Thinking: noise or signal?


Think: Getting to #4” was my June 14 post about taking time to think.  When I listened to this TEDxO’Porto 2013 talk, my instincts were confirmed.  When we think we find the signal in the noise.

The first 3 minutes of this talk by Jonathan MacDonald are riveting as he rifts on the deceptive superficiality of noise, and how easily we succumb to it.  My own experience is noise makes me go faster.   I have difficulty slowing down when the noise dominates my thinking.  I can’t find the signal. 

Finding The Signal

Signal helps us find purpose and meaning.  We are no longer controlled by events and circumstances.   We know why we here, and what to do.  Priorities are clearer, decisions are simpler, and progress consistent.

Noise conceals and distorts the signal.   We lose our bearings…why we are here…what we are to do.   Life speeds up and activity replaces productivity.   We are restless, anxious, and afraid.  We can’t slow down.

If we are going to find the signal in the noise, we must slow down.

Slowing Life Down

How do we slow life down?  The best teacher of this concept in my experience is sports.   Coaches and players consistently talk about the importance of “slowing the game down”.   In fact, those who study athletes describe successful players as those who experience the game more slowly.

TSN recently reported on Toronto Blue Jay J.P. Arencibia and his hitting slump.   They interviewed his hitting coach Chad Mottola, who attributed the slump to Arencibia playing too fast.

 “When you have fear in this game it tends to get really fast and you are 0-2 every time.

Chad Mottola

Fear speeds life up, so slowing down requires us to effectively deal with our fears.

Overcoming Fear

When we are afraid we speed up.  We live too fast, and lose our capacity to think.  We are captured and captivated by the noise of life.  We cannot find the signal.

Mr. MacDonald recommends three things to help us slow down, and find the signal in the midst of the noise.

  1. Extreme Clarity – understanding what matters and what doesn’t matter
  2. Persistence – keep the main thing the main thing
  3. Search for inspiration – focus life on finding the signal

Interestingly enough, once we find the signal our fears fade away.   This is because a significant amount of fear comes from not knowing what we want out of life, caring about the wrong things, and giving up our pursuit of the right things.   Signal gives us meaning and purpose.  We know why we are here, and what we are to do.  This eliminates the noise, and when the noise leaves, so do our fears. 

The question is clear.   Noise or Signal?   Which one will dominate your life?