why I reread old material

Published on May 19, 2020

Yesterday I read a speech that I have read before.

The speech in question was Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement speech at Stanford (a great read, no matter who you are). I first read the speech about a year ago, and I came across it yesterday and thought I would give it a read again.

In my life, I have always thought that reading was a one-time task. Once you have read a book, or a blog post, or an essay, that is it. You have conquered that piece of content. You don’t need to go back and read it again, because you have already read it.

I used to fall for this mindset. I didn’t like reading things that I had already read. I felt like I was cheating. What value was I going to get out of reading something I had already read?

I have recently changed my opinion on this topic.

Reading content that you have already read is a good way to boost your comprehension over that content. When you read an essay -- or a blog post, or whatever -- once, you may get a lot of value out of it. But, over time, you will forget things that you have read.

I had forgotten most of what was written in the aforementioned, and yet, when I re-read the post, the thing that came to mind was that “every sentence in this blog post is worth saving.” By re-reading the speech, I was able to remind myself of some key ideas in that post.

In addition, I think that we take something different away from a piece of content every time we read it. I don’t recall what I first took away from that speech, but I do know one thing. I didn’t remember much of what I read.

After reading the post again, though, I made so many connections to ideas that I have been thinking about over the last few weeks. If I hadn't re-read the speech, those connections would never have been made.

That’s the interesting thing about re-reading content. When you first read a piece of content, you will connect with it in a certain way. But, when you look at it in a few months, the impression that content makes on you could be fundamentally different. I have found this to be true in many of the pieces of content I have read lately.

If there is a piece of content that you feel is valuable after reading it, save it for later. Come back to it in a few months. There’s a very high chance that if it connects with you today, it will connect with you even more further down the line.

Do you have any feedback on this blog post? Send me an email.
Do you want to hear more from me? Subscribe to my weekly Coffee with James newsletter.
Made by @jamesg_oca. Code on GitHub.