how to pan for gold…in books though

‘I’m wondering what to read next,’ Matilda said.  ‘I’ve finished all the children’s books.’ – Roald Dahl

Music:  I found this artist, Jose Gonzalez, while watching the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  This song fit into the film so nicely.  It would be so cool to choose songs for a movie.  Who gets to do that?  Anyway, I highly recommend the movie and Jose’s music!  Click here to listen while you read. 

As I mentioned on my Reading List, there are some books that I just know…I don’t need the whole thing.  I just want the small bits of gold that apply to me.  I only use this technique for non-fiction works.  Obviously, I want the entire story within a novel and don’t recommend ‘panning’ a piece of fiction.  

In much of what I’ve found within non-fiction, an author does some great, focused research related to what they want to write.  They then present it in a way that works for them.  They also have to tell somewhat of a story with it…present it in a way that flows nicely for the reader…and usually attach some case studies (anecdotes about people applying the book’s theories).  Sometimes, I can tell that I love everything about the idea and everything related.  In that case, I take it all in.  

What is she thinking?  Where is she traveling?

On the other hand…and actually most of the time…I don’t want all the extra fluff.  I take the author’s unspoken word that their idea works for the case studies presented.  Just be careful with this, because they’re obviously not going to tell you stories when their information is arbitrary or ineffective.  That would be counter-intuitive.  I rely on myself though, to find the valuable nuggets of information, the ones that apply to me, and discern as to whether or not I agree or disagree with them.  This usually takes me 10-15 minutes, which means I can ‘pan’ one book a day!  Here’s what I do:

1.  The first thing I do is read the title and author.  Duh!

2.  Then, I go in the back sleeve and find ‘about the author’.  I like knowing the background information of the architect here.  They might have been fed from a silver spoon…might have 5 kids…or none…might have run some marathons…might enjoy their gun collection…or live off the grid.  What I also find here are websites related to their cause, or that they recommend.  

3.  Find the Table of Contents, look over it quickly to see what stands out to you, then dog ear the page.  You might be returning to this page a bunch.  

4.  Get a blank piece of paper, or notebook, or journal…and a writing utensil.  #2 Ticonderoga pencil is my go-to.  That was a joke.

5.  Here is where you start panning for gold!  First, check the end of chapter 1 for a ‘review’ or ‘summary’ or ‘wrap up’.  Some authors use this for each chapter, and it’s so helpful for us as gold panners.  If so, simply jump to each one of these, and write anything down you feel you need.  Here’s an example of a quick review from How to Talk to Anyone, by Leil Lowndes:

Since all of the gold had a grey background in this book, it was easy to spot. All the other writing was a longer hand version of this…and stories of when her friends tried this. Unnecessary! 

You may find a piece of information that you want more of in that summary.  If you do, just go back through the chapter quickly, looking for the terms that apply, and just take what you need.

If the chapters don’t have the summaries, you’ll have to work a little harder.  But all you have to do is rotate your pan in the water, sifting and scanning for information relative to you.  Most of the time there are bold letters, or headings that will help in your search.  

Always use the dog-eared Table of Contents to keep you guided throughout, and as a reference for what to find… and where.  

You may write down a lot.  You may just write down 2 bullets of information…2 nuggets of gold.  You may have a photographic memory and not have to write anything down.  It’s up to you.  Since my own memory is more bronze than gold, I do have to write something down.  I also enjoy having a folder in my drawer where I keep my ‘sheets of gold’.  I know that I can quickly go back and find what I wrote down…access the inspiring notes to keep me practicing a new habit…or find that author I liked to help me find that other book he or she wrote.  Here is an example of one of my sheets of gold (from the book Raising a Self-Reliant Child by Alanna Levine):

I simply write the title and author on top, and then some notes below.  My handwriting should tell you that I’m doing this fast.  Hopefully, I can read it when I go back to it!

Here’s another one with less notes.  It’s from the book 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans, by Karl Pillemer:

That’s it!  Again, this takes 10-15 minutes, and you can pan a book a day! You’ll be rich before you know it.  Think of all of the great research you can access…the great authors and innovative thinkers…the people who have failed and then found the most effective ways to succeed…the parents who know what works.  You can use all of their blueprints.  It’s very handy.  By the way…I’ve spent a lot of money on education up to this point.  I’m very happy I did, and I’ll probably continue to do more.  However, all of this gold panning I’ve been doing…all of the ‘acquisition of knowledge’…has been totally free, from my public library!   A guy I play basketball with told me, ‘that works just as good…all the greatest minds in history are right there on the shelf.’  Nicely put right?  Thanks Matt!

This is your pass to free gold!

One last note…often I email the author, thanking them, and letting them know that their information was helpful.  Sometimes their email address is in the ‘About the Author’ section.  If not, some quick Googling can usually find it.  I think they deserve the gratitude.  I also see it as networking, and connecting with these folks I have a lot of respect for.  You can consider them mentors in absentia…and think of them as part of your own Circle of Elephants that I mentioned in another blog post.

I’ve been surprised at the emails I get in return.  Most of the time it’s a secretary or publicist that writes me back, telling me they’ll forward my message on.  Sometimes though, the author writes back, happy to hear from a reader.  And now you have a specialist in your contact list!  Last week, I was happily exchanging emails with Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric.  Someday, I might want to ask him a business question…and it’s fun to know that he might actually respond!  I’m still waiting to hear from Warren Buffett.

Good luck in your journey finding and becoming gold!

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All love!

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