“Hello I’m Joseph and I’m an Information Junkie …”
It’s an interesting thing being addicted to information … especially as an information producer.
Let me back up for a moment, and then I’ll get to my point …
The Life of an Information Junkie …
An information junkie consumes and collects information like an alcoholic consumes and collects alcohol. While the cost to one’s liver may be less the cost to one’s pocket may not. This is especially true in today’s digital environment … and compounded by the advent of Internet purchasing.
First, of all there are so many ways to collect information … text, audio, video, live events, recorded events … you name it, it’s out there!
Second, it’s all viable and much of it is valuable … if you use a bit of discretion on your sources and your selections.
Third, all of it takes time and energy to consume, much of it has a cost to consume or collect … and some of it demands the commitment of a curator to keep.
It’s the third category that creates the quandary for me … the time, energy, money and space commitments.
I get two huge benefits from my addiction … 1) I gain valuable information and sometimes valuable insight, and 2) I get tremendous entertainment value from just about all of it.
However … those benefits come with a cost as I’ve pointed out … and keeping the cost in line with the benefit has only come to me slowly.
I’ve been a voracious reader for many, many years … several hundred books a year. Plus I read many magazines, an occasional newspaper (usually only when I’m traveling these days) and innumerable white papers, journals and professional articles … and then there’s the on-line forum, where not only am I reading and gathering … I’m also responding.
My argument (mostly to myself) is that I “need” to consume information at this rate and level to keep up. HECK, I’m an information creator and provider. I make my living off of selling information in the form of expertise and experience (i.e.: some of my use of information is to create experiential interactions that provide enormous value beyond the intellectual to my clients).
To some extent … even a great extent … that’s true; I need to consume more than the average person a great deal of information to keep up and move forward.
However, fessing up to the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth … I’ve got to say I go beyond what I need, way into what I want.
The whole truth is that I love information!
For me, and other information junkies, information is as alive as any growing, breathing, moving thing …
I follow information the way a tracker would follow quarry. I recognize that information lives historically in what has been done and in the future as well in what hasn’t been done yet. The excitement is in picking up the trail …
That’s in part why I have a personal library of over 10,000 books (heck … I’m approaching 100o in just my Kindle collection!).
I have dozens of magazine subscriptions … most of which are digital these days (keeping the trees alive has come to mean something to me).
I have on-line subscriptions to more than a dozen information-based services, e.g.: HighBeam Research, DeepDyve …
I have on-line or physical subscriptions to the major professional journals I read regularly (mostly neuroscience or cognitive science these days, but I keep a few subscriptions to philosophy and psychology journals going t00).
I participate in a number of on-line forums for professionals in my areas of interest …
And, of course I publish and present my ideas regularly as well …
It’s enough to keep me busy … but it’s because of the way all the information interconnects for me that I keep doing it.
THINK … Robert Langdon in the Da Vinci Code.
It’s kind of like being an information detective … and you need the source material to uncover and follow the clues (in this case you might want to think … Gil Grissom, in CSI Las Vegas).
Inside the Lair of an Information Junkie …
What you’re going to find inside the lair of an information junkie is … stuff, lots and lots of stuff, starting with books. You’ll find tons of books depending on the range of the junkies habit … i.e.: is it highly focused or widely spread (I’m a widely spread sort … very eclectic in my interests).
You’ll also likely find paper … lots of it. From magazines and journals, to newspapers and printouts. There could be piles of the stuff, or it could be neatly organized and put away. In the case of a techno-nerd junkie you may find it scanned and digitized on a NAS system (Network Access Storage System) many terabytes deep.
In my case you’d also find old cassette tapes from recordings I made as well as recorded material I purchased. CDs, DVDs and BlueRay discs. You’d find as much or more of the same material in digital form on my own NAS systems (yes plural). Then if you looked a bit further you’d see that I’m still housing some old VHS tapes as well.
And … PAPER … lot’s and lots of paper. You’d find twenty years of my own journals. Manuals I bought from other trainers and information producers. Magazines and journals I’m keeping with articles that have some significance to me. And … ten times the paper I’m currently housing in digital formats.
