Ep. 204: Working Less, Overthinking, and Deep Life Principles | Deep Questions Podcast

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Cal's intro (00:00)

I'm Kyle Newport and this is Deep Questions, episode 204. I'm here at my Deep Work HQ joined by my producer, Jesse. Jesse, in between the last episode we recorded and this one, I drove my family down to Knoxville, Tennessee for a family reunion. I will tell you, if you look up deep work in the dictionary, you know, they have antonyms, like, okay, what is the exact opposite of this word? Next to that, it says driving eight hours with three kids under the age of 10. That is the opposite of deep work. That is the state that is the opposite of deep work. I was right. How many stops? Uh, quite a few. Uh, but there's one we made, it reminded me a little bit of the show. So there's a stop we made. We were doing some tourist trap type stuff. It was fun. So we stopped in a natural bridge, Virginia, which is where natural bridges, natural bridges, uh, geological formations Natural Bridge is. Natural Bridge is a geological formation. It's like a giant stone bridge. It's actually a cave that collapsed, but George Washington went by there supposedly when he was surveying Virginia. Thomas Jefferson owned that land for a while, built a cabin there, maybe a deep work cabin. Next to this state park, historical whatever, is nonsense, all sorts of nonsense, uh, because it's a, it's a tourist stop. So we went to this one place called dinosaur kingdom. Two. And it was actually kind of interesting, right? So this was a place, uh, a tourist attraction created by Mark Klein, who is an expert, maybe the world's expert in making large novelty statuettes or figures out of fiberglass, right? So I looked him up as I do and read some profiles and I'm now a pseudo Mark Klein expert, but he's the guy you go to if you're on route 66 and they call these muffler men, but the giant fiberglass figures by the old timey gas stations, he's the guy you go to to fix yours or to build yours. He did the fiberglass figures for this wizard of Oz, Wizard of Oz themed park that's over off the beltway called Watkins Park. So anyways, he built this attraction where the main part of it is you walk through the woods and he's built all these giant fiberglass dinosaurs. It's a little bit weird because the premise of the park is that the dinosaurs are involved in the civil war. So it's these dinosaurs that are attacking and or being ridden by fiberglass mannequins of civil war fighters. So we're not talking about a a enlightening scientifically historically accurate experience. I mean at some point there's a hadrosaur with a saddle and two Gatling guns on it. But anyways, it's this weird labor of love, all these figures, fantastical figures, there's a water gun fight with Bigfoot every hour where you get super soakers but you get to the end, this is what made me think about the show, you get to the end of this park and the final thing is there's an outhouse and you open the door and you press a button and the back wall of the outhouse, it's like there's a hole in the wall and it's screen. And you press a button and a giant tyrannosaur head comes down like animatronically and starts like grow you know, growling like right there, like this big, this big head that comes down. And I took a picture of this, but there's a sign in that final attraction. So let's see here. All right, here, I'll show you Jesse. All right. What's the, what's the sign read as the final attraction of this weird park? I done all this while you was at your computer. Yeah. I was like, that's pretty, that's pretty appropriate. It's kind of like a deep work or a deep life. I should say case study. There's a guy who built an for sure, remarkable life in the sense is remarkable love he builds his random fantastical whimsies. That's his job. He actually has a workshop there in Virginia called the enchanted castle. castle was just full of all these figures He's working on so I like that epithet. I built this all whilst you were on your computer It reminds me of the final scene of the movie The Wizard remember that movie way back in the day the video game player With our Fred Savage. Yeah. Yeah, what's the final scene of The Wizard? I know that they were he was like running away and there was like that big dinosaur or something like that Oh, I thought you're gonna say the final scene of the wizard was about like not using your computer yeah no the dinosaurs and stuff i'll have to go back and watch it i've considered that's interesting movie super mario 3 they debuted that it was a big tie-in they debuted super mario brother 3 in the movie because they knew the game was coming out. Yeah, I should watch that again. Anyways, I like that. So while we're all on our computer doing email and checking social media, Mark Klein was putting Gatling guns on Hadrosaurs. All right. So we got a good show. We got some written questions. We got some calls. We'll do a, a books I read in June summary coming up since our first episode of the new month. But before we get into all of that I want to do a quick deep life slow productivity themed reaction and in particular the the article I want to react to here is my own.

Discussion On Cal'S Views And Recommendations

Cal reacts (05:12)

