Have you ever browsed Reddit from when you got home until 1AM?
Do you ever seek out your boss to get recognition for something you did?
Have you ever stopped reading or listening to something that challenged your beliefs?
I’ve done all of these things and it’s ok, it’s something we all share. What got me thinking about it was a SXSW presentation by Clay Johnson, the author of The Information Diet.
The hardest hitting insight I pulled from Clay’s talk was that we all want to be confirmed and affirmed. He said, “Who wants to hear the truth when they can hear they’re right?”
A simple example: conservatives watch Fox News and Democrats read the Huffington Post. The problem with this is nobody gets smarter if they’re only listening to an opinion that reinforces their limited world view. There is no challenge, there are no stakes.
Mass affirmation is the carbohydrate of the mind.
- Clay Johnson
The second point Clay makes is our consumption of media is analogous to the obesity epidemic.
He explained that information on the internet has become just as cheap and plentiful as the food we stuff in our faces. And as someone who has struggled with weight their entire life, I was all ears.
I first read about a low information diet in Tim Ferriss’s book: The 4-Hour Workweek
in 2009. It was a novel concept, so I gave it a shot and have not looked back.
Now just because I have quit traditional media doesn’t mean I’m any better off. Sites like Digg and Reddit filled the gap. They have become my generation’s version of T.G.I.F. and the nightly news.
The mindless consumption of food and information have no stakes, instead:
- Your world view is rarely challenged or expanded
- You miss new and exciting information
- You only hang with people who think like you
- You become fat and stupid
- You consume instead of create
- You don’t move the world forward
But all is not lost. Just like losing weight or kicking an addiction we can form healthy habits to get us going down the right path.
Here are a few things Clay recommended to start yourself on a WHOLE info diet.
1. Focus on consciously consuming
First thing in the morning take a 30 minute break from the internet; instead read a book, write, or workout. Clay also suggested a tool called Rescue Time. It tracks your time spent on the computer, so you can see where you may need to cut back. You can also schedule the time you consume. Just like limiting the amount of food we eat, you schedule the amount of time you spend on twitter, facebook, and reddit.
2. Subtract the junk
The easiest way to do this is consume content you have to pay for, not the type that is funded by advertising. This way you can directly fund the types of content you want to consume and starve the types you don’t. He also suggests going local and connecting with your friends, family, and community. They are going to provide you with information that directly affects YOU!
3. Be a Producer
Create things. Write, sculpt, or build a business. All of these things add something to the world and some of them may even move it forward. The idea I liked the most was to write 500 words every morning before 8 AM. Whether you share this writing with anyone or not, it can help you learn more about yourself and that’s something special.
Writing about this makes me miss childhood. Everything was fascinating and challenging. You’re always learning and having your beliefs built, crushed, and solidified. You created things with your mind and hands. Being a child has stakes, because it is the only time in your life where your mind is an open book and can be filled without your personal bias.
So back to the questions at the beginning of this post.
Will you have the same answers in 1 month?
Will you be feeding your brain something new and allowing your view of the world to be challenged?
Now that’s high stakes living!
What is your favorite brain junk food? Please share in the comments below.