Ep. 208: The Task Freeze Effect

Transcription for the video titled "Ep. 208: The Task Freeze Effect".


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Cal's intro (00:00)

So here's the phenomenon that I think is common. You have a big, let's call it task list, right? You go through your calendars, you're in box, you have all these various things you're writing out that need to get done. And you're looking at this list of all this wide variety of different types of things and you freeze. I'm Cal Newport and this is Deep Questions, episode 208. I'm here in my Deep Work HQ joined once again by Jesse, after a little while, Jesse. Spencer, time. I've done some episodes alone. I've done some episodes with a blanket over my head up in Vermont. So it's nice to have the old gang, the old format, everything back together. We can do this old fashioned. I got an episode planned that has all the things we like. We got written questions, we got calls, we have the books I read, we have a habit tune up, we have our tablet that we're going to use, we're going back to all of the hits because it was a, it was an interesting July, a lot of vacations, vacations are over, so like school's back. - I'm excited about the books. - Yeah, I always liked that segment. - Yeah, one of them came from you. So you'll see when we get there. I'll tell you, here's something that was interesting, speaking of us being a part. The other day I did NPR from the HQ and I used your microphone. Because for whatever mysterious audio, Gremlin reasons, your microphone generates less buzz or hiss or whatever it is. And it's different, it threw me your seats in a little different position. The camera has a different eye line than mine. I mean, it felt like when you switched from right to left handed and hitting a baseball or something, I gotta say. - Like going to England and driving the other side. - I was driving on the other side of the road, except for doing an NPR interview. But it definitely, I was like, this is not right. I don't feel right over here. The wall is too close behind me. The mic, my hand's over here. It's man threw me off, but persevered. Persevered nonetheless. All right, well we got a good show, as I mentioned, questions, calls, et cetera.

Work, Productivity And Managing Tasks

To do lists are inhumane (02:10)

Well, let's start, get back to basics a little bit, do a habit, tune up. So when this is where I go and I take a particular strategy or tactic, relevant to living a deeper, more productive life when we get into the weeds. This one is based off of my recent experience of coming back from a long vacation and that dreaded first weekday back after vacation where you face everything that has piled up. You go through your inboxes, you confront your calendar again. You go to your long neglected quarterly plans and you realize, okay, I'm completely overwhelmed. How am I ever gonna get my arms around this? It's never my favorite thing, but I went through it. But as I was going through this, the Monday after I got back from my vacation, it got me thinking about a bigger effect that I wanted to discuss. So here's the phenomenon that I think is common. You have a big, let's call it task list, right? You go through your calendars, you're in box, you have all these various things you're writing out that need to get done. You're looking at this list of all this wide variety of different types of things and you freeze. It just seems impossible to even get started. It's not that any one particular task is impossible to do or incredibly daunting. It's just somehow seen the combination of them seems to mentally speaking, freeze you in place. And it's very difficult to make progress. You go online and you have to check baseball trade rumors and you go back and check your inbox again and you look at social media and you do anything you can but try to tackle this list. Something about it freezes you. So let me give you an example. So for those who are watching this on YouTube, youtube.com/countamportmedia, I'm bringing up on the screen now a sample list. Let me scroll this slightly. All right, so if you're looking at this on YouTube, on the left here I have a list of just the types of things you would drop onto a list as you're trying to catch up after vacation. So for those listing I have on here, transfer money. Next step on dinner party, new copy for Karen, budget, reply to Jennifer, reply to mom, add reminder to calendar for Bill Laundry. Notes to Alex, order new cable, update Amazon by a writing plan for rest of week. A lot of these actually by the way came from my processing of everything not so long ago. So when you face a task list like this, it's common to freeze. You feel significant resistance to action. Now what's actually going on here is there's a, there's a neuroscientific explanation for this freezing. If you get into the details of how the human brain actually plans and then motivates you to do non-simple physical action, it gets pretty complicated. But there's a whole, what we call, there's a sort of a plan execute reward loop where if there's something you want to do, you set this target of what you're trying to accomplish, this loop then accesses the hippocampus so it can look at memories and pull up memories. If you executing this thing in the past so that you can simulate different plans and find one that works, then there's a very complicated connection from here to the ventral striatum, which is a sort of complicated, uniquely human part of the brain that's very involved in motivation for non-simple physical activity. So I have to get up and get started working on the budget. So it's not a simple physical activity such as I need to reach over here to grab this apple, it's something more abstract and complicated. They all work together, the motivation is generated and you start working. When you see a list that's this long and this diverse, so it's many different things and they are semantically unrelated, what's involved in getting new copy to Karen is very different than what's involved in working on your household budget, that apparatus can't function. That apparatus is meant for this is the thing you want to do, let's make a plan, here's your motivation, go and do it. Now you're done, here's a dopamine, yay. It can't handle the idea of these 10 or 15 different things that all have to be done because it can't literally have the bandwidth to try to make a plan, to envision a plan, to pull out memories from your hippocampus and simulate your plan for 15 things at once. So that feeling of task freeze, that feeling of task freeze that we see when we have a long and diverse list is actually the neuroscientific correlate of our planning apparatus freezing itself. It can't deal with it so it doesn't generate the needed motivation. So this way of work and organization that's so common in modern life where we have a lot of very, very things that have to be done all mixed together all at once really is incompatible with our brain. So I was facing the same thing, I had a list like this longer but actually a lot of these things are from that list. So what do you do here? Well, if you understand, if you understand what's happening in your brain you can work with that. And what I do, what I did the other day, what I commonly do in these situations is I will begin sorting these lists and combining like tasks, tasks that are a similar type of behavior, using a similar part of your brain and I will sort them into standalone groups or piles. So if you look on the screen here, so again, if you're watching on YouTube, you'll see I have one group where I have reply to Jennifer, reply to mom, next step dinner party and I've elaborated that task to say email restaurant because that's actually what the next step is. I have to email the person at the restaurant. Those three things are together. Why? Because it's all the same type of thing. I'm in email, I'm composing messages to people. That's a group. Then I have a separate group below that where I put add calendar reminder, order new cable, update calendar, I should say update Amazon bio and start laundry. By the way, a lot of those are actually real Jesse. So the new cable is, I ordered an ethernet cable for the HQ because we were having some connection issues with the NPR recording. So I'm just gonna hard wire this B straight to the modem, update the bio. My agent wrote me and was like, you realize your bio on Amazon, your author bio was written right when So Good They Can't Ignore You came out in 2012. So that's a little bit out of date. So these are actually real things. But why are those four things together in this group? Because in my mind, those are all what I would think of as small non-demanding tasks. I have to add something on the calendar. I could jump over to Amazon and order something. I have to copy this bio from my website and log in. So it's online minor, semi-tidious, but requires very little thinking type tasks. Next group, Notes for Alex, Notes for Karen. Now I put these together because these are things that are gonna require time and non-trivial thinking. These both actually came from my real list the other day. Notes for Alex, Alex is my doctoral student. It's Notes I owed him on his doctoral dissertation proposal. Karen, Karen is actually the web designer and consultant that keeps Cal Newport.com up and running. We're doing a revampacal Newport.com and actually I ordered some notes on the latest design. So those are things that require thinking. I gotta sit down. I gotta load up a non-trivial cognitive context. I have to give it non-trivial thought. I put those together. And then finally I have budget transfer money writing plan in its own group budget transfer money. These are kind of similar things. You're thinking about your finances, family finances. You're in a planning type mode. I felt like that was a good mode where you would also maybe wanna work on a writing plan. So I have grouped together like with like. And the final piece of the strategy is that you tackle one group at a time. When you're doing that group, that's what you're all in doing that group. And then you step back, you reset your rest. You go get the new coffee, you go for a walk. Then you come back and tackle another group. Take a break. You know, I'm gonna go chat over here, check in on whatever going online, then tackle another group. This ends up being a much more effective way of getting through this work because what you will immediately notice is that when you are focusing on, here is a group of similar tasks that I've grouped together. And all I wanna do is tackle this group. Your planning apparatus can deal with that. Oh, it's email time. All right, let's get in that. We can do that. I get that. We're gonna go in here and send emails that we're gonna be done. That makes sense. That's coherent. Here's the plan, let's execute. Here's the motivation. A little bit of, oh, you got it done when you're done. When you group like by like, your brain can get in the game and you get rid of the task freeze and you can actually make progress. Now, why do you take a break between the groups? Because you have to let that cognitive context begin to dissipate. So you're not stuck in the email context. You're not stuck in the doing difficult notes to students and web consultant context. Let the context dissipate. Let your brain catch a breather and load up that whole planning apparatus for the next group. So I think the name for this habit tune up I was used in my notes is task lists are inhumane. And what I meant by that is just staring at a task list. Like the one I had up on the screen on the left there where it's 15 different unrelated things is literally inhuman in the sense that it does not match the way the human brain works. And so we have to work with our actual cognitive apparatus grouping like by like tackling groups with rest in between. That's the way to tackle long diverse task lists. At least that's the way I did it. And it got me through catching up when I got back from my trip. - So is that task list in your working memory.txt? - Memory.txt, exactly. I don't want frills. I want to just type as fast as I can into a text file. Then it's so easy in a text file to copy and paste and move things around and just put a bunch of equal signs to put little dividers between them. I love the simplicity of it. And then also when I'm tackling individual task and I have my working memory.txt plain text file open I always just have a buffer section where I can copy text and write text and put notes to myself just to extend my working memory and help me tackle the task in front of me. So yeah, when I'm going through a list like this and organizing it, grouping it and executing it, the number one tool that ties that all together is that plain text file. Plain text file on my desktop is organizing, extending my brain, organizing all this work. So all of this stuff I did in a text file on my desktop. - And then when you're on vacation and you have certain things that come up you just write it down your moleskin, right? And then transfer that over to a computer. - Yeah, whatever capture you want to use. Yeah. - I had a paper notebook, the bigger spiral bound notebook but yeah, you capture wherever. And then you just, when you need to deal with it, transfer it all into the text file, go through your calendar to see what's coming up, transfer the relevant things to your text file, go through your inboxes, transfer the relevant things to your text file, just dump the whole thing. You'll have task freeze. This list is just completely freeze your mind but don't stop there, sort, get it into the groups and then you can actually start executing. It's all brain hacking. It's all brain hacking. And it's almost miraculous how it works because it's a weird effect. Task freeze is a weird effect. It's why can't I do the first thing in this list? It's easy. I have to send one email, why can't I do it? It's because your brain is looking at the whole list and says, I can't handle that. And if I can't handle it, I cannot get the proper, whatever, elements of the cortex, the ventral striatum operating properly. And if that doesn't operate properly, you don't get motivation. You need the brain for motivation. It's chemicals, it's neurons. It's not some dualistic, you have your soul that is motivated independently of your hardware as a human. It all goes together. So if you're getting back from vacation, I would suggest that. I'll say, Jesse, my wife knows me well. She said, I'm clearing my schedule. I'm clearing your schedule. I'm going to take the kids. I don't have anything to do with you on Monday, the Monday after vacation, because she knows how upset and cranky I get when I have to, I mean, these lists get long for me. When I'm away for two weeks, there's a lot of things that build up. And she's like, it always stresses you out and it always takes you longer than you think. And so like, I'm taking the kids to the pool and I have no expectation of seeing you until the evening. And she was right. It took all the time.

