Thriving on Overload: The 5 Powers for Success in a World of Exponential Information

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Issue No. 528 of Your Weekly Staff Meeting features three options for reading my review of Thriving on Overload: 1) One sentence, 2) One paragraph, or 3) Ten golden nuggets! And this reminder: click here to download free resources from the 20 management buckets (core competencies), click here for over 500 book reviews, and click here for my review of Dan Busby’s new book, Before and After Jackie Robinson

“We need to acknowledge we are information addicts,” confesses Ross Dawson, author of Thriving on Overload. “There is no shame in it. This allows us to act on it, to work to control our addiction.”

3 Options for Reading My Review of Thriving on Overload

Here’s my problem, friends. According to Ross Dawson, author of Thriving on Overload, “We need to acknowledge we are information addicts.” He confesses, “I certainly admit to being an addict, not adequately able to control my craving for the latest in news and my networks.” Ditto. How about you?

I have another problem. This hot-off-the-press book may be the most important book you read this year—but it would be sinful to serve up a substantial book review for you. I’d just be adding to your information overload! I’d be feeding your addiction. Yikes!

So I’ve thought about three review options. Just pick one option—and move on. Don’t miss the breaking news on your favorite network or news feed!

OPTION #1: Short and Sweet (one sentence)
Trust me—just read the book!

OPTION #2: Motivational (one paragraph)
What if I promised you that this book will dramatically change how you read, view, and listen to the world? (It will.) What if you could transform information overload into an opportunity—not an addiction? (You can.) What if you delegated the reading of this book to a team member—and asked for a summary at your next staff meeting? (You should.)

OPTION #3: Ten Golden Nuggets (for info addicts!)
If you’re still reading—I’ve got some really good stuff for you:

#1. FAST COMPANY says Thriving on Overload offers “the five best ways to manage our information-drenched world.” I agree. The subtitle gives hope: “The 5 Powers for Success in a World of Exponential Information.” 

#2. SIX ATTENTION MODES. The author gave me permission to read the chapters in any order, so I started with Chapter 4, “The Power of Attention.” He writes, “Attention is not one thing; there are six different attention modes that we need to understand and use judiciously to maximize our minds and capabilities.” The six:
   • Scanning
   • Seeking
   • Assimilating
   • Deep-diving
   • Exploring
   • Regenerating

News Alert! No one (including you) can multi-task, per brain science. “The longer you remain in a single attention mode at a time, the more effective you will be.” And this: “How you allocate your attention is a defining choice in life.”

#3. THE FIVE POWERS. Not a blah/blah/blah list of productivity hacks, the book seriously organizes the problem and the solutions around “The Five Powers of Thriving on Overload” (see the page 5 chart). With “Purpose” in the center, the author suggests we “frame our information quests as journeys to help us refine our intentions and discover our path.”
   • PURPOSE: Know why.
   • FRAMING: Map your thinking.
   • FILTERING: Discern what serves you.
   • ATTENTION: Allocate awareness with intention.
   • SYNTHESIS: Cultivate creative integration.

#4. TIMEBOXING. Along with the theory (must-read: “timeboxing”), Dawson delivers helpful habits from leaders and professionals. The founder and CEO of Spotify doesn’t begin his “work” day until 10:30 a.m. He quotes the author of Indistractable who calls timeboxing “the nearest thing we have to productivity magic.”

#5. ZERO VALUE: LAST WEEK’S NEWS. “…one useful rule of thumb to assess the potential value of information is its age. Most of the news that comes out today will have almost zero value or importance past tomorrow. Nassim Nicholas Taleb says ‘to be completely cured of newspapers, spend a year reading the previous week’s newspapers.’ Doing this highlights the unimportance and transience of the vast majority of the news.” (Note: The author, however, believes print newspapers still have merit.)

#6. FAKE NEWS AND BAD DATA. Did you know that the University of Washington has a course to help students “learn to detect and defuse” BS? The course was so popular the profs wrote a book with this subtitle: “The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World.” Per the book promo: “Now, two science professors give us the tools to dismantle misinformation and think clearly in a world of fake news and bad data.” Dawson’s call-out, “A Content Filtering Framework” (page 89), lists nine questions for finding gems, including, “Do other authoritative sources corroborate?”
#7. OOPS! Noting that “the most credible newspapers in the world make mistakes despite sometimes rigorous fact-checking standards,” the author acknowledges that even “editors are humans not immune to championing their beliefs.” For example, “To take just Nature, by some measures the world’s most reputable journal, there were 49 retractions of published articles in the decade to 2021, and that doesn’t mean that every other article was completely correct.” (For more “oops,” see my review of Hemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations.)

