One of the most invaluable benefits of diving into the works of the greatest thinkers who ever lived is…
…that you begin where they left off.
With a clean canvas, ready to be turned into impactful work.
Their fully-articulated thoughts and meticulously formulated ideas are your starting point.
Ideas that were conceived during tedious hours stretched across numerous years are now in your hands, ready to be taken apart, and extended into unknown territory – so your extensions can be turned into even more in-depth ideas that have the potential of altering someone else’s life.
But since you cannot remember everything you read, you need a system so you can store the ideas you find useful, earth-shattering, and life-altering within reach whenever you need them, so you can create the best work of your life.
For this reason, you must devise a strategy for detecting, extracting, and for storing information.
So that you can formulate your own ideas that have the potential of having an impact on the lives of others.
But first, you must learn how to find these pieces of profound knowledge, so you have something to store in your Bible of Knowledge.
The books are not custom tailored to you
One of the most common mistakes people make when they start reading with a purpose is that they believe, erroneously, that the books are flawlessly written and must be followed like the law.
That is true…
…but if you follow these kinds of books to the word, the books that are spoon-feeding you this low hanging fruit, you will miss the whole point of reading and thinking for yourself.
- Your ability to think for yourself and formulate your own ideas is your most deadly weapon when it comes to impactful and intellectual work.
When you read with a purpose, you must always ask yourself how the books you are reading are relevant to your situation, and how they can be implemented into your life.
Otherwise, they lose their meaning.
At least in your situation.
If you are a vegan, and you buy a cookbook for how to cook a juicy and tender steak, you are in for an unpleasant surprise.
The same goes for all those effectivity strategies on how to empty your inbox, clean your desk, and efficiently plan your week.
If you did not need to do this in the first place or you feel as if these tips go against your natural rhythm, then you must stop fighting yourself, and admit that you have led yourself astray and, instead, pick up a book that will help further your advancements.
You are reading with a purpose. It’s a function to obtain certain goals in your life.
- Choose your books carefully and abstain from reading bad ones ruthlessly.
Pick a book that forces you to think for yourself because that is how and when your mind grows, so don’t waste your time with those who don’t.
For this to happen, though, you must know how to search and find these impactful books that will take you one step closer to your goal.
How to know what to look for
Here is the problem (and the solution).
Surely, you are not entirely aware of what you are looking for when you are just getting your feet wet in the world of books, but there is, however, a slight sensation pulling you in a particular direction that provides you with a hint.
You must notice this subtle sensation, and follow it down the rabbit hole so that new worlds of opportunities can unfold before your eyes, so you can grow more confident when choosing the right books to read for your mission.
- Pro tip: what headline do you see in the newspapers that you just can’t skip reading? That is your North Star. Find books on those subjects, and the rest will take care of itself. If it is the American Civil War that fascinates you, find books on Lincoln, Grant, and Sherman to get you started or whatever fascinates you.
Look for those initial signs of interest in a particular subject.
Find what created that original attraction.
The thing that drove you to open and read through the first pages and the lust for knowledge that will keep you plowing forward.
Once you know in which direction to go, you can start looking for valuable paragraphs and fully-articulated ideas that satisfy your needs in books that entice you and stir something deep within you.
More on that later…
…but first, you must know what to aim for – what is your end-goal?
This must be crystal clear.
Otherwise, it is like when you enter a supermarket, but you have no idea what you need to buy.
You will be running around like a fool in the aisles, not knowing where to go or when you are one step closer to reaching task completion, and when you have reached your goal.
For this reason, you must go into the project with a clear sense of what you are after, and what outcome you would like to have, so you know what to look what, and understand when you find it.
- Combine that with absolute confidence in what books you must read to get you there, and you will be unstoppable.
With this in mind, you can quickly detect what books contain what you need.
