“A wealth of information, creates a poverty of attention” – Herbert Simon
This week I finished Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday. The book is centred around the idea of finding peace in the chaos of life. Holiday is suspicious of the modern practice of filling every spare minute of your schedule, and instead makes the case for cultivating time to think, reflect and be still.
Holiday is a dedicated student of Stoicism – the ancient Roman and Greek philosophy, which was also practiced by Marcus Aurelius, one of the greatest Emperors of Rome.
Stoicism teaches us to identify what we can and cannot control. What is within our power to change, and what is not. This is a vital area of life, and key to finding peace in the frenzied world we all live in.
“Knowing what not to think about. What to ignore and what not to do. It’s your first and most important job.”
What is truly within your control? I journaled on this during the week, and found some interesting answers.
- Primarily, I am in control of my reaction to situations. It is my choice whether I react angrily to a slight or comment I dislike. It is my choice whether I listen to someone’s point of view I disagree with. And it is my choice whether I let myself become frustrated and angry when watching the news. Much of my life is out-with my control, but how I respond to events happening around me is totally up to me.
- I am in control of my inputs. I am in control of who I follow on social media, which Youtube channels I watch and subscribe to, and which news outlets I give my attention to. It is my responsibility to manage, analyse, and filter the information that I consume.
- I can prioritise how I spend my time, and optimise my informational diet. Spending time reading a book is incalculably more valuable than scrolling through instagram. I cannot bring to mind one memorable moment from scrolling my instagram feed, whereas I have countless examples of books fundamentally changing the way I view the world and my place in it.
“In order to think clearly, it is essential each of us figures out how to filter out the inconsequential from the essential. It’s not enough to be inclined toward deep thought and sober analysis; a leader must create time and space for it.”
We are all leaders. It’s a responsibility we must all take seriously. You may be a leader to a younger sibling, a friend, a co-worker. Every time you share something to social media you’re leading. You’re showing something to your followers and asking them to engage with it.
So, as a leader, you have to take responsibility for your inputs. Get rid of the trash, and find inputs that will improve your life, and thus the lives of your followers. “It’s your first and most important job”.