Signal To Noise

Have you ever considered your personal signal-to-noise ratio?


  • Email messages
  • Media
  • Internet sites
  • Twitter, Facebook and other social network feeds
  • Conversation topics of peers
  • Business partners and teammates

Just like with areas for self-improvement, it’s a lot easier to spot the in-bound sources of noise than the ones that I’m creating. What about out-bound noise?

  • What I write
  • What I think
  • What I say
  • What I post
  • What I tweet

In terms of my own noise generation, my two year experiment with inbox zero has trained me to ask:

  • do I need to read this;
  • what does this person need from me; and
  • to trim what hits my inbox.

I sure wish that same discipline came naturally on the larger internet. About the only way I can figure to free myself is rationing.


Three random bits that might help:

The Big Picture does a daily email round up on business reading. Barry embeds the Mauldin letter that I like. If I’m honest with myself then Barry’s email is all I need to stay abreast of the “signal” aspect of the financial media, I don’t even need to read past the headlines.

My last piece prompted Steve to share this video on The Seven Year Itch. I’m going to take a sabbatical in 2013 and will be spending 2012 figuring out how to structure it. If you have resources for me to consider then please send them along.

I was running with my buddy, Scott Jones, and we ended with a question, “what aspects of my life do I take as a given when, in reality, they are self-imposed constructs“.

Working on that last one.

Happy Holidays and I’ll be back in 2012.

How To Keep Living

Lately, I’ve been seeking a strategy for where I’d like to be in my 60s. The long-term strategy focus is being driven by a lack of goals beyond the end of this month. When I have open space in the present, I like to think about creating things that will have a major impact in the future.

In an effort to generate options and opportunity, I have been asking smart, older friends for input about how to live in my 50s. 

It’s a simple question that I pose: What advice do you have for me in my 50s?

They aren’t telling me what to do, today – so speak openly.  Also, because I am asking about their recent past, their advice gives insight into what they value in their 60s.

So far the best answer has been: friends, family and roots. The answer came from a pal that spent his 50s focused on wealth creation. As a result, in his 60s, he can do whatever he wants – which has little to do with how he spent the previous few decades. The skills and lessons from his 50s are different from what’s required to create success in his 60s.

At 42, I’ve never lived more than five years at the same address and the concept of ‘roots’ is foreign to me. As well, I have to acknowledge that that I might be getting the urge to turn my life upside down simply out of habit. So I dug a little deeper with my buddy, who said that roots are:

  • Long-term relationships
  • Feeling connected to a community
  • Stability in relationships, finances and personal security
  • Efficiency in daily living, technology, location and work environment

Because that definition didn’t impact my perception of freedom – it was easier to accept.

Another surprising observation has been how often people mention the negative impact on health of high stress. I’ve heard this across a wide range of people: working athletes to sedentary businessmen. It’s also something that’s repeated in Steve Job’s biography – the health cost of being CEO of Apple and Pixar simultaneously.

Some stress is OK, perhaps even essential for motivation, but too much has a health cost to where successful people see themseleves in their 50s and 60s. 

It’s conventional wisdom that we should work many years and retire in the future, ideally when we’ve achieved enough wealth for lifelong financial stability. Speaking from experience, that is a horrible trade-off and my friends that retire end up bored. Personally, I don’t see retirement as a goal, or particularly attractive.

I’ve worked in fields (finance, consulting, teaching, coaching) that span the full range of financial reward; very high to very low. In each field, I’ve worked with excellent people that were doing exactly what they wanted every-single-day. The goal isn’t to stop working; the goal is to find work that will be rewarding through each phase of our lives.

I’ll leave you with a final tip that I came across. Don’t network. Focus on building strong friendships and helping others achieve their goals. 

No answers yet but the brainstorming has been fun.