🧊The Iceberg of Information

🧊The Iceberg of Information
Photo by SIMON LEE / Unsplash

Almost 87% of an iceberg's mass is underwater.

The portion of ice you see on the surface is only a tiny spec of the behemoth floating underneath. Failing to understand this simple fact has led to catastrophes. The Titanic, the most famous ship sinking ever, was caused by a collision with a massive iceberg which the crew didn’t see until it was too late.

But this idea is leading to catastrophes in another sphere: reading.

Nowadays many people, if they even have a reading habit, stick mostly to book summaries instead of whole books. Through reading in this way, they crash into a literary iceberg in a couple of ways. Firstly, they mistakenly believe the faster they consume the faster they will learn. Secondly, they lose out on the critical pillar of thinking from the four pillars of an effective reading habit.

Let's tackle both.

Book summaries, blog posts, and current media are like the tips of icebergs. They often take the 13% of a book's golden nuggets and repackage them at face value. But secrets hide in this other 87% of the information like easter eggs.

Books harbor the oldest wisdom out there. Some classics like Nicomachean Ethics and Meditations have survived 1000s of years. There is so much valuable information hiding under the surface.

As for the second point if done so effectively reading great books inspires critical, independent thinking. The author packages their ideas in the most easy-to-digest format possible, but it's your job to dissect and understand what they are saying.

This requires you purposely think outside of your reading habit. While thinking you connect information to past knowledge and come up with new ideas. Many blog posts, book summaries and current media do the thinking for you. Ideas come so packaged there isn’t much room for thinking outside of your reading habit.

I’m not saying these types of media have no place in your information diet. I have found many bloggers who write articles worth my time. In fact, I only read blog posts during my rest time at the gym.

Some blogs (Check out my Journey Page to see recommendations) can be read on their own. Like the tip of an iceberg can still warn us of the ice underneath, distilled information can indicate if a book is worth reading. I will often read a book summary or blog post to see if a book is interesting.

In fact, people should read books more like blog posts. Most people don't feel bad leaving a blog post unread. But many feel an obligation to finish the books they start reading. You don't have to read a book all the way through. Skim books. Skip sections that uninterest you.

It's replacing books with blog posts where problems arise. Blog posts can be valuable. But always remember 87% of the secrets which could lie under the surface in books.

Thanks to Astrid Helfant for the conversations which helped form this article.