Ironically, the basis for this post was formulated after reading the thoughts shared by the author of a book I am currently reading, which in turn is based on the thoughts of someone else.
The essence of the thought is that too often we are swayed and influenced by others rather than finding and trusting our own inner voice.
The book I am reading is The Socrates Express: In Search of Life Lessons from Dead Philosophers by Eric Weiner.
I am currently reading the chapter on Arthur Schopenhauer. A relevant extract from that chapter below (first paragraph starts with a quote from Schopenhauer):
“No greater mistake can be made than to imagine that what has been written latest is always the more correct; that what is written later on is an improvement on what was written previously; and that every change means progress.”
We make this mistake every time we click mindlessly, like a lab rat pulling a lever, hoping for a reward. What form this reward will take we don’t know, but that is beside the point. Like Schopenhauer’s hungry readers, we confuse the new with the good, the novel with the valuable.
I am guilty of this. I’m constantly checking and rechecking my digital vital signs. While writing this paragraph, I have checked my email (nothing), opened my Facebook page (Pauline’s birthday, must remember to send her a note), placed a bid for a nice leather backpack on eBay, checked my email again (still nothing), ordered a disturbingly large quantity of coffee, upped my bid for that backpack, and checked my email again (still nothing).
The encyclopaedia was the Internet in Schopenhauer’s day, and nearly as seductive. Why puzzle over a problem when the solution is readily available in a book? Because, answers Schopenhauer, “it’s a hundred times more valuable if you have arrived at it by thinking for yourself.” Too often, he said, people jump to the book rather than stay with their thoughts. You should read only when your own thoughts dry up.’
Substitute “click” for “read” and you have our predicament. We confuse data with information, information with knowledge, and knowledge with wisdom. This tendency worried Schopenhauer. Everywhere he saw people scrambling for information, mistaking it for insight. “It does not occur to them,” he wrote, “that information is merely a means toward insight and possesses little or no value in itself” I’d go a step further. This excess of data – noise, really -has negative value and diminishes the possibility of insight. Distracted by the noise, we don’t hear the music.
I would say that in my writing, such as on this blog, my guilt is that I too often refer to others. I am too quick in finding validation from and through others.
This is unsurprising since this was the foundation of good blogging back when it first started. That is, hyperlinking and the web of connections and ultimately knowledge this builds up.
Fill your head too much with the ideas of others though and they will displace your own.
While I am not suggesting that the habit of referencing others work and building on the ideas of others is not a good one (on the contrary), I do think we should be more mindful about our inner voice.
Sometimes it’s good to shut the world out and home in on that inner voice. Here is how I think we will benefit.
Benefits of developing your inner voice
- Evolving intuition. As much as you might believe that data is the better basis for understanding and making decisions, this is not about a choice. Regardless the weight that intuition and gut feeling play in your decisions (in life and at work), it plays a role. You should hone the skill as much as you can and that is best done by listening to your inner voice.
- Build your unique differentiation. Especially in personal brand efforts, it pays to have your own voice that stands out. That you have considered deeply what you stand for and believe in and you can speak that truth widely – it will be appreciated.
- Focus. Simply put, you will be less distracted by the clicks. When you need to be that is. As mentioned, there is sense in seeking to build evidence, but when you need to focus, it sometimes makes sense to shut out the outside world and focus on what you have learned and putting it all together yourself.