"You are what you eat." If you eat pizza, hamburgers, cake, and drink soda all day, you will feel terrible.
Most people's mothers have probably told them this phrase when they were kids. However, I have a different saying.
You are the information you consume.
If you only look at news articles, Tik Toks, and Instagram stories for six hours every day, you won't be capable of forming intelligent and coherent thoughts. Your information diet probably sucks. Mine certainly did a couple of years ago.
I discovered I had been consuming way too much information on health and fitness and nothing on relationships, business, finance, psychology, etc. Without realizing it, most people have skewed information diets. They consume all of one or two types of information and nothing else.
Why is this bad?
Like eating bad food can lead to health problems, shorter life, and various other things, lousy information diets cause people to fall into echo chambers, closed systems in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition.
If they are older, they remain a stagnant shadow of their former self, clinging to past accomplishments and sticking to poorly formed opinions to solidify their unstable ego. If they are younger, they enter adulthood with a lopsided grasp of the world, believing radical or boring ideas that have no solid ground in peer-reviewed science or logic.
How do we stop this?
Unfortunately, there is no quick method of fixing your information diet. Like me, you will have to go through a full-fledged remodeling. Let's look at some ways you can start to remodel your information diet.
There are three rules I live by when I choose information to consume.
- It's interesting and captivates your attention
- It's unique and has something original to say
- It helps address the problems you are facing
These rules will help you find the information worth your time. There is way too much on the internet. The good news is you don't have to read all of it!
I will teach you principles and tips you can use to find what information is quality on the internet and stick to it.
Stop consuming useless information
We need to call out the elephant in the room. Most of social media is pure and absolute garbage. Trash. Not worth a moment of your time.
Teenagers today have become enraptured by Tik Tok reels, Instagram stories, and Snapchat streaks. But, if used in moderation, these forms of connection with others can lead to happier and more socially active lives.
However, most people consume these media types for upwards of two to four hours a day, sometimes even eight on weekends. As soon as you get past 30 to 45 minutes of usage a day, you aren't using these platforms the way they should be used.
If you talk to your friends for more than 45 minutes through text, you are wasting your time. Set up a time to meet with them through text in person, video call, or phone calls. Texting is a terrible form of conversation.
In his book Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport explains that the only way to fix this issue is to go through a digital detox, a thirty-day break in which you live without your phone or devices and start building some other hobbies you can do in the real world.
If you want to hear more about how to go through this process, check out my video book summary on Digital Minimalism.
If that's too drastic for you, turn on the screen time app on your phone and keep track of the amount of time you spend on apps like these. Then, over the weeks and months, try and get the screen time down to 30-45 minutes.
Find the thought leaders in your interest
Seneca once said, "You should be extending your stay among writers whose genius is unquestionable, deriving constant nourishment from them if you wish to gain anything from your reading that will find a lasting place in your mind."
It's important to point out that social media can be a rich source of creative insight; if you follow the right people.
I use Twitter quite frequently. However, I only follow people I know as thought leaders in my buckets of interest. I'm fascinated by reading, building a second brain, and writing. In total, I am following around 38 people right now. I know every one of them to be world-class in what I am curious about.
Tiago Forte, Nat Eliason, Danielle Doyon, Thomas Frank, and August Bradley are genius notetakers. David Perell, and Ali Abdal have some of the best writing and creating information out there. Finally, Alex and Books, and Aniket The Reading Habits Guy, are some of the best thought leaders I have found on reading.
When I go on Twitter, I stick exclusively to these people. I have read much of their content and know what they put out is quality. Don't follow someone just because they follow you back. Go through an extensive testing process before you decide to put someone into your life.
Read some of their best articles. Learn how they think. See how insightful and thought-provoking their ideas are.
Some people say you shouldn't read a summary until after reading a book. For some books, that's true. You wouldn't want to be spoiled on a fiction book before reading it, would you?
For most non-fiction books, that's bogus. Reading summaries is an excellent way to scout out if the book is worth your time or not.
There are some excellent recourses for this. I would strongly recommend you check out a book summary website I use called:
This is an affiliate link, but I can't praise this site enough.
I have used it to read book summaries on Getting Things Done, The E Myth Revisited, and many other books that have changed my life.
They organize the books in blinks with a central idea at the top and supporting evidence below. Once you finish reading the summary, you can rate the author of the blink and make it more likely that they will make a book summary in the future.
Using Blinkist, I can make sure that I only read books worth my time. You can get 20% off by using my affiliate link in the description. If you prefer, you can start with a seven-day free trial and use the offer afterward.
One free resource you can use is my Book Squad Playlist on YouTube. I only put up some of the best books I have ever read, so you can be sure everyone is gold.
If you prefer these summaries in written format, I have a section on my website devoted to blog form book summaries.
Don't read what everyone else is reading
While I do read literature that the masses have read like Think Again by Adam Grant, I try to read things nobody else is reading as well.
Arthur Schopenhauer once said: "the task is not so much to see what no one has yet seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought about that which everybody sees."
By reading a duck load of books all over the place, your thinking and writing will be more insightful as you will have perspectives that nobody has yet considered.
Haruki Murakami once said, "If you read what everybody else is reading, you'll think what everybody else is thinking"
Blend a bizzare bowl
Seek diversity in your reading life. New ideas come from the weird juxtaposition of ideas.
I like to blend the weirdest combination of books I can. For example, read a book on indoor plant design while consuming literature on the history of peanut butter. Amazing insights will inevitably come about in this blending of ideas.
