Ep. 214: Quiet Quitting | Deep Questions With Cal Newport
Transcription for the video titled "Ep. 214: Quiet Quitting | Deep Questions With Cal Newport".
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Cal's intro (00:00)
quiet quitting. I then went relatively deep on this topic over the weekend for a writing project, something I was writing for a book chapter for my Slow Productivity book. I went deep on this topic and did some research about where it started from and how it's being covered and what it's really all about. So I figured this was a good excuse today's episode to actually talk about quiet quitting. I'm Cal Newport and this is Deep Questions, episode 214. If you're new, this is the show where I answer questions from my audience about both the theory and practice of living and working deeply. I'm joined here as always in my deep work HQ by my producer, Jesse. Jesse, I don't know if you noticed, the restaurant that we are above, or I should say we're above, is out of business. Republic? Public is shut down. What happened? Look, I don't want to say it's our fault. I'm just looking at the timeline. Successful restaurant, we move in upstairs, restaurant closes, so I don't know, maybe it's something we're doing. No, I think it was just pandemic. They never really recovered. It's a big place. We went in there once. It kind of had an awkward layout. Yeah, it's a weird space, but I've been there for a long time, maybe five, six years. After the pandemic, they were shut down for a while, and then when they came back, they never went all in. Remember the weird hours? They weren't doing lunches, they were closing at nine, they were closed on Monday and Tuesday. It's hard to get help. It's hard to get help. It's part of a restaurant group here in DC, the Black Group. I think they only had so much capital, and they're focusing it on other places. That's too bad. Yeah. I was brainstorming it. Here's the thought experiment. I'll get your thoughts. Imagine we had a show that was slightly bigger than ours. Let's say a Huberman-friendment style show. That would generate enough revenue that you could cover without breaking a sweat, the least payment on that space. Let's say we're in that situation. This is the space below us. It's this big, nice space. We need to take it over. What would we do with that space? What would you do, Jesse? What do you think we should do? I probably saw bartending and feeding you drinks. You would just be bartending during the show. You are a really good bartender. That could be... So your recommendation, Jesse's recommendation, and the people at the Como Park would appreciate this, would be to turn that space into a private bar that basically just served elaborate drinks to a single podcaster.
Comprehensive Discussion: Quiet Quitting, Work Ethics, Writing Tips, Productivity, & Sponsorships
Deep Dive - Quiet Quitting (03:04)
Yeah, I don't know what to do with that space. I mean, hopefully another restaurant or bar comes in, I suppose. Yeah. Sad. Yeah, sad. I should say speaking to Jesse, if you have not been checking out the YouTube channel that goes with this show, you should. He's been doing some really interesting things with the videos. So if you look at videos of the full episodes now, there's a nice introductions. There's also a part in the interruption style ticker on the side of the screen. So you can see what questions are coming up and where I am in the questions. So I'm in the question blocks. I think that's nice. Some more editing is happening with the video clip. So if you're an audio only listener, you might want to check out what this show looks like. And you can see that at youtube.com/calnewportmedia. All right. So I'm looking at our show notes here. We got two good blocks of questions. It looks like later on, I'm also going to introduce a case study, trying to do more of those. Actually hear about someone who has applied some of this advice that we talk about and what it looked like. As always, I encourage you to submit your own questions. There's links right in the show notes. You go to a survey, boom, type it in. It comes right to us. We appreciate any and all questions that you send in. All right. So before we get going with those questions, I want to start today, as I often do, with a deep dive. Many of you have been sending me notes and messages and articles about the current workplace related internet trend, D'Jour, which is quiet, quitting. I then went relatively deep on this topic over the weekend for a writing project, something I was writing is for a book chapter for my slow productivity book. I went deep on this topic and did some research about where it started from and how it's being covered and what it's really all about. So I figured this was a good excuse today's episode to actually talk about quiet quitting. So if you haven't heard of this, this is the timeline I was able to excavate through my research. This trend starts on TikTok. It starts in July. So there is a TikTok user name. At the time, ZK Chillin, he has since changed his username. But his name was ZK Chillin. He posted a 17 second video on TikTok that featured soft piano music playing over a montage of videos. There's one of, it's him on the subway and then you see a downtown New York City street and then a residential street. And then for some reason, a child's automated bubble machine. So it has this montage and you hear his voice and I wrote down what he says in that video. So he says, "I recently heard about this idea of quiet quitting. Well, you're not quitting your job, but quitting the idea of going above and beyond in your work." Then he goes on a little bit. I won't read the