The Frozen Sea within Us

The Frozen Sea within Us

Written by Dave Rothacker

“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” – Franz Kafka

From the website Faena: “…if reading is in fact a way for us to experience all the things that we cannot experience in real life, then both in our senses and our emotions, we must be brave enough to receive that “blow to the head”, which will awaken us from our frozen lethargy, and could one day save us from something we do not even know is oppressive. Reading, hence, would be freedom.”

Although Faena and Kafka talk about fiction here, science and business non-fiction can also be the axe of awareness that cracks the surface and awakens the frozen lethargy within us.

What frozen lethargy you ask?

Lethargy frozen from the inside out is due to excessive years of running on the hamster wheel. While many need awakened in specific areas like marketing, sales, and financials, the one in most need for business owners is a leadership belief system.

I’m partial to leading with the WHY of why you are in business, often referred to as purpose. Simon Sinek’s Start with WHY is the seminal book in this category. Another excellent resource is John Maxwell. Read one of his books on leadership and you’ll want to read more. If you’re new to Maxwell, I suggest reading some of his older books on leadership first and save his latest book Leadershift, for last.

Sharpening the Axe

Did you ever finish reading a book and then a day later, wonder what you read?

When it comes to reading books, the most effective sharpening stone I’ve found is intent. Intend to learn. Prior to reading, jot a couple of notes down on what you intend to do with what you’re learning. For instance, if it’s the recent Gallup book It’s the Manager, I might write, “work on helping our managers become coaches,” and “look to improve communications with our managers.”

Keep the intent in the back of your mind as you read, and review it before every chapter. Make it an intent to learn!

My Process

I read hardcover books. If the book is not available in hardcover, I cover my own with cardboard. I prefer this style and method because I write in my books.

When cracking a book for the first time, I read the chapter titles, acknowledgements, about the author and the preface. I then write down my learning intent on the first page of the first chapter.

Prior to reading a chapter, I read its titles and headings. Next I read the chapter summation and or review points. This helps me to concentrate on what the author views to be important, as I read.


I use Field Note pencils to print notes in my books. I choose print over longhand because it slows my mind down and allows me to think about what I am making a note on.

I use Sharpie Highlighters for:

Orange – Questions and introductory sentences

Yellow – Generally important text

Green – One level above generally important

If there is a point or theme I want to remember on a page, I use purple and red Crayola washable markers to name and write it on top of the page.

I use lined Post-it notes to bookmark pages and make other notes. I then write outside of the lines. Why? To me, the lines represent authority.

Reading chair – I have a comfortable chair and use daylight lighting.

Dictionary – While I could easily use my cell phone or tablet, I prefer the tactile feel of the book dictionary, highlighting every word I look up. I also permit myself to wander a bit when I’m there. My dictionary of choice is the American Heritage.

Computer tablet – I keep an Amazon Fire at arm’s length to look up websites and other info that I don’t feel like reading on my cell phone.

Reading Supplements

I read to learn, get ideas, gather material to help guide others, and eventually to write. Whether or not you’re a business owner, manager, or writer, think about trying this out.

Keep blank paper nearby to jot down quick notes, ideas, and to-do’s. For further exploration, write ideas down in composition notebooks. I separate my ideas by theme and keep about five different notebooks by my reading chair.

If I owned a company I would label my notebooks:

  • Leadership
  • Customers
  • Marketing
  • Management and Coworkers
  • Financial
  • Assets (building, trucks, equipment, etc.)

Teach Others

I struggle with this one because I think of myself as more of a guide than a teacher. But according to two of the best, John Maxwell and Stephen Covey, the most effective way to learn, is to teach. And by that they mean read one chapter and then teach it.

Recommend Books

While I could always do a better job of recommending books, David Heimer and his Profiles in Prosperity keeps me on track! (Episode 44 was my last)

Most recommended bookWriting the Natural Way by Gabriele Rico. Ms. Rico, who passed away in 2013, teaches a technique called clustering, which is similar to mind mapping. It’s the greatest thinking tool I’ve yet to discover. And it’s what I do in those composition notebooks I describe above.

Interesting Discovery

If I really like a book, I reread it a few times. The initial highlighting speeds up the process for second and third reads. Up until a few years ago, I’d put the book on the shelf and quietly think, “How many more books can I get away with before my bookshelves start creeping out of my office into the rest of the house?”

Although I have a system now where certain books march out to the garage, I began to reread shelved books. I soon discovered that this isn’t the same book I read before and I’m not the same person who read it. It’s fascinating how much we change, grow, and develop (or not) since last reading it. Reread favorite books.

Wield your axe in confidence. Crack through that frozen sea and develop your leadership belief system.

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