A couple years ago, I was having a phone conversation with a colleague about some data we were using for a project. The sources provide — among other things — company names and information. My colleague was using the example of trying to look up a company by its pre-buyout name, and its current name.
I don’t remember exactly how we got on the subject, but he asked me if I knew about this big Facebook acquisition, and some company they bought for 19 billion. I admitted I didn’t. He said it was all over the news, and chided my ignorance.
“Don’t you watch the news?”, he said.
Frankly, no I don’t. Or read news papers, or listen to commercial radio, or even have any kind of cable or television feed.”
“You watch football?” (at the time, he was referring to “American Football”)
I don’t, actually. No sporting events of any kind.
“No news? No football? How in the ‘bleep’ do you even know what’s going on?”
I selectively read and listen to things relevant to my business and interests. I find that life is much happier and more focused that way. If it’s something really big, like a storm, disaster, or corporate buyout, or hollywood star’s death, someone — maybe you — will tell me about it.
“Do you even know who’s president?”
Of course — I’ve seen all the number stickers.
Ok, the president comment was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but you get the idea. The rest of the dialog is almost word-for-word.
As we talked a bit more (and again a few hours after the brief conversation), the exchange got me to thinking:
- What possible difference will it make to this colleague’s family if an application company is bought out by someone else? If he’s not a stockholder in either company, what possible difference? Or, knowing about the latest plane crash? Or remote disaster?
- And, exactly how do I keep up with relevant news and information?
In my business and social circles, it’s increasingly common to find people who have ‘unplugged’ the TV cable, or ‘gone off the news grid’. People who choose information on their own terms. People who realize that most “news” is not really “news” — regardless of which end of the political spectrum it originates.
Viewed through that particular lens, my news comment didn’t seem at all unusual. Many independent thinkers I know have tuned out of the same old channels. Essentially, we’ve built our own informal “TV” or informational networks.
But for my colleague, I could tell the whole “turn off the TV” concept was completely foreign.
It’s tempting (and maybe someday, it will happen…) to write a tome on the state of canned news, fear mongering, propaganda, and vapid trivia strewn across newspapers and airwaves. But, many others have done this — and far more brilliantly than I can. So, I’ll just leave this by way of background and get into the “WIFY” — ‘what’s in it for you’.
What’s in it for you
- Tips and strategies to build your own news station, or news filtering system.
- Some recommended resources in a number of key areas.
Corbin’s unofficial information filtering system
The main goal of this article is to provide some methods and tools to help you build your own ‘news channel’. And no, I’m not just talking some massively customized RSS reader, or bookmark collection. (Though your channel may include some of these things.)
It took me many years to choose the sources I use. And the sources change several times per year. Here is one way to go about it:
- First, decide what really matters to you. I mean this in both the ‘metaphysical’ sense, as well as the physical and practical sense. What do you really want to know? What do you HAVE to know? What is nice to know, but not really critical. What’s maybe just fun to know, or play around with when you have a few minutes of down or ‘zone out’ time? This exercise is actually bigger and often harder than it seems. Asking ourselves the “what really matters, what do I really NEED to know” question, can be a significant undertaking.
- Next, do you really want news, or do you really want analysis — as in making something that happened relevant and useful to YOU. My category, I realized long ago, is the latter. I trust the filtered analysis of hand-picked sources to share their wisdom and insights on all manner of things including (but not limited to):
- Religion and Religious Practice
- General Business
- Specific Industry Information
- Technology and Gadgets
- Tools and Social Media
- Health and Nutrition
- Food and Cooking (or in my case, ‘uncorking’)
- And the very occasional, pointless fun information
- Look at some of the top 25/50/100 lists of blogs in your areas of interest. From my personal experience looking at literally thousands and thousands of information / content sites, a lot of filtering is required to get down to the good stuff.
- Pick the top one or two in each category.
- Add these to your favorite information management system. This can be a newsreader, dashboard, Word document with a list of links in it, browser bookmarks, Evernote notes, or a combination. The tool(s) you use is less important than the exercise.
Kickstart ideas to build your own information channel
For curiosity, I often ask people where they get their information. If they tell me CNN, Fox, Wikipedia and Perez Hilton…well….their particular sources aren’t a fit for my own “info channel”.
But when people suggest interesting new sources, especially those with insightful writing, I’m always game!
Here are just a few samples (not inclusive) from my personal channel:
- Michael Hyatt — for life lessons, productivity, speaking instruction, leadership, and goal setting.
- The Crunch Blog / https://www.crunch.co.uk/blog/. It’s very UK-ish in focus, but most of their material is highly relevant to solopreneurs and contractors.
- AG Beat. Culled business news, with a tendency toward the non-mainstream, “the numbers behind the numbers” approach. They’ve become a bit more political recently, so my recommendation will likely change. But for now, still some interesting information there.
- Twitter.com. I know, I’m a bit surprised to be adding a social media channel to the list. But one my best ways to keep up with all-things-latest is by swiping through my feed, at least once per day.
- Conversations with other business experts, coaches, and consultants. I believe in coaching and consulting so much (not just because I offer those services), that I hire them as well. A great way to get an honest take on your life and business, while keeping up with tools and strategies that WORK.
- There are dozens more, but my goal is to help kickstart your own information-channel journey.
Your sources probably—and often should—be different. The main thing is to build your own list, relevant to you, your life, and career/business.
Living an information life “off the TV/newspaper/radio” grid can be rewarding. There is a certain sense of empowerment in building your own channel. Remember: as long as you have friends, family and associates, you’ll ALWAYS know if something really big happens. Disasters, floods, crashes, devastation, who won (or lost) a particular lesson, what sporting team won what award/trophy, olympic event will not escape you.
Let others worry about things they cannot control. You, on the other hand, are empowered to choose your own sources and live life on your own terms.
Plus…you’ll find your happiness quotient increase manifold by tuning out of negative news.
- Figure out what matters most in your life.
- Hunt down some of your own personal news sources. (This should be a fun exercise.)
- Make a list of the links to these sources.
- If you’re comfortable with RSS or “news readers”, add your sources to that. I use “Feedly” and “Netvibes”.
- Find a reading / filtering schedule that works for you.
- Read, learn, and enjoy!