Personal Infostructure

20 minutes reading time

Infostructure is a system and a process of how you consume, manage and share information. In the creative society, a quality infostructure has become as important as a quality infrastructure. What you feed your mind with matters a lot. A quality (good) infostructure will help you become more creative, competent and resourceful. A bad infostructure, on the other hand, is the biggest time waster ever, killing your creative potential, making you into an obedient consumer and a zombie – something that you definitely don’t want to become, but may happen if you don’t put any effort into building an outstanding infostructure for yourself.

What you will learn

In this post, you will learn about the following key things:

  • The difference between infrastructure and infostructure
  • Why infostructure is as important as infostructure in the creative economy
  • Why infostructure is like fire when it comes to technological advancement; nothing more than a tool with which you can either cook yourself dinner or burn yourself badly, depending on how you use it
  • How infostructure can lower the quality of your life by killing your creative potential, turning you into a consumer and a zombie
  • How bad infostructure can become the biggest time waster ever and how to avoid that
  • How you can build yourself an outstanding infostructure that will help you be incredibly more resourceful, creative and competent
  • How I built my own outstanding infostructure and how you can do it as well

Infrastructure vs. Infostructure

You probably know what infrastructure is and even if you don’t, you definitely use it all the time. Infrastructure are the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities needed for the operation of a society, be it a country, state, city, county or even enterprise. The main parts of an infrastructure are buildings, roads, power supplies, utilities, sanitary systems, and so on.

There’s definitely a big correlation between well-developed infrastructure and efficient productivity. Without sufficient infrastructure, the society is bogged down with higher operating costs, structural production problems and everyday frustrations, consequently suffering from a big competitive disadvantage, especially on the global markets. There’s no doubt that better infrastructure means a better quality of life, higher productivity and efficiency, and generally a better environment for business.

I’m sure you pay a lot of attention to where you live, how you organize your home and your office, what car you drive, how far away your favorite facilities, like shops, are etc. You definitely want to have electricity, water and other housing supplies all the time.

With all the loans, mortgages, rents, housing and transportation costs, you probably spend an extensive proportion of your paycheck for the infrastructure you use (your private and public part of the infrastructure). It’s logical that you do, because a better infrastructure brings a better quality of life, it helps you create more value for the markets, and so on. With a bigger paycheck, people often first invest into better infrastructure.

But we live in the creative economy and post-information age, where is not only infrastructure that’s important. In developed countries, adequate infrastructure is more or less taken care of. So infrastructure isn’t as important as it used to be for competitive advantage and success. You can see that very well in the business world. The best businesses don’t compete with better facilities, plants, equipment and manufacturing machines anymore. The best businesses today compete with creativity, innovation, intellectual property and new business models.

You’ve probably heard that Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.

If the competitive advantage of a business can fall on the CEO’s toes, it’s not real competitive advantage in the creative economy.

In developed countries, you can rent infrastructure when you need it and as much of it as you need it. In some cases, all you need is a laptop and a good connection to the internet, and you can compete on the global markets. Don’t get me wrong. Infrastructure is very important. It’s hard to be creative if your toilet isn’t working, if it takes you hours to get to the office or if you’re freezing in your apartment. But in today’s world, creativity, innovation and information are as important, if not even more important, than outstanding infrastructure if you want to compete, create, deliver and capture (make money) as much value as possible.

Your Personal Infostructure

What do I really mean by personal infostructure?

If in the contemporary creative economy, innovation and information are as important for creating value as infrastructure is, one of your key competitive advantages is a system and a process of how you consume, manage and share information. That’s your personal infostructure.

Infostructure is a system and a process of how you consume, manage and share information.

The main idea of a good infostructure is that you acquire as much knowledge as possible as quickly as possible. Knowledge is nevertheless an important part of your competence level. Knowledge means knowing a certain field. It means you have a complete set of information that you imprinted into your consciousness. And you can do things with it – you can create and deliver value. A good infostructure also helps you continuously acquire knowledge. It’s called life-long learning based on an informal education.

