Read and Get Rich

Read and Get Rich

Summary of “Read and Get Rich” by Burke Hedges: Reading a personal development book turned Burke Hedges’ life upside down, so he decided to write a book that lists the countless, almost magical effects of reading; and it reveals that for us too, the right book at the right time can change our lives.

By Burke Hedges, 2000, 132 pages

Note: This article was written by Manu Lefèvre from the blog

Chronicle and summary of “Read and get rich” by Burke Hedges


Burke Hedges is living proof that the right book at the right time can change your life. Twelve years before this book was written, he was earning $5.50 an hour in a dead-end job. His life was miserable and he didn’t know what to do to change it. One day, his sister-in-law, who had had enough of his defeatist attitude, offered him a copy of Og Mandino’s book “The World’s Greatest Salesman”. It was a turning point in his life. He left his job to start a job as a mobile phone salesman and then opened his own mobile phone business. He eventually became a successful entrepreneur.

The title of this book refers to Napoleon Hill’s classic self-help book “Think and Grow Rich“, an extremely powerful book. Through this book, Burke Hedges wants us to understand how reading will make us rich not only in money, but also in love, happiness, family, health, fulfilment… in other words, rich in every aspect of our lives!

1. Seven years later…

It’s the end of March 1993 Burke is on a skiing holiday with his wife (a surprise holiday he has organised for her, she is very happy). Burke still can’t get over the situation he finds himself in compared to 7 years ago. He still remembers that day in 1986: he was overweight, in debt, and in a rather negative frame of mind. In fact, he had never read a self-help book before. He still remembers when his sister-in-law gave him this famous book by Og Mandino. This book was not long, so he read it in one go!

Burke reflects on this choice: “What would my life have been like if I hadn’t read this book?”. He remembers that everything in life matters, even the smallest choices.

In this book, Hafid, “the greatest salesman in the world” teaches the laws that made his disciple successful. These laws are written on scrolls:

  1. Today I’m starting a new life
  2. I’ll live this day with my heart full of love
  3. I’ll persist until I succeed
  4. And I’m nature’s greatest miracle
  5. I’ll live this day as if it were the last one
  6. Today I’ll be the master of my emotions
  7. I will laugh at the world
  8. Today I’ll multiply my value by 100
  9. I will act now
  10. From now on I will pray, but my requests for help will be requests for advice…

These principles are certainly not concrete sales techniques, but rather rules of life. They have allowed Burke to thrive in all aspects of his life.

At the end of his ski vacation, Burke asks himself the questions he will try to answer in his book:

  • Why do books change us so much?
  • Have other people had their lives changed by books? If so, which people?
  • And what books?
  • Is there a correlation between success and reading?
  • Would the world be completely different if reading had not been invented?

2. The power of books to transform lives

At the beginning of this chapter, Burke tells us the story of Sonya and her 2 sons, living in a ghetto and in an extremely precarious situation. She has always instilled in her 2 sons the habit of reading, which led them to have great professional careers, changing their destiny. Burke then shares some rather depressing statistics from a literacy institute:

  • 43% of adults with reading and writing difficulties live in poverty
  • 70% of people in prison have the 2 lowest scores on a literacy test.

Burke is concerned about illiteracy, but what worries him most is the number of literate people who choose NOT to read. Or even worse, they choose very poor-quality reading: the gutter press.

He then tells us the story of Abraham Lincoln, son of illiterate parents. He and his sister were fortunate enough to be able to learn to read. They read the Bible aloud to their mother. Abraham Lincoln never studied law; it was his obsession with reading and books that made him become a lawyer and then begin the great career in politics that we know.

After Lincoln, he tells us about Frederick Douglass, an African-American slave who learned to read at a time when the law strictly forbade slaves to learn to read. He escaped and became a leading figure in the abolition of slavery and women’s rights.

The chapter ends with more examples of successful people who have drawn inspiration from books: Harry S Truman (President of the United States), W. Clement Stone (businessman) and Matthew McConaughey (management expert).

3. Your advantage: 15 minutes of reading a day can change your life.

Two statistics bother Burke:

  • 1 third of Americans live in poverty
  • 37% of Americans have never read a single book after high school.

A third of Americans do not read and a third of Americans live in poverty. Burke doesn’t think it’s a coincidence. He invites us to draw our own conclusion.

