June 12, 2012

Do What Matters: Minimize Pop Culture

I’m often asked when I have time to sleep. It seems from the outside like my work and social lives are all-consuming and demanding of unimaginable hours.

The truth is, they’re not. I think I’ve found an incredibly solid work/life balance, and generally get plenty of sleep (when I get less, it’s almost always my own fault).

How? In large part, the key is a ruthless and constant attention to the things that really matter to me. But the more universally applicable theme is minimizing engagement with pop culture.

Pop culture encompasses a broad spectrum of media designed to engage a large audience, and make those who aren’t engaged with it feel left out. Therein lies the biggest challenge to minimizing engagement with it: making yourself okay with feeling out of the loop on certain topics.

Do you need to see every movie at the theater that’s designed to appeal to your demographic? Do you need to read the news story about the drug-related murder five states away (which, incidentally, was published two days after another drug murder, making you want to talk through a possible perceived trend — don’t think for a second that isn’t highly intentional)? Do you need to watch that video of the cat playing the piano with his laser beam eyes?

The answer is no. You will lose the ability to voice your opinions in ten seconds to three minutes of discussion in group conversation on occasion, and one in a hundred times that conversation will convince you to go back and engage with that piece of pop culture. There’s your social curation at work.

Instead of voicing your opinion on pop culture, you’ll be able to voice your opinion on far more fascinating subjects, where your contribution will be more than an interjection starting with “remember that part when…” You’ll be able to introduce people to new ideas, or engage with them on a more honest, personal, emotional level.

In the time you save from engaging with pop culture, you can study and create things that speak more personally to your own interests. The Internet has given everyone the tools to do both, and there’s even a whole world out there beyond media (gasp!) waiting to be explored.

I would encourage you to first believe that you can have an impact on your own life, then start paying attention to the things you love, then go deeper with those things. Ignore the things other people (and companies) tell you to like.

If you focus ruthlessly on what you love, I think you’ll find that pop culture naturally falls to the periphery of your life, and you’ll feel dramatically happier and more productive.


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