Xavier Jared

TwoShay

Two brothers on personal development, philosophy, and being awesome

All Knowledge Is Not Equal

Xavier,

All knowledge has a value. We can’t possibly process all the information that is available to us everyday through television, newspapers, the internet, and general discussion. Having a method to sort and filter this information is critical to maximising the amount of high value knowledge that enters your brain. The best tuned machine still needs high quality fuel for peak performance.

The value of knowledge is primarily determined by how relevant the information is directly to you. If you’re going for a walk, you want to know if you’re going to get rained on. A weather forecast is high value knowledge in this case. If you’re chained to a desk, a forecast isn’t of value.

If relevancy were the only concern, we would only seek out knowledge that allows us to get through the day. This doesn’t hold much potential for growth. It’s just the things we need to know to function as we are. Fortunately, the amount of functional knowledge we need today is quite small. We (usually) don’t need to find out where our next meal is coming from, or how we’re getting from home to the office. As such, there’s a large surplus of capacity that we can fill with other knowledge.

Fill this surplus with knowledge that maxes your awesome.

The surplus is finite, so don’t fill it with any old trash or gossip. Looking at the front page of a local newspaper today, I see stories about a celebrity break up, the local show, some rugby news, and a few deaths. Is this relevant functional information? No! Is this likely to facilitate me becoming more awesome? No!

The highest value readily available knowledge is found in books. It takes a significant personal investment to write a book. Statistically, the author probably knows what they’re talking about and have researched their topic thoroughly if they’ve gone to the effort of writing a book. A book also allows space to deeply explore an idea, space that can’t be found in article-length writing. I’m not just talking about non-fiction, good literature contains just as many mind changing thoughts and perspectives. This space doesn’t just apply to the author, but also to you, who free of distractions and context-switching can really engage with the ideas.

Look at your recent Twitter or Facebook news feed, right now. How much is interesting? Don’t be too hard on yourself—it’s handy to know what people are up to since that’s where opportunities come from—but could you cut back the amount of information you need to filter? Rather than compulsively checking Digg, Reddit or your RSS feed, turn off the computer and pick up a book.

Instant information is addictive, and it is hard to say no. The internet is a fantastic entry point into new ideas, but it is not the end of the story. I have been “turning off the internet” consciously for the past few months, opting instead to read books more, and I consistently learn more and feel better. You can follow what I’m reading over at GoodReads, and I’m happy to give recommendations if you don’t know where to start.

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