Hello and welcome to another episode of me messing something up and trying to do it better. The ironic thing about getting things wrong is often the fact that the whole time that you are doing it, you believe it to be right.
In about the space of a week, I received the message through various mediums of ‘Slow down, you’re moving too fast.’
It cropped up in a podcast, in the book I’m reading, in a random email.
There was simply too much of it at once for me to ignore it. Maybe you believe in signs or omens or fate or messages from God. Whatever your vocabulary, I felt one of those.
While the general message was of ‘Slow down’, which could be applied to pretty much any part of life, the general context for me was that of knowledge. The problems with consuming too much of this rich fruit in too short a time. I looked around with my headphones on, even though I knew the signs were talking directly to me.
The first seed was planted by Seth Godin’s podcast Akimbo. More specifically, the ‘Collecting the dots vs Connecting the dots‘ episode. This was a concept that was completely alien to me at the time but has stuck with me ever since. The episode discusses the modern education system mainly and the problem with rewarding collecting the dots (points, grades, exams that are essentially short-term memory tests ) rather than connecting the dots (written, more complex examinations that reward ideas, creativity etc). Despite the topic being about education, I immediately saw parallels with the ‘collecting the dots’ concept in my own life with regards to my recent new-information addiction.
A few weeks later, the dust had settled on this idea a bit and it retreated to the back of my mind as most interesting ideas tend to do. Then another episode from Akimbo was released called ‘It’s Your Turn‘.
From the very first second, this one spoke to the soul.
Seth’s first words are ‘The apodcalypse is here. There’s too much to listen to and not enough time. Put it on double speed, listen all the time, see if you can catch up. Don’t fall behind.’
Wowza. I found myself nodding along and agreeing from the very first moment. And that was just 12 seconds into the episode, never mind the other 29 minutes. I, of course, was listening to it on almost double speed.
The next day, I read one of the Daily Stoic pages that I read every morning as part of my routine. It was titled ‘Push for Deep Understanding’. Ok, now it was starting to get a little creepy. Here are two parts from the short reading:
From Rusticus… I learned to read carefully and not be satisfied with a rough understanding of the whole…
…and when the lessons past muster, he absorbed them. They became part of his DNA as a human being.
Then, a couple of days ago, I am casually reading through my current book The 48 Laws of Power when I hit Law 23: Concentrate Your Forces. The very first words are:
you gain more by finding a rich mine and mining it deeper, than by flitting from one shallow mine to another – intensity defeats extensity every time.
So here is what I have managed to come up with. After some thought and reflection on my own information addiction, short attention span and general interest in almost everything (this blog might be a big clue), I think I managed to tease out the problem and the solutions…
First of all, as is the case with many things in life, a blessing can also be a curse.
There is so much good information out there. As Seth highlighted, there are so many shiny objects to chase, lengthy reading and podcast episode lists and just generally a lot of things to know. I believe that wanting to do too much is definitely better than wanting to do too little. But doing too much is still doing too much.
So many shiny objects on the surface lead to overwhelm and serious FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out, for all of you non-cool kids out there). That is because with so much information out there now, the opportunity costs are seriously high. 5 minutes of your time listening to me ramble on about problems is 5 minutes that could be spent listening to a more qualified guy ramble on about problems. If a book doesn’t start off as good as you expected, there is serious contemplation over ditching it early and moving on to the next book on your big list.
So how do we combat overwhelm and FOMO? I can’t speak for you but what I can answer is how I have tried to squeeze in all of the information out there. It’s quite simple really: listening to podcasts at 2x speed, making very brief and superficial notes, liking an idea but then rather than settling on it, absorbing it and letting it manifest itself, moving on to the next one because there is bound to be more. Ticking things off and then forgetting the most important parts.
This has been a feature in my life and will continue to be until I manage to reign it in to some extent. I’m working on it. Just as one might pose the question of what good is a day that you don’t remember, what good is a valuable piece of information that you can’t remember? One that hasn’t broken the superficial level of learning so you can’t recall it or use it when you need it? You just remember that one time this guy mentioned that thing but can’t remember what they said exactly.
Because at the end of the day, that is what we are learning for, isn’t it?
That is why we do all of this book reading, podcast listening, video watching, blog reading.
To be able to apply the learning in our own lives, to take action and ultimately live a better life than we did before.
The solution / what I’ve done
As a result of this revelation that was knocking relentlessly at my door that I wouldn’t let in initially, I have taken some steps. That’s right, I finally managed to sit down for a while and absorb an idea that I really liked.
The first thing that I have done is re-listened to several podcast episodes that I remembered loving, but couldn’t remember why.
I’ve listened to ‘It’s Your Turn‘ 3 times now and will continue to do so until all of the valuable and juicy information sinks in. Until it properly manifests as a part of me. Becomes a part of my DNA and my unconscious thoughts and behaviour.
Maybe my days of serial reading and podcasting aren’t over. I am for sure going to keep hunting and consuming all of the incredible stuff that is produced each and every day.
From now on though, I plan on putting the brakes on just a little bit. Accepting that there is so much stuff I won’t get to absorb and that’s alright.
It gives me the much needed time to stop and truly mine for the diamonds that I have been walking over for so long.