So I published this just on my my newsletter. Yesterday, July 5th, the day before we were recording this episode. And this is based off of a article that many different readers sent to my interesting at Cal Newport dot com email address. All right. So the title of this of this article, which I wrote for my newsletter, and if you don't subscribe to that newsletter, Cal Newport dotcom, you should. It's once a week. I've been doing it since 2007. All right, so the title I had for the article was the three hour Fields Medal, little Tim Ferriss nod, colon a slow productivity case study. But really what I'm doing here is reacting to this article. And again, if you're listening, I'm showing this on the screen. So if you watch the episode at youtube.com slash cal newport media you'll you'll see what I'm talking about but I'll walk you through it this essay was in reaction to this profile from quantum magazine about June huh huh June is 39 year old Princeton professor Why we care about him is that yesterday he was awarded the 2022 Fields Medal. This is often referred to as the Nobel Prize of Mathematics. It's given out once every four years, I believe. It's given out to the mathematical professional, 40 or younger, whose work done to date and promise for future work is the let's say most impressive among all working mathematicians so it's really one of the highest honors you can win in mathematics and he won it for work he's doing on geometric combinatorics. All right so this profile which was quite long, Quantum Magazine is great. This profile is quite long, had some interesting points in it. For example, if you look at June's trajectory, he did not get serious about mathematics until late in his undergraduate career. He went to college, university in South Korea where it's a six-year system. It wasn't until his sixth year that he even got serious about mathematics, and that's because he took a class from a well-known, eccentric, Fields Prize-winning, Fields Medal-winning mathematician, Japanese mathematician, Heisuke Hiranaka, who was teaching a class where it wasn't well-established results. He was actually teaching stuff he was working on. June falls under his sway, applies to graduate school. He's applying to graduate school having only been serious about math for one year, so he applies for around a dozen schools. Everyone rejects him except for one. Urbana-Champaign lets him in. They're glad they did because within a year or two he solved Reed's conjecture. So he immediately solves a 40 year 40 year open problem for the nerds out there. You can you can bound the chromatic number of graphs with certain characteristic polynomials. The chromatic number of an undirected graph being the minimum number of colors by which you can color the vertices such that no two adjacent vertices have the same color. Hopefully all my algorithms and discrete mathematics students know what I'm talking about here. You can bound the chromatic number with a polynomial. The polynomial has coefficients. The coefficients of these characteristic polynomials have certain properties that had long been observed, such as their log-concavity, but it had never been proved that that was unavoidable Reed's conjecture said it was. June proved it. All right so there you go there's a summary of the first thing he proved. He then went on to generalize those results to something called matroids blah blah blah long story short it was it's a very innovative approach that showed that story short, it was a very innovative approach that showed that, I mean, again, I don't know how to summarize this too succinctly, but essentially a technique that before people thought only applied to problems where there was a geometric grounding, like the chromatic number of a graph, he showed you could apply this technique to a much broader class of objects called matroids. Let's just leave it at that. Anyways, it won him a Fields Medal. It was a really good result. I also found that interesting that after he solved Reed's conjecture, the schools who had rejected him came back and courted him. UMichigan actually convinced him to transfer from Urbana-Champaign to Michigan after he solved Reed's conjecture, so they sort of realized they made a mistake on that one. Anyways, the reason why I wanted to talk about this profile of this young professor was the following quote that came from the profile. On any given day, Pugh does about three hours of focused work. He might think about a math problem or prepare to lecture a classroom of students or schedule a doctor's appointment for his two sons. Then I'm exhausted, he says, doing something that's valuable, meaningful, creative, or a task that he doesn't particularly want to do like scheduling those appointments, takes away a lot of your energy. This guy's doing productive work about three hours a day. Not even just three hours of deep work on math and I do the rest of the stuff later in the day. He spends about three hours a day actually exhausting energy from his mind. Now I thought that was really telling because it provides an extreme example of one of these principles that is a part of my emerging philosophy of slow productivity. And that principle is that busyness and exhaustion, that sense of overload and frenetic movement, is often quite unrelated to producing valuable work. These are two unrelated things. The pace and effort required to do things of note, to prove things about matroids, or to solve Reed's conjecture, those efforts do not require and have very little to do with, I am overloaded, I'm burnt out, I'm burning the midnight oil, I am working all day long, I'm frantic, I'm frenetic, two unrelated states. A little bit of intense work done at a natural pace, given the breathing room to aggregate over time, can lead to really big results. So that got me thinking, why are we then in so many roles, especially even specialized knowledge worker roles where producing complex things out of our minds is ultimately what moves the needle. Why in so many of these roles are we so busy and why are we so overloaded? And I think there's two different things going on here. One, as I talk about a lot on the show and in my writing, the way we organize work, especially knowledge work today is haphazard. Anyone can grab anyone's attention at any time. We have no sort of systematic thinking about workload. We have no systematic thinking about collaboration or communication, how this should actually unfold. It is a free for all of obligation hot potato where everyone's just shooting things off to everyone else. You put something on my plate, I send you a clarifying question so I don't have to worry about it for a couple hours. Something pops up, I say, why don't you handle this? It's a world without specialization where we say, why can't everyone just handle all of the various administrative logistical tasks that are relevant to them because then we don't have to hire support staff. It's a chaotic haphazard world and that creates overload, that creates busyness. The second reason why we feel that is we don't have a good definition of productivity. So we create this new world of work. Create this new world of work in which you're using your mind instead of building things with your hands. So we have to think, what does productivity mean? And I'm talking now mid 20th century. What does productivity mean if we're not counting the time required to produce a Model T? What does it mean? Well, we leaned into industrial metaphors. Why? Well, where were the first big offices? Where were the first big collections of hundreds or thousands of people in the same place doing work with their mind and not their hands, it was the front offices of large industrial corporations. The early 20th century, you get the rise of the mega corporation, you get the efficiencies of scale of acquiring competitors and building up very large companies. This idea of the very large company emerges in the early 20th century. We see it with the robber barons, the late 19th century, early 20th century. We see it with the the robber barons the late 19th century early 20th century by the 1940s you have you know General Motors as this massive consolidated company that has all these different verticals. Well that requires a huge amount of administrative support they were all put into the same big buildings there you have the first big knowledge worker setting. So of course when the same CEO that is overlooking 700 clerical workers, administrative workers, and managers is also overlooking industrial assembly lines, we're going to adopt by default industrial productivity metrics. Effort, time spent working, minimizing idleness, the things you would care about with an assembly line. So we have adopted sort of by default these industrial metrics, and then as we begin to get some separation, we get the rise of knowledge work that's completely disconnected from industrial production, we do have a chance to try to evolve our understanding of productivity, but then we get the computer revolution and it completely shakes up the whole proverbial snow globe. Suddenly we have networks and email and everything gets thrown up into the air again. All these revolutions sort of get in the way, the disruption gets in the way of maturity and stabilization of work philosophy. So we end up where we are today with this weird mix of industrial notions of productivity that's based around you're a worker on an assembly line and if you're idle, that's wasted money. I want you to be here for set hours and doing those hours. I want to see activity that mixed in with the haphazard freneticism of uncontrolled digital communication. And we get this weird world we have today. So we have these notions of productivity around. I can't see you're working. You're not productive. Maybe you're you know, something's going on. You're screwing me, you know, idleness. And so we want you to be working for these hours, we want to see that you're working. If you're not going to be in the office, and we want to see that you're responding to Slack and email because activity is value, inactivity is wasted value, very old notion. So we need new notions of how do you productively create value in a skilled cognitive environment. And that's where something like slow productivity is trying to fill a void. Let us evolve our notion of productivity away from what you would want with factory workers and towards something that actually makes sense for people trying to add value to information using their mind. So it's an extreme example, three hours a day and you have a Fields Medal by 39. But the extremes are often great for highlighting the underlying realities. Busyness and overload is unrelated to producing things that actually matter. Three-hour Fields Medal. I saw something, Jesse, now I forgot who it was. I think a reader sent it to me. It was a writer who has simplified their writing down to one day a week. Really? Yeah, and they're a pretty productive writer. It's nonfiction, I forgot exactly what space he's in, but just one day a week he writes, I think it's Thursdays. And over time he's built up this like really nice collection of books that he's written. And again, overload, busyness, that sense of like, I don't have enough time. If anything gets in the way of producing stuff that matters, not the, not the recipe for it. You like writing every day though, don't you? I do. I've been writing in the morning. We, we finally have all the different, uh, workmen out of our study and my desk isn't there yet, but there's a table in there. And so I go in there each morning and that's where I've been writing. So like two hours a day? I'm trying to, yeah, two to three, yeah. I mean, I'm making progress on, here's my quick writing update. If you're interested, I'm working now in my slow productivity book that I'm writing on the principle about doing fewer things. It's looking like this is going to come in at a 15, 15 to 20 K word sections. There's these three big sections, one for each of the principles and they're going to be pretty big, maybe about 15,000 words each. And, um, I'd been stuck for a little while on this particular section and I feel like I have some traction going. And so that's what I've been stuck for a little while on this particular section, and I feel like I have some traction going. And so that's what I've been working on. When I was on my trip, I was getting unstuck, which means figuring out what is my path through this particular section? What are the examples? How do I want to streamline this? I did not. I was trying to force what I had before to work. And I had cognitive friction. I knew it wasn't working. The examples I wanted to use when I had cognitive friction. I knew it wasn't working. The examples I wanted to use when I dive deeper into the source material weren't what I wanted. It didn't seem like it's what I needed. And over this trip to Tennessee, I reworked it, I streamlined, and now it's rolling. Now it's rolling. So I'm not far into the section I'm writing, but I have forward momentum. So hopefully I'll finish that up this week. Steve When you do your weekly plan, do you map out like what you're going to write about each day? Like for instance, cause you have your New Yorker stuff, you have your books, you have, yeah, I have to figure that out. Yeah. I mean, that's, that's what happened. I'm in a confusing writing landscape right now because I was, I've been working on this big principle of the book. Then I shifted over, uh, to a magazine piece, New Yorker piece, that was going to serve double duty as a piece for the New Yorker, but also for a chapter earlier in the book. Then something else came along and it was sort of more of a topical article. I said, yeah, I want to short, let me write that. So like all of that got put on pause. So I could, I wanted to write a shorter sort of topical piece and that was allowed the week before my trip. So everything got put on pause for that, finished that, that's an editing. And when I came back, now I'm close enough to finishing this principle that I'm gonna do that and then turn back to finishing the original piece I'm working on. The details here are not that important. The bigger point being, Jesse's right to ask about that. It's a complicated picture of sort of concurrent writing things and moving around. What am I going to work on now? Put this on side, put this on hold now. So I write this. It's not always an obvious formula how you make those decisions. And it's something that requires some thought. Like right now, the way I'm thinking about it is because I'm in editing with this one magazine piece. I don't want to work on another magazine piece while I'm editing a current one. It's too close to home. We're going to cross the circuit. So that's why I, while I'm editing this piece, I want to write, it's essentially more of an advice-y type section of my book, which is quite different. So these are the type of chess pieces you move around. Yeah. But at the weekly planning stage, I'm thinking, what am I writing this week? Where am I going to try to get? And then and what I like to. I like to get to the point where I can see a milestone coming up, because then you can go after it like, oh, I want to get there by this weekend. And then you'll add extra hours and really push. And when you're in the stages where you're planning and trying to make something work, you can feel like days are going by and not much progress is happening. But then when you start to see, you know, 5,000 words away from wrapping this whole thing up, you see that finish line, then you can really lock in. And it can be pretty, you get these really productive locked in sessions. But anyways, that's all just to give the impression of the writing life can be more complicated, it seems simple, but it can be complicated figuring out what I should be writing now is, is not always obvious. All right.

Cal talks about Policy Genius and Miracle (20:57)

Well, what is obvious is we should take a moment to thank a couple of sponsors that make this show possible and allow me to sit around and do nonsense like writing all day. I want to start by talking about policy genius. Now you know you need life insurance. You need it to protect those who rely on you financially in the hopefully unlikely event that something happens to you. Everyone knows they need life insurance. The issue seems to be logistics. You're someone my age, you say I need life insurance, you know, I have some kids, you know, whatever. And you say, but where do I do this? How do I do this? Where do I go to do this? Do I have to find an insurance agent? Do I call someone? That is usually the roadblock that stops people from doing what they know they need. This is where a company like PolicyGenius enters the scene and makes it easy. PolicyGenius is an insurance comparison website that makes it easy to compare quotes from top companies like AIG and Prudential in one place to find your lowest price. You could save 50% or more on life insurance by comparing quotes with PolicyGenius. All you do is go to PolicyGenius.com and you will get personalized quotes in minutes to find the right policy for your needs. Now keep in mind that license agents at PolicyGenius work for you, not the insurance company. So they're on hand throughout the entire process to help you understand your options and make decisions with confidence. All right, so you need life insurance, go to policygenius.com, you enter in your basic information and they show you a bunch of quotes from a bunch of companies. I like this one the best, boom, you do it through the site, you're set. So it gets rid of that obstacle of I don't know where to start and helps you get that life insurance that you know you need. Since 2014, more than 30 million people have shopped for insurance through policygenius.com so they know what they're doing. So head to policygenius.com to get your free life insurance quotes and see how much you could save. All right, we also have a new sponsor to the show, happy to have them. And that is Miracle. We are in those summer months. That means it is hotter. That means there is humidity. We've talked about this on the show before, those hot sleepers among us, worry about trying to get sleep when it is warmer. You don't want to be all sweaty. You don't want to be all sticky. This is where Miracle Brands self-cooling bed sheets enter the picture. These are sheets that have self-cooling properties built into them. They use silver infused fabrics originally developed by NASA. Miracle brand sheets are thermoregulating and designed to keep you at the perfect temperature all night long so you will get better sleep every night. Now that natural silver that is infused in there also prevents 99.9% of bacterial growth leaving them cleaner and fresher, more than three times longer than standard sheets. They are premium sheets, we're talking 500 thread count sateen weave, all made with USA grown sapima cotton. So these are these sheets for summer, they're comfortable, they're self-regulating the temperature. They are resistant to bacterial growth. They last longer before you need to wash them. Makes sense to me. So go to trymiracle.com slash cal to try it today. And we've got a special offer just for our listeners. If you use that promo code CAL at checkout, you will save 40% off and get three free towels. Miracle is so confident in their product that is backed with a 30 day money back guarantee. So if you aren't 100% satisfied, you'll get a full refund, upgrade your sleep with Miracle brand, go to try miracle.com slash Cal and use that code Cal to claim your free three piece. Tal set and save 40% off again. That's try miracle.com slash Cal. All right. We have to add to our, our tongue twister ad read, Jesse, I think free three piece. Tal set. We can add that on to Zocdoc.com. I like that. Yeah. So there we go. All professional reads here. All right. Enough of that nonsense. Let's do some questions. Question number one comes from Micah. Micah says, what do you think about planning two weeks instead of one?

