Saturday, 16 July 2016

The Evolution of My Reading Habits

The lazy reader of the past

I still remember the days back in primary school when there is this “Master Reader” contest. The whole idea of the contest is to encourage reading. Pupils who can finish more than thirty story books a year will be awarded with a Master Reader badge. Before that, every pupil will need to have a “Master Reader Exercise Book” with columns showing the story book basic details (name, author, summary brief) and a last column reserve for teacher’s signature to verify if students have truly completed reading the book.

The verification will be done weekly or bi-weekly. Students will queue up for the teacher’s initials and for each student in a minute or two, the teacher will flip through the books and ask relevant questions. Once he is satisfied with the answers, the all-important signatures will be inked. Unfortunately, I was often in the category of “lazy readers” with just a few story books a year completed. I really hated reading story books back then.

Even in secondary school, my command of English was way below average, due to the lack of reading outside textbooks. The only thing I read outside school curriculum was newspapers. However it was never the thick Straits Times which provides more useful general knowledge and insight of Singapore and the world. Instead the paper I read was limited to the thinner and smaller version of “The New Paper”. The main reason was because of the soccer and sports news where the coverage was more extensive. I was a big soccer fan back then. Otherwise, it will be attraction to the least important “kaypoh” headline news of murder, robbery or rape etc. Still, it is better than no reading at all. As I transit to college and university, the story is the same. There is very little reading outside textbooks or school notes.

Perhaps the biggest consolation from my lack of reading in my younger days was my well-versed experiences on the streets. I was the typical “Pai Kia” (delinquent) roaming in community centres, boys club, illegal mess etc. Some people label this type of learning as “Society University Teaching”, and simply in mandarin 社会大学!

The avid reader of today

Today, things took a complete change. I become an avid reader, despite limited to topics that appeal to me.

Non-fiction Biographies, History and Philosophy 
I am not particularly fascinated by fictitious novels. The last time I finished reading a novel was possibly a literature book in secondary school. What attracted me most are biographies of interesting people. The life story of a person can tell us a lot. It is not necessary extending to those who are successful. In retrospect, the not so successful ones can also teach us a great deal in not repeating what they done wrong. I also like to read about history because the farther you can look into the past, the farther you can see ahead. Anything philosophical also appeals to me helping to stimulate profound thinking within me.

Newspapers and Magazines
It is extremely important to be kept abreast of what is happening in the world today. The free “Today” newspapers and online news apps on smartphone helps.  For financial news, I am subscribed to “Business Times”. I will read it every morning, with the exception on Sunday, which I will read “The Edge Magazine”. At night, I will read Bloomberg news but very often some of the stories will be replicated in the Business times the next day.

Annual reports, analyst reports, blogs
For companies I am invested or are interested in, I also read their annual and analyst reports. My friendly broker will send me loads of analyst reports each day. My reading radar also includes various financial websites and blogs.

Area of my work
As a part of my work, I read Oil and Gas news to keep abreast on the latest happenings of projects, clients etc. This helps me in my communication both externally with clients/business associates and internally with colleagues. It is also important to me to be kept updated to my own company news via websites or annual reports (if any). In fact this should extend to clients and suppliers within the industry as well.

Area of interest
Life is not just about work, it is also our area of your interest outside work. I like to read articles and watch videos about health (physical workout and nutrients) and sports (soccer, boxing, MMA etc). I also like to read articles on jokes. Laughter is the best antidote to de-stress after a long day of work. 

The importance of reading for me

There are just so many reasons why reading is important. Typically it is; widening of exposure and knowledge, self-improvements, learn from other people’s experiences, preparing us for an action, stimulate imagination and creativity, getting inspiration, so on and so forth. The benefits to me are plenty and I shall not dwell further into it.

Specifically, reading in a quiet place really connects my brain to my inner-self. It is like a peaceful private conversation where the author talks to me, stimulating my mind with pictures. While appreciating the difference in perspectives, I filter and absorb the views that gravitate towards me. Then I will transcend to a reflective state talking to myself deep down, relating the author’s experience with my own experiences in life. The neuro-nutrients empowered me. My mind not only opened with clarity to see from a top-down and widened perspective, but it is sharpened to see further into the future too.

My method

Capture the facts not the opinions
While articles and reports provide factual news, a big part of it is formed by opinions of the journalists /authors/companies in question. Some articles can even be manipulated to portray what the bigger authority want the general public to believe in. Therefore it is good to be skeptical at times. After absorbing the facts, we should then formulate my own thinking and opinions on it and not just follow blindly the opinions of the writer.  

Quantity does not matters as much  
Reading as many books as possible is good. However we can be overblown by the quantity and simply read and forget. This is unless if you are a very experience reader who can digest and absorb fast. For me, the focus is really NOT on the quantity but how we can extract the best out of the content. In doing so, we absorbed the essence of the book most relevant to us, before crafting a critical thinking that can later translate into actions with favorable outcome to us.

Writing notes while I read and watched videos
In order to have a better grasp of what I read/watch and to remember the important points, I will try to make notes as I read. This is normally relevant for books, long essays or interesting videos I read or watched. The notes can be written or typed within my phone as I am reading a book. See below.

These will be my first draft!


Thereafter, I will further re-summarize my draft notes in a more orderly and readable manner in word documents stored within my computer or sometimes published in my blog too as book review.

The reading, writing notes and re-summary typing are very tedious work. Nonetheless, it allows me to remember the essence of the book where what I want to remember is sunk deep down into me.

Re-narrate what I read to people close to me
After infusing those concepts I read that resonates with me and mixed with my personal thinking to create a thinking of my own, I will then re-narrate my philosophy over and over to my close ones. To those who are interested, I will be more long-winded so that they can also benefit from it. For those who are not really interested from the start, I will then change topic. In some cases, I will also re-read and re-watched the whole articles/videos all over again once more.

