Ep. 202: TikTok Dismisses Facebook, Good vs Deep, and Process-Centric Email | Deep Questions Podcast

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Cal's intro (00:00)

I'm Cal Newport and this is Deep Questions, Episode 202. I'm here in my Deep Work HQ, joined by my producer, Jesse. Jesse, before I forget, I have a unsolicited plug I want to do. A friend of mine and a friend of the show, Steve Magnus, has a new book out. The name might sound familiar. He was on the show in an episode we did a while ago. Him and Brad Stolberg, they do a podcast together called the Growth Equation. They came on my show and we talked about Matt Crawford's book. So if that name sounds familiar, that's probably where you've heard it from. He has a new book out with a title that I think everyone will quickly see why I like this book. It's a very Cal Newport approved title. It is called Do Hard Things. It's a sort of a cool title. Anyways, good book. Steve is a world-class runner and a running coach. He brings an expertise from actually helping people do demonstrably hard things to this question of how do you actually tackle big challenges. He pushes back on a lot of the conventional wisdom of just be tough and show no weakness and just get after it. He has a much more nuanced, sophisticated view of how people get through hard things and accomplish hard things. So check out Steve's newest book. Have you worked out with him before? No. So I'm going to write of a couple of writers' groups of them, but I'm going to write a series group with Steve and there's five of us in the group, three of them are serious runners and they're always talking about, they're serious running. All three of them have run on a semi-regular basis with Gladwell, who's also a very serious runner. Having talked to them about what they do and about their runs with Gladwell, I'm convinced if I was ever invited to go and run with Gladwell, I would be dead. You could take them down the road, though. I had to take them down the road, yeah, more body mass. I could really get that wheel moving. So anyways, yeah, it's like a bunch of really serious like ex-college runners and then me and Brad Stolberg, the meatheads who help them pop if we try to run. Row and clean, crossfit style. Exactly. I'm going to row clean, lift heavy weights. Oh well. Here's the other milestone, Jesse. This is the last time I will be recording this podcast in my 30s. Yeah. Tomorrow is the day when I joined Jesse as an old man in our 40s. Jesse crossed a milestone a month or two ago. And so there we are. So I talk about this on the show sometimes. I always have a set of goals for each birthday that I work on throughout the year. Usually about halfway through the year I start working towards. It's project, whatever year it is, project 38, project 39, project 40. So I'm coming up to that deadline. It's tomorrow, the day after I'm recording this. I think it's gone pretty well. The big issue with my birthday project this year is the advantage of my actual birth date, which is June 23rd, is that as a professor on the semester system, I'm usually done with my semester by early May. And there's this nice long six week period where my kids are largely still in school and I have more free time. And it's really a period where I finalize the things on my goal list for my birthday. That all got this up to this year. A, I had some travel in that period. So that disrupted it to some degree. And then we had COVID go through the family. That disrupted it as well. So I might actually extend, maybe I'll try to extend the deadline a little bit past my birthday because that's my beautiful period, actually good things. But I think it's gone pretty well. I won't go through all of my birthday project goals, but I'm looking at my list here. There are some fitness goals I had including the roller goal we talked about and there are some weightlifting goals. I hit them. I had a big list of sort of boring goals. These were just, if you're going to be a grown up in middle age, there's things I just wanted to get worked out. I'm not boring stuff, but getting our estate and wills figured out, moving over to a financial planner that's going to automate a lot of the finances, hiring someone to just go through and throw out all my old clothes and just buy reasonable adult clothes for me so I don't have to worry about it. There's a whole long list of things like that that I got through. There's some, I can't get into specifics, but some professional disruptions and goals that emerged during this last year that you can't force it. But there are things lurking. There might be some interesting configuration shifts in my professional life that I'm looking forward to. I couldn't get them done by 40. Wheels are in motion. Things are complicated. Can't force it. But I'm pretty happy I would say Jesse. I'm pretty happy with hitting my goals or getting close to the goals I had for turning 40. Made some big changes, some big changes are coming. I don't want to give away my professional goals. I'll just say it has something to do with professional HVAC installation. What's the matter with your current wardrobe? I just had random clothes that didn't fit well. I can't deal with that. I don't have any skill or interest, but I'm more and more among camera and on stages and cameras and TV and video podcast. I have to do publicity tours and stuff like this. I realize I should probably wear clothes that fit or this or that. I just hired a guy. How's that gone? Anyone fine? Yeah. He flew out and he goes out and sets up the dressing rooms ahead of time today before. Then you just show up and it's just like all of these clinics go through it. Do this, not this, not this, do this. The whole day was like an eight hour day. Eight hour day. Oh yeah. I'm talking we're going from scratch here. Short jeans, t-shirts, formal shirts, a new suit. Flip flops. Basically. Before new pairs of shoes. I was like, whatever you need to do, I don't want to think about it. Just make it happen. Did you talk to this guy about any of his other clients? I did. What's that interesting one? He does. Well, he specializes in men, which is more rare. Most of this, if you look at stylist, quote unquote, who work with men, 98% of that is corporate stuff. 98% of if you find like I am a stylist that works with men, it is okay, you just got promoted to CTO of your large beltway band bandit, whatever company. You have to wear the right suits and the right shirts and they're busy. I don't want to think about it. I'm going to these clients. We're trying to sign these big deals and I'm going overseas to sign a deal with a German whatever manufacturer. That's what most male stylist are is we will get you the right haircut and suit and tie. You don't have to worry about that. This guy is one of the few that deals with not just that. I talked to honestly, like a lot of his clients are tech bros. Yeah. Yeah. Who like emerged from, I don't know what this says about me, but they emerged from the basement. They've been just coding their whole life and they've exited their company and they're decking millionaires and they're like, I should probably dress like a grown up and I want to talk to girls basically or some of that. Then also he said some of their clients are just, again, people, they worked hard careers. They're going through a transition later in life. They're downgrading their careers or whatever. They're like, you know what, I never really thought about my clothes. I just wore them the same business casual. There's probably a lot of midlife crises to see stuff in there too. Yeah. I guess I fit right in. Honestly, I don't care much. I just need to, if I go on camera, I want to look reasonable. If I go on stage or in a documentary or around one of the people, I do a little more TV now, this type of stuff. I was like, I don't know how to do this, but I should have a blazer that fits that's interesting with a shirt, whatever. Whatever folks. You got it done. I got it done. Check it off. Checklist. Checklist. All right. Well, we got a good show. 20 minute fashion segment where I'm just going to come through the HQ and show off like different t-shirts I bought. By the way, hey, the one thing we did not replace and I did not need anyone to help me with this is the podcast shirt. This shirt is only used for the podcast because it's just the color is just right for the backdrop and you don't notice the shadow of the microphone on it. This shirt is only used for that purpose is my podcast shirt that I needed no help with. Did you show them that shirt? I showed them the podcast. You approved? Yeah. You approved? I wore the podcast shirt on. I did a Netflix show on the podcast shirt as well. So the podcast shirt has been on Netflix and on here. I may have wore it to do Charlemagne the God show on Comedy Central. So it's been on Comedy Central. Get your money's worth. Yeah, I'm getting my money's worth. It's funny when I do the thumbnails for your YouTube channel. I'm always taking screenshots and you always have the same shirt. I'm telling you man, you think it'd be easy, but when you have a black backdrop and the type of lighting we have, I don't know. We've tried different shirts. It doesn't work. It works. I don't know. Secrets. It's like Lex. Same suit. Yeah. It's the Lex move. All right. Well, we have a good show. Enough of that nonsense. We got written questions. We got calls. I have a habit to tune up. I want to do a little later.

