Follow the trend lines, not the headline
Why is the world not falling apart and what can we learn from it.
Do you remember the moment you read a book so powerful it changed your whole life in an instant? Suddenly, you realized, nothing will ever be the same. I have a new perspective now.
If you are a person that follows the news to some extent, you might find yourself feeling depressed, anxious or afraid. Maybe all of it at the same time. The news is scary. Every day you can hear about new shootings, murder, illegal immigrants, famine, economic crisis, etc. Most of these things can be found at the front page of your daily, local newspapers.
Where is this world going, I thought to myself, so many times. Why do we have to be this dangerous, violent and destructive beings?
You are bombarded by the news. The bombarding goes to such an extent it creates a perspective. It frames one picture of reality that sells. Tragedy sells. And we buy it every day.
I was reading the papers every day and just waiting for the World War III to happen. I was a 100% sure we are standing on the edge as a society. We just need a little push and everything will fall apart.
One day, I read the Bill Gates’s blog about a book written by Steven Pinker. Bill Gates usually writes detailed reviews about great books. I remember he mentioned the book called Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. He even had an interview with the author. You can watch it on Youtube. Bill Gates was an advocate for this masterpiece. He called it the most important book of the century.
The most important book…
Definitely, not something an average 21 years old would be interested in reading. The title was bleak. Aren’t there more specific issues we can focus on? Violence, in general, is a broad subject. But I logged into Amazon and ordered the hardcover. Trusting Bill Gates’s judgment.
If Bill Gates was fascinated by some book, I had to read it. He is truly the modern day Einstein. And I wanted to know what is so important.
As I read through the first chapter my mind was simply blown. I had no idea this would be so provocative and relevant.
Steven Pinker stated the idea about how we live in the best possible time in the human history. Something you would dismiss in an instant if these two great minds weren’t telling you about it.
Book describes how far we came as a human race since extremely violent prehistoric times. Pinker argues that our awareness of violence increased, not the violence itself.
He used the statistical data to present the way people live longer, the better economical perspective, declining global poverty, fewer wars, etc.
The data used is exceptional and the piece is written in William Shakespeare fashion. It is a huge book. Almost 800 pages. But every page counts.
Also, the book leaves an insight into how can we help achieve positive outcomes and encourage less violent society.
Later that year I had a class on Media while studying Political science. We backed the similar thesis about media portraying the tragic affairs more prominent than any other events. The professor called it Sensational Journalism.
He stated that newspapers operate their business in the same manner companies do. The news is being packed as a product. A Product you want to produce the most is the product that sells. Media outlets started covering news that people want to buy, instead of the most relevant stories. Profit became the bottom line. As it is with every company.
This is why we see horrific headlines more and more often. Journalism has become more efficient at covering global news. In this world of fast information, this is emphasized more than ever before.
There is a huge lesson to learn about the world, business and life in general from understanding these dynamics. This was the thought that struck me when I opened Steven Pinker’s book. Reality is different from headlines. The shocking moments, no matter how intense they are, are not the only thing that happens. There is always a bigger, more relevant context of reality.
“Follow the trend lines, not the headlines.”― Bill Clinton
If we manage to see beyond the current affairs and grasp the big picture, we have the power to harvest the benefit. With understanding patterns and trends, we can manage our business and life towards a much greater satisfaction.