whole thing to reject hustle culture, to reject the idea that hustle culture demands, which is that your work is your life. And he says, "The reality is that it's not, and you're worth as a person is not defined by your labor." So that TikTok video becomes popular. Other TikTok users start posting videos about quiet quitting, in particular lots of profession specific videos. So there's a well-known one now that's a teacher talking about the demands of teaching, etc. So it becomes a TikTok phenomenon. The mainstream media picks it up as far as I can tell early August. They pick this up and it has now been covered extensively in the mainstream media and other types of media since then. So it jumped from TikTok into mainstream discussion. So I'm loitin' up here on the screen. So for those of you who are watching this episode or segment on YouTube, you can actually see the article, but I'll narrate for those who are just listening. There is this article from The Guardian on August 6th, which I believe, as far as I can tell, is one of the first actual old-school media sources to tackle the topic. So it was titled "Quiet Quitting Why Doing the Bear Minimum at Work Has Gone Global" and is written by James Tapper. I just want to point out a couple things from this article. And then what I want to do is give you my thoughts on all this. So this article opens. I just wanted to point this out by saying, "Bartil B is back, although no doubt he'd prefer not to be." This is a very British way to open an article like that. There is a book. Melville wrote a short story. I think it's a short story. Maybe not Bella, called "Bartil B the Scrivener." It's actually one of the first, as far as I can tell, books about knowledge work on we. So check out that book if you haven't seen it. But anyways, that's very British. The number of American TikTok users who would know that reference, I'm going to assume, is low. All right, so let me jump ahead here. Here's another key quote. "Instead, they are doing just enough in the office to keep up." So this is talking about the quote, unquote, "quiet quitters. Then leaving work on time and muting slack." The writer then adds kind of snarkily, then posting about it on social media. So here is the summary of quiet quitting that this Guardian article gave. They're doing just enough in the office to keep up, then leaving work on time and muting slack. Now there's some good analysis in this piece, trying to understand this trend. So here's a quote from an expert, "Since the pandemic, people's relationship with work has been studied in many ways, and a literature typically across professions would argue that yes, people's way of relating to their work has changed." We talked about that often on the show, the impact of the pandemic on people stepping back and saying, "Wait a second. What's going on with my life? What's going on with my work?" Is a good time to regroup. Another quote from this expert, "The search for meaning has become far more apparent. There is a sense of our own mortality during the pandemic, something quite existential around people thinking, what should work mean for me? What can I do in a role? How can I do a role that's more aligned to my values?" And finally, we have another quote here from a Harvard Business School professor who introduced this term, "The great rethink as a better way of describing the current moment and knowledge worked in something like the great resignation. There's a lot of rethinking happening." All right, so I want to give, let me give some thoughts here. First of all, I should go on to say this article, which was one of the better articles on this topic. They defined what quite quitting was and then gave this psychological context, "What's going on in the workplace? Why might this trend have emerged?" Since then, things have been going downhill. I do not necessarily suggest looking at the online coverage of this topic. As I went into it for the chapter I was writing, in the months since this idea first arose, I think online discussion and coverage has become a pile-on of superficial criticality. The online commentators are seeing this issue mainly as a chance to prove their sophistication and bona fides by trying to one-up whoever talked about it last by pointing out what they missed. You thought this is wrong, but you're the problem because you missed out on this problem and then someone else comes in and I find it to be completely non-useful. You have the original quiet quitters on TikTok and then you get the reaction that's like kids are lazy. This is just called having a job. What are you talking about? Then you have the crew that comes in and says, "Whoa, whoa, you both are wrong because what neither of you are doing is cataloging every single identity group and trying to argue which identity groups will have an easier time than worse. You have to have a huge appendix trying to rank order the ease with which different groups can do quiet quitting and until you acknowledge that you're the problem, then someone else comes in and says, "No, all of you guys are the problem because what you don't realize is that your bougie stoogees and the key here is to rebuild capitalism and replace it with something better. This discussion in general is just part of the superstructure that is upholding this economic exploitation. Everyone trying to one-up everyone else, everyone else trying to make everyone else seem dumber than them. It's a mess. It's a pile on. Ignore it." So let's push that aside. Let's get rid of the posture and get back to the original issue here of quiet quitting and this context that I think the Guardian provided, which I think is quite