Discussion On Phd, Self Development

Cal Reacts to the News: TikTok Dismisses Facebook (10:32)

But first I want to do a quick news reaction because it's a, I find this article to be a confirmation of something I've been talking about on the show, something that I have been predicting. And now we see experts who are confirming what I've been talking about. So here's the article. This came to me in my interesting account, newfort.com email address. It's from June 16th. So, so week or two ago. And it's TikTok. And executive from TikTok that is to some degree dunking on Facebook. And I want to get into details what they're saying here. And if you're watching this on YouTube, you'll be able to see the article. If you're listening, I'll tell you what, I'll tell you what's on the screen. All right. So they're quoting in this article, a executive from TikTok, the president of Global Business Solutions. And he's making a clear distinction between TikTok and Facebook that I have made before. So this executive named Blake Chanley says, Facebook is a social platform. They've built all their algorithms based on the social graph. That is their core competency. Ours is not. All right. He goes on to clarify what is TikTok. We are an entertainment platform. The difference is significant. It's a massive difference. Now, this is something I've talked about multiple times before on this show. This idea that TikTok and its popularity actually represents an important transition in the landscape of these attention economy apps. And I actually think it is a positive transition. So it's easy instinctually if you're a social media skeptic to look at TikTok and everyone looking at this and the 600 million users and be like, oh, man, we're going down the same road. But I actually think it's positive. And this is why. What this executive is saying? TikTok is not playing the same game as Facebook. It is not a social company. Their revenue stream is not based off of monetizing a social graph. It provides entertainment straight to the brainstem entertainment. If you are bored, if you are trying to escape a moment of existential despair, whatever the circumstance that wants you to get out of your current moment, you pull up TikTok's app, it's these short videos, algorithmically optimized and selected, boom, boom, boom, one after another, they hit these buttons in your brainstem, slack jaw, drool coming out of the side of your mouth, just locked in, distracted. They are just optimizing, interacting, entertainment. No attempt to say, here's what your friend is up to. Here's an article that was shared by your cousin. Forget all that just straight to the brainstem entertainment. What the executive is saying is that Facebook, that's not what they were, but they're trying to do this. This is the premise of this article is that Facebook is trying to, as I previewed, they were, increasingly shift over towards this TikTok model. Let me just put a quote here from the article. "Facebook plans to modify its primary feed to look more like TikTok by recommending more content regardless of whether it's shared by friends." Of course, why are they doing this is because they are struggling. Here's the numbers from the article. The parent company of Facebook, Metas, Stock Price is down 52% this year underperforming the NASDAQ, which only dropped 32%. In April, they said revenue in the second quarter could drop from a year earlier. That'd be the first time that's ever happened. Facebook is struggling. They see TikTok being successful. Let's be more like TikTok. I think, as I've said before, that is the beginning of the end for the social media platform monopolies. The one thing, 2010 Facebook, when it was really starting to get humming, the one thing it had going for it was network effects. The people you know are on here. If the primary use of this network is to connect with and see what people you know are up to, you have to come to our network and no one can compete with us because no one is going to be able to get everyone you know onto their network. That is very hard. Once we've locked in with our first mover advantage, your cousin, your roommate, your brother, your sister, they're all on here, we have this first mover advantage, you have to use our network because that's where the people you know are. As soon as you move out of the game of connecting the people you know, facilitating the sharing of information between people who already know each other, once you move out of that game and move to the alternative game of brainstem manipulation, peer distraction, maximizing time on screen, we are the thing you want to look at when you're trying to escape the current moment, you lose that advantage. It no longer matters that my cousin, my roommates, my brother, my sister are on your platform. If all I'm doing on that, as it says right here in this article is seeing content recommended by an algorithm that has nothing to do with what's going on with my friends. So yes, maybe in the short term it'll help Facebook stave off some of its numbers drop because it'll get more time on screen. But as I've said before and I want to emphasize again the biggest conclusion of this shift among these players is that you are now in a competitive pool where you don't have the powerful network effects of people I specifically know need to be on there and you are competing with anyone else who's trying to provide entertainment and distraction. That is a very competitive pool and it is a pool in which I think it is going to be impossible for any one company to dominate in the way that let's say a Facebook or an Instagram or a Twitter dominated our attention five, six years ago. If you are just an app on my phone that can distract me, that app is next to my podcast player. That app is next to YouTube videos. That app is next to video streamers investing billions of dollars in high-end entertainment that can come at me and be like any unlike anything else that we have seen before. Two hundred million dollar episodic series is competing with that. It's competing with video games. It's competing with books and audio books. It's competing with other activities you might do in the analog world. That is a much more competitive space and I think once you're in that pool where all we're offering is distraction entertainment, all we're trying to do is to get eyes on screen. Necessarily, people's digital interactions are going to fragment and go more niche. There is no reason for there to be a dominant player. TikTok is having a moment but there's no reason for it to have to be something that everyone uses. Most people don't. It's popular but there's no big issue if you don't. In a world of just distraction, people are going to fragment or segment towards distractions that they like in particular. You're really into a certain type of sports. While you're listening to that type of sports radio and podcast by athletes in that sports. Maybe you're a political conservative and you're over in the Ben Shapiro ecosystem which has its own videos and its own shows all about stuff that you're interested in. Maybe you're a board game enthusiast. There's a place for that. Maybe you're a Cal Newport type. You're interested in deep life and getting away from the more distracted living. We have my videos, my podcast, my books. It necessarily fragments once you no longer have the binding glue of the activity you're doing requires people you know to be here. I've been saying this this article confirms it. Here it is. The head of TikTok saying, not the head, but an executive at TikTok saying Facebook is trying to become more like us because they want their views to go up. But good luck. And I think he's right. You know, good luck. If you try to become an entertainment company, you compete with everyone else. So I see that as positive. I like TikTok. Not actually using it, but I like what it's doing. TikTok is causing these other platforms that so had us captured and had such a capture on our culture is causing them to accidentally knock the legs out of their own proverbial table that get a short term gain at the in exchange for their long term downfall, which I think is good. Social media universalism when there is three platforms everyone had to use. I think we've seen for now it was bad for our civic culture. It was bad for our mental health. It was bad for our ability to do anything else. I don't like that moment where we all had to use three platforms. Too much control too much power too much negative externalities. So this is good beginning of the end for that era of monopolies. So we shall see. You know what they said in this article, Jesse, I thought it was a good analogy. They said Facebook, TikTok was saying Facebook will never succeed at being TikTok because you can't shift core competencies. And the analogy they gave is when Google tried to compete with Facebook. So remember Google plus vaguely now they say that. They put Google spent millions and millions. This was during Facebook's rise. Like we want to do that. They spent all this money and they had a huge advantage too. Google had a huge advantage of we can just make Google plus native to all of these Google apps that everyone's already using Gmail, the calendars and they did. And it still failed. And the reason why it failed is because Facebook had been built from the ground up to be a social graph company and they just did it really well. Google had not and they could never get over there. And so in this article, the TikTok executive is saying good luck. You're going to be the Google plus of these short videos. We know how to do it. Our whole company is built around it. You don't. It'll never be as good. You're not going to peel people off. But I like the fact that they're going to batter up their ship against the shore here trying to do it because man, we need to get past this moment of two platforms. Did you listen to Zuckerberg interviews with your buddy Lex and Tim? Yes. I listened to the Lex one. He's on Tim too. Yeah. I think whichever one came out first, I listened to the Lex one. Lex came out first. It's a problem with doing a tour like this for someone like that. And then I was thinking, I don't know if I need to listen to. It's like a book tour. Yeah, I don't need to listen to him again on another show that I'm sure Tim's interview was good as well. Yeah. Yeah, it's interesting. It won't be on your show soon. See, I am not of this school of thought, this like Zuckerberg. I think I'm I'm with Lex on this. Zuckerberg is not the devil. You know, and I don't like the narratives though. I've been a big opponent of some of these services. It's not because I think they're nefarious, right? I don't think Zuckerberg is the devil. I think it's too simplistic when we have to try to contrive these plot lines of like they're purposefully ignoring all this harm they're doing because they're so evil or this or that. I don't think that's the case. I think social media universalism, once I can't blame them, I mean, hey, if everyone's using this, we want to grow as big as possible. I just think it was bad for our culture this moment of universalism where everyone felt like they had to use the platforms. I think that is a problem. I think if you have a platform everyone is using, there's nothing you can do that's going to prevent that from probably having lots of negative externalities. I don't think a lot of those are planned. I mean, I think Facebook, they try to solve these problems. They spend a lot of money on it. Like, well, do anything you say we should do. It's a losing battle because if you have 600 million daily active users from all sorts of walks of life all over the world, it's like an impossible challenge to make that into some sort of interesting, the only solution that is segmentation. No problem having small groups of people figuring out how they want to interact, what their standards are, what their norms, that works out fine. 600 million people, it's not natural. Yeah. Do you think he was a work for the rest of his life? I don't know. Don't bet against him long term. All I say is he's one of the only CEOs from that second internet boom period who's still CEO. He's young. Yeah. I mean, you got to be a bit of a killer. Yeah. Right. They'll be running that company at 22. How do you survive that? With the investor pressure to stay in charge? I mean, he's got to be a ruthless guy. That is a hard, game of thrones style challenge. The Google guys didn't last. The Instagram guys didn't last. The Twitter founders didn't last. Dorsey was out of there. It's very difficult. The running company, start a company in your young 20s, have it become a $500 billion company and still be the CEO. That means you're cracking skulls and stabbing people in the ribs as they're like in the back room of the castle throne room. That's not just you're a nice guy working hard. I think you have a business, there's some sort of business instinct there. That's very difficult to do. Steve Jobs got kicked out. No one makes it. Gates is the only the person I can think of. Bill Gates is the only person I can think, well, maybe Larry Allison. There's other examples, but Gates is who comes to mind. Gates started Microsoft as a kid. Almost identical situation is Zuckerberg dropping out of Harvard after his sophomore year. It's exactly the same as Zuckerberg. He held on to that company until he was ready to leave 30 years later. Gates and Zuckerberg, Zuckerberg is Gatesian. Yeah, Bezos was older when he was youngish, but he was at D.E. Shaw analyzing the industry and was trying to figure out, how do we make a play for e-commerce and the internet? He had no connection to books other than he just. D.E. Shaw is this weird, cool, quantitative investment fund. They give people free reign and they hire only the smartest people. He was very systematically, how do we make e-commerce a thing? He worked all the numbers. It was like books. Books the way it works and the warehouses and the shipping, we can make books work. But you're right. Bezos was another example of he held on. It goes along with Mark and him working all the time. It's what you're talking about when you answered that question in an earlier episode about people always wanting to work and be doing stuff. It's kind of like that. Yeah, they're driven guys. Zuckerberg does all these challenges, the personal challenges. I'm going to learn a language or master this skill or only naughty meat for a year. It's like on top of his work, he's constantly giving himself other types of personal challenges. That's rare. Again, the stay in charge of a company like that to have the extra energy to do what you do. I don't think Facebook is long for this world. What can you do? They rode that moment as well as you could. They did not successfully evolve beyond that. I think Google was better at that. Amazon was better at that. They evolved very aggressively. I think Facebook doubled down on just being a social media platform monopoly. We want to do that well. I don't know how long that will last. Speaking of good companies, let me tell you about a couple of sponsors before we get into the meat of our questions.

