In 1996, MIT researchers Marshall Van Alstyne and Erik Brynjolfsson warned of a potential dark side to our newly interconnected world:
Individuals empowered to screen out material that does not conform to their existing preferences may form virtual cliques, insulate themselves from opposing points of view, and reinforce their biases.
In other words, if were not careful, we can wall ourselves off to new, better information and just order the same information from the “menu” each time. This naturally causes people to get stuck in life and to never grow.
It might surprise you to know that I don’t have cable TV. I haven’t had it for many, many years. I’ve never had Netflix, Hulu, Roku, Amazon Prime or any of the other entertainment services either. Not a one.
Sounds weird, especially in the age of “connection”, doesn’t it?
It might be weird… but I am in good company.
Bill Gates is obviously a technology icon. He’s also one of the richest men in the world. Here’s what he had to say about watching TV:
“I stopped listening to music and watching TV in my 20s. It sounds extreme, but I did it because I thought they would just distract me from thinking”.
Gates didn’t allow his kids to have cellphones until they were 14 (on average, kids are given their first cellphones at age 10). He also has a “no phones” rule during family meals.
If you’re a fan of Warren Buffett, you know that he’s not of a fan of technology either. If fact, he got his first cell phone just a few years ago. And what type of phone did he get? An old-school flip phone that doesn’t provide access to the internet!
Both gentlemen are prolific readers however. Gates literally consumes books and Buffett devours financial reports like they were M&M’s.
So, what’s behind this boycott on TV?
I can’t speak for Gates and Buffett, but I can tell you that removing TV years ago had a dramatic effect on my life. I can easily say it’s in the top 5 decisions I’ve made, that had the biggest impact on my success.
There’s several reasons why…
Firstly, TV can be a large echo chamber. This is especially true nowadays with the news, as it gets even more politicized. We all like hearing the sound of our own voices and thoughts, so many people binge watch TV “news” programs just to reinforce what they’re already thinking. That can be good if what they are watching reinforces good philosophies. However, bad habits and ideas can get reinforced in the same way. A pivotal moment of success is when a person realizes they must change. And with change comes new ideas, thoughts and philosophies. If a person keeps exposing themselves to the same nightly ritual of the same TV programs, they’ll hardly have a chance to get new information that could help them change for the better. An object in motion tends to stay in motion, and generally in the same direction.
Secondly, there’s a lot of unnecessary intonation with “information” from TV. Breathless commentary and a relentless goal of higher ratings, drives many news programs to have an almost cartoon-like delivery of the news. Make no mistake about it, we listen with our ears but also with our emotions. One pattern I see with people who watch a lot of TV news programs is that they’re agitated and irritable. They’re outraged over something they’ve been told to be outraged about on a news program. I don’t know about you, but I don’t do my best thinking when I’m upset. Rather, some of the best decisions in my life have come after long periods of me sitting quietly and thinking. The best, most lucid, ideas about money and success have literally come to me when my brain is quiescent.
Lastly, and probably most obvious, is that there’s a huge time trap with watching TV. It’s sort of like potato chips and french fries, how can you consume just a little? I think this is one of the main reasons Gates and Buffett don’t watch much TV – it can draw you in and before you know it, you’ve wasted 5 hours watching a documentary about cats. Hardly a pastime with high returns.
So, what do I do instead? I read. For me, reading has a lot higher nutritional value than TV. There’s a lot less intonation. There’s a lot less flair for the dramatic. I get closer to the truth and facts. Reading sharpens my brain.
Here’s what Buffett had to say about reading…
When asked about his secret to success during a Columbia Business School talk, he picked up a big pile of articles and financial reports and replied, “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.” Even today, he’s stated that he spends 80 percent of his day reading.
Here’s a challenge: For the next 2 weeks, go on a low information diet. Cut out all TV and social media. After 2 weeks, set another challenge to go 2 more weeks on the same diet. After 4 weeks, check yourself.
I can tell you that most people see a dramatic change in their lives with this exercise. They see what they’ve been missing. They see all the time they were wasting watching TV. They start to see the benefits from activities such as reading, that now fill the time that TV used to occupy. They feel they have more knowledge and that their minds are sharper.
Give it a shot and drop me a note letting me know what you experienced. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you do to “sharpen the saw” and engage in high return uses of your time. For as we know, high return uses of our times generally generate high returns in our lives. The type of returns that lead to financial freedom.
Be free. Nothing else is worth it.
P.S. Why aren’t you wealthy yet? It’s because of something you don’t know. Otherwise you’d already be rich. Isn’t it time to learn what you don’t know? Consider signing-up for my newsletter below, to help you build wealth faster.
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Ready for more tips on how to achieve the free life? Check-out more articles from the blog archives below:
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The Duality Of Man: Why People Do The Opposite Of What They Should Do With Their Money
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