Thinking About Our Sources

I love living in the Information Age!  Just before writing this blog, I dropped my fountain pen on the floor, leaving 2 black spots of India ink on the carpet.  Not good!  My wife looked online and told me I needed to blot the spots with rubbing alcohol.  Five minutes later, the spots were gone!

How great is that!!  I needed a specific piece of information and within seconds, I not only had the info, but was applying it to solve my problem.  Amazing!

The downside of the Information Age is that there is SO much information out there, from so many different sources, it can become overwhelming to know which sources to trust.  This is especially true when we’re seeking more important information than how to get ink stains out of your carpet.  When searching for information we need to make important life decisions, we should employ some critical thinking to help us vet which sources we will rely on.

For example, we should determine the reason the source is providing this information.  Is it to:

  • Educate
  • Persuade
  • Generate a sale
  • Influence my opinion
  • Move me to action to support a cause, belief, or ideal

Some other things we should think critically about regarding our information sources are:

  • What tactics they are using
    • Fear
    • Scarcity
    • Emotional hooks
  • Is the information based on facts or opinions
  • Is the source considered an expert or authority in the field

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but rather serves as a reminder that we should question our sources to determine whether we can trust the information they provide.

Ultimately, we have a responsibility to ourselves and our loved ones to be discerning of the information sources clamoring for our attention.  Because our thinking shouldn’t cease when Google returns our search results.

Fill Your Own Mind

“The test of a person’s education is that he finds pleasure in the exercise of his mind.” 

~ Jacques Barzun

There are so many voices today, clamoring to fill our minds with their thoughts, ideas, or opinions and repeat them as our own.  Since each one of us is blessed to have total ownership of our mind, we should be aware of what we’re letting into them.

We should actually use our minds and think critically regarding the formation of our ideas and opinions.  Our minds are like a garden that we should tend to with care.  We need to give attention to what we allow to take root, and root out anything that doesn’t help to produce the positive mind we’d like to cultivate.  Our minds are too valuable, too precious, to be treated as empty vessels just waiting to be filled with someone else thoughts.  Filling our minds is OUR job.

There’s a lot going on in the world today and a lot people eager to do our thinking for us, with regard to how you’re to respond, act, and think.  Let’s make sure that the opinions we have and the actions we take are the result of exercising the super computer between our ears, rather than sopping up what someone else pours inside.

Unintentionally Training Others

How do you go about learning a new skill?  Usually, your training will involve many correct repetitions of the skill you’re attempting to master.  Through repetition, you can train yourself to become competent, if not excellent, in any skill you choose.  Repetition is a remarkably powerful training tool.

One thing we may not realize, is that we can also training others (often unintentionally) by what we repeatedly expose them to.  If we’re continuously on our phone, or have our face in front of a screen, whenever we’re with those close to us, what kind of message are we repeatedly sending them?  What are we “training” them to understand?

If we’re always checking our phone or interrupting those who are trying to have a conversation with us, make no mistake, we’re training them that they are not important enough to warrant our full attention.  We are training them to know that we will tap out of our interaction with them the moment something more exciting comes along.  We are training them that they really don’t matter much to us.  Regardless of what we may tell them, or actions are what will train them.

While it’s easy to get sloppy with regard to how we’re training others, it’s also easy to start changing our actions and behaviors to train those around us that they are indeed important and that they matter.  We can decide to train them to know that we care about them.

Consider you’re recent interactions with those close to you.  Through those actions, what have you been training other to understand?  If you don’t like the training you’ve been presenting, then intentionally change your behaviors to align with the training you’d like them to receive.