This act is blending a bizzare bowl. You are reading combinations of things nobody else has experienced. In effect, you will have ideas and insights most people will not have thought.
Read books that conflict with your ideas
Growth as a person comes with reading books that are above you; read books from authors who disagree with your opinions. If you stick only to literature you are comfortable with, you will never change.
But how do you find difficult books?
You will know when you find them. They will take more time to comprehend and confuse you on the first read. One book that did this for me was Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle.
The first time I read this book, I had no idea what Aristotle was saying. After I read it again, however, it started to make sense to me. I even created a book summary on my website!
Try and switch genres every time you finish a book
Reading the same genre repeatedly is another surefire way to fall into an echo chamber.
If you want to learn more effectively in the future, you need to know how to filter information effectively. It's an art. In one sense, you want to expose yourself to information that is useful and interesting while at the same time making sure you don't fall into distinct patterns of thoughts.
The one exception I have to this rule is if it's a great book. I sometimes read great books twice right after finishing them. For example, after reading How to Read by Mortimer J. Adler, I immediately reread it and came to an understanding I didn't the first time.
This rule isn't as rigid if you are reading about one topic from many different angles. For example, I have a friend, Abe, who spends most of his reading time on books related to food history.
However, whenever I talk to him, he has incredibly insightful ideas about various topics. This is because he attacks food from every angle of society, politics, anthropology, psychology, economics, etc. He develops an understanding of many parts of the world outside of food by thoroughly studying food history.
This is the act of constructing a personal monopoly.
My personal monopolies are building reading habits, building a second brain, and writing. I look at these three things through all aspects of society: psychology, health, finance, business, economics, philosophy, relationships, etc. This reduces the chance of me falling into an echo chamber while still benefiting from specialization.
Trust Recommendations — But Not Too Much.
As said before, you don't want to read what everyone else is reading. I try not to look for the best books. Instead, I hunt for forgotten old books and under-valued new ones. While most people will recommend new books, old books that've stood the test of time are likely the best use of your attention.
This is because of the Lindy Effect, which states the future life expectancy of non-perishable things like books is proportional to their current age. As Nassim Taleb once wrote: "If a book has been in print for forty years, I can expect it to be in print for another forty years.
The closer to the source, the better it makes us have to come to conclusions ourselves rather than have them regurgitate at us in blog posts and summaries. These things should be used to assess if we should read something.
Books keep revisiting the same points again and again from different angles, whereas a blog post only needs to address each point once. Reading a book summary will never be as good as reading the book itself. Reading books requires you to think about the material more actively.
This is not to say that blog posts and articles shouldn't be read, but they will have lots of thinking done for you.
Ask your friends and family
They will know you better than most others and therefore can give books personal to your interests. Part of what makes books meaningful and resonate with you is they help you with a problem or give you a deeper understanding of the world.
This doesn't mean you should automatically take their recommendations. Continue to measure them against the rules discussed.
Ask people you admire
There are three things that largely make up the personality of a successful person with character:
When I interview or meet somebody I admire, I always ask for book recommendations.
You are practically entering into their soul. There is no greater compliment.
Avoid the news
Avoid 99% of the news. If the news is significant, the information will find you. Don't believe me? Try reading last year's newspaper. But you won't be able to have conversations with students or friends about contemporary problems. Maybe you shouldn't be.
Most of the "problems" that show up in the news aren't a big deal. The world will be better off if you ignore it and spend your time actually progressing on solutions to help fight those problems.
Here is what I recommend you do. Find a friend you deeply connect with in terms of values and life philosophies. Talk to them to see how much they keep up with the news.
Use this friend as your news feed.
They will siphon out all of the nonsense for you and give you only the true nuggets of information. It would be better if the friend has to read the news anyway for something they are pursuing like law school. This way you aren't pushing them to do something they don't want to.
If you do read news, read old news. As discussed before, the Lindy Effect keeps the important information circulating through history. If the news has survived long enough to be considered old, it's likely it might be worth your attention.
Another reason not to read the news is the Pareto Principle. The Pareto Principle states that 20% of the inputs account for 80% of the outputs. This can be applied to anything in life.
20% of the things you do account for 80% of your enjoyment (for most people). 20% of the people in your life account for 80% of your negative feelings. Similarly, 20% of the news you read accounts for 80% of the really important information. Even this is pushing it.
If you are reading the news for more than 20 minutes a day, you are consuming noise.
But you will miss out on hearing of opportunities you could have had a reading over a broad range of things. The Paradox of Specificity is that focus isn't as constraining as it seems. In the age of the internet, your social media feeds have been personalized and filtered out by your recommendations. Differentiation is marketing.
The more specific your goal, the more opportunities you will create for yourself.
Ok, you have some time-tested techniques to remodel your information diet. What should you do next?
Look at your own information diet and detect what you are largely consuming. Create a circle on paper or in a digital document. Roughly script out a pie chart that shows your information diet. When I did this myself a year and a half ago, I realized I had been consuming way too much information on health and fitness and nothing on relationships, business, finance, psychology, and all these other things.
Then rewatch this video, that's right rewatch the entire thing and make an implementation plan for each of these tips. I know you wanted to click off and feel good about watching a self-improvement video, but you are actually going to do something today. Have you done that? Good.
Be sure to check out my video on my favorite podcasts for learning. It will give you some amazing starting points to consuming high-quality information.