Shawn Jenkins Blog

Shawn Jenkins Blog

The Subtle, yet Profound Shift that Changed My Life

When you’re in a bookstore or browsing books online, do you hesitate in the slightest to purchase a book that piques your curiosity? 

It could be the price, the time it will take to read it, the thought that you already have too many books.

If so, this post is for you. 

If we were having coffee and you asked me for the single best tip I could give you for achieving your goals, I would say this: “Buy books.”

I buy books. I buy physical hard copy books. I buy digital books. I often own several copies and multiple formats of the same book.

However, it wasn’t always this way. When I graduated high school, I had read exactly one book: To Kill a Mockingbird.

I read Mockingbird begrudgingly as a senior only because I had to. I had some terrible experiences in English class all the way through school, even college. A’s in math, C’s in reading and English. I think I passed a few of those classes merely because the teacher didn’t want to see me back the following year. 

One key day after graduating high school it all changed. More on that below, but for now, why do I now say that buying books is the ultimate of ultimate tips?

The immediate and practical answer is that learning is beneficial. And one of the best ways to learn is to read about the experiences of others. 

But the deeper answer is somewhat more elusive. 

A Mental Shift

In our minds, we have a continuous conversation with ourselves. It happens consciously and subconsciously. We vacuum up information through sight, sound, touch, smell, emotional interactions with people.

So when you see a book and you automatically reach out to hold it and flip through it with curiosity, try this: Without any financial calculation whatsoever, buy it. Why? Because when we invest financially in our curiosity, we are telling our deepest selves that we can benefit from gaining information.

If you believe that a twenty-dollar bill can be used to acquire a book and that book can enhance your mind, which will then in turn create some future value, buy the book.

If you hesitate or pass altogether, then your investment calculation is that the combination of information and its subsequent impact on your mind are less than the value of a twenty-dollar bill. Is that an investment opportunity that feels sound to you?  

I’ve spoken to many people about this theory and, generally, I get a polite smile and either a change of subject or a few soft reasons why someone would legitimately not buy books. 

My point isn’t really about whether or not borrowing books is better than buying books, or if using the library is financially smarter than spending money on a new hardback. My point, the one I have been trying to make for many years, is that the buy-books test is all about your perception of the value of your mind.

And learning to effortlessly buy books is the key to unlocking a relationship with your mind that will take you to places you may not have even imagined possible. 

My Mental Shift

The summer after graduating Spruce Creek High School I delivered pizzas for Domino’s while my friends went off to college. I didn’t have money for college, and I didn’t have the interest.

It wasn’t until I drove out to the airport and took a $50 introductory flying lesson in a two-seat Cessna 152 that I bought my first book. And now that I look back on that event, I see the pattern that developed that day. I bought a stack of books: a Cessna 152 operating manual so I could learn the plane’s checklists and systems, an FAA Airman’s Information Manual, and a Private Pilot Study Guide so I could begin my journey to becoming a pilot.

My shift from no-book-buying and no-book-reading to constant-book-buying and constant-book-reading was instantaneous. It just took a subject that I had sufficient curiosity in to spark that change.

The same can happen for you. 

Just about every week I go to our local bookstore and spend three to four hours flipping through books and magazines. I generally buy two to five books during my visits. What I learned in that pilot training shop at 17 years old, I’m still doing today. 

Free vs Paid

Are blogs and podcasts as good as books?

Well, for some things they’re better. They allow you to multitask your information uptake, and a lot of today’s content, such interviews with someone you would love to meet, are only available in audio or blog form. 

But for developing a deep self-narrative that your mind is extremely valuable, they are a distant second. A free podcast or a free blog post does not have the same subconscious effect. 

Your mind is astute. It prefers proof. So when you hand over a twenty-dollar bill for that new book, you’re proving to yourself that you believe your mind is valuable. 

It’s similar to spending time with a loved one or friend. You can say the words, but the act of spending a few hours with someone proves how you feel.

This is also why buying books for other people rarely works. The book reader needs to pair their curiosity with the personal financial sacrifice (investment) to gain the maximum benefit.

Borrow or Buy?

I’ve had this discussion with people who are working hard on a financial plan to pay off debt, build up savings, and become financially independent. 

All I can say is that I have bought books with an open hand and open wallet since I was 17. I have bought them in years when I was going into debt. I have bought them in years when I was paying off my mortgage. No matter what life stage, I’ve never scaled back my book-buying habit. I’ve always seen it as a superpower, and regardless of my other financial obligations, I never want to lose that drive, even for something as lovely as paying off my credit card.

My curiosity with software led to me buying stacks of books on the subject, which then led to me starting a software company. My inexperience with sales led to me buying stacks of books on the subject, which led to my company building a big and successful sales team. It’s all about establishing a pattern of curiosity and need that leads to spending money on books to open new doors to the future.

This is simply the best investment I have ever made. Give it a shot and see if you experience the same mental shift. It’s an easy experiment, and the results could change your perspective for the rest of your life. See you at the bookstore!

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