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February 12th, 2022

Everyone has a tremendous potential when it comes to improving the daily lives of those around us. This is because, for most people, our family and friends represent our sphere of influence. The leader of a country, for example, has a much different sphere of influence - one that usually extends to millions if not billions of people. But this is the exceptionally rare exception…


A crucial ingredient for anxiety and helplessness is when our information diet is drastically out of sync with our scope of influence. News stations run 24 hours a day, and feeds on Facebook and Twitter update every few seconds, enabling a bombardment of information with wildly varying scopes. In one moment we can be nervous about the morose mood of a small child in the same room, and the next we can be anxious over impending war a half a world away. Our influence only extends to one of these items, but harnessing electricity for instant communication has vastly expanded the potential scope of information we can consume.


Given the simplicity of description here, it might seem that the prescription is to strap horse blinders to the mind and focus solely on one’s sphere of influence. And for sprints of learning and work, this is likely excellent advice. Most things outside of our scope of influence are merely distractions, the ramifications of which won’t matter in a decade, if not days or hours. So as a simple default, yes, drilling down on the things we can influence is the best thing to do.


But, doing so without stopping to occasionally look around can lead to being horribly stranded in an unfruitful direction of life. Take for instance someone who shutters themself away in a secluded cabin with a particular piece of technology. Perhaps a computer before the internet was created, and this person becomes a true master with all it’s capabilities, and then inevitably when such a person returns to society, they discover that their chosen technology is long out of date, and the mastery is completely useless. 


So while the overwhelming majority of our time and attention is best directed toward the things we can control, and the fields where we have legitimate agency, it’s vital to look up and look around every once in a while to make sure that the details of one’s aims within a scope of influence still make sense in a larger framework.


Problem is, the reverse is true. We spend the majority of our time looking around at a whole bunch of far-off things that don’t matter a single hoot, and very little time doing meaningful work that unlocks the potential for improvement within our scope of influence.

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