Cal talks about Blinkist and Eightsleep (25:42)

First sponsor is a long time friend of the show, Blinkist. As I like to say, ideas are power. Ideas are the major currency in our current world. The best source of ideas is books. Where else can you get an encapsulation of someone spending years and years thinking about something really hard and capturing as carefully as possible all of their thoughts on this? You can then consume it a week. Books are the best place to get the best post-new ones. Ideas, the problem is books take a while to read. How do you figure out which books to read? You use Blinkist. Blinkist has 15 minute summaries, which you can either read or listen to, of over 5,000 nonfiction titles spreading over 27 categories, including recent best sellers. This allows you to very quickly take a book you're interested in, get the main ideas, and either say that's all I need to know. I know how to talk about this, or this sounds fascinating. Let me buy it. It is your filtering mechanism, figuring out which books to buy. It is a technique for quickly mastering a broad category of ideas. If you are serious about the idea game, Blinkist is a tool that you need to have. Whether you're trying to break down a book like the blockchain revolution or figuring out what you've all Harari's homodios is really about Blinkist. Let's get into it. Let's figure it out. Figure out what we need to do next. Right now, Blinkist has a special offer just for our audience. Go to Blinkist.com/deep to start your free seven day trial and get 25% off a Blinkist premium membership. That's Blinkist spelled BL-I-N-K-I-S-T. Blinkist.com/deep to get 25% off and a seven day free trial. Blinkist.com/deep. Let me tell you about another sponsor, Jesse. This was a company that I did not know this technology existed. This is one of these situations where you imagine you wish this technology existed. You assume it doesn't and then you find out that a company has done it. That is exactly what happened when I first encountered eight sleep. Good sleep is the ultimate game changer. One of the issues that people have with sleep is temperature. More than 30% of Americans circle with sleep and temperature is one of the main reasons for this. I, for example, sleep hot. I need things cool to sleep. I have a hard time sleeping when it is hot. Ever since I was a kid, I would have a fan just blasting straight on me. Sleep temperature is important to me. That is why I was excited when I got the box arrived at my house with my own eight sleep pod cover. It is the most advanced solution on the market for thermoregulation. It pairs dynamic cooling and heating with biometric tracking. You can add the cover to any mattress and start sleeping as cool as 55 degrees or if you are a weird masochist as hot as 110 degrees Fahrenheit. You can do each side of the bed differently. You put this cover on and then you have this mechanism next to your bed and there is these tubing that goes to the bed and it makes the temperature go up and down. Clinical technology, I had never slept on a cool mattress before and I loved it. I am not the only one. Clinical data shows that eight sleep users experience up to 19 percent increase in recovery, a 32 percent improvement in sleep quality and a 34 percent more deep sleep. Jesse, we need some sort of eight sleep technology for the podcast studio. Like a cool podcast. You know, I run hot. Jesse thinks that I keep this place like an ice box. They all do. All the studios keep it cold for when people talk. I always have to wear a long sleeve. I was doing a podcast once with a sports announcer. I guess would be the right word. I was telling her about like, yeah, my eye over heat and she's like, you know what they do for college football because a lot of these college football games, they broadcast outside and games, if you're in Ohio in September, it can be really hot. She said some of these guys, because they have to wear the suits look nice on camera, but it's hot outside. Like how do you do that? Because I overheat, I could imagine being this real issue. She said they have these air conditioner vents that blast up their suit. And that's what allows them when it's, you know, 96 degrees and they're, you know, trying to cover the Gators game down in Miami or something like that. They have air conditioners like coming out up their suits. They can be doing the outside broadcast. So all I'm saying is you need eight sleep for the HQ. So I could just like wrap one around my shoulder secret. Not that I go on the versions here, but I like collecting other stories of people who overheat so I don't feel alone. I heard Rob Lowe talking about this as he got more clout in his career. He's learned a lot of times you're filming shows. They're filming them outdoors in LA in the Valley and it's super hot and like you're dressed for winter because they're doing, you know, La Brea as stand in for some Christmas time in Vermont or something like that. He now demands and I appreciate this. It's basically an air condition phone booth that's right there. So in between takes, he goes and stands, he can stand in like an air condition box and just come out to do his take so that he's not overheating to standing out there in the sun all day. I love that. I want one of those for my classroom at Georgetown. Some of the rooms don't have good air conditioning and like September man is brutal in there. I want an air condition booth. I can just go and stand in and just sort of shine through on through the onto my slides with the later pointer blanket right in there. The eight sleep blanket, which what I'm trying to say here and bring this all together. Go to eight sleep.com/deep to redeem exclusive 4th of July savings and start sleeping cool this summer. Eight sleep currently ships within the US, Canada and the UK as well as select countries in the EU and Australia. That's eight sleep.com/deep. If you were like me or Rob Lowe or the announcers for college football, you need something to help you from a regulate eight sleep was made for us. All right, just let's do some questions.

