One New Skill You Learned That Might Damn You More Often Than Help You

Julien Smith

In one of our books, Julien Smith (founder of Breather) wrote about this concept where he said, “Should you be a hallway or a room?” He went on to explain the concept, which immediately somehow vanished from my head. I threw it into a quick mental bucket that’s labeled: “Julien being smart.” Which, of course, he is.

That “DISCARD” action is something we all tend to do in this new world. We have to do it. Why? Because we’re consuming so much information that we have to just chuck things that aren’t “useful” or we’ll reach a mental “buffer overflow” which slows down everything else we’re doing.


If it doesn’t make sense instantly, we chuck it into a “forget it” or “later” bucket and forget about it. And that’s dangerous.

Reconsider How You Label Your “Discards”

In the above example, I came to realize the brilliance of Julien’s concept. Do I want something that’s an end destination, but has only one use, or do I want something that launches me into a myriad of opportunities? The answer, most often, is that we want a hallway, or we want to be a hallway. We want to open up more opportunities, instead of land on something that ends up being an ending. (Believe me, if it still doesn’t make sense, it only took me a year or two after the Impact Equation came out.)

But I pretty much threw this information out.

Instead, I should’ve considered putting it into some kind of “think about this once every month or two” bucket, maybe even set a reminder in my calendar to rethink it. Because now, when I’m thinking through what it’s going to take to wow you with my business magazine, I am going through this exercise and learning what it means to be a hallway.

Relabel your “discards” to “reconsider later,” and set up a way for “later” to really happen.

Make sense? Are you discarding too much too quickly in your world? What could you do differently? runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • Raul Colon

    I keep a Future projects on Things (Mac App) where everything I am not going to use immediately. I go back every few months and review if anything there can be useful. :)

    • Chris Brogan


  • Marquita Herald

    Ah validation! I have an organizer on my desk top that is priceless for managing my information – everything from the think about it later stuff, to all of the links and blurbs for my books. Best investment I ever made.

    • Chris Brogan

      There you go. I’ve helped another hoarder earn her wings.

    • Julia

      May I ask what you use?

  • Colin

    Twitter is a giant steaming bottomless mound of discard…

    • Chris Brogan

      Precisely. : )

      • Heidi Haaland

        Hey! I just tweeted this post.

    • Rick Manelius

      But isn’t that (kinda) the point? It’s a continuous stream of multiple conversations from multiple genres all floating buy. If we’re lucky, there we catch an interesting tidbit at just the right time!

      If everything we saw on twitter was relevant, excited, interesting, etc… we’d never leave :)

  • gadfly1974

    This reminds me of the 43-folder system.

    • Chris Brogan

      Not unlike. : )

  • Marc Ensign

    The challenge is that your “Reconsider it Later” bucket will overflow with all of the good information out there…and worse, with the bad information disguised as good information. It then becomes that one closet in your house that you throw everything in when you don’t know where to put it until eventually you open and everything falls on you Looney Tunes style. How do you organize this “Reconsider it Later” bucket in such a way that you protect what goes in it and revisit it often so things don’t eventually get lost and forgotten?

    • Chris Brogan

      That raises the next challenge: knowing without a doubt what REALLY should be discarded. Right? Because if it’s for consideration, it likely will have a potential value.

      • Marc Ensign

        Is this one of those “tune in next week…same Bat time…same Bat channel” type of answers? I hope so! ;)

    • Heidi Haaland

      As a person who has long made decisions to keep or discard based on “just in case” and “you never know,” it’s been helpful to examine whether my thinking is inspired by Fear or Joy. If I am keeping something out of anxiety or guilt, that is often is a Discard in disguise. If I want to keep something because it makes me see something in a different way or feels like a clue or a piece of a puzzle, then I can generally trust that to be a keeper.

  • Hugh Briss

    Even my “Reconsider it Later” bucket is overflowing as well as my “Reconsider it at some point” bucket. Great idea, just not sure how to implement it.

    • Chris Brogan

      Might be tricky. Sometimes, there IS stuff that needs flushing.

  • Dane Morgan

    I have a private blog that no one else can read for recording just such things. You never know when something will have enough info to click. Just this month I finally pulled GIT out of that bucket last month. I always knew it was something I needed to start doing before the cowboy coding bit me, but I could just never get down to it. Now I have a couple of dev environments actually working on a GIT repository and that wouldn’t have happened if i didn’t make myself rethink it from time to time..

    • Chris Brogan

      Swell. Do you go back to the blog much?