#8. “UNSUBSCRIBE MONSTER.” In the chapter on the power of filtering, the author quotes a Nokia team member who relies on newsletters extensively to scout for relevant trends. “I’m paying somebody else to do the scanning for me . . . except the newsletters are free.” (Smart person!) Leslie Shannon says she will “look at everything once…” to assess them. BUT! She adds, “I’m an unsubscribe monster…” (I kinda hope you’ll skip this nugget!)

#9. FIND 20 GOOD PEOPLE. “Many of the information masters I interviewed for this book mentioned numbers around 20 as a guideline for their tightly curated lists.” (What 20 do you religiously follow on Twitter, social media, podcasts, etc.? Or is it 100?)

#10. DOOMSCROLLING! You may know people who compulsively follow upsetting news—not a good thing! (“Doomscrolling” was named a word-of-the-year in 2020!) What information serves you? “The ability to discern the information that best serves you shapes the quality of your life,” writes Dawson. Thus, his entire book functions as a trail guide for a more disciplined and effective use of information in a “world of exponential information.” 

NOTE: Halfway through this book—it dawned on me. The concepts and ideas (especially on the power of purpose) are so helpful, I’ll do a second read of this book—applying the principles that I just now learned. (Did I mention? This is an important book.)

To order from Amazon, click on the title for Thriving on Overload: The 5 Powers for Success in a World of Exponential Information, by Ross Dawson. Listen on Libro. (And thanks to Fortier PR and the publisher for sending me a review copy.)


Oh, my. This will blow your mind. In the chapter, “The Power of Framing,” Thriving on Overload mentions a website, “Jerry’s Brain,” the largest public “brain” in the world. Visit the website and view the 13-minute YouTube video. OK, team—how do we (and how should we) organize the zillion pieces of information we review, scan, skip, or do deep-dives on?
2) “What is the one thing you can do to improve your relationship with information in the six spheres of your life (Identity, Expertise, Ventures, Well-being, Society, Passions)? That’s just one of several powerful questions/exercises at the end of each chapter in Thriving on Overload. On the same fill-in-the-blanks exercise, the author asks you to allocate a percentage of your attention that goes to each of the six spheres of your life. Read the chapter on purpose and then discern where your faith-based priorities might land—and how much time you allocate to improving your relationship with faith-based information.


4 Resources for Info Overload!

Over at the Pails in Comparison blog, I feature a main book and then “compare and contrast” it with other books I’ve reviewed. So…I’m borrowing that methodology for this issue. Four books:

• The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, by Steven B. Sample (1940-2016) – (read my review) – The author, former president of USC, was addicted to newspapers. He once went six months without reading one—but stayed current through the art of listening.

• Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, by Richard A Swenson, M.D. (read my review) – The margin doctor suggests you record this message on your phone: “Please wait for the beep and hang up.”

• The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life: How to Get More Books in Your Life and More Life from Your Books, by Steve Leveen (read my review) – When should you give up on a book? “A few years ago I gave up on Crime and Punishment. I found it not enough crime and too much punishment.” Generally, Leveen votes for the 50-page rule: “…if you don’t like it after fifty pages, close the book and move on.”

• The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan (read my review of my 2016 book-of-the-year) – On time-blocking: “My recommendation is to block four hours a day. This isn’t a typo. I repeat: four hours a day. Honestly, that’s the minimum. If you can do more, then do it.”

By the way! According to Thriving on Overload, “…our lasting love for print books suggests they will be with us for decades to come. In 2021 over 825 million print books were sold in the United States, the most since the rise of e-books, and more than four times digital format sales.”  


An Idea Machine! Ready to read outside your narrow niche? Enjoy this one: A Game Maker’s Life: A Hall of Fame Game Inventor and Executive Tells the Inside Story of the Toy Industry, by Jeffrey Breslow. Read John’s review on the Pails in Comparison blog.

JASON PEARSON: UNEXPECTED CREATIVE. Are you learning from 20 “good people”—those who are savvy and thoughtful communicators? We can help.   We can help! contact Pearpod Media (Design, Digital, Marketing, Social).

© Copyright 2021. John W. Pearson All rights reserved.

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