Planning 2 weeks out (25:39)

A single week seems like a very long time. And I'm not sure if that's true. I mean, I've been doing this for a while. I've been doing this for a while. I've been doing this for a while. I've been doing this for a while. I've been doing this for a while. I've been doing this for a while. Number one comes from Micah. Micah says, what do you think about planning two weeks instead of one? A single week seems like a very short time span for me. Maybe it's because my planning sessions take too long for them to happen weekly. Do you think it's plausible to plan two weeks instead of one? Well, Micah, it's plausible, but it's not necessarily my recommendation. The reason planning one week is taking so long is because it's difficult. Planning is difficult to try to get your arms around the rhythms and patterns of obligations that are happening in the week ahead to look at that calendar and see which days are more busy than others to work at your quarterly plan and get a sense of where you are in your bigger picture initiatives, which of these initiatives you have the right room to make progress on, which ones you don't. This takes a while because it's complicated. You expand that scope to two weeks, it becomes even more complicated. That's a bigger challenge. If you're having a hard time scheduling one, you might have a really hard time scheduling two. So what you might focus on instead, Micah, is reducing the footprint of the planning you're doing to make it seem more reasonable, as opposed to planning less often, but making that planning even harder. There's a few things you can do to reduce the footprint of weekly planning. One, less detail. Perhaps your weekly plans are too fiddly. So in particular, if you find yourself getting pretty specific about particular times on particular days that you're gonna do particular work during the weekly plan process, that is if you were implicitly time-block planning your entire week, your level of detail is too fine-grained. You wanna pull back from that. Have some faith that the future you doing daily time block planning on future days this week will be able to figure out what to work on and what to make sense. You want less detail. You might say, this is a week I wanna make progress on this chapter, we're focusing on this report. Or you might point out a particular day, Thursday is light, let's keep it light, that'll be the day that I wanna try to finish up the Johnson memo. Yeah, that's fine. But if you're saying, okay, 10 to 1130 on Wednesday, that's when I am going to work on 700 words from this project, you're getting too fiddly, and that's gonna take up too much time. So less detail. The second thing you can do to reduce the footprint, separate inbox cleaning from the weekly planning. So a lot of people do this and it makes sense to get you ready for the week. You go through and you clean out all your inboxes so that you're starting from a blank slate. It's not a bad idea, but it takes a long time. It not only takes a long time, it's cognitively draining because you have to context shift back and forth, back and forth like a screen door in the breeze. When you're cleaning through an inbox, there are so many different messages and they represent so many different unrelated obligations. It's an incredibly draining experience. It's time consuming and cognitively draining. If you attach that to the weekly planning where you're literally writing your weekly plan for the week, the whole thing becomes a long drawn-out exhausting exercise. So separate the inbox cleaning. Do your weekly planning separately. The inbox cleaning you can then spread out in various sessions early throughout your week or you can do your weekly planning on Friday at the end of the day and maybe start Monday with the inbox cleaning but separate those two things. And that last suggestion is my third suggestion. Do the weekly plan at the end of your day Friday as opposed to the beginning of your day Monday and it will feel less like it is getting in the way of you getting started and more like you're wrapping up a long and productive week and in your final hours of Friday you're you're wrapping up a long and productive week. And in your final hours of Friday, you're, you're tying up loose ends and getting things ready for the week ahead. Friday planning for the week ahead also gives you the advantage of a lower anxiety weekend, because you, you know, you're locked in for what's going to happen. You know, you have a plan. It gives you some clarity, allows you to actually step back and relax more during the weekend. It's a psychological trick. I mean, the time is the time, but a 30-minute spent weekly planning Friday at three does not feel like it's getting in the way. 30 minutes spent Monday at 930 feels like, okay, I have all these things to do and I'm not getting to any of them because of the planning. Same time, different impact depending on when you spend it. Do you put personal reading blocks in your weekly plan? That'd be like daily time blocking. If I'm going to do reading during the work day, which I think is a good thing to do. It's a great break. I'll time block it. Uh, if it's after work, I don't time block after work. It's just a kind of a default. And you kind of just know you you're gonna read every day. And it's like reading. Yeah. Like to find time to read. I was reading this morning. I'm reading a great Ben Franklin biography. I always read something about the family fathers starting the first week in July because of July 4th. I've been watching some of that PBS episode on Franklin. Yeah. Well, so one of the main books that's, that's based on is, is, uh, HW Brands Lincoln biography or a Franklin biography, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer. Like that's the book, that book opens in the cockpit. Just like the Ken Burns opens in the cockpit. I didn't realize he spent so much time in London. Yeah. Yeah. Once he's there for a long time, he's thinking about moving there. He's there forever. Yeah. That's the thing about Franklin It's same with like John Adams If you watch like the John Adams miniseries it gets up the Declaration Independence like all right here We go Revolutionary War and he's in London with Franklin actually Yeah, so I'm in the cool part in the book like the interesting part of Franklin's life where he He stops work like the interesting part of Franklin's life where he he stops work 43 years old he's like I've made enough money my partner David Hall is going to run the printing business I get half the half the revenue uh I now have and I have the quote I I have it in my bag I bookmarked it where he's like I now have control of my time and he goes and uh says I'm gonna work on science and that's when he figures out the properties of electricity and the lightning rod and becomes world famous for doing science. So at 43 years old or 42 years old, he retires from the world of work. So he can focus on, uh, higher value productions and, you know, he. Breaks through the study of electricity and helps create the Republic. Yeah, it's cool. But then he goes to London, spends a lot of time there. I know it's a cool guy. He's interesting guy. It's an interesting documentary. He did a lot of metric tracking when he was younger. Yeah. Metric, one of the earliest American sort of advice thinkers. I mean, there's a lot that's interesting in it and it's a really well written book. Uh, and I've been, I've been enjoying it. But anyways, my point being is like this morning, I was up a little early. It's like, I'm going to read some Franklin, you know, it's just, it becomes a default, default activity. All right.

D0n't follow your passion (32:36)

