A week ago I talked about getting a balanced information diet. In the article, I said that news-based information is more important than I previously thought. I now need to qualify that statement; news-based information only rises above the literary-junk-food level if you read it selectively.
Bad News: Zuckerberg at Congress
I read three or four news articles from WSJ and the MIT Tech Daily Newsletter that made the same speculations about the future of Facebook. Even though I overtly disagreed with the findings of the writers, by the fourth article I found myself expecting significant legislation against Facebook.
After talking through the issue with my friend, I came to my senses. Facebook isn’t going anywhere for a long time*, but the news’s coverage of the Cambridge Analytica issue made me inflate its importance. Look at my inbox if you don’t believe me:
I get it. Writing daily is hard. But repeated exposure to the same issue and viewpoints won’t improve my decision making. To prevent this unhelpful side effect, I switched to MIT’s weekly newsletter.
*Facebook’s long term prospects: Let’s ignore Facebook’s powerful lobbying, winner-take-all business model, and desire to shape (and thereby nullify) any short-term reform. Ditto for Congress’s snail pace when it comes to regulating the private sector (read Titan to see how long it took the U.S. government to regulate Standard Oil). At the end of the day, most people simply don’t care if tech giants have data on them. It’s hard to enact substantial legislation with an apathetic constituent base. Over the next decade, public sentiment may change. Until that time, Facebook is coasting.
Good News: Wall Street Journal’s 52-Week Lows
By contrast, reading the Wall Street Journal’s 52-week lows is exactly the kind of timely information you need. In other words, reading the news should supply you with fleeting facts (proposed mergers, business calamities, macroeconomic trends, etc.) that make you excited enough to go out and form your own opinion. They are the starting point of original thought, not the end.
Although the above examples were business, this advice applies to your chosen niche. If you’re a NASCAR engineer, you should probably consume news that’ll make you an expert on the bleeding-edge of automobile technology. If you’re a writer for the New York Times, this means constantly honing the art of storytelling, as well as delving into the competitive advantages of various literary media sources (e.g. Medium vs. NYT vs. The Economist).
Don’t overwhelm yourself with stuff to read. Instead, understand the four or five inflection points in a specific industry (where real-time developments have profound implications) and follow those closely. Try to avoid consuming the same soundbites over and over. Overexposure leads to overweighing certain factors. And substantial repetition leads to ideology, which
“cabbages up one’s mind. … When you’re young it’s easy to drift into loyalties and when you announce that you’re a loyal member and you start shouting the orthodox ideology out, what you’re doing is pounding it in, pounding it in, and you’re gradually ruining your mind”
Nothing to add.