Quick, quick, slow

Here are some things I know about myself: I think at high speed, I generate ideas and solutions quickly, I talk fast, and I read slowly. Michael can read a whole book in the time it takes me to read a couple of chapters. But that’s nothing compared to Geoff, a friend, who reads books at a rate of about five seconds a page. Imagine that, turning a page every ten seconds through an entire book!

When Geoff was a teenager, his class was taught to speed read as part of an experiment that lasted throughout his high school years. Students regularly sat tests to measure reading speed and comprehension, and those who passed continued in the experimental class.

“Speed reading is like looking at the big picture,” Geoff said, gesturing towards the ocean.

“Speed reading is like looking at the big picture,” Geoff said, gesturing towards the ocean.

Geoff told me this yesterday, during a three hour breakfast with friends, at a table overlooking the ocean. Was it a slow breakfast because it lasted three hours, or was it a fast breakfast because our conversations covered vast territories?

“Speed reading is like looking at the big picture,” Geoff said, gesturing towards the ocean. “Take one look out to sea, and you see everything: the ocean, the sky, the clouds, the boats, the people swimming, the sand, the trees. You don’t see lots of little bits and then string them together. You see one big picture, and you get it. It’s the same with speed reading.”

“Ah,” I replied, “that’s how I make sense of dreams. I stand a long way back from a dream so I can see the big picture, and I understand it. Then I go in and look at the details. The details always end up confirming my first reading, but they add so much depth, insight, texture and awe.”

But for Geoff there’s no second look, no exploration of the details, no new delight in uncovering something that resonates with the big picture. From what I can understand, Geoff gets all of that in the one and only big picture read. He says he misses nothing.

By my calculations, five seconds a page is about 12-15 times faster than ‘people who enjoy reading’.

By my calculations, five seconds a page is about 12-15 times faster than ‘people who enjoy reading’.

How fast or slowly do you read? According to www.freereadingtest.com the average person reads at a rate of 200-300 words per minute, and people who enjoy reading often exceed 400 words per minute. By my calculations, five seconds a page is about 12-15 times faster than ‘people who enjoy reading’. You might like to take the free test here before reading further.

How did you go? I’ll share my results shortly. I asked Geoff whether he felt his school training in seeing the big picture affects the way he sees life and the way he works. He said he feels it’s advantageous in every way, though he does find detail tasks like running a diary challenging. I got the impression that he meant running a diary felt superfluous compared with seeing, comprehending and moving forward with big picture vision.

Stand back a long way from your dream until you see the big picture.

Stand back a long way from your dream until you see the big picture.

Here’s the dream interpretation tip: Stand back a long way from your dream until you see the big picture (for example I’m running away from something or I keep encountering obstacles). Consider your sentence as a metaphor or analogy of your recent waking life experiences. What do you notice? Can you make a connection? Speed read your dream in this way to gain insight into how your unconscious mind is processing life. Then go in and explore the details of your dream, aided by your big picture clues.

When I did the reading test just now, my score was just over 300 words a minute, which, for someone who enjoys reading (as I do) is indeed slow. But I did learn something interesting. The test read that came up for me was all about the green pigment in leaves, chlorophyll, a subject I recently blogged about under the title Why is grass green? I found the test passage excruciatingly boring, but while I was reading the words I noticed that I was simultaneously thinking about the Why is grass green? blog, and remembering the fun I had writing that article (very speedily) to illustrate how our dreams help us create our big picture views of the world, and noticing the connection with the intent of today’s blog.

Here’s something I didn’t know about myself: I read slowly because I’m thinking and creating on many levels at the same time, simultaneously doing ‘big picture’ and ‘detailed analysis’. Now I know why I’m good at interpreting dreams LOL!

Do the test. What do you learn about yourself from this?

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4 Responses to Quick, quick, slow

  1. Carmel says:

    My speed was around 350. When I read purely for information, I can go faster, but I find my enjoyment of reading drops the faster I go. When reading something which is beautifully written, I don’t WANT to go faster. You really can’t smell the roses when you’re racing. You might get a whiff in passing, but you can’t SAVOUR them.

  2. Carla Young says:

    I read quickly as a youngster, and then in high school was given a speed reading course. Unfortunately, the course didn’t help me get the big picture, quite the opposite: It made me so uncomfortably aware of the mechanics of reading that I’ve read slowly ever since. The rule of unintended consequences strikes again!

    • Hi Carla, Hey, it must be synchronicity day for me (or am I still dreaming?) Two replies to this post, one from Carla, one from Carmel.

      LOL, there’s nothing like getting stuck in the mechanics of a thing to block the natural flow. Hmm, a driving analogy? Cars?

  3. Hi Carmel, Yes, I enjoy a good, slow sensual savouring of the roses. Hmm, I’ve just replied to Bob’s comment on ‘Episode 86, Wounded Refugee’, and that was all about roses. And I have, amongst my birthday cards from yesterday sitting in front of me now, one from Michael featuring roses. I think I’ll go smell some …

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