Learning Strategies Blog

Engage History’s Greatest Minds

by Paul Scheele

If you could travel back through time and speak with any famous person in history, who would it be—and what would you want to know?

My list is endless. Aristotle… Henry David Thoreau… Charlie Chaplin… Sigmund Freud… Mother Teresa. The great thing is, I can converse with them on a daily basis, traveling anywhere or anytime I want.

That’s the beauty of books.

You can engage anyone who’s ever put words on paper, including any one of tens of thousands of wonderful authors who are writing today.

Anytime you open a book you’re entering into a dialogue with the author.

Unfortunately, many readers approach a book thinking they need to download its entire contents into their head. That’s a daunting, if not entirely impossible, task that can often keep people from even turning the first page.

Imagine you’re holding a book in your hands. If the author happened to walk in the room, would you ask, “Please, tell me everything you said in this book?” Hardly.

More likely you would say, “There’s something I want to know or do, and I think your book can give me the answers I need. So tell me, how do I…?”

Your questions will help you make sense of the author’s ideas as they relate to your own life.

This kind of “dialogue” helps you maintain a high degree of focus or concentration. This is an active process we use in the PhotoReading whole mind system. It is not so much a mental discipline as it is an attitude, an attitude that one must read with a purpose or a goal clearly in mind.

For instance, when I pick up a book I might ask: How are the ideas in this book applicable to Learning Strategies? Or, What can I learn from this author to help improve my personal finances? Or, What do I need to know to successfully complete my remodeling project?

The next time you start a book engage the author in conversation by doing the following:

  • Preview the book.

Take a few minutes to review the cover and back pages, the table of contents, and maybe the introduction and conclusion to determine the author’s main premise and whether the author is speaking to what is important to you. (People who delve right into a book sometimes get to the end and think, “There was nothing here for me!” They’ve just wasted hours of their life. Don’t let that happen to you.)

  • Formulate your purpose and questions.

Based on your preview, determine your purpose for reading the book and the questions you want the author to answer. Then begin reading.

As you proceed from chapter to chapter continue to question, remaining active and purposeful. Your mind will find the answers you seek. They might arrive in the midst of your reading or long after you’ve put the book down, perhaps during a midnight reverie, your drive to work, or even your morning shower.

You will gain the information you want more quickly and effectively by actively engaging the author—and you’ll enjoy the “conversation” a whole lot more!