Twelve years of primary education, four years of higher education, another four years of seminary education, and now I find myself in the second year of George Fox’s Doctoral program. My ability to read, take notes, and compose critical essays has indeed improved over this trajectory. It’s rewarding to see one’s intellectual growth. Progress is gratifying and provides momentum.
Although I was a full-time student in all those years, rarely did I feel rushed to read and write a critical essay. And if I did find myself in that situation, it was of my own making due to procrastination or lack of motivation. My teachers always provided plenty of time to read the assignment and write an analytical essay showing that I understand the material.
But the factor that really increased my reading speed and retention of information was when I became a small business owner. I owned a real estate company for 12 years, from 2005 – 2017. I performed real estate services, mostly on the property management and investment side of the industry. I started the company by myself in my living room: no business partners, no mentors. I had to learn the accepted rules for accounting and bookkeeping, leasing, landlord-tenant law, advertising, marketing, and the many legal issues of the business. It all fell on my shoulders I needed to learn quickly. Never have I felt so much pressure to learn something now and completely master the material. My livelihood depended upon it. Always in the background there was the looming fear of mistakes and facing legal ramifications. My ability to get to the point of a rule, law, procedure, or document improved dramatically. I became efficient at learning and getting to the bottom line as fast as possible. There was an intellectual intensity that I had never had before. When I started my business, I had 20-20 vision. During those twelve years, I passed through the range of Costco reading glasses: 1.25, 1.50, 1.75, and I just recently purchased my new three-pack of 2.00 glasses.
The mindset of business is different than that of academia. In seminary I learned to understand theological doctrine by breaking down an argument patiently, point by point, logically, carefully. Business moves at a quicker speed: advertise to get the customer, make the sale, move on to the next client. Always, there is an eye towards efficiency, profit, growth. The two worlds have different rhythms. Reading comprehension, with careful analysis with lots of note taking is the way to successfully navigate both worlds. These skills I learned in my life experiences will serve me well in this doctoral program. The required reading and the quantity of writing in this program will no doubt improve my skills even more. The subject matter is more interesting to me and that by itself helps in reading comprehension.
Psalm 6:7 says, “My eyes grow weak.” But truer still is Isaiah 40:31, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” Weak eyes are a fair trade for a strong soul.