Normally I focus on all things related to writing and reading and popular culture (I have a soft spot for movies in case you couldn’t tell), and today I want to comment on something that may at first seem to have NOTHING whatsoever to do with reading and writing.
But in actuality it has to do with the very essence of what makes reading (and writing) worth doing.
If you’ve never heard of DUMB goals, they were first popularized by a charismatic author by the name of Brendon Burchard. He argues that the typical platitudes people say about setting goals (i.e. S.M.A.R.T goals) is destructive in its limited, uninspiring, and short-sighted approach. Many management guru and workforce types extoll the virtues of SMART goals, which are famously manageable and specific. In other words, b-o-r-i-n-g. Sure, on a basic level they’re necessary. You have to take the little steps to get from point A to point B. But if you’ve ever had someone tell you not to read something because “it might be too difficult for you” or some other such condescending nonsense, I bet you understand those kinds of limiting assumptions are a 100 on the annoyance scale.
So let me ask you this: please, please, as a reader, set high goals for yourself. Epic goals even. Not SMART ones. DUMB goals stand for “dream-driven, uplifting, method-friendly, and behavior-driven.” Don’t feel you have to remember that – but remember this: Most goals in life won’t be inspiring and probably won’t be something you’ll come back to in the long-term unless they resemble a DUMB goal a lot more closely than a SMART goal. This is true for reading too.
Ask most people who open any daunting tome of a book (Stephen King’s Under the Dome comes to mind), and they’ll tell you it looked challenging, but it also motivated them. It was something they could be proud of at the end and say ‘Yep, I read the whole book and the pages flew by!’ or ‘It wasn’t easier, but it was worth it.’
As a reader, I don’t challenge myself as often as I should. Do you suffer from that same mistake? By ‘challenge’ I’m not talking about reading fancy-schmancy academic books or highbrow literature necessarily. When I say we as readers should “challenge” ourselves, I’m talking about taking a risk period. Trying something we wouldn’t NORMALLY give a second glance to.
As a reader, I challenge you to set a DUMB goal. Have you always wished you could read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy? Or maybe you are one of those heretical few who never got through all of the Harry Potter books? Take a reading challenge. Read something you’ve always told yourself you were going to read “someday.” Make someday NOW. Take that next step.
To put my money where my mouth is, I’ll even make you a deal. Share what you would read if only it didn’t feel so daunting to you, and I’ll reciprocate. I’ll take a risk and read something out of my own comfort zone or from the sphere of the seemingly out of reach. The hardest journeys are best traveled with a companion or three. Take this reading challenge and pay it forward.
P.S. For those interested, here is a brief video of Brendon Burchard in all his energetic, ‘take on the world’ glory. It’s maybe 10-12 minutes, and you’ll be glad you watched it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54aFTZ9POw4