When Bill Gates and Warren Buffett were asked in September 2005 at the University of Nebraska what superpower they would love to have, Gates answered: "Being able to read super fast -- that'd be nice."
Buffett added, amused, "I probably wasted 10 years reading slowly."
It has been roughly 10 years since that interview, but the rate of change in the world hasn't slowed. You've probably heard the expression leaders are readers before, but here in the information age, there has never been a greater need for entrepreneurs to rapidly consume new information on topics such as technology, business, leadership and the industries in which they operate.
Unless you want to risk your business becoming a Blockbuster in the age of Netflix or a MySpace in the age of Facebook, you have to stay up to date with the constant shifts and developments that are taking place in strategies and methodologies as well as technologies and tools.
What is the superpower every entrepreneur needs? Speed reading.
Here is a closer look at how you can boost your reading speeds while also increasing your absorption and retention.
Why absorbing more information is important.
It isn't enough to be able to read fast. If you can go through a 250-page book in an hour, but can't remember anything you read afterwards, then you've just wasted 60 minutes of your most precious resource.
If you want to make the most of your time, then you want to be able to read fast and filter through and remember critical information.
Most entrepreneurs agree that we are in the age of information overload, but that doesn't excuse us from continually studying, learning and growing. If we rest on our laurels and rely on past successes and victories, we'll stop our forward momentum.
Information overload isn't an invitation to cease all learning. Rather, it is a call to be selective about what you're learning. Choose your material wisely, because no matter what you end up reading, you can't get your time back later.
An experienced entrepreneur has a do-what-it-takes mentality, and that's exactly what's required of you when it comes to learning too. If you continue to learn, you'll be better poised to take advantage of new opportunities. You'll be better able to adapt to new developments.
If you're a return-on-investment-minded entrepreneur, then you already understand what this is all about. If you're going to read anyway, you might as well get the greatest ROI out of what you read and get yourself to the point where you can learn more and pick up more skills along the way. This will quickly transform you into a more influential leader, fully equipped to take your business to the next level.
How fast do you read? Here are some stats.
The fastest reader in the world is Howard Stephen Berg, who is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. Berg has not been out-read by anyone since 1990, and he reads at an astounding 25,000 words per minute. He even writes at 100 words per minute.
Berg says the greatest advantage of being the world's fastest reader is that he can learn any skill he wants to, living a life "without any limits." Wouldn't you love to live a life without limits? Wouldn't you love to be able to pick up new skills on the fly?
Compare this to the average adult, who reads roughly 300 words per minute, high-level executives who read at 575 word per minute and college professors who read at an average of 675 words per minute. On average, speed readers consume 1,500 words per minute.
How fast do you read? How do you stack up? If you'd like to find out, try taking this online speed reading test.
IPhone apps to help you speed read.
Whether you found that your reading speed was "just average" or excellent, there is always room for improvement.
Here are four iPhone apps you can use to start training yourself.
1. QuickReader is an ebook reader as well as a speed reading app. It helps you to break old habits that might be holding you back. The app's main function is to help you to stop looking at one letter or one word at a time, and to show you how to consume multiple worlds simultaneously.
2. Read Quick is an app that integrates with Instapaper. It keeps track of your stats, including how much you read and how fast. According to its developers, the more you read, the faster you'll get. With Read Quick, you can measure your progress as you continue to get more practice.
3. Outread is similar to QuickReader in that it highlights sections of text, training you to absorb sections instead of one word at a time. It's easy to waste time reading portions of text you've already read, and Outread helps you overcome that common challenge.
4. Acceleread offers guided courses, lessons and techniques on how to read faster. The app also tracks your reading speed, as well as comprehension. The developers say that most people are only reading at a third of their full potential. Imagine how fast you could read if you learned the right techniques.
Obviously, no matter what you're reading or researching, the ability to speed read will help you consume and absorb more information than ever before. You'll be able to keep up with your industry, learn new marketing techniques, study classic personal development material and read some of the best books for entrepreneurs at a faster rate than you were ever able to before.