If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.
One of my biggest causes of procrastination when I write is when I head over to Wikipedia to look up more information about a concept. Yes, I know that Wikipedia is not a completely trustworthy source of information, but I am not going to condemn the good because of the perfect. But I digress. The reason I call Wikipedia my greatest source of procrastination is how easily a simple search turns into 20 open tabs and at least 3 hours of just browsing information.
Am I surprised? Not really. As a kid I would grab an encyclopedia (to the younger readers, this is how old people used to find information, google it up.) and just flip through it. That was my first glimpse of the largeness of the world. I learned of the Far East, and the Not So Far West. I learned of Ancient History and of Modernity. I would “travel” all over the world, and even across time and space with every book, with every entry, and I learned just how small my world was when compared to how big the world really is. And as the saying goes, a mind expanded by knowledge can never shrink back.
People assume education is what you get at school or college. Sure, we get taught about history and science at school. We are taught about art and music (or used to before the school system gutted some of those programs). But consider just how much attention you paid to your teachers, especially those teachers you didn’t like. The reality of education and knowledge is not based on what classes you take or what degree you reach or what certification you achieve. Truthfully, those are just pieces of paper you place on a wall stating that you attended classes and learned to pass tests.
Some will assume that self-education and knowledge for knowledge’s sense is a waste of time, viewing ideas different from their own as something to be crushed. I fear these people, as they already decided that personal ignorance is an acceptable way to live and will attack anyone who thinks differently just to support their personal insecurities.
Education and knowledge is what you experience and what you learn, not out of necessity, but out of genuine interest. We no longer live in a world limited by our access to a library or even a book, as today the world’s knowledge is at our fingertips. And yet some only chose to read what they already agree with, what other liked minded people recommend. We limit the information we receive, only accepting what will not offend or challenge our world.
Mark Twain once said “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” The same applies to knowledge.
You have to avoid conscientiously and willfully limiting your world, creating your own borders and limitations. Read books that challenge you, books smaller men would ban or censor. You don’t have to take any of them as true, and don’t even have to agree with them. What you do have to do is try and understand them, where they come from, what ideas and cultures lead to them. And as a result your world will grow. You have to broaden your horizon, as wide as the world itself. And when it has reached this width and extent, realize that the universe is limitless.