Rise above the noise – A review

A special post today, to review the new ebook by Mike Donghia, Rise above the noise. Mike has been so nice to send his last work before the release and ask for a review, and obviously I’m happy to oblige, not only because I’m always glad to help a fellow minimalist, but also because every single penny this ebook will make during the first 48 hours (i.e. when most sales usually go through) will be donated to Hope International. So, people, don’t be shy AND be quick! 🙂 Also, it’s the first review for me, and in English, so bear with me 🙂

What Mike is talking about is noise, and how to rise above it. What’s this noise? “is the constant chatter in the background of our lives“, all the streams of information that constantly require our attention and our time, one of the most important resources we happen to have. Internet noise, clutter noise, advertisement noise, too-many-options noise: each and every one of these streams wants a piece of us to feed itself (Twitter is a perfect example!). This is what Mike calls “The Cost” of freedom, to which he dedicates the first section of the ebook. In the second, “The Attack“, he analyzes how the noise effectively “takes” from us, and the things we find ourselves deprived of because of it: things like a healthy relationship, time to create, or the simple pleasure of a good night sleep. Obviously, the next step is learning to defend ourselves, and here’s the third section: “The Counter-Attack“. Simplify is the keyword to manage the level of noise in our life, and many people turn to minimalism in order to do to that: “Minimalism is a way of life that embraces less—fewer distractions, less clutter, less buying, but more focus. It’s about stuff and how it consumes us. It’s about slowing down to enjoy what we already have. It’s about choosing to center our life on the essentials and letting go of the rest.” Minimalism is not for everyone but, in Mike’s words (and I surely agree with that), it’s the only way: not only to fight the noise off our lives, but also to ensure we have a future on this planet. Maybe not everyone will call himself or herself a minimalist, but the bottom line remains the same: the current ways simply aren’t sustainable, and we’ll have to change them. How? Mike proposes a few simple strategies: “Live in the moment”, which is pretty self-explanatory!; “Achieving without goals”, meaning setting one or more goals is not always the best strategy to succeed; “Coming up for air”, simply disconnect from the noise and breathe, to regain focus; “Single-tasking”, instead of desperately trying to do two or more things at once to stay on top of them; “Trust building”, because trust “helps us filter the clutter”, and therefore helps us gain time and freedom; “Filling the void”: this is of particular value, in my opinion, because it tackles the fact that many people start off “being a minimalist”, meaning they furiously declutter their homes, and after a while… they’re back where they started. Why? Because clutter and compulsive spending are simply symptoms: we must go deeper, face the void we used to fill with things, and find something else to keep us content. And finally, the Pareto principle: “roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes”. Meaning we have to find those vital 20% and focus on that to maximize our results.

The fourth section of the book is called “The Virtues“: restraint, responsibility, obsession & focus. If the main issue of our time is abundance instead of scarcity, we need a different set of skills: we have to know when to hold back, in buying things, in checking our emails, in letting ourselves go to the noise. Responsibility means choose wisely: every dollar we spend is a vote. We can vote for a big reseller who exploits the natural resources and its employees, but is cheaper (at least as far as the price tag is concerned…) and more convenient; or we can vote for a small business, a creative artist, the tiny shop just round the corner (I’m simplifying here, but you get the message). Obsession. What? Obsession is NOT a good thing, right? Well, it can be. It’s needed, actually, when you want to create something meaningful, because it excludes the noise and, obviously, means undivided focus.

The fifth section deals with “The Resources“, a few practical tools to ease the pain of the constant noise we’re surrounded by.

What I liked about this ebook is the unified perspective, i.e. the concept of noise. I also appreciated that the ebook doesn’t revolve (like many) around “easy” topics (like, say, decluttering): writing about how to empty one’s closet is quite easy, after all, while choose to talk about more abstract concepts is definitely braver.
I agree with the idea that the overload of information and stimuli is one of the main issues of our time, and that we must find a way to tackle it if we want to regain our life back, and express our potential. It’s not easy, of course: practicing restraint, or responsibility, can really look lame, or simply too inconvenient, at times. Not buying, not owning, or buying and owning in a conscious way can have the effect to make us seem odd, some sort of hippies maybe, a bit detached from reality; while, in fact, this way of life is the most grounded of all, maybe the only one.

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