Get Out Of Your Echo Chamber

The Echo Chamber Becomes Your World

In all my travels around the world one thing becomes crystal clear: people everywhere assume the world is like their world. Ambient income levels, intelligence, work, commute, foods, schooling, shopping, even times and types of get togethers become 'the norm.' And once they're 'the norm' we set our horizons and assume that this is 'the norm' for all humanity.

Transporting Inventory To Work
Commuting Bangalore Style

A small, but classic example of this is the 'Youth service' at our church (and many similar churches in our region.) This has become the Sunday evening service. The reasons people give include: “Young people find it hard to get up in the morning,” and “Older people have commitments in the evening, like getting children ready for school.” Both of these seem reasonable, don't they?

Yet when I was a Youth Leader in South Africa, in an equally affluent area, in the coastal city of Durban, the young people attended the early 8 am service. Because they wanted to spend the day on the beach. Families met in the evening for a relaxed meal and worship. With their kids.

In fact we changed the format and time of the evening service to 5:30 pm eight years, and a pastor ago to cater for couples and families with young kids. It's since become the norm. The way things are done around here.

Online Echo Chambers

These communities extend to our digital life as well. For example on Twitter and Facebook you don't see one community of many diverse people as we like to believe. But rather there are a number of different communities all containing very like-minded people.

So we like something and our likes are reinforced by our communities. Similarly, we dislike something and the friends in our community all rally around to complain equally vociferously about those very things.

What Is Your Norm?

So who is in your echo chamber? Who are the people who reinforce your very values and thoughts? Where are you being challenged to extend beyond your comfort zone to take a different perspective, to think about things in a different way?

The truth is life isn't one norm. In fact quite the contrary. Just look at those living in the Himalayas. People living in Africa. Look at those in the very suburb next to yours.

You Cannot Grow In Your Echo Chamber

The only way to truly grow; the only way to truly succeed; indeed the only way to change this world to become a better place is to view things from other people's perspective. To get out of your echo chamber. To have your thoughts and views, ideals and beliefs challenged.

Then rather than to respond defensively, rather than to react violently, to take a step back and see things from another's perspective.

Challenge Your Story

Do you live in the Microsoft echo chamber? Do you live in the Christian echo chamber? Do you live in the Labour echo chamber? Or the Liberal one? Do you live in the white, Anglo Saxon, protestant, Australian, middle-class, heterosexual echo chamber?

I challenge you, I dare you, to get out of your echo chamber and follow people whom you disagree with vehemently. Get out of the echo chamber, and see what you can learn, who you can learn from, how you can grow and challenge your ideals, your beliefs. Expand your horizons, and walk in another's shoes.

Everything is a mental construct. A collaboratively reinforced mental construct to be sure. Sometimes a centuries old, legislatively reinforced mental construct.

But the way things are, are not the only way things need to be. We saw this with Apartheid. With Communism.

And the only way you can understand that is to see things differently. See how things are done in other places, by different people. Sometimes better, not always.

Then ask yourself, is this the way things ought to be?


Who Are You? Really. On The Internet, Who Are You?

Have you met someone new after connecting with them on Social Media only to be disappointed? Their Social Media presence protrayed someone with skils, capabilities, looks, or a life that just doesn’t match the reality.

Real life happens between the family photos.

This happens to most of us. After all you don’t want to air your dirty laundry, or highlight your flaws and mistakes. The thing about Social Media is that it amplifies whatever we portray. Understandably you don’t want to amplify that embarrassing tick, or depression, or failure.

The other thing about Social Media is that it is produced. As with anything that is produced you have the opportunity to edit prior to publishing. For most on sites like Facebook, Instagram, slightly less so with Twitter (synthesising to 140 characters requires serious editing) there is little conscious editing. Only a choice about which comments or photos not to post. Whereas on professional sites like LinkedIn people tend to spend more time crafting their ‘resume.’

Whether conscious, or unconscious, in the moment, or premeditated, we bias towards the positive. This is an insidious first step towards the inauthentic. This is exacerbated when we accentuate a certain activity, capability, or behaviour. This slippery slope continues until the image your connections (friends, colleagues, potential customers?) have is one of the perfectly happy life, filled with nothing but brilliant experiences by a perfect self whom looks 10 years younger than you, earns twice as much, and never has an off day. When your entire career you were a leader, or senior, and solely responsible for every project, deal, success.

When the outer veneer, now amplified across the Interwebz doesn’t match the interior reality. When you have to “Fake it until you make it.”

Here’s a thought, on personal sites, post like your friends & family would post about you. On professional sites, like your colleagues, subordinates, and manager would post about you.