Even more. Good infostructure definitely contributes to your creativity. Creativity is nothing but the ability to perceive the world in new ways, find hidden patterns, make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and generate solutions. With more information and knowledge, you can more easily connect the dots never before connected . The more right information and knowledge you have (depth, complexity, interdisciplinary …), the more creative and “aha” moments you can have in your life. Because you see connections others can’t see. Because they lack the same combination of knowledge.

Knowledge is power, there’s no doubt about it (actually, applying knowledge is power, but more about that later). Good infostructure means more knowledge, and more knowledge means more power. That’s why you should pay a lot of attention to your personal infostructure if you want to be successful in life. Good infrastructure as part of the outer assets (money, status etc.) is simply not enough anymore. You also need lots of inner assets (competences), and a superior infostructure can help you with that.

But there’s one big trick regarding infostructure. The society (with market demand) has already built one for you; much like it has also built most of the infrastructure. With one big difference, which is that the purpose of the public infostructure is to program you into an obedient and stupid consumer. That’s why I call it bad infostructure, the one you’re pushed into by default.

Bad personal infostructure

As I mentioned, bad infostructure is unfortunately the one that society has already built for you. More than 99 % of people probably use this default infostructure regularly, which consequently heavily contributes towards to living unhappy, average or even zombie lives. If you do what other people do, you get what other people have; and that’s usually an average life. And you don’t want that. So what is the default bad infostructure that society has built for you? Well, there are a few core media used in the default infostructure that are programing you into an obedient consumer. In addition to that, they more or less help you only with mental masturbation and are big time wasters. Here they are:

Television and radio

TV is nothing but a “multimedia ad player”, since you more or less only watch ads that are programming you into a good consumer. The content is usually no better than ads. Reality shows, watching other people play sports, watching people who live the life you probably want to live, be it the leading superheroes in a movie, saving the world, or the main actors themselves having fun filming and making millions. You’re obviously on the wrong side of the screen.

Here’s another trap. Maybe you haven’t turned on the TV for decades and you can tell yourself that you don’t watch it. But on the other hand, you still watch movies and TV shows, just not on the TV. We know video on demand now, we have Netflix, iTunes etc. Or you can even go to the movie theater too often. So you don’t have to sit in front of the TV to watch “TV”.

It’s pretty much the same with channels like Discovery, History and other “educational” channels or even MTV. They play nothing but semi-reality or reality TV shows. You either watch other people travelling, cooking, exploring or doing other amazing things or, on the other hand, you watch them get humiliated in front of a few judges and thousands of people so you can feel a little bit better about yourself. No thanks.

Don’t get me wrong. A good movie or an episode of a TV show can be very relaxing from time to time. And we all need some relaxation; we aren’t robots. But spending hours and hours in front of the TV watching commercials is definitely not the life you want to live. Wake up.

Radio is not much different from TV. You listen to thousands and thousands of commercials and stupid talk shows. You maybe hear a song you like once a day, after listening to hours of useless content. On the main radio stations, you can listen to the same bad news every half hour (it’s like it’s really programing you to be negative), and most interviews and discussions have zero valuable content and are only there to entertain the masses. I don’t remember the last time I heard something useful on the radio. And if you want to listen to music, you have iTunes and other music streaming services.

News (print, online) and most magazines

The daily news gives you a sense of connection with the world as well as a sense of urgency and importance. You feel like you’re in the flow of global happenings. In addition to that, we’re all prone to drama in life, from the evolutionary point of view. Drama and negative information raise your adrenalin levels and make you feel more alive. They make you feel like you’re running from a virtual tiger. Something important is happening, you better pay attention. Not. Most news pieces are negative because your mind loves negative information. You don’t want to fill your mind with negative information. It will only bring the negative into your life.

You can’t live a positive life, with a negative mind. You can’t have positive mind if you constantly consume negative information.

Additionally, news is history. It already happened. You have zero influence on that. And everybody reads it, so it brings zero competitive advantage into your life. Even if you spend hours and hours catching up on tech news, startup news or whatever, the value added of that kind of information is really low. If you want to co-create the future, you need to empty your mind, make some creative free time, read some heavily useful stuff or level up your skills and focus on your goals. Only your goals, nothing else. No drama.

