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Cheapest, Easiest DIY Master's Degree

During the 2014 calendar year, I read at least 33 books. That’s one book every 11 days on average. Some of them were more educational than others, but all of them offered plenty of pleasure and inspiration I’m able to draw from every day. I wasn’t always a reader though. In high school, I experimented until I found the minimal effective dose of effort required to get an A grade in my English classes, especially with the book reports. I’d check out the book from the library, read the first few pages, the last few sentences after every other chapter, as well as a synopsis online and a couple hours later, I’d be able to paraphrase the book and write my book report. I got more of a thrill out of seeing how quickly I could get it done an how little reading I could do while getting either an A or B on the assignment. It wasn’t until my Junior year in college that I began enjoying audiobooks. As I worked around the clock to make it through finals in college, I found that non-fiction audiobooks kept me planted to my seat and helped me stay focused on my work for longer periods of time.

In late 2013 I saw a particularly inspiring video of Brian Tracy talking about success. He mentioned one simple thing that he has attributed to much of his success and the success of his students. He was talking about reading, exactly one hour a day. Reading for an hour a day, depending on reading speed, can lead to absorbing as much information is taught in some master’s programs. Ever since I heard that fact, I’ve felt an obligation to read more. I’m going to share how you can take this simple concept and implement it to gain a competitive advantage in your life.

Why Read

If you can read for an hour a day, you should be able to finish a book every week on average. In a year, this is going to be 50 books. Over ten years, this will add up to more than 500 books. If you read every day, your speed will greatly increase and you’ll be reading more than 50 books per year. The average poor American does not like to read, does not read and does not listen to audio books. The average wealthy American enjoys reading, does so and listens to audio books. Don’t believe me? Look at what every one of these lists include: “Research”

Reading is done by successful people in order to improve themselves. Often a book is written by somebody who’s spent many hours first-hand learning about a subject an he or she knows significantly more than most others do on the subject. By reading a book written by somebody who’s devoted most of or part of his or her life to learning a subject, you’re able to gain the educational insights without devoting your life to the subject. As stated by NY Times Bestselling Author Tim Ferriss, If you read the top five books in your field of focus, you’ll know more than most others do on the subject.

Reading gives you a competitive advantage, allows you to take steps to becoming an expert quicker than if you don’t read about your area of interest.

What to Read

In order for reading to be highly beneficial, you must be reading educational material on your subject or area of focus. Whether it's about your career, hobby, or a skill you wish to improve on or create a business around, the value of what you read lies in how relevant it is to your area of focus.

Not sure where to start? Google is a powerful search engine, so start there. Search for ‘Top Books About [your field of focus]’ articles and ‘Best Books in [your field of focus]’. Continue changing keywords of your search and make a list of the books that appear near the top of those lists more than once. With your list, head on over to Amazon.com and look at the reviews of each book. Often times, the user/reader reviews will offer a good indication of the quality of the material. The more stars, the better. Also, Amazon will happily offer you suggestions that are similar to the books you search for. Make a list of about 25 books to begin with.

When to Read

More important than having a list of books to read is making time to read them. Notice I didn’t say ‘finding’ time… nobody ‘finds’ time. When something gets done, we make time, we don’t find time. If reading is a priority to you, you must treat it as such and make it happen. What I personally recommend (an idea I’ve borrowed from Brian Tracy) is reading first thing in the morning. Wake up before anybody else in your house does and devote an hour to reading. The reason to do this in the morning is because you’re more fresh and energetic in the morning than after a day of activity. Get a cup of tea or coffee and devote a quiet hour to reading. You must block it out on your schedule or it will never happen. And don’t try to read before bed because you’ll be more likely to fall asleep before an hour passes. Information retention lessens as sleepiness increases. Reading in the morning also gives you an entire day to implement what you just read.

How to Read

Reading can be done several ways. You can carry an e-reader device with you such as a Kindle, Nook, or other tablet and whip it out every time you have a few minutes to spare, accumulating an hour of reading throughout the day. This isn’t recommended, but may be the only option for some people. Every time you’re in line, waiting for food to cook, or for laundry to finish, pull out the book and get reading. Another option is to listen to Audio Books. Audio books are the best use for a car stereo. Listening to the radio can be educational, especially programs such as NPR, but aren't always relevant as a book in your field of focus. Commuting and errands often costs more than an hour of driving every day. Listening to audio books on either a mobile device or in the car is a fantastic way to ‘read’ an hour a day, so long as you’re able to safely pay full attention to the book you’re listening to.

Bonus Tip: The hours many spend sitting daily is enough to take years off of our lives. Try standing for 15 minutes while reading, and as your tolerance for standing while reading increases, do so for longer.

My Plans for 2015

Although I did pretty well by reading 33 books last year, my new goal is to read more than one book per week. This means I’ll aim for a goal of 60 books per year. I’ll reach this goal by either listening to or reading books. Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service is fantastic for high-volume readers because it allows a user to ‘check out’ 10 books at a time. There is no limit to how many books you can read per year and it only costs $10 per month—far cheaper than buying new books. Also worth mentioning, some of the Kindle Unlimited books come with Whispersync, which allows you to switch back and forth between reading and listening to the book.

Here’s the list of books I plan to read so far. It will probably change and grow as I learn of more books to read.

My 2015 Reading List

The 10X Rule
The Brown Book of Design Thinking
101 Design Thinking
Lean Marketing for Startups
Drawing Ideas
100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People
Creative Workshop
History of Industrial Design
My Mind On Paper
Structural Packaging
Product Design & Engineering
Invent It, Sell It, Bank It!
The Product Design Process
Sci-Fi to Sci-Fact
Product Manager’s Survival Guide:Ways to Connect:
Think And Grow Rich
The Art of Product Design
The Myths of Creativity
Designer’s Guide to Color 5
Design by Nature
Breaking In
Founders of American Industrial Design
101 Design Methods
Product Design and Corporate Strategy
The Designer’s Guide to Doing Research
From Smart to Wise
Designing for Growth
Biodesign
Value Proposition Design
Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love
Contextual Design
The Spirit of Design
The Handbook of Design for Sustainability
Deep Design
Innovation and the City
Growth by Design
Less and More
Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
The Design for Everyday Things
Product Design (Portfolio)
Sketching, Product Design Presentation
Material Innovation: Product Design
Process 2nd Edition
Well-Designed: How to Use Empathy...
Innovative Product Design Practice
Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation…
Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products
I Want To Change the World
Steve Jobs - The Biography
The Everything Store
The Undercover Economist
Snowball: Warren Buffett

Books I Read In 2014

Non-Fiction/Self-Help

Show Your Work!
Burn Your Portfolio
Maximize Your Potential
Anything You Want
Manage Your Day-To-Day
The Tipping Point
Permission Marketing
The 4-Hour Body
I Will Teach You To Be Rich
How To Win Friends & Influence People
The Power Of Habit
The $100 Startup
Richard Branson: Losing My Virginity
Work For Money, Design For Love
We Are All Weird
Everything That Remains
80/20 Sales And Marketing
The Success Secrets Of Brian Tracy
Getting Things Done
The 4-Hour Workweek
How to Draw: Drawing and Sketching...

Fiction

The Testament
Ender’s Game
The Street Lawyer
The Foundation
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea
Dune
No Country For Old Men
The Road
Sycamore Row
A Time To Kill
The Associate
The Partner

What books did you read in 2014 that made the biggest impact on you, and how many books do you plan to read in 2015? Share by commenting below.