Information is everywhere we look, everywhere we turn. In fact, sometimes it seems there is too much information. I am overloaded with it. The problem is that a lot of the information that comes my way is of no interest to me, yet it seems unavoidable. I do not mind information being ubiquitous, I just wish it was relevant. And there is the rub. It is relevant to someone, but not to me. How then do I filter out what I don’t care about and make myself available to information that is important to me? No one else is going to protect my time and focus so I have to … and so do you. We are continually making decisions about what information we allow ourselves to be exposed to, which in turn shapes what we think about, how we think, and eventually how we act.
The core message here is this: We need to be intentional, not passive, in deciding what information we will read, see, and hear. We should be open to a range of information and perspectives on any given subject and allow them to challenge and influence us based on our values. But to be effective in the midst today’s information overload we must exercise discretion in order to get the information we really need or want.
Those who lead or influence others have a special responsibility to manage their “information diet” as it has direct effect on those they lead and influence. Managing our information intake to inform ourselves on matters of relevance and importance in ways that challenge our personal perspective is a critically important process. Testing our assumptions and beliefs against competing thought allows us to learn, adjust our own position when appropriate, and to better defend it when needed.
I am a bit of a media addict, but the amount of information daily media presents to us today is simply astounding. We need to be careful about what we consume. Not all of the information presented to us is true, and certainly not all of what we are exposed to is important and relevant to us. We need to be selective based on our own values and needs. We have the ability to exercise discernment in what information sources we allow to influence us and shape our thoughts and actions, and an obligation to inform and prepare ourselves for the roles we play in life. It is not about limiting information intake to fit a preconceived agenda, it is all about exposing ourselves to high quality information that challenges and informs on issues that matter.
Making ourselves available to information and managing what we allow to inform and influence us are important life skills that will affect those we work with and our families.
I am one of those fortunate souls with a daily three hour commute (did I just say “fortunate?”). While I often walk in at the end of the day and tell my wife, “start packing, we’re moving” in a wistful attempt to change this fact, the reality is that I would miss something I enjoy during those three hours if we were to move. Years ago I gave up the radio dial in favor of listening to podcasts and audible books. I enjoy this time alone with some of the brightest people I will never meet. My listening interests vary across a wide spectrum including business, leadership, Christian apologetics, sports, and the occasional bit of comedic relief. Here is a short list of some of my favorite information sources.
Harvard Business Review IdeaCast: Exposes me to current best business thought, trends and information. Lots of author interviews which allow me to glean key nuggets from the best of current business writing without spending the time to read the whole book. One recent example I really enjoyed is Nancy Koehn’s “Ernest Shackleton’s Lessons for Leaders in Harsh Climates” (episode 326). I found great wisdom in her illumination of leadership principles Shackleton exercised to save his crew, principles that I can put to use every day.
The EntreLeadership Podcast: Dave Ramsey’s podcast is the single most popular entrepreneurship and leadership podcast on the planet and the reason is simple. It’s good. Really, really good. Relevant business and leadership topics presented in a energetic, to the point, no nonsense style. Dave tells it like it is and the moderator, Chris LoCurto, keeps it moving. Author interviews here as well. The current episode features Rory Vaden and is chock full of solid information to help you defeat the procrastination bug.
People and Projects Podcast: Hey, I’m a project manager – you knew there had to be one PM source in this list. Andy Kaufman’s podcast is a great PM tools, issues and skills resource. He also does frequent author interviews, one of the latest being Life Lessons for Leaders with Karl Pillmer, in which the author passes on wisdom from important leaders who have lived much of their life and can offer perspective we may not have. Good stuff.
Fareed Zakaria GPS: My go-to source for insightful analysis of global geopolitical events. With direct access to leaders across virtually every area of life, Fareed has an unusual platform and skill in bringing us the kind of information on world events we often wish we could get. The content engages the biggest players on the front lines of today’s biggest issues, in a manner that is balanced. No one is agenda free, but I appreciate Fareed’s pragmatic and open approach.
Just Thinking: Ravi Zacharias is a pre-eminent Christian apologist with a ministry that touches millions around the globe. He deals with life’s biggest questions in a way that touches the heart as well as the mind, illustrating the simplicity of truth from a world view that understands and respects individuals and cultures while challenging all to approach life with intellectual integrity. Ravi inspires me. This is the one podcast I must, absolutely, without fail listen to each day.
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History: Carlin is not a history professor but he is clearly passionate about history. Delivered with energy and a sometimes “off the wall” perspective (what if the Apaches had modern weapons?) he brings history alive in dramatic fashion. From studies of giants among men such as Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan to dissection of the Battle of Stalingrad and other history defining events, Carlin presents lessons from the ages that we should not forget. He does an amazing amount of research so the episodes tend to be longer than other podcasts, and he can sometimes overdo a point. That said, he is worth the listen and then some … if you enjoy history.
Baseball Tonight: I’m a fan of the game and the season is just about to begin. Baseball Tonight is my single point source for news from across the major leagues. Interviews with players, managers, GM’s and insightful analysis by Buster Olney, Tim Kurkjian, Jason Stark and others…all in one place. It’s March and everyone is undefeated, every team and its fans have a shot at the World Series. Let’s play ball!
Car Talk: I know how to drive a car. Not a clue or any interest really about how to fix one. Why then do I listen to a podcast by two auto mechanic brothers? I suppose I am in awe of their ability to diagnose elusive car ailments from the variety of sound imitations and clues offered by listeners. But if you’ve ever listened to them you know the show is much more about life. Would you talk to your mechanic about your relationship problem? People do, and the conversations can be hilarious. How did two brothers, each with a degree from MIT, end up being auto mechanics and counselors/consolers/jesters to a nation? I have no idea, but I am certainly glad they did.
Note: All of the podcasts I listen to are free and available on iTunes or other podcast outlets. I prefer Instacast myself, but it is a matter of preference. For audible books I listen via Audible.com.