Ep. 201: Making a Living Online, Artificial Intelligence, and Reducing Attention Residue
Transcription for the video titled "Ep. 201: Making a Living Online, Artificial Intelligence, and Reducing Attention Residue".
Note: This transcription is split and grouped by topics and subtopics. You can navigate through the Table of Contents on the left. It's interactive. All paragraphs are timed to the original video. Click on the time (e.g., 01:53) to jump to the specific portion of the video.
Cal's intro (00:00)
I'm Cal Newport and this is Deep Questions, episode 201. I'm here in my Deep Work HQ, joined by my producer Jesse. Jesse did you notice when you came in, I emptied the garbage before you got here. I did notice that it's been full for months. I probably should have taken it out, but I didn't. It got too much. I know where it was. Let me say this, I don't use the word hero lightly, but in this case without reservation, I think I can describe myself that way. It's quite proud of myself. Two updates that I think, one in particular, our audience is going to care a lot about based on email volume. Yesterday, Jesse was the big day at my house, the new upstairs air conditioner installed. How is it? We're testing it out. It's going to take a couple of days to feel it out. It's not like unbelievable. Here's the issue. The first day you get a new AC installed, that whole day you have no air conditioner on. Your house gets up. My house got up to 85 degrees up there. It takes it all evening to catch up and get rid of the heat mass. That's the technical term. By night, it was cold up there. It did catch up. It's the first normal day I set it before I left. It'll be interesting to see when we get back. There's a parable. There's a parable for the stuff we talk about here in the AC installation. These new ACs are, especially about a fancy one, for no real good reason. They're complicated. They're more advanced than they used to be. My old AC we replaced was 20 years old. I believe if you opened up that AC to look inside, there was a pigeon and a thermometer. If the thermometer got too high, it would pull a string with its beak. This new AC has roughly speaking the supercomputer HAL from 2001. Trying to control it. The technology has gotten really advanced. I don't know what all those chips do. There's three different computer chips in these things. I believe if I'm reading the manual correctly, in addition to automatically adjusting the stage of the compressor, this AC unit can also make novel policy prescriptions to fight climate change. It's all built into the circuitry. But here's the thing. It's wired out of the factory for this incredibly complex control panel. It's a control panel that is the size of an iPad Pro. Like a really big screen full of all these fancy interfaces. It's $1,200. I told my guys, I was like, "I don't want that. I don't want a computerized cockpit to control my AC. I want my old thermostat. It tells me what the temperature is, what it's supposed to be, what it's set to. It has an up arrow and a down arrow. I want that. It's like, "Okay, we'll make that work for you." They had to be on the phone with technical support at Carrier for probably an hour to figure out basically how to retrograde back the AC so that we could just control it old-style analog. The wires that are wired up by default to go to the thermostat are digital control wires. You can strap on your virtual reality helmet and drag your temperature gauges through the landscape, the carrier created, the metaverse or whatever. I wanted up and down arrows which just requires these low voltage wires that aren't digital. Just turn on turn off. Turn on turn off. They had the rewire this thing. They were in there connecting wires, but we did it. I think that's a case study of digital minimalism in action. I rejected a $1,200 computerized cockpit for my air conditioner. We successfully got a 20-year-old up arrow down arrow thermostat. When you go home today, it should be golden. I hope so. Yeah, I've got several. Tomorrow's going to be hot. That'll be the real test. There's all sorts of variables. I don't want to get into it, but it's hard to get the Freon just right when you first install it. You actually have to run it for a day or two to get it fully circulated so you don't overcharge it. They might have to come back. I may have had a probe thermometer up there earlier today to make sure that the delta interval on the air coming out versus the air in the room was at the acceptable level when it was. I was up there getting some numbers. So, does reading the manual account as a June book? I didn't actually read the manual, but yeah, it probably should. You read the whole thing or account? If I read the whole thing. Yeah, I read the whole thing. The other thing going on at the homestead is the library. The long-awaited library I'm building in my house to be my writing location is being installed starting yesterday and today they're putting in all these. We got these custom built-in bookcases. We're making it over the top room. We'll bring you out there. We'll film a video once it's done. Nice. It's kind of over the top. It's blue and walnut. So, it's like custom built blue. The whole room is like blue bookcases, but with walnut surfaces and the whole room is surrounded in it and it's going to have my custom desk. And I'm a big believer, location matters. Like functionality matters for an office. People always care about functionality. Like do I have my printer? Do I have the right monitor? Is my phone in here? Is the Wi-Fi good? We never think about aesthetics. What is the aesthetics of the room? What is the cognitive impact of the aesthetics? I think it makes a big difference. I'm putting my money where my mouth is and building this. When's the desk on? It's shipping in the first week of July. So two weeks. Ships in two weeks. It's cool. We got these painting at the top of the shelves. These brass lamps, like painting lamps. You know, like the long skinny brass things that stick out and shine down on the shelves. We put, I installed the gas line into our fireplace in the winter. I can have crackling flames while I'm riding. I'm riding a lot these days. Books, New Yorker, et cetera. I figure I'm going to be riding this much. Just lean in and actually try to get the right environment. So I'm excited about that. So the books in the HQ are going bye-bye. We're going bye-bye. Yeah, we got to rethink. We got a lot of redecoration that you just said. I think we need to reconceive the HQ. We never actually got a trash. Well, exactly. I mean, it's a big step. I think that's like 50% of the battle was emptying the trash. And then the other 50% is actually bringing in furniture. So we get the trash out number one. Number two, we actually have to figure out what we want to do with this place. I think we could make it cool. I mean, this is our only room that I would say is where we want it to be. It's the studio. But I don't know what to do in that main room. I want to do something cool. We'll think it through. When the books go, we got to do something because it's going to be bare. Yeah, I can't have an empty. I mean, I'll keep at a pole bar there. What a pole bar. It's like, there's some Joe Rogan's broadcasting warehouse have. It has a gem. It has like a full gem. Yeah. Yeah. Oh, you could lift there. Yeah, come in all sweaty. Yeah, I'm very as showers. Yeah, I bet he does. He has a, I heard he has a sensory deprivation tank. Probably. At the thing. Is that like the heat thing? It's salt water so that you float on it. Oh, yeah. Yeah. The exact temperature of your body. So like, and it's dark. So it kind of freaked out. I think they got a good liberal routine. They like record, work out. Some of the guests probably go to the gym. Yeah. All right. So we're building a gym. I'll tell Zoe. I'm sure the floors and stuff in here can easily handle gym equipment. All right. Well, anyways, we got a good show today. Good questions. We got written questions. We got calls. Later on, I have a new segment I want to try where I go through a couple of cool things. People sent me to the firstname.lastname@example.org address.