Cal talks about Blinkist and Eightsleep (14:33)

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Is distracted deep work the same as shallow work? (18:13)

All right, let's see some questions. The first one comes from the Alchemist, who asks, "If one is doing deep work and gets distracted, does that transmogrify the work into shallow work?" All right, well, first of all, I appreciate the Calvin and Hobbes reference with transmogrify, from scientific progress goes boink from that collection. Calvin builds the transmogifier, which can transform you from one creature to another. So there's a good Bill Watterson, shout out. This is a good question, it's a technical question. Let's do it quick, but I think it's important. So in the ontology of knowledge work focus, we have deep work and shallow work and deep work. I wrote the book about it, so it's where you're focused without distraction, cognitively demanding work and shallow work. I often just casually define as everything else. So the question is, if you don't meet all of the standards of deep work, is what you're left with shallow work? And actually, if we're gonna be technical about this, not really. So maybe a little bit more specific here. So shallow work is efforts that do not directly move the needle. So it's not the effort that is directly creating the value on which your company or job relies. It's important, if you don't do shallow work, your company can't exist, you can't keep your job. But on the other hand, if all you did with shallow work, your company would have exist and you can't keep your job. So if you're the computer programmer, the actual effort that creates value for your company is code. Producing code that becomes a product they can sell. Shallow work, like going to the marketing meetings, et cetera, you need to do it, you need to understand what's going on. But if all you did was that shallow work, no code got produced, eventually the company goes out of business. Deep work is a little bit more complicated because instead of just being a what, it's also a how. So deep work, we have to care about the content. So deep work needs to be focused on something that actually moves the needle, it's cognitively demanding, it produces new value, it's the core activities that matter in your professional life. But the how matters as well. To really qualify as deep work, it has to be executed without distraction. Which means you're not context shifting. No quick checking of your email, no quick checking of your phone, all you're doing is focusing on that task. You need the how and the what together for if the count is deep work. So the way I see this question is, what happens if you keep the what? You're focusing on something important, you're writing computer code, but you get rid of the how. So instead of doing that without distraction, you're kind of looking at your phone, you have slack going. Well, really what you end up with there is something that's not deep work and it's not shallow work. The activity that you're doing is cognitively demanding and important, but the way you're doing it is not up to the full standard of what your mind is capable of. So I don't actually have a term for that. I mean, it essentially throws you into a productivity purgatory. Maybe we could call it pseudo deep work or fail deep work. And it's not where you want to be. As long as you're working on an activity that's really important, you want to do it in the way that's going to get the most value out of the time you spend and that is to do it without distraction. So we really should have three things here. Shallow work, deep work and pseudo deep work. Shallow work is necessary, but not sufficient to be very successful. It's important logistical things, but it's not the stuff that moves the needle. Deep work is it all coming together and you're working on what matters and you're doing it in a way that allows you to do it at a high level in between is pseudo deep work. You're working on something important, but not doing it that well. Your contact shifting, so your ability to focus is reduced and the quality of what you produce is downgraded. So I guess we need a new word. So let's go with, we'll go with pseudo deep work for now. So that's a good clarification. Yeah, that's definitely been a complexity that's entered my discussions of deep work is it's the how and the what. Right, and you got to get both of those things for it to really, really to count. So in a way, pseudo might be a little bit too positive of adjective for it 'cause it's kind of distracted work, right? Yeah, like so failed deep work, depreciated deep work. I like, yeah, so I'm like that. Degraded deep work, yeah. You don't really want to be there. Yeah, well, I mean, as long as you're spending the time like to work on something important, you probably want to get like as much as possible out of that time. Yeah, I'm with you on that.

