Naval doesn't take notes

I think taking notes is the same as taking photos when you’re on a trip. All it’s doing is taking you out of the moment. - Naval Ravikant

Reading to deeply understand a topic and reading to maximize your exposure to ideas are two different approaches to reading. One of these approaches makes reading significantly more enjoyable than the other.

We often feel a responsibility to retain information when reading. This is why we take notes. Notes are to reading what sweat is to exercise. Note taking is our Proof of Reading, evidence that we've extracted a sufficient amount of information from the book we've reading.

I propose that you reserve reading to deeply understand for books that have earned that right, making reading to maximize exposure to ideas your default mode of reading.

Here's why:

Reading to maximize your exposure to ideas is different. The goal is not to retain a sufficient amount of the book to memory, but to stroll through the book and see if any passages or concepts are interesting enough to make you stop.

Do you notice the shift in mindset? The relationship you have with books changes completely.

You no longer scour the book in search of passages that cross your minimum interesting threshold. There is no obligation to accurately recite a chapter summary. The responsibility is turned back to the book: it must entertain or inform, otherwise it will be skimmed or skipped.

I skim. I speed read. I jump around. I could not tell you specific passages or quotes from books. At some deep level, you do absorb them and they become part of the threads of the tapestry of your psyche. - Naval Ravikant

Treat your books as if they are auditioning in front of you, attempting to pitch you on their most interesting ideas. Only once a book passes this audition does it deserve to be studied or scoured for bits and pieces you might have initially missed.

Worry less about being able to prove that you read the book and worry more about whether it's worth reading in the first place. There is a meaningful difference between reading out of obligation (powered by willpower) and reading because the book has captured your attention (powered by curiosity).

All quotes are taken from Episode 18 of Shane Parrish's The Knowledge Project featuring Naval Ravikant. Transcript here. Podcast here.


More from Jamie's Notebook