Knowledge Bankruptcy

At one point in my life, I owned a huge bookcase stuffed full of books. I bought them online or at used bookstores. Lots of reference manuals, technical guides, and obscure compendia. Big coffee table books on science, mythology, mathematics, zen mindsets, and lots more. Lots of eyebrow-raising subject matter, and loads of knowledge available to be learned. Unfortunately, this bookcase contained a dirty little secret.

I never read those books on my bookshelf.

You see, I was trying to impress people who visited my home. In my imaginative mind, I’d be preparing dinner, and they’d be looking around my place, stop to ponder the titles in my bookcase, and would be impressed with the unique titles and subject matter; some of the subject material in stark contrast to how I portrayed myself in public.

Today, I confess to you that I was a fraud.

While I could talk a good game about those books, I never was someone who you would describe as well-read. In fact, I spent more time reading the user reviews on than I did flipping through the pages of what I actually bought. Eventually, I arrived at the stage of life where I donated all my books to the public library. If I happened to need one of those books, I could easily check it out and dive in. Funny thing, it’s been over a half-decade since I eliminated those physical books from my possession, and I haven’t checked one out yet.

It’s tough for me to put that feeling into words, but I seemed to gain a slight bit of authenticity or integrity by not owning that which I did not actually read.

Just recently, I did the same with my digital online reference arsenal. For the better part of a half-decade, I had been saving articles encountered online. Articles chock full of technology fixes, essays containing inspiring mindsets, and numerous guides to be a better person. I accumulated over 700 saved articles scattered in numerous online solutions; Pocket, Instapaper, Readability, Evernote. You name it, I stored it there. In my imaginative mind, I would be able to flop down in a cushy chair by a warm fireplace, hold a tumbler of whiskey in one hand, and my mobile device in the other, and absorb so much wonderful information. I’d be able to finally do what these online solutions claim to offer — to finally “read it later.”

Nothing but a pipe dream.

You see, I’m a husband, a father, and a technologist in the 21st century with a full-time job. Therefore, I have no time to simply read for enjoyment. So I did something drastic. I consolidated all of those 700+ articles into one location, and hit the delete key. Here’s why:

  • If I need a fix for a tech problem, I know I can find the solution on the web very quickly. Besides, most of the tech articles I saved are now years old. Operating systems and software applications have improved, and what I saved is outdated.
  • If I want to become better at mindfulness, I can Google it and come up with about 1 million potential articles to read. No need to save this knowledge for later.
  • I realized all these bloggers writing about 20 ways to improve my life doesn’t know diddly squat about my life. I know what I have to do, and it’s up to me to improve my situation.

Funny thing happened after I hit the delete key and all those saved articles disappeared. The articles that really meant something, the well-written essays I actually paid attention to, stuck with me. When the time came when my mind dug it up I’d Google the article keywords and save it to enjoy later. But this time it was in a more curated fashion. More deliberately. As a result, I have a personal compendium of my favorite articles to refer to when I need to. On Instapaper. Nicely formatted. No ads. Very few pictures. Just the facts, ma’am.

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