      • Dane Morgan

        No real schedule, but usually i thumb through the titles every couple of months, Initially it was a way to give myself permission to put things aside that would otherwise distract me, but I came to realize that there were things in there that were bars of lead waiting for some new information that would transmute them.

  • Vincent Nguyen

    I started taking James Altucher’s advice of carrying a notepad with me (almost) everywhere I go. Part of what I do is copy down something I should contemplate more at another time. Gotta avoid that overflow, right? :)

    • Chris Brogan

      I have one in the back pocket at all times. Well, not when I’m sleeping. : )

  • Jason Matthews

    I’ve started a litmus test of asking myself audibly how a new concept can be useful to me (or if it even can). Something about presenting the question to the mind helps to automatically sort it as a “hallway” or “end” as in the article, and then the choices of what to do with the new concept seem to present themselves better.

    • Chris Brogan

      It’s the “I don’t know” that we have to protect against. : )

  • Susan Kuhn

    Here is a book that can add value to this topic: Riding the Current by Madelyn Blair. It is about how to create a “container” for what you need to stay at the top of your field. The post was about what to put in what container…but this book adds the issue of how to construct a dynamic and useful container.

    • Chris Brogan

      Well very neat. I like it. : )

  • markwguay

    That’s a serious stare there Julien. Impressive. I wonder how this relates to Give and Take. One thing I’ve noticed and appreciate immensely is Chris Brogan’s quick reply to tweets and emails. He doesn’t go into depth, yet takes just enough time to make you feel affirmed. Perhaps many of us take too much time to respond to others and overthink when we could more easily reply w/o having taking too much time…? Thank you for the article! :)

    • Chris Brogan

      Thank you! I do what I can. I also find that answering briefly helps others understand what was most necessary in the interaction, and just how much fluff we blow into our interactions. : )

  • Skip Prichard

    Brilliant indeed. Oddly, it comes at a point for me where I am in a literal discard mode. After moving to a new house, I realized again the freedom that comes from less. At the same time, I recognize the wisdom of this approach for thinking. We are bombarded with so many ideas, the wisdom is in knowing what to put in the hallway, what to put in the room, and what to toss in the dumpster.

    • Chris Brogan

      Completely and utterly so. I think it’s not that we can’t discard, but that if we’re not sure, THOSE things should be held a little longer.

  • Chris Curran

    Simple and powerful, thanks. And we’ll be discussing/promoting this post on our LIVE show in about 2 hours – Social Media Unscrambled (.com) …..Chris, if you can Skype in let us know :)

    • Chris Brogan

      Well neato! : )

  • Daniel Decker

    Love it and precisely why I use Evernote. : ) I have a folder in Evernote called “Ideas to Ponder” and it’s where I try to put the “discards” that really need to be chewed on later… Seems to work, when I remember to back to the folder. : )

    • Kwin Peterson

      No folder, but I have a tag for this in Evernote and use an app that emails voice recordings straight from my phone to Evernote, which allows me to push a button, talk, and capture.

  • Jose Palomino

    The brilliance of this suggestion is that it’s a simple discipline but without you verbalizing it, I never would have considered it. We are consuming SO much content – SO much information – and SO MUCH of it is really good stuff. Mentally filing it is a brilliant suggestion.

    I think I’ve been practicing it without realizing it though. It must be why I always keep a notebook with me — or at the very least, my iPhone — to jot down a few “trigger” words that will help me remember certain concepts later on. But in the moments I forget to bring the notebook or can’t get my iPhone out in time, I’m going to hold on to this advice. Thanks, Chris.

  • davemiller555

    Very much informative and described….:0

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  • equalman

    Fantastic metaphor and a great reminder to all of us. I enjoyed Skip Prichard’s comment: “the wisdom is in knowing what to put in the hallway, what to put in the room, and what to toss in the dumpster.”

  • Angel

    You got my attention by bringing a question that was in the back of my mind to the front of my mind.

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  • rajesh301

    Thanks, @chrisbrogan:disqus, this post made me stop and reflect a bit about my day so far to see how many ideas I prematurely discarded. The good news is that I did reasonably OK but the bad news is that I am guilty as charged on several counts. I have excuses for why I acted that way but they are just that – EXCUSES at best :( Thanks again.

  • jaimie bisbee

    my Aunty Amelia got a new blue Land Rover LR4 only
    from working part time off a home computer… helpful hints J­a­m­2­0­.­ℂ­o­m