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How to Level Up

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I’m 41 now and finally learning to read.

Getting through novels is something I’ve always found extremely difficult. As much as I enjoy a good story, most of them seemed to take forever get to the straightaway – the point in the book where I no longer had to effort my way through the pages.

A few rare books would grip me from the beginning, and I’d finish them a couple of days, with no difficulty whatsoever. Perhaps a tenth of the time, I’d hit the straightaway after a hundred pages of dutiful slogging. The other ninety percent I would ultimately abandon. Almost everything in my bookcase has a bookmark sticking out of the top somewhere near the front cover.

There are few things I’ve wanted more than to be able to pick up a big book and read it in two weeks, like an average reader. Most of the “how to read better/faster” advice really just tells you to spend more time reading – carry a book at all times, read on the bus, read in the shower.

That seems to be the usual advice for getting better at anything, really: do more of it. People who are more skilled have simply done more of that thing. No amount of volume seemed to address my problem though. I “plugged away,” as advised, for 30 years, and the problem remained.

Summer reading, approx 14 years’ worth

I now know why I’ve struggled so much. One of the side effects of long-undiagnosed ADHD is that you end up learning to do common tasks in very inefficient ways. That’s because you’re trying to emulate people who don’t have the same limitations, yet you don’t know it, so you make assumptions about how the activity works that nobody else would make. In my effort to finish books within the usual timeframe, I unwittingly formed the worst possible habit in the reading of fiction – moving on to the next sentence without making sure I’d registered the previous one.

Everyone has to reread a sentence or a paragraph now and then, if they get tired or distracted. In my case, I lost the flow of meaning almost every sentence, sometimes several times. Meticulously rereading each semi-understood sentence would take forever, and I was already so slow, so that couldn’t be the solution. There was no way people could read those thick Stephen King books in two weeks if they were stopping to reorient themselves each time they got distracted. So I plowed on to the next line, as I assumed we all did.

In hindsight, I was probably making several story-breaking oversights on each page. (Just imagine trying to follow a movie with a third of the shots surreptitiously edited out.) Inevitably, by page 50 of a novel, I would have no sense of the stakes or character motivations. So I would put the book down, convinced that this novel, like so many others, took forever to develop stakes or character motivations. I was always baffled why writers did this, and why other readers put up with it.

My understanding of the book’s premise, around page 100

Anyway — I could go on in infinite detail about the inner mechanics of effective reading, but the point is that reading, like most exclusively-human activities, is actually very complicated. Any skill, when you examine it closely, is an intricate network of inner and outer cause and effect – many actions, reflexes, concepts, cues, and responses, all combining to produce a result. A slow reader and a fast reader aren’t simply doing the same thing at different skill levels. They can be doing two entirely different things.

Growth means different, not more

What all this means is that when you want to get better at something, “Keep plugging away / get the hours under your belt” is generally poor advice, unless you’re already using a relatively effective approach, which is unlikely if you’re struggling. Plugging away will only make you more experienced at doing the thing in the same ineffective way.

Much better is to rebuild the skill entirely with a different approach, one that directly addresses your perennial snags. Instead of slowly getting better at your familiar, limited way, you embrace the awkwardness of learning an unfamiliar but stronger method, as though you’ve never done the thing before at all.

I’m now learning to read the way I should have from the start. Instead of trying to go faster to make up for my sluggish pace, I go even slower, monitoring myself to make sure I’ve registered each sentence before moving on, even if that entails repeated rereading. I hold an index card against the page, moving it down line by line, to rein in any drifting of the eyeballs or mind.

Compared to what I’m used to, it’s painstaking. I’ve sometimes spent ten minutes getting a single page properly read. But it’s working. Comprehension is way up, and I don’t lose interest fifty pages in.

My pace is closing in on about forty percent of average reading speed. That might sound pathetic, but I’m able to read fiction reliably for the first time — I know I’ve already left behind the limitation that’s always held me back. Beside my bookcase is a hip-high stack of thousand-page Robert Jordan and Steven Erikson novels, and I’m on my third one. Looking at my bookcase no longer fills me with doubt and self-consciousness. For the first time, I know can pull any of those books down and read it, which is a dream come true.

