Watch fewer TED talks and read fewer blogs

There’s a lot of positive sentiment around the internet on the fact that there are so many incredible sources of knowledge – TED talks, YouTube videos, Quora, a superb list of people to follow on Twitter, great free journalism, an endless list of great blogs, etc. Go to any educational institution and they’ll advertise the fact that they have x number CEO’s come and speak to their students.

So, here’s a contrarian idea – we need a lot less of all of this than we think. To pick on one idea – let’s take a TED talk or a real live seminar with some successful person. There are, broadly, three reasons to see or attend one of these – motivation, knowledge and connection. And, I’ll argue that a talk is a very sub-optimal method to accomplish any of these goals. If you’re going to these for motivation, you’ve got a bigger inspiration problem. No amount of these talks will help in the long run. If you’re searching for knowledge, a book will serve you much much better. Most speakers get on stage to promote their own/company’s brand, sell books or to repay a favor, among a whole host of other reasons. Educating you isn’t top of mind. Being memorable is. And, they aren’t the same thing. And, even if educating you was on top of mind, not everyone is a great educator. (Yes, yes, there are exceptions. There always are) Finally, if you’d like to connect with people you look up to, that is a worthy reason. All I’ll say here is that the internet has opened SO many doors to connect with people you look up to. You’d rather spend time engaging with them on their blogs, interviewing them yourself or figuring out other ways to add value to them.

And, if you prefer not to do the above, I’d still argue your time is better spent in self reflection and thought around your plans to create.

The point of this mini-rant isn’t to dismiss talks or blogs (there’s irony here.. somewhere). The point is to say that prioritizing consumption over creation is a dangerous habit. And, thanks to social media, there are endless opportunities to just live life as a consumer. A great example is Marc Andreessen’s famed Twitter feed. He tweets a 100 times a day. Great. But, was Marc Andreessen tweeting when he was busy building Mosaic and Netscape? Absolutely not. So, why now? One reason could just be that he’s successful and has the time. But, the real reason is that Twitter is his PR machine. And, he’s built his own brand as a venture capitalist as well as that of his firm, Andreessen Horowitz, in record time via such PR. It works for him. It likely won’t work for you.

While the rest of my list including Quora might be obvious, why go after blogs? How does that make sense after 7 years of daily blogging? Here’s the deal – there is definitely place for snack-able content in our lives. But, it is important we only allocate as much to consuming them as we do snacking. This sort of content isn’t the main course and shouldn’t be. Additionally, this blog isn’t for everyone. And, if it isn’t for you, that’s okay. 10% of the blogs and articles you read give you 95% of the value. Figure out the sources of quality content and curate like a crazy person. Don’t read every link sent to your email and definitely don’t watch every video.

Create. Curate. Consume. In that order.