout out for G too, he works hard here. He’s been working on the videos, he’s blowing up Youtubes.

DG: Before this, he was out filming coffee with the CMO of Season 2.

DC: Season 2’s coming?

DG: Season 2 is coming.

DC: Okay, shhhh. I sorry. CMO hitter in here.

DG: There was a hitter in there. She’s the real deal. The real deal.

DC: Wait til you hear this podcast.

DG: He has a good plan for Season 2. We’re gonna shock the world.

DC: Alright, G2. So leave a little 6-star review for G2. Say, “G2, I appreciate you, I love what you’re doing on the YouTubes”. Give him a little long, a little appreciation. You know it’s almost Thanksgiving time, we gotta give thanks.

DG: Give thanks.

DC: To G2 and everything that he does.

DG: Alright, see ya.

DC: See ya.


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