It’s like housing and caring for another child!
But the defining factor is that this “collection” is living for me. I actually know what information I have (somewhere) … and a sense of it’s value to me as well.
I like knowing it’s there, secreted away in some dusty corner of my place, waiting for me to snatch it out of retirement when the mood strikes me … or I’m on a hunt where that specific piece of information or reference will be the key to unlock the secrets I’m searching.
I remember visiting with Irving Dardik, the discoverer of the Super Wave theory, and how he had rooms full of paper that were his version of a filing cabinet. Now there’s an information junkie for you!
Getting to the Point … Collectors and Experts
Okay, you may be getting a visceral sense of the commitment to information gathering, consuming and collecting that a true junkie has by now, or maybe not … but let’s move on with whatever you’ve gotten.
My point is actually two-fold:
A) Information can and does hold great value … in the right hands and when it’s properly used.
B) No amount of information will substitute for the real thing … i.e.: EXPERIENCE!
It’s that last bit that differentiates the pure collectors from the experts. Let’s keep it really simple, shall we?
Experts use the information they gather, consume and collect!
Yes, experts are no less information junkies than their brethren, the collectors, but they take things a step further … the use what they’ve collected.
This is a huge distinction … and what I’m about to say will mark me as a heretic among some information producers …
If you are not using the information you collect …
then it has no more value to you then:
1) the entertainment value it’s provided you with … or,
2) what you can sell the media you’ve collected for in an open market.
I know many, many people who collect information with “good intention” … but then never get around to even opening the package. I know many people who subscribe to magazine and on-line information sources that never even check out the contents. I know many, many people who have collections of information many, many layers deep and widely varied that they’ve never even looked at … and it’s all useless to them in that way.
The difference that makes the difference is that experts know how to get to and use the information they have access to and own.
They begin by recognized the rank scale order of value to them, i.e.: how much a given piece of information is worth to them at this time. They can quickly scan information and determine its real-time value to them. Then based on how valuable that information is to them in this moment, they decide where to put in on a hierarchy of urgency, and prioritize their consumption along that hierarchy.
There are largely two factors that impact the hierarchy and prioritization of information consumption … usefulness and entertainment value.
Experts also understand how to extract the most value with the least resource consumption. For example I know many experts who can glance at an article and decide what if any value it has for them, go directly to the part that has value and discard the rest … they feel no great commitment or urgency to “read it cover to cover.” This applies to books, magazines, papers, on-line material … whatever. They know how to maximize their information gathering and consumption efforts.
The experts also understand where to get information and how to get to it. They have “private” techniques unique to them that they use in their information gathering exploits. It may be a deep facility with using Internet searches. It may be a tremendous familiarity with libraries and their contents. It may be an overarching awareness of what the primary and best sources for the most current and useful information out there is today. Whatever their personal approach they have maximized its effectiveness.
Another “trick” of the experts is that invariably they have built up “information networks” … people they can count on to guide them to what they need or want with high efficiency.
The networks of information contacts that experts develop may be as valuable, or more valuable, then any information they themselves possess. They are aware of the “go-to” sources in the areas where they do their primary hunting … and know where the big game hides. Very seldom do the experts come back empty handed when they are working at this level.
Putting It All Together … What’s This Mean to You?
Well my final suggesting to you as a verifiable information junkie is this …
If you ain’t gonna use it …
save your time, energy, money and space …
don’t get it … pass it by.
This goes for all the information I produce as well of course.
You only have so many personal resources … and for my two cents your time and energy are among the most precious … conserve them and use them well. The same goes for money and space … use them well.
If you have the need and/or desire … and you will consume the information you gather … by all means go for it.
If it’s just going to sit there … let it go. 99% of the time, by the time you get to it there will be better information out there to gather and consume (unless you are working on Renaissance literature hermetic research).
However, if you will get it … consume it … and use it don’t wait … go for it now!
Now my final caveat … there is no substitute for information, just like there is no substitute for experience. When you become an “expert” … knowing what you want and need … where to go and who to go to to get it … and you consume and use it … you’re life will be dramatically improved in unimaginable ways.