This article was a great find today. I did find it from an article in a feed, but that feed was Medium. I guess that’s better.
I have been battling this feeling that my memory is worse, my interest in new topics, and even other people is worse, my attention span is worse, and as a result, my self-satisfaction and mood are low.
I used to think all of the time. I was full of ideas. Full of things to say. I loved to learn. And somewhere along the line, this has shifted to consumption.
I remember the first time I fully understood an RSS feed and started using Google Reader. It was a game changer for me. You see, I only finished one semester of college. Becoming a father at 20 forced me to choose between starting a career or taking on debt. I chose to make money. And Google Reader opened the door to a world of information and education. I could find a writer teaching about sales or leadership or copy writing or whatever I wanted to learn, and it would get delivered to me every time they did something new.
Writers like Michael Hyatt, Seth Godin, Darren Rowse, and Jason Fried taught me what I needed to know in order keep improving and excelling at my job. I found everything I couldn’t learn from their writing in books. I had built a learning system and had access to anything I needed to learn in order to fulfill my dreams. And…all of it was available to me in a moment.
Then over the last 13 years, something switched. It’s been so gradually that I literally did not realize what it was until now. My technology has improved. The apps are better. The software is better. Blogging became more popular. And today I woke up to realize I have not been actively seeking out information. While my intentions to learn have remained the same, I have only been reading the stream that comes my way. The quality of the information has degraded. The articles are shorter. They are more shallow. I can’t get through long form content without checking another app or my email, of the phone. All of these apps that feed information to me are only giving me what will hold my attention. Not what will make me better.
And this morning, I realized I was reading headlines in Feedly (my blog reader), and I was only paying attention to the headlines before marking an entire feed or category as read.
As my tools have gotten more powerful, I have grown less reliant on my own ability to seek out education around my interests. I have grown intellectually lazy. I have developed habits that will not let me sit alone in boredom and my own thoughts.
I am so thankful this article found it’s way to me today. It pointed a huge finger at the problem…me. Armed with this realization, I have no choice but to take action to change my behavior.
All of this goes back to intentionality. The more we automate. The more we assign to others or rely on tools or leave up to chance, the less likely we are to achieve what we are after.
And I am not blaming tech or apps or these more powerful tools. Granted, the pace of information and distraction is higher, but the problem of passive consumption vs action self-education is something that’s been around for all of time.
The difference now is the distraction is greater…AND…the opportunity to learn and grow is also greater. More content leads to more distraction if you are passive with it. But…it leads to more access to information if you choose to be intentional about it.