I read a lot of books because I write a lot…
Or maybe I write a lot because I read a lot.
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions”. Since books are compendiums of experiences, it is safe to assume that reading books can stretch the mind into new frontiers.
Last year was a great year of reading for me…I think I read about 50 – 60 books.
Pretty impressive, right?
However, I am starting to find out that I had been going about reading books the wrong way. I realized that I was focusing on ‘just-in-case’ information, rather than ‘just-in-time’ information. ‘Just-in-case’ information leads to action paralysis which is often due to mental clutter fluttering through the mind. You’re merely accumulating information just for its sake. You really don’t need that!
What you need is ‘Just-in-time’ information which would give you a competitive advantage over anything that life may throw at you.
David and Saul
When reading the story of David and Goliath, many people fail to realize that the war between the Israelites and the Philistines was that prolonged because of ‘Just-in-case’ information.
Take a look at the following verses from 1 Samuel 17:1-7, 16.
“Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephesdammim. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them. And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass. And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders. And the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him…
…And the Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days.“
How were the Israelites able to measure Goliath’s height with stunning accuracy? Six cubits…and a span. It doesn’t get more accurate than that!
How were they able to know that his helmet was made of brass, and his coat made of mail…without even touching him?
How were they able to know that Goliath’s spear weighed six hundred shekels of iron, or that his coat weighed five thousand shekels of brass…all the way from the mountain where they were standing?
All these unnecessary information kept the Israelites captive to one man. For 40 days!!!
If they had put down their compasses, set squares, French curves and protractors, and simply got down to attacking the Philistine army, they might have had a shot at winning the battle.
If you can take this, you would be on the right path of simplifying your life greatly: Not every information is important!
I know this post started with mere accumulation of information from books, but it’s much more than that!
There are several of you reading this right now, who have been held captive to information overload from gossip blogs and news sites. For others, it is their Facebook feeds and emails. Still, others more (including yours’ sincerely), it is your favorite football team. You know your team’s latest scores, their transfer targets and the jersey numbers of everyone on the team – including the B team!
Regardless of the type of information, our minds are just being bombarded time and time again with ‘just-in-case’ information that we do not need.
I mean, who gives a rip about whether Kim Kardashian was really tanned or not?
How is knowing ‘the number of times Jon was stabbed when he was murdered at Castle Black’ going to benefit you?
Who cares whether EFCC has the best Twitter handler ever?
Not every information is important!
Goliath was trending and David didn’t even know!
This simple fact of David choosing to be ignorant about Goliath’s attributes and well-informed about the attributes of God positioned him for victory. What Saul and the Israelites saw as too big to defeat, David saw as too big to miss!
The Tetris Effect
If you’re old enough, I am sure you should be familiar with Tetris. You know, that game where you had to arrange falling blocks into empty pockets of space at the lower part of your game screen. If you were not able to do this fast enough and the blocks got to the high enough to stop more blocks from falling, it was game over.
Well, some scientists decided to have some more fun with this game.
So, they got a bunch of Tetris lovers and made them play the game for extended periods of time – up to hours a day for weeks!
Here’s the interesting thing that happened next.
The gamers started seeing everything around them like, wait for it…falling blocks!!!
It was terrible. I can almost imagine one of the participants just sitting there chilling and busy figuring out the kind of block that would fit into the space between two cars following each other!
However, you shouldn’t be surprised with the findings. The Bible had been right all this while and it’s always nice to see science finally catching up with the Word.
Whatever you focus on continually would manifest in your life!
This is why Proverbs 4:23 says, ‘Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.’
A lot of people are not are not diligent with what they allow to go into their hearts. This can happen in two major ways:
- A lot of people are focused on all the wrong things. We are all aware that if you focus on the negatives, you would lead a stifled life. I’m not going to dwell too much on this.
- A lot of people are focused on too many right things at the same time! I’m more concerned about this second way because it is much more prevalent in our day and time.
Back in the days, I used to think it was cool to be focused on so many things at the same time. In fact, I used to pride myself on my ability to multitask because I had multiple talents. However, if you go through the path of trying your hands on everything you come across, you would find yourself living under the illusion of being an expert when in the real sense, you are not. It would also force you to be spread out too thin – since you are simply trying your hands on everything and not spectacular in anything. Man was not made to be spread out thin. Rather, he was created to have depth!
This is why I say multitasking is the highway to mediocrity because the only thing you become good at doing is doing multiple things poorly!
There Is A Better Way
I have said it before – God is The God of Principles.
Sadly, we live in a generation that gets the order of God wrong every single time:
We first try to accumulate the information we think we need and then we try to ask God to approve our agenda. When we find out that the agenda does not work out, we dump it somewhere in the recesses of our brain – alongside the information we gathered with it.
Wasting precious time and mental resources.
And then, we look for the next shiny information source to consume.
The cycle always repeats itself again!
Listen up: God is deliberate.
I do not think He created us to be Jacks of all trades, and masters of none.
Just the same way each cell in our bodies has a specific purpose which contributes to the general well-being of the body, I believe every individual has something specific to contribute to God’s wonderful ongoing story of creation.
The only way to find that specific purpose that God wants you to do with your life is to ask Him to reveal this to you. Only then would it make sense to start accumulating as much information as possible on your highly specific assignment.
We were not created to be spread out thin like shrubs. Rather, God designed us to be trees with depth in Him.
Find your purpose in Him first!
Then you can start building depth in God through the Word and cultivating expertise through accumulating “just-in-time” information within that narrow niche.