Information Addiction: Advice Worth Repeating

The original transcript for below can be found by clicking here.

Yesterday somebody on Reddit made a plea for help because of their addiction to information and constant need to keep searching for something more.

Here was the best response, and well worth repeating.

Everyone here has said meditation so far, which is great, but I’m going to offer up some different approaches.

I used to have a similar problem, information addiction is a real thing. I believe that the brain gets used to having such a high load of information going in, that it uses this information as a distraction, usually from either boredom or something bad that’s going in on your own life. Also there’s something to be said for the tiny little endorphin hits you get for every e-mail you receive or every page you open. That’s the most likely cause of information addiction – addiction to this tiny chemical.

Sleep

The way I got around it was several things. I didn’t try meditation because normally my mind is pretty quiet, however I did notice that my sleep was messed up from being on my laptop so much, so the first thing I did was I got a pair of these glasses that block out the blue light from your computer screen which disrupts melatonin secretion which in turn disrupts your sleep pattern. Since wearing them for an hour or two before bed, I’m able to get to sleep a lot easier. Even when I’m not on my computer, I still wear them and I feel the onset of sleepiness hit me really hard around 10pm, whereas before I could only feel sleepy around 2am, which is awful. since I’ve been doing this, I’ve gone to bed around 11ish and been up at 7 bright and early the next day, even without an alarm. If you couple this with doing some book reading and shutting off that computer, you’ll sleep like a baby. Although this isn’t related to information addiction per se, it’s still the best $8 you can spend if you have to use a computer late into the night and still want to be able to sleep well afterwards.

Will power – mindfulness

Secondly, I just used my will power to not go on my laptop as much. Any time I thought “yeah I’ll just go on Google news and see what’s happening with that cruise ship that sank in Korea” I’ll go for a walk outside, or read a book, or listen to music, or go do that one chore I’ve been putting off for forever. Although in the beginning these things may seem boring, the more you force yourself out of the information overload, the more you’ll begin to pay attention to the subtitles around you, which I suppose is a form of meditation – mindfullness – except I’m not advocating sitting somewhere and controlling your breathing, I think active meditation while doing things is incredibly useful. Sometimes, there just isn’t time to sit somewhere and meditate. I know the maxim “if you don’t have an hour to meditate, you need two,” but tell that to the parent of 2 kids who has a full time job too. In non-meditation terms though, this is what i mean: I’ll do things like really pay attention to how I prepare each stage of my breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I’ll put in an extra minute of effort to present my food nicely so it looks nicer to eat, but during those extra few minutes, my mind is totally concentrated on this one thing. If I find my mind wandering, I’ll bring it back to what I’m doing. I’ll give the same sort of attention to music – picking out individual parts of the song and discerning between instruments. By the end of the song you’ll have kind of zoned out (which let’s be honest, while not an aim of meditation, is nice to do sometimes) and be totally quiet.

No more internet news

Thirdly, I no longer go to the internet for my news. 99% of the things that happen on earth have no effect on my life whatsoever, and realizing this is not “being ignorant to the world around you” – you’re avoiding falling victim to the media that says you have to be afraid of everything all the time, and if you’re not you’re falling behind the times and sticking your head in the stand.

Hear me now: that is bullshit. Having a healthy mind allows you to function and live your life as you want it, and gives you a sense of knowing when something is actually dangerous, as opposed to everything being dangerous.

If I need to know something, I’ll know about it.

So, what I do is I turn on the radio, usually to NPR, in the mornings for about 15 minutes, get a rough overview of what’s going on today just so I know what other people are talking about, then I’ll sit there listening to music and I’ll think about what I heard and critically analyze what’s going on, form some opinions, and then go about my day. If I need some in depth comentary, I’ll pick up a newspaper, because that still forces me to sit there and read words on a page, and not flip between things, which I used to do on the internet – it’s incredible that I can click between 15 news sources and read them interchangeably second by second, but it’s by no means healthy training the brain to do that I don’t think. Being able to sit there and read one thing with your full attention, I believe is the best way forward.

I think this a lot healthier than being spoonfed the fear and anxiety news stations give you so that you’ll keep listening to their station, or going on their website.