good. I think there is something important here. What we're seeing in that TikTok discussion is a new generation. We'll call it this pandemic generation, the generation that had the pandemic disruptions hit early in their adulthood. Discovering, for lack of a better word, lifestyle design. The idea that work is one of the factors that you can intentionally deploy as part of a larger plan to construct a life that is meaningful or deep. So it's an intentional approach to life in which you are designing your life to meet whatever criteria you have for meaning and depth. So it is good to see a new generation discovering this. The frustration is they're starting from scratch. I mean, quiet quitting is a simplistic and crude first step towards trying to understand well, wait a second, what role does work have in my life? I'm working too much. I don't know why, probably because someone's being evil. I think I'm going to work less. It's a very simplistic first step towards a deeper, more necessary conversation. But this is a topic that has been covered every single generation going back quite a few generations. Go back to the 19th century, read Walden, and by Thoreau, jump forward to the 20th century, read the seven story mountain, jump forward another 20 years, reads in in the art of motorcycle maintenance, jump forward to the 21st century, you can start with eat, pray, love, then go onwards to the four hour work week, which by the way, was covering this exact issue the last time we went through this, which was the post 9/11 recession. And my generation, the early millennials entering the working world and trying to find their way, we had Tim Ferriss's version of lifestyle design. It's also covered by us here on the show. And am I writing extensively when we talk about the deep life and lifestyle centric career planning and career capital and the method of intentionally trying to construct a life that is deep and how you have to be systematic and deploy lots of different angles at it. So it's not a topic we're starting from scratch. The TikTok crew kind of is. So I think this is the good news bad news. The good news is what a topic. And I'm glad, I think it's a serious topic and I'm glad it's getting attention with this particular group. The bad news is, look, if you start from scratch, I don't think you're going to catch up to Thoreau anytime soon. Like people have thought about this, so you should pull from what is already out there. So I think this is an important topic. I'm glad it's being looked at. This pandemic generation probably has had the most impetus to look at this topic that we've seen since. I don't know, maybe the Zen of the Art of Motorcycle maintenance sort of 1960s early 70s. That's probably the last time we had a comparable disruption in culture, evolution of culture that required a pretty serious re rethinking. That eventually, by the way, led to the 1980s. We talked about this recently, early 1990s notion of passion and following your passion and the bastardization of Campbell's "Follow Your Bliss," which has been the mixed bag. And we're having another one of these evolutions now. And the great rethink of induced by the pandemic is going on. We're trying to rethink these things. So I think quite quickly is reflecting a good trend. Even if the details of these TikTok videos are easy to dismiss, I would say let's resist that urge. Yes, if you're going to look at 23 year olds posting 17 second videos, we can make fun. We can make ourselves feel smarter than everyone else. But I think what we should do is see this as an opportunity to help a group, a large group of dissatisfied and earnestly searching people find their way so they don't have to do this all from scratch. So that's my thoughts on quiet quitting, Justin. It seems like that would be a topic in both books that you're going to work on. Yeah, because it's a slow productivity book. Slow productivity, right? That it seems like a even bigger product topic in your next book. Yeah, I think the deep life book is going to be a big topic. It's going to be a good match for this. I mean, it's all in the air right now. And this happens every generation. You get to a place, economically things are going good. There's other concerns. You don't really think much about work. And then once you get going, something happens and you're like, well, what role is we're supposed to have in my life? What's going on here? And people try to figure this out. So with slow productivity, how does it relate? Well, I mean, I think slow productivity is maybe a little bit more narrow in its attack on this topic. But slow productivity is saying, what even are you going for when you say you want to be productive? What is your definition of a working life well executed? And the argument there is that we have these, we don't think it through. We have these superficial definitions. I don't know, busyness is better than less, hustling is better than not hustling. I want to feel like I'm earning my key, but it's all very haphazard. And a lot of what we actually do when we're trying to get after it, quote unquote, in our work is ironically counterproductive. Makes us more miserable. It's not maximizing useful output. And so slow productivity is saying, why don't we go back and rethink what we even mean by productivity, especially when it comes to knowledge work to try to find something that's more sustainable, that's going to make life more meaningful. And it hopefully is going to produce better stuff. So it's like a narrow first stab at the great rethink. And then the deep life is much broader. The deep life is where you say, you know what, we're going to move to Kentucky.
