The Single Most Important Ingredient of Effectiveness

As you know, effectiveness is a very important part of personal growth. In fact, effectiveness (“doing the right things”) is much more important than efficiency (“doing the things right”). No matter how good you do something, it won’t do you any good if you are doing something totally wrong. Can you imagine a very fast runner wins the Olympic gold medal if he runs to the wrong direction? Most likely he will be disqualified. Such is the importance of effectiveness.

Only after we are effective can we appropriately talk about efficiency. This, unfortunately, is not the norm. Most people talk about the best ways to do things without thinking deeply about whether or not they already do the right things. I guess it’s because talking about efficiency is much easier than thinking about effectiveness. Dealing with effectiveness may take much more time which, as almost always the case, is a scarce commodity. Besides, knowing that what you have been doing for years is something wrong altogether is not the nicest thing you’d like to hear.

From my experience, I recently realized what the single most important ingredient of effectiveness is:

The single most important ingredient of effectiveness is clarity.

That’s it. There’s no way you could know whether or not you are taking the right path if you don’t clearly know what is right and important. This isn’t easy. Really. The reason is because to have clarity, you must be able to clearly hear the voice of your heart. Most of us don’t even know what the voice of heart means. And there’s a very good reason for that: the biggest enemy of clarity is attacking us. And do you know what it is?

The biggest enemy of clarity (and thus effectiveness) is noise.

That is the biggest enemy of all. We might not even realize what noise is since we are so accustomed to it. It’s not easy to see something which fills 99% of our life as noise. But that, I believe, is the sad truth. In fact:

Almost every single thing in our mind right now is noise.

I know it’s a bit hard to believe. Even what we think as “value-adding” ideas in our mind might very possibly be noise as well.

Though not easy, there are two steps you should do simultaneously to get clarity:

  1. Limit your information intake
    This is the natural first step. To reduce noise to the smallest possible extent, you should limit your information intake. Those who consume the biggest amount of information are also introducing the biggest amount of potential noise into their mind. This is especially true for information which change in day-to-day basis. Traders who follow market fluctuations by minutes for example, are the kind of people who introduces the most noise into their life.
    But this is also true for other kind of information such as books. Remember, the more information you bring into your mind, the more noise it potentially brings. Of course, it doesn’t mean that you should stop consuming all kind of information altogether. Going to that extreme would be similarly unwise. Instead, it means that you should consume no more than what is necessary. They key word here is necessary. More than that and the noise will take over. For most people, this usually means much less than what they normally consume.
  2. Fill your mind with the purest possible information
    It’s not enough just to limit your information intake. Doing so will create a vacuum which will later be filled with another kind of noise. You should fill that vacuum to prevent that other kind of noise from taking over your mind. How should you fill it? You should fill it with the purest possible information you can get. This is the only kind of information you can safely consume.
    Like it or not, this step deals with your spiritual intelligence (SQ). As Covey said, SQ is the most important of all intelligences because it gives you guidance. Consequently, the kind of purest information you should fill your mind with is spiritual texts. In my experience, this is the purest information you can possibly get.

Again I would say, it’s not easy. I’m still learning myself. But I can attest that the increasing level of clarity is really well worth the effort.


  1. […] The Single Most Important Ingredient of Effectiveness » Life Optimizer: Limit information intake – particularly relevant now that I am in a doctoral program! Filed under: Uncategorized […]

  2. Great article. Since noise is the enemy of clarity, we can say that by reducing noise, we are minimizing the effect of noise to clarity. Thus, for better clarity, we should also choose the right environment for our work to minimize noise.

  3. Thanks, Alan. It might not be easy to reduce noise in our environment (including our information intake), but I can’t think of any other way to increase our clarity but to do it first.

  4. Wonderful post. You have a good point about noise and its effects.
    Noise is really hard to overcome. We can’t overcome it by introducing more noise. We should be patient in dealing with it.

  5. […] Effectiveness is more important than efficiency. In Tim Ferriss’ words, “What you do is infinitely more important than how you do it.” Last week I wrote about what I believe is the single most important ingredient of effectiveness (which is clarity). Now in this post, I’d like to expand the idea to give you a map of personal effectiveness. You will see the two components of effectiveness, and the required abilities you should hone for each of them. […]

  6. […] When anything, lets use happiness, is set as an intention, you will notice more ways of making yourself happy. The only thing you physically have to do it take advantage of the circumstance and act. […]

  7. You made a good point, Fran: people often try to overcome noise by introducing more noise. That’s exactly how we usually deal with noise.

  8. […] The single most important ingredient of effectiveness is clarity, and the only way to increase clarity is by minimizing noise. That actually is the reason why you should read history more than news: history has much less noise than news. By reading history, you will consume a much more noise-free information compared to reading news. This, unfortunately, is not the norm. Most people read news much more than history. This won’t help you increase your personal effectiveness since news is the among the most noisy kind of information you can possibly get. […]

  9. Thank you for the great article and the insights.There was so much clarity in what you said that the message was loud and clear for our application. I want my information to be pure. Thanks again.

  10. You’re very welcome, Dee. I’m glad you find the message clear. While the application might not be easy, I’m sure with some determination we can all do it.

  11. Wow .. really liked both your articles on Effectiveness.A really nice piece of information. In the era of Ipods and digital media its really difficult to find insights like these. For the interruptions around us can be a fortunate thing if only one understands it right.

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