Being a reader in a world of speakers

Sometimes you encounter a book with which you realize a lot of things about yourself. This kind of epiphany moment was exactly what I had when reading Managing Oneself by Peter F. Drucker which shed a light on several things I encountered in my life and things I couldn’t do that everybody was at ease with and I couldn’t understand why.

When everybody’s listening to podcasts, watching endless YouTube video streams, when every recipe you can find is now presented in a video, when books are being listened too instead of read, … And that I couldn’t do any of those things. Put simply, if you make me listen to a podcast for more than 5 minutes, my mind will start to wander and I’ll keep nothing from it in my memory.

At 29 years old, I realized I was a reader, meaning that I was understanding things in a clearer way when reading them instead of listening to them. This might appear quite simple, but this really helped me understand a lot of things about myself, on how I should behave in my work, why I was desperate for meetings minutes and dreading hours long meetings but also that I shouldn’t force myself into things I couldn’t do. I had many podcasts I subscribed to, after reading this little book I had exactly 0 left. They didn’t suit me at all, why should I keep losing energy trying something I wasn’t made for?

I learned also that I was a writer more than a speaker, meaning that I had to write things down to memorize them. Something I already realized when I started to build my Commonplace Book. As I was rewriting quotes from my favourite books, suddenly I started to make a lot of connections, I could remember easily which author was linked to which one, what common theme several books shared, … I understood finally why I learned so much during the MOOCs I followed and where I was taking a lot of notes I didn’t even read back. I didn’t need to reread them, once they were written, they were clearly set in my mind.

Those two things made me realize why I had so much trouble going through school, where most of the teaching is bad on a listening-to-memorize mindset for which I wasn’t made at all. And why I had so much success going through lessons by myself, by reading books and rewriting things I needed, instead of listening to someone talking for hours.

“Schools everywhere are organized on the assumption that there is only one right way to learn and that it is the same way for everybody.”
 — Peter F. Drucker (
Managing Oneself)

This also helped me to understand why I’m so weary when Digital Evangelists tell everyone that video is the new communication media. This is not a bad idea per se, but doing so is forgetting half the population who is not at all at ease with a video / audio media (and I’m not even talking about handicap situations). Yes video are quite good when you want to present an idea to a board, and some text might look boring, but both are necessary in our world.

The only thing I regret now is having learned this at the age of 29. But now that I know this, it’s something I can build upon quite easily, and this already helped me reshape the way I was working in a more efficient way, suiting the way my brain is working and using my strengths. I still have a lot of palliatives to find as our professional work is deeply constructed on an speaking / listening way of working, but nothing is impossible now that I’ve clearly identified my weaknesses.