Should I get a PhD in my 50’s? (32:13)

We're kind of a long one here. This one comes from Steve. Steve says in the 90s, I had a plan to get my PhD in exercise physiology to teach and dive deep into human performance testing research. Unfortunately, I allowed my significant other at the time to convince me otherwise, which led me down a path of ever changing careers, always taking different jobs to maintain some sort of financial security. At the age of 53, and after listening to most of your deep questions episodes, I now have the confidence and motivation to go back to school to achieve my previously stated goals. However, after doing the math, I would be 60 by the time I graduate with a PhD, which would leave me maybe 10 to 15 years to work before retiring. One alternative is to start a small human performance testing lab as a side gig, slowly building up a strong client base while maintaining my day job as an office manager for a major Southern California university. All right. So that's the question. At the age of 53, do you go get your PhD because you have this idea for some sort of performance testing lab vision that you could run? Well, Steve, regardless of your age, my graduate school advice applies here. My graduate school advice says never start a graduate program unless you have clear evidence that the specific degree you're going to get at the specific school that you're going to get it is needed to unlock a specific step in your career that is appealing to you. You've gotten to a point where you say, I see this thing I want to do. This is why I want to do that. But if I can get this degree here, I can do it otherwise I can't. I am not a big believer in get the degree to see what options it opens up. Now you have a bit of an idea about what you want to do with this PFC, but I think it is too vague to qualify. I mean, just based off of your question wording, so I'm extrapolate here, but just based off your question wording, you have this idea that there's some startup with a human performance testing lab that could be interesting. That is super vague. I would not spend six or seven years getting a PhD with the idea that maybe that will help me do this thing, this kind of vague. I think your side hustle exploration approach is probably the right one here. So keeping your good job, starting to explore what would this mean? What do you even mean by human performance testing lab? What are the real opportunities here? What are the real demands here? And there's two things you'd want to capture from this experimentation on your side. One, using money as a neutral indicator of value. Can you actually get clients? Can you actually get people to give you money for something along these lines? That's a great indicator about whether or not the idea has value or not. One will tell you your idea is good, but they will only give you money if it actually is. Two, it allows you to actually explore the contours of this new territory. What exactly do you mean by human performance testing lab? You probably aren't quite sure. What is the market opportunity here? Is it consulting? Is it content? Is it working with other companies? Do you need to figure that all out before you go get a degree for seven years? I want you to be at the point where you say, we're rocking and rolling and I'm being held back, just being held back by not having this degree. I could just see if I had it, I could do this. I'm so close, but I can't do this because I don't know how to do this. I want you to be at that point before you pull the trigger on any sort of higher education. Start exploring, Steve, and don't get that PhD until you have to have it. What would be outside of your own? What would be a good example of that getting a PhD? Clearly elevating your career. It's a good question because PhDs are very specific. Obviously, academic, if you want to be a professor, then you're going to need a PhD. We have a question about this coming up. If you're going to be a professor, you do need a PhD, but that's where the second part of this is this degree from this program is what I need becomes important. If you say, I would love to be an MIT professor, so I'm just going to go get a PhD. It's like, well, wait a second. You better be getting a PhD from a top two program or it's not going to be the right thing. I have this issue also with a lot of military and recent vets that I talked to who are using their GI Bill. I think there's a lot of predatory online degrees where they come in like, "Hey, get your online MBA and we'll suck out your GI Bill benefits for it." It's convenient and you do it on the side. It turns out that the employers down the road say, "I don't know what this online MBA is," and he just wasted your money. The specific degree matters. There's other fields that have specific PhD requirements. I'm going to go and bio-med research, working for a drug company. You want to be on, I have a colleague whose wife works on respiratory virus vaccines at Moderna. We always tell him, "Your job for the rest of our culture is to make sure your wife is completely unburdened because we need her working on that. You can help the culture." If you want a job like that, it's not an academic job, but you need a PhD for that. Be very careful about PhDs. It's the way I think about it. In computer science, this is shifted, but the traditional thinking in computer science, for example, is if you're just looking at going to industry and making salary. Getting a master's degree, especially if you do a five-year program where you start your master's classes as an undergrad and just add an extra year. You do five years and you get an undergrad and a master's degree. From a pure economic perspective, it's probably worth it because with the master's degree, your starting salary is up here, with the undergrad, it's down here. In the time it takes you to get that master's degree, you couldn't catch up. You do start out ahead. The math often, or at least it didn't back in my day, work out for getting a PhD and going to industry. You're going to get in five years to get a PhD and then you go to work at Google. You're going to get paid more. Your starting salary will be more than someone coming in with a master's degree, but it took you five more years. In those five more years, the person who started with the master's degree has been promoted enough that they're making a lot more than you are coming in. You actually have to account for the time it takes to get the degree. That was always the conventional wisdom. There is one exception right now that's AI and machine learning. If you are able to get a PhD from a real star in the field in a relevant artificial intelligence topic, where you are moving the avant garde of the field forward type research, like I'm moving forward what's possible with deep learning. I'm working with Greg Hinton in Toronto and we're innovating the field. Some of those PhD students are getting close to or exceeding seven figure salary offers. In some fields like AI where actually being able to produce original research is going to be a huge competitive advantage, then a PhD might be different. If you're going to go into a development job or an executive job, then in computer science, it's not really worth getting a PhD. Just be wary about it. Just go in with your eyes open. You need evidence. This is the type of thing I want to do. I know for a fact it requires a PhD to do it. I know for a fact the quality and competitiveness of the program I'm going to go to will satisfy what's necessary there. You just want clarity. Never use graduate degrees as a delaying function, as a generic option opening function. No, it should be very specific. It should be solving a very specific goal. All right. Another question here.

