I came to the conclusion last week that there are too many words and not enough poetry.
I am bombarded by a constant stream of information, opinion and data: I am constantly recalibrating my information sources from RSS to Facebook; Weibo to Weixin; Flipboard to LinkedIn; from Pinterest to Instagram and tumblr. I seek new muses to intoxicate me and I curate them like a bowerbird into pretty lists and boards; but to what end?
The information binge reminds me of a Hunter S Thompson road trip where uppers and downers are prescribed to counteract each other’s dizzying impacts giving A.D.D. to the most monkish of thinkers. Give me one drug to fuel me, maybe, but not a-never-ending cocktail.
For a long time the fragmentation of media brought rains, [“Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend, but now the floods have come. In the melee I have too little time to process the flow into new thoughts and wisdom.
The onslaught of choices is overwhelming. It reminds me of traffic in many Asian cities: overloaded roads; small little noisy vehicles, jostling for position; too many traffic wardens giving the directions to vehicles whose destinations they are ignorant of. Like my twitter feed on a Monday morning – a deluge of little thoughts. Where are the New York Times, Economist and the BBC when you need them, or are their thoughts now bite sized too?
I end up starved of the very sustenance I am seeking.
How should we cope with this mindlessness? It’s a constant struggle for everyone to find inspiration and soul food; we have a paucity of performances, and people to help grow our minds.
For myself, I know I need to consolidate my information sources; I need some order; I need to set clear goals for the sustenance I am seeking; I need to clear the clutter, make some choices and remember that less is more.
In a world of unlimited choices and unfettered access to all the content in the world, differentiation is achieved by starving yourself of some of it, not by using all of it. I need to remember sometimes to stop collecting sources: smell the roses; read the poetry.
The very thing that excites me about digital’s ability to transport ideas across the world also creates awful regurgitation of the same content. We need less regurgitation and more origination – as Walt Whitman said: “…you are here… [so that] you may contribute a verse”, not add to the clutter. What will be that verse?
In everyday life – just as much for the brands we work with – we seek inspiration to fuel our dreams, create our visions, and fulfill our purpose – and what marks one person and one brand from another is the do’er; the performer. Roosevelt said: “It is not the critic who counts… the credit belongs to the man… in the arena… who errs,… who strives; who knows… if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
The heroes of today’s world are the do’ers not the commentators; the contrarians creating new instruments, not the sharing monkeys blasting their own trumpets. As Robert Frost recalled in his poem: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”
Simplification, silence and disconnection are undervalued virtues in the age of connectedness; as are those who seek to bring new ideas to life, who do things differently, who contribute their verse.