Why I Have to Stop The Three Book Diet for Myself

In November, I proposed that we all go on a 3 book diet for a year. I have to stop. Books are food

The concept I had was sensible: read only 3 books for a year and commit to a deep level of discipleship within that practice. Similar to how one reads the Quran or the Torah or the Bible, etc, I thought it would be interesting to really study deeply within three books over 12 months.

But what I asked was for people to read only those three books for a year. I’m not going to be able to do that. The reason is this: I’m studying some new material so that I can better improve my business. If I were to wait an entire year to take on this new learning, I will likely not serve my community as deeply as I wish. I simply need more than 3 books worth of reading to accomplish my learning and business goals over this coming year.

I think the premise still works for many people, and I think the idea behind the idea was solid: that we rush too quickly from book to book without trying to implement what we read. Further, I will continue to read deeply the books I chose for the three book diet.

Your decision is yours. If you continue on, I can’t wait to see what you learn from the experience. If you decide it won’t work for you, I understand that because it’s not going to work for me, either.

Wishing you great success in 2013, no matter what you choose to practice. : )

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  • http://twitter.com/Rich20Something Daniel DiPiazza

    For a voracious learner, I’m not sure whether #3bd would be a gift or a curse. Personally, I like reading as much as I can handle. Either way, you’re giving up one quest of knowledge acquisition for another equally worthy quest. Good luck!

  • http://twitter.com/OnecircleComms Denise Brooks

    Appreciate your honesty Chris, in fact when I saw your idea for the #3BD I knew I wouldn’t be able to stick to just 3 books, the idea behind it makes total sense though. My guess is that of all the books I’ll read this year there may only 3 or 4 that I’d wish to read over again anyway. Oh and by the way I’m on pg 177 of The Impact Equation, great stuff so far, will be even greater once I implement!

  • Margaret Fisher

    I loved the concept, but knew I couldn’t stick to just three books for a year. My reasons were similar to those that you stated. I’m still committed to implementing what I am learning from the three books I chose and believe that your original concept made me take a hard look at how I was processing what I read. It’s been a great learning experience so far.

  • http://www.michaelnichols.org/about Michael Nichols

    Good thoughts Chris – and I agree. I read far more that 3 books each year.

  • http://EricWalkermarketing.com/ Eric Walker

    Understandable for you Chris. I believe the idea is still solid for me, and I’m enjoying the discipline of it.

  • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

    I’m glad to read this because when I first saw you propose the idea I hated it.

    The concept of focusing and re-reading three books is a great one and we could all learn a lot from that, but ONLY reading three books is so limiting. Every day there are new words put out there and I believe we don’t read enough as it is right now.

    Glad to see you evolved your thinking on this.

    • http://raulcolon.net/ Raul Colon

      @cc_chapman:disqus funny that you mentioned it. The part of my brain that likes to overcomplicate things said go for it. On the other side my gut feeling stay away from it your not going to be able to commit to it.

      • Austin

        I had the same internal dilemma! I love reading any and all kinds of books – just inhaling them like food at a football tailgate. But I also love really delving into it and becoming a master of the subject. Too many people don’t read with intention or a desire to make a deeper connection with the material. I think taking notes on thoughts, application, and complementary research as you read each book would help people slow down and really drain the book of everything they can, like the challenge was meant to encourage, while also allowing the possibility of reading more than three books.

  • http://www.martinamcgowan.com/ Martina McGowan

    Glad to hear it, Chris. I always appreciate your honesty. I had already fallen off the diet trying to get a few reviews done, getting a few books as presents that I really wanted to read, class, yada, yada…
    I’m with you on the modified diet, though.

  • http://www.bernixiong.com/ Berni Xiong (shUNG)

    I already deviated from the original plan on day one. I am reading more than 3 books, but going deeper with the 3 I chose, like you stated above. So I guess I won’t have to ask for forgiveness now ;)

    • Tania Dakka

      Same here…sticking to what he started, but in my own way:)

  • Sonja Tomaskovic

    It’s not that I actually committed myself to this 3 book diet but I thought it sounded like a good idea. Sad to hear you have to abandon it. However, the idea of coming back to a book once you’ve read it is definitely good advice.

  • Tania Dakka

    The lesson is not whether or not something like this would work. It’s that flitting from book to book doesn’t. Period. We have to savor and digest what works (or could work) and not even finish a meal of those that don’t serve out purposes. :) And that was the whole point of the Three Book Diet – to make us slow down and read for understanding and application.

