Relative to your mission, most things don’t matter.
We can state that more precisely and formally in the following way:
For any clearly defined goal, the amount of information that will be useless towards producing the desired outcome is far greater than the amount of information that will be useful.
If you’re trying to assemble a new bookshelf that you just purchased from Ikea, for instance, you’ll find great value in the instructions that come with your product. The millions of instruction manuals that come with other products, however, will simply not be useful in helping you set up your new bookshelf. The latter pool of data (all the instruction manuals for all the things that need to be assembled) is much bigger than the former pool of data (the one instruction manual for the specific thing you’re actually trying to assemble).
In order to be effective and efficient, you have to manage your exposure to data and protect yourself from the power of alluring distractions.
The information age has made it easier than ever before to become awash in aimless activity. We are now free to engage any personality type, any product, any point of view, and any practice we wish simply by logging on to the internet and diving into the sea of data that instantly surrounds us.
I have no desire to go back to the mythical “good old days” when everything was supposedly better without technology. I like the abundance, opportunity, and the creative challenges that change brings. Nevertheless, the possibilities before us, however promising they might be, will only seduce us into mediocrity if we don’t learn how to separate the signal from the noise.
Everyone has something to show us or sell us, to teach us or tell us. At every second of every day, someone is spending a great deal of energy trying to inspire you, inform you, or incite you. And if you allow your attention to be dictated by a fear of missing out, then you’re guaranteed to miss out on the one thing that matters most: the opportunity to live deliberately, the chance to direct the course of your life with creativity and intention.
It’s quite possible that every piece of information is important in some mystical or deeply profound sense. It’s not possible, however, to create value or achieve any progress if you treat all pieces of information as if they are equally relevant at all times.
Living a life of purpose and personal growth is not only about being curious enough to take the world in, but it’s also about being judicious enough to know when to tune the world out.
Who are you tuning out?
If the answer is “nobody”, then a “nobody” is exactly what you’ll eventually become.