Question number two, Soronolio, see if I'm saying that right, asks, how can I brainwash my little brother to make him not follow his passion? My little brother is currently 17, and in some months he will be choosing a college degree. My concern is that he falls in the follow your passion trap and chooses a worthless degree that puts him in the way to be a basement dweller. 10 years ago when I was his age, I fell in that passion trap, and I lost two years of my life in useless classes and activities. How can I make a compelling argument to him so that he doesn't fall for this fairy tale? And for those who are new to the show, Soronolio has asked me this question because of my book So Good They Can't Ignore You, which takes on the idea that follow your passion is good advice and offers alternatives instead. So this is something I've thought and written quite a lot about. All right, so I got some thoughts for you. First, I would say this is just foundationally. You need your brother in the end to choose what he studies for his own reasons. There's a motivational psychology explanation for this, but essentially, an affliction I saw again and again, back when I was advising students much more often, back when I was writing books for students and therefore got hundreds of emails a week from students and did direct one-on-one counseling, an affliction I saw again and again is what I dubbed deep procrastination. This is when students essentially lost the motivational ability to do schoolwork. Even if they were going to fail out of the classes, even if they had to take administrative or academic leave, they just couldn't do schoolwork anymore. I call this deep procrastination. It was differentiated from depression because they were not a hedonic. They still enjoyed other parts of their lives and could foresee a future in which they were doing things they enjoy. They just couldn't do schoolwork. One of the big predicting factors of deep procrastination was a sense of extrinsic pressure on what they were studying. So when you combine the extrinsic pressure, my my parents, my brother, whatever, pushed me into something to study. When you combine that with that actually being difficulty, actual cognitive difficulty of doing high-level schoolwork, those two things could fry your motivational circuits and create deep procrastination. The way out of that is to have intrinsic motivation behind the choice of what you study. So I chose it for my reasons. You sidestep a lot of these motivational challenges. And even if you're not going to get full deep procrastination, it really can make the same factors can make academic life a chore. So you want to avoid those. So what you need to do is focus on process and philosophy and talking with your brother. Hey, brother, you're going to decide what you want to do, but let me talk to you about process and philosophy you might apply in making this decision. So there's three things I want you to cover with them. One is lifestyle centric career planning. So you want to get away from this weird notion of you're wired for a particular from this weird notion of you're wired for a particular field of study and finding that is going to make you happy and missing that's going to make you unhappy. You got to get away from that weird completely artificial binary formulation and get towards something that's much more tractable and lifestyle such a career plan is a better way of thinking about it. What do you want your life to be like after college for the first five years? 10 years out? 15 years out? What are the elements of your lifestyle? And again, intellectual curiosity, that could be a part of it, being exposed or literate or things that might be attracting him now to particular, say non-pragmatic degrees is fine. That could be part of it, but picture the lifestyle, where you live, who you're around, what the environment's like, what's your days like, what's your intellectual life like, what's your philosophical life like, all these things, you have it all pictured out. And then you look back and say, okay, college is just a springboard towards a lifestyle. And it's an important distinction. If you come at someone and say, no, no, college is a springboard. It's just about particular jobs and money, stable employment. This does not resonate with 17 year olds. You got to talk about the whole lifestyle that has the pragmatic and the romantic that has the paycheck, but also the philosophical. So you want to picture a lifestyle that's very, that resonates. Thinking about benefits and how big your paycheck is doesn't resonate. So it's not gonna be as motivational, so you want the full lifestyle. So when you're thinking about, what you're telling your brother is, when you're thinking about your field of study, you wanna think about what this might open up and how it could move you, the options it might give you, and you want multiple options of moving towards this ideal lifestyle. All right, number two, hand in hand with lifestyle-centric career planning is career capital theory. The main theoretical framework that's laid out in my book So Good They Can't Ignore You. This is the theory that says the stuff that makes good work good is rare and valuable so you need something rare and valuable to offer in return and that's going to be your skills. The universe doesn't care what you're interested in, it doesn't care what your passion is. It doesn't care about your image of an ideal lifestyle. It doesn't owe that to you. You need things to leverage. You need things to trade in return for getting these things you highly desire. And that's going to be rare and valuable skills. And we call this, we use the metaphor in the book of career capital. It's an important mindset shift. So now when you're in college, you're thinking about laying the foundation for career capital acquisition, which you will then use to obtain these ideal lifestyles that you have pictured. Now again, it sounds similar to the standard cynical, college is the route to making money and having stability, but it's different. Because if you tell a 17 year old, what you're trying to do with college is to get started on a good, reasonable career with high upsides, you can make a lot of money that doesn't resonate. But if you say, what you're trying to do here is put your head down and build skills, you can trade those skills to get this ideal lifestyle, which might be exotic, which might be romantic. That does resonate. Then finally, I'm going to say, point your brother towards some of my early writings. I can have three particular topics you should point them towards. So on my my blog calnewport.com slash blog go back to the archives I'm talking 08, 09 and look up the articles on the Zen valedictorian. This will present a philosophy to him about excelling academically without falling into the trap of overload. While in the archives also look for the articles on the romantic scholar which is all about how to build up a collegiate life in which you feel intellectually engaged and curious and motivated and really into the work you're doing. It doesn't seem like a chore but part of your development as a human. That's where you you go to talks and read Heidegger over Hefeweizen at a bar and all these different ideas about how you actually integrate academic life into your self-identity and not see it as a chore. And then finally have them look at my book, How to Become a Straight A Student. Most young people are terrible at studying. If you're not terrible by comparison, you'll seem like a genius. That book has the main ideas about how to treat studying like a skill and not just some generic activity you suffer through. That will make all the difference in terms of being able to stand out, start building that capital you need to get your ideal lifestyle and to do all of that without having to study for hours and hours every day. When you read Heidegger, can you get through it? No, it's alliterative with Hefeweizen. So I wrote this, I don't know a lot of Heidegger. Have you tried? I've tried because I've talked about it for a long time and my buddy had a book, he gave it to me. No, it's really hard. Heidegger is really hard. I mean, I come back to him sometimes because he, he has some thoughts on technology, capital T technology. Uh, but when you really get into the weeds of being the E I N G and his core philosophies, it's, it's incredibly, it's incredibly difficult, but I wrote this essay in grad school where the idea of the essay was just, I had all these different things you should do as a college student to make a study of intellectual topics seem romantic and interesting and something you enjoy as opposed to seeing schoolwork as this chore that you had to suffer through and there's all sorts of ideas like adventure studying like go go to like exotic places go read the row by a waterfall don't't just do it in the library. There was start attending talks by professors in your subject area for no other reason than you just want to be exposed to the ideas, read books about your field for no reason other than just to read it, like all these things that trick your mind into thinking like, this is something I'm really interested in. Well, one of the ideas I had was go to, I was thinking of Oxford. I'm thinking of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, and they all went to the same pub and they'd have these literary conversations. It's like, go to a, you know, an old wood panel bar to read philosophy, you know, and with a pint, like very British. And then you feel like you're engaging the philosophy as part of trying to improve your wife, life. Anyways, I needed alliteration. So Heidegger, Hefeweizen. I like it. Yeah, that's great. I guess we could do like Plato and Pilsner kind of works. Not to say Heidegger and Hefeweizen. Yeah, that's a good one. Yeah. Uh, and there was a bar shout out the Murphy's in Hanover, New Hampshire, where Dartmouth is. And they used to serve a, what was the Hefeweizen? Harpoon had a summer, had a wheat beer. I think Harpoon did, they would serve it. And it was a memories of. There's Allagash. They didn't have that then. This was back when there wasn't as much New England beer, but I do remember drinking Hefeweizens at this wood panel bar. So that's probably where that came from. All right. Let's do a call, Jesse. Do we have something here? Jesse McCuellin Yep.

Deliberate practice (42:26)

Jim Collison All right. Fellow professor. Fellow professor. Emily Nissen Hi. My name is Emily. I'm a professor at a university similar to yours. I'm interested in your thoughts on improvement and deliberate practice for skills when the output is rare and the feedback loop is weak. For instance, one of my major tasks as a researcher is grant writing, and I'd like to improve on that. But I spend, you know, three months writing a grant, and then I get reviews back maybe five months later. The reviews are going to be highly specific to that project, also fairly arbitrary based on what reviewers I get. Of course I incorporate any feedback I get into revisions and I try to take general patterns into account, but it's difficult for me to see how I can, you know, day to day improve incrementally. People always say, oh, deliberate practice, but what would that mean for an outcome like this where it's binary, essentially, you're funded or you're not, and you get feedback twice a year. Of course, I ask for feedback from my collaborators, but that's a mixed bag. It's usually not harsh enough, honestly. I have somewhat of the same issues for writing academic papers and teaching, where you get reviews back a little more often, but still maybe once a semester or after three months. And so I'm just wondering if you have any ideas about how to improve as a professor. Well, you know, first of all, let me just say I'm in, I've been a professional academic for over a decade now and I've been dealing with this issue for all of those years. The feedback cycle in academia, as you point out, is slow, often six months to a year on any particular piece of work product. So it is slow. It is slow and that's kind of unavoidable, right? I mean, you're not going to be able to speed that up. So what can you do in this situation to try to use feedback to improve going forward? I'll tell you the three ideas that I came up with when I was thinking about this, things I do one is I try to have submissions, whether we're talking about grants or whether we're talking about academic papers, to me, these are really the two big value bearing work products that you're going to do as a, as an academic at a research oriented institution have something submitted every semester. So you want to be submitting at least one thing in the fall. You want to be submitting at least one thing in the spring. You want to be submitting at least one thing in the summer. What this will roughly work out to is that you never go through a semester in which you're not getting feedback on something. So if it's at least one thing per season or semester, you're going to have feedback to act on, to work with, you're never too far from it. So do not, as a counter example, consolidate all your submissions, for example, to the summer. Like I'll work on things all year, but as I get time, then I'll submit it all in the summer, spread out your submissions. And I actually work, especially with papers. I work through my submission calendars because in CS we publish in peer reviewed conferences that have set deadlines. So we have a good distribution of conferences I submit to based on where they fall in the year for exactly that point. Two, because the feedback cycle is so long, you don't want to take random swings. You don't want to take flyers on things. You want every swing you take, metaphorically speaking, to be an A swing. You want to be really trying to do something worth doing with everything you bother submitting. So that means if you're submitting grants, you're submitting grants for the top funding institutions. When you're submitting papers, you're submitting papers at good venues on topics that have a good shot of attracting citations. Just as an aside, based on the research I did in computer science, I did this research, I've talked about this on the show, I've talked about this on my blog, where I took a bunch of new professors who had come from the same research groups and differentiated between those who got tenure easily and those who didn't and looked at a lot of factors to see what differentiated them. And the biggest differentiating factor predicting the early tenure and success with tenure was number of citations on their top five papers. So what you want is everything you're submitting is really a good a swing towards producing something influential that people will cite, progress on a problem people care about or if it's introducing a new problem it's making a really good case for it doesn't mean that it will get accepted or that it will actually gain traction but everything you submit should be at least have a shot at that so if your if your slots are limited and the feedback is going to be long you want to take your best possible shot on each thing you do. So now I'm mixing metaphors here, swings and shots, but I think you know what I'm talking about. Finally, you have to keep everything else under control. It is easy, okay, I've submitted this thing, it might be four months till I submit something else, I'm not gonna hear anything else. It's easy to get antsy and start taking on more and more obligations, taking on more and start taking on more and more obligations, taking on more and more accepting more and more requests and commitments so that you feel sufficiently busy. It's a real issue that new faculty have. Often new faculty have a bit of a guilt complex that their friends and family who have real jobs are doing stuff all day and are at the office all day. And you're a new academic and you're on a reduced course load for your first years. And you just feel like I don't have enough stuff to do. I need to take on a lot of stuff because in busyness, I will assuage my guilt that I don't have a real job or I'm not doing the right things. You have to prevent that urge because if you get overloaded with the activities that aren't going to directly lead to your promotion, lead to your success, it's going to strangle the cognitive lifeblood that you need to actually advance. So I would recommend using quota systems to control everything else. I need to review papers. Yes, but here's how many I do per semester. Hit that quota. Can't do any more. I need to do committees. Yes, but here's how many I do. I hit that quota, can't do any more. I need to do committees, yes, but here's how many I do. I hit that quota, I don't do more. So you have these quotas, you're a little bit selective. When you fill the quota, you just tell the person asking, you know, this makes sense, I'd like to do this type of thing. I try to do a lot of these things. I hit my quota though of the number of reviews already that I can do in this semester. It's a very effective method because it doesn't leave much of a possible rejoinder for the person to protest, they would have to say, your quota is wrong. You should be doing more. Your quota is wrong. You're and people don't like, okay, yeah, you've done a lot. You have a reasonable limit. You've hit there. Uh, so they're unlikely, they're unlikely to push back. So it's, it's pretty successful for that as well. And it allows you to still do the things that are important just at reasonable levels. All right, so that's my three pieces of advice. Spread out submission so you always are never far from feedback. Number two, because feedback's so slow, do your best possible work each time you submit something. And number three, use quota systems to control the non-high value activities that are going to threaten to come in like cognitive kudzu and fill up the rest of your space.

