Not knowing enough: how to take action on limited information

Is information ever too much?

Imagine this: you have to change a lightbulb, and you have no idea how.

You type “how to change a lightbulb” into Google.
You read one (let me guess, wikihow?), then you do it.
You turn the light off, and as soon as you start unscrewing the bulb, you notice that…the replacement bulb doesn’t look the same. Back to Google. Ah. It’s a whatever-type-you-have-in-your-house bulb. Back to practice.
Eventually, you change your lightbulb, flip the switch and…voilà. Let there be light.

Now, there were two key parts to that story.
First, our imaginary you looked for information. How to.
Then, ‘you’ used that information and learnt that…there was more that‘you’ needed to know.
A case of not knowing what you don’t know.
So back to more information, this time more specific. What type.
Then, our imaginary you went back to applying that information.
Information + execution = light bulb moment. (Some times literally, other times figuratively.)

too-much-information

You can apply this formula to anything.

Simple?
Maybe, but when things get more difficult than changing a light bulb when tend to drift away.
Instead of matching information with action, we look for more information. We try to prevent any future challenges, without really knowing what those challenges could be.
It’s like painting a patchy wall in the dark.
Not only we fail to turn information into experience, this search for more information doesn’t let us fully engage with what’s already in front of us. Like a serial dater with commitment issues, our eyes stare at a page, but our mind is already thinking about what’s next.

There’s so much to be known, no time is left for execution.

A game you’ve lost from the start

Whether it’s music, articles, podcasts, books, audiobooks, films, social media updates and texts from friends, there is more information you’ll ever be able to consume.
Literally.
1.97 million blog posts written every day.
6,000 tweets a second.
95 million Instagram photos a day.
Over 100,000 music albums a year. And counting (that was a few years ago).
Around 1,000,000 books published each year.

The conclusion?
It’s impossible to keep up. If you’re looking to reach 100% knowledge, good luck.

You will alway feel like you’re missing a piece of information, and that’s part of the game.
Take action instead.

The only alternative is to get lost in quantity over quality. To spread yourself thin over lots of theory without even engaging, knowing that you won’t take action anyway. To keep looking for the golden nugget but refuse to reach for it when you see it. Because that’s when the real work starts.

How to find your light bulb moment

A couple of times a year, I do an information purge.
I list the blogs that I follow. The podcasts I listen to. The people I look up to. The kind of books that I read. Even the people I hang out with or follow on social media.

Then I ask myself “is this relevant to my current focus? is it supporting the person I want to be?”

This is fundamental to differentiate between just in case information and just in time information: the former supports my actions and progress, the latter just throws a complicated spanner in the works.

This time, I took it a bit further.
I decided that for the next 3 month I will only read books I already read. This way, I’ll know I’ll be reading a great book, I’ll get fresh insights from a new point of view, and I’ll be able to apply the lessons that escaped me the first time around.
I’m giving myself more room to take action and get real insights.

It doesn’t just apply to books. Articles I saved, movies I enjoyed in the past but didn’t quite remember, courses that made a difference. That’s why they deserve more action.

Whatever your strategy, go ahead and do your information purge today.
Make sure you stop drowning in information, and give yourself enough time and headspace to take intentional action.

That’s how you turn information into transformation.

— Matt

PS: don’t know how to decide? Learn the dangers of saying ‘yes’ too lightly.

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