  • http://twitter.com/ozwax Denis Cleary

    I think the 3BD is a lot like a one-year speechless sabbatical–very valuable for some, impractical/impossible for most. I’ll put it on my bucket list, Chris–but for me, for now, 3 is about 300 too few.

  • http://www.indigogirl.co.uk/ Kittie at Indigo Girl

    Ah the #3BD was a great idea! I had a caveat from the start because I am studying and because of the nature of my job – but having said that I think it still holds true. It’s like defining your year with 3 words – take those three books as your core reading and absorb them, but don’t shut your mind off to other opportunities. Being more discerning about what I consume and de-cluttering is what I took away from this exercise. .

  • Sheree Martin

    Hi Chris–

    I think giving up the 3 book diet is very brave. Props for recognizing and revealing that you need more.

    I knew I couldn’t undertake the project, anyway, because books are such a form of nourishment for me. I need a variety of books and “inputs” to provide the grist that my mental mill to grind and synthesize.

    And I also need many books if I’m to pursue my own business and professional goals for 2013. In the past 48 hours alone I’ve read The Gift of the Deer by Helen Hoover (creative nourishment) and 2/3s of Seth Godin’s new book, The Icarus Deception.

    But the concept of focusing and intensely studying a limited number of books is sound, especially for folks whose goal is self-development and personal growth.


    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Here’s hoping. : )

  • Rex Williams

    I knew it was a little nuts, Chris (sorry ;) But I understand the premise you were trying to help us get.

    What you need to know is that people who study the Bible or Torah or Quran also read other books, they just read that book every day, and meet once a week to talk with others about it, and try to live their lives by applying the principles that are in the book.

    Plus, believing that the words in those books were directed by God to be written, places them in a slightly different category than other books.

    Applying at least one concept, intense study and application, is a valid and worthy endeavor. It just doesn’t match ‘worship’, which is an entirely different thing.

    Thanks for your bravery and honesty.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Exactly so. And thanks! : ) Thanks for your curiosity!

    • Yehudit Steinberg

      Chris, I agree with Rex on his comments about the holy books. Not only are they read everyday, the weekly Torah parshas (portions) are read the same time every year. It is the focus of your individual and communal study for each week.

      It is a continuous story that is told year after year, from generation to generation, with stories recreated with relevance for each new generation. It is a very complex and multi-dimensional study. Therefore, if one is to choose a book that is to be savored and re-read the contents needs to be worthy of that depth of content.

      In choosing ‘The Impact Equation’ as one of my 3, what has occurred for me is that I’ve decided to follow you for one year and participate in the community that surrounds ‘The Secret Team’. This way I feel that I’m going deep into the equation, with my limited time. This has proven to be a good choice for me and a way to get more focused and less scattered. The community that is growing under your idea to create a place to gather is very rich.

  • Matthew

    Hi Chris!
    I didn’t commit to the #3BD because I knew that wouldn’t be enough to me. However, I do have a couple of books that I will read multiple times this year to help me get deeper into them. A mixing of the premise and the reality of my life.

    So don’t feel bad, and thanks for sharing the concept and your experiences with it!

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Glad you’re still doing the work. : )

  • http://dresramblings.com Andre Natta

    I ended up deciding early on that I’d have to modify the project to make it fit what I’m attempting to accomplish for 2013. I decided I’d focus three books every two months and allow myself to reference other books when necessary. It’s already turned out to be a useful exercise and it’s driving a lot of the plans I’ve started laying out.

    I don’t think I’d have been able to get to this point in my planning if I hadn’t been prompted by the #3BD. I know it’s even helped me with my three words for the year too. Thanks as always for the inspiration!

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  • http://www.boydjane.ca/ Jane Boyd

    Totally makes sense. I saw others in the community beginning to do the same thing as well. It’s good to set out with a plan, however there is nothing wrong with modifying it as needed. Being flexible and open is pretty important too. Love the idea of staying as focused as you can on the three books – but it is important to make room for the additional books that you feel you also need. Thanks for continuing to demonstrate that it’s ok to change things up as you go.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Seems like everyone knew before me. : )

  • wyatt christman

    Maybe instead of giving up on the 3 book diet you could just modify it slightly. Have three core books that you go deeply into and refer to throughout the year. Try to weave them into other projects. You still have other books you read but these core books are something to come back to and make an effort to consciously use throughout the year. I also think that if you want to go deep into books you should discuss them with others. I say that because that is what I decided to do with Four Hour Chef. Excellent book for hacking learning and well worth discussing throughout the year with others. I am hoping the process of multiple discussions will help me and others understand more of what Tim Ferriss has in his book. I think before giving up on something try modifying it a couple of times to see if you can find the right combination. If not, then let it go.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      You’re not wrong. : )

  • http://mattreport.com Matt Medeiros

    What’s the new material?