Overthinking (49:36)

All right, let's see here. We've got a written question. This one's from Overthinker. Overthinker says, what do you think about overthinking? And how do you deal with or recommend dealing with it? This is a general problem I face, and I have always had but never had a way of dealing with. I have this as far as career job decisions are concerned, certain life decisions as well, and by overthinking and overanalyzing the potential options, I end up in a scenario where I'm more confused than before. How do you recommend dealing with this? Thank you. Alright well overthinker, typically the issue, and this is a common common problem, but typically the issue at stake with this problem is that you're stuck in the mental schema of a right-wrong-decision binary. So the mental framework you're using when thinking about decisions is that there is a right decision and multiple wrong decisions. If you can find a right decision, there is great rewards to it. If you miss it and end up on a wrong decision, there is great punishment. Now, when you have the stakes of a binary, you are really gonna worry about that decision because I don't wanna miss the right decision here. It could lead to quite a bit of hardship if I get it wrong. That is fertile ground for growing overthinking. So the big shift in mental frame that's gonna help you here is move away from this idea that there's right and wrong decisions and your goal is to not mess up and accidentally do the wrong instead of the right. In many different areas where there's big decisions to make, there are many different ways forward that are completely compatible with reward or goodness or whatever it is that you're looking to maximize. What matters much more than the decision is what you do once you make it. Now where this is made really clear is in career decisions, which you mentioned there. We talked about in an earlier question, which I wrote a whole book about So Good They Can't Ignore You, so let's focus on that briefly. Zoom in on that briefly here for a second. One of the big ideas in that book, So Good They Can't Ignore You, is that people often fell into this right- wrong-binary decision frame when it came to career choices. There's a right job for me that matches some sort of magical fairy tale inborn passion for that job. If I find that job, I'll be happy. If I miss it, I'll be miserable. So people obsess over what job am I going to do. And as I argued in So Good They Can't Ignore You, the decision of what job you do is actually in some sense of minor importance. You're not wired for one particular pursuit. You're not wired to be the social media brand manager for a digital media consultancy. There's no particular job that happens to be around in the 21st century knowledge economy that you have to do because of your DNA, and if you miss it, you'll be unhappy. The reality is there's probably many, many different jobs that can be the foundation of a passionate, fulfilling career. So just choose one that seems reasonable. Great. What matters is what you do next. And that's where we get into career capital theory. That's where we get into becoming so good you can't be ignored. Using that unambiguous skill as leverage to shape your job towards things towards resonate and away from things that don't, eventually arriving at an ideal lifestyle. The choice of job, eh, what you do once you make the choice, oh yeah, that matters. So we can extend that to almost any major decision. Here's what I would ask. Do I have evidence that this particular decision opens up good options for me that will move me closer to the properties of my desired lifestyle? The answer is yes. Are there other options which are also tractable that would be demonstrably more successful at moving me towards properties compatible with my ideal lifestyle? If the answer to that is no, so yes, no, then great. Go ahead. So this seems good. I'll simplify the language here. This seems good. It opens up cool opportunities. It leads me in a direction I could imagine constructing a good deep life around that. And there's not some obvious alternative that's way better. I don't care if there's a lot of alternatives that are similar. There's not one that is obviously way better. Good, go for it, commit. And there might be six different options that satisfy this. Flip a roll a six sided die. I don't care. Choose something that seems good, opens up opportunities. There's not some obviously much better answer. The interesting thing is then what you do next, which is once you've made the choice. All right, now what do I want to do? I've chosen this job. I've decided to get married, I've decided to have kids, I've decided to move to this completely different environment. Great, you've made the decision. How now do you build a life around that decision that leverages and maximizes what's good about it, sidesteps the potential traps, that allows you to extract from it all of the possibilities for a deeper life, for that ideal lifestyle? So that's the frame shift. The decision is easy. Don't make an obviously bad choice, but if something seems reasonable, that's good enough. Put more energy into what you do next.

June books (54:40)