Your brain will become optimized and geared toward finding useful thoughts and ideas in the books you read so you can keep moving to where you want to go, but then…
Train your brain
Once your brain is dialed in, and primed to find meaningful phrases, ideas, and thoughts in the carefully chosen books you read, you must have a flawless system for capturing and storing these ideas in a way that is useful to you – now, and in a not so distant future.
You must build your personal library of extracted ideas.
Or as the American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote:
“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.”
Once you have accumulated enough of these powerful sentences, words, and ideas, you will be able to make compelling work of your own creation.
But first, you need to build your toolkit for extracting these ideas.
Devise your functions – how to collect thoughts and ideas for your Bible of Knowledge
There is a slight risk of confirmation bias when it comes to reading books and detecting useful ideas.
You read something you know will be good, so you look for proof of your hypothesis in the text, and lo and behold – the life-altering quotes come raining down like it’s nobody’s business.
This phenomenon is what you are looking for, but to make sure you are not just riding high on your endocrine system’s gentle waves of pleasurable neurotransmitters, you want to have a strategy for filtering, capturing and remembering these ideas, so you only keep and use those words and sentences that will stand the test of time and make your work original and impactful.
Here are the 10 steps to creating your own Bible of perfectly tailored knowledge.
1. Find the book.
2. Know what to look for.
3. Find paragraphs that fit your criteria.
4. Highlight the words, flag the pages.
5. Let it simmer.
6. Re-read the highlighted sections.
7. Filter out the bad, write down what’s solid.
8. Re-write the ideas in your own words.
9. Re-visit the paragraphs often.
10. Start over.
XI – Summary.
You can use these tactics regardless of what you are working on.
It’s mainly useful if you are building a commonplace book where you gather knowledge and wisdom meant to strengthen yourself in life, but it works perfectly well if you a researching something in particular.
Especially if your mission is to create something meant for impact.
Find the book
Regardless if you find the books from a book recommendation list or if you do your own research, you want to read with a purpose.
Find books you know or at least think will help you with the task at hand.
This can be done to perfection by looking at history, and, with care, choosing relevant historical figures, events, and occurrences that represent what you are trying to get across with your work – or want to learn more about.
If you want to understand how money can corrupt people and be the fall of an entire nation, read about the rise and the fall of the Roman empire.
Is your goal the push back against harmful political ideologies? Read books on history from the 20th century.
Do you want to find compelling evidence on almost anything to reinforce your argument with historical case studies?
Research authors on the subject.
Find what books they have written, and buy them!
Know what needs to be strengthened; plow through as many biographies as you possibly can to find convincing anecdotes that solidify your claims.
There is no shame in buying and stacking up countless books that you will not read right away.
- You don’t buy your tools when the damage is already done; you want to have your toolbox ready before you start working.
Buy as many books as your income can handle, and begin stacking up your research tools – because you never know what you might need; sooner than expected.
Remember: this is a skill, something you become better at.
Start working on this skillset by finding those first books that fit your project and what you need to know in order for you to keep moving…
Know what to look for
As we discussed earlier, it is a waste of time running around not knowing what to make of everything you see.
Therefore, you want to know what your expectations are, and what you want to find in the book you are about to read.
A book can contain several meanings. Depending on what you are looking for, that same book can be used for a multitude of purposes.
You don’t know everything you will find, but you must, however, know what you are looking for.
Mostly, you will be reading several books to come up with enough material to assemble a compelling and convincing case.
So you will most likely spend a lot of time researching one particular subject.
You can view it as a sort of magnetic energy.
Your main creative endeavor is the outset for everything you do for the duration of this plan.
It sits in the middle, and every book and every scientific paper you read to strengthen this creative project are outposts that have a connective line to the centerpiece of the operation.
They are read with a purpose, and with a specific goal in mind to strengthen the core of your work.
You play the hunter and the gatherer.
Your settlement needs more useful anecdotes on Russian history from the 1920’s, so you go out and read books on the Russian revolution.
Then, you always return to your “tribe” with the material you found.
