Read 10,000 Words a Day, Like You Take 10,000 Steps

read 10,000 words a day

The Next 10,000

Everybody and their grandma (especially their grandmas!) is being advised to take 10,000 steps a day for their physical and mental well-being.

I certainly believe in it. Walking relaxes me, reenergizes me, and is the source of many of my biggest epiphanies. Since I took the step of taking more steps a few years ago, I’ve fallen in love with it. If you’re ever in Vancouver, you’ll see me meandering along the Seawall with a serene contemplative look on my face.

Walking’s great. But steps shouldn’t be the only 10,000 target in your life.

You should also target to read 10,000 words a day.

10,000 Words Is A Little (And a Lot)

If you’re a bit below average you can read 200 words a minute, so you would need only 50 minutes to read 10,000 words a day. The more you read, though, the faster you’ll get

How long is 10,000 words? It’s about 40 pages. Since the average book has 350 pages, that means you’ll be able to cover almost a book a week. That’s just about 50 books a year. In 20 years you cn read enough books to jam pack a 40 foot long wall full of books.

In short:

If you read 10,000 words a day, you can fill a library with the books you’ve read in only 20 years!

I bet you never thought you could be the type of person who could fill a whole room with books they’ve read. But it’s absolutely feasible. All it takes is to read 10,000 words a day.

Why Reading Is Amazing

There are enough benefits of reading to fill many books (how meta), but I’ll keep it short for you: Reading is amazing because it’s a shortcut to learning.

Instead of spending years figuring everything out yourself, authors not only do the dirty work for you but also agonize over organizing and summarizing it so it’s easy for you to absorb. Millions of the most amazing people across the history of mankind have done this hard work for you. You can just sit back and cherry-pick what wisdom you want to take. That’s pretty cool.

And if that doesn’t make you eager to read, here’s another way to look at it: The advent of the printing press gave, for the first time, the common folk of the world access to books. This led to the industrial revolution and more progress in 150 years than was made in the tens of thousands of years prior. Reading can do the same for you personally. It’ll take your smarts from the middle ages to the singularity.

Still not convinced? Maybe these guys can do a better job than me:

“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.” – Warren Buffett

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none.” – Charlie Munger

“A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.” – Mark Twain

“People don’t realize how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book.” – Malcolm X

I could go on and on, but hopefully you’re convinced by now.

Don’t view reading 10,000 words a day as a chore. It’s the opposite. To have the opportunity to read every day is one of the greatest, most exciting gifts in the world. I’m getting chills just writing this.

The Bad News

While reading is great, it in itself won’t get you the smarts you need to achieve your dreams. Just as walking 10,000 steps a day won’t get you six-pack abs, reading 10,000 words a day won’t get you to a six-pack brain.

“The person who reads too much and uses his brain too little will fall into lazy habits of thinking.” – Einstein

Reading, like walking, is relaxing. You can easily do it all day and night. Training your brain, on the other hand is exhausting. It involves taking notes, studying, and reframing it all in your own words. Training is what you don’t always look forward to doing, but you appreciate having done when you look back on it.

Reading and training are complementary. You have to do both.

What Counts Towards the 10,000 Words?

Now that you’re eager to read 10,000 words a day, let’s get specific: What counts as reading?

Let’s start with what doesn’t count. This post you’re reading doesn’t count. Neither does just about anything else you read online, in magazines, or text messages. There’s nothing wrong with these things. They just don’t count towards your 10,000 words.

The criteria for what counts as reading is pretty simple:

To count towards your 10,000 word daily target, what you read has to be something that you can subsequently use for training—that is, review, take notes, and then reframe in your own words to share with others.

Does Listening to Audiobooks Count?

Audiobooks absolutely count. It’s totally up to you to decide whether you prefer the written word (as I do), the spoken word, or some combination of the two.

For you busy people out there, the added bonus of audiobooks is you can get your 10,000 words and 10,000 steps in at the same time. For safety reasons I don’t recommend you do the same reading a physical book. (Maybe on a treadmill.)

What About Podcasts?

You won’t find a bigger podcast fan than me. They’re awesome. I listen to hours of them a day. Sometimes I joke that there if a podcast karaoke bar existed I’d never leave. Listening to podcasts has changed my life for the better. But it doesn’t count as reading.

The reason is as simple as this: You would never want to read a book made up of podcast transcripts.

That doesn’t mean you should give up podcasts, though. I find podcasts to be an amazing discovery tool. They help me explore topics I wouldn’t otherwise consider reading about, and find amazing people whose books I then read.

Does Reading Fiction Count?


Sometimes it’s not as obvious how to take notes on, study, and write about fiction than non-fiction, though. Here are a few questions that might help:

  • What about the story made it entertaining? Did the author use any structure or techniques that you might be able to apply in your own life to enthral others?
  • What lessons did the protagonist learn that you can you can reapply in your own life?
  • What parts of the book made you laugh or cry? Why do you think that was and how could you do the same?

What About Watching TV or Movies?


  • You should read 10,000 words a day just as you should take 10,000 steps.
  • Reading 10,000 words shouldn’t be viewed as a chore, but as the amazing opportunity it is.
  • To count towards your 10,000 words, it must be material that you can subsequently use for brain training.
  • Reading is not brain training. It is complementary. You need to do both to get the smarts you want.

Get Reading!

If you haven’t already, start filling your library!

And if you’re looking for a book to start with, check out my Best Of lists.

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