The Downside of Abundance

Over Abundance? Too Much Plenty?

A couple of days ago I received an email from long-time friend, Peter Murphy, the communications expert. He had sent it not only to me; around 50,000 of his other subscribers also got it. In this note, he laid out a practical (and quite simple) way for taking back control of one’s life.

Interestingly, Peter has independently developed an approach remarkably similar to the one I’ve also been pursuing.

But let’s invite him to tell us about …

The Downside of Abundance

by Peter W. Murphy

This is a post about a change in approach I’ve experimented with this year. It’s a slight change in outlook I’ve found useful and valuable. It might help you to do more of your very best work.

The Implications of Information Abundance

Because information abundance kicked in little by little most of us may not have considered the implications of how we live today and how it limits creativity and our ability to produce good work that has impact. We now have such an abundance of entertainment and information that we could spend day and night consuming, learning and enjoying the feast, and never, ever get through it all. There is more good music, more great books and more excellent TV and films than we can ever find the time to enjoy. The same goes for staying up to date with business and tech news.

The consequence of all this is that we over consume information and we still feel like we are never up to date and that we are never informed enough to make a decision. This leads to over analysis, procrastination and work that resembles everything else.

The Sameness Revolution

Ever notice when you travel that every city looks increasingly similar with the same chain stores and people following the same fashions? The same is happening with business start ups, a lot of us are spending our time watching everyone else and then producing our variation on what has already been done. Yes, this is a valid follower strategy. It’s just that if you follow too closely without adding more value you are making yourself redundant and you are limiting your profit potential. In a world of sameness and emulation, it’s our points of difference that get people’s attention and allow us to build brand loyalty and pricing power.

If you agree with what I’ve said so far then there is an obvious conclusion. We need to stop being 3D copies of everyone else. And that starts by rediscovering your unique identity. This means switching off from 99% of the news and business advice you follow so religiously.

Lady Gaga, famous for her originality, shuts off completely from the music industry when she works on new material. If someone as creative and established as her does this maybe we can all benefit from doing the same.

Consume or Create?

It’s a choice, either your consume or you create. Yes, consuming is enjoyable but creating is even more enjoyable as long as you focus on the joy of doing the work and let go of the need to succeed at everything you do. I’ve made a point of consuming less information and media over the last few months and as a result I am fitter, happier and healthier. I am working on new projects that are much more fun than what I was doing in the past and I’m trusting my own judgement and intuition over following experts. I can move from ideas to implementation far quicker.

Here are a few information management ideas that have helped me and which may help you to create more and enjoy the work more…

  • eliminate 99% of the daily news you follow
  • stop following 99% of the business experts you read and listen to
  • drop 99% of podcasts and listen to great music instead
  • test ideas by creating a pilot project, not by performing endless research
  • read great fiction instead of non fiction, relax to activate your creativity
  • watch less TV and movies by only selecting the highest rated ones

By consuming far less and by only spending that time on the very best material you will only learn from the very best and you’ll find that you raise your own standards by osmosis. You will also have more time to be a producer. The more you do new things in your own way the more you will produce the kind of work you excel at. You’ll be more relaxed, more enthusiastic and have more fun.

Peter Murphy writes about personal development and he has written extensively on the importance of communication skills for happiness and success.
His blog is at: http://www.howtotalkwithconfidence.com/blog/

Back to Charles:

Peter presents a really interesting hypothesis. Then, instead of just thinking about making some changes, or worse, endlessly researching what other experts think, he makes concrete, substantive changes in his own life and watches what happens. It’s clear that so far he is pleased with his results.

In my own case, I’ve made changes similar to Peter’s, and found my life simpler. Plus, it has become easier to reach the end of each day without exhaustion.

Not everyone will be attracted to these ideas, however. Some may still feel that more is better; that information and activities stacked up to their eyebrows will somehow make them richer.

This is a good example of missing the real meanings of “plenty” and “abundance.” A raging torrent of undifferentiated data up to the ceiling and spilling out the windows is neither plenty nor abundance.

A personal note here: both my parents were savers — pack-rats — so I’ve had lots of experience with this whole mindset. If you too are a pack-rat, you won’t get this, but anybody who has lived around one will know exactly what I’m talking about.

Separately, I have posted a piece about information overload, saying that there is no such thing — only an unwillingness to make decisions about relevancy and appropriateness. Further, I stated that all it takes to end the so-called “overload” is to begin exercising just a bit of discrimination, simply making a few quick decisions about what’s relevant right now.

So We Have a Couple of Choices:

On the one hand, we can continue to leave the flood gates wide open and admit everything indiscriminately.

On the other hand, we can decide to accept only information we can use right now.

Having high standards or having none … that reminds me of the twin words “gourmand” and “gourmet”: one is the gluttonous love of all the good food one can cram down the throat; the other is a refined, discriminating love of good food in moderation.

So … if you did decide to begin simplifying things, what would you start by filtering out first? And what would be important enough to keep?

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