There have been a few distinct times in my life where something I’ve read has changed the course of my life, and many of those were in audio form.
I’ll admit that I’m an auditory person. Spoken words with subtle and overt intonations ignite fires in my head in a way that simply reading words on paper can’t do. That’s not to say that I’m not a reader – I’ve read hundreds of novels and I’ve read a big chunk of the classics – but I’m an extrovert (ESTJ if you will, married to an INTJ) and I get my kicks and I recharge by interacting with other humans. The more, the merrier.
The first time that the written word had a major impact on my life was during college when I read Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “Social Contract” and fully understood for the first time the concept of “at the consent of the governed,” – a passage that remains the only highlighted portion of my tired and worn copy. I wouldn’t have a moment of such profound clarity from the written word for another 10 years.
My first boss out of college was a small business owner who hired me to be a salesman. Things didn’t work out as planned with that job, but I want him to know I never forgot many of the lessons he tried to pour out on me in his clumsy way. In his home and in his trunk were milk crates full of cassette audiobooks, and he admonished me over and over that, as a salesman, I was wasting time driving if I wasn’t listening to something that made me better. If you don’t remember cassette audiobooks then you can’t truly appreciate the auspicious way they were sold. Most of these were 4 cassettes long or more, and the packaging resembled an over-sized vinyl record package. Needless to say I wasn’t in a position in a post-Internet bubble economy to buy $40+ audiobooks to listen to in the car, and if I had been the packaging alone may have turned me away.
Several years, a couple of kids, and a well established job later I would be in the position to get audiobooks in a much different way – through my iPhone. The first few times I purchased them came through Apple’s iTunes service, but eventually my addiction would turn me to Audible.com and their free trial. Now I’m a “gold” level subscriber, and have been for over two years. Best. Investment. Ever.
The first audiobook to really light my fires was “Republic, Lost” by Lawrence Lessig. I wasn’t in the best place mentally and I had some pretty bad health and mental habits. After reading this book I was able to articulate something about American politics that I hadn’t been able to before, and I felt relieved in a way that I can’t truly express. It wasn’t some self-help book, or some pamphlet on nutrition that inspired me to move forward with my life – to improve those bad physical and mental habits – it was this book by Lawrence Lessig. I let go of something that day, and I’ll never go back for it.
Now, as part of those better health and mental habits, I walk most every day. On those walks I listen to audiobooks (mostly business related) on 3x speed. Most business audiobooks are around 8 hours long, and at 3x speed (which, admittedly, you have to get used to) you can get done with an average book in about three 1 hour walks. That means around two books a week if you’re pushing it.
Since I began there have been a tremendous number of (audio)books that have had a big impact on me, and I plan on sharing them and other lessons learned on this blog. Stick around for more, or sign up for the newsletter.