Blog of Drew

Recently, I began reading books again. This is big because I believe it will drastically improve how I navigate life. When change happens, there’s variety factors involved, often working together. Here, I share some of the factors involved in how I stopped and rediscovered reading.

How I stopped reading.

1. Poor note taking system.

A large part of the value I get from books is from the notes I take from the book. These notes are special to me.

When I was in high school, I approached books in this way, noting down whatever stood out to me. To this day, I have the folder of Word documents holding the notes I typed down.

As you can imagine though, typing out paragraphs is a time consuming process. The effort and time required put me off continuing to take notes which made reading less valuable, less special.

2. Overcommitment to books.

There’s a saying that books should be treated cheaply. The implication of the saying is that, as with all cheap things, if it isn’t helpful, just move on. No need to overcommit.

But not committing to something hard isn’t easy for me. I always thought that commitment is synonymous with strength, grit and success.

So, if I started a boring book, I couldn’t let it go. This resulted in books being read beyond their useby date and made the reading process very, very boring. Not only that but choosing a new book to read also became the lottery pick of death. No thank you.

3. No desire after a day’s work.

I used to have a white collar job that involved large amounts of screentime and monotonous reading.

In this context, spare time was a golden slither of the day to be enjoyed to the absolute maximum. To take full advantage, I pursued hobbies that were completely different to work and looked interesting (like salsa dancing).

The desire to do personal reading was simply not there.

How I rediscovered reading.

1. Self Authoring writing programme.

I was doing Self Authoring, articulating the faults and virtues of my present self. (Serious stuff!)

After having articulated my faults and virtues, the programme asked me to reflect on how I can respond to them in order to craft a better life.

What happened next surprised me.

My responses to a wide range of situations nearly all involved reading. Reading was the glaring answer to an array of problems.

It couldn’t be ignored.

2. If you want to be remarkable, read.

Around this time, I was also listening to a podcast, and this podcast hit the point home. Big time.

Kevin Kelly said something to the effect of: If you want to be remarkable, read. He continued: I don’t know any role model of mine that doesn’t read more than I do.

I paused for a moment and thought about who I look up to. Yup, they all read a tonne of books. The logic felt simple. To become someone remarkable, reading is a must-do.

3. Falling in love with my Kindle (and highlights).

I became convinced of the goodness of reading in a hostel in Bogotá, Colombia where accessing English books isn’t too easy.

To have get easy access to English books while travelling, I got myself a Kindle and wow, it’s been amazing.

The main benefit I enjoyed has been how easy it is to highlight parts of books and email myself a summary of highlights. As a result, I feel a huge value add from the reading I’m doing. I’m not just learning something now, I’m seamlessly storing up pearls of wisdom for future me. A gift to my future self. Something special. #Journal

My goal with learning Spanish from the start has been focused on being able to have a spoken conversation. To achieve this, I needed to find people to practice speaking with. Go figure! So about a year ago, I began using an language exchange application called Hellotalk. Over the past year, I’ve had well over 100 calls in Spanish. Here’s how I did it.

1. Build a strong profile.

Similar to online dating, the interest you get from others is dependent on the strength of your profile. As a starting point, you should have a profile picture of you and a bio in your target language. My bio looked something like:

“Hey, I’m Drew. *emoji*

I like *insert hobbies*.

I’d like to improve my conversational Spanish.

If you’d like to practice with me through calls, don’t hesitate to write to me! *emoji*”

For more visibility, regularly post moments (status updates).

2. Chat enough to transition to a call.

The goal of written conversation is to see if you get along enough to have a call. So just have a chat and see if it flows. After some exchange, put the question of practicing through a call out there. Some people will never be comfortable with a call and that’s fine. It’s better to know after the first conversation than after the 10th.

3. Set up a calling schedule.

You call someone and it goes well, great!

From here, I suggest setting up a schedule to call with a strict structure. For example, calling for one hour per week with half completely in Spanish and half in English. Once a schedule is set up, you can start getting hours of practice in.

Some other things: Whatsapp has better audio. Video calls are more fun but not necessary. Having google translate at the ready is very helpful.

