When Malcolm X was in prison, he discovered the power of books. He was physically caged within the walls of the prison, but his mind was free.
He spent most of his six and a half years in prison reading books—day and night. In The Autobiography of Malcolm X, he wrote about his nightly reading habits:
“At one-hour intervals the night guards paced past every room. Each time I heard the approaching footsteps, I jumped into bed and feigned sleep. And as soon as the guard passed, I got back out of bed onto the floor area of that light-glow, where I would read for another fifty-eight minutes—until the guard approached again. That went on until three or four every morning. Three or four hours of sleep a night was enough for me. Often in the years in the streets I had slept less than that.”
That’s the power of a rich mind. No matter how isolated you are, your mind will never be alone. It will be rich of knowledge and ideas. It will never be bored or feel lonely.
Look at it this way; knowledge is the key resource of the mind. A mind full of knowledge is rich, while a mind that lacks knowledge is poor. You know how people say, “It takes money to make money”?
The point is that once you have money, you can invest that money to generate more of it. At some point, you’ll have enough money that it’s actually hard to lose your wealth. The same is true with your mind. Once you have a rich mind, it can only get richer.
How much do you enrich your mind every day?
We don’t need to sleep four hours like Malcolm did and spend the rest of our waking hours reading books to develop a rich mind. The truth is that you only need to spend one hour a day to improve your mind.
I call that The Munger Technique, inspired by the investor Charlie Munger. He believes that if you dedicate your best hour of the day to improving your mind, you’ll improve your life on every level.
Developing a rich mind is the most important thing you can do. But I want to take it one step further. If you’re stuck in life, just lost your job, failed at your business, you name it; spend at least four hours a day enriching your mind.
In my experience, you only develop a rich mind if you dedicate uninterrupted hours of learning. In 2015, I was going through a difficult time. My grandmother passed away, my relationship ended, and my career wasn’t going anywhere.
I decided to retreat and only focus on improving my mind. I eventually quit my job and spent every day reading books, taking courses, taking notes, you name it. I considered enriching my mind as a full-time job. I moved back in with my parents and spent 8 to 10 hours a day improving my mind. This went on for almost a year before I started thinking about making a living again.
Here’s what improving your mind looks to me:
- Reading books—This one is obvious. If you want to learn about a topic, buy the best books and start reading.
- Take courses—Books are great for ideas but they often lack instructions. If you want to learn practical skills like programming, writing, building websites, and so forth, I recommend taking courses.
- Listen to audiobooks/podcasts—Even while I’m running or driving, I keep learning.
- Watch interviews or documentaries—Sometimes you don’t feel like reading or taking a course, but you still want to keep learning. That’s why I like watching interviews on YouTube. I also enjoy watching documentaries about inspirational people.
- Journaling—I always write about what I’ve learned in my own words. That helps me remember it more.
- Share your knowledge—When you talk about your ideas and knowledge with others, you’re not only being helpful, you’re also enriching your own mind.
This is all straightforward. We all know what it takes to enrich our minds. The biggest problem we have is that it’s hard. It’s easier to spend hours on Instagram, spying on the lives of celebrities and your former classmates and lovers. Isn’t that weird? We all do it.
But it’s a waste of time. What’s the impact of those activities on your mind? If you’re lucky, it’s zero. If you look at other people and compare yourself to them, get jealous, and start feeling bad about yourself: The impact is negative. Just stop that nonsense.
“So what does a rich mind look like?”
Let me ask you a few questions first:
- Do you ever feel bored?
- Are you often restless?
- Do you feel the urge to spy on other people’s lives?
Once you answer no, no, no, your mind is rich. That’s the sign you want to look for within yourself. And look, we all have moments of weakness. It happens to the richest minds in history.
The Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote about this in one of his letters. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the exact letter (if you know which letter I’m talking about, let me know). He said that the point of Stoicism is not to be perfect; the point is that you intend to live according to Stoic principles. Intention is what matters.
When you enrich your mind, you’re never bored or lonely. Your mind has a constant thirst for more knowledge. And that’s what will keep you active forever.
Darius Foroux is the author of Think Straight. He writes at DariusForoux.com, where he publishes weekly articles on productivity, habits, decision making, and personal finance.
Image courtesy of @rw.studios.