What notifications do you get?
Yesterday, I asked my Amazon Echo about the weather. After the update, it proceeded to say, “By the way, I can notify you about breaking news as it happens. Would you like to enable these alerts?”
I thought about it. How would that happen?
I would be investing time with my wife and two precious daughters, playing or enjoying a meal and conversation together. Then the Echo device would suddenly butte in, blaring about the last interest rate increase, stock market “tumble”, political scandal, or murder. Peace, tranquility, and joy: all gone thanks to this bearer of bad news.
Do I want to enable notifications?
I thought about it. For a fraction of a second. Before it could even finish the suggestion I was yelling at it, “NO!”
What Do You Get Notified About?
I enjoy technology. I have the full suite of Apple products, Amazon Echos, 802.11 AX WIFI, smart thermostat, etc. And I use a lot of the functions and conveniences. But there is one feature I don’t use.
How many of us have our current lives controlled by our notifications? We are engaged in quality work or a quality conversation when we feel the familiar buzz in our pocket. The best case scenario is we continue in our work or conversation, our attention split between what the other (colleague, spouse, child) is saying to us, and wondering what the notification is. The less mature among us may disregard the person in front of us in favor of checking said notification.
What is it this time? A trivial Facebook alert? Someone liked our comment on someone else’s trivial Facebook post? A weather alert that a light sprinkle is starting in ten minutes while you’ll be inside for the next six hours? A new sports post or killer deal at your favorite online retailer? An email from that business you’ve been meaning to unsubscribe from?
Or is it something more insidious? Something that could rob your joy and send your mood into a tailspin. Breaking news of the latest crisis de jour, something you neither will nor can do anything about.
No More News Notifications
I cannot imagine a worse use of technology than to have a producer or editor across the country dictate what I should be thinking about at any given minute. Why give someone else that kind of power over your life?
If you’ve listened for a while you know I’m rabidly again the news. The vast majority of media that considers itself “news” is, at best, useless drivel that distracts us from what’s important and valuable in our lives or, at worst, direct attempts to manipulate our mindsets and worldviews to hate our neighbors and coworkers and stir up dissension and strife.
We would all be better off with no news at all. I have been avoiding the news for ten years now. I’m the happiest person I know, and instead of filling my mind with useless or harmful information that I can’t or won’t do anything about, I concentrate on what I can influence and impact. My family, my church, my community.
No News At All?
I would first and foremost challenge you to avoid news altogether. You’ll be better off for it. Minimally, consider a four-week news sabbatical. Cut it out completely for four weeks and see how you feel. Election season is a great time to cut it completely.
But minimally, I implore you, no more new notifications. If you won’t abstain from all the bad news out there, at least do it on your terms. Find a curator of news that you trust. Not Fox News or CNN or whatever self-imposed brainwashing you normally engage in, but an independent curator of “important” news, if such a thing exists. Then engage with it only at set times during the month or week.
To let someone else decide when you receive your news, not just what you receive, is to abdicate your attention and focus to those who would profit from twisting it.
Turn off all notifications. No News app on your phone, no email notifications from news sites, no Alexa butting into your day to share the latest catastrophe.
Why Not Get Notified?
While there is good reason to always be ignoring all news, I’ll keep it to finance. Getting notified about news is a sure way to be alerted every time the “stock market” “tumbles,” “plummets,” “dives,” “plunges,” “hurtles downward,” “nosedives,” “crashes,” or any other hyperbolic word they can come up with when values temporarily dip by 1-2%.
You will not be subsequently notified when it inevitably rises by 1-2%. Nor will you ever get the notification, “Breaking News, Equity ownership in the best businesses in the world continue to average 10% over the long term, creating wealth for the patient and disciplined equity investor.”
The disproportionately bad headlines and notifications will lead you, however subconsciously, to believe that investing in stocks is a losing proposition. Never mind the undisputed fact that equities are up more than they are down. Even as I write this at a current “low” for the year, we are still up 9% from just two years ago, to say nothing of what it will be when it recovers.
The news wants you to be afraid. The news wants to generate bad news. And it wants to butt into your life to make sure you know it.
Financial Journalism’s Crisis Moment
In the podcast, I read an excerpt from Nick Murray’s August Issue, which I won’t reprint to honor copywrite. In it, he references the VIX, which is an index measuring people’s fear of the market and volatility. He offers this line:
The modern financial rendering of the eternal truth “If it bleeds, it leads” is “The higher the VIX, the higher the clicks.” All the way to the bank.
Listen in for the full excerpt.
I share this article even though and especially because the market did come back down from the July 20th point he references. Why? Because we will see many more catastrophic headlines when the market begins to recover again, and all the way to and through new equity market highs.
Because financial “journalism” must incite fear. It’s its job.
Do not let their fear-mongering into your life. No more new notifications.
Finally, let’s explore a simpler possibility. I have two apps on my phone that deliver notifications:
- Text Messages
- Phone Calls
That’s it. I have dozens of other apps that could notify me, but they are all turned off.
Furthermore, during the day, text messages are suppressed from everyone except my wife. If I open my phone I can see that there are text messages I haven’t read, but it does not alert me when they arrive.
People may think I’m a bad texter, but that doesn’t bother me. I choose to invest my time in deep and meaningful work during the day, and precious time with my family when I’m home. Why would I allow others to dictate my time and attention?
Make a Choice
And that’s the moral of the story. Choose. You have a choice. Choose to let others control your attention, thoughts, focus, and emotion. Or choose to control them yourself.
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This article is educational only and is not intended to be investment, legal, or tax advice or recommendations, whether direct or incidental. Again, this is not investment advice. Consult your financial, tax, and legal professionals for specific advice related to your specific situation. Never take investment advice from someone who doesn’t know you and your specific situation. All opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the people expressing them. Any performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be directly invested in.