How to manage your information intake and creative output.

In software design, there's a principle referred to as the Robustness Principle which states: "Be conservative in what you send, be liberal in what you accept."

In a design context, this is referring to your inputs and outputs. You should accept any and all input information as long as its meaning is clear but you should only send information out that is according to the specifications of the software. This allows you to always have plenty of data, never lacking in the back-end but only pushing out that which is valuable and representative of the output specs. Though it originated in an industry in which I have zero experience or understanding, the concept, I've found, is very practical and applicable to many other aspects of life.

Designing your life takes an intentional approach to filtering and refining. It deals with the very way in which we take in the world and respond to it. Our inputs and outputs. If we're going to make the most positive change for our lives, it stands to reason that we must know our options. But the key isn't in knowing our options but in how we choose to implement them. Let me introduce you to our four communities of people. The allinallout-ers, the someinsomeout-ers, the someinallout-ers and the allinsomeout-ers.

 

DON'T: all in -> all out

We shouldn't be a human conduit, accepting information and data from multiple streams and then pushing them back out to the world. The allinallout-ers are exactly that type of person. They get bogged down easily as they try to juggle too many things at once. They're the YES men and YES women of the world. If an opportunity presents itself, they take it. If they learn about a helpful habit, the implement it. If they hear about a new social network, they join it. They move forward toward everything simultaneously and without question. As a result, they're letting the bad input manifest itself in their life along with the good input with no filtering in between.

Symptoms:

  • thinks they know it all
  • mostly mediocre with a few rare wins
  • always busy to the point of physical exhaustion
  • not incredibly productive
  • short attention span
  • loves to gossip

 

DON'T: some in -> some out

The someinsomeout-ers are an interesting folk as well, though definitely not in a good way. They spend their days trudging through their routines and finding comfort in the familiar. They're bound for nowhere and are okay with that... probably because they don't even know that there's anywhere else to go. They tend to be very loyal to what they know, even if it's wrong but they hate conflict so they will shy away from anyone who has a different opinion than theirs. They're incredibly lazy and feel like life is out to get them.

Symptoms:

  • gloomy and underwhelming
  • completely disenchanted with life
  • never does anything off the beaten path
  • destined to be grumpy
  • mediocre is their first name
  • lazy

 

DON'T: some in -> all out

The someinallout-ers, like their bretheren the someinsomeout-ers, find their security in doing the same thing day after day. However, unlike their bretheren, they love to be vocal about it. These are the fools on television who will shout from the rooftops that magical beans will grow into a beanstalk that leads to the giant's castle in the clouds just because their grandpappy told them so when they were six. They don't have any intention of changing but expect everyone else to convert to whatever old fashioned idea they've concocted. Because they limit their input, their ideas and knowledge of the world is often outdated and narrow-minded.

Symptoms:

  • sounds like a broken record
  • defends ludicrous claims with little or no support
  • loves talking with others who share their same opinions
  • hates learning, period
  • incredibly prideful
  • ignorant to their ignorance

 

DO: all in -> some out

Ahhhh the allinsomeout-ers. These guys take life with a grain of salt. They realize that the world we live in allows everyone to have a platform and an opinion and most them are full of crap. But they also understand the critical value of learning and iterating. So they listen. They're constantly listening to what passionate people have to say and then cross check it with everything else they understand about the world. Most of what they hear gets trashed and the rest gets added to their continually-growing bank of knowledge and understanding. They also enjoy creating and putting out new ideas to the world. They recognize, however, that they have an obligation to their fellow man to put out quality information. In a world where anything goes, only the best should be released. So they ingest information by the truck load and slowly trickle out their best work when they feel it's ready for the world to see.

Symptoms:

  • loves to read
  • always consuming information
  • excited by passionate people
  • very thoughtful and rational
  • puts out a steady stream of work
  • on a steady incline of self-betterment

 

We are faced with a massive amount of input streams every day. You can't simply ignore them, but you can filter them. Be intentional about the information you ingest and even more intentional about what you release to the world. Innovation is about finding new combinations of information we already have and discovering information we don't have.

 

Eyes wide open, mouth half shut.


Jacob Jolibois is the founder of The Archer's Guild, a multi-media platform to help others beat mediocrity. He is also a content marketer at MESH - a Baton Rouge based marketing and advertising agency - the author of ARROWS, and a contributor to Lifehack.