Do you know what the average commute time is in America? For most people this is considered pedestrian information. Don’t bother looking it up, I already did it for you.
It’s over 25 minutes, one way. I’ll do the math for you, too – it’s over 200 hours a year that the average person sits in their car, probably listening to music they don’t really like, sports talk they don’t really need to know, or politics discussion that simply raises their blood pressure.
You may not care about the 200 hour a year statistic, because what matters is how long your commute is. Mine is about 35 minutes, because I chose to buy a house further out from the city and get more for my money. Yours might be longer or shorter. But let’s stick with the average for a few minutes.
Unless you work a job where you telecommute 100%, you spend a lot of time each week in your car alone, likely listening to either music you hate, or fumbling with your radio or phone trying to find the music you love. That’s the only thing that will get you through that traffic, right? Something to take your mind off of things, put you in a good mood.
You know what puts me in a good mood? Learning something new, by shunning the luxury of music and instead listening to books in the car. The average non-fiction audiobook, based on the last several I’ve listened to, is about five hours. Some are more, some are less, but let’s start at five hours per non-fiction book.
Let’s work out how many books that is per year
If the average non-fiction book is about five hours long and you listen exclusively via your smartphone in your car, and the average commute time each year is about 200 hours, that means you could finish 40 non-fiction books a year, on average if you listened to books instead of other content. That is an amazing figure. My no-data assertion is that the average person in America reads close to zero non-fiction books a year. “How dare you make such a suggestion!”, you may be saying.
Consider this 2015 report from Pew Research where we are led to believe that the average person in America reads 12 books a year. While 2,000 people were surveyed, people lie when they are called by survey conductors. Everyone wants to appear smart, and it is a low-cost lie to tell a survey caller whatever feels good.
“Oh! Books per year, you say? I would say, uh, one a month at least!”
Even if it is true, and the average really is 12 books a year, the quality of those books is still an open question. After high school and college, most people crack books open only for pleasure reading. Most people are reading whatever book either is or just was made into a movie. These are mystery novels, romance, sci-fi and fantasy, and maybe, just maybe some classic and modern literature.
There is nothing wrong with pleasure reading. Great fiction and pleasure books can charge up your imagination and create empathy for others. But to read these solely, and ignore educational books, both those in your career field as well as self-improvement non-fiction books is against your own self-interest.
Consider that the majority of daily informational (not pleasure) reading people do is on Facebook, Twitters and blogs (hello!). Consider that newspapers are dying a slow death and that most people read the news article headline that was shared on social media, never actually reading the article. Consider that your co-workers are not reading books in their field, and are therefore not improving. The rest of these people are moving backwards, not forwards, mentally. Most people effectively stop learning after they leave school, and it takes them 40 years to finally announce that fact (“I’m not going to bother learning that, I’m retired”).
Side note: it is actually worse if I’m wrong here. If people are actually reading 12-plus non-fiction, high quality books per year, and you are not, they are surpassing you if you aren’t keeping up. That means your co-workers are going to be promoted over you, your kids won’t get the highest level of care that you could give them, and you will not be as effective in life as your peers.
Here’s a classic example: if you learned that your doctor or lawyer stopped reading critical information about new discoveries, research, and techniques in their fields, would you find a new doctor or lawyer? Yet, aside from the highest performing people we know or read about, most people do not regularly take time each day to upgrade their skills as a person, spouse, employee, parent, friend, etc. Most of us stop learning at a measured pace once we leave school.
You are now responsible for this information
At Home Life Hero, we view the world in the context of our home life, and how everything we ever do in life starts with the choices we make at home. If you are a parent, spouse, or a family member reading this, and you’ve made it this far, you are now responsible. You are responsible for the knowledge that you are, on average, trading the knowledge of 40 non-fiction books per year so that you can listen to music in your car. Even if I have the calculations half-wrong, and you are missing out only on the value of 20 non-fiction books per year, you are still doing yourself, your career, your family a significant disservice by continuing to listen to music in your car.
Music is a luxury, something that you should savor and enjoy with friends and family, live or prerecorded. Music is a downtime/payoff/reward activity. When you are driving in your car alone, you should be upgrading your skills, your brain, your way of thinking, all while your good driving habits take you to work on their own.
Here are the two ways to get started:
Good: books on disc – an upgrade from the old books on tape, books on CDs are cheaper and easier to travel with. However, depending on your car radio, you may lose your place and have to remember on what track you left off. You also have to switch discs, which is not something you should do while driving.
Better: audiobooks via your smartphone – your smartphone will remember where you left off and you can also listen while on a walk or run. Your smartphone will have the whole book downloaded so there are no discs to switch. Connect your smartphone to the car stereo, by wire or Bluetooth depending on your car radio.
Doesn’t all this cost money?
Buying audiobooks can traditionally be very expensive. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you know where to look. There are three ways I’ve learned to listen to audiobooks via my phone at very little cost:
- Workplace education app – depending on your job/company, you may have access to mobile learning apps, such as SkillSoft. Check with your employer, as many books that are directly relevant to your work skills may be available to you at no cost.
- Library – this is two-part. Many libraries offer books on disc to loan out, but some libraries offer the ability for you to check out audiobooks via their digital services so you can listen to them on your phone. Check with your library – you will need a library card and to learn to use your local branch website to get them loaned to you. My local branch does not offer this capability, but I’m pestering them to add it.
- Audible.com – Amazon’s Audible app allows you to listen to any audiobook on the market, as best I can tell. You do pay a small monthly fee for a book credit, which then allows you to buy one book (any book/any length/any cost), for the one fee. That is a big cost savings over buying most audiobooks outright. While that is only 12 books a year worth of book credits, when you are a subscriber you also get 30% off any book you choose to purchase. You then own the audiobook, meaning you can listen to it anytime you want, even if you stop subscribing.
Personally, I subscribe to Audible. I enjoy the simplicity of using their App and I like owning the audiobooks so I can re-listen to them at any time. But it doesn’t matter where you go to get the books, what matters is that you start listening to more books that will enhance your life and Stop Listening to Music in Your Car.
If you like this post and want to start listening with Audible right away, start a 30-day trial and get two books free here.