All right, well, it's our first podcast in July. So I think we should talk about the books I read last month, the books I read in June 2022. As long-time listeners know, my goal is to read five books per month, which I do by making reading a default activity, by not using my phone for distraction, and by scheduling reading blocks on occasion into my actual time blocked work schedule. Now, Jesse, actually for the first time did not read five books. I read six in June. That's what I'm talking about. Well, it's because we had to deal with a week of COVID. So you can't do stuff, right? You can't go and do other things outside of the house. So I read an extra book. While you were doing the roar. Well, I was in the row. I didn't row with COVID. I probably should have. You use it as an excuse, right? You're like, oh man, technically I have COVID. So like really, you could have done the roar. I need to eat. I need to eat whatever David Goggins would have told you to do the roar. Yeah. Yeah. David Goggins would have wrote. No, no, you use as an excuse. I think we're leaving that phase, by the way, where like people care and feel bad for you. So you leave that phase like I got to eat like crap. I can't exercise like now you can. You know, it's stuff you get on the rower. No, actually what I did, this wasn't doing covers more recently, I did this, uh, five day, like kind of intense daily, uh, free weight routine. It was at your house. Yeah. But that was after COVID. All right. Anyways, six books I read in June, 2022. Uh, the order here is arbitrary. Number one, ball four by Jim. I think it's Boonton. I think I'm saying that right. You've heard of ball for the book. Yeah. Um, I mean, this was a book, it was written in the early seventies, uh, about a pitcher, Jim Boonton, who was a Yankee. I mean, he was really good for the Yankees and then sort of became a journeyman for a while. It was, it was a book about a year in the life and it's actually written diary format. And it was the, it's famous because it was the first book about baseball that pulled back the curtain on what life was actually like for these professional athletes. I mean, it gets into the amphetamines they would take and the carousing with women and the drinking. And this was I think this was the book that first revealed kind of broke the myth of Mickey Mantle, the fact that he hit a home run while drunk. And so it pulled back the curtain and it was sort of a big controversy, but it's really influential book for a lot of people because it was the first, this is what sports is really like. Um, I read it for a book group. I'm in a book group, Jesse, not something I would normally think to do given how much of my life professionally I spend reading and writing, but it's a sports book only book group. And I read sports books as a way to relax because they're completely unrelated to what I write about normally. So I figured that'd be a good book group to join. So you guys meet once a month? I mean, last night was our first meeting. So I've only done it once. And the book was ball four? Ball four. Yeah. So I've only done it once But the book was ball for ball for Yeah, so I'm officially in a book group The style is interesting in ball for he worked its diary. I mean day every day March 17th You know April 28th and he would take notes during the day and then talk into a tape recorder at night And then it got edited. He had a kind of a ghost writer and they would edit it, but it's uh, it's almost impressionistic, right? I mean, if you read now a sort of sports autobiography, it's, it's, it'll follow through time, but there's, there's plot lines it's following, and it's written in way that's a little bit more coherent. This is more impressionistic. It'll, this happened, here's an observation. You will come back to plot lines, but not in a very structured way. I mean, it's almost like early modernism, cubism and art being moved over to narrative nonfiction. It's the Mademoiselle, the Davin Young of sports book. It's just impressionistic and it's 500 pages of just doom and this and this happened and that happened. And over time, it's very effective. You get a very layered understanding of life as a player without any carefully constructed narratives, without carefully constructed structured chapters. So there's some sort of interesting experimental thing going on. I haven't seen a lot of that in books since. Who was the manager then? So this follows the, I think the 69 season where he spent a year at an expansion team. It was the Seattle pilot. Okay. Which then became the the Brewers. Got it. Um, so it was interesting. All right. Other interesting book I read, take the gun, believe the cannoli by Mark seal. It's a account of the filming of the first godfather. So that's a, it's a account of the filming of the first Godfather. So that's a, it's a quote from the first Godfather. Mark Seal, I think is a Vanity Fair reporter. And I was going to California, I was going to wine country, Francis Ford Coppola, you know, has vineyards up there. And so it felt appropriate to read a book about the making of the Godfather. So it was interesting. And it gets into Rob Evans and Mark Puzo and, and, and, you know, how the movie came together and, and those are kind of interesting books to read. Yeah. They just had the 50th anniversary too, right? Yeah. Oh, interesting. And this is an older book, but my timing was good then. Yeah. The 50th anniversary is like a couple of months ago. Yeah. So Puzo went through this whole thing about the record for paperback rights. So, so Puzo got, I think, 500,000 for the paperback rights to the Godfather would set the record. And because Stephen King got 400,000 for Carrie kind of around the same time. So that was, that was the sort of records back then for rights was like four or five hundred thousand dollars. And that was back when paperback rights were something you sold separately and that's where you made all your money. No longer today. All right. Then I read Every Tool is a Hammer by Adam Savage, former Mythbusters. It's his memoir. An interesting memoir. He'll work in advice about workshops and making with the story of his own life and his personal philosophy. Adam Savage, his critical connection to this show we do here is that he has the cave, which is this really cool warehouse in the Mission District of San Francisco, which is his personal workshop and it's this cool, amazing space he goes to. And part of the inspiration for the deep work HQ was that he, he has this, this was his dream to have a dedicated space that what he does is builds things. And it's this huge, cool workshop. Uh, just like we have a dedicated space to come and record and in theory think. And so I liked the cave. I like his videos on tested.com. Interesting guy. Did it talk about the cave in the like his videos on tested.com. Interesting guy. Did it talk about the cave in the book? Yeah. And he started his first cave was like in a basement of a rental house. And then, uh, after Mythbusters was doing really well and he made, made money is when he, he leased out, leased out this space. It's interesting. They're, I think they're having crime problems in the neighborhood. Like they don't, they don't nearly as much anymore have cameraman come film in there. He'll self film himself in there, which he was doing during COVID during the, like the lockdowns, but then he kept doing it, even though now, uh, it's obviously not COVID concerns because he does lots of videos with other people in other places. And I heard him say somewhere that it's because, uh, the cars are getting broken into. So he can walk to the cave from his house. So he can go there and film himself. But when a crew would come just like clockwork, their cars are getting broken into. So there's a lot of self filming happening. There you go. A little bit of, uh, Adam Savage trivia. Right there, but it was a good book. He talked, I mean, it's, you'll learn about glue, but also learn about, you know, his time at ILM and his struggles. I mean, so it's like, I think it's a really creative book. I enjoyed it. All right. Then I read cod by Mark Kurlansky. I like her Lasky. There was a period in the, this would have been the early two thousands where these books were really big, where you would take one topic, uh, Kulansky wroteod and then he wrote Salt, but there was like a book about pencils that was really big at this time. And you take one topic and you go deep on that topic and in going deep on that topic, you learn a lot about history. And Cod was one of the first books to do that. When I lived in New England, I read this and Salt. I love those books. So it's the history of Cod and cod fishing, but you learn the history of Europe and colonial America and all of these different things, um, beautifully written and he mixes it with recipes, but historical recipes. Like here's a recipe for preparing cod from 1727 and it's all mixed together. It's a, it's a really nice, uh, innovative, beautifully constructed book. So as a reread? That I think I probably read at some point, yeah, back in New England 10, 15 years ago. Have you tried any of the recipes? Well, they're historic recipes, so. We have Cook Cod though. Cod's good. Then I read, because this is my weird compulsion, I don't know why I read these books, but I keep reading these type of books. Another Bill Carter book, Desperate Networks. So Bill Carter is New York Times TV reporter. Desperate Networks is just a book about like a five year period after NBC's must see TV lineup was friends and Seinfeld had all kind of disappeared and how NBC fell and ABC and CBS made their move. So ABC got lost in desperate housewives and CBS got CSI. It just that's it like Bill Carter just writes these books every so often years. He'll like take a period of time and write about it. So the last one I wrote read by him and talked about on the show is late shift about what happened after Johnny Carson retired. I don't know why I'm so interested in these books about the inside baseball of network television, but I find them relaxing and interesting. Basically just comes down to ratings and that just gets more advertisers, right? Is that how it's determined? Yeah. And well, but how these shows come together, it's all kind of guesswork. I, so I'll I'll tell you the anecdote I've extracted from this book that's going to make it into slow productivity. So I'll preview this anecdote now because I'm always reading, looking towards anecdotes. They talk about CBS was really struggling. And I think it was less Moonves who took over might have that wrong. I'll go back and I listened to it, but I have to buy the book to get the quotes out of it. And, uh, he was upset that the offices were emptying. There'll be three o'clock on a Friday and the office would be half full. And that needs that people aren't taking at the CBS headquarters there in, uh, in Manhattan where I've been, because I've done some CBS stuff. People aren't here, we need energy. He's like, NBC was number one, they probably had a lot of energy. So everyone has to be in the office, you can't leave till after five. And if you step back, you say, yeah, under him CBS did rock it up to be much more successful. Why I think it's an interesting anecdote though, is as Bill Carter gets into exactly what happened, why did CBS become more successful? Because all of the executives and ad people and HR people were in the office till five? No, it was because of CSI. And when you hear the story of CSI and Bill Carter, it's actually the story of someone spending a lot of time thinking through and polishing this concept and it's a slow productivity parable. Les Moonves thought what was important for success is that everyone was busier and more visibly active, but in the end, what actually saved the company was something that was very slow and creative. And there's this story of this television writer who had gone up in his career and had fallen and had gotten obsessed with this idea and slowly developed something of such value that it saved an entire network. So I'm going to pull that together in the book. You'll see when the book finally comes out into a cool reversal anecdote about, you know, Les Moonves didn't save the company by making everyone more busy, but instead it was this guy whose name I forgot, but we'll obviously learn Slowing down and Inhabiting this idea that ended up actually making the difference So there's a little proto idea that by the time it comes into my book will be quite polished So that that alone made it worth reading that book I think Final thing I read As it was June summer. I love to read adventure books and thrillers. I read David Morrell's First Blood. So First Blood, it's known now as the first Rambo movie, so John Rambo, this is the book that introduced John Rambo. But people don't remember properly the lineage of Rambo. So First Blood is this book about political polarization post-Vietnam and it used to be taught in colleges a lot. The plot of the book is that John Rambo, former Green Beret, who had this traumatic experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and is now sort of a drifter just sort of walking through across the countryside, has a run in with the straight lay police sheriff in this small town. And I think it's in the I forgot where it is in the movie at Pacific Northwest. I think this is like Virginia or something. And he snaps and he uh, he snaps the PTSD snaps. He kills one of the police officers, flees into the woods. The police come after him. Long story short, he basically kills everyone, but the chief and then the national guard comes back and says back and forth, but the way David Morrell wrote the book is alternating viewpoints. Rambo police chief Rambo police chief. And he was very clear that there's no clear hero or anti here It's not this is the good guy. This is the bad guy though. The whole point of the book was the ambiguity You kind of understand the police chief and the he's been divorced and the issues He's having his life and you understand Rambo and the PTSD and you're not even sure who's the good guy? Who's the bad guy? That was the whole point the book, because that's the weird ambivalence of the post Vietnam era polarization. It was this messy time where it was unclear who was right and who was wrong. And so it's actually like a really interesting book. And they made it into the movie First Blood, the first Rambo movie starring Sylvester Stallone. And the movie. Is not like you think about with Rambo, I mean, it's a it's shot like today, we see it more like an indie film. It's in the early 70s and it's a small movie. I did invent some very important tropes that this is one of the very first sort of had some of the very first tropes that action movies of the 80s would then pull from. But it's not a it's not a recognizable shoot them up action movie. So it's like it's, it's like a small movie. I rewatched it. I've had some, some guys that we do a movie club. We rewatched it not too long ago. Then after that was very successful, they did Rambo two and by Rambo two, now Sylvester Stallone has biceps roughly the size of a cantaloupe and he's holding him sixties under both arms and has the red bandana and he goes back to Vietnam and he's you know The body counts pile up it became the cliched sort of this weird over-the-top Reagan era rah-rah-rah movie but first blood was not that and the first blood movie was not that so I went back and read the original novel That's pretty good he It's he just kills everybody. But it's psychologically interesting. He's broken and the police chief is, anyways, in the end they both die. They kill each other, spoiler alert, they kill each other in the end. I mean it's kind of an interesting book. But David Morrell said after the second Rambo movie came out, they stopped teaching the book in colleges. Because the second Rambo movie was very much associated with like rah-rah Reaganism and, you know, mindless action, and it tainted his original work and they stopped teaching it. So there you go. David Morrell, First Blood. All right, those are my six. What was the beast of a book that you were reading? Like back in the springtime? Did you finish it? I don't know, I've had a few beast recently. I don't know which one in the spring might've been the beastiest. I'd have to go back and look at our- Are you still working through like a beast of a book right now? Franklin's a beast of a book. Yeah, I'm 200, I mean, Ball Four was a beast of a book right now? Franklin's a beast of a book. Yeah. I'm 200, I mean, Ball Four was a beast of a book just in length. It's not hard, it's not a hard read, but it's 500 pages, Franklin's five or 600 pages. Uh, and it's small. It is making me feel old. It's reading glasses small. You know. You've probably read a lot of books about Franklin, right? Yeah. Last year I read Gordon Wood's book, Americanization of Ben Franklin. Gordon. What is great? Gordon? What is, uh, well, brands is an academic too, but what is, um, the most academic of the semi-public facing writers about colonial history. So he's great on the philosophical context of the revolution, like the currents of thought going on in England and specifically like what Jefferson had read and what was going on, the impacts of these various rebellions that were happening in the English countryside in the 18th century and how they influenced what was happening in America. So like, if you really want, I think woods at Brown, he's more academic brands is he's a distinguished professor at UT Austin, but he writes more, uh, he's a beautiful writer, but he's also like McCullough or someone he he's writing for a non-academic art audience, but he's, that's a piece of a book that's 600 pages. Um, so that, that might take me a minute. Yeah. I'm reading four books concurrently right now. I just, I'm jumping between things. I'm finding things I like. I'm just, I'm just all over the place right now. Any audio? Yeah. Um, what am I listening to an audio? Ooh, golden eye. It's a book. It was, it's free on audible right now. So if you have audible, it's free right now. And it's the story of the house that Ian Fleming built in Jamaica when he turned 40 and it's where he wrote all the James Bond novels. So it's, it's a Jamaican history. Like what was going on in Jamaica. It's the colonial relationship between Britain, Jamaica, who was living there, all these different my, uh, lesser aristocrats and others. And Ian Fleming coming there and building this house and, and where he, he wrote all of his books. And so. I'm enjoying that here. I'll just give the quick bullet. I always say I'm always pattern pattern matching interesting bullet points The interesting bullet points is one so after the war so, you know, Fleming served with intelligence during the war This was if you want to look up British privilege after the war he went to get a job at at a paper And he was going to be the foreign reporter for some paper run by Lord someone, someone he's like, here's the thing. I need three months off a year to go to Jamaica and Lord. So and so was like, good show old chop. That's fine. You can take three months off a year. So you can go to Jamaica. That seems reasonable. So then he goes and builds this house. So he'd visited Jamaica in the war. And so he goes and builds this house in Jamaica and just partying. He's partying at this house. It's not very nice. I mean, it's a beautiful overlook in the water, but the house it's, it's, uh, there's no windows, it's just louvers. So it's like full of bugs at night and the bathroom doesn't really work, but you know, he's just partying and womanizing. So he builds it when he's forties, just out there drinking and womanizing and then gets his mistress pregnant when he's 43. And now he's all freaking out. He's like, I can't be a dad. I can't raise a kid or whatever. I don't know. He's all freaking out. So she's like, look, you need to distract yourself. Um, yeah, you can't just be carousing womanize. Why don't you write like while you're out here. And so at 43, he's out there at Jamaica, freaking out about having a kid and writes casino Roy, casino Royale. Wow. And he gets it down to a science where he can write these, he, the, he writes one novel per annual Jamaica visit. So in three months, one novel, right in the morning and again in the afternoon, overlooking the water with the swim in between. Yeah. He's got it figured out. The downside is he smoked 80 cigarettes a day, which if you do the math is constant, it has to, you have to light one with the other. So, uh, spoiler alert, Ian Fleming did not live to a ripe old age, dead at 57, but he did some damage. Anyway, so I'm listening to that. So, so more, more on that when we report on the July books. All right. Let's talk briefly here.