How does Cal do quarterly reviews? (22:58)

All right, so I have two questions here that are on basically the same thing. So I'll read and answer one and immediately do the other. They're both on the same topic. So we'll start with Linda. Linda says, how do you structure quarterly reviews? Do you summarize metrics from the whole quarter? Do you stick to going over weekly reviews or is there an introspective piece separate from the old plans? All right, so again, in my multi-scale planning approach to time management, you do daily time block planning. Those are informed by your weekly plans, what you do every week, your weekly plans are informed by your quarterly plans, what you do every quarter. So when you are done with a quarter, what should your review of the quarter that just past looked like? And Linda, I would say I wouldn't worry too much about that. So in my own practice, when I get to the end of a quarter, I do not have some sort of formal or systematic way of reviewing what happened during that quarter. And the reason is, is I lived it. So that quarterly plan that I use to drive that quarter, I'm revisiting that every week when I build my weekly plan. And as the quarter unwinds, as that unfolds, I'm evolving that quarterly plan. It's influencing what I work on each week. What I'm working on each week influences how that quarterly plan itself evolves. By the time I get to the end of a quarter, I have such detailed frequent, intimate knowledge of that plan, how it evolved, how it played out, is there's nothing left to review. I know it, I've been making adjustments all the way along. So in some sense, the review, the knowledge you gain by here's my plan, how did it go? That feedback loop is much tighter, it's happening every week, every week, as you build your new weekly plan, and adjust your quarterly plan, use your quarterly plan to adjust your weekly plan. You're living it. And so to me, it feels artificial to then say, "Well, let me now sit down and really think about what happened that quarter." I'm an expert, a lived expert on my quarter by the time I get to the end of it, I'm sort of ready to move on.

What should I include in my quarterly plan? (25:00)

All right, so here's another quarterly plan-related question that piggyback on here. This comes from Sarah. Sarah says, "What exactly do you include in your quarterly plan?" I'm a professor and I work at a teaching intensive college, the research productivity is also expected. Do you include your teaching in your quarterly plan? Or instance, should prep course be an objective on that plan? Or is teaching just a giving? Okay, so Sarah, no, teaching should not be on your quarterly plan. You'll teach your course, whether or not your quarterly plan says to or not, so to put that on the plan, your mind's gonna pick up this feels like an exercise. It's arbitrary. Of course, I'm gonna teach. Like I don't need to see that on the plan. I would say reserve your quarterly plan for two things. Your plan on how you're gonna make progress on large, long-term autonomous projects where it's not obvious how that work has to be structured. So if you're working on a research paper or you're writing a book, this is a good place to lay out. Like, okay, for this quarter ahead, what do we wanna get done? And I would suggest when possible being a little bit more detailed. Like, okay, I'm looking at my quarter ahead. I'm working on a big writing project, but I have a big teaching schedule. Let me look at my teaching schedule. What days am I teaching? What days am I not teaching? Where can I consistently find time to work on this paper? Okay, what I really need to do is make the first half of Fridays and Wednesday afternoons really need to be, you know, lock in, go to the library, work on the research paper. I think that's the only way I'm gonna get all this together in time by this deadline at the end of the semester. That's a great use of the quarterly plan. So it's not just what you're gonna work on, but figuring out how that work would happen. And this is decisions that you actually have to think through. It's not automatic. Like I have a course, I always prep my course and know how that works. So long-term projects where it's not obvious how you're gonna make progress, figure out not just how much you're gonna get done, but if possible, the structure of that work, the rhythm of that work. Also use your quarterly plan for reminders about heuristics, systems, and habits that you are trying out or trying to make more regular. I'm reading every day at lunch hour. I'm doing a 20 minute to do block at the end of each day. I'm doing my shutdown routine, whatever it is, whatever like heuristics or habits you're trying to ingrain. Quarterly plan's a great place to write those down so that every week when you make your weekly plan, you get a reminder. Yeah, that's right, I'm doing this this week. Remember to do this this week. So that's what should be in your quarterly plan, the non-regular and reminders.

How do I save my failing productivity system? (27:35)

All right, so what we got next. A question from Mookle who says, "It's been over a month. "My to-do list keeps on growing. "My productivity system uses to-do-is Google Calendar "and Notion, but for the past month, "I'm falling behind on my work. "There are many days when I don't check my list "or forget to create a daily plan or monthly plan. "I tried to reorder my mobile home screen many times. "Still, I'm falling behind. "Can you suggest a way to be efficient "with my productivity system?" Well, Mookle, I find it very hard to believe that your strategy of reordering your mobile home screen did not solve all of your productivity problems. That's number one, if you read my books or see my appearances, I really focus on icons on your mobile home screen and configuration settings in your productivity software. That is the key. You understand how Elon Musk gets done, what he gets done, that is how he does it. His icons are in the right folders on his phone. I am, of course, being sarcastic, and I don't mean to, I'm gonna use you sort of as a straw man here, Mookle, to try to make some larger points for the audience. What you were describing to me in this question is not a productivity system. It is a collection of productivity tools. So for you to tell me about my productivity system is to-do as Google Calendar and Notion, why am I still falling behind and not getting things done? That's like me coming to you and being like, let me tell you about my exercise routine. I bought a Peloton, I owned some weights, and I have a rowing machine. So why am I not losing weight and getting stronger? You would say, well, you haven't told me anything about what your actual fitness habits are. Like when you exercise, how much you exercise, how much you eat, how this fits into your life. You just listed exercise machines that you own. It's the same thing as going on here. So I think what we need to do is get back to basics. You need to build a system, forget the tools. You need to build a system from the ground up. You need to start small, start simple, get a feel for that, and then you can start adding the complexity. You're not gonna solve your problem of being scattered and procrastinating and having too much to do by jumping straight into really complexity. Complexity doesn't solve your problem. You need systems that make sense. So the easiest thing you can do is if you go to my YouTube channel, youtube.com/calmnewportmedia, I have a video on time management. So I have this series called Core Ideas where I recorded videos on some of the core ideas I talked about. Go back and watch my core idea time management video. You'll get the overview of my philosophy. For the sake of our audience now, I'm gonna excerpt out a sort of starting point for you. I think where you are now is you need to go all the way back to the basics and start by considering what I call the productivity funnel, the collection of three layers of systems that need to be in place to help you successfully navigate the universe of all possible things you could be doing out the top of the funnel to things that you actually accomplish that comes out of the bottom of the funnel. In between those two things, mediating the universe of everything, what you actually do, we have three levels. Level number one is activity selection. What is your system or philosophy for figuring out what you do, what you agree to do, what you take on. Below that, you get the organization. How do you keep track of, organize and make plans around what you have agreed to do? And at the very bottom level, you have execution. How do you actually in the moment, properly execute what needs to be done? When people are just getting started with time management, this is where I have them start. And I have them start simple on each of these levels. So activity selection, you need to A, probably clean the decks. I'm assuming you're doing too many things. In a fit of ambition, you're just going to learn this language, I'm going to become a YouTuber, I'm going to learn how to program, I'm going to get promotion over here. You can't cut that down, let's cut this down to many fewer things and have some sort of coherent simple, but coherent philosophy for what you agree to, how many missions you actually want to be pursuing. Maybe you have one in your current job that you're pursuing to help you get promoted faster and one on your side hustle, keep it simple. With organization, I mean, you have to keep track of and organize things. If you watch that video on YouTube, that's where I talk about multi-scale planning, daily, weekly, quarterly planning. So you can watch that video and you can start that. Or it could be as simple as just, I have a place where everything is written down, simple Dave Allen capture. When new things come onto my plate, it gets captured, I jot it down, I have a notebook with me all times and I transfer that over to my list or my calendar. Nothing's forgotten, everything's written down. You can start simple, just have something working there. And when it comes to execution, how do you actually accomplish things when it's time to execute? This is where deep work matters. This is where time blocking matters. I'm working on one thing at a time. And when I'm doing this thing, I'm not also checking my phone. I'm also not also on YouTube. A lot of young people, Mooko, I don't know that you're young, but I'm just assuming from your elaboration that you are, have this rough approximation of productivity where they just throw a lot of frenetic activity at their day all over the place. And I'm over here and I'm on YouTube and jumping over here and I'm doing a TikTok over here. Now I'm seeing this email over here. How you execute matters, freneticism means nothing. Quantity of activity means nothing. What you produce is what matters and the best way to produce is one thing at a time given at your full concentration. So start with the funnel. Selection organization, execution, have an idea for each. Elaborate it in that video. Start simple. But start clear. Know what you're trying to do, simple systems. And you can start building up the more complexity from there. But I think this is definitely Mooko back to basics, back to basics move. And if all of that fails, make your iPhone screen grayscale. That was a big popular tip back when I was promoting digital minimalism. All the tech types were like, I know the secret to being distracted by my phone. I figured out how to make my iPhone screen black and white. And then it's not as distracting and it won't pull my attention in. It's all about if I just have the one hack, the one hack. And if you're a tech person, it has to be a hack. It's like a little bit technically complicated. Because then it's conceivable to you that this is why no one else is doing it. Because it's a little bit hard to figure out how to change your phone in the grayscale. And it's always a dream. By doing one kind of complicated technical thing on my computer, I have the solution. Same thing with golf. It's all the one tip. That's what a lot of, like, that's how they hook you. And then they try to, like, it's like the incurbure enthusiasm. The weatherman, the weatherman had a golf tip. So this is kind of insider baseball. I don't know if you noticed, the weatherman had this golf tip. And so Funkhauser was, Marty Funkhauser was starting to tell Larry, the weatherman, who's like an actual weatherman, like, has this great golf tip. And it changed my game. And I mean, I did this one thing and I've been sweet natural. My score is down. And it's like a season long thing that he never gets to tip. Because, of course, he accuses the weatherman of falsely forecasting rain so that he can get the golf course, like better tee times at the golf course. So they have a falling out. And Funkhauser says, "I don't feel right giving you the tip." And it comes up again and again. But yeah, I don't know. Mookle's probably looking for the equivalent of the weatherman's tip for productivity. That show is so good. If your notion set up is just properly hooked with a Zapier script to the draft's install on your phone, you're gonna be productive. Well, the marketing for golf and productivity tools is like really good. And that's what they try to hook you with. And then... So why aren't we because there's all these golf, professional golfers that like my productivity stuff? So why have we not brought these two worlds together? I think it's starting to, you get a lot of professional golf or we've gotten a couple questions. Yeah. Some of them listen to you. That's what I need to do. Deep swing. You know, somehow like, mailed those two worlds together, doing infomercial stuff. You can start with tennis too, 'cause the city opens going on right now, walk over there, that's not your card. Tennis players don't know me as much. I haven't really come across a lot of tennis players who are deep work people. It's similar to golf. I know. What's your problem? Anyway, yeah.

