I’m not much of a runner. I’m still traumatised of coming last in every race I ran in school. Much to my dismay. This put me off sports for a long time. I’ve just listened to a TED Talk that makes a good case for ditching your running shoes. The case he makes is that running barefoot eliminates running injuries and brings the joy and freedom back to running. He makes an interesting proposal – I might just take up running, barefoot.
Check out the talk below.
Some years ago I did a course on speed reading. I am a naturally fast reader, but to read even faster was something I wanted to learn. I mean there are so many books out there I want to read.
The thing with speed reading is that it’s a technique that needs practice – much like a muscle needs constant work to keep its shape.
Using your peripheral vision
Thomas Oppong, founder @Alltopstartups writes in his article How to Teach Yourself to Read an Entire Book in a Single Day about learning to use your peripheral vision. This was one of the things I was taught to do in the course, which is the core idea behind speed reading.
“Using your peripheral vision allows you to read with fewer eye fixations because your vision span is wider and you can see, read, and process more words at a time.” (Thomas Oppong)
This helps you to read in clumps, which is “a collection of 4 to 16 adjacent words that you read in a single glance. When you read in clumps, you naturally increase your speed because you can’t slow down to vocalize (speak or hear the words as you read them).”
What is subvocalisation?
The reason we don’t read fast is that we’re verbalising the individual words in our minds as we read them. This is called subvocalisation, “or silent speech, is the internal speech typically made when reading; it provides the sound of the word as it is read. This is a natural process when reading and it helps the mind to access meanings to comprehend and remember what is read, potentially reducing cognitive load. This inner speech is characterized by minuscule movements in the larynx and other muscles involved in the articulation of speech.” (Wikipedia).
A good technique to learn to read in clumps is to run your finger across the sentences as you read them. Forget what teachers told in school – running your finger across the sentences does work, and you’ll see your speed increase as you’re taking in the clumps of words. This simple act helps you focus on what you’re reading and you’ll naturally start to engage your peripheral vision. Eventually, you’ll not need to do this anymore.
But what about comprehension?
Much of the criticism for speed reading rests on how much you retain or comprehend when speed reading, and personal preferences to savour each word, idea or concept as they’re read.
He writes about skimming (glancing through text looking for the parts to read), metaguiding (as mentioned above, using your finger to help you focus) and Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (where “single words flash on the screen so you’re concentrating on a single word at a time”).
He ends off by saying:
“Personally, I’ve tried all the above methods, and they’re too exhausting for me. It takes a lot of focus and mental effort to speed read, and when you do it you’re missing out on information. I like the fact that when I’m reading a book or article I can take a few moments to pause and think about an idea. With speed reading, these moments are gone. I might consume a ton of information, but I don’t feel like I actually process it. That defeats the purpose of reading for me.” (Thorin Klosowksi)
My fit-for-purpose reading techniques
Ultimately it is about you, and what you prefer, like a fit-for-purpose reading technique. For example, I use my peripheral vision for emails, skim documents because they carry a lot of ‘gumpfh’ to get to the real meaty stuff, I deliberately slow down to savour each word when reading my favourite authors, and I take notes and use sketching techniques when I want to connect with, interpret and apply what I’m reading.
So, dear reader, what reading techniques do you use and are they context specific?
Coffee is my indulgence, drug and generally makes me happy. Just the smell of coffee is enough to change my mood. Che and I often joke that should we ever own a coffee shop, we’ll have permanently roasting beans at the entrance to entice customers in.
This isn’t cheating at all – perfume counters do it all the time, spraying expensive scents to entice customers to buy. It is also very interesting that said perfume counters are always to be found at entrances to stores. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Anyway, back to the coffee shop thread. With my love of coffee, it is natural for me to think of establishing my own shop. I would be happy all the time, not to mention just a tad hyper.
Peter Baskerville, who’s founded many coffee shops writes about 12 secrets to a successful coffee shop. He gives advice on what food to sell (not too much variety), the layout of the barista station (close to the cash register so the barista can hear the orders come in and get a head start on the order), and to get the best machine with the best coffee.
The secret is to consistently serve the finest espresso. He says that “espresso coffee is one of those rare products where consistent 100% quality matters“. I can vouch for this, having tasted some bad espresso and some simply divine.
The most eye-opening point he makes is that “coffee shops, like restaurants, are much more a people/service business than they are a goods/transactional one”.
Which is the same point that Cole Schafer makes in his article How to run the best coffee shop in the world.
He mentions 10 points, from knowing all your customers by name, to serving a good cup of coffee to never taking your customers for granted. He ends off by saying – “understand that you aren’t in the coffee business –– you’re in the people business“.
In my last travels, I got pretty tired of being ripped off for a cup of coffee. It’s shocking that so-called local coffee shops will treat customers badly, charge an arm and a leg for coffee and a sandwich and are unsympathetic towards a traveller who doesn’t have small change. It got to the point that I dreaded going into a coffee shop, which didn’t do much for my mood, and which eventually drove me into a Starbucks.
Why? Because I knew I was going to get a friendly face and a consistent experience. So even though I lost the ‘local feel’, I felt treated like a valued customer, someone with a name, a person. Whether I’m in Amsterdam, Lisbon or Atlanta, especially in areas of high transit, I will seek out a Starbucks because the emotional overhead of trying local in some locales is just too high.
In his article, E is for Experience, entrepreneur, Roche Mamabolo writes of a similar experience to the one I had recently, and goes onto write about the Starbucks experience and says “from products and store fronts to your own personality, people want a real experience.” It’s about “a joyous smiling waiter that is interested in your name instantly becomes your friend.”
Like any business, running a coffee shop is about people, “more than words, slogans and tag-lines, what your customers cherish is how you make them feel“. And customers never forget how you make them feel.
So to all coffee shop owners out there, remember that your business is about people and the experience that will keep us coming back for more. So, a small glass of coffee liqueur with my cappuccino is fine, but if it’s slapped down on the table without care then no amount of zing I might get from the alcohol and the coffee-induced-happy-state will compel me to return.
Right, so, I’m not punting Starbucks, I’m not getting paid by them to write this (I’m not even linking to their website), I just want to make that clear.