Leveling Up

I think of this kind of improvement as “leveling up” – to start again, with zero experience, on a higher tier of the skill in question, as opposed to getting better at the same limited version of the skill you’ve always done.

Leveling up feels very different than plugging away. On one hand it’s more uncomfortable and awkward, because in a way, you’re starting over. On the other hand, you quickly get the sense of sitting on a more stable track with a better trajectory, already free of many of your usual annoyances and limitations.

For example, my cooking has always been fine, but I’ve tended to overcook whatever goes in the pot first (usually onions), because while they’re cooking I’m madly trying to measure out the spices and other ingredients. The resulting dull vegetables are so familiar and comfortable to me that it doesn’t even register as a something to improve upon, although in restaurants I do sometimes notice how bright and crunchy their veg is compared to mine.

About a year ago I began to embrace the concept of mise en place – get all the ingredients and tools in place before you start cooking anything. Under this philosophy, the making of food has two phases – prep and cooking – and you risk compromising both by trying to perform them simultaneously.

I’m sure this is 101-level idea to serious cooking people, but that’s exactly why their food is better. They don’t take the same actions better, they take better actions, even though it’s all just “cooking.”

Spaghetti, halfway done

Mise en place leveled up my cooking quickly and permanently. It felt awkward at first, as all leveling up does. I kept wanting to flip the burner on and get going, only because that’s all my muscle memory knows. After a few meals cooked in the new way, the awkwardness, along with the urge to start off by heating a pan, had faded. In a very short time I had virtually eliminated overcooked vegetables from my meals, along with much of the “beat the clock” sort of stress I thought was intrinsic to cooking.

None of us are so efficient that we don’t have countless skills ripe for immediate leveling up. You might make perfect omelets, but you still create your spreadsheets manually each time, instead of sitting down for two hours and learning to use templates. You might be a master comparison-shopper, but you rely on your girlfriend to get group conversations going.

New tracks of capability await us everywhere, often just beyond a waist-high hedge of awkwardness. Once you level up, you never go back down, and struggles that seemed eternal can disappear for good.

***

Photos (in order of appearance) by Nick Fewings, Florencia Viadana, Gabriel Crismariu, Dan Meyers, and Icons8 Team

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{ 49 Comments }

Terri T October 27, 2021 at 9:37 pm

Have you tried audio books? It made all the difference for my ADHD son. It’s still slower than average reading speed but he finds his comprehension is a lot higher, especially at night when his meds are wearing off and he’s tired.

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David Cain October 28, 2021 at 9:41 am

I have similar issues with audiobooks, except that it takes longer to find my place after I’ve become distracted. Also, my dream is to read paper books in particular. I listen to a fair amount of nonfiction because via audio because it is more forgiving of missed lines.

A friend of mind is an advocate of audiobook PLUS the paper book. He says the comprehension skyrockets when you sync up with it. I haven’t tried it yet because it requires two copies of the book, but I will.

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Mary November 3, 2021 at 9:15 am

This is an excellent idea. Sounds really fun.

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Elliott Crane November 15, 2021 at 7:06 am

Many books on Kindle has a feature called “Whispersync” that is built for people like us who get a lot out of combining both the audio and visual version of an audiobook. It highlights the text being spoken, and yeah, comprehension is dramatically increased.

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Ron October 28, 2021 at 1:26 am

Excellent insight, great concept. Thanks.

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E October 28, 2021 at 2:06 am

Yes!!! This really resonates. One skill I have struggled with all my life is fostering good group conversations. The standard advice for building social skills is “just do more of it” and I have definitely improved a lot following that strategy. But then I took an improv class and realised they were teaching exactly the skills needed for good social interaction. That said, I still struggle to talk in groups, and I can’t seem to find advice for this specific skill. There is advice for “how to speak up in a group” but that assumes the group conversation is already flowing along nicely and you just don’t want to feel left out… but what about when it’s just a big awkward silence among acquaintances who all want to get to know each other better but are all a bit shy? Maybe I am overcomplicating it and I just need to go back to improv class. But group conversations seem to me like a totally different skill to one-on-one conversations. I would be glad to hear any tips or resources. Thanks for the post David.