Can I sell a book without social media? (36:19)

You haven't done a call in a while. I haven't heard the voice of a listener while. Let's try one if we have one. Old fashioned call in question. Okay, here we go. Hi, Cal. This is Whitney from St. Louis. Shout out from a fellow elder millennial. When reading a nonfiction book proposal, agents and editors want to see proof that you have an audience that will buy your book. And the default option is a large social media following. Or even a moderate one that you're willing to spend the time to leverage. Not only do I not have a large social media presence, but my book itself is critical of social media in the neighborhood of a lot of your work. So how do you suggest approaching agents when you're not just saying I don't have a large social media presence, but also my deep work productivity, my ethical priorities, and the actual ideas of my book mean that I'm not prepared to build one. How do you approach this with your own books? Did you find it a hard sell? Or were you easily able to convince your agents and editor that you had equally valuable non social media channels to reach your audience? Is this even possible for a new author who's not a high profile professor with a proven academic track record in writing like you? Thank you so much for your time and for your work. Well, two points here. One, I mean, in the end, what sells a lot of copies of a book is the book. Like the most important thing is write a book a lot of people are gonna like and when they read it, they're gonna tell other people about it. That will sell a lot of books. The easiest way to sell books to a publishers who have sold a lot of books before. So ultimately money talks. So that's what you really wanna care about. This book is too good to be ignored by the audience. I am trying to reach. If they read this book, they're gonna have to share it. In terms of other channels other than social media, publishers talk a lot about social media, but it's not necessarily the channel they cared most about. I think email lists are considered more powerful. So the conversion rate of an email list into book purchases is much higher than with social media. Social media has been pretty much a mixed bag for moving people to buy books. So there are obviously our authors who have built up these large social media presences. There's one exception. There's a category of these authors. I'm gonna put aside for now. But for a lot of people, I'm a genre fiction writer and I've kind of built up the social media following. I'm a business book writer and I have 80,000 followers. It doesn't do much. 500 sales extra. 800 sales extra. It's just not great conversion. Great. I've tweeted to my Twitter following a lot about my book. It kind of helps. Who cares? It's not gonna make the difference between is this a 100,000 copy seller or a 5,000 copy seller. So in the end, social media doesn't do that much. The one exception category, of course, is there's a kind of a rare category where you do a type of highly personal nonfiction writing where you have this relationship, something in like a glen and doyl type situation here. Where you have this relationship, this audience that you built up, you were a first mover in a particular type of social media environment and you have this audience that has this personal relationship with you and you expose yourself online and they feel like they really know you and your book is exactly that. And now here's my memoir. It's more of that. So there's that small category where essentially your business is social media and you're using that to jumpstart book sales, but that's really rare. And you're not gonna get that by just deciding today, oh, I have a book I wanna sell next year. Let me be glen and doyl. In other words, if you're in that situation, you're already in that situation. The book is probably the second thing you're doing. It's not something you can engineer from scratch. So for most people, it doesn't make a huge difference. Email lists convert more, but if you wanna build an email list, you have to have something interesting to say. If you wanna build an online audience, you have to have a topic people care about with a unique point of view about that topic that catches people's attention or is aspirational and you have to be uniquely suited to have that point of view. You put those three things together, you can build an audience and I would care much more about my email list size than I would by social media following in that particular case. So yes, you can build an online audience with those rules, email list. I would say podcast following matters, probably more than almost anything else. But if you're not willing to do that, or you're not really in a space, you're gonna do that, they're gonna grumble. They'll grumble, but what can you do? I'm not glen and doyl, I'm not Bernay Brown. I don't, yes, I don't have this huge following, but this book is good. And you know what publishers are desperate for good books? They need well-written books that audiences will like in their pipeline. And they have a hard time finding enough of those books to put into the pipeline. So you do what you can to get your book in the pipeline. You put your energy into making that book too good to be ignored, not into, I'm gonna spend an hour a day to build up a 15,000 person Twitter following that racks me with anxiety. It's not worth it. - You've talked about the book thing several times, and it got me thinking a lot just about how many people there are, 'cause then the same thing with TV shows and movies, 'cause you just, there's such a big audience, but there's so many niche audiences. So it's like dead on. - There's a lot of audiences, and it's the economics of book publishing. So you have to keep, and I don't completely understand all these details, but you have to have a full pipeline of a lot of things out there. In other words, the economics of like, we just do a few number of books, but they're all like big swings and famous authors, and that's all it is. Doesn't generate enough revenue, right? So if you're putting out lots of different books, most of which you do not pay a big advance for, it just keeps books selling in the pipeline. Now in the end, maybe I don't sell 100,000 copies of books. Maybe I only sell 500 copies of books. That's fine, but you need, that 500 books is 500 sales. So if you have a thousand authors that are each moving their 500 copy, now you've moved 500,000 units through your system. So they need a lot of books, even though most of them, they're not gonna ever print that many copies of. Most of them are not gonna sell a ton. It's inventory. They gotta have things to put on the shelves, they have to have things to sell. I need to, you know, we're random house. We have to make a lot of revenue needs to come in. We gotta move a lot of books to bookstores like to have that revenue come in. - It's probably same for a lot of markets, like shoes, clothes. - Yeah, streaming is kind of the same way. Like we just need a lot of content that's of professional quality. So if you're like an actual show runner that knows how to produce a network quality show, they're like, great, just do something. 'Cause we need to fill, we have to have 50 new shows a month. Like we have to fill the content here, you know? The issue with all this, like not the, let's diverge for a little bit here. The difference is when you get, or the issue is, I talked about this in a recent episode. But when you get technologies that democratize access to the media production, it's like podcasting is like this. So now anyone can produce a podcast or maybe with writing, instead of having to go through a publisher, you could publish on a blog or something like this, right? Or instead of going to a TV network, you can do YouTube. There's a big demand for it. And a lot of stuff needs to go into these pipelines. And there's a, and we need good stuff. The mistake is to think, therefore anything I do as the amateur content producer is going to be successful. And that's the problem is like right now, if you're a proven show runner, it's not hard to get a deal to do something with the streamer. If you're you and I calling Netflix, you're not going to get a deal with the stream because we can actually, the stuff we're producing is not at the levels. There's like a lot more levels for professional quality stuff. There's a lot more opportunities for that all across the media. But if you're not doing professional quality stuff, you're not involved in the game. So like with writing, they need books, but it has to be a professional, like you got to be a good writer or something unique to say who's, all the things have to come together for you to actually sell a book to a publisher. Now, if you match that criteria, like great, we're glad you're here. We need as many of you as possible, right? Just like we need to do as many, you know, Netflix deals as we can. But if you think like, "Oh, I've always had this idea for a book about how like parents pressure us too much in my own childhood and let me just like write this book." They're like, "No, no, no, you're not." They got the camcorder calling Hulu and saying like, "I want to do a superhero series." You know? So that's the one point I think about these media revolutions. Lowers the gates for professional stuff to get out there, which allows a wider variety of professional stuff to get out there that allows innovation in the format. It allows new voices to get into the game, but it doesn't mean that everyone gets to go through the gate. Like the threshold is just as high. So we're going to use a lot of metaphors here. There's like this gate or whatever it is, this obstacle you have to jump over to produce the media. We've opened up more doors. So you can go all up and down this obstacle and jump in, but you still have to be able to jump over it. So it's better than when there's just one door, like the HBO door or whatever, because like there's more people who could jump through that than who could actually fit. Now we have enough doors that everyone who could jump over this gets a shot, but the problem is still most people can't jump over it. That's a lot of metaphors. - Now here's-- - Doors and gates and-- - Jumping. - Yeah, jumping. Yeah, this will publish a social media thing. I don't know. I mean, I think they're kind of, they get it. They're like, yeah, I mean, I guess it's nice that you have an audience. I mean, if you have an awesome book, like we want to publish this awesome book. Yeah, you can't, again, unless you're like glint in oil, like to see these few exceptions where this is just, but in those cases often, all you're really doing is renting your massive audience to the publisher. So from a financial standpoint, it doesn't mean, in those cases, if you're like, I have, because I was early to Instagram, and I have this massive audience on there, and I'm taking the exact type of stuff I tell this audience on Instagram and putting it into a book, you will be a New York Times bestseller, because they will all buy it, 10% of that audience, maybe, they'll buy the book. But you're just selling to your already existing audience, and there's way higher profit margin ways to monetize that audience. So maybe you're doing it for credibility, you're doing it for exposure. So that's the other thing, when these people have these very large audiences, and they sort of temporarily have a bestseller, they're just selling a product to their existing audience. And it's a very different picture than your talented author who produces something really great, and word spreads, and that more and more people find that book. That, it's two different things going on. We'll see. I mean, obviously my publishers don't bother me because I'm known for not using social media, but I do remember for so good they can't ignore you. 2012, they did bring in the social media specialist to one of the first meetings I had at the publisher. This young woman who's in charge, like let me help you optimize all the social media you do around your book. And that was the first and last time my publishers have brought in a social media specialist to beat with me. In reality, as I've managed to sell a couple of books even without Twitter, so it's possible.

