Ep 19 - The Influence of Inputs
Ricky Richards Represents:
The Influence of Inputs
Thank you for tuning into the podcast today. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and new year. I know I certainly did. As a side note. I actually moved out of London at Christmas so that I could be near the coast, and get some time to work on some projects that I’ve been wanting to finish for years. I’ll still be working in London on and off, but what this does mean is that I wont be able to interview people every week unfortunately, but I will still be doing the podcast every week, but the chances are I’ll be exploring topics from the numerous books I read weekly, and sharing my viewpoints with you. And then when I am able to get a great guest on the show, I’ll get them on. I’m hoping that will still be enjoyable to listen to, let me know if you think it’s terrible and realistically I’ll keep putting them out anyway, because I enjoy doing them but it’s always nice to get some hate mail now and then, lets me know I’m going in the right direction, so, without further ado, lets get into it.
To kick of the new year I want to talk about a theory I have. I actually gave this as a talk to the University of Bournemouth last month. It's called The Influence of Inputs. It’s somewhat obvious I think, but it’s not talked about enough and I think it has huge implications in people’s lives so I wanted to share it with you today.
This theory initially arose because I was doing some research about how to be more innately creative. And the questions I was asking myself were:
Who am I? How did I become who I am? And why does it matter?
The conclusion I came to, is that I am who I am, somewhat because of genetics, but for the most part I’d say, I am who I am because of an amalgamation of my circumstances and inputs.
If you grew up in Liverpool, is it not true that you’d likely speak with a liverpudlian accent? Likewise if you grew up in china, you’d probably have eaten dog. If your parents are ardent racists or overeaters, you too are more susceptible to poses either those beliefs or behaviours, especially at a young age.
To ask this question is important for a number of reasons, have you ever contemplated for example, that if you were born in Germany during the world war, whether you too might have fought for the Nazi’s.
Assuming that you generally agree with this premise, then it’s true that our circumstances and environment play a huge part in determining who we are.
It’s hard to stomach, but nevertheless probably true, that the most determining factor as to how well we’re all going to do in life, is determined before we’ve even been born. Could you contend that if you were born in the hills of Afganistan, that you stand an equal likelihood of having a great life compared to that of child born to an architect living in Surrey? Probably not.
However, luckily for most of the listeners to this podcast, I doubt you need to worry much about these inhibitors. The fact that you’re listening right now, suggests that you’re circumstances are somewhat better. You’re the lucky ones.
However, going back to my original statement, genetics play a huge part in who we are, as do circumstances. Both of these are, for the most part, outside of our control. But the third thing, inputs! Inputs are different.
However much we believe in our level of intelligence, no matter how adept we think we are, it’s easy to be humbled when I pose just the simplest of hypotheticals.
Suppose I take you, and I drop you on a desert island, with nothing but infinite resources to create what you like. How many of you would be able to recreate a life anything close to the level of sophistication we all have today. Can you make a light bulb from raw materials? A heater? A pair of shoes? A computer?
Likewise, if I erased your memory and dropped you on a desert island, how many of you would come to the conclusion that the ocean moves because of gravity from the moon? That there is 365 days in a year? That you could rub sticks together to create fire?
If you’re anything like me, you wouldn’t be far off a caveman again. All these things that we supposedly know, we only understand because we live in a world where we can share information.
But where do we get this information from?
Well, we tend to believe people in positions of authority and come to believe that these beliefs are 100% fact, despite never verifying these beliefs for ourselves.
So what’s my point?
My point is, be it the news, your favourite Youtuber, your parents or even me. The choices of information you choose to accept, ultimately determine your beliefs and hence, they effect how you act and respond in life.
As I mentioned at the start of this podcast, I initially started down this line of enquiry because I wanted to know how to become more innately creative, to have better ideas more readily available.
And what I came to realise, is that there’s no such thing as a unique idea. Ideas are almost always an amalgamation of other ideas combined in new ways. And the source material for those combinations are what we consume day-to-day.
If you study ideas you’ll also discover, that what tends to resonate with a mass audience is when something is different. However, there has never been a time in history when “popular” culture has had the power to reach so many people. The cognitive bias known as the bandwagon effect is in full swing, and when tastemakers deem something to be worthy of praise, it gets disproportionate levels of attention from a mass audience.
What does this mean?
Well, I can almost guarantee, that despite our beliefs in our own reliance to media and other people, all of us will at some point been susceptible to doing something purely on the basis that other people think that it’s good. Be that watching game of thrones, going out or believing in something without ever questioning the source. It’s in our nature to identify our tribe and to blindly follow the crowd.
The problem with this, from a standpoint of making progress in life, is that if you imagine that every time you consume something you place a reference ball in your brain to that input, the more popular something is, the better chance that other people also poses that point of reference. So when it comes to creating new ideas, the collection of references that you have at your disposal, everyone else also has and you end up creating nothing of real novelty. Nothing capable of cutting through, because you don’t poses unique points of reference.
As an example, how many films are published each year, many of which are almost identical in plot and execution to that of every other? The chances are, those filmmakers have had a rather limited pool of reference.
Compare that to an individual like Quentin Tarentino, who worked in a video shop as a kid and hence watched films in multiple languages, from unpopular film makers and genres with all kinds of off kilter plots and production methods, then you can understand why he is capable of creating films that captivate our attention and surprise us.
Whether he made a conscious effort to or not, he was exposed to unique inputs, and hence his output was different enough, and to a high enough standard, that it cut through the noise.
To sum up. If you want to be more than just an average person, if you want the capacity to cut through, to be unique to have something new to say that others don’t. Then I encourage you to become conscious about what your inputs are, and try not to be swayed by the opinions of the mass. Be the discover, not the follower.
When you follow, you’re being susceptible to the will of others. I don’t think it’s possible to eradicate this completely, but it certainly helps to become comfortable in finding your own source material and to question if you’re in good company. Look in places where others don’t. Go deeper than Google in search of information, and over time, you’re points of reference will be so different that this will give you a distinct advantage, when it comes to standing out, having new ideas, and making your mark in life.