After 30 years of teaching speed reading to people from all walks of life inside and outside of workplace organizations, I've come to realize that there are three big problems people have to overcome if they really want to master the skills involved in speed reading. Listening to people who have been dropouts of other speed reading programs have given me these key insights.

The reason the dropouts of what might be called "competitors" programs have given me these insights is that they do not suffer from these mistakes.

The first mistake is probably where the largest group of people falls into. This first mistaken type of thinking is a belief in magic. Unfortunately the people that believe in magic respond to marketing gimmicks like "Double, triple, quadruple your speed in 15 minutes - Guaranteed!" Anyone who falls for that type of marketing ploy is plainly immature and does not understand a thing about how complex the skill of reading really is. An alternate description is wishful thinking. "Please, can't I just take a pill?"

Reading is perhaps the most complex and awesome set of cognitive skills the human mind can achieve. To keep it simple, the brain has to do thousands of interconnected firings of various biochemicals and neurons in extremely sophisticated ways for you to be able to understand the sentence you are reading right now. If that is the case, then consider, if it has taken you a lifetime to develop your skills to the unconscious level of habit where they are right now, does it really make sense that you can permanently change those habits in 15 minutes? What kind of magical thinker are you?

So, if you're looking for a quick fix, magic pill approach to learning how to speed read - forget it! Be aware that is a false claim. Before you throw any money down to learn to master speed reading, ask yourself if you are willing to put consistent effort into it. If you are, speed reading can change your life.

The second biggest type of thinking mistake is low self-esteem. Self-esteem means you believe in yourself and believe that you have the power to learn new things and get things accomplished. If you suffer from low self-esteem, you will not learn how to speed read because if you don't believe in your ability to learn, you will unconsciously do everything in your power to prove to yourself, once again, what a loser you are! Beliefs drive all of your thinking, and your thinking drives all of your behaviors and decisions. As Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can't, you're right!" The mind rallies to keep the belief system in place.

For many years, as people started a speed reading program I gave them a short questionnaire asking them: What do you believe about your ability to learn? What do you believe about your ability to learn in an accelerated fashion? Invariably, if someone was struggling with the skills, I looked at what they wrote, and of course, those questions were answered with negative beliefs. They were creating the results they believed to be true before they started their training.

Forget about learning to speed read if you don't believe in your own ability to learn. However, I do need to put a note of caution on this one. Many times people do struggle to learn in academic or school situations, not because of their ability, but because of poor instruction. So look outside of your school experience to validate your learning ability. Most educational systems teach with one style of learning. We now know from educational psychology that there are at least 8 different learning styles. Your school experience may not have been geared to your learning preference, or style.

The last type of flawed thinking is the skeptic. The skeptic type of thinking is a mind-trap habit of viewing every situation through the lens of looking for what is wrong, or flawed in the situation. If a situation is absolutely not perfect, the skeptic discounts everything in the experience. Also, the skeptic looks at things as unproven until "I'm convinced." The truth is: no one will ever change your basic beliefs (see above discussion about beliefs) but you. Entering into a learning situation with this frame of mind is doomed from the outset.

The skeptic type of thinking is also immature in that it fails to understand the true nature of learning. Most "genius" inventors will state they accomplished their creation through a process of trial and errors. The human mind learns best by failure! Expecting great things to be perfect with one first try is just plain dumb.

When learning to master speed reading, I clearly tell people, they will have lots of struggles and mistakes initially. However, if you take a look at your behavior and compare it to the model of the ideal behavior, you can learn to adjust. That's the path to mastery of any worthwhile skill.

Another problem with skeptical thinking is that it pulls the skeptic out of the process of direct learning and into an "observer" status. That is all left-brain dominant thinking. Learning is experiential. You have to jump into the "mosh pit" in order to truly understand the experience. Watching from a distance will not bring understanding. Neuro-science has demonstrated the fact that tactile experience involves more parts of the brain and thus learning takes hold better. This engages both left and right hemispheres. From that, I suppose one could say that the skeptic is a half brain!

The strength of experiential learning is another good reason why almost no one learns to master speed reading by reading a book. If you want to master speed reading, destroy your skeptic hat. Jump into the mosh pit!

If any of these types of thinking are true for you, you will be disappointed in the results you will create with your flawed attempts to learn a very complicated set of skills. What you hold to be true in your mind, will be manifested in your life. The good news about flawed thinking is that it can be changed. So I tell these types of thinkers, "Pretend it is possible" From that perspective, you can freely experiment without the mind-traps and then achieve the outcome of mastering speed reading.

Author's Bio: 

Ed Caldwell is the creator and publisher of the "Masters Online Program: Dynamic Reading, Memory, and Recall" and other live and web-based learning programs. As former National Director of Instruction and Certification for the world famous Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics program, Ed has 30 years experience teaching and testing new strategies to help people from all walks of life learn more efficiently. Trainer, speaker, and writer, he can be contacted at He is the creator and president of Productive Learning Systems, Inc, and, Inc. You can learn more at: and download the free eBook, "The 10 Top Mistakes When Learning Speed Reading."