The good thing (somehow, I guess) is that you don’t have to worry at all: even if you unsubscribe yourself from all the news, the most “important” (the most negative or shocking) news will definitely reach you sooner or later. Because everybody shares it, 99 % of people are little beacons of negative information.

On mobile phone

Social networks

Social networks have become an important part of our lives. People spend hours and hours on social networks. For most people, it’s extremely hard to escape from being on the most popular social networks. This means at least Facebook and Twitter, but I can probably also add Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram and many others to the list. It won’t get any better in the future. There will be even more websites fighting for your time and attention.

Now ask yourself honestly, will hours and hours of looking at pictures of what your friends and acquaintances are doing really help you progress in life? Definitely not. And to be realistic, Facebook and other social networks aren’t even close to showing the real lives that people are living. People are only posting beautiful moments, the few peaks they get in their lives. Behind these beautiful moments, every human being must face challenges, disappointments, struggles and other burdens.

At the end of the day, looking at the good moments of your Facebook friends makes you feel like you’re the only weirdo who doesn’t enjoy life to the full. Not a perception you want to program your mind with. And a big distraction from your own goals.

Pub debates

An important source of information for everyone are also their friends. That’s why social networks are so popular. Because people love to “stalk” other people and they’re so interested in what other people are thinking or doing. The same mental masturbation effect often also happens in real life, especially in pubs, coffee shops and similar locations. People love talking about politics, big world problems and negative events, and we can also add gossiping, criticizing, whining and complaining to the list.

A debate among a group of friends is rarely about brainstorming new ideas, challenging beliefs, pushing each other to the next level, looking for positives in life, and so on. I see that only among really successful people who sit at the same table, without any bozos present. People you spend time with are an extremely important source of your information and therefore also an important source of your motivation and creativity. You can’t live a positive life with a negative mind. In the same way, you can’t live a positive life being surrounded by negative people and participating in stupid pub debates.

Numerous trashy internet sites

Like every technology, internet has brought a lot of good, but also a few bad things into our lives. Just to mention a few good ones: internet has enabled us higher productivity, faster access to quality information, new ways of communication, and so on. The bad, on the other hand, is especially the fact that internet also gave everyone very easy access to shitty content and shitty information. With a single click. People are spending hours and hours on the internet browsing stupid internet sites.

From watching porn, arguing on forums, posting hateful comments and reading tabloids to watching “funny” vines, browsing through thousands of social network statuses, and so on. Well, at the end of the day, most people consume on the internet what they used to consume only with TV, daily news, magazines, gaming consoles and pub debates. Now with the internet, everything is intensified and accelerated.

You simply don’t want to have that kind of an infostructure in your life. Much like you want your toilet to work in your home, have nice roads without holes and bumps when you drive to your job, like you want lights in your office when it gets dark and a nice working car, why wouldn’t you want to get the same from the infostructure that feeds your mind and consequently also defines your quality of life, happiness level, competence level and potential?

It doesn’t make any sense to fight for outstanding infrastructure and not pay any attention to your infostructure.

Outstanding personal infostructure

Now we know what the bad default infostructure that society has built for you looks like and how it influences your life. Something that 99 % of people use and something that’s very hard to avoid in everyday life. Why? Because people like it (demand) and everybody profits from you using the default bad infostructure. Producers, advertising companies, media houses, even your country and your neighbors (so they don’t have to be envious), everybody profits. Except you.

Therefore, you have to put an enormous amount of energy, will and self-discipline into changing the default infostructure to a better one and regularly using it. The good news is that people have also built and created the good part of the infostructure, available to you with one click. Unfortunately, the masses just don’t use it as much as they use the mainstream media, so it takes a little bit more effort to surround yourself with the right content. That’s the beauty of today’s world: you have choices and you have the power to decide what you’ll consume. Fast food or quality stuff.

To be fair, there are temptations every hour of every day, fighting for your time, attention and money, trying to make you to go back to the default bad infostructure. But you have to be strong. You have to make the right choices most of the time (let’s say 95 %). You can never completely run away from a bad infostructure (there’s always a movie or a TV show you really can’t miss). But you can definitely build yourself an outstanding system for consuming and managing information that will help you achieve your goals and become the best version of yourself.