You repeat this process until you have built yourself a firm, and compelling case you can show the world.
But until then, you must read with a burning purpose, and keep researching books as if every sentence you read is of supreme significance.
Find paragraphs that fit your criteria
Once you have come to terms with what book to read, what you expect to get out of it, and what you are looking for, it’s time for you to find the paragraphs that fit your criteria.
If you are looking for the underdog who undermined the whole political structure of a tyrannical dictator, you don’t want to focus your eyes on the people who helped advance the dictator’s lust for power and corruption.
- You avoid these simple mistakes by following the two previous steps.
If you are fully aware of why you are reading a particular book, you will most likely have no trouble knowing when you find gold and when you find dung.
Perhaps, you will find an interesting character in a book on a specific historical event who you find enticing.
Now, you can go down the rabbit hole, and look up biographies on this person, and read those to find paragraphs, ideas, and quotes that build your case.
The same goes when you want to disprove anything.
Find quotes, historical occurrences, and situations that strengthen your arguments by dissolving the counterarguments through strategic research.
Find the sentences and paragraphs that are useful or have the potential to become helpful in the future.
- You can always save material for later.
The point is that you want to keep your eyes open and look for anything that can be of interest in your creative endeavors.
The filtering process comes later.
So for now, you want to detect and absorb as much useful information as humanly possible.
Nothing is a more critical step in this process than your ability to identify a strong paragraph or a compelling idea in the books you have chosen to read.
Highlight the words, flag the pages
Since you are going to read numerous books that are thicker than blood and are several hundred pages long, there is no way you are going to memorize every useful piece of information you find.
To combat this human memory defect, you want to highlight and flag your books, as if the writer’s life was on trial.
But not without a strategy in mind.
When you highlight a sentence, a word, an idea or a whole page, you do so with a specific goal in mind.
Because when you read purposefully, you do so with a clear goal in mind, so everything you highlight must take you one step closer to attaining that goal.
- Often, it is one of these two you aim for:
1. You know it fits your current project.
2. You are confident it will come in handy in another project.
Either way, you want to read with a pen (or a pen, and a highlighter) and sticky notes.
Every time you come across something that catches your eye, highlight the paragraph and put a sticky note on the page.
Do so on every page, even if you end up putting sticky notes on p. 165, and 166.
Or else you run the risk of missing something you highlighted that is of incredible value for your project.
- If you don’t have sticky notes you can dog-ear the page, and mark it up once you have attained new sticky notes.
You don’t want to overthink it, just highlight the interesting passage, and move on.
Be quick. Move on.
You will make perfect sense of it later on.
If you get some ideas, and you want to elaborate further, do some marginalia work and scribble down your thoughts on the very page where you found and highlighted the passage.
Otherwise, just make sure you can go back and find it quickly, and keep on reading.
You got some more work to do.
Let it simmer
As a researcher, you always run the risk of being susceptible to becoming over-hyped about what you read.
An idea, a passage or a whole paragraph might blow you away the very second you read it, but it loses its meaning the second time around.
For this reason, you want to be quick with your note-taking, and patient with your extractions.
Teach yourself to, as efficiently as possible, identify, highlight, and mark up interesting ideas in books – take the necessary notes, and move on quickly.
You want to reach a state of mental fluidity where you almost identify, highlight, and get back to reading in one single motion.
This is because you do not categorize what you have found the very second you find it.
Save that for later because…
You want to let the book simmer before you take it off the stove
After you have finished reading a book, let it rest on the bookshelf for a couple of weeks before you re-visit it, and go through the pages you mapped out.
Then, you will be able to look at it more objectively, and you will have the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff; or the gold from the dung.
Not every idea will be as earth-shattering a few weeks from now as they are the very second you found them, and this is fine.
This strategy is meant to maximize the profound ideas you save, and ultimately use, from the ones that just don’t cut it.
Work as fluidly as possible. Take notes quickly, but make sure the books are given sufficient time to mature before you extract your findings.
