Choose organic information

Herbert Simon rightly predicted that the wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. Little wonder that people are flocking to social media influencers to make choosing easy. But our brains still need more than Tik Tok-sized bytes to learn anything of substance. So what’s a surefire way to separate the chaff from the grain amidst the deluge of information? Get as close as possible to excellence. Go right to the source: The minds and creations of people who have excelled, blazed their paths and carried humanity forward.  

Being in the presence of excellence is getting easier even as I write this piece. Every day YouTube sees countless uploads of rare videos of great people from all walks of life. A musician friend used to rue the indignity, time, and money he spent knocking at the doors of music connoisseurs trying to persuade them to share their rare collections. In one stroke, the digital world has removed most entry barriers to accessing excellence. 

The lives of great masters abound with life lessons about passion, repeated failures, perseverance, indignity, self-doubt, the whole gamut. Ayrton Senna’s interviews about the importance of authenticity when connecting to others different from you (he was a Japanese icon despite not knowing the language) is a master class in cross-cultural communication. Tarantino and South Park creators talking about how having a point of view is bound to upset a specific section of people; to be universally loved, you would have to be Shrek. The beauty of the digital age is the endless options for partaking in excellence. Mozart symphonies, Will Durant’s readings of great philosophers, Zadie Smith’s incisive mind, the list is endless. 

Choosing the kind of information to consume is like choosing your food. So much of the information out there looks good because it’s waxed, colored, kept fresh with harmful chemicals. Consume farm to table. But unlike food, pure unadulterated information is mostly free; you pay big bucks for the glitzy poison. But you have to look. Don’t let the Mona Lisa blind you to the other masterpieces out there. Information is a great leveler; all you need is the desire to look for excellence.

When consuming information, choose organic.    

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