Burke goes on to explain that with the advent of the internet, we no longer have any excuse not to read! There was a time when one could be excused for being illiterate or ignorant. That time has long since passed. If someone really wants to learn and acquire knowledge about many fields, in just a few clicks they can access countless blogs, free e-books and articles of all kinds.

Then Burke tells us that 60,000 new books are published each year and book sales increase by 5% to 6% each year. That’s great news! But the bad news is that 50% of the books sold in the United States are never read! Burke insists: “Buying books will make you poorer. Reading books will make you richer!”.

The average reading speed of an adult is 200 words per minute. There are about 400 words on a standard book page. So, reading for 15 minutes is equivalent to reading 7 pages. A 200-page book can therefore be read in a month with a reading habit of 15 minutes a day.

If you maintain this habit, that’s 12 books a year. In fact, reading for only 15 minutes a day can already pay great dividends in your life. That’s why Burke has little sympathy for people who dare to say, “I don’t have time to read.”

To these people, he replies, “Instead of making excuses for you NOT to read, why not make excuses for you to read?”

4. How to read a book

Burke insists that one must learn how to read a book effectively. There are three important steps in reading a book:

  1. Pre-read the book
  2. Read actively and take notes
  3. Reread your notes

Step 1: Pre-read the book

Choosing a book to read is like choosing the house you’re going to live in. You don’t have to choose it just any way you want. First of all, you have to read the first and back covers. Read the testimonials, the summary and the author’s biography. Open the book and look briefly at the introduction and the summary. Then go through the book, read the titles, subtitles, bold words, lists and the first sentences at the beginning of the chapters. This may not seem necessary as you will read the entire book, but pre-reading the book will greatly aid in understanding the content. Pre-reading amply prepares your brain to interpret the contents of the book.

Step 2: Read attentively

An effective reader, when they read a book, will ask themselves a lot of questions. That is why the expression “reading between the lines” exists. You have to question the content of what you read in order to get the most out of it. That’s why some people think that “Alice in Wonderland” is a children’s story and others think it’s a masterpiece of literature.

Take notes too. Highlight passages, make annotations in the margins, copy passages and quotations that have impressed you. Memorize the sentences you liked the most if you have to.

Have your own annotation system. Write down the pages that tell you about the concepts that interest you the most. To take notes will make it much easier for you to locate key passages in the future.

Step Three: Reread the notes

About a week or so after reading the book, pick up the book and review it for 10 minutes along with your notes. By doing this, the most important concepts will stay in your mind. This will make it easier for you to apply them in your life. You will also be able to review your notes within a month, three months or even a year. This way, you work once (read the book) and gather several times (review your notes). And if it is a personal development book, there is, of course, a practical part that is not in the book but in your life.

5. Readers and non-readers, the rich and the non-rich

Burke said earlier, to read is our advantage over others. That’s why he always explains to people that even in the new economy, reading is still the best technology even if it’s old. Benjamin Franklin left us a well-known quote: “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” In Franklin’s day, 90 percent of people in the United States lived and worked on farms. It was the agricultural age. Now we’re in the information age, where 2 percent of the population in the United States makes a living from agriculture. Knowledge is 1,000 times more important now than it was in Benjamin Franklin’s time.

You know the 20/80 rule, don’t you? 20% of our actions produces 80% of our results. Here’s how the 20/80 rule applies to the adult American:

  • 20% are illiterate or read poorly. They read very little, if ever.
  • 60% can read properly but choose not to read.
  • 20% can read well and read frequently

As Burke mentioned earlier, people who have difficulty reading are often poor. The result? They’re angry, and they express that anger through violence. Only 51% of the people in prison have finished college.

As for the 60% who can read but deliberately decide not to read, they generally choose to spend their free time in front of the television. Yes, television takes up 40% of Americans’ free time. Burke doesn’t completely castigate television. While there are good programs, most Americans watch the less informative ones. Burke reminds us to remember that everything matters. Even the way we spend our free time. Results are always happening. When Burke talks about results, he’s talking about the results of your actions.

So, you can choose to read and grow in all aspects of your life or not.

6. Everyone, including you, can read and become rich.

When Burke uses the phrase “getting rich,” he obviously means becoming a better person. Whether you’re an employee, manager, housewife or in any situation, you can read and grow.

