Keeping Focus Without Retreatism


I wrote yesterday about the information war. We're bombarded with so much information if we are tuned in it's impossible to think.

But I don't think the long-term solution is total retreat from the world at large, or what Venkatesh Rao calls Waldenponding.

The bad information experience is like artillery perpetually pounding around you, driving you mad. But there's another kind of information experience that's more like a constant stream. It flows endlessly, every moment bringing past new things. You can wade in, you can get refreshed by it, you can have fun, catch valuable bits, and you can also drown. But the info stream is not inherently hostile or trying to make you useless like the info artillery. You can step back onto the banks and just observe without getting immersed. You can contribute to it, consume from it, or use it for inspiration to create.

The info stream has always existed, even before computers and cell phones, radio and TV. It's the scuttlebutt, the gossip, the collective conversation we call culture. It's trends, fads, ideas, fashions, commerce, and events constantly moving around us.

The digital world has broadened the stream to include more participants, and the flow is faster than ever. But each individual also has more control over their experience of the stream, how they consume, and especially how they contribute.

Waldenponding sounds both difficult and welcome when under constant fire by the info artillery. If only we could go screenless and escape, we'd become whole beings and achieve spiritual enlightenment, we think. But I think the urge to retreat entirely is another form of delusion, less dangerous perhaps than the delusion of thinking it's all real and urgent and important, but a delusion nonetheless.

It makes more sense to take control of your relationship to information, rather than be controlled by it or completely shielded from it.

First, get the hell out of the bullshit battlefield. Don't let yourself be bombarded. Don't sit there and get shelled to oblivion. Get away from the noise and chaos and need to always know the news and have an opinion.

Breathe.

Maybe wander the quiet woods for a bit after leaving the battlefield. When you're ready, approach the stream. Look at it as something beautiful and fascinating. Respect it as something powerful and dangerous. Wade in from time to time as you are able without getting swept away. You'll get stronger and form a better relationship to the stream over time. Make it a part of your existence that serves you, not the other way around.

And when you realize it's pulled you under, or that you've wandered away from the stream metaphor altogether and are back on the battlefield, exit again. Go back to the woods.

Metaphors are how we make meaning. The conscious navigation away from a battlefield to a stream can help reset your engagement with the world of endless information. At least it does for me.

Information as Artillery


You are being bombarded.

The blasts just keep coming, day and night. It's so bad there's a perpetual ringing in your ears, you can't see straight, you can't focus, and the people and reality right in front of you seems far off, disconnected, a blur. The constant barrage of artillery overhead has your whole being humming, vibrating unnaturally.

You can't read, or write, or talk calmly, or think deeply, or experience silence. Even in gaps between the salvos, you're too shell-shocked to be of much use. Every sensation sets you off.

That is the environment in which we live.

The trenches are anything connected to the internet or television or news of any kind. Information is the artillery.

The good news is, you can leave.

You can get the hell out of the foxholes and away from the mud and blood and constant head-splitting noise. When you exit this battle, there's no negative consequence, no dishonor, no desertion, because the battle is not real. It's bullshit. There are no sides, no ground to be taken or lost. The only objective in this battle is to occupy you with it, to keep you from being useful, fulfilled, free, and productive.

You can't become useful, fulfilled, free, and productive sitting in someone else's trenches while information artillery rains down, paralyzing you. You can only lose if you play.

The only way to win is to quit. To enter the fray is to be consumed and lose your sense of sanity and self. To exit is to regain your humanity and reclaim your capacity for creative thought.

Don't let yourself become a casualty. Leave now, before the shell-shock gets worse. Exit the information barrage. Be alone with your thoughts. Be free.

Talking with TK Again


Felt the need to flip on the mic and catch up with my good friend TK Coleman.

https://youtu.be/071F5kEFJoQ

Latest Issue of the Inner Game of Startups: #41


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A Little Something Different


Flipped on the mic this morning and just did an unscripted little bit about the problem with police.

Oh, and some F bombs, so probably don't play it around small children or church ladies. It's comedy, so you're not allowed to be offended. ;-)

https://soundcloud.com/isaacmorehouse/lives-matter

Writing Honest


It's hard to write honest.

Sometimes the "truest sentence you know", as Hemingway advised to write, is something you don't want to say. Or something you don't even want to know.

Honest doesn't have to mean some kind of deep pouring out of feelings. It doesn't mean sharing personal information. It doesn't mean poignant or moving or cutting. It just means true. True to what you know.

Sometimes honest writing is funny, sometimes sober. Sometimes expository, sometimes narrative. The difficulty is, you don't know what honest writing for each session will look like until you start. At least I don't.

The truest sentence I know today is that I'm having a hard time formulating what I know and feel in my gut into any kind of words. And I'm pretty sure I don't want to anyway. So I'm honestly writing about the difficulty of honest writing.

Bullshit if True


Sometimes you don't have to wait for the facts to come in to know if something's wrong.

It's easy to feel sophisticated by telling yourself you're waiting until you've reviewed all the relevant data. The data become the focus, and you dissect and debate what it might mean and wait and seek for more. The better informed the better!

But sometimes, if you step back and ask what different data would do to change actions, there isn't a clear answer. You've gotten sucked unto analyzing info, supposedly to help you form a deferred judgement, but the thing you're forming a judgement about didn't need more info in the first place and more info wouldn't alter or clear it up.

Sometimes you just know. But you're afraid. It feels too bold. Haphazard, radical, simple. Well, sometimes the right thing is.

Sometimes a spade is a spade, and info about where it came from, who put it there, or the odds of it showing up again are intellectual exercises not necessary to form a judgement and do what needs to be done.