The five books Cal read in July 2022 (47:57)

All right, speaking of books, first episode we've recorded in the studio together since July ended. So let's go over the books I read in July 2022, as long time listeners know, I aim to read five books a month. So I will do these in order. The first book I read in July was From Zero to Maker by David Lang. I was in a DIY maker mood in June, I think I had read from remembering right, Adam Savage's The Mythbusters Memoir about being a maker or whatever. So I was in that mindset, so I read this book and it was about someone who left his office job, we got fired from his office job, got really into being the DIY maker community and started a company about building DIY underwater ROV robots. And it was a book he wrote for Make Magazine's Publishing in Print about how to become a maker. So I think it was a really interesting premise. The book is, it didn't come together because it was partially memoir, that's kind of interesting, his story, but partially let me give you resources. Resources on being a maker. And so that mixed together, I think kind of let the steam out of the engine a little bit, but it's interesting. It's an interesting case studies in there. All right, the next book I read was The Monsters Bones, by David Randall. This is one of the big nonfiction releases, I think of this summer. So it's a nonfiction book about the start of the American History Museum in New York and in particular, the fight to get the first major dinosaur bone exhibits, like the complete dinosaur bones in your museum. And getting these, the first Tyrannosaurus, I believe, is what really helped the American Museum of History in New York really take off. And it focuses on this really interesting character, actual name, Barnum Brown, with this Kansas farm boy who is not from the sort of elite educated bastions that the big bone hunters were from the Copes, the Osborns, but he became like the world's best dinosaur bone hunter. He was just very good at it. So it really follows his story. He found the first large, he found the first Tyrannosaurus and a couple other major first, and he just was a natural born bone hunter. And it sort of follows him and the story of all these museums trying to hunt down these bones. It was pretty good, good book. Then I read, I don't know, yeah, I don't know what fool gave this book to me, but I read A Man for All Markets, about Edward Thorpe. This came from Jesse, I thought I would like it. I did. Edward Thorpe's an interesting guy. So it's the memoir of Edward Thorpe. He was a mathematics professor who then left academia start basically like a quantitative hedge fund, but also like a lot of interesting things. I mean, here's the right way to summarize this guy. He's still alive, but he's in his like upper 80s right now. There's a period in this book where he's in Reno with Claude Shannon and a minute, one of the first miniaturized computers to ever be built that they're using to time the roulette wheel and make money with a gambling system. It's like an interesting guy. Like he's just interested in, he wrote a book called Beat the Dealer famously in the 60s where it's the first time someone had really used a computing power to actually run through and calculate the probably, win probabilities of different strategies against Blackjack. He figured out if you do the right type of, what's the optimal strategy without card counting? The dealer still had an advantage and then with card counting what the optimal strategies are and he ran this all punch card programs through computers and figured out like, yeah, you could have an edge on the casino with these systems. So it's another thing he got into. Then he realized at some point that Wall Street was like a much more interesting casino and they couldn't kick you out just because they didn't like you were winning too much. And so then he went there and he made a lot of money in Wall Street. They were, he was early to sort of hedging strategies. He figured out early a version of basically the Black Sholes derivative pricing formula which won Black and Sholes a Nobel Prize. He didn't prove that his formula was right. That mathematics is very hard. That's kind of what they won that microeconomics Nobel Prize for. But he sort of figured out the formula. Like I think this more or less is correct and so it made a lot of money trading. So interesting guy. He was on Ferris twice in like the last several months. - So that's where you found him right with Ferris. - Yeah, yeah. - So I listened to him and like, when I first started listening to the first episode, he was just like talking about working out. I was like, oh, this guy's kind of cool. And then I found out he was like, 88 years old. I was like, this guy's. So then I started looking into him more. - So what do you think about this Jesse? Like one thing I came away with, is like the writing between the lines in this book is I don't know if he's frustrated about this. He's obviously a brilliant guy. But there's all these areas where he was sort of early to something and this comes up again and again in the book. He was early to something that eventually became major. Like one someone at Nobel Prize innovated a whole field or whatever. And he would always get to the point where, okay, I more or less know what's going on here and then moves on. And then someone would come in later and sort of do the work more thoroughly and become very famous and someone would come in here. So like he had these kind of breakthroughs in economics but never really pushed them through. Other people did and became world famous economists. Had these breakthroughs and how to run hedge funds made himself, you know, millions of dollars. But he's defensive about he was never a billion dollar hedge fund. He was never one of the big guys, like the guys who swung in and like leveraged up and pushed these ideas and made the huge money. So it's like an interesting. Yeah, the one thing that happened to his fund was it was a little bit of trouble with that guy in New Jersey. So they had to close it down. Yeah. So I think if that didn't happen, who knows what it was. But also he never seemed interested in world conquering. Yeah. Well, I think he wanted to hang out with his family and his wife and he wanted to work out. And do interesting stuff. Good life. Yeah. Kind of like a deep life. That's what I'm thinking. So I think he's like a great, he's an interesting case study for different models of the deep life. And like I think he's someone that was definitely thinking, I've got this asset, which is this high octane brain. Cause he's like wanders into these areas and does like good work. And he said, okay, I have two options here. I could go all in with this brain on something. And I think for him, it could be essentially like make a run for a Nobel type thing or whatever. Like getting an endowed chair at UChicago or something. Like really like being a big guy in economics or he could have gone all in and be like, I want to be, you know, I want billion plus net worth. And like both of those things were probably on the table for him. And he said, instead of what I'm going to do is I'm going to take advantage of this brain, which means I can come in and out of a lot of things, like make enough money to be comfortable, explore, do interesting things, have control over my time. And that's the route he went. And I think you're right to put out the deep life because if you're looking at the buckets of the deep life and trying to think through how am I going to service all of these buckets, it's not a bad strategy if you're super smart. It's like, how can I use this to really have a lot of autonomy, don't worry about money, but also be able to, he got really into working now, surfing, like all these different things. I can come in and out of opportunities. I can shut things down, do nothing for a few years. They got really into charitable giving. - I think initially when he was first, you know, after he got his doctorate, he was, 'cause he mentions in the book, he didn't have a ton of money. So then he made some money off the publish in the book and then I think once he started making it, he started making it pretty decent and then he realized he was probably set, you know? - Yeah, and definitely the stock stuff too. And the stock stuff made him millions. - Yeah. - But in the period time where he was like looking at work and going, - But like he was a good professor, not a great professor. Like everything he did was competitive fields where he was good, not great, but he moved through a lot of the fields. Like he wasn't at a top economics department, but actually was doing cool applied math work, but then left. He wasn't one of the big, you know, hedge fund guys that's New York and buying the $100 million, whatever, but he did well in the hedge funds. He like did well in the gambling. So, you know, I like it. I know why you recommended it. And I think it's like, he's not just interesting, but it's a nice case study of being incredibly intentional about I have this asset, let's build. And I think he built a really interesting life. - Yeah, he has a lot of like good practical advice too, like on his interview with Tim, just about he's even talking about just like personal investments, like risk taking, I guess a human stuff like that. - Yeah. - So yeah, definitely listen to the interviews as well. All right, so then I also, I listened to this one actually, Dilatant by Dana Brown. That's a memoir. It's like the devil wears Prada, but written by the assistant to Grayden Carter at Vanity Fair. It's like a male devil's wear Prada. I was okay. Like, so Dana Brown, at least the way he tells the story is that he was bartending in the village, not really going anywhere. And for various random reasons, ends up an assistant to the new sort of hot shot splashy head of Vanity Fair in