When I was 15 years old or so I started reading and did not stop for almost three years.   I mean serious, voracious reading.  I would read every free moment I had.   Even if I went out with friends, when I came home I would read well into the night if not all night and, sometimes, for entire weekends.

This was not about being a nerd or a bookworm.  I was neither.   I had an active social life, played sports, dated, went to parties and hung out with my friends.   I did everything you would expect from a socially active teenager.  This had nothing to do with school or being a good student, even though I was.   I had just reached a point for reasons that are still not entirely clear to me where I wanted or, perhaps, needed a place that I could retreat to that was private and personal.   I accomplished this by creating a world that was full of books.

I started with science fiction books.   I read works by Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and George Orwell, to name a few, as well as a host of other more obscure books by less well known authors.  This finally gave way to the classics such as “War and Peace”, “A Tale of Two Cities”, many of Shakespeare’s plays, and just about all of the books by Charles Dickens.  When that ran its course, I turned to anything and everything about history.  It did not matter what time period or era was involved.   I read everything from “The Rise and Fall of The Roman Empire” to books about the Civil War and World War II.   I even read “Mein Kampf”.

Finally, as I approached 17, I decided that I wanted to really challenge myself and started to read about the Greek Philosophers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle and then moved on to the likes of  Machiavelli, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer.   I did not just read these books; I analyzed, dissected, and studied them.  It became a matter of personal pride that I conquer these books.   In some ways, I felt the need to acquire as much knowledge and information that I could.  This was not about feeling special or better than anyone else since I kept all of this private and never discussed it with my friends or family.  It was just for my own personal gratification.

In some sense it was also an act of rebellion.   This was what I did when I wanted to be disconnected from the people around me.  When I felt the need to escape I would just retreat to my books.  I found that reading was a great way for me to get away from it all.  Most teenage rebellions involve alcohol, drugs and stupid mischief.  I am thankful that there was something inside of me that made me retreat into the world of books instead of doing something destructive.

This phase in my life was not part of any master plan for my future.   However, it has served me well over the years in my practice of law and in my role as a small business owner.

Knowledge is power in any setting.

On Wednesday, Joe comments on the destructive nature of too much debt in “Debt Can Be Deadly”.