May 28, 2010

Turn Off TV

What does your TV cost you? How much money has your TV cost you? And I'm not talking about the sticker price of your Samsung TV. I'm talking about something far more important. Today's personal development blog is inspired by an article I recently read. I enjoyed its simple and evident truths, and they are resounded by words I have already heard from personal development pro's like Jim Rohn and Brian Tracy. I am certain you will find it both useful and relevant to your own life.

Turn Off TV Article

Jim Rohn's Thoughts on TV

Personal development legend Jim Rohn shares a similar story in some of his audio books and seminars. He asks a man who works for his network marketing team how much he thinks his television is costing him. The man succinctly gives him a fairly high number — he did have a nice TV after all. But Jim Rohn assures him that he's not asking about what his nice TV cost at the purchase. He is interested in how much the man thinks it costs him on a yearly basis due to the devastating hold it has put on his on personal development, growth, and productivity in the game of life.

The man is shocked. Mr. Rohn told the man he figures the TV cost him about 40 thousand dollars per year. When this story was relatively new in the early 90's 40 thousand dollars was a considerable sum of money, and no doubt it still is today. Fortunately for this man he turned his life around by turning off his TV.

I realize not everyone will turn off their TV. And I also want to remind you that extremes are generally not what I advise. I don't watch zero TV, but I also appreciate TV for what it can offer while still understanding just how much too much TV can take from your life.

Are You Amusing Yourself to Death?

By Alexander Green

I’ve often said that the first step to becoming a better investor is an easy one: Turn off the TV.

CNBC — and its competitors — will only make you dumber and poorer.

This comes as a surprise to many. After all, financial channels offer a steady stream of well-credentialed experts, men and women with impressive titles from prestigious firms. Most have PhDs, years of experience, or manage large sums of money. They look good. They sound sharp. They have insightful opinions and reams of arcane investment data tripping off their tongues.

How could listening to them possibly make you a worse investor?

Because the unstated premise behind these shows — which exist, of course, to sell advertising — is that investors should be in a near-constant state of reaction:

"The market is hitting a new high today. What should investors do now?"

"The Fed has left interest rates unchanged. What should investors do now?

"GNP was up an unexpectedly strong 3.8 percent last quarter. What should investors do now?"

They bring on an analyst with a bullish view and another with a bearish one — on stocks, bonds, currencies, commodities, interest rates, or the economy — let them square off for a few minutes, then cut to commercials. A few minutes later, they come back and do it some more. This goes on day after day, week after week, year after year.

Near the market bottom in 2009, I was playing tennis with a friend who was badly upset about the market’s belly flop.

"I tell you," he said in utter disgust, "I’m really tempted to just turn off CNBC and sell all my stocks."

"There is another option," I reminded him.

"What’s that?" he asked.

"Just turn off the TV."

Lately I’ve been thinking that what’s good for investors might not be a bad idea for the rest of us. Why do so many bright, talented, educated people spend countless hours staring blankly at the tube?

The short answer, of course, is we enjoy it.

But do we, really? Is watching TV more fulfilling than what you’d be doing if you weren’t?

If you get specific about it, you may feel a little ridiculous. For example, have you ever told yourself something like:

  • Gee, I really need to get more exercise, but Dancing With the Stars is on in 10 minutes. (Maybe I’ll just watch them exercise instead.)
  • I promised my daughter I’d teach her how to play chess, but these Seinfeld re-runs are really funny.
  • It’s long past time I stopped in to visit my aging grandmother, but I can’t miss the playoffs!
  • I promised myself I’d learn to play the piano this year, but this week is the finals of American Idol.
  • I really do want to plant that garden. But I can’t miss my soaps.

If we’re challenged, of course, we have plenty of rationalizations.

Let a TV critic tell you that most of the programming is mindless junk and you’ll point to the educational stuff on The History Channel, Discovery, or National Geographic, even if that’s only a fraction of what you watch.

If he replies that you’re still being subjected to hours of commercials each week, you tell him you tape the shows and fast-forward through them.

If he counters that taping only allows you to consume even more television, you can always play your trump card: "Mind your own business."

After all, you’re an adult. It’s your life to live. You can spend it any way you want.

But, between South Park and Grey’s Anatomy, do you ever reflect on how you’re spending it?

Turn Off TV Personal Development Blog

Last week, I read journalist David Lipsky’s recently published collection of conversations with David Foster Wallace, the brilliant young writer whose Infinite Jest made Time magazine’s list of 100 All-Time Greatest Novels. (Wallace battled depression for years and, tragically, hanged himself in 2008. It was a tremendous loss, not only for his family and friends but for contemporary fiction.)

At one point in the interviews, Wallace says, "I’ll zone out in front of the TV for five or six hours, and then I feel depressed and empty. And I wonder why. Whereas if I eat candy for five or six hours, and then I feel sick, I know why…. One of the reasons that I feel empty after watching a lot of TV is that it gives the illusion of relationships with people. It’s a way to have people in the room talking and being entertaining, but it doesn’t require anything of me. I receive entertainment and stimulation without having to give anything back but the most tangential kind of attention. And that is very seductive."

Bingo. No matter how good the programming is — and let’s face it, some of it is excellent — or how rapidly you fast-forward through the commercials, the hours you spend in front of the tube is time you haven’t spent pursuing your goals, living out your dreams, or just interacting with another human being.

If you’re elderly and companionless — or housebound for some other reason — that’s different. But that doesn’t describe the majority of us.

