Let it go

One of the skills I’ve had to acquire, as it was not natural to me, was the ability to let go of an information source once it became obvious that it was doing more harm than good.

I’m a tradition person, irrationally sentimental about objects and things, unable to throw things away without some prodding. It drives my wife crazy, who is the polar opposite. She opens birthday cards over the trash can and discards our kids’ baby shoes without even glancing twice at them once they’ve been outgrown. Me, I save hotel room key cards.

And these same proclivities to hold onto things past the point where they’re necessary have followed me onto the web (and why wouldn’t they have?).  And so, while going through my RSS feeds, tweet streams and email newsletter subscriptions this weekend (as I do at the end of every year), I’ve had to force myself to cut the weeds down a bit. Ripping this stuff out is healthy, it allows room to add new sources of information. It also de-clutters the machinery a bit, both digitally and mentally.

But more than this, it’s also allowed me to face the facts that there are some writers and pundits who have just been so dead wrong – and stubbornly in denial about it – that my continued exposure to their opinions and research could only be detrimental.

Thinking about this stuff is a great reminder that just because someone is smart and speaks authoritatively about a given topic, it doesn’t mean they’ll be right when prognosticating nor does it mean that what they’re saying will ever be helpful to us, the consumers of it.

Speaking of which, Paul Krugman took a spiked bat to the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page once again this morning…

Back in the 1950s three social psychologists joined a cult that was predicting the imminent end of the world. Their purpose was to observe the cultists’ response when the world did not, in fact, end on schedule. What they discovered, and described in their classic book, “When Prophecy Fails,” is that the irrefutable failure of a prophecy does not cause true believers — people who have committed themselves to a belief both emotionally and by their life choices — to reconsider. On the contrary, they become even more fervent, and proselytize even harder.

And he’s not alluding to the just-failed 12/21 end-of-world prediction of the ancient Mayans with this lede.

The Journal’s almost four-year campaign of fear about bond vigilantes and the dire consequences of economic stimulus has gone from being mildly irritating to being outright embarrassing at this point. And as Krugman mentions, there is not a hint of remorse emanating from this vaunted editorial board as a result of any of their wrong-headed fear-mongering.

I’ve had a lot of the same kind of unapologetically wrong stuff hitting my inbox these past four years and you probably do too. In my case, some of these missives are coming in for tradition’s sake alone, apparently, as I had stopped reading them long ago, it turns out. Now I’ve sealed off those tunnels so it won’t get anywhere near me anymore. Life is too short.

Feels good to let it go. And it won’t take long to realize how little you actually needed it.

In the spirit of my Seven Ways to be More Productive this coming year, thinking about cutting out some of the excess opinions you’ve got pinging your sensibilities like a hailstorm on a tin roof. You’ll be glad you did.


When Prophecy Fails (New York Times)

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