That is how you know when you have struck gold, and when you have some more work to do.
Re-read the highlighted sections
After you have waited a couple of weeks, it is time for you to go over your highlighted sessions again.
Crack open the book, take your time, and re-read what you have highlighted.
Do the passages still make sense like the first time you read them?
One simple trick to be hundred percent sure that you are not missing out on any essential ideas that you have forgotten about – while not accidentally extracting any pseudo-important ideas – is to write down notes on the pages explaining why you found that specific phrase or passage interesting; given it is not self-evident why – as with a strong quote or something else you don’t have to think twice about.
Perhaps, you want to comment on the ideas again when you are re-reading them. That is fine too.
The important thing here is that you take your time.
You read carefully and ask yourself if what you are re-visiting still has some crucial elements to it or if you should let it go.
Spend a lot of time in this phase because it will save you a lot of headaches further down the road if you don’t rush this part.
Filter out the bad, write down what’s solid
When you start your filtering process, you can’t be content with taking mental notes of what passages still have some value to your research project – and what passages don’t.
You need a system.
The strategy you want to use is to skip the highlights that don’t cut it and write down those that do.
A method that originates from Ryan Holiday, who in turn got it from Robert Greene, is that to write down all the, still, essential passages on 4×6 notecards, and keep them organized according to their purpose.
You write down all the ideas, phrases, angles, and sections on these notecards, and you save them in relevant categories.
Either start building a commonplace book, or store them in categories that make sense to the project you are currently working on.
By doing this, you will have converted books into new versions containing only the parts that are relevant to your research.
This system enables you to quickly go back, and re-read what you have written down so you can deepen your work even further; without having to re-read the books you got the notecards from.
You have essentially created what we shall call “trigger cards.” – more on that in the next section.
Here is where the capturing takes places, and it is where all your knowledge is stored.
These cards can be shuffled around, moved, and edited at any given moment during your process, which is harder to do if you only kept a digital record of all your research.
- Write down from which book and author you got the information, write the paragraph on the notecard, and store it in a section where it fits your project the most.
This is how you move further down the funnel, concentrate your forces, and make the most out of what you read, so you can start building your own Bible of Knowledge.
But hoarding knowledge for the sake of owning wisdom is pseudo-work and has little practical value unless you spring it into action with this next strategy.
One of the most crucial strategies you can ever use when working with your mind.
P.S. – this is my favorite marker pen. Faber-Castell Textliner 48.
Re-write the ideas in your own words
When you write down and collect the complete and fully articulated ideas of others, you are really laying the foundation for original thoughts of your own.
Remember: imitate to innovate.
But if you fail to know why you extract these ideas, and what application they have in your life, they quickly lose their profundity and meaning, leaving you with blanks that won’t hit their target.
A strategic method that comes from the clinical psychologist and university professor, Jordan B. Peterson, is to think and write down the meaning of your findings in your own words.
What do these ideas mean to you, and how are they relevant to your life, and to your project?
- Why should these ideas go into your Bible of Knowledge?
One way of collecting these thoughts is to create a folder in Google Drive that you call “Ideas from books,” or whatever fits your needs.
In this folder, you create subfolders for each book you have read, and in every subfolder, you create a document for every notecard you have written from this particular book.
(Yes. This is hard work, but it pays off when you do this every week, and others don’t)
Here is exactly how you do it.
The Google Drive Strategy
Write the quote, passage or idea as a bold headline.
Spend a couple of words (50-250 words will do the trick) writing about it in the context of what you are thinking about, and what the application of the headline (from your notecard) has.
What this does is that it forces you to practice remembering what you have read in an articulated way.
You are mentally categorizing your thoughts, ideas, and the most important concepts from the books you read.
- Main folder with all the books you have read.
- Subfolders in each book containing every notecard you saved.
- Q/A document for every notecard in the subfolder for each book.
- Try to make new and interesting connections by re-writing it in your own words.
