Content versus Intent

Over the year I’ve been able to take more control over my life, as I’ve been able to crawl clear of the swamp that is mortgages and unnecessary wants.

I’ve changed my morning habits as I’ve done so. Amongst those things has been when, and how, I process incoming messages and data. I’ve gone from reading and processing first thing over a cup of tea (but scarcely tasting it) to gradually reducing the amount of data (I left all social media except LinkedIn a while ago) to a stage now where I start the day tasting and enjoying that cup of tea and appreciating the morning for a while before looking at the inbound, and now scan for intent before content. A simple reflection – what does this message intend?

These days, around fifty percent of inbound comes from those in whose interest it is for me to feel deficient. They present “research” in various flavours that identify areas I should pay attention to (which is interesting as other than data they do not know me, or my current areas of interest). Notwithstanding that, some are potentially interesting, including articles from HBR, MIT and others of similar ilk. Over time however, these have become far more “loaded”, with cookie permissions, sign in, pop up ads and other detritus, thus adding layers of attention drainers. It is clear I am required to pay an increasingly higher price in terms of my attention to read whatever it it, and when what is being offered is increasingly some form of speculation by those who do theory but not actual practice, it’s value is questionable. I still scan the headlines in these mails, but the mental filter I apply is getting higher. It’s interesting to see what they think is attractive, and that can be valuable but these days I go through the hoops for maybe one article in ten, if that.

Still, I don’t want to become a hermit, so what to do? The answer for me has become clear in the last year during the pandemic. One of the benefits of Zoom, as we have all become so used to it is that used intelligently it becomes invisible. Whilst Zoom meetings may have a place in Danté’s circles of hell, Zoom conversations are a joy. I’ve been able to talk to, and develop real relationships with people I’ve never met all over the world. Not lots of them – maybe twenty – but who have helped me develop my thinking and practice in ways that all the HBR, MIT and similar content never could. The catayst has been shared intent, and diversity. We share similar wishes and approach them from different experience and cultures developing great questions far more than easy answers. The end result is a richness that those whose efforts focused on selling what they know or speculate cannot get anywhere near. The comparison metaphor is between franchised fast food in a motorway services and a beautiful, unfamiliar meal with friends as a guest in their home.

So, a decision made. I am removing the intellectual spam from my inbox, and increasing the attention and time I pay to those with whom I can spend time as we develop our individual and joint thinking based on “edge” practices. Developing original thinking and questions as we feel our way into the post (this) pandemic environment.

Finding content is easy, finding shared intent and generosity much less so.

Easy decision really. Like all of us though, habit kept it at bay longer than it should have.

Manufactured content is ubiquitous and cheap, but diverse conversation with those who care around shared intent is precious.

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