Tales of a Reading Junkie

The Reading Habit – My Confession

When was the last time you read a book, or a substantial magazine article? Do your daily reading habits center around tweets, Facebook updates, or the directions on your instant noodle packet?

If you’re one of countless people who don’t make a habit of reading regularly, you might be missing out. Reading has a significant number of benefits, and one person that can attest to that is Teleport’s very own CEO, Pete Chareonwongsak. 

“I read a lot. In fact, it’s always how I start and end my day; a habit and routine if you will.”

How much is a lot, you may ask? Well, I am subscribed to, and consistently read about 50 newsletters a day – from the generic front page news (e.g. New York Times), to the esoteric “Josh Spector – For The Interested” blog (check it out here). 

For the mathematically inclined, if you add up a ~3 minute read per link, an average of 1 link clicked into per newsletter, 50 newsletters a day, consistently consumed daily over a year – that’s 913 hours, or one complete month spent reading and consuming content. 

But why, you might rightfully ask, do I choose to spend 10% of my life this way? 

It started as a personal challenge. Back in the day I used to fail miserably at job interviews that required me to riff off current events, politics, or general interest topics. I was a good Asian student, studying an acceptable Asian degree (Chemical Engineering), able to solve a mean quadratic equation, but did I know the original lyrics to “God Save the Queen”? I used to envy those that could be like Stephen Fry on “QI” (seriously, go on Youtube) or find their way around a crossword puzzle with ease. I wasn’t prepared to make my way in a world beyond school. 

Reading, like playing a musical instrument or speaking a second language or exercising, involves habit. As with all things that aren’t natural or pleasant to do, a habit is a useful tool to get things done consistently. Like how eating three meals a day is a useful shorthand to staying well-fed. When something is engraved into your daily regime, you’ll be more likely to do it and not procrastinate.

How do we go about creating a successful habit? It needs to be small enough to be a part of your natural routine. If I wanted to learn a new word in Bahasa everyday, I’d listen to it while brushing my teeth in the mornings. When I started my fitness journey, before committing to an expensive gym membership, I started with taking the stairs and avoiding lifts at work. So naturally when I wanted to read more, I used my email inbox as a way to naturally get into it. I hate unread emails by nature (my team knows this), and if a newsletter would pop in, I would have to at least skim it, so I could get it out of the “unread” column. 

All of a sudden, I’m reading – about politics (Axios is a favorite), about watches (Hodinkee), technology (Benedict Evans or Ben Thompson’s Stratechery), Southeast Asian startups (The Ken or Tech in Asia) deals (Fortune’s Term Sheet), cars (NYT’s Wheels), managing (First Round Review), Macro (Howard Marks), marketing (Fast Company) and sport (The Athletic). 

Similar to a heart-healthy lifestyle, you need good nutrition (inputs) as much as exercise (outputs). In most jobs, the higher you climb, they expect creativity – in particular, the skill to solve and maneuver around day-to-day problems and challenges. Being able to draw on practical examples, analogies, advice, case studies and shared experiences from far and wide is the added advantage we should all strive for. To see “the forest for the trees” as a mentor likes to say is a matter of perspective, and perspective happens from feeding yourself with the right inputs (or nutrition). 

That’s the hidden power of all that accumulated reading. If you’re pressed for time, devote a few minutes daily to a blog on a niche topic. If you’re on a career fast-track, read non-fiction advice offered by someone who’s already in the know. Consider it a mentorship you can pick up and put down when it suits your schedule. What’s important is that at the end of the day, with all this new knowledge you’ve gained, you can now share and pass on what you know openly too. After all, people prefer those in-the-know, rather than a know-it-all.

Here are some of Pete’s recent favourite reads to start you off on your reading journey:

2 thoughts on “Tales of a Reading Junkie

  1. my career coach once said, “if you can’t be the best, be the first!”. So this is me being the 1st to comment *LOL*

    I knew it, a storyteller is a constant reader.
    what a gentle reminder that I should start to read again because to read is to write and vice versa.

    Thanks for the inspiration, Pete!

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