In this chapter Burke tells us that he himself participated in a program where he spoke in a prison about the benefits of reading. That day, he distributed copies of his book, “Discover the CEO in You. Since that day, he still receives letters telling him that his book has helped people rethink their lives. This is one of the magics of books, they invite us to question our values. It is one of the first steps in personal development.

Then Burke tells us about the famous Oprah Winfrey. In fact, one of the few intelligent television programs in the United States is Oprah. Her show Oprah’s Book Club reviews best-seller books. Oprah is the first to admit that, in general, television does not promote personal development. Books, of course, have had a very important place in Oprah’s life.

She is the author of a very relevant quote:

“When you read about someone’s life, it makes you think about your own life. That’s the beauty of reading. That’s why I love books.”

Burke particularly admires Oprah because she shares his goal “to get Americans to read” again. She, too, is an advocate for reading self-help books, a type of reading that has had a huge impact on her life.

After telling us many true stories of people who have changed their lives through reading, Burke tells us the story of Helen Keller. A girl who lost her sight and hearing at the age of one and a half, due to an illness. The inability to learn to communicate was extremely horrible for her. The doctors thought she was crazy and wanted to have her committed. Her parents refused. One day, a miracle happened. Her guardian was able to make her understand how the objects she touched were written. She was finally able to get out of her mental prison and start to communicate. The technology of reading saved her. When she understood the concepts of reading and writing, she became an “addict” of learning. By the age of 10, she could already write letters in French to famous people in Europe. She became a famous writer.

This story is a perfect metaphor for our lives. Sometimes we feel stuck in our minds, unable to understand and express our true feelings. Sometimes we feel lonely, scared and angry. And this is a book that can free us from our mental prisons.

7. Ten writings that changed the world

Some writings are so powerful that they have transformed entire cultures even though the majority of people have never read them.

You’re asking yourself, “How is this possible?”.

It’s perfectly possible. For example, the United States Constitution sets the rules of the land, but extremely few Americans have read it in its entirety. Indeed, some texts have an influence on you, even if you do not even know it. To write and read always affect our unconscious more than we think. And of course, “words fly away, writings stay”.

Here are ten writings that changed the world:

  1. The Bible (4000 BC, 100 AD)
  2. The texts of the ancient Greek Philosophers (350 – 450 BC )
  3. La Magna Carta (1215)
  4. The Gutenberg Bible (1440)
  5. The 95 Theses of Martin Luther (1517)
  6. Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets (1564 – 1616)
  7. Declaration of Independence (1776)
  8. The Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights (1787 – 1791)
  9. The Communist Party Manifesto (1848)
  10. Mein Kampf (1927)

As you may have noticed, some of these writings have had a radically positive effect on the world and others a radically negative effect. This proves the power of the written word. That is why Burke recommends that you choose carefully what you read. In other words, “you are what you read”.

If writings can change entire cultures, think about what a book can change in you.

8. Reading and writing, the best technologies ever invented

Can you imagine a world without reading or writing?

Disturbing, isn’t it?

Reading and writing have enabled civilization to advance. Without them we would still be in the Stone Age.

To read helps us unleash our potential. Einstein, Mozart or Shakespeare could never have accomplished their works if reading and writing did not exist.

Cultures where reading and writing do not exist remain frozen in time.

Most experts agree that writing was invented almost 6,000 years ago in the geographical area now corresponding to Egypt, Iran and Iraq. Then, around 700 BC, the system of 24 symbols (in the Greek alphabet) that we now call alphabet, was invented (the word alphabet comes from the first 2 letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha and beta).

In the early days, writing was mainly used to keep written records of transactions, contracts, for tax collection and for legal texts. But soon, writing was used in Greek society to transpose political and philosophical debates, poetry and plays. It was then that human beings were able to unfold their true potential. That is why Ancient Greece remains the “Cradle of Civilization”. The hidden power of reading and writing began to transform the way human beings think.

According to Dr. Walter Ong, an expert in oral and written culture, writing has changed human consciousness. Indeed, the cultures where writing exists are always in constant progress and in search of improvement. In contrast, purely oral cultures are conservative and resistant to change. They seek only to preserve their traditions. People like Socrates who regularly question people’s thoughts and traditions could not have existed in an oral culture. Or they would have been condemned to death. In fact, Socrates himself was sentenced to death because the authorities of his time were still rooted in an oral culture. His modern approach to problem solving was too of a threat.

