Feed Your Head

The Dormouse never said that.

But he could have.

Recently in talking with a serial entrepreneur (five start-ups, two successful) he mentioned the numerous stories sent him daily by colleagues and mentees. I asked him how he responded to all that.

I don’t, he said, 80% of its junk.

He focuses on sifting through the wall of noise to uncover actual societal shifts and and doesn’t bother acknowledging the junk. Why waste the time?

Nate Silver explores the same idea in his work, The Signal and the Noise. Separating meaning from trivia.

John Prine, a true American treasure, told us 40 years ago in Spanish Pipe Dream to “blow up your tv” to find a better way.

And even as the space age gave way to the computer age which then gave way to the digital age, we still hear the refrain “garbage in, garbage out.”

Feed Your Head

Lately I’ve been fortunate to interact with some really bright people. People who think very deeply about the topics they’re immersed in, in fact, topics they’re in love with. Educators, business people, technologists, policy wonks. I’m a lucky guy – I get to talk with very smart people.

And one thing I’ve noticed they all have in common is the way they feed their head.

You can choose to interpret Grace Slick ‘s seminal work White Rabbit as a simple paean to drug use, but I think she meant much more. I think she was asking us, as John, Nate, the entrepreneur, and data analysts do, to think about what we put in our head.

Its no secret we have access to more data today than ever before in short history of humankind. And its no secret that much of it is noise.

Anything related to “celebrities”? Noise. Reality tv? All noise. Most sport activity? Noise. Political rhetoric? Noise. Four fifths of the web pages you hit today? Noise.

Look, I’m not the cultural police. You do whatever you want in your downtime. Your pastimes are your own. Yet consider this, and after having done so make your own choice.

Really Smart People Feed Their Head Well

That’s it.

Really smart people – and the data is emerging that says we can actually increase intelligence, not just rote memory – feed their head well.

They only let in information from creditable, valued sources and even then dismiss portions that are extraneous quickly. They look for the trends beneath the noise – think tectonic plates as opposed to surface waves – and they open their minds to new and alternative views constantly asking themselves if they’re truly being objective.

These are habits.

You Can Become Smarter by Habit

We have serious and fundamental challenges across societies around the globe today: these don’t get me down because we’re here to address them. Yet to do so, we have to bring our A game.

Our heads have to be on straight.

So put what you want into yours, but don’t be surprised if you’re not asked to help solve issues because you’re just not capable or competent enough. Its not just a headgame.

Remember what the Dormouse didn’t say.

Feed Your Head


3 thoughts on “Feed Your Head

  1. Christopher,

    This is a truly important post and an “outing” of the trend to use sound-bite based news reports, advice from experts, and warnings from scientific studies as real content from which we are, sadly, tempted to form useful life decisions.

    I applaud you for declaring that we need to feed our heads with ideas, information, perceptions, and insights that come from a rich and diverse accumulation of learning, knowledge, and intellectual experience.

    If we define our futures based one-liners that become social fades, then we will miss the experience of revelations that can truly change and enrich our lives.

    It’s all about reading, You say it and model it. Books of all kinds are the substantive source of the kind of enlightenment that helps us live well and do well. Thanks for this powerful shout out to books and the value of being a bibliophile!

    Well done!

    • Another outstanding comment Dawn: truly well thought out and said.

      Yes, its paradoxical to me that in the age of information we are substituting bits of information for real thought and knowledge and it behooves us to call this out for what it is, which is just intellectual laziness.

      I certainly don’t claim to be an intellectual, but I do know how to think, perceive information and formulate ideas: we all do. My hope is that we begin to rekindle that desire for thought and exchange of ideas before we reduce ourselves to empty receptacles capable of only having data and noise pass through us.

      Thank you for writing Dawn!

      • Early in my career I taught high school English where, as part of writing instruction, critical thinking was emphasized. Over the years that emphasis seems to have been lost or somehow diminished, replaced by that “intellectual laziness” that we both see.

        I too would like to see us dial back the noise and crank up our brains to embrace the complexities that are the world we live in…the world we need to always make better.

        Great having you as a kindred spirit! Thanks.

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