Over the weekend, someone shared a video of the late Mr. Rogers, talking about the importance of silence and solitude in such a noisy world. He was referring to the barrage of news and information. I regret that I am unable to find that tweet and give credit to who ever shared it, but I did find the interview which includes this wonderful quote.
I’m very concerned that our society is much more interested in information than wonder – in noise, rather than silence. – Fred Rogers
Mr. Rogers made these comments more than 25 years ago, before social media and even before widespread use of the internet or email in homes, let alone on our phones. I shudder to think of his reaction to the world today.
Lately, I find myself spending way too much time reading news and checking social media. Who could blame me? Consider the enormity of current events – impeachment, trade wars, the Fed pumping liquidity in to the system, brokers cutting trade commissions to $0, the UK Prime Minister threatening a no-deal Brexit, the 2020 Presidential candidates, the never ending drip of disgusting #MeToo stories, and I could go on… Along the way a story pops in my feed about Meghan Markle and Prince Harry or Kim Kardashian studying for the California bar exam, and there goes another 20 minutes.
I am way overdue for another internet cleanse and look forward to the next one at Thanksgiving. But I realize there are a few things baked in to my life that provide solitude to catch up with my thoughts.
My Yoga Practice
Lately I am averaging three mornings a week at yoga. It takes me an hour and 15 minutes to complete my practice. This means I spend almost four hours a week in silence, free of all thoughts other than counting my breath and focusing on the current pose. I would love to add an additional 20-30 minutes of sitting meditation, 2-3 times a week, to my routine. I have never been consistent with a meditation practice.
My Son’s Bedtime Routine
My son is 2.5 years old, so his bedtime routine is constantly evolving. At the moment, I read books to him for about 20 minutes and remain in his room with the lights off until he falls asleep. Lately, he is requesting that I make up stories to tell him after the lights go out. This is a fun challenge. I am not a great story teller, but hopefully this practice will improve my skills. I usually lay on his floor in silence for half an hour while he falls asleep.
I fish with my Dad in the Gulf of Mexico a few times a year, and last weekend as one of those times. Deep sea fishing involves several hours of driving to get to the fishing spots – 30 to 40 miles offshore. Cell phone service drops about 5 miles from the shore, and it’s just us and the ocean in every direction. Offshore is one of the few places I go where I’m completely off the grid. The beauty of nothing but ocean surrounding me provides a blank canvas for thought. I have made several major career and life decisions while riding out to fish or returning to shore.
I get the same feeling when I ski in the mountains. Unfortunately I have not been skiing in two years and have no plans for this season. There is nothing more wondrous than the views from 14,000 feet at the top of the Rocky Mountains. I am going to get my act together and start skiing more often.
I have long contemplated attending a silent weekend retreat. I think this would be a refreshing experience and a chance to clear out the cobwebs in my mind.
While Mr. Rogers was concerned with the impact of noise on the human psyche and our society, I am more concerned with its impact on my ability to formulate original thoughts. As an advisor to individuals and families, I need time to sit with their financial plans and figure out how the puzzle pieces fit together. As a member of my firm’s investment committee, I need to keep an open-mind, receptive to all the possible outcomes of our decisions and how they will impact client portfolios. Some of the ‘noise’ in my life is helpful to these endeavors. I’m currently reading a fantastic book – The Success Equation by Michael Mauboussin – in which he attempts to quantify the impact of skill versus luck in business, investing, and sports.
With this in mind, I’m going to attempt to – once again – limit my screen time and increase my ‘think time’. Moderation in everything is a personal mantra of mine. Finding that balance in all areas of life is a challenge. I’m here to fully experience life and all the things on Earth I can do, experience, and learn. Discipline is a vital component to making sure I don’t waste much of my precious time in this life. I hope to eliminate the noise and tap in to reality.