Do I need two shutdowns if I work on my side hustle in the evening? (40:14)

This one comes from Chad. We've talked about this one a lot. I'm going to go fast here. Chad says, "Do you have two shutdowns if you split your day job and your side hustle with family time in the middle?" No, you have a real shutdown after the first block of work. You close all the open loops and you set up the work you're going to do during your second shift, your side hustle work you're going to do in the evening. You get that already. Then you do a full shutdown, schedule shutdown complete, do the checkbox and then time block planner. Then when you get to your second shift, you know what you're doing. You turn on, you do it, you finish, you turn off. The only nuance I want to add to this, Chad, the reason why I'm going back to this question is I was talking about this issue. I was on someone else's podcast yesterday, a recorded interview. We were talking about this and there's a wrinkle that came up that I want to add here, which is if you're doing this two shift style work, if you create new open loops in the second shift, it's a problem and you're going to need another full shutdown. For example, if you're working on your side hustle in the evening and you're doing emails and looking at an inbox and making plans, you could create a lot more open loops that are going to require a new shutdown. What I recommend for people who are mainly working on their day job during the day and doing work on a side hustle in the evening, like the Steve's performance testing lab or you're right on a novel or something like that, is any open loop generating activity, so email, scheduling, et cetera, do that during the daytime. Purify what you do during the evening second shift just to be the pure, putting the mental metal to the grindstone. I'm writing, I'm coding, I'm producing. Make that more focused. Any type of open loop generating interaction, do during your day job so that when you do your shutdown at the end of the day, it also is closing down your second side hustle job. You're looking at your plan for the rest of the week. What am I doing tonight? That's okay. Do I have any emails? I need the answer so that when you do evening work, if you can keep the evening work, just pure work without the interaction, open loops, it's going to be a lot better. So you only need one shutdown, but that's the caveat I'll give you, Chad. Don't create new open loops in the second shift. For new listeners, you don't do shutdowns on the weekends, right? No, now you shut down hard at the end of the week. Here's where I'm going to pick up again on Monday and you don't have to worry about that type of thing during the weekend. If you do weekend work, like I often write on Sunday mornings, it's purified. I'm not looking at email. I'm not on my calendar. I'm not generating new open loops. It's, you know, I'm at Bebco. Here's my calendar. I'm not my calendar. Here's my scrivener. Here's my writing and you just purify it. I'm speaking in Bebco, by the way, the coffee shop down the road. Because we have workmen in our house this whole week because they're working on the study, which is looking awesome, by the way. I'm at Bebco every day. It's too much. I think they're worried about me. I'm eating breakfast and writing at Bebco every single day this week so far. Oh. That's good. I guess it's good. I worry I'm there too much. There's a lot of different places to sit in there. You probably sit inside, outside. I sit inside. All the time? Yeah. I sit in because the inside is not as, I mean, it gets kind of crowded. I don't know. People are pretty COVID-y around here. So like the outside's all crammed, you know. So it's a little bit quieter in the inside. But every day it feels like a lot. But you know, it's just our house is full of people. We have three unrelated teams. It's just so many people in our house. Some of these coffee shops have monthly memberships you can buy. Yeah. Bebco had one of those. You could get in on that. I would say, and I would conservatively estimate my monthly spending at Bebco and this is just ballpark is $17,000 a month. It's conservatively. If I had the guess. I think in the business plan, there's like a pie chart and like two thirds of the pie chart is just labeled with a picture of me. Like it's at the core. It's at the core of their business plan. But I need a place to go and it's nearby and I know everyone there and you can refill your coffee in as good. All right. Let's do a call.

Good life vs. Deep life (44:32)

I think we have a good call here. All right. Sounds good. This is about the good life versus the deep life. Could you elaborate more on the differences between the good life versus the deep life? In episode 200, you touched on it saying that the good life is virtuous, ethical and meaningful. While the deep life is notable and remarkable, particularly interested in the notion that the latter is a subset of the former. Thanks so much. Yeah, it's a good question. The distinction is not absolute. So I often get letters about this. But the last thing you said is a useful way, I think, of comparing to contrasting the good life versus the deep life is this idea that the deep life is a subset of the possibilities for a good life. And so just to take another swing at defining these distinctions, when I'm thinking about the good life, I'm thinking Aristotle, I'm thinking Eutomonia, I'm thinking the attempts and antiquity to try to understand human flourishing. And usually these concepts had something to do. Obviously virtue was a big part of it. Living life. Virtuously, Aristotle cared a lot about, I guess you could call it temperance or moderation. So in the Nicomachean Ethics, he often talks about on many of these character traits, there's extremes and where you want to be is in the middle. So you don't want to be incredibly stingy, but you also don't want to be debt piling, spending freely. You want to be somewhere in the middle. So there's some notion of temperance or moderation that came up in these notions. And then some notion of flourishing, eutomonic flourishing, which is taking the talents or abilities you have and pushing them to actually see them, their potential expressed in the world. You're athletic, you want to harness that skill and, I don't push your athletic abilities to a limit. You have a sharp mind, you want to actually take ideas and produce things of value. So those are the elements of the good life and the sort of the ancient Greek definition of it. The deep life is a good life, but it has other components to it. So there's good lives that don't have these components to it. So it's like a, it's a, it's a, it's a good life where you also have this other component of remarkability. So like we can think about the deep life when we want to use this framework as a good life that is augmented with some notion of remarkability. It's notable. People look at it and say, that's really interesting. That is not someone who is going to go to their deathbed and say, man, I wasted this time. It is a remarkable life in the literal sense of the people remark. Like that's very interesting. And the core of doing that, at least provisionally, I argue that the core of doing that is radical shifts to align to your value. So a deep life is a good life where you also make some sort of radical shift to the way your life actually unfolds, where you live, what type of work you do, your commitment to community, your commitment to theology, your philosophy, there's some aspects of your life that you have pushed radically towards fulfilling something that you're really values. There's something in that radicality and pursuit of your values that makes a good life, not just good, but also deep. That's why we're attracted to not just presence, but the monks, and we read the seven-story mountain and going to the monastery. It's a radical alignment and pursuit of this thing that really matters. That's why we get attracted to the person who leaves the stressful soul-deddening job, and they have the craftsman workshop that they're in. It's a radical move to align their values, moving to the small town and a meshing yourself with the community and living a simpler life. Barbara King-Solver, an animal vegetable miracle, saying we're going to move to a farm for a year and only eat what we can grow ourselves or buy from nearby. That type of thing resonates because it's a radical shift in pursuit of what you value. So a deep life is not necessary to have a good life. It's just a particular approach, but it's an approach that right now in our current moment, I think, has a lot of momentum behind it. This was one of the impacts of the pandemic was people being very reflective of their lives, realizing they have a lot more agency than they before realized, realizing that you can make major shifts, and life still goes on, that it's possible. And starting to care about what do I really care about? So I think the post-pandemic moment is one in which this particular configuration of the good life, one that's built around radical shifts, is one that is catching more and more attention and is having this moment. So that's why I'm thinking about it, and that's why in theory I'll be writing a book about it at some point in the next couple of years. So there we go. That's my second attempt to differentiate the good life from the deep life.

Habit Tune-up: Process-Centric Email (49:46)

