There was a time when people believed the Earth was flat. They had good reason to feel that way, given that scholars and the masses were in complete agreement. While that may seem foolish now, some things you believe today may prove to be equally false tomorrow. The cause is bad information.
While you may not believe the Earth is flat, I can assure you that some of your thinking today is indeed flawed. It happens because you, like most people, often rely on bad information to shape your thoughts and opinions. As they say — garbage in, garbage out. The good news is that you can do something about it.
You Can’t Believe Everything You Hear (or Read)
You are bombarded with information every day. You search the Internet, obtain advice from friends and family, read product reviews, hear the news on TV, and the list goes on. Ask yourself how much of what you hear or read from friends, colleagues, leaders, and so-called experts is accurate, objective, fair, and comprehensive. What if it’s wrong? How does the information color your ideas and viewpoints?
The truth is, some of the information you receive is incorrect. Worse yet, some folks and organizations don’t have your best interest at heart. They are dishonest and self-serving — and may even have a second agenda. Furthermore, while you may think that following the crowd is a safe bet, don’t assume that the crowd has done their due diligence. In fact, they may be leading you right off a cliff.
One or many believers don’t determine the truth or untruth.
Information: Garbage In, Garbage Out
There are specific things you can do to avoid getting burned by bad information. As a general rule of thumb, Ronald Reagan was right when he said, “Trust, but verify.” The next time you search for information, read what’s happening, receive input, get someone’s opinion, or obtain a recommendation, consider the following:
Bad information can occur in three ways. First, the method that you use to obtain information may be haphazard. Second, the source may be bad. Last, the information itself may be flawed. Truth is not what it seems, but what it is.
- Get information secondhand or secure it from its original source?
- Subscribe to information that reinforces your existing beliefs or seek a fresh perspective?
- Accept everything at face value or view it with a healthy dose of skepticism?
- Listen to people because you like them or because they’re respected and reputable?
- Determine whether the information is opinion or fact?
- Believe something is true because it’s well presented or based on its merit?
- Determine whether the message is one-sided or presents both sides of the issue?
- Attack opposing viewpoints or try to see the merit in others’ opinions?
- Accept advice blindly or ask how the conclusion was drawn?
- Assume others know better or trust your own instincts?
Food for Thought and Your Mind
Although we live in a time in which information is plentiful and easily accessible, it’s worthless if you don’t harness it to your advantage. The key is to scrutinize the information that you receive — evaluating it for accuracy, honesty, objectivity, timeliness, and thoroughness. It also requires you to broaden your horizons, remain open to other peoples’ thoughts and opinions, view things fairly and objectively, and encourage folks to challenge your thinking.
An opinion is not a fact.
If you’re like most people these days, you’re careful about what you put into your body. After all, the food that you consume impacts your energy, strength, brain power, and overall health. If you’re that careful about consuming healthy food, shouldn’t you be equally prudent about how you feed your mind? You are what you eat AND the information that you digest. Seize the opportunity to scrutinize this information carefully. Your thoughts, opinions, and beliefs hang in the balance.
Do You Protect Yourself from Bad Information?
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