How to Recognize a Moving Reading and what to Do with It

By Oliver DeMille

I finished reading the article, and I was deeply moved. It was profound, important, and taught me a number of new things on a topic I had already studied in great detail.

I loved it.

It was one of those learning experiences where you forget time, get lost in a flow of learning, and feel wonderful when you finally finish reading and realize an hour or two has passed while you were lost in learning.

I had experienced this before (e.g. Les Miserables, The Law by Bastiat, Phillip Bobbitt’s Shield of Achilles, and others), so I knew what I needed to do.

I ordered four copies of the article, thought carefully about who to share them with, gave them to four top thinkers that I mentor, and set a time to discuss the article with them.

Some readings just plain need to be discussed.

When you are really touched by an important reading—whether article, book, play, poem, or whatever—you owe it to yourself to take it to the next level. Ask some of those you mentor to read it, and then take the time to discuss it with them. This will help you remember it better, and allow you to articulate your main ideas and feelings about what you’ve read.

But there is another side of the coin on this. When you follow up a profound reading with a small- group discussion, those in the group will frequently have an excellent educational experience. Your passion for the reading will rub off, and the discussion will involve everyone in important and deep ideas.

This is a powerful kind of mentoring.

In short: Share what moves you.

Let the Conversation Flow

I experienced this on a number of occasions with my mentors. For example, one day W. Cleon Skousen called me on the phone and shared his interest in a new book he had just read. The title was The Fourth Turning.

I immediately got the book, read it, and met with Dr. Skousen to discuss it at length. I have re-read it several times since, and referred to it a number of times over the years. It is one of the most relevant books of our time, and thanks to my mentor’s passion and willingness to include me in his learning, this modern classic has taught me a great deal. I have recommended it to thousands of people since that day, and in turn discussed it with dozens of interested learners.

To repeat, when you read something that really touches you positively, share it with those you mentor.

If it is too advanced for your mentees, find a way to teach it in a more basic form, and see if you can arrange a discussion (at lunch, for example) with a friend or two who share your interests.

Discussion takes reading to a much higher level, and your passion for a reading that you really like will help the whole group catch the same spark.

On the practical side, it is usually best not to have an agenda when you meet for the small-group discussion. Don’t force it; let others experience the flow like you did. Just invite everyone to read it before you meet, and start the meeting by asking each person to share what they learned. Tell them why you wanted to discuss the article or book, how it touched you and why, and what you learned. After everyone shares their views, just let the conversation flow naturally.

Ready, Set, Try It!

This concept (of discussing readings that you really like with small groups of thinking people) is an important part of mentoring and learning. It keeps the mentors sharp, and it helps the mentees make invaluable leaps in their thinking and store of knowledge.

C.S. Lewis suggested that really great education is usually the result of a few people talking about an important reading late into the night.

When I sat down with my four mentees to discuss the article, I started by asking, “Why do you think I wanted to discuss this article?”

“You wanted us to see how important these ideas are to our current society,” one person said.

Another suggested, “You wanted to humble us, to show us that there is a lot more to learn and that we need to keep studying hard, not get complacent because we’re learning so much from the classics.”

I nodded. “Are there any other thoughts?,” I asked.

“You wanted to assess how deep our learning is, and where the gaps are, so you can mentor us more effectively,” one young lady answered.

I smiled. “You all think I have a real plan with this meeting today, don’t you? Well, actually, I wanted you to read it because when I read it I was really touched. I learned so much. And I wanted you to have the same experience.”

I paused. “But I like all your answers as well, and I think we should use this discussion to do all of them. Now, what some important things you learned from this article?”

We took turns, and everyone shared their new epiphanies.

I’ve done this a number of times over the years, whenever I read something that moves me at a gut level and I feel I really need to share it with others. This has provided some of the most memorable mentoring experiences I’ve ever had.

Try it.

Lost-In-Learning Reading

Whenever you read something that wows you, think about who you want to share it with, set up a discussion, and watch the magic happen.

To get started, simply think right now of the most impactful thing you’ve ever read. Why was it so moving? Who do you want to share it with? Now set up a discussion…

And make this a habit.

This one practice will drastically improve the quality of your teaching and mentoring, not to mention your personal learning.

Share what moves you, and over time you’ll find yourself having more experiences with this kind of deep, flow, lost-in-learning reading!