Knowledge as power

The idea that “Knowledge is power,” is a half-truth, the real truth here is relevant knowledge is power. You won’t find the Donald Trumps, or the Tim Cooks, or the Jeff Bezos of the world sitting there soaking up all the information they can in the world. They don’t give a shit about what’s going on in the Sudan unless it effects their company or their lives. If they do know about it, they don’t agonize about it. They don’t have time to have a scattered brain – they pin point exactly what they need to know, acquire it, use it, then move on. The power is being able to let go of the need to know about everything, because you’ll find after a while that you actually know very little that can directly benefit your life, and the lives of those around you..

 

Flickr addiction
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Your Advice Should be Evergreen

At the beginning of any learning stage, there is always a hunger for tactics.

While tactics do help with building towards mastery, real advice is evergreen – it doesn’t change regardless of tools and tactics available.

Take, for instance, the world of blogging.

I’ve been blogging for many years and have seen people get caught up in the tactics part without understanding the deeper intent. If blogger A suggests to post every day, it becomes the norm to do so… regardless  if the content is garbage. If blogger B suggests making posts 1000 words long then content be damned as long as the word count is met.

However, the evergreen advice is simple:
Do what works for you, be consistent and post good content.

The same thing happened with Twitter. The advice now is to tweet multiple times a day: inspirational quotes, links to articles and a link back to your own content. That’s great if only a few people are doing it, but when hundreds (if not thousands) of people start doing it? Annoying.

The evergreen advice is simple:
Take part in the conversation and engage with other people

Tactics for learning how to play an instrument are all overridden by the evergreen advice to practice properly and daily.

Make sure that before you share your tactics with people to think about the evergreen advice behind it. If there is no evergreen advice to be had, there’s going to be some serious problems down the road.

Sagada Mid-Morning
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Speed Reading and its Trap

The key to learning how to read faster is simple:

Stop sub-vocalizing.

This means stop pronouncing words in the back of your throat as you read them. To accomplish this requires a bit of work, but it results in a dramatic increase in reading speed. Plus it has the added benefit of being engaged with the text, as your content intake will be able to keep up with the speed at which your brain processes information.

I had been very fortunate to have a quick speeding read growing up, but I still trained myself to boost my reading speed* and now read an average of 650-800 words per minute. This sounds great, considering the amount of content available today, but it has its drawbacks.

Being able to comfortably read at a fast speed works wonders for devouring fiction books as it allows you to stay immersed in the text.

Where it becomes a problem is non-fiction books.

Why?

When you’re reading non-fiction, the author is asking you to think through and process the information being shared. When you power through texts at a quick speed, there’s only time to comprehend what is read, but not enough time is spent thinking it through.

Works of non-fiction need to sink-in, work with the ideas already in your head, and build neuropathways that make sense to your brain. That’s how knowledge gets built and how your brain stays sharp.

There’s a time to speed and a time to slow down. Know the difference between the two.

Book Worm
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 *I share no affiliate with the company, but offer it as a potential solution to those wanting to learn how to speed read. It’s the program I personally used.

Are You Sure You Want to be Famous?

Being in a high school, I’m exposed to some incredibly amazing students every day.

One of the common things I hear is their aspiration to be “really famous” for something: acting, music, comedy, science or whatever. However, I don’t think they know the full extent of what being famous entails.

I want to pre-empt this next part with the following analogy I saw on Pinterest:

peaches quote

The problem is when you become famous, you’re going to discover many people who hate peaches.

Think about the number of celebrity gossip magazines, tabloids and websites out there right now that follow every waking breath of the people of Hollywood. Think about the amount of bashing people do towards famous artists, regardless of what industry they’re in.

Once you get popular enough, people are just going to hate you.

I spent many years working on my craft of writing and the very first post I did for Lifehack was met with some very negative comments online. Yes, I made a few grammatical errors and there’s one section I wish I could rewrite (something I fixed for my future posts), but the backlash was astounding. People emailed me to, “F*** off and leave writing for the pros,” and also to tell me “It’s no surprise they pay you so little for this garbage.” I didn’t receive the same backlash for my second article - people just ripped it off and posted it to their sites without my permission.

I won’t even begin to tell you what emails my friend Tommy v2 received when his famous article boosted him to the top 30K websites in the world.

All this to say, if you want to be famous:

  • be prepared for resistance
  • be prepared for the hate
  • have really thick skin
  • leverage your popularity wisely

Otherwise, the masses will drag you down into turmoil.

Rebuild Your Focus: Start Reading

Focus is such a cherished trait to have today.

