Benefit #3: To Understand Different Perspectives

Don’t live by one book. Live by many books.

By reading, we go beyond the information we’re innately given. We leave our minds and enter the minds of others. This allows us to try on new identities, which gives us new and different perspectives. This is how we develop an open mind.

Thus, the reader isn’t limited to one brain. He has access to many brains —to many perspectives. A book is just a human being in text form. In this view, the more we read, the more brains we accumulate. In this view, a library isn’t a building filled with books but a building filled with brains and perspectives! Each of which is able to transform our lives without us having to leave our chairs. I love to lose myself in other people’s minds.

In fact, isn’t this what reading is all about: the ability to go inside another person’s mind and ponder, “Oh, so that’s how you see it?” Not only do we acquire new and different perspectives, but we also start to think, reason and deduce like the author. The author’s views become our views. Their experience become ours. Like that, we’ve just acquired a new tool. This is the power of reading.

Many experiences came to me first through books. When later in life I came across an event similar to ones I’ve read, it had the feeling of déjà vu. Readers, again, live twice.

Some get angry with books that preach the opposite. But, be gone with that sickness! Get out of this trap of right/wrong, black/white dichotomy that schools promote. Too many people leave school seeing the world from this point of view. They may be highly educated, however, they’re less intelligent. Life isn’t about right and wrong, good and bad, black or white. It’s mostly all grey.

Remember, knowing what works is useful. But, knowing what doesn’t work is also useful. The diversity of opinions among your books are essential to any sound education. Seeing the other side of any issue increases your intelligence. So in your library, have a book by Ghadi and one by Hitler, one by Jesus and one by Muhammed. Good and evil. Western and Eastern. Study health and illness, capitalism and communism, religion and atheism. Study both sides! Because the truth humbly retires in front of those who know both sides.

In other words, a follower reads one side and he’s content —but ignorant. A leader reads both sides and he’s content and also intelligent.

Remember, a snake oil salesperson will focus only on one side, the upside. An advisor will tell you both sides, the upside and downside. Never forget there’s more than one point of view. Don’t follow one person’s point of view, but learn them all! In other words, don’t be a follower of one. But, be a student of all. The follower reads one book and thinks he knows everything. A leader read them all and knows there’s more to learn.

No one who has only heard from one side is truly educated. The ability to see another person’s thoughts makes us doubly aware. In fact, to make a rational argument, we need to know both sides. So, again, study and debate both sides of the question. That’s intelligent!

The truth-seeker doesn’t automatically accept “truths.” He examines every quote, every study and every perspective for himself. His foundation is patience. He understands that, “Man can learn nothing except by going from the known to the unknown,” as the famous physiologist, Claude Bernard, said.

At a minimum, there will be always two points of view. Robert Kiyosaki, a multi-millionaire, said, “Intelligence is found on the edge of a coin. On the edge, you can view both sides…The most intelligent people live on this edge.” If you’re open to opposing ideas, your intelligence will grow. If not, your ignorance will grow.

Knowing only our own side is really to know nothing at all. It’s blind. Instead, look at a problem or topic or issue from both sides. Seek the other side. It’s “A” students that study both sides of a coin. “B”, “C”, “D” and “F” students study only one side.

Let’s take this one step further: don’t just look at the world from two sides, look at the world from as many perspectives as possible. In the fight against poverty, look at the host government’s point of view, the aid worker’s point of the view, the poor person’s point of view, the hospital’s point of view and the aiding government’s point of view. But don’t stop there. Look at the scientists’ point of view and the historians’ and philosophers’ point of views. Only then can we say we understand the topic. And only then can we truly solve the problem.

The more perspectives we have, the more we’ll know and the more intelligent we’ll become. In fact, this is the only way to strengthen our intelligence. F. Scott Fitzgerald, the novelist, epitomized this point. He said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” One book tells us this and another tells us the opposite. Eventually, by understanding how the truth is forged, we’ll understand who and what is right.

In this way, a voracious non-fiction reader isn’t passively sitting there. He doesn’t read. He studies. His mind is active —continuously comparing, contrasting, analyzing, measuring, matching and judging. This makes reading a creative task. In fact, a reader rewrites the text. Carl Sagan said it better than I ever could. He said, “Intelligence is not information alone but also judgment.

Remember, there is joy in thinking. To think is the greatest moral virtue. In fact, it’s the first moral virtue! Education’s job isn’t to teach us. It’s to challenge what we think. So, pick up the hard books! Plotinus, a Greek philosopher, said, “There are men too feeble for contemplation. Being unable to raise themselves to contemplation from the weakness of their Soul.” And, George Bernard Shaw, a famous playwright, said, “Few people think more than two or three times a year.” Dear reader, I respectfully challenge you to think once or twice a week! Nay! Think once or twice a day!

I like to quip that I haven’t read 396+ books. I’ve had 396+ teachers. Each had a different point of view and taught me that point of view. Each either reinforced my knowledge or destroyed it. And for both, I’m forever grateful.

Reading gives us new lenses. With each field I’ve delved into —be it science, politics, religion, poverty, investing, creativity, history, happiness, health, relationship, media, parenting, entrepreneurship— they each gave me a different lens to see the world in.

History is special. Until you know some history, you’re really driving around without a map. History gave me many perspectives. One can view history through more than 12 lenses: evolutionarily, technologically, economically, religiously, politically, psychologically, philosophically, via innovation, war, war-technology, agricultural-technology, and via energy. In short, the more you learn, the more you’ll see. As Menander, a 4th century BC ancient Greek dramatist, said, “Those who can read see twice as well.”

The most important reason for understanding new perspectives is setting an example for your child. By being opened mind, by standing on the edge of a coin and seeing it from both sides, we’re teaching our children to do the same. And this kind of intelligence can really impact our child’s future and truly accelerate his/her life.

To your success,

Nikhil Mahadea