Avoid Information Paralysis

Yesterday


My day began great. I was rested, my business was showing signs of a rebound from a previously dismal week, and I received news my loan from the Payroll Protection Program might be approved. This loan, potentially forgivable, is a part of the CARES Act from our government, in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic.



Then I read an email I received the previous day, from the U.S. Forest Service. The Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina is closed until August 13th. My day spiraled down. Up to this point I had believed my summer activity, my escape, would largely avoid the effects of coronavirus. Surely we can maintain social distancing in the wilderness. Perhaps not.


My dour mood carried me into the evening, when I began binge eating and escaped to my newest read. During this period of self-pity I also tried to interpret the decision behind the closing of my favorite national forest. Why for so long?



All Information is Biased


We, the intelligent human beings we are, are products of, well, our life. Our upbringing, our education, our travels, and our culture. These things, in my opinion, not only shape our views, they impact the way we interpret information.


I scoff when I read something which implies it was presented without bias. Literally, I scoff. Sometimes demonstratively with the rolling of the eyes and a release of sarcastic breathing.


Even history textbooks, in their attempt to present our chronological past, are biased. Those books were written by a person, or persons. Perhaps the sentence, “Woodrow Wilson served as the 28th President of The United States from 1913 to 1921,” is not biased. But the next few sentences will have at least some level of bias, written with influence from the author’s education and life experiences.


Okay. I get it. A subtle point. So let’s go to the extreme.



Try to determine your best course of action, right now, tomorrow, a month from now, and even the rest of 2020, during this global pandemic, by searching news articles. Perhaps you will agree, no matter what information you find, it is probably biased. Especially if any politicians were quoted within one of these articles.



Finding Information From Information


Here is a window into one of my biases. I’ve read two books from Nicholas Nassim Taleb. Fooled By Randomness and The Black Swan. Without reviewing these books, I will state he is a student of Epistemology. Loosely defined, it is the questioning of how truth or fact is defined. If you search the term, you will learn that Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.


It is the questioning of truth. It is not the denial of truth.

  • Though denial of all facts is, perhaps, one way to live. Just bumble and stumble your way through life. I believe I’ve met some people who fit this category.


As a result of his influence I am also a student of Epistemology. It is how we arrive at a justifiable belief which matters to me. And this relates to the actions I am taking now. It relates to how I believe the rest of 2020 might play out.


I am a voracious reader. Recently I’ve been combing through news articles, from multiple media outlets biased toward both sides of the political spectrum. I question nearly all of it, which perhaps begs a question from the reader. If you question it, then why bother? I suppose my short answer is; I can not dispute or question that which I do not read.


There are actions being taken by our leaders, and by organizations across our country. Maybe these actions, rather than opinions, can give us insight. The closing of a National Forest until the near end of summer. This is an action. Over 22 million new jobless claims in a period of four weeks. This is an action of the recent past. Governor McMaster of South Carolina states it could be late June before businesses and activities can safely resume. This is a potential action.


Maybe from these actions we can plan. Maybe we can become proactive instead reactive. From the actions of others perhaps we can form justifiable beliefs.



Sometimes Breathing Is A Course Of Action


Maybe more than breathing. My course of action, for now, is the mental preparedness of tough times ahead. To think. How do I navigate a prolonged recession, which may eventually be defined as an economic depression? How do I position my business to survive?


You can find news articles with rosy outlooks, horrible outlooks, and something in the middle. Which is correct? What do we believe?


The stakes are high, right? This probably is not the time you crawl beneath the proverbial rock, or walk around telling your friends to stop and smell the roses. Read. Learn. Maybe act. Be positive, but realistic.


Information is flowing at the rate of madness. The stimulus checks are going to be late. China caused the virus. Congress can't decide. The media hates Trump. The jobless rate is nearing depression levels. The money for small businesses has run out.


Stop.


Breath.


Eat some chocolate mint cookies. And cashew nut salted caramel ice cream.



Wake up tomorrow.


Act.


If a National Forest is unsafe for social distancing until August, then maybe the same is true for the lobby of a coffee shop. Breath. Ignore the noise.


Create a course of action.


Live your life.




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