Cal talks about ExpressVPN and Zbiotics (01:15:36)

Speaking of Ian Fleming and carousing and the British drinking habits, let's talk about a sponsor that Ian Fleming wish wished had been around back when he was out at GoldenEye in Jamaica, and that is Z-Biotics. God bless the scientists of the world for working on the things that really matter. Z-Biotics is a pre-alcohol probiotic. It is the world's first genetically engineered probiotic. We have our best and brightest minds working on this because this is what Z biotics does. It takes the toxic by-product that's produced when your body metabolizes alcohol. The thing that really causes the rough day after a night spent doing Ian Fleming style drinking, and it helps break it down, reducing the impact of your drinking. More specifically, Z-Biotic produces an enzyme that enzyme breaks down this specific whole, this specific by-product. Uh, this enzyme does the work that your liver would otherwise do, but it does it in your gut before it gets to your liver, before it starts to do its damage, you drink the Z biotic before drinking the alcohol. Then you of course drink responsibly and get a good night's sleep and you will feel your best the next day. If this was around in the 1950s, I believe Ian Fleming would have a shipping containers of Z biotics sent to them. I'm glad again that our scientists are working on what is important. Never has there been a product that I was more motivated and inspired to thoroughly test. So give Zbiotics a try for yourself. Go to zbiotics.com. You can find a lot of great information there. And I'm sure you'll find a lot of great things. So I hope you guys enjoyed this video. If you did, please give it a thumbs up. And if you want to see more of this, please subscribe to my channel. And I'll see you in the next video. Bye. that our scientists are working on what is important. Never has there been a product that I was more motivated and inspired to thoroughly test. So give Zbiotics a try for yourself. Go to zbiotics.com slash cal to get 15% off your first order. When you use cal at checkout, Zbiotics is backed with a 100% money back guarantee. So if you're unsatisfied for any reason, they'll refund your money. No questions asked. So head to zbiotics.com. So that's the letter Z, B I O T I C S zbiotics.com slash cow and use that code cow at checkout to get 15% off. 15% off. Also wanna talk about ExpressVPN. You should be using a VPN if you are connecting to the internet away from your home and even if you're connecting through your home. The way a VPN works is that instead of directly talking to the server service or website that you want to talk to, you instead make an encrypted connection to a VPN server, you tell that server over this encrypted connection what service or website you're interested in, the server talks to that website or service on your behalf, and then passes back to response to the encrypted connection. That means people nearby who are sniffing your packets, that means your internet service provider, which hint, looks at what you do and sells that data, have no idea what you're up to. All they see is that you're sending encrypted packets out to a VPN server, and they do not know exactly how many hours you actually are spending at calnewport.com as I assume most of you are doing. So VPNs are critical for using the internet in our current age of surveillance and unscrupulous data mining. If you're gonna use a VPN, ExpressVPN is the service you need. They have servers everywhere. You're never gonna be too far physically from a server. They have lightning fast connections. So you don't even notice that you're going through a VPN server. Their tech is great, it runs in the background on all of your devices, when you turn it on, you're then just using your services, your web browser, like normal, not even realizing that you're going through a VPN, great seamless experience. So you need to use a VPN, and I recommend ExpressVPN as the best choice. So if you're tired of all of these big tech and other unsavory actors tracking you and selling your personal data for profit, it's time to fight back. Visit ExpressVPN.com slash deep right now to get three months of ExpressVPN for free. That's ExpressVPN.com slash deep ExpressVPN.com slash deep.