the 90s when magazine publishing was like the powerful thing in media. And he kind of works his way up and he ended up a deputy editor at Vanity Fair. So it's kind of interesting to hear the stories. I mean, I think the issue, just go, I think it was interesting. You get an insight into what Conde Nast, Conde Nast was like in the 90s when it was the most, one of the most powerful, because magazines were so profitable, pre-internet, but right pre-internet. And to be at one of their flagship publications, the money, the expense accounts, and so it's kind of cool to get into that world. Dana Brown's story is kind of interesting. Implicit, he doesn't really make this very, he's not really clear about it, but it's kind of obvious that he got hired in part because this guy has like model good looks. Like he was a model and like, I think he was like a very attractive guy and it was part of the scene they wanted to paint. And then he was just incredibly hard working and sort of worked his way up. But it's not, what he was doing is not that interesting. So the stories he was trying to spend is like, yeah, it's just a hard job. Like you gotta go to the, you have to go to all these events and work the door at the Oscar party and run stuff around town. But I think the interesting thing to me was just hearing about all that was going on with magazine publishing. You know, I have to do a lot of Conde Nast online trainings because I'm a contributor at the New Yorker, I have a New Yorker dot com email address, which I don't use, but I have a New Yorker dot com email address and they're owned by Conde Nast and they just have these rules, a giant company. So they just have these rules, like everyone who has a New Yorker dot com email address has to do all these like cybersecurity train. So I do like a non-trivial number of like watching the videos about how not to get catfished. And it's like my only intersection with corporate life. I know university life is its own thing, but that's his own little weird system. My only intersection with, you know, big company corporate, the IT department needs you to do trainings is that New Yorker dot com email address. So, and because I don't use the address, I don't get the message. So what happens is I don't realize this, there's these like increasingly urgent series of messages. It's like you're over, you have to do your training. You don't like, everyone has to do this. Like this is a problem getting yelled at because it gets escalated up, I think it gets escalated up. - Yeah, man, this is it. - Yeah, until it finally gets pretty high. And eventually at some point someone will just eat, who knows me will email me directly to like my actual address, like you gotta do these trainings. Like we're getting yelled at by the ghost of Sighers. You know, anyways, it's funny. So that's my dose of corporateness. All right, the last book I read, this was just random. And I'll give you the backstory. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I read this book, do you know this book? - Somebody was talking about it, is either you or-- - Rogan talks about it. - Yeah, yeah. But the reason why I read this is, like as of this week, it came out in 1997. I just checked before we recorded. Number four on Amazon charts. - Maybe holiday gifted it to Rogan when he went on the show recently. He gave him a bunch of books at the end. - Oh, I didn't get to the end of Ryan's and he gave him like 12 books. I think this might have been one of them. - Well, he owns a bookstore, so. So anyways, I was just curious. I was like, why is this book from the '90s? You know, decades later, like top five of like everything selling on Amazon. So I went and read it. I don't know that I got an answer from reading it. It's short. It's for the Four Agreements, like four like agreements you should make with yourself. And they're like good life advice. You know, like be honest and don't care about what other people think. Like it's like four things like that, just like standard advice. Number four, given in 1987. There's like some interestingness to it. Like so the guy is claiming like there's this whole claim upfront that this is wisdom from like the Olmecs is sort of a lost ancient central American civilization. And then he's like, it's been passed through oral tradition. I've kind of captured it. He sets that up early on, but then the rest of the book is just standard, you know, self-help. Like you should be honest. It's here's why. Like it's, you don't want to get caught. Like it's not like throughout. He's like really pulling from an exotic wisdom tradition or whatever. So I don't know what it's somehow this hit. It's good advice. I don't know. I have heard Rogan talk about it. It's like my whole life is built on it. And maybe that's why, maybe that's why it's number four because I guess that guy was saying you should read this. - Probably yes. - Yeah. - So, so I don't know. But here's my quiz. All right. So then I looked up, because I was looking this up. So I wrote down the top five as of this moment, top five books this week on Amazon charts. - Are you looking at it right now? - I'm looking at it. - Oh, I was gonna quiz you. I was gonna quiz you. Because to be on the Amazon charts, it's not like momentarily are you number one? It's like the volume of books sold this week, number one volume, which it could be different than, because different books will trade places in the number one spot just because, you know, oh, in the last hour or something happened. And now I'm temporarily number one and then I disappear and someone else gets it. But the Amazon charts, but yeah. So top five, you see it right there. Number one, atomic habits. - That book just kills it, huh? Just kills it. Just absolutely, absolutely kills it. - Has he written any other ones yet? - No. He was working on one. He told me about what he was working on. This was like a little while ago. And the one year anniversary of atomic habits, I did a interview with him or he interviewed me for a, like he was doing a bunch of videos to celebrate the one year anniversary. And then afterwards he was telling me about what he was working on. I don't remember the idea. All I remember was thinking the moment, like, oh, that's good. So he's got a good one waiting, but why would you rush it? Number one on Amazon charts. I mean, like, look, I don't know if this is the conversation is happening, but I'll tell him the, I'll tell you the conversation his publisher is probably having with him. This is working. Like, why do you want to cannibalize sales from yourself? If you're literally the number one selling book on Amazon right now, let that play out. You know, 'cause think about it, if Clear came out with a follow up book, you'd, it wouldn't just be, okay, now we have all of those sales plus all the atomic habits, it would probably cannibalize. Like you say, oh, I'm not gonna get atomic habits. I'll get this new one or whatever. So I'm sure they're saying, what would you do if you were in that position? I'd let it, I'd let that. Don't you really like writing and writing books? I know, I don't know. I feel like you would. I think it's a really weird position to be in. It's like not a bad position, 'cause you get a lot of money, but it's a weird position. If a book takes off like that, it's like if you're the actor who really likes acting and then in the 90s, like at the height of that and you just have like a huge surprise blockbuster, it's the, like what, it really changes things. - I guess you could just write more articles. - Yeah, I think it would be complicated. Like if I had like an atomic habit style hit, it really complicates things. - Well, it's funny 'cause I listen to like a lot of, I rehash a lot of things like doing the YouTube channel and stuff. So I hear what you say like four different times and you always talk about how like writing is like the top priority. So it's all I'm doing right now. - Yeah. - And it's like summertime just like writing. - If you had an writing writing. - What would you do in the mornings? - Row. - Just be like a beast on the rowing machine. Any arms in a huge back? - I don't know. That's a good question. That's a good question. - I don't know, James Clearwell, but it's not like he was a bookwright. He had his own thing going on and then he wrote a book. So I don't know if it's not like his main thing as bookwriting. So it's probably a different equation. Now I think that's right. I think Mark Manson had this issue too after Sled alert and he went to go do other things and they were like, we have to maximize blah, blah, blah and he was like screw you. He's like, I want to write. I think he's a guy who just wants to write and at some point was like, I'm just going to write. All right, number two is the body keeps score. I think Oprah's involved in that. So that's like the least surprising. Number three is least surprised. So body keeps score Julie Wright is she was telling me about. It's about trauma and from like a scientific standpoint the science of trauma and how it affects people. And I know Oprah's heavily involved in it somehow. So of course, number two, it makes sense. Number three, green lights, Matt McConaughey. Makes sense, right? I mean, he's like an interesting famous guy. There's this, it's a weird book. I don't know, it's kind of weird, right? But there's Matthew McConaughey stories in it and there's like wisdom that either sounds really wise or kind of weird, but that's a weird juxtaposition. There's like this interesting famous guy writing something that's not just a standard like celebrity memoir. Then four agreements is number four and Rich Dad Poor Dad's number five. For said Poor Dad is don't have a salary. You should have assets that generate money. - Mm-hmm. - There you go. All right, so books I read. A couple more questions I wanna hit just because I miss being in the studio.