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David Cain October 28, 2021 at 9:54 am

This is all relatable. The best tip I have for figuring out how to level up is to observe how other, more skilled people do the thing in question. Chances are they don’t do it the way it occurs to you to do it, because it’s not a familiar move for you. At the very least, it gives you something to try. If it can’t work for you for some reason, try it the way someone else does it. We’re surrounded by people doing things in ways we never do ourselves, and each of them is another possible route in.

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Brisset Georges October 28, 2021 at 3:08 am

Very insightful Dave. Glad you are making constant progress and keep growing.
Reading your article, Carl Jung came to mind right away:
“Most problems in life cannot be solved, they have to be outgrown”

Be well
Georges

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Mona Tellier October 28, 2021 at 3:42 am

I had no idea ADHD affected reading ability. Thank you for the insight, and for describing a solution that can be extrapolated onto many life skills.
But I’m curious: is there a correlation with one’s writing ability? Your texts flow smoothly and effortlessly carry the reader into the ideas and stories. Has writing come easily to you? And if someone finds long-form writing difficult, would you recommend the level up method for them as well? In any case, I want to thank you for your beautiful texts.

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Anne October 28, 2021 at 5:48 am

Good question, Mona – I wonder the same about my writing.

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David Cain October 28, 2021 at 10:05 am

I see reading and writing as different skills, and writing as the more complicated one. I have a lot of experience at writing in my particular way, but it is by no means smooth and effortless on my end. I sorely need to level up my writing across the board, because my current method is very inefficient and painful.

However, writing is a complex enough skillset that it would probably make sense to level up individual aspects of it one at a time. For example, leveling up from doing a draft slowly, over a few sessions, while editing as you go, to doing a draft in a single session, while refraining from editing. That puts you into a new, better world, but it’s still only one aspect of the process. After that, you might turn your attention to another aspect.

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S October 28, 2021 at 4:18 am

I really recognize this! I recently had a burnout, then went back to the same job and it felt like having to completely relearn how to do it, from the beginning. Definitely feels like levelling up, and I’d never go back to the old way.

My question for you, I’d love to hear what other places you’ve levelled up or are thinking about it. I’m working on how to express my emotions more freely, and I’m still wading in the weeds on that one.

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David Cain October 28, 2021 at 10:17 am

Things I’m currently working on leveling up, or have recently:

-Going from a haphazard workflow system to a coherent one, where everything is on lists rather than in my head

-Buying a thing I need without dragging out the comparison-shopping process, accepting that I might have to return it (historically I will take forever to buy something I desperately need because I dread returning things)

-Cooking eggs carefully on low and slow heat instead of quickly/recklessly

-Some fairly technical changes in how I meditate

-Maintaining my vehicle exactly as the manufacturer recommends, instead waiting until something starts to worry me

Leveling up can be very small and focused. Learning Excel templates in an hour can level you up. Looking up tricky pronunciations instead of always avoiding the word can be a level-up.

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Celia October 28, 2021 at 4:26 am

Interesting. I’ve never been diagnosed with ADHD and don’t have a problem with comprehension, but am a very s – l – o – w … reader and have that pile of unfinished books with bookmarks next to my bed. I wonder if I just learned to read in a way similar to the way you are now trying to cultivate. Rather than checking each sentence, I actually read everything aloud-in-my-head, if you see what I mean, mentally articulating each word. I’ve read that this method is all wrong–inefficient–but I have also noticed that my comprehension and recall of details from books is better than other folks’ in my book group. Hmmmm.

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David Cain October 28, 2021 at 10:25 am

Reading aloud in your head is called subvocalization, and I’m pretty sure almost everyone does it. Some experts even argue that we *can’t* read without subvocalizing, which I don’t think is true. However, there was a myth perpetuated dubious figures who write books about speedreading that subvocalization is somehow poor reading technique. Many speedreading claims have been discredited in recent years, namely that one. Subvocalization is normal and maybe necessary.

