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Input to Output Ratio

by | Feb 4, 2021

The rise of the information age has given a limitless amount of knowledge to our fingertips. We can listen to the latest weather forecast, watch a how-to video, and check-in with our loved ones in a matter of seconds. It’s the first age in human history where we can seamlessly connect with information and ideas from across the world. 

There is a downside to this. We no longer have to output to learn. Or at least, we think we don’t. In the old days, or 1990, us ordinary people had to learn by doing. We had to gather all of the information we could from people, books, classes, and libraries and then ‘try it out’ in the real world. It created an inherent balance of input and output to fully grasp a concept. 

Today we see the opposite. We are bombarded by information. It doesn’t take many videos to know the tools and tactics of replacing the bathroom floor. The problem is that what we take from the world wide web are theories. Theories are only theories for a reason. The world is a messy place. What works in some situations fails in others.

This bombardment of information is not a bad thing. It’s the greatest evolution in human knowledge, but it creates an imbalance in our learning. These theories that we see as truth need to be tested. You don’t ‘really’ know how to tile a floor until you’ve placed a few tiles. It is the balance between theory and practice that drives true understanding. 

Reflect on the last couple of weeks. How many podcasts, youtube tutorials, books, etc did you consume? Now, what did you do with all that new knowledge? How many problems did you solve? How many theories did you test? How many conversations did you have? My guess is that the inputs far exceeded the outputs. 

Using what we know is no longer a natural part of the process. My challenge to you is to intentionally bring output back into your life. This can be in any form. It could be making art, writing, having a conversation, or anything that requires your brain to create or solve. It could be making that investment that you’ve read so much about or fixing the hole in the drywall. It doesn’t matter what it is. Bring priority to output and challenge your knowledge.

What works for me is thinking of input and output as a ratio. My ratio is 3:2 input to output (or 60/40). That means for every three inputs I have to create two outputs that challenge and further what I have learned. This can take many forms. There are five days in the workweek so three days can be dedicated to inputs and two can be dedicated to outputs. If you read three books, you have to have two long conversations about what you learned with a friend. The ratio brings intention to the output side of the equation and rebalances our learning.

What’s your ratio? Is it where you want it to be? You have used one of your input slots by reading this article, so what do you plan to do with it?

Nathan Lieberman

Nathan Lieberman

The Moose

After two years of continuous travel through forty-four countries over five continents, Nate now returns to the US ready to pass on what he’s learned.

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