All right. Well, why don't we get technical? We haven't done a good old-fashioned habit tune up in a while. For those who don't remember, the habit tune up segment is one where I take a piece of advice that I have given before, and we just get into the weeds a little bit. So let's get into the weeds, get a little bit technical about some specific productivity advice. I have an email related habit to talk about in today's segment. It's an idea that I first introduced in my book Deep Work, where I gave it the incredibly compelling and sexy name of process-centric email. So what is process-centric email? Let me step back first. My preamble to getting to the tactic here is pushing for a little bit more clarity on the question of what is it about email that we dislike. This is something I think a lot of people get wrong. I get a lot of messages from people that say, "Yeah, I love this idea of digital minimalism because I hate how when I go into my email inbox, there's all of these newsletters." And I'm going to simplify and unsubscribe from a lot of newsletters. All right. That's fine if you want to do it. Too many newsletters is not your problem with email. Other people say, "Yeah, I have all of these announcements and notices and promotional emails from every company that I've ever bought something for. My employer sends out 17 announcements a day, new parking things, new programs. All these announcements and emails, they clutter up my inbox. Yeah, it's annoying. It's not the problem with email. Some people say, "Yeah, everyone is always shooting me these questions. Hey, what time is that meeting tomorrow? What about this?" And that's annoying. Can't we just talk next time we see each other? That short questions that can be answered, you know, two o'clock. The client's name is this. Here's the link. That's also not the problem with email. If all of email was a combination of newsletters, announcements of promotions, and short questions that could be answered, we would have no problem with our inboxes. It really doesn't stress us out that much to see too many newsletters. You can just archive. It doesn't stress us out that much to see too many promotional announcements. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, right? Just delete and archive them. It's actually kind of fulfilling. It's easy to do. It feels like you're making progress. We don't get stressed out by questions we can answer immediately with a short response. It's very productive. Let me give you the answer to this. Let me give you the answer to this. Let me give you the answer to this. If that's all email was 20 minutes twice a day, it would be on top of it. It would be a little burst of productivity. It would be something to be positive. The real productivity poison that's frothing around in that email inbox is messages that initiate back and forth interaction. That is above all else the source of almost every piece of cognitive distress that we feel from email. Not a newsletter, not an announcement, not what time is to meeting tomorrow. It's the email that says, "We should probably make a plan for the client coming tomorrow." Or, "What are we going to do to get this thing ready for next Monday?" The message that is going to begin back and forth, back and forth. Like, "Well, when should we do that? And what about next week? Oh, next week doesn't work. Let me see C.N., Jesse, and ask him if he remembers when this has back and forth, back and forth. Unscheduled ad hoc, back and forth, interactive conversation delivered through emails, working towards trying to figure out something or achieve some goal. That is the main productivity poison in our inboxes. Why? It brings with it two demands. One, that's more than anything else that keeps you coming back to your inbox again and again and again because you have to service these back and forth conversations. If five messages have to get back and forth before we can get a resolution and we need that resolution by the end of the day, I can't wait three hours for message number two. Because we have to fit in all five messages, so back and forth conversations require much more frequent inbox checking. Because I got to see when the latest message comes in so I can bounce it back and you got to see when that comes in so you can bounce it back to me. And I have to see that pretty soon after and bounce it back. We check our inboxes all the time, not because we know there's new newsletters in there, not because there's promotions from Levi's we want to see. It's because we have back and forth conversations. We have the service. The second reason why these are productivity poison is that these are the conversations that bring with it the dreaded ambiguity. I don't know how to answer this. That's where you get the, can you figure out how to fix this issue we have with the budget? And you're like, I don't know how to do that. And now I guess I can afford this as someone else or I'll do obligation hot potato and shoot off a question as someone else just to get it off my plate and wait for it to come back. I have to talk to different people and see what they tell me. You've created a, they create these major open loops in terms of our obligation storage systems and it's a real source of stress and distress. If you feel anxious checking your inbox going through your inbox, these are the type of messages that create that anxiety. They're like, oh my God, I don't know. I don't know how to fix the budget. I don't really know how this works. I don't even really know who I should talk to about this. Oh, I guess I'm going to have to start sending messages and like kind of letting this thing unfold and keep checking this throughout the day. So those are the productivity poison. So if you want to make your experience with your inbox better, it is these back and forth interactive and big use conversations that you have to tame. That is what process centric emailing is all about. The idea is simple. When you see a message arrive, that is initiating one of these long back and forths. Your first entrance into this conversation, your first message into this conversation should include in it a proposal for the process by which this whole collaboration ending in the goal being achieved in this conversation is going to happen. You say how it's going to happen so it doesn't just default to like, let's just keep going back and forth. You declare this is how I think this should happen. Oh, we have to figure out what to do about this client. Okay, well, here's what I suggest. We have this meeting coming up on Wednesday. Let's add time to talk to that. I'm going to before we get to that meeting, talk to Susan to make sure that we understand the full whatever the full process for what we need to do to onboard a client. We'll talk about this in the last five minutes of the meeting and make a plan going forward. Or you say, okay, here's what we need to do. You're right. We do have to figure out when we're going to meet. Here's what we'll do. I have listed here whatever 15 times. Jesse, you then highlight the times that work for you and then you forward it onto the third person and you select one of those that works and put that just into an invite and send it to all of us and we don't even have to discuss anymore. And I'm talking about here is processes that gets the thing done. The thing that this conversation is going to lead towards gets you to done without ambiguity and without having to just wait for messages to arrive and respond to them and go back and forth. Process centric emailing is a little bit stilted. It's not very casual. So typically the people who use this will have a casual message with emoticons and all the other stuff. But then have the pretty detailed thing below. You can blame it on me. Sorry for the formality. I've been listening to much Cal Newport. But it works. And it takes a little bit more time up front because you have to figure out what's the right way to get to done. What's the right way to get to done here? And you got to think it through and you got to explain it to people and you might have some extra work to do to set it up. Here's Google Doc. Here's the doodle. Here's how it's going to unfold. I've set up an office hours. It takes more work. But it is almost always worth spending 10 or 15 more minutes at the beginning of an exchange than it is to have 10 or 15 messages you have to respond to. 10 or 15 minutes right now takes away 10 or 15 minutes from your day. But 10 to 15 messages, each of which is requiring five inbox checks while you wait for it, that's going to be 50 to 75 inbox checks over the next few days, which is way more damaging than you adding 10 minutes right now to what you're doing. So a big believer in process centric emailing. And of course, if you find yourself as a bonus, proposing the same process again and again, because the same type of work happens again and again, then you can just codify that. You know what? We do this client onboarding all the time. Why don't we all just agree? This is how we do it. And so you don't even have to write out the whole process every time. So it's also a good way to unearth or make legible repeated work and get good processes in place. So just remember that ongoing interactive conversations. That is the thing that kills us in our inbox. That's the thing you should care about. That is the thing you should be willing to do almost anything to vanquish. It really is productivity poison. All right, well, let's talk real quickly. I have two sponsors I want to mention before we get to a couple more questions I enjoy.

Cal talks about Wren and MyBodyTutor (59:06)