Reading without subvocalizing tends to reduce comprehension drastically. I believe many people who “speedread” are barely comprehending the story — and one thing I know for sure is that it’s possible to feel like you’re engaged with the story but not know how much of it you’re missing.

Here’s a great article by Scott Young on the subject: https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2015/01/19/speed-reading-redo/

How slow is “slow” for you? How many pages of a novel do you read in an hour, for example?

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Trisha Scott October 28, 2021 at 2:34 pm

I’m mystified by this slow/fast thing you speak of. I’m one of those who read books under the covers with a flashlight as a kid and haven’t stopped reading since. It never occurred to me that there might be some speed at which one “should” read. Sometimes I just want to slow it all down so I can savor the experience longer. And sometimes a single sentence contains more than can be properly assimilated in one reading. Sometimes you may even want to stop and write it down so you can glean all the juice from it.

I did try speedreading for a brief time and found that, yes, I could get to the end of a page fast but hadn’t really a clue what it was all about. I gave it up as a totally useless pursuit and haven’t thought of it since.

Subvocalization? I have always assumed that that is how we take in everything. It’s how thoughts work. How would that not be how to read?

Anyway, David, I’m so glad you are beginning to enjoy reading! There are so many worlds to explore and such a long list of amazing guides showing us into all the nooks and crannies we might otherwise have missed.

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Richard November 3, 2021 at 5:15 am

Being quite a slow reader myself, I completely agree. I guess there there is an argument for speedreading some kinds of non-fiction, particularly where you are trying to extract specific pieces of relevant information whilst discarding the rest. But for fiction, I just don’t get why anyone would want to speedread. Reading a work of fiction is essentially like watching a movie in your head, in real time, and (for sure) subvocalizing the speech/conversations which occur. Speedreading would essentially be like watching a movie in fast-forward. Why would one want to do that?

Kevin October 28, 2021 at 4:40 am

This was really enlightening! I struggle with finishing books as well. The comment about a bookcase full of bookmarks really hit home.

I’m happy to see that you’re turning a corner and making very real progress towards getting to do something you’ve always hoped for. Keep on keepin’ on!

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David Cain October 28, 2021 at 10:26 am

Thanks Kevin

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Chris October 28, 2021 at 5:59 am

Very insightful. Your approach seems counter-intuitive but rings true for me so I’m going to try it out. I was diagnosed with ADHD in my 40s and also struggle to finish books that I’ve purchased. Looking forward to “leveling up” – thanks!

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David Cain October 28, 2021 at 10:27 am

Let me know how it goes Chris. Using an index card or bookmark to keep the eyes on the right line helps immensely for me. If all else fails, you can slip it into the lowest gear — reading aloud. You can get through anything that way.

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Paulo Roberto October 28, 2021 at 6:02 am

Nice one! Yours is one of the few blogs I read and enjoy! Wish I could meet you so you could tell me how to work on templates…

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David Cain October 28, 2021 at 10:28 am

I’m the wrong guy to ask on that subject, lol

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Sam October 28, 2021 at 8:31 am

Ah, mise en place … I have known about the concept for decades, but I still have a hard time following the system. I still slap together cakes and dishes “on the run” though I have tried mise en place and it worked beautifully.

Old habits are hard to break. Thanks for reminding me to try mise en place again.

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David Cain October 28, 2021 at 10:31 am

I know what you mean — it’s amazing how habit alone can make you desire so badly to do something like turn on a burner. But it feels so great to have little bowls of spices and minced onions that you can dump in exactly when needed. It’s so much more sane… no cupboards slamming, no frantic rifling around for the cumin seeds.

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LORENZO October 28, 2021 at 8:43 am

Very interesting point. Thanks for giving me an idea on how to try new ways of doing the same stuff!

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Shelby October 28, 2021 at 9:00 am

So interesting! I’m glad you’ve relearned this skill.
I’ve never struggled with reading or comprehension but recall a time when I instinctively used index cards to prevent me from skimming and skipping ahead.
I used this same methodology to teach myself how to sew in my 30’s – 12 years after a disastrous high school experience. When you can come to a point where you’re sufficiently motivated to learn and willing to be humble and honest about what you don’t know, and start from square one the possibilities widen exponentially!