Here’s how your infrastructure should look like:

Books and carefully selected blogs and magazines

By far the best text source of knowledge and information are still books. You should read at least one book per month. Even better if you read one book per week. Some people read one book per day. You can take a speed-reading course and join a “one book per day” club. I should do that. An average person spends hours in front of the TV every day. Imagine if all that time were spent on reading top books.

I guarantee that if you read a quality book per day, then you will definitely become a lean, mean, creative knowledge machine in a year. And it never takes a year to get obsessed with reading. In a few months of regular reading habits, you’ll automatically start reading a book every time someone in the family turns on the TV, simply because you’ll see and experience all the benefits of reading.

What about other reading material? Well, the general rule is that you acquire a lot more useful knowledge by reading a quality book than by reading dozens of blog posts. Nevertheless, some blogs are pure gold (like this one :). You should find those rare ones and follow them. The same goes for magazines. You can find magazines of really high quality in some industries and for some topics, while for others not so much.

Always follow the rule to go for the best (knowledge) and forget the rest.

Before you buy a book and start reading it, check the reviews and the table of contents. Make sure the book is really something that will help you advance in life. Maybe you can read a summary of the book and then decide. The idea is that by reading a book, you “download” an upgraded software version of a specific topic to your brain. You must get creative ideas and learn new and better ways of doing things in life. And then do them. Apply them. Only reading will probably only bring you better language skills.

Reading a book

Audiobooks and carefully selected podcasts

We all have very busy schedules. Consequently, it’s often hard to find the time to sit down and read in peace. Well, if you really want it, you can make it. Anyhow, audiobooks are also a good way to accelerate your learning. You can listen to audiobooks when you drive, wait in queues or take a walk. You can simply buy and download audiobooks to your smart phone, and listen to them when the opportunity pops up. There are more and more audiobooks available, no matter the topic you want to listen to and get educated about.

Much like the comparison of books and blogs, the same goes for podcasts compared to audiobooks. There are only a few podcasts that are really good and useful. The reason for that is probably the fact that most podcasts are free. And as we said, because people love to consume useless information (demand), other people (producers) are producing tons of useless content (because as a producer, you have to listen to the markets). Therefore, you have to put in the effort and break through all the bad content in order to find the best one.

MOOCs and educational videos

Massive online open courses have become an extremely important source of learning for successful people. The good news is that you can find many quality courses, even from the best universities like Harvard, MIT and the best worldwide experts from many industries and life areas. You can follow the selected material at your own pace, you’re usually connected online with a group of peers who try to acquire the same knowledge as you, and so on. In short, it’s a great way to learn from the best.

The bad news is that the majority of people who subscribe to MOOCs never really take and finish the course. They only subscribe and participate in a lecture or two at the most. Some research shows that only around 2 % finish the courses they subscribe to. Well, to be honest, it’s not easy to finish an online course. It takes effort, self-discipline, motivation, there’s no teacher to motivate you etc. It’s much easier to turn on the TV and watch a reality show than to listen to an open course. But those 2 % are the ones who do advance in life while other people stagnate. It’s what separates successful people from average ones. You have to decide for yourself. The trick is that the hard road becomes easy with time and the easy road becomes hard.

Besides MOOCs, you can find many motivating and educational videos online. When you have only 20 minutes to do something useful or when you’re waiting at the doctors, you can plug in your earphones and watch a talk online that will help you with your goals and progress in life. There’s so much useful content online, you just have to put in the effort to find it and avoid all the crap.

Seminars, lectures and carefully selected conferences

An important part of your infostructure should also be seminars, lectures and a few carefully selected conferences that you visit as an individual as well as for business purposes (you should only work for a company that’s prepared to invest into your knowledge). Sometimes even advancing in formal education makes sense. The main problem with previously mentioned MOOCs is that you can get bored easily, especially if you’re not an introvert. Being in a group of people with the same goal and with dates and times set in advance in the real, not virtual, life helps a lot with motivation and self-discipline. And you can make new business and personal connections more easily.

This is why you should make offline seminars and lectures an important part of your infostructure, especially if you encounter problems with self-discipline behind a computer. Conferences can also be useful sometimes, but more or less for motivational purposes, networking and having fun. If you go to too many conferences, you often start wasting your precious time. Here’s why.