Cal Newport Discussions And Promotions
Cal Reacts: Making a Living Online (08:21)
I thought I would start today's episode reacting to my own article. So the day before we're recording this episode, I published my latest for The New Yorker. It was a bit of a longer piece than I've been writing. It was more of a 5,000 word. More of an epic piece. And the title is The Rise of the Internet's Creative Middle Class. And I thought I would go through just the big ideas from this article and then I have a couple follow up points about some follow up points not in the article, but based on reactions I've gotten to the article since it's come out. So if you're watching this instead of listening to this, I also have the article loaded up here on the HQ tablet. So you can actually see the words I'm talking about. If you're just listening, though, I'll read when I'm saying so you'll be able to follow along. All right. So I just want to give you the main bullet points. It's 5,000 words. There's a lot of details. But the article opened with me going to the studio of breaking points. So breaking points is a Internet news show. It's hosted by Sagar and Jeddi and Crystal Ball. So they both come from journalism background. Sagar from the right crystal from the left. So Sagar used to be the White House correspondent for the Daily Caller. Crystal was a host of a show on MSNBC. Years ago they came together to do a show together called Rising that was filmed at the Hill, the publication The Hill here in DC. And the whole idea was someone from the left, someone from the right talking about the news. And then they went independent. So a couple of years ago they went independent and said we can do this ourselves. And so I went to their studio. They leased some studio space downtown here in downtown DC. They have a cool set, $60,000 camera system that films at a really high resolution so that you can stream this onto big screen TVs. And it looks really nice. Real control room with actual upper middle age, engineer control room type men in there, working try casters and the sound. And it was a real professional operation. They do a news show. It's on the Internet. If you subscribe you get it on YouTube. There's a podcast version. They put clips of it on YouTube for free. And I went to visit this and visit them. If the names sound familiar, they've gotten a lot of exposure through Joe Rogan. So he likes them because they come at news from the left and the right. And so they end up in independent territory as opposed to just trying to work backwards from what's our point. So they're on that show a lot. I think that helped them grow. But they had a history from before them. And I was on Rising talking about one of my books before they went independent. I've been on Soggers podcast of Cross paths with them before. All right. So you look at that show and you see it's doing well. It's doing well. It does not require nearly the overhead of their old traditional TV shows. They have only eight hourly contractors and yet their viewership metrics are already outpacing their former shows. So they have more views. If you look on YouTube, if you look at podcast downloads, whatever metrics you want to look at, they're doing better than the old traditionally produced TV show at a fraction of the old the cost. So my point is early in this article is that's interesting. And maybe there's a lesson to be learned there about the evolution of news. But the reason why I was focusing on breaking points, the reason why I wanted to introduce them to the readers of this article is that I think they show a more important trend. And here's my exact words from the article, one in which a dismissed prophecy about the potential of the internet to support creative work might be making a triumphant return. So they are my piece of evidence that a once dismissed prophecy about the internet might be finally coming true. All right. So what is that prophecy? Well, we got to go all the way back to 2008. Remember 2008 was a very different time than the web is today. This was at the beginning of the web 2.0 revolution. So this was the beginning of that idea that you as a consumer could contribute content to the web as opposed to just going to websites and consuming content. We used to that now, but it was a big deal back then. So it was in 2008 when web 2.0 was first becoming the thing that Kevin Kelly, the former executive editor of Wired, actually the founding executive editor of Wired and general techno optimist. This is someone who provided a nice blurb for So Good They Can Ignore You. He had a nice blurb for a world without email. So I've crossed paths with Kevin Kelly over the years. He wrote a very internet important, I would say, essay called A Thousand True Fans. This is going to be the prophecy that this article is about. So the basic idea with A Thousand True Fans is Kevin Kelly was saying now that the internet is here, now the internet is interactive, now that you can produce and post content as easily as you can consume it. This is going to be a boon for creative professionals because now as a creative professional, you can not only post your stuff online, you can interact with people online. You have at your fingertips this whole vast audience of the entire world's population, and all you have to do, and this was his A Thousand True Fans concept, all you have to do is find and cultivate a small but loyal fan base of all the millions and millions of internet users if you can find this was his math, a thousand loyal supporters, each of whom is willing to spend $100 a year on you and your art, you're now making a good middle class living, doing creative work. This was a really big deal essay, it was really influential because the idea was pre-internet, if you are a creative type, you only had access to the people who were proximate to you, the people who lived near you, the people who lived in your town, unless you were one of the vanishingly small few who had access to national, international broadcast platforms like television or newspapers, but it was such a small number of people who could be in the movies or be on TV or be in the newspaper that almost everyone else who wanted to do creative work, you only had access to people who happened to be nearby and it was probably going to be difficult for you to find enough real fans who lived within 50 miles of you to actually make a living. Kelly's point is the internet changes that because now you can assemble these thousand true fans from anywhere around the world and make a living off of it. So now you've unlocked the economic potential for lots of different creative types to actually make a living doing creative work. As I argued this essay hit right as the economic crisis of 2008 was picking up steam so it was really aspirational. People's savings were going away, their retirement accounts were disappearing, their jobs were either they were losing them or they're having the screws turned to them working longer for less money because everyone was faltering and this idea of hey with this new technology forget this diminishing rat race, you can make a living support your family doing creative work, very aspirational this essay became very popular. So here's the part that most people didn't know about. If you go back and look at the reception of this essay, yes it became very popular but almost immediately there was pushback and one of the strongest sources of pushback came from Jaren Lanaire whose work I talk about a lot on the show. Jaren knew Kevin Kelly, they've known each other since the 80s when Kevin first met Jaren to interview him about his pioneering work on virtual reality. They were both techno optimists from the west coast scene. Jaren Lanaire in particular was a really big open culture advocate, software should be free, bit should be free, the internet's going to create this sort of utopian world. What had happened to Jaren though, we've talked about this before on the show, is he took a hard turn towards skepticism. He eventually went back and renounced his techno optimist views and said the internet is not going the way I hoped and the internet is beginning to bifurcate the haves and the haves nod and all the value generated is ossifying at a very small number of companies and a very small number of individuals that have a lot of stock in those companies. He had had this turn towards skepticism around this point and he looked to Kevin Kelly's 1,000 true fans essay and almost immediately came back and said Kevin, this makes sense on paper but if it was true we should see more people doing this successfully. Where are all of these artists and musicians that have 1,000 true fans that they have cultivated online making a middle class living? The web has been around now for a while, technologically this has been possible for a while, where are they? This is a little known chapter in this history but Kevin actually posted a follow up essay pretty soon after and he explained Jaren's hesitancy and he said, okay, let's prove Jaren Ron. In fact, I have the exact wording here in the article. He said, okay, to prove Jaren Ron, this is Kevin Kelly right into his audience, simply submit a candidate in the comments, a musician with no ties to old media models now making it 100% of their living in the open media environment. So Jaren complained, Kevin said, no, no, I'm sure artists and creative types living on this model exist and let's find him. He challenged his readers and they couldn't find anybody. The way Jaren summarized it later in his book You Are Not a Gadget, which you should read if you have not very influential book for technocraticism circles, they identified a handful at most of artists who satisfy that theory. And if you really go down the rabbit hole on this and look at the artists they found, it was kind of questionable whether they qualified or not. Like they basically couldn't find anyone. And by the time Jaren published You Are Not a Gadget, he has a chapter about 1000 True Fans in that manifesto where he's like this just didn't work. 1000 True Fans was hopeful, but it wasn't actually something that we saw come to fruition. And so for people who studied the internet, it was sort of this sad case study of optimism that soon bled away. So what actually happened here? Well, I think Jaren Lanier has a really good argument that it was the structure, the evolving structure of the web itself that scuttled, the feasibility of the 1000 True Fans, and in particular, the hijacking of Web 2.0 by a small number of large social media platform monopolies like Facebook and in later Instagram and Twitter. And the way Jaren tells us, I think it's a really important critique, is that Google ads came along earlier in the 2000s. And they showed that embedded ads could make money. So in other words, putting ads on content that normal individuals made. So here's my website. Here is Cal Newport dot com. And I'm doing Google AdSense and it will automatically put ads onto the content I generated. This made a lot of money for Google. It became basically a money minting machine. And there was this aha like it went on in the techno circles out in Silicon Valley, which is Web 2.0 means lots of people are creating a lot of content. All of that content can be essentially the fertilizer for our advertising money trees. So social media came along. And even though it originally pushed itself as being about connection and relationships and making it easier to express yourself and connect to others, that was not the pitch being made to investors. The pitch being made to investors is all of these millions of people are going to be generating content. If we can get that content generated on our servers, on our platforms, we get all the money from all the ads we can place on it. So a small number of companies basically hijacked the Web 2.0 revolution. They said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. You should express yourself on the Web, but you do it in our walled garden. We can control it." And that