“If [more] information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.”

The title of this post is a quote from one of my favorite people: Derek Sivers. I don’t know Derek personally (although we have shared an email or two), but I do appreciate his perspectives and insights — indeed, his wisdom. And I agree with his statement above.

It’s easy to think more information is the answer, Vera. Indeed, it’s an implicit assumption of our education system. It’s also wrong.

It’s not that information is inherently bad. Of course it isn’t. And I’m certainly not advocating ignorance (as evident from a prior post). But I am suggesting that the value of information is not necessarily correlated with volume.

In the Internet Age, which, basically means anytime since your dad was about 10 years old, we have access to more information than we can possibly digest or use. The problem now is what to do with it. What’s important? What is mere chatter (noise)? What’s reliable? What isn’t? What can it teach us — that’s worthwhile, that is? How do we integrate it into our lives?

I take in a lot of information on a daily basis, primarily via newspapers, magazines and websites. I access primary and secondary sources, some of which focus on facts or events and others on opinions, insights or unique perspectives. Yet I don’t have perfect abs. And never will.

I read primarily because I’m curious and interested in what’s going on in the world. And like to try to figure out why it’s happening. And why other things aren’t.

I like to try to discern what is true and what isn’t. By acquiring information, I strive to learn how to live better and help others with their problems.

Most likely, I waste a lot of time in doing so. I doubt I’d be worse for it if I spent less time chasing information.

One thing that’s clear to me at this point in my life is that information alone doesn’t make anyone wise or virtuous. There is more involved in making decisions and in living well, making a contribution and being happy than acquiring and possessing a lot of information.

I’m not suggesting you should avoid information. Or not pursue your interests or attempt to satisfy your curiosity. Rather, I’m suggesting that Derek Sivers is right: more information doesn’t mean you’ll be a better person.

There is a difference between knowledge and understanding. And between information and wisdom.

We spend a lot of time in our schools pursuing knowledge. I suspect the world would be a better place if we spent more time pursuing understanding and wisdom.

If we valued sound judgment and wisdom more and information less, we might never have perfect abs, but I bet we’d be in a whole lot better shape than we are.

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