Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? – TS Eliot
Recently I have been torn asunder by the consistent offerings of ways to improve myself that come across my desk and social media. There are coaches for health, life, sex, meditation, organization, entrepreneurship, spirituality, and a lot more. I also encounter enough self-help courses on a daily basis to fill the coming year. Add that to the estimated 130 million books in existence with approximately 750,000 newly published each year and there goes the college fund. To add to this, there are over 850,000 podcast shows with over 30 million episodes.
A few days back a very cool course offering landed in my email box. It is a course on how to best retain information when reading a book and other tidbits related to reading. The person offering the course is a great thinker so it was enticing. As I hovered the mouse over ‘Buy Now’, I paused and then closed the email without purchasing. This got me to thinking about TS Eliot’s quote above.
I am becoming overwhelmed by all of the opportunities to know more stuff, first getting lulled in by the promise of a better me and then catching myself before I fall off the cliff into yet another thing to take up my precious and finite time. To catch myself I have started to ask these questions:
If I answer ‘No’ to any of them, then I pass. I pass often these days. This is not to say that these courses, podcasts, books and coaches do not offer valuable information. They do which is part of the problem.
There was a time when I was easily mesmerized by all of these offerings. I thought I needed to know more; that everyone else was learning all of this information and I needed to be right alongside them in order to thrive. Then I remembered the Trivial Pursuit debacle that happened in the dining room of my house about 30 years ago.
Trivial Pursuit Debacle
When I was 18 I had a boyfriend who was brainy and arrogant about it. He was the kind of guy who would tell you how it is in a way that made you want to be able to tell him how it was, you know what I mean? The day of our weekly Trivial Pursuit night (this was the 1980’s y’all), my girlfriend and I studied every single card in the deck because we were not yet fully developed in terms of morality and ethics. When I claimed victory that evening, he was livid and stormed out of the house because he lost. He did not know that we had preplanned the event (aka cheated). It was a mean trick and I am sorry about it, I really am. I did tell him what we did before he got into his car and I believe he found his way to laughing about it. Maybe. Still, it taught me something I have not forgotten: I felt inferior to him because I did not know as much information as he knew; he felt superior for knowing more information than I knew. And this was ridiculous.
The moral of this story is that to base our worth on how much information we hold in our brains is a perilous perch. Also, don’t cheat.
I have been thinking lately in a different sort of way. It is not the kind of thinking that is trying to solve problems but can be best described as pondering. I step into nature for a break and let my mind wander into the places it wants to go, sort of like letting a kid out of the house to play after the homework is finished. You know what I have found there? All I need to know in that moment.
When thinking about hiring a coach, purchasing a course, or buying that supplement ask yourself the questions I wrote above. The reason may be valid and if so, go for it. If not, step away slowly. Perhaps you have all the information you need right now.