My little cousin interviewed over the weekend for a summer program assignment. She asked me a series of questions and being the fabulous interviewee that I am, I tried to make my answers informative and insightful (for her sake, right?). Honestly, no one has ever considered me a worthy interview subject and I indulged in my very quiet 15 minutes of fame.
I was folding clothes while she was taking notes. I know I have mentioned folding clothes in posts before; I don’t know why I seem to find blog post ideas when I do this.
Note to self: Fold more often.
Anyway, somewhere between the shorts and pijamas, she asked me what I would recommend to someone her age. You’d think I had more to say, but only one word came out. READ. I took her silence as a cue to elaborate.
- Read what you love. Read about what you love. Let’s say you love philanthropy. Learn the industry, read about the top dogs, the underdogs, the methods, the trends, and the rebels. Learn about what works, but then learn about what doesn’t and make sure to find out why. Eventually, you won’t only be reciting the information you’re reading. Eventually, you are going to start generating your own content. The papers will mix, the name of the articles were blur, and suddenly you will give birth to a unique thought and opinion.
- Read the things you don’t like. A writer-friend recently told me that it’s important to read the things we don’t like to read. She recommended I do it to get through vocabulary that I’m avoiding because I don’t understand it, but I think that this runs deeper. There is added value in the content that we avoid. Read things you don’t understand, read things that seem a little useless, and read things that you’d never think interesting. At least you’ll be sure afterwards. These are the chores that we do not like to do, but they are the very edges that frame us. They add a little bit of “jazz” to the natural interests we have. It’s kind of like the stuff you happen to learn about because your dad likes cars or because your best friend’s parents are immigrants. It adds variety in the combination of ideas that our brains will formulate. The words you don’t know, the ideas you don’t understand, and the theories you don’t agree with will be surprisingly useful later in life and it’s impossible to anticipate it all, so consume what you can.
- Read about people. Read about how people did things, what people go through, what people want, what people run from, and how they do it. Find and lose yourself in characters. Listen to the things that the author has the guts to confess on paper and as you read you’ll discover your comforts and discomforts. Watching other people live will give you perspective. There is a saying that my photography teacher said in class as we were set out to take street shots, “Move around. If you don’t have a good picture, it’s cause you haven’t found the angle.” So open yourself to different angles.
- Labels. When you can, pay attention to labels. Find out where things come from. Note the bits and pieces of info that are provided to you when you’re consuming something. Why? Because sometimes this will spike your curiosity, where there was once only a little, now lies a lot. Seeing a new location on a wine bottle might make you curious about a region in Italy… You might even stumble on some information that will keep you away from certain products, so read label when you can.
- And sometimes, read for fun. Because light content comes in handy, too.
We’re all here to tell a story, so it’s really important that we are reading some of them. So yea, tap that. Now.