Community//

Five Pages: A Fact and a Metaphor

Small steps, taking consistently, yield tremendous results.

Hannah Olinger
Hannah Olinger

My flight was delayed and I was killing time in the airport bookstore when I spotted a book that had been recommended by a friend. I pulled it off the shelf. It looked like a short read, something I could get through on my flight to California if I ever managed to get on the plane. Excited, I bought the book and began to read it while I continued to wait for the fog to lift and the plane to board.

One of the ideas that the author shared was to develop a practice of reading five pages of some book that had the potential to make your life better each day. Now, I love to read and have said that one of the few things I miss from my days before I had kids to raise and a business to run is the hours I used to spend on a Sunday afternoon, in front of the fire, beneath a blanket, reading. I used to read everything. The entire Sunday edition of the New York Times. Historic novels and biographies and contemporary novels and mysteries. Books about business and mindfulness and leadership.

Alas, my life — at least for the past fifteen years — simply hasn’t allowed for that luxury of time. Instead, I grab my news from a news feed on my phone, surrendered the hope of reading novels and get most of my business insights and self-improvement ideas from magazines I can consume in mini-bites. There was simply no opportunity to become immersed in a great book.

That day on the plane, I decided to heed the author’s suggestion and I committed to reading five pages — just five pages — every morning before I start my day. Since then, I get up before my kids and put a fence around 30 morning minutes. I drink coffee, do a little bit of stretching and read five pages of whatever book I am working my way through at that time. I discipline myself and even if the book is great and had captured my imagination and attention, I read only five pages (though I will allow myself to finish a section if it is within a page or two). It usually takes me no more than 10 or 15 minutes and I always take notes on things that resonate or that I find particularly interesting or that I want to remember — a habit picked up in law school.

Since I started this practice a couple of years ago, I have read 28 books on subjects ranging from leadership to fitness, how to live a clutter-free life, the life and friendship of the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, how Damon John “rises and grinds” every day, how to design your life in the way that is uniquely yours and so, so many more.

28 books. Five pages at a time.

The metaphor is so obvious I’m not even sure you can call it a metaphor: small steps, taking consistently, yield tremendous results.

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