Want to Learn More? Stop Following the News
“What information consumes is rather obvious: It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” —Herbert Simon
Welcome back, class!
Yesterday, we learned about listening to what isn’t said. Today, we will learn about the importance of kicking the news habit.
How many times have you started a conversation and before the other person finished talking, you stopped listening because you assumed you knew what they were going to say? Happens to me all the time. Most of us are talking about the same stories about politics we read earlier in the morning. Instead of investing our time into something that can better our lives, we focus on reading new stories that can depress us or things that we have little or no control over.
How Much News Do You Read per Year?
If you look at the four major news sources Americans read, those publications produce roughly 1,200 stories per day. Let’s say that the average word count per story is roughly 500 words. Assuming you read ten stories written by the Washington Post per day, that’s ten stories per day multiplied by 500 words per story over the course of 365 days, which equals 1,850,000 words. Let’s say that the average book is 200 pages with 250 words per page; that would be 50,000 words. You take that amount and divide it into 1,850,000, and you get roughly 37 books. You read the equivalent of 37 books per year in news.
Thirty-seven books’ worth of news per year
But how many of those stories are a rehash of other stories? How much of that information is inaccurate? How much of that information doesn’t affect you, or is just pure speculation? How many of those stories are telling you what you want to hear? Finally, what’s the shelf life of that news? Will the information you’re reading now matter one month, one year, or ten years from now?
So, you read 37 books’ worth of news, but if you head over to Wikipedia and read a news summary of what happened in the US in 2017, it’s only about 8,000 words, or 15% of one book! What gives? To beat a dead horse, most news is filler and a waste of your time.
What if instead, you focused on reading quality books about events after they have transpired and are fully understood? Better yet, how about reading books that feed your spirit (how you see the world and relate to it), your mind (how you think), and your career (how you create value in this world)? How much better would your life be if you could read over 30 more books per year? And if you’re 20, by the time you’re 30, you will have finished 300 books!
What Do You Gain by Reading More?
You’ll develop heightened listening skills. When you talk to people, you won’t be able to complete their sentences because you genuinely don’t know about the current event they are talking to you about. You will be forced to listen intently. What’s interesting about decreasing how much news you read is that you’ll find yourself listening to people more often and becoming a better connector, which helps you develop stronger relationships.
You’ll save time. If daily news stories are truly important, your connections will bring them up in a conversation and provide you with the 80/20 version of the story. If you wish to research more, you can ask them additional questions.
You’ll be happier. According to American Psychological Association research, of those who follow the news regularly, 56% say that doing so causes them to stress, and 72% believe that the media blows things out of proportion. You won’t be bombarded by depressing news you can’t control. You can focus on your work and make yourself a better person so you can do good in the world.
You’ll be able to think clearer and work on your own projects. Finally, it doesn’t mean you become a monk. Sure, continue reading the news, but next time you open another story about how terrible Trump is or how horrible the Democrats are, ask yourself if you’re better off reading the news or cracking open a book that actually makes you think.
1. Take a news break. Stop reading political news, and stop checking social media for a week.
2. Pick up a book. During the time you would normally read the news or check social media, open up your Kindle app or pick up a physical book and read it.
3. After taking a break, assess your overall mood and the quality of your conversations.
Tomorrow, you will learn how to improve your conversations through experimentation.
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