This morning I made the mistake of opening up Instagram… and spending 15 minutes getting sucked into the vortex of content on @BayAreaStateOfMind (no need to follow them). I was shocked and strangely entertained at the dramatic, inane behavior of real people in a part of the world I call home. There was another part of me that was angry - call it outraged - at the maddening things happening around me. Stores being vandalized, side-shows gone wrong, and other behaviors devoid of any respect for human life.
I closed the app, grabbed my computer, and began to write… this blog. I’ve been meaning to get to this topic for awhile, and this seemed to be an appropriate time.
Love Your Enemies
Arthur Brooks (a Harvard professor, PhD social scientist, #1 bestselling author, and columnist at The Atlantic) published a book in 2019 that was released at a critical time in our nation's history. Love Your Enemies is a book that challenges the polarization of American politics, but I believe it also speaks to our daily challenges of reconciling with one another in everyday society.
Brooks says this:
“We don’t have an anger problem in American politics. We have a contempt problem. . . . If you listen to how people talk to each other in political life today, you notice it is with pure contempt. When somebody around you treats you with contempt, you never quite forget it. So if we want to solve the problem of polarization today, we have to solve the contempt problem.”
The challenge with the 24-hour news cycle is that we are overloaded with bad news from all over the world, far more than our finite human minds were designed to handle all at once. And the most grotesque and disturbing stories rise to the top due to their attention-getting (and thus, profit-gaining) natures.
This gives us not only a contemptuous outlook on people who may be different from us, but it also can drag us into a slough of hopelessness at our ability to effectively impact the world around us.
Can we remove the stimulus of negative news cycles from our lives completely? Probably not. But maybe we can take a break when needed in order to allow our own souls to be restored.
The 4-Hour Workweek
What really hit this home for me was Tim Ferriss’ challenge in his best-seller, The 4-Hour Workweek, to remove news channels completely from your life.
Ferriss claims to spend about a minute a day consuming the news. He reads the front-page headlines in the newspaper machines as he walks to lunch, and nothing more.
“In five years, I haven’t had a single problem due to this selective ignorance,” Ferriss writes. “It gives you something new to ask the rest of the population in lieu of small talk: ‘Tell me, what’s new in the world?’ And, if it’s that important, you’ll hear people talking about it.”
But having a constant stream of “news” that thrives off of your outrage, fear, and anger can not only distract you from the good work you should be doing, it also allows the folks who make money off these machines to thrive. You are feeding the monster.
So in the past 3 years, I’ve worked at steadily weeding out the contempt-creators that try to sneak back into the garden of my mind. The most common place I see these guys popping up is my iPhone news feed (now completely deleted) and my Instagram feed (unfollowed overdramatic political activists, etc).
I’m not saying this is the answer for everyone, but after testing it out for myself, I can genuinely say that it’s helped me mentally and emotionally to deal with the real world more effectively. Instead of spending hours being bombarded by all the terrible things happening in the world and being addicted to the feeling of outrage and contempt (maybe even superiority?), it has allowed me to spend more time building the good things in my life that I actually have control over.
The goal is to stay on mission over here at Motivāt: Drink Great Coffee AND Change The World. And I’ll be honest, the hardest yet most impactful way to change the world is not by looking at all the things you wish you could change. It’s by working to intentionally focus on what I can actively participate in building. And at the end of the day, this is far more rewarding.
I’m posting this blog a week after starting to write it, and since then there have been 17 mass shootings in the US (defined as 4 or more casualties including the shooter). Two of these happened in cities less than 3 hours from where I live. I pray that in no way this post makes light of the devastation of these incidents or any other tragedies.
One news company we highly recommend is The New Paper. Created by John Necef and Michael Aft, this is a news company that curates the day's most impactful news, summarizes each story in factual terms (and links to more context), and sends you a concise daily briefing via text.
Want to partner with us in our global impact? For every retail bag of coffee we sell, one dollar goes to a non-profit in the country of origin to impact children's education and women's restoration.