12 February 2006

Sources of Influence

I've been reading a lot of books lately and it is interesting how the various ideas end up shuffled, combined and constructed once they are inside my head.

Like all of us, I'm prone to external influence whether I accept it or not. So in times when I find myself a little melancholy, I step back and ask myself if my sources of influence are heading me in the right direction.

What are the main sources of influence that we experience in our current lives?

Print Media

There are probably more. Before considering some ideas on the above -- think about how much time you spend being influenced, in your current life, by the above. Many of us spend more time with the TV (or keyboard) then our wife or kids. One of the great things about my life is the large amount of time that I get to spend with M. Constant exposure to a person with high self-esteem is great for the soul.

I've been pretty shelled the last week. The fatigue has been from my business trip that started at the end of my big training camp. Two weeks of massive training, cross 13 time zones in two days; have a two week business trip; then cross 13 time zones in a day.

Perhaps I was being unreasonable to expect myself to sleep-in one morning then resume normal life. It's taken me a full week to sort myself out through sleeping 10-12 hours per night. Right now it is a bit after midnight -- the first time that I've made it past 10 in a week. So perhaps I am turning the corner. We'll see. Fatigue is a bit like injury. Even when we are healed there is a period of time where we need to rebuild confidence in ourselves.

Back to the books. Fooled By Randomness -- in that the author rips into the media. I thought that I would experiment and trim my exposure. So I've been down to the top screen (of the home page) for the FT, WSJ and CNN. I figure if anything major goes down then I'll read about it there. Not that there is much that I could do if anything major happens.

As for magazines, I have an electronic subscription to The Economist and that is quite a good way to stay on top of the large events happening around the world as well as searching for economic info when I need it.

So far my experiment has been a success. I'm still in the loop, as much as I need to be, and I've freed up additional time for writing and reading.

TV has been pretty much eliminated. I say pretty much because M busted me brain-dead, exhausted, surfing channels the other day and announced "you don't watch TV, turn that off". So now I try to turn the TV off, rather than changing the channel. There is something strangely hypnotic about that flickering screen.

Internet -- very tricky I find! As much as the media exist to entertain, rather than inform... the internet is a swirling mass of noise. How best to deal with all that noise? Well, I'm still working on that. Here's what I've come up with so far...

On the boards -- I asked myself what I was seeking to get out of the interaction. The main thing that I enjoy from the internet is writing and helping folks. Writing as it calms my mind. Helping folks as there is a clear positive feedback loop and we all like-to-be-liked.

Paradoxically, my site has always helped me learn to tolerate not being liked. There are a lot of unhappy folks out there that can't quite shed their persistent negativity. It is a trade-off between infecting my mind and learning to let their noise flow through me. Some days I do better than others!

So, I'm trying to stick with the threads that let me either help folks or write. Seems to be going OK. On the other threads, I've been around long enough to spot the ones that might develop into something interesting or simply aren't worth bothering. So I limit myself to a single view per day (and that's taking discipline, let me tell you!). I've even managed to avoid some altogether -- such as a recent one that appears to be speculating on my life expectancy (I don't want to know, but thanks for caring).

In chopping down the above there are a few things that I am seeking to limit.

#1 -- Exposure to advertising -- it is simply an unfair battle.

Allow me to share a story. In the 80s, folks in China didn't consider dandruff an issue. I know the people that were responsible for changing that in the 90s. The good folks that sell shampoo and my pals in the HK advertising industry, put together a plan to make a few (hundred?) million people uneasy about something that they never cared about before. They had a stack of cash and they got the job done.

To even the playing field, I'm trimming (as much as possible) my exposure to advertising. Should do wonders for my self-esteem. I'm going to have to count on my wife to salvage my appearance as I age!

M's kicking in with her attempt to reduce their grasp on her. She's been working her way through a book called Mean Genes and enjoying it.

As for interactions with people, those have been cut down quite a bit. I have a tendancy to hide-out when I get shelled. I ventured out on Saturday. We walked down to Sumner and watched the end of the Coast-to-Coast race. I had a Swedish buddy racing and I hadn't seen him for a few years. I managed to track him down -- he was totally shelled (it is a big day out, that race). Given that he isn't talkative at the best of times, I managed a handshake and an intro to Monica.

M noted that perhaps my hiding was ending, we'll see. I'm off on a two week vacation starting February 19th and I'm going to experiment with pulling the plug on the internet for two weeks. When I shared that with M this evening, she flashed me a wry smile. The addiction to connectivity runs pretty deep.

While I accept that completely hiding out might not be an effective long term strategy. I am struck by thinking back to the periods of my life which were the most satisfying. They all have a few things in common:

  • High workload towards a challenging goal;
  • Close interaction with a limited number of people that I respect; and
  • Limited exposure to any person or topic that didn't fit with the two points above.

...or I was in love.

Friends, family, clients, co-workers -- I'm fortunate in that while I create complexity with my travel and living arrangements -- my circle(s) in Bermuda, Scotland, London, Christchurch, Hong Kong and Boulder are pretty small. So life is, relatively, simple once I get somewhere.

More on that when I ponder Expectations and Simplification in the future.



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