became as Jaren explains it, the downfall of the thousand true fans model, because once these companies were making hundreds of billions of dollars of valuation appear out of nowhere just off of the back of this digital sharecropping that was occurring out there in this hijacked world of Web 2.0, they began pushing their technology platforms to optimize the money this made. And this eventually led to these streaming style models. Twitter led the way, but then Facebook and Instagram followed. These models where you were no longer even going to social media home pages of individuals. You were no longer posting on the wall of your friend on Facebook. Algorithms would just pull interesting information off of the platform and put it into an infinite scroll stream. And you as a consumer would just keep scrolling through this. Everything you were seeing was designed to hit your fancy, to give you distraction in the moment, to give you those little chemical burst. In that setting, the thousand true fans was not going to survive. And here's the words I wrote. This relentless pace rewards passive consumption, not active interaction with individual creators. So here's why. As a creator, you can submit your creations into the stream, but once there they will be chopped up and commoditized. If you're lucky, perhaps something will you post will temporarily spark a surge of engagement, but the same spectators exhausted by the onslaught will soon shift their weary attention to the next recommended item following close behind. So this is what happened when Web 2.0 got hijacked. All of this user created content got chopped up and commoditized and put into an algorithmically optimized stream where it was dehumanized, barely connected to the individuals who created it. And we sit there and watch this just stream past. That was not an environment well suited for many different individual idiosyncratic creators. To foster and create communities, small but loyal communities based around their work that they could then monetize and make a living off of it. So that was why, at least in Jaren when there's telling, that is why the dream of a thousand true fans fell apart. But then we go back to breaking points. And what I wrote here is perhaps we were too quick to dismiss Kelly's a thousand true fans theory it faltered in 2008 but 14 years later it might be making a comeback. Because you look at something like breaking points and what you see is actually something very much like Kelly's original model in action. Sager and Crystal are not 20 million follower Instagram influencers. They're not one of these YouTube, Mr. B style superstars. They get 26 million views on every video they put up. They have roughly 10,000 subscribers. So yes, it's a factor of 10 larger than Kelly's original prediction but within that same ballpark 10,000 subscribers. So a small number by any of those large follower count type scales 10,000 subscribers who pay them money because they respect what they're doing. They like the style of independent news that Crystal and Sager produce off of those 10,000 subscribers. They are able to produce this show. And they pay themselves, I talked to them about it, salaries that are more or less in line with what they were making when they were hosting the show at the Hill. So they're not trying to become immensely wealthy. They can cover their budget. They can cover the studio they lease and those are hourly contractors that help work their equipment, the eight hourly contractors that helps pay for their time and it works out. And when I pushed them, I was like, look, you guys want to go the route of the ringer or of Gimlet, you want to take on venture capital money and build up a huge staff and grow a large network that you can then sell for $200 million down the line, they had zero interest in that. Crystal was really clear. She wanted to get away from bureaucracy and giant offices and having to deal with staff. They just wanted to produce their show. They want to do news. They want to be able to do it full time. It's Kevin Kelly's thousand shoe fans come to fruition. When I go on the article and give a lot of examples, like we can actually find a lot of examples of this now of people who have modest sized audiences of strong fans who pay them money for the content or wherever they produce, allowing them to make a good living, not to become rich, but can make a good living. Again, that's the Kevin Kelly dream. I gave two reasons for this. Number one, I think the rise of online news paywalls and subscription video streaming services like Netflix got us used to the idea of paying all a cart for digital content. When Kevin Kelly wrote his original essay, that was a time where people thought no one's ever going to pay money for digital content online. Everything has to be free. Everything has to be ad supported. Now we're used to it. We pay New Yorker.com. We pay Netflix. We pay Hulu. We're kind of used to paying all a cart for digital content. Once we're used to that, when someone like Sagar and Crystal comes along, we're like, "Yeah, it's just another thing I pay a little bit of money for to get digital content." The other thing to change was attitudes towards social media. There's a time, and I know this because I used to get roasted, where social media was where all the energy is. The idea that you would leave social media and interact with creators directly over the internet without using the intermediation of social media would have been considered risky or weird. Now for all the reasons we talk about on the show, there's a lot of pushback and skepticism and distrust about social media. This idea that I'm going to subscribe to breaking points using a small app like Supercast, and they have MailChimp. It's going to email me directly at URLs. There are unlisted videos, a whole ecosystem I'm using to interact with them. It has nothing to do with social media. Now we're excited to do that. We needed those two innovations, getting used to paying for digital content and to being comfortable leaving the walled gardens, the heavily controlled walled gardens of social media and interacting with creators through other internet tools. Those two things have come together, and I think we see this revolution of the return of people potentially being able to make a living on light. One of the other big examples I give is podcasting. What is a successful podcast, if not a perfect demonstration of Kevin Kelly's theory in action? You have this audience of dedicated fans who are willing to stream hours of your audio content each week from an advertiser perspective that is really valuable. You can monetize that with a modest but really strong audience. You can make a creative living with a podcast. I worked out the numbers for this article. Depending on the type of content, etc. Something like 30,000 downloads a week. If you had 30,000 dedicated fans who had listened to one episode of your show per week, and with the right number of ads, if you do the math, somewhere in there you get to Kevin Kelly's $100,000 a year. This is all within the ballpark of his original number, but this is the optimism here. We are returning to a place where it's possible for a larger, more diverse group of creative types to a more diverse array of creative activities like SOG or Crystal, like a bunch of podcasters out there to actually really make a full time living doing creative work by leveraging the potential of the internet. It's not required that we escape the social media walled gardens. It's required that we got more comfortable spending money for digital content, but I think this is a good thing that's happening. That's what my article is about. Two quick follow up points after that article came out. One, I talked to Kevin Kelly a little bit after it came out. He confirmed actually more recently he gets more and more notes from people who read that original essay and are successfully making a living with a small but dedicated group of fans. He can confirm directly he hears from people succeeding with that more and more. The other point, and I'll make this briefly, someone sent me a note and I hear this critique a lot. Let me just address it real briefly. They say, "Yeah, maybe it's true that there's more avenues now to make a living creatively online, but it's really hard." It often requires whatever timing and luck and crystal and saga already had media backgrounds. It's not just like anyone can just go and do this. My reaction to that is, yes, of course, making a living doing creative work is really hard. It requires talent and it requires luck and it requires opportunity. I think what we're seeing with the thousand true fans model is that opportunity piece has vastly broadened. You don't have to be one of the vanishingly small few to get on cable news or have a newspaper column now. There's a lot more opportunities with the internet to make a living creatively, but you still need the talent timing, luck portion of that. Most people just don't have that. I think that's always the case. We're talking about the democratizing any type of media. This is always the critique that comes back. Blogs come along and they say, "Hey, this is going to really revolutionize print." Now anyone can publish print. You don't have to be in a newspaper. The people said, "Oh, that revolution failed because most blogs are bad." Of course, most blogs are bad, but it did open up a lot more people who had a lot of talent and a lot of luck to actually find an audience they would have been able to before. Same thing with podcasts. People say most podcasts are bad and don't make money. That's true. It opened up a lot more opportunity for a lot more people with talent and luck to actually go and do that before podcasts were available. I think that's the key caveat I want to make is that there's no technological revolution that's going to mean anyone who wants to make a living doing creative work can. That's always going to be really hard. It used to be that you had an incredibly narrow group of people who even had a shot. Now a lot more people have a shot to take. Of course, most people will still miss it, but we're going to have vastly more successful creatives because there's vastly more people out there with talent and the right timing and the right thing to say or the right skill for the moment. There's vastly more people out there than there used to be opportunities to support them. I think that's all a good thing. There you go. A little injection of optimism into a otherwise normally grim topic area. There are some good things happening with the internet. Did it take you a long time to write that? Yeah. That took a little while. 5,000 words, those are longer pieces. Honestly, this one was in production longer than it probably took me to write it. What I did was there's a break in my writing. My last column was in January. Then I had to take a break because of administrative stuff at Georgetown. When I turned my energy back to this article, it took me a month. I went back and looked at it. A month of solid work to get done. I did that back in March. There's just production. It takes a long time. That took about a month of work, whereas my column from last fall, it took about a week of work per column. You talked to Kevin Kelly a lot? No, just off and on. We just kind of... How old is he? Old and the 60s, right? Oh. Older. Yeah. Probably now in his 70s. He's on Ferris's podcast every now and then, right? Yeah. He's a cool guy. Yeah. He sent me some stuff. I'm not going to talk about it now because I'm going to write about it. But he sent me some new thoughts he had on some things. Really creative guy. Yeah. There's a classic Kevin Kelly article from five or six years ago on artificial intelligence and Wired. Everyone should go back and read it. It's really good. Really prophetic. All right. Well, speaking of making a living doing creative work online, before we jump into our questions, I want to talk about one of the sponsors that makes this show possible.
