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What I’m reading right now (and I don’t like reading)

Written by: Peter Messana - CEO

CEO Blog // July 22, 2020

Let me start by saying that I hate reading, it is one of the most difficult things that I have to do. I never liked it as a kid and I struggled to read when I was younger. My son struggles in the same ways, but he was diagnosed with dyslexia and learned to cope. I was never tested but my tough time with it could certainly be construed in the same way. I’m telling you this because what is about to follow will make it seem like I love reading. I do it to learn, not for recreational purposes.

I thought it would be a good idea to give you a sense of what I am currently reading. It is an insight into how I think and also how messed up I am, all at the same time. Right now, I am reading three books. No, I am not like Bill Gates and I am not reading three per week, unfortunately my dislike for reading is accompanied by the fact that I am ungodly slow at it. And while I would love to do an audiobook, I am ADHD (clinically diagnosed on this one), and I will be listening to an audiobook and realize that I missed three chapters while distracted. Reading a physical book forces me to concentrate. But why three books? Well, I just can’t seem to finish one before someone recommends another and I just sort of hop between them. I am sure it is not the most effective way, but it’s my way, a bit of chaos.

The longest-running book I have been reading is That Will Never Work, which is the story behind Netflix. I love business books that tell successful stories. I fell in love with them starting with Sam Walton: Made in America back in 1993. I can’t seem to get totally into this one for some reason. There are times that I do love reading, the author will just hook me in. I would say any book by Michael Lewis has done that for me. I am struggling to get to that point with this book, but it is still an interesting story so I will finish it. 

The most fascinating book I am reading right now is Why We Sleep. I generally do not sleep well, and at the recommendation of an acquaintance, I decided I would read it. It is fascinating because after reading it, I now no longer set my alarm. I pick the time I want to wake up, and mysteriously, I wake up around that time without an alarm. I feel like I am getting much better sleep, and it will likely get me to buy an Oura ring and start monitoring my sleep better. But that scares me, I feel like I will critique myself a bit too much.

On the heels of Why We Sleep is a powerful book on culture called An Everyone Culture. I’m not going to lie, the first chapter or two made me uneasy. They discuss a truly open culture where all meetings are recorded. If your name is mentioned, you are alerted to it and can listen to the meeting if you were not invited or present. Basically, it is a giant fishbowl. It is really slow reading for me but super interesting. Right now, I am hyper-focused on culture so I will finish it even if it takes me quite a while longer.

Over the years, I have read some really great books, including, The Hard Thing About Hard Things and The Goal, which have taught me a ton. Even if I don’t remember the specifics of each book I read, they help to shape my thinking. My only wish for books is that they were shorter, and gave you the main topics upfront with examples for you to read later. A great book that beats a dead horse is Play Bigger. The topic is amazing but after reading so many examples I just wanted to know the seven steps in succinct order and definition.

How do I find time to read so much? Well, to be fair, I am reading three books simultaneously, while in that same timespan, I started and finished Building a StoryBrand. I am obviously not devoting a ton of time to reading, or else I would be finishing more and maybe starting less to keep a well-managed reading list. I do try to read for at least 30 minutes a day, not a big commitment and I am sure some will chuckle that this is nothing. I will often read a chapter or two in the morning at work. I am sure if someone walked by while I was lounging back reading a book they would give me a double take, but since I get into the office fairly early it is quiet and not too judge-y in there at that hour. Although, this does remind me of an employee who asked me the toughest AMA question: “What do you do every day?”. As CEO, that is difficult to answer, and I can imagine if I told him, “Well, I read a few books while sipping my coffee”. (I guess I just did).

Reading is powerful, even if it’s not a book. I read tons of blogs, they are set up for my attention span, and I can get the basics in 5-10 minutes of reading. I also listen to podcasts but typically only while running or flying (when I close my laptop and just listen). I only subscribe to two that I listen to fairly religiously: How I Built This and HBR IdeaCast.

We can never learn enough, and while I retain only a small amount of what I read, there are certainly things that shape my everyday life. If you aren’t a reader, maybe this will inspire you, especially if you are like me, and hate reading.

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