Reading Your World and Banishing The Noise.


How many times a day do you say that?

When I started my business in the late 90s I worked from home, alone in a condo in Fairfax Virginia. And having come from the loud and hectic world of an Internet company, having been the head of education with classrooms only feet away from the droning, mumbling, buzzing call center floor, I thought I’d go insane with the silence of my domicile for one. So I turned on the TV (Fox News, being a conservative and as yet unaware of the horribly unreliable source for my information that was). But it made little difference. I tuned it out, just as I had learned to do on the vast warehouse/call floor of Erol’s Internet.

Anytime silence entered my life, I fought it off with music, news, TV, laundry…whether through my computer speakers, TV, or radio, I always had some sort of noise in my life to tune out while I worked. I thought it made me better at my job. I thought it helped me focus.

Sadly, all it did was teach me to tune out the noise. And when I sat to engage in one of my true passions (reading), I found I could no longer do it in silence. Worse, I discovered I could no longer do it and hold a thought from the previous paragraph as I read. Books became noise in my head and I found myself rereading the same passages three or four times to get them to sink in.

I became a movie guy in this period of my life, unable to focus on reading, writing, or even studying. It should be no surprise then that multimedia production became a new avenue and my web designs, video productions, animated web pages, and the like became highly sought after.

It wasn’t until years later after I had sold my company, that I realized I was missing the written word. So, I tried something new; I turned off my TV, spent some time outside, and started reading again. And I discovered my health improved as well as my mental wellbeing. It wasn’t long before I was only listening to music in my car, not watching TV at all, and was back to reading three or four books a week. I also started writing again…something I hadn’t done since my thirties. Turns out I was pretty good at it if I didn’t have the TV blasting noise at me.

More than that, I discovered that when someone talked to me, I actually heard and comprehended what they were saying. No more saying “what?” every third sentence. This allowed me to learn some very important things (not least of which is that I had been very wrong to watch Fox news for so many years).

So I started to look for ways to keep my world quiet while staying informed. I read newspapers instead of watching the news. I avoided crowds and did my shopping at lower volume times, and with the rapid rise of social media, I learned to keep the sound off. This, it turns out, is aided by the fact that most social media video has subtitles for viewing with sound off.

Then, a few years ago, my wife became ill. She spent a lot more time sitting and watching TV. and as her health deteriorated, binge-watching shows on streaming services became our together time. I found it harder to read again…and write. We’re still living in that condition now.

Even though I’ve been watching a lot of binge TV and movies with my girl, I’ve managed to maintain the other noiseless habits I had adopted and though distraction is a problem sometimes (especially given the emotional nature of my biggest distraction), I find I’m still able to concentrate better when I turn the sound off of everything when working, reading, or just sitting. Silence isn’t an enemy. There is an added benefit to turning the sound off of your media and simply reading the closed captioning or text versions, and that is the emotion of the speech is removed. Any attempt to have anger, fear, excitement or any other emotion conveyed in news is removed with the sound off. It’s helped to clear my head of a number of harmful habits.

And best of all, I sleep at night. My mind doesn’t yell at me trying to gain my attention. I’m no expert on the subject, but I’ve learned and am happy to pass along my experiences to you in the hope it might help you. If nothing else, you’ll get a good night’s sleep.

Happy reading.

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