Cal talks about Better Help and Stamps.com (33:24)
It's a new sponsor of the show, but probably one you've heard of before, and that is better help. I mean, one of the things I have been hearing about a lot and reporting on a lot is the epidemic of burnout that we see happening out there, especially after the stresses of the pandemic. So burnout includes lack of motivation, irritability, fatigue and more. We often associate burnout with work. That's what I often write about, but it's not the only cause. Any of our roles in life can lead us to feel burnt out. Better help online therapy wants to remind you to prioritize yourself talking with someone can help you figure out what's causing stress in your life. We'll say that timing has probably never been better for a service like better help, just based off of multiple conversations I've had with people I know. There is a lot of people out here right now that do feel burnt out, do want to prioritize themselves. But when they're looking for, let's say therapists to talk to, there's only so many that happen to be physically located nearby. And a lot of these offices are full. They have waiting lists. This is where a service like BetterHelp enters the scene. BetterHelp is a customized online therapy that offers video, phone and even live chat sessions with your therapist. So you don't have to see anyone camera if you don't want to. It's much more affordable than in-person therapy and you can be matched with a therapist in under 48 hours. Our listeners get 10% off their first month at BetterHelp. If they go to BetterHelp.com/deepquestions, that's BetterHELP.com/deepquestions. We also want to talk about stamps.com. This is true. I have to go to the post office right after we record this for a sort of arcane reason and I'm not really looking forward to it. I'm going to go walk down to find it, wait in the line. It is exactly avoiding having to do that on a regular basis. It's exactly why you need to consider stamps.com. Stamps.com saves you time, money and stress. For more than 20 years, stamps.com has been indispensable for over 1 million businesses. It gives you access to all of the post office and UPS shipping services. You can get access to them right from your computer. They also give you discounts like up to 20% off or 30% off. I should say UPS rights. USPS, USP-S as US Postal Service and 86% off UPS. Jesse, we have a competition now. What's harder? Zachdoc.com or USPS versus UPS. We have some competition. By the latter. I can't even say it. USPS, UPS. I'm a pro. You can streamline your shipping process with stamps.com. It's easy to use software. All you need is a computer and a printer. You can print official postage for any letter, any package, anywhere you want to send. It works seamlessly with Shopify, Amazon, Etsy, eBay and more. Whether you're sending invoices or you're in Etsy shops and your products or a warehouse shipping out your order, stamps.com is your mailing and shipping solution. Stop wasting time and start saving money when you use stamps.com to mail and ship. Sign up with promo code DEEP for a special offer that includes a four week trial plus free postage and a digital scale. No long term commitments or contracts. Just go to stamps.com. Click the microphone at the top of the page and enter the code DEEP from USPS, UPS from Zachdoc.com to Sally C. Shells by the C. Shore. It's not comas where you need to go. That's just called professionalism, Jesse. Radio voice, articulation, enunciation. That's what they teach us in radio school. My dad actually went to school for radio. It was a broadcast major. Yeah, you mentioned that he was on the radio, right? Yeah. When he was still in college, he was also the news guy at the sports guy, I think, at the local TV station. Even when he was in the army, he had the National Guard. He ran a radio station on the base or whatever. That was his guard duty. Then he left academia to host his own radio show. Does he give you tips about you? He's got a great radio voice. Yeah. I've got a garbage radio voice compared. A lot of his training. You can train your radio voice. A lot of it is more air and enunciation and you can bring out the residence in the residence chambers. It's a whole art to... I'm sure. Yeah. But it's why he was born and raised in Texas. I was born and raised in Texas, so I was eight, never an accent. Because he was trained in radio and TV back then you were trained. It was the Johnny Carson Midwest accent. The American accent with no inflection of any type. That was the broadcasting voice. We did not grow up in a house with southern accents. Nice. There you go. Trivia. Let's do some questions.
How do you get over the fear of starting a business? (39:11)
All right. Our first question comes from H. who asks, "How do I get over fear of starting a business? I've always wanted to be entrepreneurial to maximize autonomy over my life and alignment of what I do in my career with my values. But I have a lack of confidence in my personal skills or any domain expertise. More than that, I'm very, very scared of the risk of entrepreneurism. Do you have any advice?" Well H, the right advice for you I think can be found in my book, "So Good They Can't Ignore You." In that book, I introduced the idea, which we've talked about on the show before, of money acting as a neutral indicator of value. It's a term that I borrowed from the entrepreneur Derek Sivers. The concept here is the way you de-risk a change in your career, especially a change, let's say, from a steady paycheck job to an entrepreneurial vision, is that you look to see if you can make money on the new thing. You don't ask people, "Is this a good idea?" You don't ask people, "Do you think I should go out on my own and start this business?" You don't just look to your gut and say, "What's my passion or what do I feel like doing?" You instead, on the side, start doing to a reduced degree the thing you are considering and see if people will give you money. Because here is the thing. It costs me nothing to tell you something's a good idea. It costs me nothing to compliment you. It costs me nothing to get you fired up about going big and betting on yourself. That costs me nothing. I'll just do that. Why not? I'm a nice guy. I don't want to be mean to you. But you want my money. That's different. People are different about that. They're not going to give you their money unless they actually value what they're getting. Derek Sivers says, "Use money as a neutral indicator of value." It's a way of evaluating, "Is this business idea good? Can I get clients? Can I sell these things?" Derek Sivers used this before he left his job as an A&R executive to become a full-time musician. "Can I make enough money off gigs on the side to replace my salary? Then I will quit the A&R job." When he left his job as a musician to start an online music company, CD Baby, he ran it on the side until it was making enough money to support him and then he quit touring to work on the company. So, if you're really, really worried, let that worry be your motivation to use this strategy. Get a specific idea. Run it on the side. See if you can make money. And if you're making enough money to live off of, then you won't have the fear. Or at least your fear will be greatly diminished. If you're not making enough money to live on, that's a great signal. That means don't go quit your job. Don't go try to do this new thing. There be dragons. I'm surprised how often people skip this step because they don't want the answer. They love the romance of doing something different. They love the romance of what life would be like if they didn't have a boss. But they don't want to confront the reality that their idea might not be that good, that people might not actually pay them. They might not actually make a living. So, they avoid this step because they don't want an obstacle to the thing that they want to be true. And I think it's a very dangerous way to go about career shifts. H, try what you want to do, see if you get paid for it. If you don't, try something else. If you do, your fear should be pretty diminished. All right, we got another question here. Ooh, it's a dangerous one.
How can I convince my wife I’m unavailable during deep work sessions? (43:00)
I mean, I'll have just the answer to this one. Rob asks, "How can I convince my wife what I mean, that I mean it when I say I have a deep session from say 10 a.m. to 12 noon and I am unavailable. My wife does not take me seriously when I say I need to focus on something. She thinks blocking off hours is unrealistic. And I should handle her spontaneous inquiries in a timely manner because she is my wife and our family comes first. How would you deal with that?" But, Jesse, I always get nervous when people ask me for a relationship advice. I don't want to get in the middle of it. What would you say to Rob? Always listen to your wife. It's usually good advice, actually. It's a good question. All right, I'm going to, I will answer this with care, Rob. So my immediate answer is I agree with you and not your wife on the point of whether or not it is reasonable for you to have sessions during the day in which you're locked in and not, let's say, looking at text messages coming in on your phone or answering your phone. That's completely reasonable. There are many, many jobs where that's unavoidable. And if you're an airline pilot or an athlete or a professor or a classroom teacher or a podcaster, there's clearly times in your day where you can't be reached. Like, there's no way you can take a call or there's no way you can do text messages. And all of those people are fine, even the pilots and the athletes and the teachers and the podcasters who have families. We don't hear about rashes of disasters that happen because they couldn't be reached while they were in the classroom while they're up in the air. And it's one of the real issues with these jobs. They're fine and it works fine. And so it's not some unreasonable, weird thing. There's plenty of jobs or it's the case where there's just times where you can't be reached. And I talked about this point in my book Digital Minimalism. It was like a minute ago, relatively speaking, that it was very hard to reach people. It wasn't that long ago that if you weren't at your desk, no one could reach you before we had cell phones. And again, wasn't that long ago, no one could reach you. I mean, I remember this. Even as like a college student doing interviews, I remember going out the interview at Microsoft, 21 or whatever, I was a senior year in college or something like that. It was before cell phones. I never cell phone. I remember, you drive in, you go to the rental car counter at the Seattle airport and they kind of give you a map and they draw on it. And I remember getting lost. And at some point finding a gas station and using a pay phone and a calling card. And I called my house like, "Dad, you have a Jeff and Atlas there. What wrote him? I'm on highway, whatever." And he looked it up. I think that's the way things worked. Our parents would go out on dates. We'd have a babysitter and they would be unreachable until they got home. They had a restaurant there and a movie. We all survived. It was all fine. All right. So my main answer is no. It's not fundamentally unreasonable that you are not reachable. There are some things you can do to help. So if you're time blocking, work with your family or partner to go over your time block schedule for the day. So there's some clarity. But here's the part of the day where I'm going to be locked in and not available. So like, you might want to grab me right before that or know that during this time you're not going to be able to get through me. Because there's often a frustration where it's unpredictable. If it's, "Oh, I just never know. I never know when Rob's available. He just doesn't answer his phone. That's more frustrating than I know there's this two hour block and this one hour block where he won't be available, but he will be otherwise." That makes it a lot better. Rob, I would also suggest that you proactively check in. If you're about to go on a two hour locked in focused deep work block, you may be calling your wife first. Be like, "Hey, what's going on? I'm about to be off the radar for a while." You could deal with a lot of things that have built up right then. And then otherwise just apologize. I apologize all the time. Family members, friends. People are always trying to reach me. It's not even like I'm actively trying to turn off my devices and lock in. My phone doesn't work. I mean, Jesse knows this. I don't know why, but this thing, if it's in whatever vibrate mode, if a call comes in or there's a text message, it's like the gentlest breeze slightly shifted it. You would have to put this right next to the needle of an incredibly sensitive seismograph. They even know that this thing shook. It's crazy. And then when I put it on ring, like, "Okay, so now I really don't want to miss a call." It's like, "Budu, budu." And it kind of goes silent again. There's no way for me to know. And this is true. The only time I ever am able to answer calls or respond in a timely fashion to a text message is if I happen to be holding using the phone. Like text messages, the main reason I respond to text messages is because it also comes up on my computer. So if I'm on my computer, I message will pop up. I never catch one here unless I happen to be holding it. I never catch calls. Not because I'm trying to be all deep and smart and disconnected, but because my phone doesn't work. Now, in fairness, I don't really do a lot to try to fix that. I don't know why it doesn't work. But anyways, I just apologize a lot. That's what I would say to do also, Rob, is do your work and then apologize later if someone gets mad at you. Like I tried to reach you, be like, "You know, sorry, I was working on whatever, but I'm available now." Eventually people adjust. Eventually people adjust. And so there's my immediate reactions. There's a bigger observation here and it's a bigger topic than I can handle right now, but I just want to plant this seed. I book a world without email. I talked about the rise of the hyperactive hive bind in the context of work. So using unstructured back and forth ad hoc messages over email and Slack or Teams or whatever tool as our primary way of doing collaboration, coordination, and the workplace and how this is a real issue because we have to constantly be checky-did. Well, the same thing is happening in people's personal lives. The personal hyperactive hive mind is also an issue. This is where you're just constantly stage managing multiple ongoing conversations, typically over text messages for the younger people, sometimes WhatsApp as well. There's just all these different messages going back and forth, "Well, what about this and how do I arrange this and when you're going to come over here?" And just like with the professional hyperactive hive mind, it's incredibly convenient. If everyone can kind of just answer messages right away, you can just have a lot of plates in the air. You can be doing a lot of arranging of things over here and figuring out what am I going to meet you for lunch and can we do this carpool over here? And what do you think about this? It's all very convenient in the moment, but it creates a tempo of life that is cognitively speaking almost unlivable because it is constant contact shifting and disruption. It's a bifurcated experience of the world where it's constantly what's in front of me and what's on the screen, what's in front of me, what's on the screen, and you can't get away from it. But it's so convenient that once you're in that world, it's hard to get out. And once the people you know are in that world, it will make their life harder if you leave. So there's this issue of the personal hyperactive hive mind that we don't discuss as much. But I think it's just as serious in some cases as the negative impacts of the professional knowledge work hyperactive hive mind. I don't know exactly how to solve it. I mean, I think informal office hours probably goes a long way towards this solution. So imagine there's just sort of set hours every day where you know you're going to be with your phone, you're doing errands and tasks and pushing people towards those informally. You know, not making a big deal about it, but just like, yeah, call me. Yeah, anywhere between one and four, like call me or text or whatever. Let's get into this proactively reaching out to people during that time. That's when you make your calls or text to people like, Hey, there's seven things I want to check in with you on. I think something like that probably helps. So you can still catch up with people and organize things, but not have to have it be all the time. To discuss. So the term to discuss list are probably useful here. Kind of keep track of, okay, next time I talk to Rob, I want to talk to him about this, but also this also this. And then your next informal office hours, you call them or text them. And if he's around, then you have like a bunch of things you get through as opposed to as soon as you have the thought, you immediately send off the text so it gets off your mind. So I think there are solutions. I don't want to give a comprehensive set of solutions right now because I haven't thought a ton about this yet. But I think this is a bigger topic. The personal hyperactive hive mind is having a real, I think negative impact on people's day to day present experience. And it's something we need to think about just as much as we think about what's going on in the workplace. All right, there's a couple of questions. Yeah. Do you have the iMessage pop up when you're doing your writing? Yeah, I don't know how to turn it off. Does that distract you? I just ignore it. So I'm a big Scrivener fan. So if I'm really in sentence crafting mode, I'm in composition mode where it takes up the full screen and I don't think the iMessage pop up. So if I'm taking notes or polling notes, like I have the multi-paint going on Scrivener, then it can pop up, but I just ignore it. I guess I can see it, but no, no, I think I ignore it. The place where it's a problem, because again, I don't know how to use this technology, the places where it's a problem is if I'm doing a phone interview with a reporter. And if my family gets going on some sort of back and forth, it's just like, it doesn't come through. It's not like the reporter can hear it, but it's very hard to concentrate when your phone is basically just shaking constantly as these conversations are going on. I mean, I figured out how to turn it off, but then I forget to turn it back on and a month will go by where I miss all text messages, so I don't know. I don't know. I mean, phones used to ring, right? I used to have cell phones where it's like, ring, like it was loud. You'd hear it across the house. Yeah, mine has trouble. When I put mine on a ring, it doesn't always ring either. Most of the time I have mine, like, doesn't do anything. So then I just have missed calls and I call people back. Yeah, like if you called my phone, do you ever, is your phone nearby? Yeah. You called my phone. Let's do an experiment here. I turned off the silent mode. All right, Jesse's going to call my phone. I'm holding it near the mic. Hear that? You can kind of hear it. Like there's a wind chime across the field. Like I'm holding this right up to the mic. It's silent, right? It's like technically it's making a sound. It's technically making a sound. You would have to be in a dead silent room to even notice that. I would describe that as four houses down, the wind chime is sort of gently, right? All right, Jesse confirms. It's not my fault that I miss all calls. There we go. I'm sure there's just a setting. It's like a volume is turned down somewhere.
Struggling to focus because of a personal crisis (54:47)
All right, well, speaking about calls, let's do a call. All right, sounds good. Hey, Cal. I hope you're doing well. My name is Daniel. I am 29 years old and I am a music business development strategist for a large tech company. I'm a big fan of your work. I've read most of your books and your books actually helped me double my salary earlier this year. That came with me being put into a position that is very much in line with where I want to go in my career and leverages my existing skill set and knowledge base quite well. So thank you very much for that. However, with life being life and loving to throw curveballs about a week after this promotion, I also got the news that my girlfriend had been diagnosed with a very aggressive and fast-moving cancer. We live in a city where it's just turned eye. We don't have any family nearby. So I am in the position of being her full-time caregiver. I did take some time off at the beginning right after the diagnosis to adjust to our new lifestyle. But as she settled more into her chemotherapy routine, I have a bit more time to be able to devote to my work. My bosses have been very understanding with everything, which has been amazing and they've given me the space and time I need to come up with a schedule that works for me. I'm finding it very difficult to even just sit down and think about beginning to get into a deep work state. I understand that I am going through a bit of a stressful time right now and my priorities do have to shift for me to properly navigate this. But these deep work sessions before the cancer diagnosis were very therapeutic for me. I got a lot of gratification and confidence from them and it's a feeling that I feel like I could really use right now in this situation. Trying to find that balancing act between full-time cancer caregiving and deep work probably requires some form of deep work. So any idea or comments that you would have that could help me navigate this stressful period that I'm going through would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for everything, Cal. Big fan of your work. Can't wait to read your next book when it comes out. Well, Daniel, sorry to hear about the news with your girlfriend. My immediate instinct is to pull back, work-wise. Pull back. By pullback, I mean let's officially, temporarily, but let's officially downgrade responsibilities. By downgrade, I mean reduce. Reduce responsibilities. This might be stepping back from the promotion in the form that you got it. However, I would go into that with the mindset of less but better. I think the therapeutic nature of getting lost in some sort of craft, professional craft, I think that's important and you don't want to abandon that. And so doing less but better. So I'm doing less total work. But when I am working, I am the smaller number of things I'm working on. I'm giving it attention when it's time to work and getting the therapy of that, the therapeutic benefit of doing that deeply. I think that would be important. Now you're going to have to structure this work more. You're going to have to have ritual around it more. Your mind is understandably being pulled in a lot of directions. I think there's few things that the human brain is wired to take more seriously than a loved one in distress. So you're probably going to have to lean pretty heavily in the ritual. So it's less work because there's less you can do. But when you do it, you go to a certain location that's just for that type of work and you can set yourself up to get lost into it temporarily. That's what I would do. You can go back to leveraging the career capital and promotions. Look, if you could do that once, you'll be able to do that throughout that career. That means you know how when conditions are right, the lock in and focus and create valuable work and you have a whole career ahead of you in which you're able to do that. But we get back to the fundamental question of like, what's the point of, let's say, work and deep work is like, well, it could be valuable and important part of your life. All right. Well, obviously care for a loved one is also valuable important part of your life. But that's the thing that is valuable in your life. You're putting a lot of energy into now. At another stage, you'll be putting your energy, let's say, back in the work. At another stage, you will be dropping a lot of energy maybe in the raising kids. There's all sorts of different things that come up and down in your life in the course of a deep life that are important and your energy changes accordingly. So that's my instinct is to not just informally pull back from your work, but I think there's a relief in making it formal. I want to temporarily restructure my work. We all agree. We pull back on the money and cut back on what I'm doing, but leave a portfolio of a small number of things that you do really well and you can get lost into, but it's not overwhelming. You have flexibility, you have time affluence. It doesn't take up all your time. It doesn't demand more than your diminished cognitive reservoir has to offer at this particular point. And that's where I put my focus. Other seasons of life will have other focuses. So anyways, I'm sorry for your situation. I think you're doing the right thing. I think going forward with something like I'm talking about, if it sounds right to you, I think might give you that balance of focusing on what matters, living deeply, balancing these different things in a way that gives you the best overall outcome.
What is the potential of AI in productivity optimization? (01:00:17)
All right. Let's see here, we got a written question from Sam. Sam asks, "What is the potential of AI in productivity optimization and how will it work?" Well, my theory on this, my prediction on this, maybe I'd say my optimistic or wistful hope for the role of AI in the future of work is going to be the AI chief of staff. So I've long argued this is the natural terminal point for the intersection of AI with, in particular, knowledge worker office work is being able to implement in software something like a chief of staff role, but for many more positions than we could ever afford to actually have chief of staff. So obviously we think of chief of staff. It's a prominent role in political life. The president of United States famously has a chief of staff. West Wing fans know about Leo McGarry on the West Wing, and they really manage the president's life. Like you never see the president if you watch the West Wing, you never see Martin Sheen's character looking at calendars or going through email or trying to figure out what's I mean, working on the chief of staff comes in. Okay, here's what you're doing next. All right, now we have to go meet with this person. Okay, I need you to read this, read this briefing packet. You're going to need it when we meet with the joint chief of staff later or whatever, right? That idea then made its way into the business world. A lot of it is big in Silicon Valley. A lot of big Silicon Valley CEO and entrepreneur investor types. Higher chief of staffs to help organize these parts of their lives so they could focus more on actually where they add value. You know, there's a little insider, Kelly Port tidbit, but if you look at the back of so good they can't ignore you, my book so good they can't ignore you, I have a blurb from Reed Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn. And it's a big investment fund now is one of the PayPal mafia types from way back when. I have that blurb because my longtime and good friend Ben Castnoka at the time was Reed Hoffman's chief of staff. And that's how Ben got started in the Silicon Valley world. Anyways, AI might make these accessible to individuals. So in this vision, your AI chief of staff entirely implemented in software, it's a software agent helps you actually organize your work day to the extent that you no longer are in email. You're no longer like even really looking at calendars. And is communicating with other AI agents, figuring out what you should be working on, getting you the materials you need, helping to figure out your day so that like the president of the United States, when you come into your office, your AI agent is like, look, I know you're working on whatever, this initiative, this report you're writing, I've gathered resources for you. They're in this folder over here. By the way, there's a couple of meetings we put on your calendar for this afternoon because so-and-so need to meet you. As per the word, they're in there in the calendar, I'll get you the information when we get there. And then in the afternoon, you need to check in on X, Y, and Z later. Don't worry, when we get there, I'll load up the information you need to remind you where we are and tell you where that information needs to go. Oh, at the end of the day, we need to sign these things, you know, or whatever, right? You know what I'm talking about? AI will be able to do that. And it will leave cognitively skilled knowledge workers to spend most of their time actually applying their hardwood skills to adding value to information, like doing the fundamental act, the fundamental act of knowledge work economic value creation. And I think that will be transformative for that economic sector. I think that will increase the output. So the value created per skilled knowledge worker will increase by a factor of two to five. This is going to be so powerful that it might have unexpected negative ramifications. If we become that much more productive, we might actually see reductions in how many people we need to run various knowledge sectors. Anyway, this will be, I think, the future of AI and has productivity. It's not just speculation. I've talked to CEOs of knowledge work, AI companies that talk about this as being the goal, AI agents that talk to other people's AI agents and help organize your work day. So as possible, that AI is going to eliminate this world of hyperactive hive mind, overhead spiraling constant communication collaboration that afflicts us today. The fact that we have to do that all on behalf of ourselves is a perhaps a temporary dark period in the history of this economic sector. And maybe AI will be part of the solution. Before we get there, I will just add, we can solve a lot of these problems even without that technology, just do more structured processes and more intelligent approaches to how we collaborate. This is what my book, A World Without Email, is all about. So we don't have to wait for the AI chiefs of staff to free ourselves from this unproductive overhead. We can start making changes right now, but eventually whether or not we make those changes in our processes, AI, I think, will save us.
Interesting Mail Bag (01:05:47)
All right, Jesse, I have a new segment I want to try. As you know, I maintain an email address, email@example.com, which is just open for people to send me things they think I might find interesting, articles, case studies, stories from their own lives, photos. I can't answer all these emails. I make that clear because I get a lot of them, but I read most of them and it's really a cool source of ideas for articles, et cetera. Well, I thought it would be cool to go back and occasionally pull out a cool few things that people sent and highlight them on the show. So we'll call this the interesting mailbag. The first thing I want to show here, and this is going to be better if you're watching this on YouTube because there's a cool picture involved with this, but I'll try to explain it, is someone sent me a picture of a home office that an anthropologist, an ethnobiologist slash National Geographic explorer and residence named Wade Davis who lives here in Washington, DC. He had a fancy architecture firm build them this over the top home office, which I really enjoyed. So if you're watching at home, you'll see a picture of it now on the screen. What it is is like an oval room. So let me describe this to you. It's like an oval room. There's no windows around the oval. It's a desk that goes all the way around the oval and no windows. White walls lit to kind of glow, and it looks like he has various, I don't know if these are like Native American rugs and pictures and artifacts against these walls. So you're at this completely circular desk all the way around the wall is this blonde wood desk just looking at artifacts on a blank wall. Up above it is a large, I don't know how else to think of this, it's like a little cylindrical tower almost coming out of the top of this room complete circle like a giant chimney and it's a library. It's full of books, five rows of books all around this giant, whatever we want to call it tower coming out of the office. There's a really long ladder that goes from the floor up to these books. These must be 15 feet off the ground. You have to walk up this ladder to get access to these books and you can't really see it in this particular photo. But at the very top of this tower is a giant skylight and that's where all the light comes in to this office is a skylight through a tower of books down into this windowless circular room with a desk going all the way around. So it's really striking. Here's what they said about it. Here's their explanation, their architectural statement about this. While many need light filled rooms for inspiration, the person in question here, Wade Davis, wanted to avoid large window openings onto a residential neighborhood and sought a cave-like atmosphere to disappear into his work. Subtle light was brought in by other means when the architect built a dome above the client's desk, which price describes as similar to the rotunda of the oracles temple at Delphi and they filled it with books that he uses most. The client, Wade Davis whimsically calls the space his Navajo kiva of knowledge. So we were talking about earlier in the show how my wife and I are building this over the top library at our house for among other reasons for me to write in. Here's another example of this philosophy, the aesthetics matters much of functionality when it comes to workspace. It's something we should consider. Obviously, this is a cool example of someone building a really personalized and over the top home office, but I'm sure it's going to help him do the work that he does. Here's one other cool thing that came into the interesting at Cal Newport email address. Let me read the message that the reader sent me. I just wanted to say hi from a listener and reader from Mongolia. You mentioned recently in your podcast the Mongolian version of Deep Work. I wanted to let you know that not only is it popular here, but also your digital minimalism book in Mongolia is a top seller too. I shared in the attached in a screenshot of a popular book account here which recommends your books in the latest post. Again, if you're watching at youtube.com/countingportmedia, I'm showing this image now and you can see what Deep Work and digital minimalism, what their book covers look like in Mongolia. These books do really well, Jesse, internationally. I don't know the right way if you call this language or I'm not quite sure how it works, but you have to sell the foreign rights of your book region by region. We sold the Mongolian rights of Deep Work. We sold the Mongolian rights of digital minimalism. You would sell the Portuguese rights or you would sell the Brazilian rights. I guess it's more, I would say, countries maybe, but sometimes you sell the rights to the UK rights, cover the whole British Commonwealth. It's complicated, it's languages, it's countries, whatever you want to call them. We're now up to 45 different foreign territories. I don't know if I say it's in 45 languages, probably not because some of these countries speak the same language or if it's in 45 countries, maybe it's more than that. The French African rights covers a lot of countries that speak French. All I know is these books, especially Deep Work and especially Digital Minimalism, there's lots of places now over 40 different countries or territories and languages, however you want to say it around the world where these books can be found. They've been very international. Your boy Rory McElroy has got a big golf tournament this weekend. If he wins that, he might be talking about your book. Yeah, he won last week, right? Yeah, this is the big weekend this weekend. Someone sent me, that was another thing in the interesting at calnupro.com address. Someone sent me an interview with Rory. He had bookmarked two places. One part where Rory talked about Digital Minimalism and then another part where he was talking about Deep Work. I didn't realize he was a Deep Work fan as well, but then I looked it up and that interview was from a couple of years ago. I was going to take credit for his victory last week, but it's been a couple of years since Rory's directly mentioned my books. I think it's sunken. He probably talks about it in the locker room. Yeah, I'm sure his caddy is tired of hearing about it. Speaking of people who are stacked, that's also a gentleman. I hope you've seen him recently. He's a small guy just in general, but his arms are... He crushes the ball. He crushes the ball. We could be the ones to innovate that. Tiger Woods brought that to golf. Being strong, it could help in golf before that. It was people out of shape. It was daily, those type of players. I think we need to bring that to podcasting. The incredibly good shape is the key just being notably strong. Maybe Joe Rogan already pushed that. Yeah, Jocko Rogan. Yeah, all right. Andrew Huberman. Yeah, he's jacked. Yeah. He's a professor, even in professor academic podcast where someone talks to the camera, "Okay, that's too late, I guess." Well, Alexander Sarsow, is that the guy's name from last episode? Yeah. You want to be like, "I can't work out on our day and get absolutely done." I got a shout out to Kyle Hunt from Kyle Hunt Fitness. He sent me a note and said, "We'll get you the Sarsgaard status. We can do it for you." Is he in the area? No, I think he was just joking around. Oh. Interesting, and Kyle Neuper.com. All right, let's talk about a couple of ads. Then I have a couple more questions I want to get to.
Cal talks about Zbiotics and Trybasis (01:13:36)
All right, so speaking about health, let's not forget NAD+ supplementation. There should be an important part of any health routine as you age. Basis by Elysium Health is the most trusted source for NAD+ supplementation. Their product basis is clinically proven to increase levels of NAD+ by 40% safely and sustainably. That should be our thing, Jesse. There's already podcasters who are jacked. This will be the people who bring in the necessity of NAD+ supplementation for crushing it and podcasting in your forties, as we're both about to be. All right, so if you are interested in NAD+ supplementation, Elysium is where you need to look. Their basis product is what you need to look at. They product their-- Elysium products target aging at its source. They are unlike any other health company I've seen in the sense that they are at the forefront of NAD+ supplementation. If you look at the scientists involved in this company, it's very impressive. You would think it's like a university science department or something like that. If you don't know about NAD+, here's my non-expert summary. It's found that every single cell of your body, it's responsible for creating energy and regulating hundreds of cell functions, but it is something that declines as you age. Lack of sleep, intense exercise, and unbalanced diet. Sun overexposure, these can also deplete NAD+ levels. The decrease NAD+ levels are linked to faster biological aging. It can slow down vital bodily functions. That's why this basis product is important. It replenishes youthful levels of NAD+ to promote healthy aging, support cellular energy, metabolism, and reduce general tiredness. You can get up to youthful levels of NAD+ up to 40% increases safely and sustainably. Go to trybasis.com/cal and enter the code "cal" at checkout to save 10% off-basis prepaid plans as well as other Elysium health supplements. That's trybasis.com/cal and use the code "cal" at checkout to save 10%. Thank you to Elysium Health for sponsoring this episode. Let's also talk about Zbiotics. Rarely have I been more excited about road testing a potential sponsors product than I was with Zbiotics. Let me explain to you what this is. Zbiotics pre-alcohol probiotic is the world's first genetically engineered probiotic. It was invented by PhD scientists to tackle rough mornings after drinking. Here's how it works. When you drink alcohol, it gets converted into a toxic byproduct in the gut. It's this byproduct, not dehydration. That's the blame for your rough next day. Zbiotics produces an enzyme to break it down. It's designed to work like your liver, but in your gut where you need it most. When you have that night out with your buddies coming up, when you have that wedding looming, I just got back from a wedding myself just a couple of weeks ago. You know, you're going to have some drinks. Might be a bit of a late night, but you still have a full day the next day. You still need to go do your Alexander Sars guard workout. You still need to do your deep work. You got a full day and you're not 21 years old anymore. You're not 24 years old anymore. You can just roll out of bed. That's where you throw some Zbiotics into your routine. You take some, prophylactically, help break down that harmful byproduct the next morning is less rough. I have tried this out. I had explained stoically to my wife. No, no, no. I need, I'm drinking this beer as part of the sponsorship investigation for my podcast. This is a professional justification for what I'm doing here. Which she bought. Though she's confused why I have to test out the sponsorship five days a week for the last six months. But you know, you want to be thorough. Now, but anyways, it's, it, it works. You take this, help make that next morning just a little bit less rough. That's a cool idea. So give Zbiotics a try for yourself. Go to zbiotics.com/cal to get 15% off your first order when you use that code "cal" at checkout. Zbiotics is based, or as backed I should say with 100% money back guarantee. So if you're unsatisfied for any reason, they'll refund your money. No questions asked. I should note that July 4th is right around the corner. So you might want to order a pack of Zbiotics now for you and your friends just to make sure you get it in time in case you plan on really getting after it when it comes to celebrating the birth of the nation. So remember, head to zbiotics.com/cal and use that code "cal" at checkout for 15% off. Science can do anything these days, Jesse. Yep. All right, let's see. Let's do a couple more. Where are we? Ooh. Kind of doing a long one today, but feeling feisty. So let's do a couple other questions. We'll do them quick. We got a question here from Sam.