This first sponsor is my body tutor, T-U-T-O-R, founded by Adam Gilbert. Adam Gilbert, it's the Gilbert. Gilbert who I've known for many years used to be the fitness advice guy on the early days of the study hack blogs. His company, MyBodyTutor, is a 100% online coaching program that solves the biggest problem in health and fitness, lack of consistency. They do this by simplifying the process into practical, sustainable behaviors. Then, and this is key, giving you daily accountability and support to stick to your plan. When you use MyBodyTutor, you have this app where you check in every day. Here's what I ate. Here's what I did. There is a coach that is assigned to you that sees that and then comes back to you at the end of the day and says, "I read your report. Here's my feedback. Looking good. Think about this. Worry about this. Here's some suggestions." The coach builds the plan for you and then checks in with you every day about whether or not you are achieving it. In my case, for example, you call up to my body tutor coach and you say, "I need the Scars Guard Viking body. I have six months to get there, but it's very important to me that I look like a Viking with crazy trapezius muscles." 45 minutes a day. That's what it is. I went back. I finished watching that movie by the way. It's not that they weren't doing superhero body, but something about him was really eye catching. What's this muscle that goes up to your neck? Trapezius? Yeah. They gave him a beast trapezius so that he would walk with his sword or whatever with just like this. It looks like he's wearing a backpack on his back. That's the type of thing MyBodyTutor can help you with or whatever else your goal is. You have a coach, you talk to the coach every day, they make a plan, the accountability. It's all online. It's a brilliant idea. I know Adam's crushing it with this company and I'm not surprised. Here's the thing. If you sign up for MyBodyTutor, tell them that you came from deep questions. Tell them that Cal Newport sent you. They'll know what that means and they will give you $50 off your first month. Just mention me when you sign up. We were at dinner last night with someone who didn't realize Chris Pratt had a whole movie career after Parks and Recreation. She had never seen, she didn't know that he had gotten into the super good shape to do superhero movies and Jurassic World movies. She's remembered, isn't he though overweight, like fun guy on Parks and Rec? I loaded up a photo to show her and it was a glass drop moment. I went down the rabbit hole. Chris Pratt, if I looked up right, he was my height. At his peak in Parks and Rec, he was weighing in 80 pounds more than I weigh in right now. I'm not like a super slim guy. And now he is stronger than that. He is lighter than that. If you sign up for a superhero movie, I went down a rabbit hole in Chris Pratt. It turned out the first... This was before. I had gone down this rabbit hole before, so I had this queued up. I don't know why I went down this rabbit hole. But the first time he had to cut all the weight was to be in Zero Dark 30 where he played a member of Seal Team Six. But he did it on his own. So he was like, "I'm just going to do it on my own." He was like, "I'm just going to stop eating and do 500 push-ups a day and just do crazy stuff." Destroyed his body. Ended up having to get shoulder surgery. Really? Yeah. Because he was just like, "I'll just stop eating and then just go wild mode every day and destroy his body." So then when it came time, when he got the Marvel movie, he was like, "Oh, I should hire somebody." And they have ways of doing this. Professional trainers, "Here's what you should eat." They make it so you don't want to blow out. It turns out this is one of the really major concerns when they're doing this training for these movies is if you get injured, this could be a $20 million mistake. If you get injured and you have to push filming of a $200 million movie for six weeks because you tore your rotator cuff, it's like a really big deal. So now it's like if you have to get in shape for one of these movies, it's like we are going to hand hold you every step of the way because we want you to get strong. Yes, but we also can't have you ripping a pack or something and we can't film because they have to pick things up and throw things. So let that all be. This is why you need something like my body tutor. Whether you're trying to get in shape for a Marvel movie or whatever you're all wedding or whatever you're trying to do, this all comes back to you want to pro helping you. Don't just stop. 40th birthday party. Yeah, just don't. Yeah, 40th birthday party where I come bursting out in the Viking outfit from the beginning of the Northman on the roller with a giant trapezius muscle. Don't do that on your own. You need help. So you either get Chris Pratt, the Scarsgard guy or my body tutor. Those are your three choices. Only one of those choices will give you $50 off your first month if you mentioned my podcast. But I also want to talk about another sponsor, Ren W-R-E-N, which is a startup that's making it easy for everyone to make a meaningful difference in the climate crisis. So right now, Ren is focused on monthly subscriptions where you calculate your carbon footprint, then offset it by supporting awesome climate projects that plant trees protect forests and remove CO2 from the sky. So you can be offsetting the carbon you're putting out, investing some of the money you're making while you generate all this carbon and trying to offset it somewhere else. Their goal is to unlock the collective action and millions of individuals to drive the systemic change needed to end the climate crisis. It says here, Jesse, the inspiration. I don't know if you know this, the inspiration for this company, what motivated the founders to start it was, I'm reading here, watching Jesse drive by in his 1978 board pickup truck. And a tear fell from their eyes as they watched the birds fall from the trees dead, the squirrels paralyzed in the smog coming out of the back of that car. And it catalyzed them. And they said, we have to solve the climate crisis. So little known fact. The trees pickup truck motivated RIN's fight against climate change. Yeah, they don't have enough digits in their online carbon footprint calculator for you. There's not enough digits. The problem. It's like the odometer rolls over. Yeah, when you upload a picture of your truck, it just gives up the server crashes. All right. So RIN, anyways, nonsense. Cleanup for RIN is an easy way to do something meaningful about the climate crisis, much of which has been caused by Jesse. So you go to their website, you calculate your personal carbon footprint, and you choose the projects right there. It shows you how much carbon that's offsetting. You can pay a monthly subscription. It makes it simple for you to actually take some action. So it's going to take all of us to end the climate crisis. It's going to take all of us to prevent the damage or push back on the damage caused by Jesse's truck. Another part today by signing up for RIN, that's W-R-E-N. Go to RIN.CO/deep to sign up. If you do that/deep, they will plant an extra 10 trees in your name. That's W-R-E-N.CO/deep. Start making a difference. I think RIN is a type of bird, right? So, W-R-E-N. There are a couple more questions here.

How can I succeed in an academic profession after a lackluster start? (01:07:09)

I got one from Lucy who writes in to say, "Hi, Cal. I'm about to finish my PhD and decided to try to build a career in academia." Now, you've emphasized a couple times that choosing a great lab and famous/knowledgeable /connected supervisor was an important step. Unfortunately, it was not the case for me. Even though I had high grades and a good profile, my choice of graduate programs were limited by my unstable temporary residency situation. I ended up doing a PhD with a professor who barely helped me. He is a nice guy, but not very knowledgeable and did not improve or increase my publications or contributed to my growth as a researcher. Regardless of the situation, I managed to publish a few papers of uncertain quality and learned quite a deal through my own efforts. My question is, do you think I still can succeed in an academic world, even if I'm not my start was not the best? Where would you recommend to focus my efforts? Well, Lucy, academic world can mean a lot of things. What we're talking about is a tenure-track position at a well-known university, the classic image we have of a professor. You have some graduate students. You have the patches on your tweet jacket. You have a big lecture halls and a selective university. The issue is you're starting from a very hard position. The reason why I push get the most famous professor at the best school possible is that these are incredibly competitive jobs to get. The thing that matters more than anything else is your research. Are you producing great work in great places that's generating attention and citations? That's what they're hiring you to do at your school. The reason why a famous advisor is useful is not because the advisor is famous, but because they're famous because they know how to publish really impactful papers and they will teach you how to do that. Learn from the people who are already doing what it is you want to do. This competitiveness is so much that I got a private message recently from a student who said, "Look, I want to go to grad school and see us. I want to be a professor. I have a grad school offer from Princeton. I have a grad school offer from MIT." He's like, "I'm kind of leaning towards Princeton. He was giving his reasons." I could empathize. When I applied to grad school, I also got into Princeton and MIT. Those were both on my choices. He was trying to nudge me towards saying, "Go to Princeton." Honestly, I came back to him. I'm like, "Look, man, this is not your coming of age. I'm 18 going off to undergrad year experience. For what you want to study, MIT is tops. Go to the best school." He was going on about, "I like the atmosphere, the more intellectual literary atmosphere of Princeton." "Live in Harvard Square." That's what I did. Go to MIT, live in Harvard Square, buy books, but just go to the best possible school and get the best possible advisor. It is so competitive out there. You've got to study at the best place you can. You've got to study with the very best people you can. You've got to produce the best papers you can. It's like training for a professional athletic job. I don't care what town you like better or what campus fits your mood better. You go to the best trainer you possibly can because it's so competitive. Hundreds of people applying for every one of these positions. I don't know if this is a downer or a tough love type response, but those types of jobs are very difficult if you're not already coming out of a top place. Something that might help here is a postdoc. If you could get a postdoc at a good place and kill it on the research in that first year as a postdoc, that could open up opportunities. There's two things here though I want to warn you against. One is the idea of I will go to a school that I don't want to go to. It's a non-tenure track or a senior track, but they don't care at all about research. It's super heavy load. I will earn my way into a better position. That is very, very difficult. It is hard to make that type of jump. If you go to a heavy teaching load school where they don't really care much about research, it's going to be very hard to distinguish yourself there and jump up into a better school because remember the better schools have their pick of the very best people coming out of programs. Often when better schools are hiring stars, they're hiring away from other good schools and leveraging things like that person wants to come to your location. It happens, but it's really rare. One exception is the very top schools in some fields basically use an all-star method. MIT will do this in computer science or mathematics. They won't hire from within. Their students have to go off and they'll watch really good schools that are right below them and just wait to see who pops off as a star and they'll say, "All right, come back." MIT will do that. They'll be at a really good school and then MIT will call you essentially and be like, "Oh, you got a MacArthur. You got whatever. Great." "Hey, come back to MIT. We'll give you a professorship." But what you don't see is someone going to a non-research focused heavy teaching load school and have a Princeton or an MIT say, "You've been doing great work because there's no time to do it. It's crushing." I also be wary about letting your desire for academia pull you into an exploitative ad jump type situation. Again, it's also very rare that you're going to jump from one of those situations into a classic tenure track type academic position. I want to warn you from traps and give you the reality check that for this very narrow definition of academia, they might not be what you're talking about, but for this very narrow definition of the TV, movie portrayal of academia, tenure track at a well-known university doing research, they're hard jobs to get and you need to have produced really good research. So if you have a way to do that in a postdoc, if you're right on the precipice of doing something really important, writing the killer book, getting out those killer articles, that's what you should do. That's what they're going to care about, articles, articles, articles. So if you can do that, do that. If that doesn't seem like it's in the cards, then I'm just saying be wary because there's a lot of traps out here where someone will tell you a story, "Well, come do this," and then you can jump to what you want to do a little bit later and that jump can be pretty hard to make. I hope that wasn't too much of a downer, Jesse, but... That was a good answer. With your break now, are you still writing papers? Yeah. Yeah. So you still have to... I'm still writing some papers. My doctoral students present in a paper next week, no, no, in mixing up trips a little later in July at a conference. Yeah, so I'm still writing some papers. So that's different writing time than your morning book writing, New York writing time. That's different. Yeah. I'm not actively writing any research papers right now, but my doctoral students working on this dissertation, so I'm looking at traps. In fact, I'm talking to them right after this. So some of that's going on. Yeah, so this summer, I'm really kind of locked into non-academic writing, but I still do some of that. I used to a lot of it. Like that's how you get... When I was coming into Georgetown, I had a lot of papers. I don't know what my count is now, but I think I have something academic peer-reviewed computer science papers, probably 75. Wow. Yeah. I'm adding up citations for 5,000 citations. It's just hard work. I get the job and get tenure. I did early tenure is a four to five paper year pace in computer science. That's what I was doing. Yeah, that takes time.

