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The Philosophy of Speed Reading

09 May 2019
The Philosophy of Speed Reading

Was it Friedrich Nietzsche or Kelly Clarkson who said, “What doesn't kill you makes you stronger”? It’s easy to confuse them for each other. Whoever it was, it is a very serious point. To achieve anything significant, including Speed Reading, you have to be prepared to step outside your comfort zone. I am not suggesting that reading can be life threatening but it can be scary to feel out of control.
When I was learning to ski, I had a brief period where I would be hurtling down a slope, seemingly doing well but would shift my weight too far back and effectively sit down, coming to an ignominious stop. It felt like I was going too fast. Once I accepted that I could travel that fast and control my descent, coming to a stop at the bottom, I was able to improve. It was all about trust and accepting the feeling of being a little outside your comfort zone.
Believe in yourself. Believe that you will assimilate and comprehend the information from the book rapidly without the need to re-read sentences and you will succeed. As Henry Ford said, "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right."
Another great philosopher, Jedi Master Yoda, offers sage advice. Teaching the young Luke Skywalker in ‘Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back’, the discussion went as follows:
“Luke: Master, moving stones around is one thing. This is totally different.
Yoda: No. No different. Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.
Luke: All right, I'll give it a try.
Yoda: No. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.”
In Speed Reading too, you must unlearn what you have learned and discard old habits. It is a different skill.
You need to fully commit to implementing the techniques. There is no try. The word ‘try’ implies self-doubt. It shows a lack of commitment with the possibility of failure. When you state your intention powerfully and fully commit to action you are far more likely to succeed. W.H. Murray from The Scottish Himalayan Expedition said:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, a chance to draw back. Always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth – the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans. This is, that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one, that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
(The "Goethe couplet" referred to here is from an extremely loose translation of Goethe's Faust lines 214-30 made by John Anster in 1835.)
Beware the Dark Side
Another nugget of genius from Yoda: “Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.” from ‘Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace’. One of the most pernicious fears is the fear of failure. Thoughts like, ‘What if I miss something vital?’ This does indeed lead to the anger of frustration and the suffering of doubting yourself. You must act with boldness, embrace so-called failure when your speed or comprehension goes down and learn from it. What can you do differently next time? Sir Humphry Davy, one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century – perhaps all time, said, “I have learned more from my mistakes than from my successes.” Every time you fail you learn a non-solution. Each non-solution crossed off the list takes you one step closer to success.
Tony Buzan offers the acronym TEFCAS as a success formula. In his book ‘Head Strong’ he says, “TEFCAS is more physics than psychology. It traces, step-by-step, what steps your brain is obliged to take while learning in the physical universe; the Laws of which it must both follow and use to its advantage.
TEFCAS can be considered your brain's application and adaptation of the Scientific Method. The Scientific Method is the basis of all the great discoveries in science, and is very similar, as Newton himself confirmed, to normal child's play! In the Scientific Method you start with a question or hypothesis. Through a series of investigations you observe the feedback you receive from your experiments and you then check the results. The results are then checked against the original question and hypothesis, and conclusions are drawn which either confirm or contradict the hypothesis, or satisfy or not the question. On the basis of this the scientist/child then adjusts to the ongoing pursuit of knowledge (success) and tries again”
The steps are as follows:
Try-all (trial)
Don’t just Try - Try all options and persist. Everything starts with an initial action.

Each trial leads to an event – something happens (Do not judge as a success of failure yet. Accept the result of the experiment).

The event will give you information through your senses.

Check this information. Does it lead towards or away from your goal? What relevant factors need to be considered?

Course correct. Adjust your strategy and repeat the above steps - the next Try-all.

Through the iterative process of adjusting after each trial you will ultimately reach success. Enjoy, celebrate and then set your next goal and your next try-all.
Embrace the philosophy, use ‘the force’ and the formula to ultimate success.