Why Reading?

Douglas Makepeace

Douglas Makepeace

I am one of the lucky people. Yet when I was 40, I had accomplished so much less than my heroes. Then I started to read like Musk and Buffett and Gates and Clinton and Edison and Darwin and Bach.

Please see my personal note below.


Elon Musk read every book in his local library by the time he was 10.  Then he read The Encyclopedia Britannica.  “How else do you know what you don’t know?” he asked Charlie Rose.

Warren Buffett was once asked about the key to success.  He pointed to a stack of nearby books and said, “Read 500 pages like this every day.  That’s how knowledge works.  It builds up, like compound interest.  All of you can do it….”

Bill Gates: “These days, I also get to visit interesting places, meet with scientists, and watch a lot of lectures online.  But reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.

Charles Darwin: “… to my mind there are no advantages and many disadvantages in lectures compared with reading.

Slow readers are slow learners – great readers are great leaders!

Reading is the most important skill.  Every subject is easier for those who read well.  Reading widely adds perspective and understanding.

Here are some of the great readers, who became great leaders.  They started from scratch, but everyone knows their names now:  Elon Musk, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, President Clinton, Thomas Edison, Charles Darwin, J.S. Bach.  We can give everyone a chance to learn like them!

With technology, today almost everyone can read almost anything, any time, on mobile.  But they have to read English.  Other languages have almost 90% fewer pages on the Internet, or even less.  Please see the table and chart on the left.

Also, reading is more than an isolated skill!  If a student fails to read English, writing is harder, and so is reading math problems.  Maybe even worse, self-esteem and resilience fall.

And if a student doesn’t show persistence, overall learning is sure to fall.  No one gets everything right the first time.  The ability to keep trying is crucial in every area of learning.

Now if reading improves, then writing and math can improve, and so can self-esteem.  The vicious circle that drives children to fail, can be reversed!

We aim to help a billion people around the world.  Help us help them!!

Douglas' Personal Note

“I am one of the lucky people,” said Daphne Koller at the start of her TED talk.  She had a great education, which led to her teaching at Stanford, and co-founding Coursera.

I also had a great start, graduating from St Paul’s School in New Hampshire, and Columbia University in New York.  Then I worked at IBM for almost five years.  Then I joined Merrill, Lynch.  Their training programs were like specialized MBAs.

Yet when I was 40, I had accomplished so much less than my great heroes, Edison and Darwin and Bach.  They had given so much more to the world, starting with so much less.

How did they do it?  To find out, I studied their lives.  To my amazement, Bach and Darwin and Edison became great in the same way.

They read everything that had been written about their area of interest, and they worked with it.  And that allowed them to see how they could make progress.

I thought, that’s my problem.  I have only read half the books about the investment business.  So I did my best to read the other half.  Before I could finish, in 1986, I had an idea for a great investment.

I would offer people a way to invest with Templeton and Buffett and Soros, and 15 other great investors, in a single fund.  Later I found that this was called a fund of funds.  My inspiration had been a book about real estate syndications.

Templeton himself was impressed.  With his backing, my business was soon up and running.  My profile on LinkedIn offers some idea of how successful this became.

Later, I learned that Buffett and Musk were in the same habit of reading everything they could.  Buffett says he reads over 500 pages per day.  Musk asks, how else can you know what you don’t know?

Now I am helping people everywhere to read English, at their own speed, on Android mobile devices. Over half the pages of the internet are in English.  Even German and Russian offer almost 90% less – and the Indian dialects offer 99% less!

We aim to bring the greatest source of knowledge, the English pages of the internet, to the desks of more than a billion people.  That will really be accomplishing something!

The limits of my language are the limits of my world.
— Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher