The quality of input determines the quality of output.
Most people have adapted to consuming low-level information on the internet. This is the equivalent of filling your car with water or eating McDonalds every meal.
In the documentary film, Super Size Me, 32-year-old Morgan Spurlock goes 30 consecutive days (from February 1 to March 2, 2003) only eating McDonald’s food. The film documents this lifestyle’s drastic effect on Spurlock’s physical and psychological well-being.
During this 30-day period, Spurlock ate at McDonald’s three times per day, eating every item on the menu at least once. Spurlock consumed an average of 5,000 calories per day during the experiment, more than double the recommended amount for a healthy man his age. As a result, Spurlock gained 24 pounds, a 13% body mass increase, increased his cholesterol to 230 mg/dL (6.0 mmol/L), and experienced mood swings, sexual dysfunction, and fat accumulation in his liver.
One of the components of Spurlock’s experiment was that every time he was asked the question, “Do you want to ‘Super Size’ that?” he was required to say yes. Super-sizing means that the soda and french fries went from large to extra-extra large.
When it comes to the internet, Super-sizing is the equivalent of going from one distractive link to the next to the next to the next to the next. What originally was intended to be a quick check of the email or Facebook has now turned into a subconscious self-sabotage. The body has taken over the mind and is seeking its dopamine refuel, of which it has developed an incredibly high tolerance.
It took Spurlock fourteen months to lose all the weight gained during this 30-day experiment. And he had to eat extremely clean to reclaim his health.
For most people who are caught in the addiction-loop of consuming low-quality information, it will take years to transform their brains into a state where they can truly think clearly and powerfully. It will take years of consistent positive decisions and calculated inputs to develop the thinking and decision-making capacity they are capable of.
Most people will remain stuck on the fast-food diet of internet information consumption — getting fatter and more unhealthy mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. The environment is becoming so dopamine-rich that it is nearly impossible for people to pull themselves from the addiction.
Here’s the truly sad part: most people intuitively know that sitting on the internet all day is bad for their brain, mind, spirit, and body. But knowledge is weak. Knowledge is good for nothing unless it is put into practice. Hence, Napoleon Hill said in Think and Grow Rich,“Knowledge is only potential power. It becomes power only when, and if, it is organized into definite plans of action, and directed to a definite end.”
To Learn Is To Change What You Do
“To learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to do is really not to know.”
— Dr. Stephen Covey
If you are still producing the same results, you haven’t actually learned something. It doesn’t matter how much information you consume. It doesn’t matter how many books you read.
True learning requires the ability to consistently produce new and better results. If your mindset, perspective, and behavior haven’t changed, then you haven’t truly learned. As Albert Einstein has said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”
You can have all the knowledge in the world and yet remain unintelligent. Intelligence involves continually learning new things, which requires that you change how you operate in the world. According to Dr. Joe Dispenza,
“The hardest part about change is not making the same choices you made the day before.”
It really doesn’t matter what you know; it matters what you do. Surprise yourself and the people around you.
Instead of mindlessly distracting yourself with low-level information, make a better decision.
Instead of operating at a low emotional level in your relationships, be more giving, caring, and loving. Go out of your way to make your loved ones feel special. Watch what happens to the emotional energy of your environment. Said Paulo Coelho,
“The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.”
Imagination Is More Powerful Than Knowledge
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
— Albert Einstein
Knowledge can keep you stuck in the past. Knowledge can keep you limited to what you think is possible. Imagination allows you to think outside the box of your current and highly limited worldview.
The most influential and intelligent people in the world were also the most imaginative. They have a vision way beyond their current level of knowledge and ability. Their vision provided the direction for what types of knowledge they should develop. Their vision provided the conviction to truly learn — which meant they were willing to transform themselves into the type of person who could bring their vision to life.
Do you emphasize knowledge?
Do you believe you must have all the answers?
How imaginative are you?
How grand and compelling is your vision for yourself and the future?
How excited are you to get up and embrace learning and change every day?
Your level of conviction for daily learning is reflective of the power of your imagination. If your imagination is weak, then you probably aren’t learning very much.
Creativity Is More Important Than Experience
“Knowledge comes from the past, so it’s safe. It is also out of date. It’s the opposite of originality. Experience is built from solutions to old situations and problems. This is lazy. Experience is the opposite of being creative. If you can prove you’re right you’re set in concrete. You cannot move with the times or with other people. Your mind is closed. You are not open to new ideas.”
— Paul Arden
Experience is based on what you did or learned in the past. What we need from you right now are creative solutions for the present and the future. Don’t tell me what you did yesterday. Tell me what you’re working on today.
What are you creating right now?
How are your pushing your own limits?
Are you relying too heavily on past experience?
Are you stuck in old ways of thinking?
Are you trying new things?
Are you evolving?
Are you stuck?