Youth Mentorship

Helping young men live deeply (01:14:55)

All right, let's do a call. Let's do a call. Let's do one more call, and then we can call it quits for today. That was good. We got a call from my monk. Cal. I'm inspired by your work. Thank you. My name is ATN, and I'm a Benedictine monk in the United States. The idea of deep work and the deep life is really resonant with me. Part of my work is educating and forming young men to become leaders in the Catholic church. I wish to model and teach them deep work, slow productivity, the deep life, digital minimalism, et cetera. Do you have thoughts on how I might be a good mentor and teacher for these principles to these young men? Again, thank you very much. Well, it's a good question. I mean, certainly young men as a demographic are often in this day and age hungry for guidance. So it is a demographic group that is open to being inspired, open to being guided. And when they're not, when they're left adrift, negative things happen as a consequence. I'm glad you're involved in being a guiding light to this particular group. I think one thing that's helpful, so I'm thinking about, I mean, I advise when I get messages from a lot of people, but what I'm thinking about the advice I give to young men in particular, I think having the frame of the deep life is a helpful starting place. So saying, okay, you're committing to this goal that you want to live a deep life. You don't want to live a life that is haphazard. You don't want to live a life that is arbitrary or at the whims of distraction or the noise of our culture, that you instead want to live a life that is intentional and considered and remarkable in the sense that it makes people turn their head and catch their attention. Oh, that's something. That's something that is highly appealing to a lot of young men. And I think laying out that framework, okay, how do we do this and making it clear that this is going to require discipline and hard work. That is all fantastic. That is a charge we want. Give me a challenge. I want to have to rise to a challenge. So that is all good. The other part of the deep life framework that I think is for good men, good for young men is that it has these multiple elements to it. We often get stuck on just one aspect of good living. We neglect the others. We get obsessed about career, but we fall behind on our philosophical or theological growth. We fall behind on leadership or community or we get really obsessed about theology. We're going through the process of becoming a monk and forget the importance of community or the importance of craft. So this notion that we have various areas of life that all require service, I think that is very useful. We know the areas I often talk about is craft. So what you actually do and create is community being a leader and sacrificing non-trivial time and intention of time and energy on behalf of other people, constitution that is your health, that is your fitness, contemplation, that's going to be philosophy, that's going to be theology, really making that important, making that important part of your life. And then I often do throw in celebration, the ability to build up taste and kind of stewardship and just gratitude for things that are good in the world and in your life and things you can go and just get peer enjoyment out of. Breaking that down, here are five things. Each of these requires attention. Each of these requires cultivation. Is a message that young people and young men in particular really resonate with. And then you work through, let's do Keystone habits in each. And let's go through each of these one by one and we can spend six weeks in each and do a preliminary overhaul of that part of your life. Let's overhaul your eating and get some real serious fitness going here, have some discipline there. How about your theological mind? How about your philosophical mind? You need to start reading books. You need to stop, you can get off that phone, you need to read, you need a half hour a day. Here's what you're going to read. We're going to talk about it. You have to expand your mind. You have to open. Okay, there we go. We're working on that as well. Leadership in community. What are you doing to make the life of people around you better? Are you spending time thinking about it every day? Do you lead anything? Where are you leading other people towards somewhere better where you're sacrificing your own time and energy? These things are important and it's all different areas you're focusing on. When you focus on the craft piece, that's where deep work and concentration and focus and diligence and all of that comes into place, low productivity. So as you move through these different buckets, these different areas, all sorts of different learning can happen. What is that overall pursuit I want with discipline and intention to make my life into something deeper remarkable, that pursuit is like water to the explorer lost in the desert when we're talking about young men in today's culture. So I think that's the way I would go about it and I would really challenge them in each of these areas. Don't just do the easy do the hard. And I'll tell you there are so many positive side effects of systematically trying to cultivate this life, especially if you're young and especially if you're a drift. The excessive video game play, the excessive phone scrolling, the pornography, the excessive drinking, all of these things that can afflict the 23 and a drift, they naturally just start to dissipate. When you have these more important things that you're starting to work on, you're getting that feeling of success on them, you're getting that feeling of efficacy. You're getting that feeling of autonomy and meaning and it transforms the whole way you think about the life. It transforms the troll on the Twitter who's just angry and looking for attention into a leader in their town, into a real deep thinker who ends up contributing something really interesting to the world of ideas, as someone who is in good shape so they can be there for their family, for their community through thick and thin into older age. So many things good to come out of it. So I'm glad you're thinking about this. That's how I would do it. Challenge, discipline, intention, all aimed towards the deep life, breaking to the categories. Do my whole framework there. I think young men are hungry for it and I think they will be quite receptive. All right, Jesse, I think that's a good variety of questions here. We're coming up on the 120 mark. Jesse's going to time of any to wrap things up. So thank you everyone who submitted questions. Go to Cal Newport.com/podcast for instructions on how to do so. If you like what you heard, you will like what you saw, what you see, I should say, videos are the full episodes and clips are available at youtube.com/countnewportmedia. Go to calnewport.com to sign up for my weekly newsletter. We'll be back next week and until then, as always, stay deep.

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