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      I’m learning about cultural anthropology, the psychological imperatives of storytelling, and a lot more about how to explain culture and find bridges.

  • http://bsoi.st/ bsoist

    Glad you’ve come to your senses. :)

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Well, I wouldn’t go THAT far. : )

  • http://www.heartspoken.com/ Elizabeth H. Cottrell

    I’m a huge fan of yours, Chris, and while I respected your 3BD choice and rationale, I could never get behind it for myself. So I appreciate your honesty and modeling that it’s okay to change your mind when it’s done with care and intention.

    It makes sense to read a few books more deeply and thoughtfully, but there are many books that can be read quickly to stay up with trends and know what people are talking about and still derive significant value.

    Happy reading!

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Seems you were in the majority. : )

  • Craig D

    All the best for 2013 Chris!

    The 3BD is very interesting and something I’m thinking about.

    However, I struggled a lot with information overload during 2012 and spreading myself thin on social networks. I’ve been trying to cut back on consuming and attempting to create more. I’ve recently removed a lot of RSS feeds that were no longer adding much value and scaled back using social networks/sites that aren’t yielding any results or value.

    It would be interesting to hear your approach to what social networks you decide to participate in and the consumption of information. Hope this makes sense.


  • Mary

    I could not ever only read three books in a year. But, I agree with you on the point that deeper study is valuable. I tend to choose one book at a time for deeper study, reading and applying everyday for months. Of course, I read a handful of others at the same time.

    I am also aware that sometimes reading takes valuable time that I could be creating, so I am changing up my habits and putting creation into some normal reading slots in my daily plan.

    Cheers to books!

  • C. A. Hurst

    Hey Chris!

    I really get the concept behind the 3 book diet and completely agree with you about rushing headlong through the book du jour. There is so much new information available all the time now, that it’s really easy to just slam through everything and not allow yourself time to absorb and process the information. On the other hand, with so much information at our fingertips it is just amazingly cool to be able to access front-line thinking right now.

    Two cases in point for me: “The Impact Equation” (I’m pretty sure you know who wrote that one), and Dan Pink’s new book, “To Sell Is Human.” The information in these two brand-new releases is complementary, and very solid, very relevant, very helpful. I also know that Cali Ressler & Jody Thompson have a new book set to be released in February, “Why Managing Sucks And How To Fix It.” I’m sure that there will be several more new releases this year that I will want to read because the information really will be good and helpful.

    Happy growing for 2013!

  • Kathryn Aragon

    I completely agree. As a blogger and writer, I need to be reading all the time–all sorts of things.

    That said, I got sucked into some old writing books while researching a blog post last week, and I’ve found the re-read to be exhilarating. At different stages in your development, you glean different information from the same source material.

    I’m convinced your premise is good. It may simply need tweaking for different people’s needs.

  • http://twitter.com/epicenterone Aaron Nelson

    Ha! I was just having a mental struggle with this myself as I’ve just gotten the Momentum Equation, Dan Pink’s new book, and several others that are right up there on the top of my ‘must read’ list for this year.

    I too was thinking to myself: self – we need more than 3 books to really get a handle on a few things I need this year. So I was thinking of doing the same thing as you – keeping 3 books for deep reading, while adding a few others on top.

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  • http://twitter.com/SmartWoman Vicki Flaugher

    I think I posted to the Secret Team that I was bailing the day before you wrote this. I tried, I did. I quit for the same reason you mentioned. I also am choosing to take the spirit of it and really, really focus on the 3 books I chose and execute/implement their strategy fully this year. That is going to work, it is already yielding results. I can and will stick with that. Thank you for the original seed of the idea – it turned out pretty brilliant after modification.

  • http://blogpod.tv/ Chris Jacob (blogpod.tv)

    Hi Chris,

    Thank you for the update. 3 books was incredibly limiting – but the vision and purpose was spot on. Repetition, focus and action. Constant media and knowledge consumption is pointless ~ unless *consuming* is all that you wish to accomplish in 2013.

