The amount of informational junk floating about is astronomical – content for the sake of content as we like to call it. The explosion began with 24-hour news channels. The low barriers to entry of Twitter, podcasts and the like have taken it to a new level.
It’s created what we’ve often called an inverse relationship between the quantity and quality/importance of information. It looks something like this:
The folks at The Collaborative Fund put together what we believe is a helpful guide in determining what to read and how to read it. Here are some excerpts with Apollo commentary mixed in:
Once you categorize information you’ll see that relevant content is extremely rare. Ignore the common/noisy elements. Give yourself permission to move on quickly to find something relevant/useful.
Charlie Munger (Warren Buffett’s #2) says a prerequisite to having an opinion is stating the opposing side’s view as well as they can. In law school they call this disarming the opposing argument by acknowledging and then downplaying it. Finding opinions you disagree with can be tough as the volume of media makes agreement easy to find…and agreement is always more emotionally comfortable than disagreement. What’s more when stumbling across opinions you disagree with it’s easy to dismiss as most of it is created by uninformed dopes. Make sure to seek out opposing views from people whose thought process you respect. That probably means people who you agree with on other topics. If you think, “I know you’re reasonable because you and I agree on X so why do we disagree on Y?” then you’re one step closer to reasonably figuring out the opposing view.
To understand a topic is to understand causal relationships. Want to understand finance? It isn’t limited to 2+2=4. It’s understanding how people behave with money. To understand human behavior means reading about psychology, statistics, biology, sociology, politics, history, etc.
It’s a wonderful teacher. Here’s what we can learn from it:
- Making accurate forecasts is nearly impossible.
- That won’t stop people from believing them.
- The most important stories are the ones no one was talking about with foresight.
History also shows that what seemed important then is quickly forgotten. Remember Y2K? Huge deal at the time. How many people still care about it today?
Every piece of news should be filtered by asking the question, “Will I still care about this in a year? Five years? Ten years?” The goal of information should be to help make better decisions between now and the end of your ultimate goals. Doing so shines a light on an important fact – your goals will live on long after the majority of headlines.
It’s all about perspective. That’s why Apollo includes it in our tagline “Passion. Perspective. Purpose.” Never take cues from someone else. A perspective can be highly relevant to one person and irrelevant to another if those people have different goals/priorities. It’s fine to disagree. It doesn’t mean facts are wrong. Maybe the author is playing a different game than you.
Rarity of Action
Why read something if it doesn’t lead to an actionable takeaway? Because the author doesn’t know who you are, what your goals are, what your situation is or how it will affect you. The best kind of content is empathetic to this disconnect. It pushes readers in a general direction while leaving actions up to the readers. This is rare. The most value comes from remembering that the author has no idea who you are.