Personal Development

Speed reading and ‘showing up’

A recent podcast brought up two valuable lessons in one

By Steve W

I was recently listening to the latest episode of the Copywriter’s podcast. As somebody who consumes hours of podcasts per day, watching a new episode pop up on the RSS feed is a joyous experience. I’m not a copywriter but I do aspire to be able to write my own copy one day, capable of selling and promoting a message.

I’ve been following the host, Nathan Fraser, for a while now and am part of one of his online groups. Fraser acts as the foil for David Garfinkel, a former journalist and current author, described in the intro as the “world’s greatest copywriting coach”. I’m not clued up enough to dispute that. However, given the standard of guests and general quality of information, I’ve learned a ton off both men already.

The reason I am mentioning this is because, on the latest instalment, Fraser mentioned not one but two little nuggets that piqued my interest.

Speed reading, slow reading or something in between

I am an avid reader. Ever since I was small I’ve consumed books as quickly as possible, on a daily basis. Even though a as a society we are drifting towards a greater dependence on digital devices, the honest beauty of a physical book remains. A few years ago, with the bite of family commitments and less time in my life, I realised I was no longer piling through books as swiftly as I desired. Every New Year’s resolution contained something resembling “read more books” which required making more time and missing out on other activities.

Skillshare course on speed reading

It was at this point that I spotted a speed reading course on the Skillshare platform. The grand subtitle promised that I would read more books, get through them quicker, miss out unimportant words (seriously, it said that!). There were a variety of techniques to fly through text books, novels, short stories and more, in record time.

I took the course, implemented the techniques and it worked. I was indeed flying through books in record time as promised. However, I soon realised that I was hardly taking anything in. Whole books were consumed and I could barely recall a couple of major points. True, I’d already picked up the next one, but how beneficial was reading the book to me?

Makes notes and highlight your books

I know some people make copious amounts of notes, highlight whole paragraphs, use sticky notes and all sorts of colours to pick out important points. Books sit on shelves and are brought down multiple times to be read and re-read. I never got this. Why would you go back and read over and over something you’d already completed?

This is where speed reading had let me down, while teaching me an important lesson. I was wasting my time. If I could not take any value or knowledge from my books why was I even reading them at all?

Read one book or ten books?

This is where we return to the dulcet tones of copywriting king Garfinkel and his partner in crime Mr Fraser. “You’re better off reading one book ten times than ten books one time,” said Fraser. And suddenly it hit me. He’s right.

While Nathan may not have coined the phrase (see link above) when it comes to retention of information his advice stands to reason. After listening I immediately went back and re-uploaded my Kindle versions of Atomic Habits and many other titles I felt deserve at least a second chance. I’ll not be speed reading either. It might take longer to finish a book, but that’s probably the point.

80 per cent of success is showing up

The second chunk of wisdom thrown out in the Copywriter’s podcast was attributed to a quote by the film maker Woody Allen. “80 per cent of life is showing up,” said Allen. Naturally, it has since been debated as to whether Allen first came up with this quote. Others suggest he said 99 per cent. The numbers are largely irrelevant.

When Allen says “showing up” I doubt he means just literally showing up. Appearing somewhere doesn’t get things done. Rather, I expect he meant showing up, being consistent, doing the job to the best of your ability, over and over. It ties in with a less succinct phrase I use myself: “If you say you’re going to do something, then do it”.

80 percent of success in life is justĀ showing up

Woody Allen

Be reliable, consistent and show up

Being reliable, offering quality work consistently is an important trait to have. People soon notice if you repeatedly promise the earth and fail to deliver. Everybody misses deadlines, makes mistakes and fails to do stuff they agreed upon at one time or another. We are all flawed human beings.

I’ve know a lot of genuinely good people over the years. They are skilled individuals, whom, with the best will in the world, would buzz with ideas and suggestions and then – just fail to show up. In a physical sense, or at the point of delivery. Nothing would happen. They talk big and deliver small, or in some cases absolutely zilch.

Being consistent, enhancing your reputation as a person who delivers and “shows up” time and again is an important behaviour to adopt and perfect.

— END —

Thanks for reading. If you found some value please leave a COMMENT or SHARE with others who might enjoy the article. 

Continue the conversation by sending an email to with your thoughts.