Cal talks about Henson Shaving and Eight Sleep (17:16)
So quiet quitting kind of helps like define it. And then from there, you can just start it. Yeah, quiet quitting or quiet quitting is a response to the same underlying impetus that my books are coming out of, which is people starting to rethink work, it's role in their life and what they're trying to do with their life more generally. All right, so we got a couple good blocks of questions here. First, I want to talk about a new sponsor to this show that I'm excited about. And that is Hinson shaving. This is the type of this is the type of thing I like. Okay, so here's the, here's the idea here. I'm going to have a script, but let me let me cut to the idea what I'm really excited about here. This is a family run business that specialize in really high precision parts manufacturing for the aerospace industry. So they have manufactured pieces for the Mars Rover's they've manufactured pieces for the International Space Station. They use these high precision CNC routers that can build things to really precise specifications. So they had this idea, they were looking at the world of shaving. What they figured out is the problem in the world of shaving is the way the razors are mounted. If the razors are loose or too much of it is exposed, it bends up and down. It's like a diving board that moves up and down. And that's what catches your skin. That's what causes irritation and nicks. And so they realized if you could build a really precise razor body, so the actual handle and thing at the end of the razor, they could hold a standard razor blade perfectly firmly with just the right amount showing, then the blades become the easy part. Ten cent standard blade is fine. All of the magic isn't getting the precisely built handle. And that's what they did. They designed this beautiful precision generated metal shaving handle that you use with just standard 10 cent razor blades and get an incredible shave out of it. So the way they explain it to me is they built a great razor and a terrible razor business. So unlike the subscription services, unlike the disposable razors where the whole business is, we're going to keep selling you these high priced, poorly made razors that blades that you use for a while then throw out. Here you buy this one really nice handle and then for 10 bucks you can have two years worth of blades. The blades are no longer the easy part. So I like this idea of super high quality precisely made beautiful objects that do a job really well. You don't have to have all the plastic and all the waste. You have this nice piece of aluminum and you use just standard blades and you get a really good shave. Their precision is 0.0013 inches. That's how far their blades extend. That's less than the thickness of a human hair. You can't do that unless you know how to make super precise parts. So I am a I was a fan of this of this company. I have my Henson's Shaver. It's fantastic. Now you pay more for the thing up front, but you're not buying the replacement blades. You're not doing the subscriptions. You're not doing the going to CVS and getting the things in the plastic box that they have to come and unlock to whatever. You buy the thing once and you use it with 10 cents blades. You you will be winning in terms of how much you paid really soon. So I don't know. This is one of these things from actually a big fan of the product. So here's the thing. It's time to say no to subscriptions and yes to a razor that will last you a lifetime. Visit hensonshaving.com/cal to pick the razor for you and then use the code "cal" and you will get two years worth of blades free with your razor. Now the key here is when you go to the site and you choose your razor, add the two-year supply of razors to your cart and then when you enter the code "cal" it'll just make them free. But you have to add the razors to your cart and then enter the code "cal" when you check out and you'll get the two years worth of razors for free. That's 100 free blades when you head to H E N S O N S H A V I N G dot com slash "cal" and use that code "cal". So I was on the phone with them Jesse right before earlier today and I knew I had to get over here and either restrain myself because I wanted to well I shave but I had a lot of questions about the high precision CNC routers. Does it start with a block of aluminum? How do these things work? It's because it's a cylindrical precision made thing. I'm just really interested in that technology. I also thought it was cool that the thing that built my razor also built parts for the International Space Station. That's cool. I also want to talk about speaking of well-made really interesting high-tech products. I also want to talk about eight sleep. This is I think again really cool technology that I like seeing really cool technologies. So the eight sleep pod is they call it the ultimate sleep machine but what it does is a sleep technology that can control the temperature of your sleeping experience. You put the pod over your mattress and you have precise control over what temperature you then want that mattress cover to be at. So the way I use it, why I like this product like most people like this product is you can bring the temperature down. It's hard to get a good night's sleep if you're hot and if you bring the temperature down with your eight sleep pod that'd be just a little bit cooler. The quality of your sleep significantly improves. You can bring it down as cold as 55 degrees. I was thinking about eight sleep. Jesse the other day I was watching reruns of Curb Your Enthusiasm. That's a good job. And this is somewhat like the later seasons where he's he's arguing with, I forgot his girlfriend, I forgot her name about the temperature they sleep in and she likes it warmer and he likes it cooler. But the premise is like eventually she gets sick and he's going to have to care for her and he was trying to break up with her before she got sick and he just missed it. But then the doctor is there and the doctor is like and this is really important. You're going to have to really keep the room warm. I think it's going to be really important for the healing process. You really I think for sleeping need the room to be 80, 85 degrees. I thought that was funny. The eight sleep would be just what he needs there, what Larry David needed because he could bring his side of the bed down. So there's data about this. Eight sleep users experience up to 19% increase in recovery of the 32% improvement in sleep quality, 34% more deep sleep. Their newest generation is called the pod three, which allows you to do tracking. You can track sleep, track health with the sensors, health tracking use these sensors that are in there. So it's getting pretty high tech. But mainly it really is a game changer to go to bed and the thing you're on is not hot.
