What does Michael do when he’s studying a book?

“Hello to the Early to Rise team and the amazing Michael Masterson! I’ve started to read Power and Persuasion. I’ve only read about 2/5 of it, but for the advice I’ve already received – let alone what’s coming up – I could have easily paid Michael a few thousand dollars. His writing style and content are brilliant. The concepts are easy to read and easy to ‘get.’ This book could sit on my desk as a ready reference on leadership for the rest of my working life.

“I want to learn and apply everything in the book – but the content is so rich, I just don’t know how to go about doing that. What does Michael do when he’s studying a book? More important, how does he put it into practice? I guess what I’m asking is, what are Michael’s learning strategies?

“If there is an article on this in the ETR Archives, could you please point me to it? (I know Michael’s really busy, but it’d be so cool if he could answer this personally.)”

Wes Rothman


Dear Wes,

This is a great question.

In the old days, as I read a book, I would underline dozens of paragraphs and take many notes – and then I’d put it aside and do nothing.

Now I employ the Power of One rule… and it works better.

When applied to reading books, the Power of One says that you should search the book for one good idea that you can put to work in your life immediately. Take that one good idea and turn it into a specific goal. Make that goal a yearly one, and then break it down into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks. (We explain exactly how to do that in ETR’s goal-setting programs.)

Work on that one thing until it has made a measurable difference. That will get you charged up. Then implement it in every way you can. Before long, it will become part of your skill set. It will burn itself into your limbic brain. It will become a success-building reflex.

And then you can go back to the book and pick out the next best idea.

A good example would be the book MaryEllen Tribby and I co-wrote, Changing the Channel: 12 Easy Ways to Make Millions for Your Business. The book is a goldmine of marketing ideas. Each of its 12 chapters teaches you how to master one important channel of marketing.

Study the book and pick the marketing channel that you think will have the greatest immediate impact on your employer’s business or your own business. “Immediate” is the key word here. If you pick one that you can’t implement immediately to experience its benefits, you will soon forget about it.

All great skills can be practiced for years and years. The better you get at them, the more powerfully you can apply them. You will eventually want to have many in your business-building quiver, but start with just one… the one you can start using immediately!

[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]
  • Hi Michael,

    I’m a typical “information junky”… I love to read, I love to listen to people who talk about stuff they got down, I love to absorb knowledge.

    Yet, it was in the last year that I first realized the importance of instant implementation.

    I now always have a little “action book” with me. Each time I learn something new, I stop and think: “How can I use this?” If I can’t come up with an answer real quick, I write down: “Brainstorm ideas how I can use this idea: [and then description of the idea”. If I can come up with an idea, then I write that down.

    At the end of the day though, there’s a lot more todo’s on that list than I could work my way through, so I prioritize and decide what to do and what to let go. And then I follow through.

    Since I started doing that, not only do things get moving, but I learn so much more.

    (Whereas, beforehand, I’d have a “learning scarcity” mind… I really kind of felt that taking time to think about what I just learned would take time away from putting more in. And I got hit heavily by information overload, with all the accompanying side effects like analysis paralysis and feeling overwhelmed).

    So, I hope that somebody who read this will take this little personal confession into account and will act on the advice you shared.

    Joe Paz the “Memory Improvement Man”