Two Part Process For Building Skills

I’ve been taking lessons to learn the electric bass for 3 years now.  There have been a number of skills to learn, and I’ve struggled grasping many of them!  When I do find myself struggling with a concept, I have come up with a 2 step process for speeding up my understanding.  The 2 steps are:

  1. Write down my understanding of the concept and present it to my instructor
  2. Be open to, and ready to apply, feedback

Jotting down my understanding of a concept helps me clarify my thoughts and also presents my instructor with a glimpse into my thinking.  From this glimpse, he can easily tell whether I’m grasping the concept or not.  It’s really difficult to fake my understanding when I’ve just handed him a chart, summary, or sketch of how I’m interpreting what I’m learning!

It’s nice when my understanding is correct.  However, most times, I’m usually missing something.  It’s at these moments when my instructor can jump in and clarify a point.  This is where I need to be ok with the fact that my understanding is flawed.  When it is, it’s not a knock on me.  It’s an opportunity to learn and grow as a bass player.  Frankly, isn’t that the point of lessons: to find out in what skills you’re lacking and learn how to get better?

If you’re struggling to learn a concept, consider jotting down how you currently understand it, and give it to someone who knows the topic and will give you an honest assessment.  Then be ready to learn from and apply their feedback.  You’ll have inaccurate understanding to lose and new skills to gain.

A Quick Word On Moving Slow

When we start out on a new endeavor, we usually want quick results.  Whether it’s getting in shape, learning a new skill, investing, or building solid relationships, we like to have positive results come quickly.  Who wouldn’t?  It’s fun and encouraging to see results!

In most cases however, results don’t happen quickly.  They usually arrive slowly.

Therefore, we must put in the effort day after day, month after month, or even year after year before results begin to appear.  The time between starting and results showing up is an easy point to lose heart and give up.  Yet this is also the time when it’s also most crucial to look beyond the present, to that day when the results will have shown up.  When the results are slow, we must be quick to remind ourselves why we want these results and also to remain committed to the process that will ultimately bring us the results we’re working toward.

If you’re currently pursuing something and you’re not seeing the results you want yet, take heart.  Know for certain that results follow actions.   Focus your attention knowing that your results will occur, they must occur, if you simply continue to take the actions required to get you there.

Younger Teachers

“The older I get, the younger my teachers become.”  ~Unknown

As a life-long learner, I’m grateful for the people who have been (and currently are) willing to teach me.  Whether they’ve written a book I’ve read, created a podcast, or sat down next to me to explain something, their willingness to teach me has enriched my live.  I’m especially grateful that these teachers are often younger than I am.

As someone who’s been around for over half a century, I couldn’t imagine how adversely impacted my learning would be if I only listened to people who were older than me.  If I carried the belief that there’s nothing I can learn from anyone who’s younger than me, I’d be willingly disconnecting myself from the wisdom and knowledge of a significant portion of the world population.  What an awful way to move through life!

If sense a negative attitude bubbling up when you have the opportunity to learn from someone younger, check yourself.  You may be on the cusp of throwing away a perfectly good learning experience.

How foolish it would be to miss an opportunity to learn something valuable, simply because pride and ego deafen your ears to voices younger than your own.

Being Intentional

On New Year’s Day, my wife and I spent some time discussing the events and activities we’d like to do in 2020.  At one point as we were listing off places we wanted to go and things we wanted to do, my wife said, “We need to get these on the calendar.”  She was exactly right!  So that’s what we did.

It’s amazing to me how much we can miss out on (exciting things that we actually want to do) simply because we are not intentional about getting them scheduled and making them happen.  Something changed when we wrote these things on the calendar.  This simple act affirmed our commitment to them.  By putting the event/activity on the calendar, we’ve said, “Yes, this is something we will do!”

So often our failure to commit the time to something is the major obstacle that keeps it from being realized.  What is it that you’d like to do in 2020?  Is there somewhere you’d like to go or something you’d like to accomplish?  If so, I’d encourage you to get it scheduled before your calendar fills up.

Commit time to those things that are important for you to achieve in 2020.  Otherwise you’ll get to December 31, 2020 and realize that your lack of being intentional has caused you to miss out on what otherwise might have been an spectacular year.