How quickly the past decade has passed. What have I learned?
Here are some of the things I’m thinking about at the close of this decade:
The quantity of information we consume and process does not equal the quality of our learning or our lives. In his book, The Cult of the Amateur, author Andrew Keen says that while the internet has helped the democratization of information the downside is that we live in an age of uncredentialed creativity. Just having a medium to share ideas and opinions doesn’t necessarily make them useful or even valid; it is harder than ever before to separate faction from fiction and history from hyperbole.
We can be smarter but not wiser. What makes us wiser isn’t just learning but in remembering what we’ve learned and applying it.
I’ve never lost any money I gave away. When there is a downturn in the economy and investments are negative, it is a stark reminder that money invested in others is the safest investment of all.
Speed can be insidious. I recently read that young people are writing more words than ever, but they’re writing them faster. Think about the dramatic increase in texting. This haste causes poorer word choice. If we want to write better, we need to slow down. A similar case can be made for how we live. Haste not only makes waste but it diminishes the quality of just about everything significant, from the written to personal relationships.
We can often accomplish more by doing less. That means eliminating the superfluous and unimportant activities that serve as a kind of anesthesia. Staying busy might make us feel productive but only achieving important results makes us productive.
We are saying more but communicating less. So much of what passes for public dialogue is nothing more than diatribe. The vitriol of those who disagree is so off-putting that thinking people see little reason to advance ideas. Someone recently observed, “More than being told to respect everyone’s opinions, we’re being told not to form our own opinions.” Disagreement too often comes coupled with contempt. Why? Could it be that people are so insecure in their own thinking that they feel threatened by those who h old opposing viewpoints? We learn nothing from name-calling, labeling and vilifying those with contrary ideas.
Fame is about the attention you get but greatness is about the contribution you make. Some are so consumed with the need for attention they fake emergencies and crash presidential parties. They are passing footnotes in the cult of celebrity. So many people are doing such great work and receiving so little attention. The man, woman or child who quietly serves will rarely be recognized with front page coverage or a show. But we need to remind ourselves and our children that greatness is its own reward. Aristotle wouldn’t have considered fame as answer to “What makes for a good life?”
I am always happier when I focus on what I have instead of what I don’t have. Life isn’t an either/or game. The blessings are mixed with burdens and we need to acknowledge both but we can choose where we focus our attention.