How To Weed Through The Noise

There’s a lot of crap out there.  Flat out useless information.  Seminars.  Books.  Programs.  And yes, there’s the internet.  Crap.  Most of it.

My bookshelves (and now, my kindle) are overflowing with hundreds of books promoting ways to improve your business or relationships or health or happiness.  I’ve easily spent tens of thousands of dollars on books and audio programs and seminars and coaching calls in the last decade.

I used to proclaim (with good reason I might add) that I was a “personal-growth junkie.”  In fact, my confession is that I left that title on my Twitter bio as recently as typing the end of that last sentence (yes, the one that preceded the sentence you are currently reading).

But the truth is, I haven’t thought that way for a long time.

I prefer to be labeled as a thinker.  I read information and the proposed supporting evidence for that information, and I match that against my value system.  If the information checks out, I use it.  If not, I scrap it.

In the past I was open minded.  Too open minded.  I believed almost everything I read.  I thought because a book was best-selling or the author appeared to be happy or successful, that he or she probably knew something that I didn’t.  So more often than not, I’d “humble” myself and change my philosophy.  The problem is, a few months or a few weeks later, I’d come across some equally “successful” individual who advocated the exact opposite of what I had adopted as my new viewpoint.

Humility is a good thing, but being gullible looks a lot like being humble.  And sometimes you can’t tell the difference until it’s too late for it to make a difference.

Do you believe everything you read or watch on TV?  If you are like most people, yes you do.

You would be hard-pressed to find someone that believes that all media is true.  Yet the truth is, you and those same people probably believe the information that comes out of what you at one time considered to be a “reliable source.”

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all conspiracy theory on you.

I’m simply pointing out that there’s a lot of BS out there.  We are inundated with thousands of messages consciously and subconsciously on a consistent basis every single day.  The truth is, even if we know better, we are susceptible to the persistent influx of new information.

Why?  The short answer: we don’t think.

As obvious as it is to tell someone to think for themselves – the reality is that most of us don’t.  We’ve been trained as little kids to do as we are told.  At work, most people answer to a boss who they treat as master or risk getting fired.  Our values tend to mold to the type of people we are in close proximity to.  Sometimes that’s our spouse or our coworkers or our kids or our best friend.  We are a society of zombies.

How do we determine if the information we are being fed is true?

First, we must be humble enough to understand that without a shadow of a doubt, there is something new to learn from every person we meet.  That includes your drug-addict brother-in-law and the homeless person who asked you for a dollar.

Our shallow relationships with others and our own tendency to be prideful in a world that didn’t allow us to survive without acquiring a defense mechanism called self-esteem often prevents us from truly listening to our peers.

Instead, we tend to view people as either authorities or inferiors.  And the laziness this promotes gives us a tendency to believe everything we hear from people we perceive to be as an authority and to reject everything we hear from the people we consider to be our inferiors.

We must be discerning of what we hear.  When you come across a new piece of information, ask yourself, “What is the message behind the message?”  When you are reading a book by some famous, oft-quoted authority, ask yourself if the information you are reading is really true or if it’s just hype.  I don’t care if it came from Lincoln or Ghandi.  Take the time to investigate for yourself; and do not be swayed by the majority.

Open your eyes.  Really pay attention.  Listen, but don’t believe.  Keep an open mind, but take a position and stick to your guns.  Don’t believe a word I say.



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