Tip 1: The smaller the time difference, the easier to schedule.

Time difference can be a problem for organising calls leaving only the weekends open. To mitigate this, consider connecting to people in similar time zones. It’s highly likely that there are foreigners living near you that have basic English and are learning.

Tip 2: Practice with someone at a similar level to you.

I’ve met a few people with advanced English that just can’t help but only speak English. I’ve also met people that speak so little English that they’re too nervous to practice with what they know. Out of the two, someone that speaks little English is better. However in my experience, finding a partner with a similar level and a clear learning goal to works best.

Crafting cold emails is an underrated skill. It can lead to the launch of a start up, a new career or a chat with one of your heroes. I’ve delved into 7 blogs and 1 podcast on the topic. The two best resources I have come across are A Guide to Cold Emailing by Tucker Max and an interview with Derek Sivers titled Cold Email Outreach. I’ll refer to these in my notes below.

1. Keep it succinct but human.

There’s a balance to be struck with email length.

Keeping it succinct makes it readable and prevents it from being put into the read later bucket.

But it’s equally important to share some personal context. Derek Sivers calls this “humanizing the inbox”. Who are you? Share your personality and strive to be jaw-droppingly interesting.

2. Show your worth and connect.

Share your accomplishments and provide links to your work.

Connect by sharing a thoughtful response to something they said, or appeal to something rare you have in common.

3. Have 0-1 specific requests.

You don’t need to ask a question, you could just say how much of a fan you are. Derek Sivers’ example:

Oh my God, I loved your book. This is brilliant writing. I just want to tell you what a huge impact it had on me. I read a lot, and this is one of the best things I’ve read in years. I just wanted to say thanks and count me as a fan.

If you ask something, make it specific with a clear easy action.

Vague requests like asking for mentorship or to keep in touch won’t be effective.

4. Say thank you.

Tucker Max writes:

Even just saying “Thank you so much! I am really grateful” to a request doubles response rates. And tell people it’s fine if they are too busy. Giving them a way out actually makes them more likely to help you.

5. If no response, follow up.

Derek Sivers says:

Try one more time because it’s considerate and polite to assume that they’re busy. Give them the benefit of the doubt. That’s generous. It’s polite to persistently follow up.

I wrote these some time back. While not polished, I hope they connect. Just posting this one to get more views to be honest haha.


A while back, I took on my first Spanish novel, The Little Prince.

It’s 89 pages so not scarily long. But it was hard (!) and not fun. I was looking up words nearly every sentence. Reading felt like learning to drive a manual car. I gave up.

Enter “Fluent Forever,” a book that suggests a helpful exercise: reading and listening to a book simultaneously. The recommended choice? Harry Potter. It brought to mind stories I had seen on Reddit where people jumped in their language fluency through immersing themselves to large quantities of Harry Potter. Maybe these myths of old were in fact real.

So, I decided to take on Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal!

Tackling this literary behemoth hasn't been a walk in the park, but with the aid of an audiobook, it has become not only manageable but enjoyable. This approach exposes me to large amounts of vocabulary and sentence structures in a fun way.

The main value-add from an audiobook has been a steady reading pace. Reading at a consistent speed ensures I’m not getting caught up in what I don’t understand and keeps the flow of the story. Although I don’t understand every word and detail, the combination of reading the words in the book in front of me gives me enough to be able to follow the story.

When I’m feeling curious, I look up the translation of words on my Kindle, but I don’t like pausing the audio so there’s limited breathing space to do this often.

Going forward, I will probably focus on books that have more comprehensible language before returning to large novels but for the time being, Harry Potter it is!

A sweet spot of practice time for me has been 10-20 minutes per day. #Journal

When I’m trying something new for the first time, I like to try two options.

It takes a little more effort to start with, but it’s well worth it.

I’ve done this with my Spanish learning. I tried two applications for language exchanges, two Spanish teachers, and two journaling websites. After a few days, the better one becomes evident, and I just continue with one.

Of course, it’s always possible to try more than two options, but for day-to-day decisions, I’m happy with two.

Enter your email to subscribe to updates.