By Fatima Ariadne
Once upon a time, a Persian prince was ill. All the best doctors in the land had been invited to try to cure the prince, but to no avail. Just when all hope almost vanished, a stranger young man, amid his wandering journey, appeared. He volunteered himself to cure the prince, and it turned out to work like miracle.
The prince was impressed by the young man’s skill, and offered him : “what kind of payment do you want in return? How much money do you want? Or would you like me to give you land, palace, or prestigious position? I can give all of them for you”.
“Thank you, sir”, answered the young man politely, “but nothing I ever wanted in the world than to reap a knowledge in your gigantic library. Let me stay in your library for 2 weeks so I can learn from your books. That’s the best payment you could ever give me”
This is not a fiction.
The amazing dude was the father of medicine in his youth, Ibn Sina (Avicenna). In a young age, Ibn Sina was wise enough to know that knowledge is more precious than any physical wealth he could’ve gained. Like many muslim scientists of Islam Golden Age, Ibn Sina is multitalented. He mastered medicine, pioneered the first mental hospital in Islamic caliphate, and inspired the second law of Newton. He also wrote books and essays in philosophy, physics, even politics and music. So great his legacy that the Westerner admit that he is “as a physician, the Galen of Islam. As a philosopher, he is the Aristotle of Islam”
Ibn Sina was a bookworm, and in his biography it was told that he spent his nights reading and studying, while slept very little. He kept sharpening his mind although he had reached a status of professor.
Pen is indeed, sharper than sword.
But regardless what the pen writes upon the papers, what makes them life-changing are actually not the amount of books we possessed or read, but how we react and take action upon the knowledge we gained. Knowledge is only a map — but how we walk the path of the map, is what shapes our life’s destination.
So how can we make the beneficial books a lantern of our journey? Being a book junkie myself, I would share my experience-based tips how you can absorb the most knowledge and reap more benefits from the books you read. So that they don’t just become merely “pieces of papers” :
1. Take a Note and Paraphrase
From time to time, I kept several logbooks in which I draw a mind-map, write a summary of what I’ve read, then I would review the logbooks over and over. Everytime I found something interesting, the book highlight, the practical examples, I’d write them down.
This is especially good if you like borrowing books from others. You can refresh your own mind anytime you want by just reviewing the logbook.
Or if you are an audio person, you can record your own voice speaking and paraphrasing the book you just read. It’s not hard really, most every cellphone now has a recording tool for the purpose.
2. Apply it, Live it, Breathe It
“Knowledge without action is insanity. Action without knowledge is vanity” (Ghazali)
One of the most influential book in my life is “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. I read the book from cover to cover when I was 13, and I applied the knowledge in it everytime I got an opportunity (even until now).
My first Carnegie “field test” was when I was 7 months late returning a book to school library, which got me a very large sum of fine. I didn’t have any money to pay the fine, so I came to the librarian, confessed my mistake using Carnegie method. Miraculously, the librarian got soften, and he even told me the most important thing is I return the book and I ended up only paid the fine fee something like around $2 instead of $50 in the first place.
I then got my fiance to borrow the book, but regrettably he lost it by mistake. Nevertheless, I’ve applied Carnegie methods in many walks of life (it resolves a conflict between me and a Lecturer, softened the annoying person’s heart, and prevented a conflict) — so regardless the physical book isn’t with me anymore, I have it inside my head.
This is just an example. In fact, test the water to see if the book’s theory works (or not!), or if it works only for certain people but not for you.
3. Repeat and Re-Read
Many people think they can absorb everything just in one sitting. The truth is : Nope. Your brain needs repetition to understand or accept a new pattern. Even if it’s a book you’ve read and grasped 2 years ago, just grab and re-read it, you’ll be surprised to see you’re actually missing this or that piece. Chances are you’ll smack your head and have an “ooooh, I knew that long ago but how can I forget this!” moment.
4. Read related books in the same knowledge sphere
If you one day read a book about body language and gesture reading, you might want to read another book on similar subject or about human behavior. After you read about human behavior basic, you might want to expand and read about NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming).
Think knowledge like a tree, where one branch created new branches to another. And interestingly, our brain neurons’ connections work that way too.
5. Share the gems to other people
If you can’t or don’t know how to apply the knowledge now, maybe other people will. If you shared the knowledge that benefits you, it works both way for the giver and the receiver. The one receiving knowledge can enrich his mind and may be developing the knowledge himself, while the knowledge giver is rewarded by Allah…big big time!
“Whoever initiates a good practice in Islam and is emulated by others in doing so will get the reward of it and the reward of all those who act upon it without their rewards being diminished in any respect.” (Sahih Muslim)