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David Cain October 28, 2021 at 10:32 am

That’s another plus to this philosophy — you realize that much more is possible for you than you thought. We tend to identify with the ways we do things, and see limitation in our methods as limitations in ourselves. But they’re not real. We can do much more than we think if we let go of the familiar way of doing it.

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L. Williams October 28, 2021 at 10:50 am

I have a very long and embarrassing trail of DNF (did not finish) books. I get bored very and I am super picky about writing quality.

Mise en place: Yes, I started practicing this about a year ago too. You described my old heat -up-a-pan-and-beat-the-clock cooking techniques to a T.

The behavior traits you describe on this blogs is what an Oregon psychotherapist calls “a rainforest mind.”

In every blog post you write I learn something new. Thank you!

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Kay October 28, 2021 at 11:55 am

The concept of “leveling up” is brilliant; it’s not about the specifics but the process.Thank you! I’m flooded with ideas about how it applies in different areas of life. Food for thought for a long time.

I knew a toddler who sustained a brain injury that interrupted her motor development. She was taken back to baby stages of lying on her stomach, rocking back and forth, and all the other steps in the complex process of learning to stand and walk. The parallel may not be perfect–you didn’t forget how to read!–but it has the same feel of recreating a process in a way that works for who you are now.

I never had an issue reading books, yet late in my life, a kind of friction has entered the process of reading. Outwardly, my situation looks like yours–I buy books, stop partway through, and have stacks and shelves of books with a little forest of paper bookmarks. Oddly, this is true whether I’m enjoying the books or not, and maybe more likely the more I value the book.

The inner part of it is different from yours. My friction or resistance has to do with one of those pesky old beliefs I have about my own self worth. I have to finish the book to be worthy or something. Really? Well, I’m not having that! And back the book goes into the stack, to further reproach me.

Through your lens of leveling up, maybe I can bypass analyzing whatever this is and go straight to the shift. “I have an hour. I want to be delighted, refreshed, enlightened–I wonder if this book has something of value to offer me?” And when I slide into wanting to jump up and abandon it, “Is what I just read feeling good for me, or not?” I may read more. Or I may find out I’m done with some books. And I’ll get a lot of practice focusing.

But leveling up has to do with lots more than reading. I just hate the feeling of being behind, of not being able to move forward until I get caught up, whatever that means. It makes me ignore where I am right now and put my focus on being stuck. Example: I can’t plant the potatoes because I didn’t finish mulching the garden. Planting the potatoes is important because I want to be a responsible person creating a healthy life and a healthy planet. But I can’t finish the mulching right now. I might as well just go back in the house and ignore it (i.e., put in a paper bookmark). Good grief, I just piled the weight of the whole ecosystem on my shovel! No wonder I can’t pick it up.

My point is that this kind of stuff is all about a conflict between what I want, and some kind of resistance. And it feels bad, so I want to avoid it. I can’t think my way out it; I can shift the focus to what I do want and keep it there.

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David Cain October 28, 2021 at 3:09 pm

The inner world is so interesting, isn’t it! We are all so different each other in why we do and don’t do things, yet we never talk about the personal end of the equation when we’re discussing how to do tasks or improve at them.

I hope you are able to rebuild approaches to the tasks you have trouble with. By the sounds of it you already have a lot of insight into what’s interfering with your finishing of books or planting of potatoes — I suspect most people have no idea, it just feels hard, and the advice they receive has nothing to do with the real issue. Wishing you the best.

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Kathy October 28, 2021 at 12:50 pm

Hi, I have a sort of odd skill I want to learn/improve and I am not sure how to apply your advice to it. My main hobby/passion is horseback riding and I’m largely self taught as far as the fundamental task of staying on at all gaits and most speeds. I did take lessons a few years ago and it helped tremendously with having better control of the horse’s body and getting them to do what you want and ask them in the correct way. So my issue is I cannot seem to learn to post on the diagonals. This is where the rider rises up at the trot. You are supposed to “know your diagonols” and be able to post on either one on command. I have tried to learn how to feel for this and I just cannot get it down. I simply cannot get it. I really want to be able to do it by feel alone. You have to look down to see which leg is forward to know which diagonal the horse is on. I tried lessons. I’ve watched videos. :(

