Speed Reading - Warren and Bill's Superpower

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Apr 22, 2014
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University of Nebraska student: "If you can choose one superpower, what would it be?”

Bill Gates (Trades, Portfolio): “Being able to read superfast.”

Warren Buffett (Trades, Portfolio): “Yeah I agree, I’ve probably wasted ten years reading slowly.”

I bumped into the above dialogue more than three years ago. I was shocked that both of them gave the same answer.

Then I did some research and found out that by reading slowly,

Warren Buffett (Trades, Portfolio) was talking about more than 1500 words per minutes. And Bill Gates (Trades, Portfolio) is probably even faster.

How fast do you read? Well, if you are an average American, the statistics do not look very good. There is no authoritative data but I think 250 to 300 words per minute is a safe guess. This means,

Warren Buffett (Trades, Portfolio) and Bill Gates (Trades, Portfolio) read six times faster than an average American. They also work harder than most people. Imagine the difference in the speed of knowledge accumulating and compounding. While you struggled to finish reading one annual report, Warren Buffett (Trades, Portfolio) probably has the time to size up 10 annual reports or even more.

Should we do something about it? Of course. We don’t want to be the one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest. I believe improving one’s reading speed should be one of the top priorities of every serious investor.

One of the readers asked me this question a few days ago: How can we improve reading speed and what are some helpful books and resources?

Well, there are a few books and programs that will be tremendously beneficial. I haven’t used all of them but I think a list of the tools can serve as a starting point. From this list, readers can pick and choose based on their needs.

1. Triple Your Reading Speed: I haven’t read this book yet but the feedback on Amazon is predominantly positive.

2. Speed Reading For Professionals: I read this book a while ago. It is fairly short and basic. For those of you who want to get a quick introductory taste of speed reading, this can be an entertaining read.

3. Breakthrough Rapid Reading: This book is a very comprehensive speed reading self-study material, similar to the first book listed above. I have trained myself using book and I have to say, it is tremendously helpful. It is essentially a 30 day self-training course. You will be doing a lot of drills every day. These drills have been very effective for me to improve my reading speed. This book also has good information on comprehension and retention at high speed, which I thought was enormously beneficial as well.

4. Iris Reading Course: This is one of the best known speed reading training courses out there. Iris offers both online and physical training classes. I have tried the online videos when they were on sale. Overall I think the course was a great value. It covered everything you need to know about speed reading and the founder also provided many useful tools.

5. Kwik Learning: This is another well-known speed reading training course. I haven’t tried it personally but just from skimming through the course introduction, it looks similar to Iris Reading. It is much more expensive than Iris Reading though and I’m not sure if the price differential is justified. Interested readers can find out on their own. My own experience is that the theories about speed reading and comprehension are very similar and it won’t make a huge difference whether you choose the more expensive one.

Having listed all the tools I know, I feel obligated to point out that no matter which book or course you choose, the most important thing is practice! You have to train your eyes and brain to operate at high speed and you have to do it consistently and patiently. There is no shortcut. If you practice consistently over a month, I think there is a good chance you can get your reading speed up to more than 700 words per minute. If you practice consistently over three months, you may even get to over 1,000 words per minute. Again, the key is to practice consistently and patiently.

My advice to you: Pick a book or a course and start immediately. The longer you wait, the further you will fall behind.

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