Twenty-five years ago, Neil Postman warned of our consuming love affair with television in Amusing Ourselves to Death. In the book — a jeremiad about the danger of turning serious conversations about politics, business, religion, and science into entertainment packages — he argues that TV is creating not the dystopia of George Orwell’s 1984 but rather of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World:

"Spiritual devastation is more likely to come from an enemy with a smiling face than from one whose countenance exudes suspicion and hate. In the Huxleyan prophecy, Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours. There is no need for wardens or gates or Ministries of Truth. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk."

He concludes that we’d all be better off if television got worse, not better.

According to A.C. Nielsen, 99 percent of American households have a television set. Two-thirds have more than three. These sets are on an average of six hours and 47 minutes per day.

Forty-nine percent of Americans polled say they spend too much time in front of the TV. It’s not hard to see why. The average viewer watches more than four hours of TV each day. That’s two months of non-stop TV-watching per year. In a 65-year life, a person will have spent nine years glued to the tube.

You already know how little you’ll gain by watching so much TV. But have you also considered what it’s costing you?

I stumbled across this article, Turn Off the TV from the Early To Rise web site, and felt it really hit on some key points about television. In today's day and age, however, "tv" can be just as readily replaced by "internet".

If you aren't sure if you're watching too much tv or surfing the internet too much then simply start by monitoring your activities. After that, answer some questions such as: Are you ok with this much tv viewing? What will this cost me in 1, 3, 5, and 10 years? Is that okay? Be as realistic as you possibly can and don't sugarcoat it. If you'd rather be doing something else then start today.

Quotes About Television

To close this post, I'd like to share some fun and interesting quotes about television that I perused about while writing this blog post. I could probably write an entire post about tv quotes but for now just a few will suffice. (I suppose many people over the last century have quickly realized just how much we miss out on when we continuously escape to tv land.) Enjoy them, and remember to turn off tv!

A medium - so called because it is neither rare nor well done.

Ernie Kovacs

All television is educational television. The question is: what is it teaching?

Nicholas Johnson

Television has changed a child from an irresistible force to an immovable object.

Unknown Author

The publishers and others should quit worrying about losing customers to TV. The guy who can sit through a trio of deodorant commercials to look at Flashgun Casey or swallow a flock of beer and loan-shark spiels in order to watch a couple of fourth-rate club fighters rub noses on the ropes is not losing any time from book reading.

Raymond Chandler

We cannot blame the schools alone for the dismal decline in SAT verbal scores. When our kids come home from school do they pick up a book or do they sit glued to the tube, watching music videos? Parents, don't make the mistake of thinking your kid only learns between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

George Bush

If you came and you found a strange man... teaching your kids to punch each other, or trying to sell them all kinds of products, you'd kick him right out of the house, but here you are; you come in and the TV is on, and you don't think twice about it.

Jerome Singer

If you read a lot of books, you're considered well-read. But if you watch a lot of TV, you're not considered well-viewed.

Lily Tomlin

The television, that insidious beast, that Medusa which freezes a billion people to stone every night, staring fixedly, that Siren which called and sang and promised so much and gave, after all, so little.

Ray Bradbury, The Golden Apples of the Sun

To close it all up, I want to wish you a safe and very happy Memorial Day weekend! Enjoy!

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Alujna said...

hello robin, i totally agree that TV wastes a lot of our time, but some of it is useful.
if it is not TV with which we are wasting our time then it is with the computer or a playstation or something totally not worthwhile..

like i said before, some of it is useful,,,like wiki on computer, news and discovery channel on tv. And communication thru comp, i mean where would we be without them...

i thought at first it would help to throw out the tv, but it's just like the scenario where students read when someone's watching them and goof around when someone's not...

so i did a lot of thinkin and came to the conclusion that any source of entertainment in limits is alright. but you have to control those limits, you and no one else...

so you have to have the will power to that!
you have to have self-control!!!!!

Crystal Davis Blaniar said...

Hi Robin,

I definitely agree that too many of us are giving away our lives to tv and entertainment that is mindless.

I believe that the problem isn't the tool i.e., television, movies, video games, etc. but the mindless use of the tool. (I vote for much of reality tv being the worst of the worst. . . simply more he said, she said battles with the intent to harm another, which is more damaging to our society's character than mindlessness.)

As for the use of the tools, creativity can be enhanced if the tools are used to spur new ideas. For example, my husband and I love movies and enjoy the creative ideas that we get from being exposed to different stories. . . which helps us to achieve more in our lives because we simply keep our minds exposed to new thoughts as we work toward our goals.

Though the risk is always that a person may not be able to distinguish a good idea from a bad one! Educated thought is the only thing that will lessen the impact of mis-information. . . but that comes back to the individual not the tool itself.

So if we could come from a creative mentality, then perhaps individuals watching tv would be mindfully watching the programming to expand their thinking. In my opinion, an individual's choice to pursue a goal is the necessary piece to turn the entertainment into a creative medium. Otherwise, even with the tv off, mindlessness remains . . .

steve said...

I totally agree with spending way too much time watching TV.

Inspired Robin said...

Crystal Davis Blaniar,

I totally agree. TV is just a tool, and like most tools I suppose it can be abused. TV is easy to abuse because it is seductive and so simple.

It's like Zig Ziglar says in his personal development seminars... we sit down to watch one show and then the next thing we know it we've watched 3, 4, 5, or more shows that we have no interest in.

I was actually just listening to a Zig Ziglar audiobook yesterday and he mentioned this story. Even he said he watches TV, but what he does is knows exactly what he wants to watch BEFORE he starts and then he simply turns off tv when he is done.

It's a great strategy to use and chances are many people can gain hours of quality time in their life by using it.

Thanks for reading, and thank you even more so for commenting! I appreciate your sharing with me and others.

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