Create Before You Consume


It seems like you should have to consume information and ideas to get inspiration. But it's not true.

School and most formal teaching begin with information stuffing. You cram facts into your head for weeks or even years, preparing to someday do something. This is the surest way to reduce the odds that you ever do anything original. This is like a Keynesian theory of knowledge. "We'll all get better if we keep consuming stuff."

You don't need to consume before you create.

My best mornings begin on this blog. Before email, text, Slack, Twitter, or any other external source of information. When I begin with creation, the creation is better, the day is better, and I'm better.

Days when I wait until late in the day to write my blog always feel more chaotic. The blog feels more obligatory than cathartic. It's more a jumble of reflected feelings picked up during the day, instead of an expression of stuff inside me stirred up while I slept. That's the stuff that tends to be most original and interesting. To me, if not to anyone else. (And I blog for me, not anyone else).

I highly recommend, as an approach to writing as well as learning anything else, creation before consumption. Pick up a guitar and start plucking. Grab a brush and start painting. Try figuring out equations, speaking Spanish, or ice skating. Before you study them.

Go create. This will provide the context for consumption that makes it vastly more valuable. Creators are better critics too.

Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the CEO of Crash, the career launch platform, and the founder of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

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All News is Fake News


There is infinite information in the universe. Any time you select a tiny slice of info and focus on it, you are creating a story that is different from reality itself.

Imagine a movie sliced into a million still screenshots. Say it was impossible to watch the movie and your only way of interacting with it was with these screenshots. If someone picked three of them and presented it to you as the "truth" of the movie, they'd be wrong, even if the screenshots weren't tampered with or substituted for fakes. If the person presenting the "facts" of the movie to you had an ax to grind or wasn't so scrupulous about accuracy in screenshots, it would be even worse. But the main point is that even if trying to be accurate, any version of the movie selected from a few micro-second still frames will present a story that's incorrect.

Once you realize this, you can select your own slices based on what helps you achieve your goals. It may be no more accurate in terms of explaining the real movie, but none can be, so you might as well choose slices that help you. Better yet, you can stop worrying about figuring out the right version of this movie from the past and start creating your own story going into the future.

News is a specific view of reality. It's always wrong. Worse, it's usually bad for your health and sanity. Choose better slices of reality and your reality will improve.

Small Moves to Setup Big Moves


When opportunity avails itself you're either ready to big seize it, little seize it, or miss out entirely.

It's easy to see someone who makes a big move to nab a big opportunity and think it was luck or good timing alone. But it's not the moment that matters most, but the buildup.

If you constantly make little moves that get you better and better positioned in case of opportunity, you'll be able to make big moves when it comes. This seems obvious, but it's very hard to do.

During no-opportunity times you look around and see no great big moves to make. True. Frustrating. But if you keep looking and thinking about future scenarios, you can spot steady small moves that will compound, each shifting just a bit more of your resources into position to take advantage if big opportunity should emerge. Each small move gets max leverage when opportunity comes, and the little opportunity costs of those little moves comes back and a whole lot more.

Don't worry about how you missed out on big opportunity, or how you don't see it around you. Make small moves to be in position and get your mind ready. It will come.

Assumption of Audience


A lot of misunderstanding and offense online comes from assuming the audience.

When we read posts, we tend to assume we are the audience. When the content doesn't fit us, we assume it's wrong.

Whenever I witness this, I think of the scene in Star Wars, "This is not the post you are looking for". If it doesn't click for you, move on. It's probably not for you. Whether positive advice that seems dumb to you, or a negative attack that seems incorrect to you, odds are it's between two parties you don't understand and they aren't writing with you and your situation in mind.

Trying to educate the poster on your situation and let them know they their content doesn't fit it is almost never a good idea. Because they assume you're part of their audience too. And if you say, "Hey, I'm not your audience but I don't agree with this", it signals a waste of both of your time.

Before you respond, ask yourself who the intended audience is. It helps.

Antagonism and Action


One of the most useful methods I've found to get closer to actionable truth is by creating (non-hostile) antagonism.

If I'm unsure about options, I will pick one and act as if it's true. I'll argue in favor of it as if it's the only way. I'll make the best, strongest arguments for it I can, and won't hedge. This requires someone else to take up the opposite position, if nothing else just to get it a fair hearing. But I'm gonna come on strong, so they are going to have to bring the strongest arguments to match.

With two people fully going to bat for the two positions, the truth is more likely to reveal itself far faster than if we just dance around the weaker "on the one hand but on the other hand" stuff.

Not only does going all in on one position draw out useful arguments from others for the alternate position, but it lets me test drive being a devotee of my position and see if it resonates with my gut. The most important truths are those you just know with your knower, even if you can't consciously articulate or understand why. Indecision is when that gut feeling isn't strong enough either way to cut through the intellectual pros and cons. Examining positions objectively at a distance is an intellectual exercise that doesn't always help discover the gut feeling.

But putting on a position like it's true and going all in gives a taste of what it feels like to live in that reality. The gut gets a chance to scream "this feels off" or "Yes, this is right!"

The hard part about this approach is that it can feel shocking or disheartening or overwhelming to people if they aren't used to it. I grew up in a loud, talkative, interrupting, arguing household. To me, disagreeing is not offensive. There's nothing personal about attacking each others arguments within a trusted context. But I've learned over the years this is not normal and I often end up bowling over people and they just yield to my pigheaded arguments...even if I'm just test driving them myself.

I've tried to ease back some, but mostly to collaborate with people who can get down with strong argument as a form of truth discovery.

PS - I find this works really well for action items. I do not like this approach for discovering philosophical, moral, or abstract truth.

Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the founder and CEO of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program making degrees irrelevant for careers. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

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