Mix reading with visual
It is not just reading words on white background, animation tells a million words. While reading stimulates my thinking and widens my exposure, visual animation embeds the information and theories deeply into my head and mind. Useful educational videos online is so easily available. There is simply no excuse not to be well-learnt except that you are lazy.

When I was in school, a teacher told me before, “Read and you forget! See and you remember! Do and you understand!”

Rolf’s thoughts

Reading is very important. So far in my life, I have not encountered a successful person who never read a lot.

When asked how to get smarter at a conference, Warren Buffett held up a stack of papers and said:

Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will.

Buffett also estimates that he spends 80 percent of his working day reading and thinking.

In my opinion, the ability to focus and remember more vividly the essence of what I read is more important than reading per se. This is also why I jot down notes, re-read, re-summarize and re-narrate it out to people close to me to engrave it into me.

That said, different people have different methods of remembering. With discipline in place, the utmost important is to find the way that is most suitable and useful for yourself, and not just follow what I advocates for myself here. 


  1. Hi Rolf,

    Haha, you're very different from me :) I'm always a reader. In the past, I never read fiction thinking that it's a waste of time. Afterall, they are just stories. But how wrong am I! Fiction gives me the ability to learn from a thousand lives in one short lifetime! Perhaps I'm not a people person, so my way of learning from people is to read books about them.

    I also don't like to write notes about any books I read. I prefer to leave it to my mind to sort out the important points. If I think it's important, I'll remember it. if not, it's not important at that point in time. Doing this make sure that I don't parrot the author too, so I only pick up points here and there and focus on the gist of the thing. What did I retain after reading the book? I don't know! But I can tell you this and that is interesting... lol

    I cover breath and not in depth, and I cover quantity and not quality. At this stage, I prefer reading a lot of books about different topics. Perhaps at a later stage, I'll narrow to a few, but so far, almost anything can interest me. I'm still doing 52 books a year lol

    1. Hi LP,

      Different folks for different strokes. I am very different with my wife too. Poles apart. Maybe that's why we can be together for >decade long. After knowing you here for awhile now, I also boldly predict that we are somewhat very different too, which is a good thing. :-)

      Yes agree that parroting can be a danger and readers may somehow lose their own charisma in thinking! My view that this is particular true when u r younger and lack personal life experience.

      I remember a frd who is quite aloof during army who read a lot non-fiction when we the whole bunch were playing pool or chit chatting or even smoking! He always thought that we r so childish bcos he is so wise bcos he felt empowered by what he read... :-)

      As still a boy, I think I definitely prefer to play more n be more childish...

      Then there is one Educator in Sg who was already very successful since 21. This is bcos he read biographies of so many successful people and then here absorb little bit, there absorb little bit, then became his own n start to teach others.

      Frankly this means u will lack the style of ur own bcos at 21 yrs n younger, u truly still lack the life experience, so basically the trap of parroting is huge. Nevertheless, I know most Singaporeans on this meritocratic society will say "who cares as long as u can become millionaire at age 21!" But I am sure overtime, he had gain lots of experience via business building.

      But then again, just my personal preference or character that when young, it's better to go out more and farther out the better to expose more. This is have more failures or even painful experience that we can still recover! This can allow us to truly know ourselves n the world more.

      Once that is embedded in ourselves n we gather our wisdom in life, I doubt parroting when reading can be any danger no more!

      Not boasting or any form or arrogance, but I somehow already know that what I m doing now such as notes writing, summary etc will really come in handy one day when i really need them... we speak when we meet one day!


  2. Hi Rolf,

    I am still a poor reader of yesteryears. I read a bit more now because of the half of hour before sleep reading session I had with my son. No longer need to read to him so free to read anything.

    I realize I am super impatient and very seldom finished a whole book.

    I always scan the topics, read the headings, content page, and did skip reading to "get the idea"

    But I do agree those who read a lot have an advantage


    1. Hi SI,

      Imo, it does not seem that u r a poor reader judging from your command of language (pretty hi standard!), just like LP!

      I reckon ur job is quite tiring because of the early hours u have to wake up. So it's not easy to find lots of time to read a book. Hence the impatient? If u can be patient with ur son reading with him, means u can actually be patient! :-)

      With regards to a whole book, for me, I read the most during traveling. I will typically take at least 2-3x the time reading due to my notes writing and talking to myself during reading!

      Reading gives advantage, it's for sure! It gives us knowledge and shaped our thinking. Then again, knowledge can only be u leashed when there is action Experiences/exposures are still another step up compare to just reading - 纸上谈兵!

      Unless, reading is just a hobby. Then it's different.

  3. Hi Rolf

    Cool, meeting you all, readers! I thought I'm a minority. Interesting to know other readers' styles of reading. Me? I would read very quickly first like SI, and if I find the book interesting, I would re-read it slowly, scribble notes and copy interesting quotes as like you. Sometimes, I even pen it to email my comments to the author.

    1. Hi,

      Wow wow thank you for sharing. Good to know that you even email comments to author. Tks once again!

  4. Keep up the wonderful piece of work, I read few posts on this site and I think that your web blog is actually appealing as well as has loads of outstanding information.

  5. Hi Rolf Suey

    Good day to you, able to share the essence of the book that you had narrate.. it really good for those people for me to grasp the most important motivation quoted and insights or perspective view of things , matter and way of life..
    Do you mind sharing out ?

    1. Hi Ken,

      Sharing is always good if it is a good cause and similarly if you can pass the good cause to others yourself.

      So why not.

      You can refer toy book list tab herein. Some is with link that I did the summary within the blog.

      However most my views and insights are within this blog if you have time to check it out and read. Thanks.


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