In the field of measurement, signal refers to the transmission of meaningful information. Noise is the undesired variation returned by the measuring instrument.
Think of your brain as the measuring instrument, trying to make sense of the world from the inputs it receives. Modern media hits you with a firehose of inputs every day. A surprising amount of it is valuable information from reliable sources, hence signal. Generous folks are re-transmitting what they’ve discovered, putting out their signal into the world.
But even if we manage to find these sources of signal, as soon as we start to overlay them with others, there is inevitable variability. Soon, when enough sources are present, the once clear signal gets lost.
Solving this problem is deceptively simple: cut the firehose of information!
Go ‘Marie Kondo’ on your content inbox. You don’t need to listen to every Tim Ferriss podcast or watch every Keep Productive video. If you’re looking for the “next great tool” or latest hack, you’ll never be satisfied. Even so, cream genuinely does have a way of rising to the top and that FOMO voice will soon subside. Scouring Twitter, Youtube and Substack all day probably won’t do it.
Conduct an audit of your Twitter and email newsletter feed. Whose emails provide the most value for you, the ones you actually look forward to reading? Unsubscribe from everything else. Give your brain some breathing room so that you can start to generate your own signal, rather than regurgitating others'.
Lao Tzu said it in much fewer words than me, centuries ago: “To obtain knowledge, add things every day. To obtain wisdom, subtract things every day”.