How does this one idea relate to all the other ideas you have collected over the last couple of weeks?
Start building a network of compelling ideas, and you will have an easier time remembering them during a speech, and you will be able to write more profoundly and intensely once your brain starts connecting these once random thoughts together in a series of solid concepts.
That is the purpose of this strategy.
Do you believe in what you are writing?
How can you criticize it, and is it possible to tear it apart?
How can you strengthen and crystallize this idea?
Both on its own, but also within the context of another notecard.
What you are doing is that you are attaching memory hooks, so you can remember it for a multitude of reasons and in several actionable concepts.
You are rewiring your brain to become optimized and deadly.
You are also providing your trigger cards with a function.
The fine art of trigger cards
You are essentially creating “mental triggers” for your (trigger) notecards, so when you re-read your notecards, your brain kicks into gear.
You will be able to recall these complex patterns and concepts because they have a fully formulated structure in your brain, and you remember them with utmost clarity.
Each time you go over them, and you recall the whole concept you have formulated through using this system, you will also are practicing remembering every little detail of your project, so that they all become a part of you.
And they will all be interconnected in your brain, enabling you to create on a much deeper level than ever before because the ideas string together, creating new angles and they enable you to explore uncharted corners of your mind.
- Remember: You want to read, find what catches your attention, and write down its significance in your own words.
This way, you are not only eliminating the risk of collecting the ideas of others for the sake of hoarding non-actionable knowledge, which can become a nasty habit, but you are also bulletproofing them against counterattacks, putting them into full action.
Create original ideas with the works of others
You will formulate your own ideas based on the concepts you find in the books you read so you can remember, and use them in a ferociously articulate and sophisticated way.
Don’t read a book, and just save a couple of interesting sentences.
Capture the sentences!
Re-formulate them in your own words, so that you understand them and you practice remembering them together with all your other ideas.
Now, they are your sentences, and you will undoubtedly remember them, and understand them fully, so that you can use them, and complete the best work of your life.
Filter our what’s bad, and write down what’s good in your own words, and your work will become stronger because of it.
Re-visit the paragraphs often
Once you have gone through the process of highlighting, extracting, and re-writing, you must store your notecards where you can access them effortlessly.
You can recall them in your memory at any time, but the connection can grow stronger still.
For this reason, you want to go over your notecards every now and then, so you can remember the whole structure, and deepen the connection between all your original ideas, so you can create better and more meaningful work.
- It’s is deliberate practice for your rational and creative mind.
The notecards will act as triggers that play out a whole scene in your head once you go through them again.
You remember everything, and the connections you created while re-writing and re-formulating your findings come back to you, but brighter and more vividly than before.
Moreover, you never know when or how the next major project, guest post or once in a lifetime opportunity arrives at your door.
Therefore, you must be prepared and have done the work and the tedious practice before it’s go-time.
If done correctly, the way you speak, think, and write will be forever altered.
The people around you will notice of the books you read, the long hours of work you put in, and how deadly the connection between your thoughts and your words are.
Your reputation as a hardworking thinker will spread like wildfire, and sooner than later, work will come to you.
For this reason, you must be prepared and go through your notecards often.
Read through your notecards again
Look at them.
Think, reflect, and recall what you wrote about them.
Practice remembering them until they become a part of you.
If you repeat this cycle often enough, and you keep adding these fully-formulated notecards into your Bible of Knowledge, nothing can stand in your way.
Hard work, deliberate practice and time are all unsubstitutable and immensely rewarding if you use them correctly.
After a few weeks, months, and years, you will be so far ahead of your peers, that once they notice what you have been up to, there will zero chance of them catching up.
You will have created a blue ocean of professional opportunity, and no one will be able to replace you.
All you have to do is to put in the tedious hours of hard work, and the brain chemistry and neuroplasticity will do the rest.
Keep your neurological pathways up to date; re-visit your notecards often, and you there will be no obstacles in your path.