Cal talks about ExpressVPN and Policy Genius (01:07:32)

Let me quickly talk about another sponsor before we get to those. That is our friends at ExpressVPN. You probably don't realize the degree to which people are observing your behavior online. Selling data about where you're going, what sites you're visiting, how long you stay there. Selling that the data brokers that then will sell them to advertisers, but also sell them to places like the department, Homeland Security and the IRS. If you want to reduce that footprint, reduce the amount of data you're putting out there that data brokers can find and sell, think about using a VPN. And if you're gonna use a VPN, I recommend ExpressVPN. One of the easiest ways to broker is aggregate data and tie it back to you is that they look at your device's IP address. Oh, we've seen this address before. This is all the same person. So we see this IP address here and there, we know it's all the same person. If you're connecting to a VPN by contrast, you are not directly connecting to these sites. You're connecting to a VPN server, which then connects on your behalf. Those sites don't know who you are. They just see the IP address of the VPN servers. Trust me, I'm an MIT trained computer scientist. I'll just say this. It's a good way of masking your digital footprints. So if you're gonna use a VPN, use ExpressVPN. The best in the business, the most bandwidth, the highest speed, the most servers all around the world, very simple tech. You don't even know you're using it. The experience looks the same. You just turn it on. If you use a VPN ExpressVPN, it's the way to go. So make sure your online activity and data is protected with the best VPN money can buy. Visit expressvpn.com/deep right now and get three extra months free through my special link. That's e-x-p-r-e-s-s-vpn.com/deep. ExpressVPN.com/deep to learn more. I also wanna mention policy genius. We pay hundreds of dollars each year to protect our homes, to protect our cars. We pay for phone insurance in case we drop the phone and crack the screen and don't wanna pay for it. But too many of us aren't spending money to protect our families finances in the unfortunate possibility of us dying. You need life insurance. You know you need life insurance. Why are you delaying? Probably because it feels like a pain. How do you do it? Who do you talk to? How do you make sure you're getting a good deal? Policy genius is the answer to all of their questions. It makes it simple for you to get the affordable high quality life insurance that you need. So here's how it works. Policy genius is an insurance marketplace that allows you to compare quotes from top companies like AIG and Prudential all in one place to find the lowest price for the insurance you need. You could say 50% or more on life insurance by comparing quotes with policy genius. Option started to $17 per month for up to $500,000 of coverage. So what you do is you go to policygenius.com and go to that website, you will get personalized quotes in minutes. Remember policy genius works for you, not the insurance companies. They're on hand throughout the entire process to help you make your decisions with confidence. Over 30 million people have shopped for insurance with policy genius since 2014, 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, let's do a couple more questions here before we call it quits for the day.