Or continue to fake it…

…just don’t be disappointed when you meet people IRL.

Just One Technique That Will Set You Free in 2016

[short] Unsubscribe. [/short]


Ultimately you have 2 resources that you can spend: Money and Time, or rather, your Attention. Whilst money is something that you can, and regularly do, regenerate, your time is an inelastic, limited resource. Your time, what you focus you attention on, is simply your most valuable resource.

A couple of years ago I wrote 2 posts to help manage one of the largest parasites to this limited attention: Email deluge! You can read them here:

I recommend reviewing both posts. Become a jealous, ruthless master of your time.

Some 4 years later and email is no less demanding, but now has to compete with other digital channels, IM and Social Media, for your attention. What if you could reduce your inbox by 50% or more, in one fell swoop?

You can.


Simply unsubscribing from all of those websites, distribution lists, groups, and even businesses will dramatically reduce your email load, and free up hours every week that you will direct elsewhere.

What may surprise you is just how many Distribution Lists, websites and groups you are subscribed to. It’s likely to be in the hundreds, here’s mine:

Unroll Me

To click on the unsubscribe link, and follow the disparate process for each of these sites would take, well, far too long.

Fortunately there’s a phenomenal tool that not only will parse your email history to determine all of your subscriptions but also allows you to:

  • Non-destructively unsubscribe. I.e. You don’t get the email, but your name is still on the email list. This means you get the benefits of a subscriber (discounts etc) without the constant deluge of email. This also means you can re-enable the email flow at a later time without having to re-subscribe.
  • Collate into a daily digest. Instead of getting 17 emails from different lists at disparate times during the day, you get one digest email with the content from the lists of that day. This consolidates all of your “perusing” to a single time in the day, to a single email in your inbox.
  • Keep important emails in your Inbox, that you can “roll-up”, i.e. consolidate to daily digest, or unsubscribe at any time later.

This amazing, and free, tool is called Unroll Me

After an initial parse you’re presented with a list of senders, which you can simply click to Unsubscribe, Roll-Up, or Keep in Inbox. This first session can take a little time, but far, far less than doing this manually.

Then everyday, in your roll-up email there’ll be a number of new, or unrecognised subscriptions for you to deal with. This you can typically do once per week in a couple of minutes.

Sign up. Run on your (cloud based) Inbox. Set yourself free.

No, as a free service, there is no affiliate link. I derive no material benefit from recommending to you. But you definitely will.

I also recommend going through all of your social media accounts, work email distribution lists, podcasts and anywhere else you’ve signed your attention away to some bot. Cull. Cut. Be ruthless.


Are you Automating, or Empowering

Project 2012: Day 244

I had a discussion with a friend at church last Saturday. We’re considering replacing a 15+ year old analogue sound desk with a newer digital desk.

We agreed not to progress the discussion.

All a digital desk would do, at this stage, is automate part of the sound engineering process. Rather than empowering the creativity of the worship team.

And don’t get me wrong, as a technologist, guitarist, drummer, and sound engineer, I personally would love a digital desk.

But first we need to understand the long term strategy, then the worship strategy, then our goals. Then we should decide the technology to enable those goals.

Easy Trap

Judging from the RFP’s I read weekly at work, this “automation” trap is an easy one for us to fall into. But a dangerous one.

Yes, technology allows us to automate business processes. But the automation isn’t the end goal. Rather it’s the empowerment of the business. Actually that statement is erroneous too. It’s the empowerment of the people in the business. Your colleagues, friends, peers, team. You.

Wrong Metrics

Have you heard of a “pineapple metric?” This is where a goal is reported as green, but is actually orange on the inside. In other words you’re measuring the wrong thing. Either it’s something you can count (easily) rather than something you should count; or it’s something that is easy to report on, that doesn’t reflect an actual result.

I’ll give you an easy example here…

…Your annual review conversation. How many of those are “ticked” in the system, so the metric for HR comes up green – all performance conversations are complete – yet staff feel unempowered, and disengaged.

This is what happens when you focus technology on automation, rather than empowerment.

Be the Change

Do you have systems that automate processes, whilst disempowering staff? They could be expenses, travel systems, CRM, time-sheeting, Point of Sale…

…any IT mediated system.

You have the unique position in your organisation to force a change. To tweak the system, or the reporting from the system from one of automation, to one that empowers people.

You have the authority to free staff up to be their creative, collaborative, productive geniuses that you hired them for. To give them systems they want to use.

…and you have the position to automate more.

The choice is yours.