17 Aug Input Overload
One of my top strengths is also one of my core weaknesses. I’ll elaborate in a moment, but consider whether this statement is generally true for you as well, whatever your strengths happen to be.
The personal strength I’m referring to is labeled as “Input” by the popular CliftonStrengths assessment, but I was cultivating this capability long before I took the Gallup instrument in late 2005 while reading Marcus Buckingham’s Now, Discover Your Strengths. I’ve been inclined, for as long as I can remember, to gather ideas and resources and organize them into some kind of taxonomy or filing system–at first, through hundreds of manila folders, and later through close to 1,000 Evernote folders that are available to me across all my devices.
My curiosity and natural bent toward seeing and making interdisciplinary connections gets me pumped up and helps me to produce some good work and engage in lively conversations. But it can also be hard to reel in or dial back. Any “overdone” strength, whether it’s ‘input” or strategy, analysis, storytelling, discipline, etc., has the capacity to undermine productivity and relationships, which makes self-awareness and openness to feedback from others so important.
Despite the many resources I have at hand, I often feel that a little more is needed; that something is still “missing.” (An unhealthy aspect of how I express my Enneagram Type 4/3 hard-wiring comes into play here.) At some point the gathering has to shift to doing something with all the input, shaping it into a task, product, or service that’s helpful to me and others. As I type this I can hear Seth Godin asking, “When are you going to show up?”
I’ve never felt a greater urgency than right now to discern the proper blend of gathering and acting, because I’m inundated with content choices like never before. And I’m not alone in this predicament. What’s needed, Yuval Noah Harari writes, is not more content but more clarity.
Clarity can only come through reflection, which is only possible through pausing long enough to cease the gathering and becoming present with what’s been gathered, making sense of it and how to apply it. Any time I choose not to take another glance at my phone, visit a social media account, order a new book, or watch just one more episode of a Netflix show, I’m pausing into presence.
The pausing is a learned behavior, a hard-won habit that is counter-intuitive in today’s culture. It’s a habit worth fighting for, because overdone strengths are just as oft-putting as overdone hamburgers.