  • http://blogpod.tv/ Chris Jacob (blogpod.tv)

    New goal: 3 audiobooks, repeated 3 times a year.

    Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill (10 hrs ~ or 5hrs on 2x speed)
    Crush It! – Gary Vaynerchuk (4 hrs ~ Gary on 2x speed is crazy talk)
    The 4-Hour Work Week – Timothy Ferris (13 hrs ~ 7.5 hrs)

    I completed Think and Grow Rich in 1 week (while driving, walking, doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, etc).

  • http://www.sdwebworks.com/san_diego_web_designer_blog San Diego Web Designer

    I’m really open to new stuff this year and this seems to be really great. But I don’t have any ideas on what book should I read. Can you help me with this one?

  • http://raulcolon.net/ Raul Colon

    I think I am close to what @cc_chapman:disqus said I rather re-read them than restrict myself. Funny enough when you posted your 3 words I decided to start re-reading Walt Disney’s Biography!

    One of the reasons I am such a fan of you is that you are able to write when things did not go as expected.

  • wallemon

    Not to worry, Chris. 99% of your ideas are awesome. This one fell into the 1%. We just figured you came up with the idea during a moment of low caffeine or blood sugar. You’re allowed to have one bad idea per year. We’ll count this one toward 2012.

    I understood the concept, but I have a voracious appetite for reading. I usually have 2-3 books going at the same time. Three per year?…I can’t go for that (no can do).

  • http://www.tessahardiman.com/ Tessa

    I love the idea of the 3 book diet…study and focus on important books.

    What I didn’t like was making it only 3 books! So, I’m glad to see that I wasn’t the only one…I’m trying to improve my “business” as well (blogging and writing), and I agree with you Chris that it would be detrimental to avoid applying some things to the here and now.

    I am going to work on taking notes from books that I read and reviewing them on a regular basis.

  • Dave Crenshaw

    As long as we implement what we read, it’s okay to read as many as we want.

  • Jérémy Corman

    In 2012, I read 18 books but there’s still one book I keep re-re-reading again and again: Linchpin, Seth Godin. This is my way to keep learning new stuff and deeply committing into one long term goal and improve within this practice.

  • http://twitter.com/eilbp essentialsenterprise

    Chris – sorry to hear but I completely understand. I thought it was a great idea & still do. I probably read about 15 non-fiction books / year w/the goal of improving myself and my business or work. I’m doing ok but am not nearly where I want to be so I don’t think reading so many books is really helping (or helping enough). As they say, doing the same thing and expecting different results is crazy so I am doing something different & that’s the #3bd!

    Actually, I’m kind of glad most people think it is crazy or are dropping out/not doing it. My goofy mind finds that more motivating.

    Happy Sunday Chris. Great email today.

    twitter: @eilbp

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  • Timothy Smith

    Hey Chris,

    Haven’t you heard that diets don’t work? Classic case of diet failure here. When you try to artificially limit your intake you’ll most undoubtedly end up going on a binge and consuming even more. Enjoy chowing down on your new books this year.

  • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

    This is one exercise I’m glad you dropped. I get the merits of not rushing, but as an avid reader who devours and loves books, it would be worse than going on a horrible diet. Plus, to me it’s like saying “follow only 2 blogs” and only read them and no one else. You’ll learn in depth. Yes, but look at what you could miss.

    What’s great is that you had an idea, changed your mind, and openly shared it. Transparency, and that’s what we appreciate about you.

  • http://twitter.com/Really_Useful RUTD

    Phew! Glad to see I was not the only person who could not stick to the 3 book diet. I could not resist Danial pink’s new book..still waiting for it to arrive .

    However, i really like the idea of actually reading and re-reading a small number of books and implementing some of the good ideas. I am now on my second reading of Impact Equation and I am amazed at how much I missed in my first reading.

  • http://twitter.com/dulk jaap den dulk

    The best learning experience I found already in #3BD is reading between the lines of two totally different books. Glad you mentioned this quitting stuff on a podcast by the way.

    I am still on it. And although I agree it is impossible, I want to see how far I can stretch the idea. I remember thinking my thoughts were important 5 years ago and after 10 days of silence I learned this is not so. Thoughts are just thoughts. So are books.

    My learning? You don’t have to read a book to catch what is going on in our perception. I enjoy the silence of no new book. I love listening to what others say they have read. And I sense a beautiful contrast between Impact Equation and John Cage’s ideas about Noise. No idea where this will lead me. Still a joyful experience.

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