Slow productivity (01:20:05)

All right, I'm thinking we should do. ooh, this is running, got a good length episode here. Let's do two more quick questions. Maybe one of them should be a call. Do we have a good call queued up? Yep, we do. All right. It's about slow productivity. Hi, Cal. My name is Robert from Nova Scotia, Canada, and I'm a process improvement consultant. And I've been thinking a lot lately about your scales of productivity, including your most recent interview on the Tim Fares podcast. And in my role, I'm stuck between balancing slow productivity and billable hours. So my measure for productivity is billable hours, but it does seem very short-term focused. I know in the long-term I can be more productive by doing activities such as building a better sales engine, creating better training programs, basically all of these other elements of being so good that our team can't be ignored that aren't associated with billable hours. So currently this has led to extra work in the evenings and weekends which seems counterproductive to slow productivity. So do you have any recommendations for slow productivity for workers that are measured by billable hours? Thank you. Well, look, if you control your own destinies, let's say this is your own company, what you have to do, and it feels uncomfortable at first, is you have to cap your billable hour time, freeing up more time to work on the long-term initiatives that are ultimately going to make your company more profitable. Maybe it's going to increase the billable hour rate you get, or preferably is going to move your business away from work payment per hour and towards something more scalable. So it could be uncomfortable to do because you feel like you're giving up money in the short term, but ends up being absolutely necessary to make more in the longterm. So that's what I would suggest. Now, let's say you're at a revenue level that you can't go below. You're barely making the various expenses. Uh, you're barely getting to the expenses that your business unavoidably generates with the revenue you're getting. Okay. So now what you might have to do for a little while is extra work outside of those hours to make yourself more valuable, to make your company more valuable. And what you're trying to do here is as soon as possible, ask for more per hour. There's an interesting book. Paul Jarvis wrote this book called company of one. It's one of the books I'm actually rereading right now. One of the mini books I'm reading concurrently right now. So I'm refreshing myself. I blurbed this book years ago, but I'm refreshing myself on this book. And he said, one of the traps that people get in, in billable hours, when they, when they start to get more successful is they add more hours. There's more demand for me. So I add more hours of work so I can make more money. And he says, actually, the right thing to do in that instance is probably the opposite. If there's more demand for my work, I should ask for more money. And now I can actually reduce the total number of hours I'm working while keeping the revenue the same. That's the alternative, and often it's the right alternative. As I get better and better, instead of trying to make more money, which means working more hours, I could actually try to work less time for the same money. You have to ask for more money as you earn it. Then you don't have to work as many hours to generate the same revenue. Now you can spend that extra time improving your business. Now you make even more per hour that you work or eventually even move past the billable hours and get to a sweet spot where you're working the amount you want to work. You're more than comfortable with the money that you're making. It's a very good, sustainable place to be. Good, slow productivity target, good foundation for a deep life. Now I've been to Nova Scotia. It's beautiful up there and you need your downtime. You need to go get out the Cape Breton. Do some references here. Go down to Louisburg, Louisburg, get out to Prince Edward Island. You can't do that if you're up all night doing billable hours. So there is my advice for that. All right, let's end with a deeper question here. This comes from Kevin.

Overview Of Principles For A Fulfilling Life

Deep life principles (01:24:07)

Kevin said, I've recently been reading the classic seven habits, a highly effective people and are wondering what the seven or choose the appropriate number of principles of deep life are of the deep life are a, what are the fundamental truths that have universal application to cultivating the deep life? Well, Kevin, I don't have a full, full answer on that. of the deep life are. I, what are the fundamental truths that have universal application to cultivating the deep life? Well, Kevin, I don't have a full, fully developed answer to that yet. I will, by the time I'm done writing my deep life book, but I'm writing my slow productivity book first. So for now I'm just playing with ideas in the background, but let me give you three right now, extracted from some of the notes I've been taking as I, as I look ahead to the process of writing my deep life book in the future, right? Idea number one, this is my current tentative formulation for what the deep life requires. The deep life requires the radical alignment of your daily existence towards things you value and away from things you don't. All right. There's three pieces to that formulation. All right. One, you have to shift your life where you live, what you do for work, how you work, how you fill your time, whatever. You have to shift major elements of your life towards things you really care about. So there's this intentional shaping of your life towards things you care about. Two, the shift should be radical. So there's something deep. And meaning generating about making big shifts. So it's not just I'm trying not to work on weekends, it's you radically changed your job so that you're working half days, four days a week, it's the radical shift. It's not just I want to hike more. It's I moved the Vancouver Island where I live among the woods, right? The, the, something about the radicality helps unlock depth. And the third piece of this formulation is to focus more on the things that value, you have to pretty severely reduce all the things that don't. So there's a simplification that seems to come with the deep life, the focus on one thing, you have to excise more of the other things and not just getting rid of the things that are bad, but also being willing to step away from the things that are fine, just not as good as the things you really care about. So you can't have all the different things. All right. Idea two. That transformation requires practice. So it's hard to make big changes in your life. It's hard in two ways. One, just building up the muscle and the discipline of controlling being very efficacious about directing your life. That's why on this podcast, I often talk about the deep life bucket exercise, you identify the buckets of the deep life and you do the keystone habit in each and then you spend six to eight weeks dedicated to each bucket, doing a transformation of that piece of your life. A big part of that is practice, getting used to intentionality and discipline in the shaping of your life. That actually does take some work. The other thing that benefits from practice is insight. Insight on what matters to you and what doesn't and the nuances of how something matters is often extracted as a side effect of action in doing something, trying something, making this change, taking this month off, putting on this routine, praying five times a day, whatever it is to change you make it's in the actual friction generated by taking that action that you gain. Ooh, our timer went off, Jesse. Uh, that you actually gain insight. And by the way, for those who are watching at home, you, you hear me reference a timer. I'll hold it up to the camera here. A reader or a listener sent us, Dave Z us this. What's it called, Jesse? Focus timer. Focus timer. So free plug for those who are listening. It is a plastic hourglass. Yeah, it's basically to avoid using your phone for a timer. Yeah, and it has I haven't quite figured it out. We just opened the box before the episode, but it has LED lights to indicate how full it is or not full it is. And when you twist it, it does something and you turn it over and it anyways once you learn how to use it you can basically set a timer and run it and just watch led sand move down through a through a hourglass so you can time yourself without having to look at digital numbers on a phone so was it dave z dave z dave z thank you very. That's what went off for those who are listening. Just went off during our recording here. But the point I was making before the focus timer went off is through action, you gain insight. In fact, action is often a better route to insight than mere reflection. It's why a lot of the great wisdom traditions of the world have so much ritual involved. You can't just sit, you can't just sit and think about Torah. You actually have to do the five-time daily or whatever is three-time daily prayer. You have to go through the the rituals of the the days of awe. Through ritual, through activity, through commitment, you gain insight that applies to life transformation too. So you're not just going to sit here and watch documentaries and read books and get inspired and figure out. You actually have to take action at a smaller scale to get the insight needed to take successful action at the larger scale. Third idea, Kevin, career capital theory is often the fuel of the deep life. So the universe doesn't care about your values and dreams. And so if your radical change is not practical or sustainable, the stress and uncertainty that it creates, let's say financially or otherwise is going to counteract the potential benefits. So deep life transitions are most successful when they're made with a. Foundation of confidence, financially speaking, I don't healthcare, education, connection, whatever the things are you worry about that you're able to make this with confidence, career capital is going to be your buddy in this mission becoming so good. You can't be ignored at skills gives you leverage. You can use that leverage to shape your career towards things that resonate and away from things that don't. Shifting towards a deep life is the ultimate example of shifting your life towards things that resonate. You might need to build up a pretty big pool of career capital to make that happen. So this goes contrary. A lot of times when people think about something like the deep life, it's all about the inspiration and the boldness, but it's actually often the, the, the focus of getting really good at something valuable. That's most important. That's what opens up the options for you to sustainably try something different. All right, Kevin, that's tentative, but that's some of my recent thoughts on successfully identifying and transitioning to a deep life. Now, if only my book will sell as many as Stephen Covey's seven habits, I think we will all be happy. That might be one of the bestselling advice books of all time. Yeah, probably. I think so. It's like 30 million copies or something. Yeah, it's crazy. I mean, look, I don't want to be greedy. I'd be okay with a half that. It's a good title. Yeah, it's a good title, but I think people give too much credit to titles. It sells more books, right? Yeah. But if the book is not, I've been in the business long enough to know books sell a lot of copies because they, they hit a chord with people. They just hit the right chord and they, people pass them on to other people, pass them on to other people. Titles can help, but this idea that, you know, Mark Manson sold 18 million copies of the subtle art of not giving an F word because the F word was in it. It's crazy. It's because the book was the perfect tone on the perfect topic to reach a perfectly large audience. Seven habits is great, but everyone wrote books with seven in the title after that. It's not the title. It was a, uh, values driven approach to productivity, which is as relevant today as it was back then. And it's, it's, it's a really good book. Deep work sold a lot of copies. I mean, I think the phrase deep work is good, but it's also just hit the zeitgeist at a time where people were intuiting something negative about the distraction and the freneticism of their, of their working life. And they couldn't quite put their finger on it. And the book put their finger on it in a way they could then articulate to others. And, you know, million copies later, that thing spread. So I'm a believer titles kind of matter, but a title cannot make a book into a massive seller. That makes sense. Yeah. That's my theory. All right. Well, we've gone hour 30. We haven't done hour 30 in a while. I feel good about that, but we should wrap it up. So thank you everyone for listening. If you like what you heard you will like what you see. Video of this full episode as well as clips of selected segments can be found at youtube.com slash calnewportmedia. If you like what you heard you'll also like what you read. Subscribe to my weekly newsletter at calnewport.com. We'll be back next week and until then as always stay deep.

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