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Trisha Scott October 28, 2021 at 3:03 pm

Hi Kathy,

The Alexander Technique (you can google it to find a ton of info) is something you may want to explore. It is a way of leveling up the way you relate to your own body in relation to what you are attempting to do. I used it as a student and teacher in relation to the violin. A lot of high-level performers I have known and known of, actors and athletes, as well as musicians, use it, as a matter of course, to improve performance. Horsemanship is high on the list of areas in which improvement can be expected. Here is a link you can check out https://alexandertechnique.co.uk/benefits/horse-riding. It’s a UK address but there are teachers everywhere.

Good luck in your pursuit of excellence!

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Kathy October 29, 2021 at 9:43 am

Thank you!

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David Cain October 28, 2021 at 3:25 pm

I feel the same way about swimming the front crawl. I just cannot co-ordinate arms, legs, lungs, and head, despite repeated attempts to learn and help from others. However I know it must be possible — there is a particular bodily “feel” of getting it right somewhere out there, which I can experience if I just get my body in the right position a couple of times accidentally. I just haven’t done it yet, despite lessons and instructions, but I believe that sense of how to do it right is out there, and getting there could only be a matter of giving myself as many chances as possible, by trying different approaches, coaches, and lessons. And I think the same must be true of your riding maneuver.

So that’s one thought, anyway — getting anything right for the first time is an accident, and trying many approaches and coaches makes you increasingly accident-prone. Sometimes you just need to hear a thing described the right way, and the first ten instructors say it a different way.

I suspect that in both of our cases, there is some small assumption or reflex that we perform every single time that in some way undermines every attempt. I think the more we can go back to the drawing board, and try the thing from first principles, as though we’re total beginners, the more likely it is to get past that. But don’t believe it’s not possible for you!

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KathyCr October 28, 2021 at 9:02 pm

@Dean Cain re your wanting audio that synchs to the page….Funny you should mention this!! A long time ago I “checked out” a book from Prime Reading….it came with audio narration synched in. I can read on my own or when I need help focusing, play the audio narration starting wherever I am…and it highlights the line being read. I only just now finally am giving it a try today…then saw this!! Not sure how many books are available with it, and too soon to tell if it will work for me, but I’m giving it a try. (Audio Narration offers variable speed and a sleep timer. This is critical for me, since I listen to stories to fall asleep.. The next night I can just scan the pages for what I last remember hearing and pick up from there!

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David Cain October 29, 2021 at 9:57 am

That sounds like something I would like to try. Do you know what that combined format is called? I tried searching for “audio narration” but only traditional audiobooks come up.

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Glenn Dixon October 28, 2021 at 9:10 pm

I read this originally on my iPhone and discovered that I tend to scroll down one paragraph and my eyes skip ahead and I have to re-read a lot because my mind frequently wanders off and is found to be … elsewhere. Yes, late-life ADHD diagnosis.

But when I scrolled only one line at a time, forcing myself to not only read *all* the words, but to also verify that I have grasped the thought that the sentence is trying to convey, my retention and understanding went up.

I’m sure I can get the gist of what you intended with my normal rapid scanning reading style, but who knows what I might miss and how long I would retain it?

Thanks you for this thought-provoking piece.

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David Cain October 29, 2021 at 10:02 am

That’s just like me, and I wonder if it’s common with ADHD people. My default is to almost-read like that, and it does seem to suffice for most things — instruction sheets, emails, long-winded nonfiction. Very often we just need to know what a piece is saying, and we don’t need all the words for it, and for someone for whom close reading takes ten times as long, it’s almost essential for getting through adult life.

However, you can never know if you’ve got it without careful reading. Chances are you didn’t overlook something vital in almost-read email or article, but if you did you’d never know until it comes to light that you totally didn’t get it (if it ever does).

And with fiction, it’s basically a dealbreaker, although that is a recent discovery for me. I didn’t realize how much can be missed in an overlooked half-sentence. Sometimes a story hinges on it.

