Signal vs. Noise: How to Decide What’s Important
Throughout the day, your mind is getting input from thousands of different sources.
Part of reinventing yourself is changing the way you think. To change the way you think, you can begin to think of your mind as a fortress.
If you allow too much garbage into your brain, it will block you from being creative enough to make breakthroughs in your experiments and follow through with the reinvention process.
If you feed your brain with healthy information, you’re planting seeds that will grow into ideas and connections you’ll be able to make in the future.
You can’t control all of the input, not even close, but you can begin to seek out the right information, while at the same time learning to distinguish between signal and noise.
“Trust none of what you hear, some of what you read, and half of what you see.”[i] — Nassim Taleb
It’s a bit ironic for me to quote someone saying trust “some of what you read,” in a book that I want you to read, but you should treat me and every other person in a position of “teacher,” “storyteller,” or “expert” with the same level of skepticism.
Everybody who shares information with you has an agenda. The noisemakers want to keep you blind to what’s important. They fill newspapers with fear-instilling headlines and sensationalized pieces.
Why do you think the news has the same amount of content every day? Is every day equally newsworthy? Of course not, but they need to make their advertisers happy, so they have to put something out there regardless of what it is.
The “old you,” was influenced by everyone. You were influenced by your upbringing, society, your friends, and the media into perhaps becoming somebody you didn’t really want to be. Now, you’re in the process of becoming the new you — the real you — but if you jump right back into the same social environment without changing your mindset, do you think you’ll be suddenly immune to influence?
You can’t get rid of your family members. If most people around you are still following “society’s playbook,” you can’t get rid of everyone and isolate yourself.
You can’t live your life without any media stimulus.
What do you do to combat a social environment that’s dead set on keeping you the same? You develop a filter.
In the book The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, law 38 is “Think as you like, but behave like others.” [ii]
When I discovered I wanted to do something unique with my life and follow the road less traveled, it was tempting to want to spout my new ideas to anyone who would listen.
I would share my unusual thoughts with my like-minded friends, but I kept quiet about my ideas for the most part.
As Greene says in the book, “If you make a show of going against the times, flaunting your unconventional ideas and unorthodox ways, people will think that you only want attention and that you look down upon them.”
Greene suggests it’s “far safer to blend in and nurture the common touch.”
The next time you’re in conversation with a group of friends and they’re sharing something that comes from a conventional viewpoint — the viewpoint we discussed earlier that keeps people stuck — remember the source of that viewpoint, dismiss it as noise, and move on.
When you read something in the news that doesn’t align with your new values, dismiss it as noise, and move on.
When you hear information from anyone, think about what’s in it for them.
Biases aside, there are real financial incentives for institutions wanting you to work a 9 to 5, take on tons of debt through student loans and mortgages, and avoid a route of entrepreneurship.
There are financial incentives to shun individualism, control what’s said in the news, and promote a certain way of living.
The script created after the industrial revolution that says, “Go to school, get good grades, get a nice job, buy a house, and have 2.5 kids,” was created for a reason. The motive wasn’t altruism.
I have a motive. Obviously, I want to sell books. I also want to open people’s eyes to what’s possible and shed light on their core beliefs so they can see the foundation of them.
Should everybody ditch their old lives and do their own thing? I have no idea.
I just want you to be able to look at your life and your decisions from multiple angles.
Your filter can be built with the following:
· Values — If the new you values freedom, filter out “noise” concerning certainty, safety, and security. If the new you values contentment, filter out “noise” concerning materialism or outward signs of success.
· Trading places — A simple and easy method of filtering noise is asking yourself, “Would I trade places with the person giving me this information?” If the answer is a resounding no, don’t listen to them. That doesn’t mean in terms of money, but in the direction their life is heading.
· Agenda — Ask yourself if the agenda of the person giving you information outweighs their interest in your well-being. Nine times out of ten it does, and thus is “noise.”
Your filter will help you navigate the parts of your environment you can’t control, but you can also change or get rid of parts of your environment altogether to aid you in your personal transformation.
Your filter is the foundation that keeps your vision clear, but there are other parts of your environment to keep an eye on too.
When you’re told how to change your life, you’re often to “tough it out,” and “will your way to winning,” but what if willpower isn’t enough?
To make better decisions in the future, remember that each decision you make counts more than you think.