The 3 Book Theory – Become Smarter Than the 90%
September 27, 2019
Lots of people would jump at the opportunity to know more than 90% of people out there. They would also brush it off as being a silly notion or a ridiculous ambition. The simple truth is though, it’s easier to become an expert than you might think,
Becoming an Expert
When I was growing up everyone knew my dad as a bit of a history buff. He could drop knowledge about everything from the ancient Aztecs to the Troubles of Northern Ireland. And the reason for his wealth of knowledge? The mountain of books he has read. He’d come home from the library with 5 – 10 books and I would stand there “Christ, are ya going to read all them!?”, he’d give me a non-fussed answer and move on. He knew so much more than everyone I ever knew but I knew nobody else who read as much as him.
Now, I thought that I had to read a million and a half books to become an expert until I discovered the 3 Book Theory. This is the theory that to know more than 90% of people, all you have to do is start reading 3 books on specific topics.
There is a big misconception about what it takes to become an expert. The key is to keep in mind the general population and not the top 1% of experts.
For example, I really enjoy learning Spanish and to know more than 90% of the people here in Ireland, I have to read 3 books. Realistically, how many people in Ireland know more than: “Hola/Adios/Hasta la vista baby“? Very few. So, in the top 10% when it comes to Spanish in Ireland are:
Spanish speakers from Latin America and Spain.
Irish people who have lived in Spanish-speaking countries.
Secondary-school students and College students. They must elect Spanish as a subject they want to study.
Outside of these groups, there are very few people that speak Spanish here in Ireland. So as a rough estimate, you could say about 10% are in the top bracket. The rest of the general population have little to zero knowledge of Spanish.
Putting it into Practice
If you wanted to pick one topic per month, that would roughly be 3 books in one month, one book per week.
If I was learning Spanish I would pick 3 books focusing on different aspects.
- Language Hacking by Benny Lewis, this book gets you speaking Spanish straight away and gives you key fundamentals of Spanish.
- Then you could listen to an Audiobook. Which would be less work-intensive and would help you with listening and pronunciation.
- Then a grammar book to help you get down to more of the nitty-gritty.
Now when I go to Spain, I may not be able to chat fluently with the locals but I will know more than my group of friends. Enough to reserve a table at a restaurant, ask for directions and apologise for any of their drunken antics. They might be impressed but realistically, all I did was study Spanish for 20 minutes per day for a month before the holiday.
Another example was when I decided to learn more about the Tax system in Ireland. I got a loan of 3 books from my local library. Read them. Told all my friends about how they could reclaim tax and save money. Reinforcing the information for me and they learn something new. Win-Win.
Making It Stick
Some people (like me) might be worried about remembering everything. The best way to make it stick is to
Teach Other People: when you explain something to someone you are strengthening your memory. of it by recalling the information you learned. This is called the Recall Method.
Challenge Yourself: Whether it’s learning a new language or learning how to code you have to challenge yourself. Speak the language with a native in a pub or do the code your personal website. Do something that challenges and scares you a little bit.
- Avoid Info Overload: Don’t aim to read 3 books in one week. Spread it out enjoy it and focus on the resource that’s in front of you.
Don’t Focus on the 1%
Your skills or knowledge don’t need to be unbelievable to attract attention, get that new job or to become an expert in an area. Keep in mind that 90% of people are focusing on something else. They’re not interested in reading, they’re distracted or aren’t bothered learning something new. And the whole point of this is to make you an expert amongst the average person. DON”T look at the top 1% of coders/writers/marketers/historians and get disheartened. Realise that you can gain more knowledge every time you pick up a book and you can drop that knowledge whenever it’s needed.