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Simon October 29, 2021 at 7:00 am

Thanks David.
I am not sure if you are aware, that our diets can effect our mental health?
You said you had some ADHT issues.

I would do some research on the fruit diet, and eat only raw fruits and some salads for 30 days.
That should give you a insight into how not only the body can get clogged by by our diets, but all the little pathways in the brain can also become clogged up also.

We need a free flowing inner system to feel at our best, and fruit can deliver that.

It is about going back to nature, doing what every other species of animal does on the planet, eat a raw food diet.
And as the Bonobo monkeys are the most similar to us in terms of the inner body and internal organs, they eat fruit, everyday, and lots of it if they get a chance.

Kindest

Simon

{ Reply }

David Cain October 29, 2021 at 10:06 am

Diet is something I’ve been experimenting with, and I’m convinced it can have major effects on cognition. I’ve experienced many positives from cutting out grains. I have to say I’m skeptical of an all-fruit diet, at least for me. Humans in most places would not have had access to ripe fruit year round, and I think we are more similar to prehistoric humans than bonobos. Raw is something I might look into though.

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Juani October 29, 2021 at 4:17 pm

I’ve always struggled with the same, but specially novels or any kind of book that would be very detailed. Not long ago, I discovered that there is something called Aphantasia (which I have in a very high degree), which actually made a lot of sense in which some people would enjoy this so much while I would think it was pure garbage.

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Tracy October 29, 2021 at 4:23 pm

Also recently diagnosed with ADHD in my mid-30s. My trouble with reading has always been jumping ahead: getting overeager and skipping to the bottom of the far page, then going back to re-read what I skipped, if I catch myself. I also do the zone-out and realize I haven’t understood the last half page because my mind went off on a tangent while my eyes kept moving. Ebooks have been my savior here — I bump the text size up and less text fits on the page, and on each line (plus there’s only one page visible at a time, not a second one to entice my attention). If I do jump ahead or zone out, I miss less.

I have never had patience for mise en place in cooking, but it is so much less stressful when I do it! And burn my onions a lot less ;) I like the thought of reframing it as relearning and leveling up – I’ll give it another try!

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David Cain November 3, 2021 at 5:08 pm

Jumping ahead is a part of the problem for me too. I’m used to skimming to get to the vital/interesting part of whatever I’m reading, because for most things (non-fiction anyway) it’s enough to get the gist.

I think I might invest in an e-reader, because I know it would help me consume books faster. I read much better on my phone than a paper book, and it has something to do with the type size and ease of scrolling instead of finding my place on a page. However, I mostly want to read paper books because that’s a pleasure that’s always been mostly inaccessible to me, and I know I can learn how to do it more quickly with practice.

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Brian Cornelson October 29, 2021 at 10:10 pm

David, I suggest you check out Jim Kwik and his book Limitless. As a child he was labelled the boy with the broken brain due to learning challenges from a traumatic brain injury; he had another in college. He learned techniques to overcome his handicap and is now well known for his skills in helping people read and retain. My reading speed doubled after doing his course and perhaps counterintuitively so did my retention.

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An October 31, 2021 at 4:51 am

Feldenkreis technique and Somatic Education are based on Alexander technique, and are good modalities to become aware of and relearn movement patterns. These techniques will help to reset the muscle memory.

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Mary November 3, 2021 at 9:20 am

I always start books in the middle, then jump around to warm up, then go to the beginning, then sometimes to the end, then all the way through. I’d think I’d like to be able to read through, from beginning to end. I guess I want this because I think the way I do it isn’t okay and not always satisfying but I cannot read from beginning to end.

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Anu November 8, 2021 at 8:57 am

So thankful to have found your blog, David. All of your writing resonates and is so relatable! I am the same age as you and been having very similar thoughts and experiences. It is a delight to read your raw observations on the human experience.

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Sabina November 14, 2021 at 10:34 am

I really enjoyed this post. Thanks! I’m all about beating the clock and being efficient. I think it’s the New Yorker and Capricorn in me haha. I overcook the veggies I’m sautéing and definitely have burned other items, while trying to wash dishes and put seasonings away. Thanks for the reminder to slow down, David;)

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