Inside The Mind of a Reader

A blogger’s life is interesting. 

We spend hours writing, but feedback is rare.   One of our biggest questions is what’s it REALLY like inside the mind of a reader when they read the words we’ve written?  Are those words making an impact?

Recently, I had the rare privilege of finding out. 

The story begins with an email from a reader, but it goes much further. This is a story about the impact each of us are making in our world.  Some of us are more fortunate than others in getting a rare glimpse into that impact, but rest assured each of us are impacting others. This is just one example from some retired guy who happens to write, but it’s a story I think you’ll enjoy.  I hope it helps you to think about the impact you’re having, even if you never get a glimpse into how your life affects others.

Let’s start at the beginning, with that previously mentioned email.  The author was a very unique reader named Brad.

Brad is 1 in 10,000 – literally.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

I've had a rare opportunity to see inside the mind of a reader, and today I share what I've learned...
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Inside The Mind of a Reader

The story begins on May 21, 2021 when I opened an email from a reader.  I get a lot of reader emails, but this one was different.   Brad is 52, and plans on retiring in ~3 years.  He was writing to let me know he’d recently completed reading every one of my posts (that’s 345 posts, you can see all of them on my Every Post Written page).

Reading every one of my posts is a rare accomplishment – I know of only 8 other readers who have done the same.  I appreciate each of you – you’re the most loyal of the loyal, and I’m sincerely honored to have you in the “100% Club”!

But Brad went a step further.

Attached to his email was the photograph below, which I shared on my Facebook Page.  Not only had Brad read every post, but he took notes along the way!  There are 10k of you who subscribe to my email, but Brad is the only reader who has read every post and taken notes in the process.

1 in 10,000, indeed. 

Here’s the proof:

inside a reader's mind

Intrigued, I reached out to Brad to see if he’d be willing to share his notes with me.  I couldn’t imagine what a reader would take away from reading all of my posts.  How could I miss this opportunity to see inside the mind of a reader?  This chance to see what type of impact my words were having on another person’s life?

Fortunately, he said yes, and a week or so later I received a package in the mail…

Inside The Mind of a Reader – 45 Pages of Notes

Inside that envelope were 45 pages of handwritten, single-spaced notes.  I was in awe.  I can’t tell you how honored I am that a reader would take that amount of time to seriously ponder the words I had written.  I can’t tell you how excited I was to get some insight into what impact those words had on a reader. 

Brad took 45 pages of notes while reading every post every published on The Retirement Manifesto. What were the key lessons learned? Read on...
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For the record, he didn’t start taking notes until the March 2017 post “You Need Something To Retire To”, which meant those notes didn’t even cover the first two years of my writing!  Brad is impressive in his notetaking.  For a quick taste, here’s the first page in his packet, starting with the post cited above:

inside the mind of a reader's notes

Fortunately, Brad has good handwriting, and I spent several hours reading every page.  It was a trip down memory lane as I reviewed the past 4+ years of my life.  It was also fascinating to see how effective Brad was in condensing the various posts into their key components.  

I paused when I read the following sentence from the page above, part of the summary of what Brad took away from Purpose, Motivation & Life Aspirations:

“Clear scientific evidence that consistent, moderate exercise is the best thing you can do to enjoy the same activities in your 70’s that you do in your 50’s.   * cold water swimming  (example)”

That sentence is a clean and pithy summary of the message Brad received from words I had written 4 years ago, and I was pleased to see those words had made an impact.  I felt like I peering inside the mind of a reader, and it was rewarding to see the message a reader had taken from my work.

We all make an impact.  I consider myself fortunate in getting some insight into the impact my words have had.

Inside The Mind Of A Reader – A Few Highlights

As I write these words, I struggle with how to effectively share all of the key messages Brad captured.  The task seems overwhelming, so I’ve elected to focus on a few of the comments that most resonated with me, along with links to the related post. 

What I Learned From Peering Inside the Mind of a Reader

I applaud Brad’s efforts in reading all of my posts.  The “100% Club” has a very select membership, and I’m happy to welcome him into the club.  More importantly, I appreciate his willingness to share the notes he took during the months it took to read through my work.

In reading his notes, I’ve realized something.

All of us impact others, but most of us never see that impact.  Few of us realize the ways we’re affecting other people’s lives.  You don’t have to be a blogger to impact folks.  The conversations we have make an impact.  The things we do make an impact.  The gifts we give have an impact.  The notes we take have an impact.

The lives we live have an impact.

In reading Brad’s notes, I had a small view into the impact I’ve made on someone’s life.  It’s a rare, and treasured opportunity.  For that, Brad, I say “Thank You”.

I hope, someday, you’re all fortunate enough to see the impact you’re making in your world.  Because, whether you realize it or not, you are making an impact.

Make it an impact for good.

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Inside The Mind of a Reader