We often take the mental gymnastics of reading for granted. It’s second nature to us literate people. But reading works our brain and especially our subconscious mind.

9. Inside a reader’s mind

Burke asks, “Have you ever read a sentence or paragraph that contains such a deep nugget of truth that it jumps off the page and hits you right between the eyes – BAM??”

At that moment you might think “That’s exactly what I was thinking but I never managed to put it into words” or “I’ve never thought about that before, it’s so true! That’s it!”.

The author Dorothea Brande once said: “When I closed this book, I was another person”.

Burke then asks, “What physically happens to us when we read?”

As incredible as it may seem, when we read, our eyes move 100 to 200 degrees along the page. We don’t even notice it. Then the image of the printed symbols is sent to the brain and deciphered. This decryption process is very fast and complex. Just as complex as thought. You can’t imagine how complicated this decryption process is.

Then, when we read, we can agree or disagree, sympathize, criticize, laugh, memorize, repeat, absorb, etc… In other words, we test what we read. All this brain gymnastics requires great effort. It’s an investment of time and effort. And this investment is precisely what makes reading a valuable activity.

Do you think that to watch television requires as much effort from our brains?

Of course not. Television encourages us to be passive.

Human nature tends to give importance to things that require little effort on our part.

Author Ernest Hemingway says that reading a book allows the reader to “own” the content, to make the content their own. This is why one feels much more fulfilled after reading a book than after watching a documentary, for example. After reading a book, the content stays in us much longer than after listening to the same content on the radio or watching it on television.

10. You are what you read (so pay attention to what you read)

Burke now tells us about a very big problem with the information age in which we find ourselves: information overload. Free us from e-mail might just be the slogan of the 21st century. Experts tell us that the weekend edition of the New York Times contains more information than the average person in the 17th century could encounter in a lifetime.

It took 38 years for radio to reach 50 million listeners. It took 13 years for television to reach that threshold. For the Internet, it took 4 years. The amount of information on the internet doubles every 6 months. Now forget the H-bomb. (hydrogen bomb); The I-bomb (from the word information) was born.

OK, the quantity of information is constantly on the increase, and the quality of it? Is it also increasing?

The answer is NO.

To counter the success of the internet, the media must counter-attack. To do this, they use the following weapons to attract our attention: increasingly poor-quality programmes such as reality TV, gutter journalism, over-sexualisation, nudity, controversy in advertisements, etc.

If you want to read and get rich, then you have to put all this information where it deserves to be: in the trash.

Books are the opposite of television. They are slow, they inspire, they work your intellect and creativity.

So, get informed about the most rewarding programs, the best books, blogs, YouTube channels to help you grow. Join book clubs (real or online).

11. The explosion of reading

According to the American Booksellers Association, book sales increased by 100% from 1992 to 2002.

In the United States, many books are sold through Books-of-the-Month clubs. Some of these clubs have made a big difference in the lives of some people.

It’s true that we’re now in the age of E-books. However, Burke wants to tell us the story of the book. Books as we know them now, appeared centuries after the invention of writing. The first known written documents were written on scrolls or animal skins. The first books appeared with the first Christians who wanted to study the Scriptures. They could not worship these texts for fear of persecution. They couldn’t take the risk to walk around with large rolls of papyrus. So, they looked for ways to hide these writings. The idea of the book was born. These people then cut the papyrus into small sections and folded them in half. It then became much easier to hide them in their clothes.

We are far from that time, and more and more free E-books are now available. The real question is “are you going to choose to spend time reading? ».

Burke boarded the reading “bus” years ago and the journey has always been extraordinary. However, Burke still hopes that there are fewer empty seats on that same bus.

12. The pantheon of the greatest books on personal development

Personal development books tell us who we can become before we become one. They give us hope, they stimulate our imagination. They inspire us to take action, they plant the seed that germinates within us and becomes our dreams. Finally, they challenge us to use our full potential. In short, they make us grow.

Self-help books dominate bestseller lists

A 1999 article in USA Today magazine recompiled a list of 100 bestsellers from the previous 5 years. Of the top 10 bestsellers, 9 were self-help books.

