We’re not talking vacay here, we’re talking recharging and breaking routines
I write about productivity and self-development from the perspective of an adult in my sixties. That means that for most of my life mobile smartphones, the Internet and the other huge information distractions we have today did not exist. This is not a ‘back in my day’ rant- I have been a tech marketer for years and as such, I’m about as up to date with tech as anyone. And I’ll tell anyone that I simply could not finish a book project until I got my first computer, a ridiculously slow, ridiculously expensive one piece Mac with a 9” B&W screen. I loved that thing and I’ve loved all the amazing tech that has come since. But we’re in danger of being owned by it and that is not a minor thing.
I have a pretty good idea how much device time I spend daily and its a lot
In spite of my age, I have multiple devices and information is always an arms length away. Desktop while working, laptop while traveling, phone, and iPad. I’m continuously connected like everyone else and it concerns me. Recently, I’ve been consciously checking out and I intend to do more. I have an addictive personality so this stuff has got a pretty good hold on me, like most of us. So, how do we check out?
Information is not experience
“Tell Me and I Forget; Teach Me and I May Remember; Involve Me and I Learn.” -Benjamin Franklin
The ability to find information about any subject was once the territory of librarians. You’d go to the library and ask them a question and they would dive into the books, catalogs, magazines and other sources they had around them. You’d end up with a stack of stuff to wade through. If they were good, and you had some experience, you could find the answers you were seeking. It could take awhile, but it was rewarding in its own way because you participated in the thought processes involved in reaching your information. Those days are long gone.
Send someone today into a library of the past and they would be lost, just like those videos of teens trying to figure out a dial phone. The skills required to use the information tool (the library) are largely gone because they are no longer needed. Google has done such an amazing job that they almost always offer up a relevant answer to your query. They even understand your current knowledge level on the subject if you’ve searched similar things before. But something major has been lost.
Experience is only acquired through doing things
The recent rash of deaths for amatuer Everest climbers illustrates this point. If you had $11,000 for a climbing permit and could afford getting there, buying equipment, and hiring a sherpa, you could take your shot. And you could learn how to do those things from searches. As a result, the already staggering death toll has been rising (the average up until a few years was one in nine climners died. Yes, died. This is not a minor endeavor). Nepal got relaxed about experience and qualifications because there was a lot of money and jobs involved, and they are a poor country. And way too many climbers died in the past climbing season. I have a friend who has summited the highest peaks on every continent. He recently did Everest, a climb that is not as technically difficult as some of the others. I asked him what he thought of that.
He said that it might not be technically as challenging as others but that it is incredibly difficult because of the altitude, climate change, and other factors and it is getting worse. Yet they are letting inexperienced climbers try because those climbers want to check it off their bucket list. And they are dying in droves. So much so that Nepal has halted issuing licenses.
You don’t start by climbing the highest mountain on the planet
Access to information may contribute to the mistaken belief that reading about Everest (and having money) equates to enough experience to risk your life. Experienced climbers get there by hiking near home, taking rock climbing courses, working their way up to harder climbs and higher peaks, and more, until they have some idea they might have a reasonable chance of making it. It is a long, arduous process driven by passion. The acquisition of experience through doing.
There is a lot of searching for meaning out there
One of the most searched terms on Medium is Self-improvement. Personal Development is another. We see stories about psychedelics and mindfulness, exercise and diet, therapy and …you get the idea. I believe this search for meaning is driven by a lack of experience and a surfeit of information. You can sit on your couch or walk down the sidewalk on a beautiful day with a phone in your face and you are not only not experiencing things, you are probably actually hurting yourself. This may explain the existential angst that has people seeking information on gaining meaningful experience. But taking psychedelics or losing weight isn’t easy, especially when someone relaters their exceptional experience in an article or Instagram. But there is an easier path to getting away from the information.
It’s right outside your door or sitting next to you in the office
I do something some of my friends would probably consider pretty odd. When I’m stuck or feeling like I’m not getting anywhere, I pull out my phone and look at bus routes (yes, using the tools as tools is fine!). I find a destination that looks interesting a few miles way, maybe somewhere I haven’t been, and I take a bus there. Then I walk back, looking at unfamiliar places and looking for interesting discoveries. All a few miles from home. Or I have a talk with a stranger and ask them, what interests you these days? They’ll either tell you or they will complain about not being stimulated. Either way you have a conversation. Listen.
It’s not really checking out, it’s checking in
Yes, this is intended to be motivational- I want you to check out of the information trap and into life. If you make it a habit, even a small one but regular, it will offer rewards. You may even start to move towards your Everest summit (actually, don’t- it is an environmental disaster up there!). Put the phone away and only take it out if you can’t find your way home from the unfamiliar neighborhood at the end of the bus line. Or don’t. Try getting back without it. You might surprise yourself and that can be addictive, in a good way.