Never Have “Too Much To Lose” That You Stop Being Reckless
“Here’s to the crazy ones.”
— Rob Siltanen
In the science fiction novel, Ender’s Game, Ender is an 11-year-old genius who is trained to save the world from an alien species. He is led to believe that his “training” is in the form of simulation games. However, after the “final test,” Ender learns that the simulations were actually real battles that he was commanding. Ender became a war hero without even realizing what he was truly doing.
He had many questions. One of them was why the military needed a child to command the armies. Mazer Rackham, his mentor and teacher explained:
“And it had to be a child, Ender. You were faster than me. Better than me. I was too old and cautious. Any decent person who knows what warfare is can never go into battle with a whole heart. But you didn’t know. We made sure you didn’t know. You were reckless and brilliant and young. It’s what you were born for.”
There’s a problematic shift that happens to many successful and creative people. Eventually, their creative well dries up. They get out of the habit of doing and creating and shift to passively accumulating information or accolades.
They become far more calculated in every decision they make. They stop being iterative, failing, changing, learning, and being imaginative. They begin relying far too heavily on their prior knowledge and experience. At some point, they reach a cap on what they are interested in learning, because true learning involves risk.
The risk of learning is that you might have to completely change who you are and what you’re doing as a result of what you’ve learned. Yet, when you’ve reached some level of success or experience, you don’t want to change. You don’t want to lose everything you’ve gained.
And this ends up being the beginning of your inevitable downfall. This is the reason author Greg McKeown said,
“Success is a catalyst for failure.”
The measure of intelligence is the ability to change. If you’re not changing and evolving, you’re relying too heavily on knowledge rather than imagination. You’re relying too heavily on experience rather than creativity.
You’re stuck in the past. You’re living out a predictable life. And predictability is nowhere to be found in courage and creativity. As Sir Ken Robinson said,
“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
Seth Godin similarly said,
“If you’re willing to do something that might not work, you’re closer to becoming an artist.”
Allow your success and experience to propel greater imagination and creativity. Allow your knowledge to spark new and better behaviors and solutions which lead that knowledge to be replaced with better knowledge.
It Doesn’t Matter How Long It Takes If You Create Something Truly Remarkable
“If a thing is done well, no one will ask how long it took to do it, but only, who did it.”
— John Taylor
What are you currently creating?
Is what you’re creating the best you could possibly do?
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of several books. I’ve had the privilege of being taught and mentored by him. He helped me with the development and writing of my recent book, Willpower Doesn’t Work. What I appreciate about Ryan, more than anything else, is his insistence that I continually produce higher and higher quality work.
“You can do much better than this,”is the compliment Ryan would often give me when reviewing my work.
When it comes to creative work, quantity is often the path to quality. Even still, with everything you create, you should be putting your absolute best in. Don’t create something just to get it done. Actually push yourself beyond your own boundaries.
Richard Paul Evans has written 37 New York Timesbestselling novels. When Evans was a young writer, he met the award-winning novelist, Mary Higgins Clark. She gave Evans this advice:
“Every book I write is my best book I’ve ever written.”
Evans never forgot that advice. In his own words,
“So from that day forward, when I sit down to write a book I go in with that mentality that this book is going to be better than the last and it’s going to be the best book I can write.”
This mentality is how you go on to write 37 NYT bestsellers.
Several months ago, I had dinner with Alice Cooper, thanks to super-connector Joe Polish. While at dinner, I asked Alice what kept him writing music after all of these years. Here’s what he said:
“If I didn’t believe my best song was still in me, I wouldn’t be writing.”
If you make something truly brilliant and amazing, people won’t care how long it took you to do. They’ll only ask: Who did this?
Conclusion: You’re Not Rewarded For What You Know, But For What You Create
“Don’t think. You already know what you have to do, and you know how to do it. What’s stopping you?”
— Tim Grover
You’re not rewarded in life for what you know. You’re rewarded for what you do. Even more, you’re rewarded for what you create.
You could have a head full of really good ideas. But if you execute on none of them, you’ll have a life full of regrets.
You could have all the intentions in the world to be a good friend, spouse, or parent. But if you fail to change your behavior, you’ll never be the person you could have been. You’ll have let down those who needed you most.
It doesn’t matter what you know you should do, or believe you should do. It doesn’t even matter what your greatest dreams, visions, and imaginations hold if you do nothing about them.
You need to act.
You need to create. Create and create some more. Because when you create, you are forced to really learn. I’ve never learned more about a subject than when I was writing a book on the topic. I’ve learned more about parenting by taking on three foster children than I could by mindlessly browsing the internet or even reading books. When you learn through experience and toward goals, you learn with the purpose of immediate application.
You learn through doing.
Develop a powerful vision and use that vision to guide true learning — which is far different than acquiring knowledge. True learning requires transformation. The measure of intelligence is the ability to change. Living with intention and creation is how you truly live.