A mastermind group and a mentor

The most important part of your infostructure should be your mastermind group and your mentor(s). Your mastermind group are all the people you ask for advice and go for important information from your industry, about life, and so on.

Your mastermind group are your trusted coworkers, hopefully your boss, your ambitious and educated friends as well as the best lawyers, doctors and consultants you can still afford. People that help you grow, progress and advance in life.

Part of your infostructure system should also be your personal mentor. You should always have a personal mentor. Someone who pushes you, helps you to focus, does introductions to help you expand your professional network and directs you to the right information resources. Instead of gossiping in the pub and complaining about life, brainstorming about your next move in life with the right mentor could change your life forever.

Group discussions (online and offline)

Besides all the hateful comments on the internet and useless forum arguments, there’s also a positive side to group discussions. You can find many useful forums and communities online and offline. They should be an important part of your infostructure.

We love to belong and being part of a community enhances your desire and discipline to learn and acquire new knowledge. Therefore, online forums and offline meet-ups can be a great way to learn and to meet new people with the same interests as you. Again, you have to very carefully select where to join and where to invest your energy. If the quality of information starts to decline, you shouldn’t have any emotional problems finding new better groups.

Other resources

There are, of course, many extremely useful internet sites, eBooks and other resources you can find online (and offline) with only a few clicks. If you have high enough standards for what kind of content to consume, you’ll be fine. Just remember that you become what you consume. So go for the best and forget the rest.

The process of consuming information

The sources (specific media) where you go get information and how you get it (type of media) is a system you set as part of your infostructure. As already mentioned, even if you don’t build your own system consciously, your environment (family, society etc.) has built a system for you. The other part of the equation is when, how often and for how long you consume information as well as how you manage what you’ve read. It’s called the process, and the purpose of the process is to help you with self-discipline and to stay away from the default bad infostructure.

Here are the general recommendations for the process (and also system) you should set for yourself for acquiring and managing knowledge:

  • Go for the best (knowledge), forget the rest. Carefully chose what you consume. Help yourself with reviews, summaries etc. before you really bite into anything. Sometimes the best knowledge is a best-seller book, other times a blog post you find after hours of browsing.
  • Especially consume information that you can apply to your life and then apply it. At the end of the day, knowledge is not power. Applying knowledge is. When reading material, you should get new creative ideas or ideas for how to do things differently.
  • If possible, do a mind map or structure the new acquired knowledge in some other way after reading specific material. Connect the new acquired knowledge with what you already know. Write down the best new ideas from the material and try to come up with your own new ideas.
  • If you start reading something and you figure out it has no value for you (nothing new), stop reading it. It sounds funny but for most of people, it’s not an easy thing to do. We have the natural psychological tendency to finish what we start. For example, you rarely leave a theater, even if the movie sucks. Don’t do that. If the material sucks, move on. Don’t move on because a page loads for a second longer than you expected, but because of the bad quality.
  • Don’t read the material you already know. People have a tendency to read the stuff they already know over and over again. Because it’s easier. Don’t do that. The exception is if you’re refreshing your knowledge or revising material.
  • Read materials from very different areas you’re interested in and try to combine the knowledge in new ways. That’s called creativity. Don’t consume material only from one topic or industry. Be a curious human.
  • Try to structure the most important knowledge you have in your own presentations, blog posts, lectures etc. Teaching others is a great way to reinforce and structure the knowledge you possess.
  • Consume more difficult subjects when you’re well rested and lighter material when you’re already tired. You have to push yourself, but don’t push yourself over the limit. An important part of acquiring knowledge is that you enjoy it.

And a few recommendations regarding the limits of the process:

  • Read something positive and motivational the first thing when you wake up.
  • Don’t go to sleep if you haven’t read at least one page that day.
  • Read for at least one hour per day.
  • Read at least one book per month.
  • Take at least one day per month only to upgrade your competences. Mark a no-interruptions day in your calendar and focus just on learning.
  • Go to one educational seminar or do one MOOC at least once every six months.
  • Go to one motivational conference at least once a year, especially for motivational purposes.
  • A good way to learn is while you earn. Your work should always be slightly more demanding than your skills, so you have to learn while you work. Also make sure to work at a company that’s prepared to invest in your knowledge, if you aren’t your own boss.
  • Limit mental masturbation (consuming useless content, social networking etc.) to 5 hours per week at the most.
  • Sharing is caring. Share and spread good information. People desperately need it.

