Signal to Noise

Living in a tech town like Waterloo I find there is a cultural bias towards what is new, what is modern versus things and ideas that may be old, timeless. There is a relentless pressure to keep on top of things, to refresh Twitter and seek out the novel and the exciting. Yet I find there is far more value to what is classic, what is enduring, the things and ideas that have stood the test of time.

This is a topic that has come up in my readings lately and from people such as Ryan Holiday, Tim Ferris, Nassim Nicholas Taleb and others. Old books and old principles always have the answers.

Often the things that are new seem important and vital but they end up proving to be irrelevant . What is the half life of information of something posted yesterday on social media ? That article on Bernie Sanders or Andrew Yang is out of date very quickly. A classic book however such as the “Meditations” of Marcus Aurelius has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to provide relevant advice to readers hundreds of years from now.

As Ryan Holiday writes in the Daily Stoic;
Of course, one should always avail themselves of the latest research and the newest books. The problem is that for far too many people this comes at the expense of availing themselves of wisdom from the wisest minds who ever lived. “I don’t have time to read books,” says the person who reads dozens of breaking news articles each week. “I don’t have time to read,” they say as they refresh their Twitter feed for the latest inane update. “I don’t have time to read fiction—that’s entertainment,” they say as they watch another panel of arguing talking heads on CNN, as if that’s actually giving them real information they will use.

The modern cellphone addiction leads to not only poor posture and kyphosis but also to a cortisol increase and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). With discipline, and studying the things and ideas that have endured you can strive to get to the bottom of things; finding truth rather than trivia.

This can be applied throughout your life, not just what you watch and read. I am a pragmatic engineer and conservative by nature. I identified in an earlier post that what seems like an exciting new idea, SD-WAN, is really just another swing in the cycle of private versus public networking. My tastes run to the classic and enduring like a good steak dinner or a live symphony performance of Beethoven’s 9th.

So take some time today to examine your life and your habits. Find where you can read and learn from the classics, from the wisdom that has stood the test of time. Try to ignore the siren call of the smartphone and social media; that is just noise. Filter it out and search for the truth, the signal hidden behind the noise.

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