Tim O’Reilly on the importance of soft focus in seeing the future

The old saw is that those who got rich in California’s 1840s Gold Rush were the ones selling equipment to the diggers. Tim O’Reilly avowedly built his publishing business O’Reilly Media to provide “the picks and shovels of learning to the Silicon Valley gold rush.” 

Tim and his company’s mission is to uncover emerging trends and supplying the requisite information resources to the startups seeking to mine those seams.

O’Reilly was described as “the oracle of Silicon Valley” by Inc. magazine, which noted that “he has been on top of nearly every important technology development of the past three decades.” 

To achieve this O’Reilly is patient in his information habits. “We need to have an attitude of receptivity for any of this stuff to work,” he says. “That’s not terribly compatible with a certain kind of striving.”

The core of O’Reilly’s path is building frameworks to elucidate developments in technology. “A lot of the work that I’ve done over the years has simply been trying to construct a map by looking around. You pay attention to things.  That starts with a soft focus,” he tells Thriving on Overload.

O’Reilly hunts insights rather than game, however he took the time to attend a workshop run by a renowned animal tracker to get better at noticing the tiny clues that can tell bigger stories. “You’re just receptive and you’re open. And then certain things just sort of pop out at you as anomalies. That’s what’s interesting.”

When we are immersed in information, our frame of mind determines what we perceive, what enters our mental models, in fact the totality of how we see the world. “We shape reality by what we notice and choose to pay attention to,” says O’Reilly.

To learn more about how Tim O’Reilly keeps on top of where technology is going, listen to our interview with Tim!

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