Here is a list of personal development books that have stood the test of time.

These are books that have inspired, that inspire, and that will inspire many people for many, many years to come. Many of these books come from American authors, which is normal because personal development is a type of literature born in the United States. They have all sold well over a million copies and have been translated into many languages. And most of these books still sell more than 100,000 copies every year. Here is Burke Hedges’ pantheon of the greatest self-help books:

  1. The journey of the pilgrim, John Bunyan (1670)
  2. The autobiography, Benjamin Franklin (1793)
  3. The Essays, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau (1840)
  4. Stories of success, Horatio Alger (1860 – 1899)
  5. Acres of Diamonds, Russell Conwell (1890)
  6. As a man thinketh, James Allen (1910)
  7. How to win friends, Dale Carnegie (1937)
  8. Think and grow rich, Napoleon Hill (1937)
  9. The Power of Positive Thinking, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale (1952)
  10. The Strangest Secret, Earl Nightingale (1956)
  11. The Magic of Thinking Big, David J. Schwartz (1959)
  12. Psycho-cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz (1960)
  13. The world’s greatest salesman, Og Mandino (1968)

There you go! Burke also leaves us some honourable mentions:

  • Logotherapy and Existential Analysis, Victor Frankl (1959)
  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey (1989)
  • Chicken soup for the soul, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (1993)
  • See you at the top, Zig Ziglar (1975)
  • The magic of believing, Claude M. Bristol (1948)
  • The richest man in Babylon, George S. Clason (1926)

The information in these books has stood the test of time. The techniques are proven. And the principles are rock solid.

Burke thinks the world is a better place because of people who read these kinds of books.

Burke Hedges’ conclusion: Read or regret, the choice is yours.

Seven years after leaving his dead-end job in a boat repair shop, Burke decided to come back to visit the shop to say hello to one of his former colleagues. Very little had changed there. He greeted his friend Bob, with whom he worked during the day and went out for beers at night. During the conversation Burke mentions having written a book, he says to Bob:

I have a copy of my book in my car, I’ll get it to you.

To which Bob says:

If you want to bring something, bring a beer!

The whole workshop explodes with laughter.

In his car on the way back from the shop, Burke thought for a long time…

Seven years ago, he was exactly the same as Bob. But a succession of choices changed his life dramatically. He’s reminded of the importance of our choices.

EVERYONE needs to read and grow in all aspects of their lives.

Conclusion of “Read and Get Rich” by Burke Hedges

“Read and get rich” is definitely the book that I would recommend to the person who wants to get more serious about reading non-fiction books. At the end of your read, you have only one desire, to take seriously the habit of reading in order to improve your life. It also motivates us to immerse ourselves in all these classic books of personal development. Readers of the blog “books for a change of life” will recognize themselves in this book that will amplify their passion for reading.

Indeed, in this book Burke Hedges puts all his heart into convincing us that we need to improve every aspect of our lives, which is not in itself a simple thing. However, reading is the best ally we can find in the pursuit of this goal. It is an unwavering ally.

We have to put our ego aside, because as we read we will find many ideas that we would not have found ourselves.

The simple and positive tone of the writing, the sincerity of the author, the many true stories and the clever and multiple use of inspiring quotations, make this a quality book. This book will make you feel good, put you in a positive frame of mind and make you aware of the importance of reading. Burke Hedges reminds us of how incredibly lucky we are to be able to read.

I was already a regular reader of self-help books before I read “Read and Get Rich”. But since reading it I have literally become an addict to reading and personal development in general. This book has inspired me to create my own blog about this amazing genre of literature.

To sum up, don’t waste your time, read and become rich in all aspects of your life.

Strong Points:

  • The book is quite short and familiar in tone, it’s quite easy to read.
  • The book is literally sprinkled with very positive and inspiring quotes about the power of reading. The quotes appear in the margins in large print on almost every other page. They are therefore very easy to spot.
  • It is powerful, at the end of its reading, the reader feels relaxed and very motivated to read.

Weakness Points:

  • A little repetitive.
  • A bit focused on an American audience, although the lessons are valid for the whole world.
  • Book published in 1999. An update could improve the content. Especially for the pantheon of the best books for personal development where we could add more recent books such as: “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaky.

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