How do I manage the anxiety of not achieving a goal? (01:11:12)

And I go to the swimming pool and just go right up to my chin and water and stay there until this temperature comes down. All right, we got a question here from Andrea, who asks, "How do you manage the anxiety "of not yet having achieved a goal?" Right now my main goal is to finish my novel. I have a very good routine of writing the morning before work and have made some gains with the slow and steady approach. However, in the back of my mind, I still feel stress that I'm not done. How do you build the anxiety of wanting to achieve your goals when they're taking so long? So Andrea, I'm gonna be a little contrarian here. I'm gonna say in this case, let's listen to your anxiety. If the easy answer here is, oh, anxiety is common when you're doing something big and you either just keep going. I'm a believer, however, when it comes to ambitious projects, anxiety and its flip side of procrastination are useful signals from your brain about how it feels about what's going on. So let's listen to this anxiety 'cause it is possible, there's a couple things going on here. It's possible that this anxiety is actually a manifestation of your brain realizing we don't really have a feasible path here towards success. This is a glorified national novel writing month exercise of we like the idea of writing a novel, but we don't know much about novel writing, we don't have much training on it, we don't really know how the industry works, we're just kind of fell in love with the idea of doing 500 words a day. And this thing that's coming together, I mean, we tell ourselves this story that we're gonna send it out and it's gonna be the next Twilight series, but it's probably not gonna be, should we really be spending this time? And so you have the plan evaluation part of your brain pushing back on the habit part of your brain, like I don't think we should be doing this. That's one possible source of anxiety, interrogated, is that what's really going on? Like you actually have confidence that what you're doing, you're doing the right activities to actually give you a chance of succeeding with what you're trying to do. If not, maybe think about, let's learn more about this process, maybe we need to adjust the goal. Okay, that's one option. The other option is no, no, no, we know what you're doing here, we've got a shot with this. We understand the industry, we have some skill, this novel's coming together well, here's the idea, once we get this together, we're gonna polish with this editor, then we're gonna submit to these agents, and we haven't figured out, there's a good shot at this, I'm excited about it, we're going to slow, I'm worried about us losing traction, we've got something here, but the more we drag this out, the more chance that it might dissipate. If that's the case, then the response is, we gotta make more sacrifices so that we can write more. We need to formalize what we're doing here more. You know, Tuesday and Thursdays, I'm actually, I've arranged my work day to end at three, and I go to the library till 6.30, and my husband picks up the kids, I have these three and a half hour blocks, I'm writing those days, and all Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Like that's saying, let's get more into this, let's not try to make it something that doesn't barely impact your schedule, and no one's gonna be upset about it, maybe we need to invest more. So these are two completely different possible responses, and you have to interrogate your anxiety to try to understand what's really going on. But what does seem to be the case, regardless of what the right answer is, is there's something going on your head that's not happy with how things are going now. It's either unhappy with the whole project, or it thinks that you're going way too slow on a project that's really all in on. So I think you should listen to your anxiety. Some sort of change needs to happen here. I think you either need to be pushing chips into the table, or taking them completely off. That would be my guess given how you're feeling.

Managing Multiple Ideas And Anxiety

How do I handle having too many ideas? (01:15:01)

I'll see one more question here. This one comes from Karen. Karen says, "I am a creative, "and one of my superpowers is coming up with new ideas. "I'm constantly thinking of new ideas, "but recognizers not always time to pursue them." Do you have a recommendation for how to manage one's content production when there is not enough time to fully explore and assess each idea? Well, Karen, in honor of the shirt that Jesse's wearing today, I'm going to use a baseball analogy. So for those who are listening, not watching, Jesse is taunting my depression over the Nationals trading away Juan Soto and our sorry state of our team by wearing a Washington Nationals shirt today. Just to try to rub it in. So let's use a stretched out exaggerated baseball metaphor here, Karen. Think about ideas like prospects in a baseball's farm system, in their minor league system. You want to keep bringing in good potential prospects. You have a shot at actually making it to the big show. You want to keep that pipeline full. You don't want to mic-risse with this and end up 30th out of 30 in the MLB by 2020. But you also know that, look, most of these prospects aren't going to make it, aren't going to make it. They're not going to play major league baseball. What you want is a well-stocked farm system so that when you need a new idea, what's the next article I'm going to write? What's the next book I'm going to pitch? What's the next podcast topic I'm going to talk on that there's a lot of talent in that system. You're going to have a lot of choices. It's not going to be hard to find a good thing to write about, a good thing to talk about, a good thing to put into your proposal. So you want a well-stocked farm system of ideas. You keep pushing stuff in there. And the goal is not, let me make sure that every one of these things gets a chance or every one of these things makes it onto the major league team because they won't. And the goal here is not, let's make sure there's not one of these things that really has the talent, really has the ability to be a big book. And I don't actually get to that one. That's not a big deal. So long as, for each book you write, there's an idea you can use. For each whole you have in your metaphorical infield, there's a player you're always able to pull up. So if we're going to move past that metaphor and just speak like normal people, what I'm saying here is, just have a good place to capture your ideas. You're not going to be anxious about it. You're not going to say, "Oh my God, I'm going to forget about this." A good way to see the ideas. You can look at them real quickly to add extra notes if you have them. But then just be happy with the fact that every time you need something new, you have a lot of options to pull from. And don't sweat over is every idea eventually getting developed, is every idea that could be big, actually get a shot at being big. That's not your goal. Your goal is to field a complete good team every day. So that every time you write an article, you have an idea to write about it. Every time you write a book, you have an idea to make that book around. Every time you do a podcast, you have an idea to talk about on the show. If your pipeline is full, every time you need a good idea, you have multiple to pull from, you're doing the right thing. Don't sweat too much exactly what's happening with all those ideas and interim. Capture them, pull ones to catch your attention in the moment. And you'll be better than the 2022 Washington Nationals. There's my advice. Just as some of my readers were writing, or listeners were writing in and saying, like you need to do a show on baseball and the trades that happen. And I said, "Don't tempt me." 'Cause I will completely take advantage of this platform to have inappropriately matched guests onto the show solely so I can talk to them about baseball. I will find baseball beat reporters and radio personalities and somehow convince them that I need to come on my show to promote their podcast or this or that, just so I could interrogate them for hours about my new show of baseball. And we would alienate every single one of our listeners. So I said, "Don't tempt me." 'Cause I will abuse this power to do a six hour long trade day special episode about the Washington Nationals. - 'Cause you're doing it except for Stan, like outside the park, - Yeah. - Old man. - Okay, I want Grant Paulson to come on. He could really shoot the breeze, Jesse Dockredy of the Washington Post. Now the guy I would have I think would be Mark Zuckerman, beat reporter for Masson. So he's in the clubhouse, travels with the team and he's been doing it for a long time. That's the guy who really knows, he's been doing this for over a decade. So he really kind of knows the players and the people involved. He's got the sources. He's in the clubhouse every single day. I think he'd be an interesting guy. - Yeah. - Yeah. But don't let me do that. You got to be a three hour long episode that almost every one of our listeners would be very upset about. So it's all about willpower here. Don't abuse, don't abuse. Here's the, okay, one last thing, last baseball thing I say, saddest part of my day today. That guy, Mark Zuckerman, has a podcast, Nat's Chat, Plug, where they talk about every game the next day. And they have an ad, they have an ad read up front where for like a law firm recruitment, whatever. And the read, they always use the same read is like, we'll help you get a deal worthy of Juan Soto. And I was listening to the show today and they came in and had to punch into the read. And now it says, this will help you get a deal worthy of K-Birt Ruiz. So it just marked like that one change in the ad read just marked all the depression of the national spandum. But I am resisting. I'm not going to convince baseball personalities to come on here, trick them on to here and talk about baseball. Actually, I was going to do it, but we're not going to press record. I'm just going to have all these people in here and just have these long conversations. And they're just going to be like, "Hey, Kalman, what's that? That episode going live, man." When I was saying, like, you know, it's a, Jesse's editing. - We're editing it. - Yeah, we're editing. All right, that's enough nonsense. Yeah, 120. That's a long episode. All right, thank you everyone who listened. If you like what you heard, you will like what you see, full video. Video of the full episodes as well as clips is available at youtube.com/calnewportmedia. If you like what you heard, you'll also like what you read. Sign up for my weekly newsletter at calnewport.com. Join over 65,000 readers who get my thoughts and write to their inbox each week. We'll be back next week with another normal, old-fashioned episode, me, Jesse and the HQ. Happy about that. And until then, as always, stay deep.

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