With the endless noise and distractions vying for your attention, being able to focus on a single task seems like a distant ideal. Even spending time reading an article online, much like this one, doesn’t always work out because of the sheer volume of other articles begging to be read.

So what do we do?

We check the headline and skim the article. If it goes on too long, you close the tab and go on to do something else (the Internet slang for this is TL:DR – too long: didn’t read).

However, this only gives us a superficial reading of content and while some articles are purely dribble in themselves, merely conduits to encourage traffic, we lose something. We lose our ability to focus on something for longer than fifteen seconds, which is the average for Internet readers.

How Can We Change This?

We start making gradual changes towards reprogramming our brain for deeper focus.

The first step in this process is to commit to fully reading every article you click through. Don’t click away, don’t skim and don’t scroll to see how long the article is – read it in its entirety.

This will accomplish two things:

  1. It will help you naturally filter out the unwanted websites and articles that are already wasting your time.
  2. It will help your critical thinking process, which will build neuro-pathways in the brain and re-build your focus muscle.

Happy reading.

And another business day is almost over...
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The Next Generation is Here

Sometimes when I think the troubles of the world are overwhelming and the fight seems hopeless, a wake-up call comes my way.

This year I was honoured to take a group of students to the National WE Day in Canada – a movement started by Free the Children where young people need to earn their ticket to attend.

How do they earn it?

They must commit to either global causes or issues in their own community. In one year, students raised over $37 million dollars for charity!

To be in the room with 16,000 young people who were fired up and ready to change the world… well… let’s just say my cynicism about the world evaporated. The next generation isn’t here to lead tomorrow -

they’re already leading today.

weday

What Safe Really Means

Safe is always going with the flow, hoping the flow will keep going in the same direction.

Safe is not taking risks, heading into new territory, making new discoveries, questioning current assumptions, striving to be better or challenging the status quo. It will not allow you to reach a new level of awareness in your life because you are continuously following trends.

It does mean there will be a glut of people out there who are in agreement with you. It allows you to avoid the feeling of uncertainty, even though there are no guarantees in life about anything. It keeps you out of harms way at the expense of never exposing yourself to experiences that are perceived to be a threat to safety.

Safe keeps changing according to the outliers of society who push the boundaries of what the new safe means for today.

If you want to stay safe, be prepared to change your idea of it and you should be okay.

Safe Fortress
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What’s the Next Step?

The common advice splattered over many blog posts is to get started on something.

Regardless of what that is, the important part is to take that crucial first step. Don’t take it tomorrow, or a week from now, but right away because you’re still excited.

However, after the excitement wears off and you’re unsure of how to proceed, what step do you take next?

This is a danger zone because the obvious answer is to do some research. However, the information right now is so abundant (and sometimes contradictory) that you just don’t know what direction to follow. Long story short, you get overwhelmed and don’t do anything.

While it’s good to keep the bigger picture in mind and keep yourself motivated, the next step is simple:

Do something that will challenge yourself just a little out of your comfort zone.

Once you get comfortable with that step, challenge yourself again.

Gringo
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Letting Your Ego Get in the Way

When we always have a need to be right, to be in control and to accept our way is the best way to make things happen, we miss out.

We miss out on an opportunity to learn something new.

We miss out on an opportunity to grow.

We miss out on making a connection with another person.

We miss out on an opportunity to be humbled and become better for it.

Sometimes, we’re determined to prove our answer is right and would be willing to fight for it until others concede. Even if we never prove it to be correct, our ego can tell us the problem is with everyone else.

It’s not the fault of our ego – it’s very fragile and needs to protect itself. However, when you push it out of the way, you open yourself up to the richness of the reality surrounding you and not the reality you surround yourself with.

The Introvert B3
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Let Your Daydream Solidfy Into an Idea

If there was a way to earn a doctorate in daydreaming, I would’ve earned two… and received honorary ones from other universities as well.

While daydreams are a distraction from doing the work that needs to get done, there is a way to use them for your benefit.

It has the unlimited potential and ability to go unfettered in any direction and you should spend some time with it every day and let it run wild. Have it go through the crazy ideas and follow them to their end. It doesn’t matter if it’s realistic or not, just play it through.

Next, begin to write it down and see if you can make it work on paper.

It might take a thousand attempts, but keep going and you will hit a ground breaking idea.

Then – do it again.

127/365  "In dreams, we enter a world that's entirely our own."
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