Have you ever wanted to learn about something new but have no idea where to start?
This could be for combat sports, learning a language, business concepts, arts, or anything else. There’s an overwhelming amount of information to sift through, right?
We currently live in a time where there is more information available than there is time to consume it.
Newspapers. When was the last time you read a full newspaper from front to back? Trying to read every article from every news source could take your entire day. It’d probably leave you confused too. Some of these stories have serious bias in one way or another. With the way these media outlets are operating, you’ll probably develop anxiety too.
Social media is designed to catch your attention. I’m as guilty here as the next guy who loves memes though. You could spend days sifting through information on social media.
Video games. Some games take forever, too. Don’t get me wrong; they’re fun. However, some games (especially the online games) don’t even have endings! They’re meant to be time-consuming on purpose. The more time you spend on a video game, the more likely you are to fork over more money. It’s very possible to get addicted, so be careful.
Some days, drowning in information feels like the only way out. It’s pretty hard to learn anything without starting somewhere, so I’ve got a few pointers for you that’s helped me out in the past. These tips can be used in combination with each other. You’ll see what I mean!
Filtering Out Information
If you don’t love it, kiss it goodbye. The same can be said about this blog. I try to serve multiple functions by providing entertaining stories along with actionable advice on doing more with less. Ultimately, though, if it’s not for you, then I respect that.
The exception is news. Find the closest thing to unbiased truth as possible and stick to it. I know- pretty rare. If you find it, let me know too. I’m still looking, but New York Times does the job for me at the moment.
Social media is a great tool but a terrible master. You could spend days on this stuff! Putting a time limitation on it has worked for me. If you want to communicate with people but not get sucked into your news feed, Google Chrome has a plugin called “News Feed Eradicator.” Game changer.
At this point, people know that I love books. Because of this, people recommend a bunch of books to me. Problem is, I don’t have time to read every single book out there, so I need a way of filtering out these recommendations.
- If I hear or read the same book recommendation multiple times from different sources, that catches my attention.
- If a mentor or thought leader in a certain area recommends specific books and I’m looking to learn more in that area, then that also catches my attention.
- Your favorite author comes out with a book? Buy it, read it, and dissect it to the teeth.
That brings me to my next point- what information is valuable?
Ray Dalio, former CEO of the World’s Largest Hedge Fund and often called the “Da Vinci of investing”, introduced the concept of an idea meritocracy. The basic idea here is that some information is of a higher quality than other information. This leads to believability-weighted decision making, where “better-informed” people will hold higher weight in the discussion. A few examples:
- When you’re taking a calculated risk in a business, do you trust your anxiety-prone friend with no experience in the industry or would you rather trust a friend who’s had extensive experience in that area?
- If you’re trying to get to the next level in sport, do you trust your every day sports fan? Or, would you rather find advice from a professional coach with decades of experience?
- If your fat uncle tells you to do this or that in the gym to lose weight, would you listen to him? Or, would you rather listen to a personal trainer who has helped several clients lose tens of pounds?
- If you want to invest your money, would you trust your college roommate with no investment experience or would you trust Warren Buffett on his investment advice? (Side note: if you’re not an extremely active investor, Warren Buffett recommends index funds.)
If both sides are in agreement, then it doesn’t matter. Is the sky blue? Yes? Great. Now, what happens when the two are in disagreement? Well, based on empirical evidence, it’s pretty clear in these examples who is more likely to be right. They might not always be correct, but the likelihood of it being correct is significantly higher.
A few exceptions should be considered. For example, a believable person would do better if they could teach well or if they were particularly good at articulating and explaining their thoughts. Some people that do everything instinctively and automatically may not be particularly good people to ask because they have subconsciously internalized all the good practices, and may not be able to externalize them. As a result, some people have a habit of oversimplifying things because the small, unspoken details seem “dead obvious”.
Some seemingly believable people may have outdated information. If an instructor, scientist, or any other expert doesn’t stay updated on the newest trends or findings in their field of expertise, their information will only be helpful to a certain extent. More informed than average, of course, but potentially not optimal.
For example, people have shifted from low-fat diets to low-carb diets over the years, and scientific studies seem to bring about different results here. It’s a long story that can be explained some other time, but I’m personally a low carb guy myself.
Same goes for certain training methods. There seems to be a lag between results in athletics and accepted practices in scientific study. For example, cluster training (pausing for a specific amount of time between reps in a particular set) was used by athletes with great results for a couple of decades before the science finally proved it to be true. The problem for athletes is that their athletic careers will be over much before the science proves them right (or wrong).
This brings up an interesting point. What if both of these sources are believable, but for different reasons? Maybe you’ve got a sports scientist talking with an world renowned coach, and they’re in disagreement over a few points. Or, you’ve got an economist that is in disagreement with the CEO of a hedge fund.
In those cases, discussion is important in arriving at the conclusion. After discussion, with all the facts on the table, you can make your decision. Know that you may not be completely right, but you’re much farther away from being completely wrong.
Ultimately, the higher quality your information, the less time you waste. What have you done to ensure high quality information in your life?