Habits are important features of human behavior. Developing a bad or a good habit can have the most devastating or wonderful consequences. During teenage years, many people develop bad habits: smoking, drinking, and arguing. In the old days, some shaved their heads bald and sucked on lollipops imitating detective Lieutenant Theo Kojak, a hero in an American television series played by Telly Savalas. Teenagers want to be different from other people. This drive to be different or to stand out, sometimes, makes young people take the wrong path, wasting their youth.
When I was a teenager, I wanted to achieve a lot, but I wanted to use other people’s experiences to minimize my mistakes. This goal placed me in a continuous mind-thinking game about life and the future. I asked myself whether I could live a life with a minimum amount of mistakes to achieve my goal. Figuring out the answer might lead to solving the secret of life! Not making mistakes, I realized later, creates paralyzing fear that prevents us from trying new life adventures and learning from our errors. I had to find the balance between making mistakes and learning from mistakes. So, I decided to make small mistakes if I could! From that time, I adopted the philosophy of making small mistakes to improve my talent and skills. The best quote which captures the heart of my beliefs is contained in Warren Buffett’s statement “The best thing is to learn from the other guy’s mistakes.”
Reading books was the answer to making fewer and less significant mistakes in life. Reading allows you to travel to another world and discover the wonder of knowledge. Reading books in different fields of science creates a wealth of experiences which you don’t need to go through physically. After reading so many books and enjoying every word I read, I wanted to create a more interesting reading game. After I read a book, I would write a letter to the author, telling the author my thoughts and creating a happy feeling by visualizing a conversation with the author as if we were sitting in a cafe drinking coffee and exchanging ideas. Every book I read, I spilled my gut to the author telling him or her the good, the bad, and the ugly. I strived to impress the author by the amount of deep thinking and knowledge I had reading the book. Before you laugh, let me tell you that I did this as a teenager!
When I was 15 years old, reading books got out of control. One day I decided to skip school to finish reading a book. I pretended to be sick, telling my mom I had the flu. I still remember how much fun that day was. I loved every minute of that day. I don’t think my Mom ever knew. The fun, the experience, and the wisdom gained from reading books increased my ability to observe things which I could not see before. It refined my analytical reasoning and decreased the impact of my mistakes.
When I read Dr. Ben Carson’s book years later — the first African-American Neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins, I learned that he attributes his success in life to his love of reading. Dr. Carson’s voracious reading habit sharpened his mind by giving him control over his highly reactive personality– which almost caused him to be arrested during his teenage years.
After reading many books during my young years, I memorized science facts to impress people around me. Many people paid attention to my ability to use facts when I was debating or arguing. Friends and relatives listened to me more although I was very young. I even impressed my sister to the extent that she invited me to meet her college friends. This was a big deal; my sister is five years older than me, and I had constant fights with her – who does not fight with his older sister anyways?
In recent years, my reading habits have been transformed by technology. I have transitioned from paper books to online reading or audio books. Much scientific research has explored the benefit of online reading. When we read text online, we use five major functions of our mind (Leu et al., 2007, 2008):
- Identifying key information to answer questions
- Locating the information using web search
- Analyzing the information by comparing it to what we know
- Creating new information after we incorporate the reading
- Communicating the information with others
More research indicates that reading increases emotional and intellectual competence during childhood. Our schools focus on reading from the earliest years — kindergarten or even in pre-K. Educators know that reading sets the foundation for further learning. Reading becomes the gateway to every field of science and art.
Finally, if you want to develop one habit which can have a profound effect on your life, please develop the habit of reading and encourage everyone around you to read.
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