Well, reading can also mean watching, listening or participating in a group discussion.

Sharing information

An important part of infostructure is also sharing information, not only consuming it. The first rule is that you should produce only quality content. The world is already polluted enough with shitty content. So no hateful comments, no gossiping and talking about reality shows.

You should become a human beacon of positive and quality information and knowledge.

The second rule is that sharing is caring. If it’s not exactly a trade secret, you should share quality information with people. There’s this karma rule regarding knowledge. The more knowledge you share, the more knowledge you get. But also don’t have any constraints to charge for your knowledge.

You should be aware that in the information age, you share information and content all the time, with every move you make behind your computer and, of course, every time you open your mouth. Every e‑mail, every social media update, every blog comment and content recommendation is part of your infostructure. Much like you should be very careful about the content you consume, so you should carefully watch what you share

At the end of the day, what comes out of your mouth is more or less determined by what goes into your mind.

Practical example

My personal infostructure

Now let’s get on the practical level. Let’s look at my own personal infostructure, the system of how I get information and how I handle it. First of all, I follow the asset-light living philosophy, so I have everything digitalized and own no physical books, magazines, CDs or any other material (except an exercise book for language learning). An important part of my infostructure are also my digital brains.

I buy books on Amazon. I have a Kindle eReader and a Kindle app on my smartphone, tablet and PC. I try to read at least one book per week. Books are my primary source of acquiring new knowledge. The only magazine I read is the Harvard Business Review.

Before I buy a book, I read the summary. I use Blinkist for book summaries and, from the bottom of my heart, I can say that it’s a really awesome app. If I like the summary, I buy and read the book. Next to that, I try to read at least one book summary per day. I read books/summaries at every opportunity I have. When I wake up, before I go to sleep, when I wait in lines, when I have a few minutes to waste, I open the Kindle app or Blinkist and I start reading.

My Infostructure

My favorite apps

I use Feedly as a RSS app for the few blogs I’m subscribed to. I used to be subscribed to more than 100 blogs but I felt overloaded. Now I’m subscribed only to a few really good blogs from different niches (startups, internet marketing, personal development, productivity …). To be honest, I often run out of time to read the blog posts and I don’t put pressure on myself to read all the blog posts. I have no problem with having many unread blog posts as long as I read books on a daily basis. I used to be a big fan of reading apps, like Flipboard, etc., but now they’re more or less no different from reading the daily news. So again, I go back to books.

I use Audible for audiobooks. I listen to audiobooks when I walk, wait in a queue and sometimes when I’m driving (if I’m well rested). I also listen to audiobooks when I’m doing the dishes and other chores. I don’t really listen to podcasts, except to Tai Lopez sometimes (or similar authors).

MOOCs are an important part of my infostructure. I regularly buy courses on Udemy. I’m subscribed to Lynda, Threehouse and Tutsplus, especially now when I’m leveling up my IT competences. As a source of motivational talks, I watch TED Talks from time to time.

I don’t watch TV at all. I don’t listen to the radio. I don’t read the daily news. I don’t participate in useless debates. And I don’t visit useless internet sites. I do watch TV shows from time to time, but with an upper limit of 3 hours per week (except when I’m ill and can’t do anything else than stare at either a TV screen or a wall). I’ve turned my social networks into a source of quality content. I do visit 9gag from time to time. That’s my weak point, I guess. When in any kind of dilemma, my philosophy is to go back to quality books. An even more important part of my philosophy is to apply the acquired knowledge and experience it for myself.

About the author

Consulting and management coaching

Blaž Kos has managed venture capital investments over the past 12 years and participated in the development of the start-up ecosystem in the region. Today, he advises companies on growth strategies, process optimization, the introduction of lean agile methods and the digitalization of business. In addition to the Slovenian blog, he also writes an English blog, which was selected among the 50 best bloggers in the world in the category of personal and business growth.
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