One of the most common mistakes ambitious young people make is that they celebrate their completion too lengthily.
So you finished writing your novel, you recorded an album, or you transcribed a book to notecards and re-wrote the ideas in Google Docs?
So what? Start over!
The model for avoiding ephemeral success and optimizing for continuous progress is:
– Celebrate briefly.
– Start again quickly.
Nothing is more toxic to your momentum than enjoying the fruits of your labor for too long.
You don’t want to be a cold-hearted machine about it, but on the flipside, you don’t want to drag your feet behind you just fast enough so that you manage to complete one piece of work and then spend the rest of your life bragging about how productive you were.
In the past.
Or as Steven Pressfield wrote about his struggles as a writer when he finally managed to finish his first manuscript.
“There’s a story in The War of Art about the afternoon when I finally, finally finished my first novel manuscript–after failing ignominiously in numerous attempts over the previous ten years. I was living in a little town in Northern California then; I trotted down the street to my friend and mentor Paul Rink and told him the triumphant news. ‘Good for you,’ he said without looking up. ‘Start the next one tomorrow.’”
This is the mentality and the discipline you must make your own if your mission on earth is to make impactful work and fulfill your life’s task.
One more thing:
You will never have made it
The cycle repeats itself as soon as you wake up.
And this is fine.
This must not demotivate you, but inspire you, because now you know how the dynamics of the game work, so you can build your strategy around it, and optimize your workflow and hit the target.
Every. Single. Day.
Building a Bible of Knowledge is not something you complete in one day’s work.
This is a lifetime commitment.
An open-ended project that will go on until the day your atoms disperse.
Cut away the fat; leave the vast illusions and pseudo-work to the naive amateurs.
Enter the world of intense realism, see things for what they truly are.
Learn how to work, and how to strategize to develop a consistent storing of knowledge in your vault, and start fresh every day.
You are going to live through those years anyway, so why not spend them working on something that will create a fantastic and vibrant life for yourself?
Strengthen your mind. Get your damn arguments together. And work.
- One last thing: focus on quality work rather than quantity work.
Too many people obsess about listening to podcasts, reading, and learning every second they get.
Even if that is what you should strive for, fragmented learning sessions will never yield the same useful output as quality work where you sit down, and you focus on the task at hand the entire time.
It’s not about finding the time where you can cram in reading books, it’s about creating time where you can focus on meaningful work.
This means freeing up time by saying no to things that won’t further your advancements so that you can hone in on what does.
Every day, you must fend off distractions, and begin anew with the work that leads the way toward the life you want.
Get up at the same time. Nail your morning routine, and create space for the accumulation of actionable ideas.
Build your Bible of Knowledge.
Because nothing will make you more articulate and coherent than that.
Celebrate briefly, and get back to work quickly.
Find the most profound and enticing ideas from the best books ever written.
Make sure you highlight them and map out the pages where those highlights are for later use.
Let the books rest on the shelf for a while after you have finished them.
Go through the highlighted paragraphs again, and write down those who still cut it on 4×6 notecards.
Take the notecards, and write what’s on them as headlines in Google Docs.
Explain, elaborate, and articulate the meaning of what’s on the notecards.
Rewrite the ideas from the books you have read, and turn them into your own original work by reformulating them in your own words.
Store the notecards where you can access them quickly.
Go through them often, and practice remembering what you wrote in Google Docs so the notecards will act as triggers, making the neurological connections stronger and more vibrant each time you work.
Be done when you are finished.
Celebrate ephemerally, and get back to work immediately.
Each time you repeat this process, everything will grow more, and more interconnected, creating deeper and more profound connections in your brain, so that you can make impactful original work.
Nothing will separate you from the herd like continually working and re-working your own private Bible of Knowledge, because it is the best investment you can make in life and for yourself.
And since a Bible of Knowledge is built on life-changing books, you should learn more about the Monthly Book Club because all leaders are readers.