Tuesday, December 02, 2008

4HWW Lesson 1: The Low Information Diet

Timothy Ferriss' book, The 4-Hour Workweek, is easily one of the best non-fiction books I've read in the past few years. The key concept in the book is lifestyle design; the art of mastering the use of time and mobility to live the lifestyle you want. What makes this book so good is that Ferriss provides real, tangible, concrete ideas that you can act on right away. This is a true escape from the airy-fairy personal help books we're all used to. Although some of his ideas are a little extreme (including outsourcing your mundane tasks to India), there are a few that hit home so hard that I'll be writting about them over the next few weeks.

The Low Information Diet

This is the idea of cutting out all unnecessary sources of information that we are addicted to, and in turn focusing on things that will move our life in the direction we want. Ferriss claims that he has "never bought a newspaper or watched the news for five years". Wow. He provides many arguments for his reasoning, but the statement that "most information is time-consuming, negative, irrelevant to your goals, and outside of your control" is a real trump card.

We've been taught since childhood that reading the newspaper daily is great for your development. But this chapter made me ask the question, when was the last time that a newspaper article ever made a huge positive influence in my life? Never. Now when I tell my friends that I canceled my newspaper subscription, and their jaws drop, I just bring out the flurry of Ferriss' arguments. That's right, I canceled my subscription.

Before you start calling me lazy, realize that the key to the low information diet is "replacing input with maximum output." I took this into my own context, and now the time I spent reading the paper is going to be replaced with things that I want to do for my own personal development. Not sleeping. Not watching TV. I still read in the morning, but it will be focused blogs that teach me something, or books that I actually want to read.

In case you're worried about how you/I can be well informed on worldly affairs, Ferriss provides an answer for that too; talk to your friends about it. Ask Bob, "What's going on in the world?" and if things are that important, you'll hear about them. This makes educated people very uncomfortable, but we have to decide for ourselves what information is actually important to us. The last thing you want to do is read something because someone else told you it's important.

Lastly, the low information diet isn't for everybody. But what Ferriss suggests, as do I, is to go on a "one-week media fast". Give it a shot. Focus on working towards your lifestyle, rather than reading about other people living the lifestyle you want:P

"The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers." - Thomas Jefferson

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