Can you reduce attention residue? (01:19:06)
By the way, it's a running joke with me and Jesse. He's saying let's do this one quick. Is a complete no op. It has no impact or influence on how long it takes me to answer the next question. I just say it aspirationally. But maybe this time I'll actually do it. All right, Sam asks, "Is there a way to minimize cognitive residue after switching from one time block to another?" I find it wasteful to have a 15 minute blank, supposedly required to get out of cognitive revenue when switching between tasks. I'm wondering whether there's a way to minimize it. I mean, yes and no, Sam. Attention residue is a real thing. If you've been working on this, now you switch to that, it's going to take a little while until you can be completely up to speed on that. The neural configuration that got fired up for the first thing you're doing can't change on time. You have to inhibit networks. You have to amplify other networks. It does take some time. If you're working on non-demanding tasks, then you're basically just powering through that residue. You just sort of understand if you're cleaning out your email inbox or trying to batch together 10 unrelated tasks that you want to get done right after another, you're just going to be functioning at a reduced capacity because you're going to constantly have residue. But if it's not demanding, just be okay. It's going to feel a little bit harder. It's going to be a little bit more frustrating than you might like. That's just the reality of attention residue. Simple things to help with non-demanding tasks batch like tasks together. If you have four scheduling things, do forward scheduling things in a row so you're trying to minimize context shifts. I'll do this with emails. I'm cleaning my inbox. I'll actually make a transcript in my working memory.txt playing text file of the messages that I need to answer. Type out little summaries, a couple words, description of each of these messages I need to answer. I'll move them around in the text file to cluster them together. Like questions are together. Similar emails are together. Then I answer the emails in that order just to try to reduce to some degree the negative impact of that context switching. When it comes to the demanding task, you're working on something deep and you need to move over to something else deep. It's going to take 15 minutes for you to get up and going. One thing I sometimes suggest is when you finish deep project A, immediately get everything set up for the next deep project, load up the files, go to the right software, gather what you need. It's there. Then go and take 10 minutes to go get coffee or go for a walk. Just to give your mind time to clear out what it was doing before so that when you get back to the next deep task, it's not so frustrating. You'll be able to get up and going. It doesn't save you time. It says you're taking a 10 minute break, but I'd rather be clearing my head on a 10 minute walk than I would be trying to work for 10 minutes and find it very frustrating. If that 10 minutes you find it very frustrating, you are way more likely to give up. I'm just not in the mood to do this and start checking emails. That's my tip for dealing with the residue as you switch between one deep endeavor to another. All right, Jesse, let's do one more call before we call it. I think I have one more call in our queue here. We've got a great accent here. Ooh, I love good accents.
Impact Of Cal Newport"S Podcast
Impact of Cal’s podcast on his idea process (01:22:33)
Hi, Cal. It's David here in Overcast, cloudy Falkirk in central Scotland. I was pleased to hear your announcement in episode 197 of your upcoming books on the Deep Life and Slow Productivity. You made the observation that this is the first good deal that you've signed since the Deep Questions podcast began and I'm sure that the regular listeners will be excited to hear your updates as writing progresses. But it sparked the question for me. How has the podcast itself influenced your thinking and therefore your writing choices? Now you're clearly responding to trends and forces that predated 2020 and that were then exacerbated by an explosion of remote work and digital communication and your work has always involved interviewing interesting people and interacting with groups and answering questions when giving talks. But if the medium really is the message, has your thinking been pushed in new directions by immersing yourself in the medium of podcasting? Or do you think that you would have pitched book proposals at this point in time with roughly the same subjects even if you hadn't started the podcast? I'm enjoying the show as ever and I look forward to reading the new books. Well David, it's a good question. I don't really know the answer to that counterfactual. I mean I can give you the conceptual history of the deep life. So that topic, if you trace it back, that actually got introduced on my blog and email newsletter at calnewport.com in the first two months after March of 2020. So early in the pandemic I did a lot of writing. I spent the month where I said I would write every day because I had a lot of extra intellectual energy and it just seemed like something to do. So I was in a hyper-receptive mode and it was actually pretty early on. This might have been March or April of 2020 is where I landed on the concept of the deep life. I was just sensing that in my own life and I was sensing that from the messages I was getting from readers. So there's this big disruption that had occurred and it was causing people to rethink what am I doing with my life, especially for knowledge workers that were home with their kids and working remotely and like what are we doing here? I just felt that energy and I began to explore it for sure in my writing. The podcast started up in May, May 2020 and in the very first episode I was doing questions on the deep life. And I think I broke it up into work technology in the deep life right from the beginning. Those are my initial three categories. So by the time I got to the podcast in May I knew that was going to be a major topic I was going to explore. And so the role the podcast played is it really gave me a way to work with and play with that topic probably at a faster rate than I could do just with writing. I think answering four or five questions a week allowed me to cover a lot more ground than one essay a week, especially when only some weeks would be dedicated to that topic. So I thought about the deep life before the podcast. I would have almost certainly still developed that concept and written about it without the podcast, but the podcast greatly accelerated the rate at which I could explore and push on the nooks and the crannies and find the contours and really start to evolve and figure this out. I think all the feedback I got from listeners questions, what are they asking about? I would give an answer. What would they cue into? Then what would I talk about the next episode? I think a lot of that probably really accelerated the evolution of the concept and probably gave me a richer understanding of that concept than I would have had just writing. So definitely the podcast took what I had long been doing with my email newsletter, which was exploring ideas and getting feedback on ideas at a faster rate than I could just do books. And I think it pushed that even farther. I can explore ideas even more, even get more feedback. I think the same thing happened with slow productivity. I introduced it in a blog post. So I often develop ideas and blog posts, but pretty quickly began talking about it on the podcast. Also, I began talking about it in podcast interviews with other people. I talked about it with Tim Ferriss and among some other interviews I did. That really helped it develop. Then I wrote a New Yorker article about it. That really forced me to really think it through. And so again, I think sometimes that slow productivity is similar deep life. I introduced the idea in my writing. I rapidly developed it in this medium. And then it's coming back into the world of writing where I can ultimately be the most nuanced about it. So yeah, I think the podcast has been useful in my ideation. It did not fundamentally change how that happens, but it definitely changed the rate and magnitude at which I can work through concepts. Also, it's a lot of fun. So anyways, David, I appreciate the question I love the accent too. I won't try that one. I have a great French accent. Everyone agrees. I'm not going to try the Scottish. We will lose all of our Scottish listeners. I'm going to Scotland in August. You going to play golf? Yeah. Yeah, it's awesome. That's a cool trip. I've been there before. Sweet plays. It's a different type of golf, right? Yeah. I've been there really. This would be my fourth time there. So are we going to broadcast deep questions from Scotland? Is that the idea? Yeah, actually, I remember vividly I was on a jog there before around and on the beach. That's when you interviewed your buddy who does a zylomassum. Oh, yeah. I remember that so vividly. Yeah. Srinney. Yeah. Yeah. He was here. He came to the studio. Yeah, it was fun. All right. Well, you've heard it here first. We will be broadcasting from Scotland in extensive Scottish studios. I will be back. I mean, at some point I will be back there. It's in my contract now. I don't know if I mentioned it last time, but the contract I signed with Little Brown in the UK for the new books, the contract includes, "I have to come to the UK." You should go to St. Andrews in town. It's such a cool town. I would like to go. I have a guest bartending job there when I go over there. Who has the best Scott Neil Gaiman, the writer Neil Gaiman? He bought a property on the island of Skye. So it's one of these Scottish islands. It looks like one of his books, like a fairy tale land. And he has a, I don't know if you call it over there, but like rolling hills and a house. And I admire that. Yeah. Yeah. That's a good use of resources. And not like Neil Gaiman is like he's Dan Brown. I mean, it's not like, okay, here's your $50 million a year in earnings. Like he's a more eccentric esoteric brilliant guy. He does comic books and novels and all sorts of different things. I mean, I think he does well. It's like he's rolling in money. I think it's a good strategic investment for him to have a land on the island of Skye. It looks like a place where fairies live. And that's got to be so well suited for the type of work he does. So golf memberships are cheap over there too. So you can get into golf. That's what I'll do. All right. So I'm going to buy an island, an estate on an island in Scotland and play a lot of golf. Sounds good. All right. I'm on it. Until then though, thank you everyone for listening to this episode. If you like what you heard, you will like what you see full episodes and selected clips are on youtube.com/calnewportmedia. We'll be back next week with a new episode of the show and until then, as always, stay deep.