How can I motivate my kids to have Cal’s work ethic? (24:25)
The pod is not magic, but it can feel like it. So go to eight sleep.com/deep to start sleeping cool and save $150 on the pod. That's eight sleep spelled out E I G H T sleep.com/deep. Eight sleep currently ships within the US, Canada and the UK as well as select countries in the EU and Australia. All right, so let's get into some questions. Jesse, what's our first question of the day? Okay, so our first question is from Esther. She's a 48 year old physician in New York City. And that's what she has to say. What did your parents do in your childhood and teen life to help motivate you to be as organized and efficient as you are? What lessons can I learn to motivate my teenagers to pursue excellence and all that they do? Well, it's an interesting question. So if I go back in time to think about young cow Newport and what he was exposed to growing up, I mean, there is some interesting stuff to perhaps mine from back then. My mom is very organized. I mean, she'll tell the story that she wasn't organized. When we were very young, she was not as organized and we lived in Houston. And it's kind of a hectic setup because she had the commute from north of Houston in the downtown. It was a very long commute and then my dad had to go the other direction and we were always cobbling together childcare. And I think it was a little busy and then we moved to New Jersey. And once we moved to New Jersey, we were old enough that she was staying at home at that point. And I think it was very stressful and chaotic to try to organize the lives of four elementary school age kids. But she had a friend she met. She had a friend who was Mormon who really pushed the Franklin Covey system, right? Because a Covey is Mormon. So the Franklin Covey system, which is based on part on Stephen Covey's thinking was very popular among Mormons before it expanded to be more popular generally. So my mom became a die-hard user of the Franklin Planner. Like using it the way exactly following the rules and it transformed life. So it killed off that stress. It was a very organized household. So I was exposed to that. So subliminally, I might have taken in organization helps, but I was not a very organized structured kid. I was haphazard. I would leave things until the last minute. I was not a kind of type A. Let's get things lined up, tackle them one by one, get things done at the highest level of quality. I was not like that until college. I really wasn't until college when I got serious about my academic career that I began to get more systematic about organization because at that point I cared. It was not really till then that I cared how well I did my options in life. For whatever reason, I don't quite know why I had a chip on my shoulder. You know, I just had this sense of I think I have some talent. I think I'm a smart guy, but it's on me to make something of this. I don't know where that came from, but that sense did not emerge from me until college. Then I got very organized and structured and developed a type of ideas I talk about here. So I don't know if I subliminally took in some things from my mom growing up that I then put into action once I was ready to put into action or if it was unrelated, but it certainly wasn't on 12 and really good at planning things. So from a parenting perspective, what this is telling me is you probably cannot engineer child into being more organized into being more driven. You can demonstrate it in your own life. You can demonstrate the benefits of a structured life, less stress, more control, more opportunity, more options, things in general are more interesting, less chaotic. I think kids do pick up the appreciate the stability. They will pick up the stability. So that might be something that is actually imprinted. It's a sort of a show, don't tell strategy. I do also think it's important to talk with kids specifically about building intentionally a life, a deeper life. These things matter. Discipline is important for this reason. It's how you make the most of the talents you have and the opportunities you have and make the most of your time here. Knowing what you want in life is important and engineering around that's important. Here's why we live here. Here's why we have these jobs. Here's why we left this. We really think about this. Here's why community is important. You know, I spend all this time volunteering over here because I think it's important to serve other people. Being really clear about the elements, what makes a life deep, I think is again, probably very important, not that they will then say, yes, dad, yes, mom, I'm going to start doing this tomorrow. But they remember that lessons when they get to a place where they realize, oh, I'm on my own. I got to figure myself out. You got to figure out what to do. They can look back and say, here's an option to try. What my parents did, what seemed to be working for them, what they explained to me and taught to me, now I am ready, 1921 years old. Now I'm ready to try this out. There might be this period of frustration where you're demonstrating through your actions, you just through conversation, you're explaining what you figured out over time as an adult about how to approach life. And you're not seeing it reflected in their day to day action. You're like, man, if I was 17, I'd be doing this so much better. But it's still useful what you're doing because it's giving this option into their toolbox. So when they're ready to start pulling tools for the toolbox, which will be out of sight of you after they're out of the home, it'll be in there. And then they might be more likely to pick it up. The other thing I would recommend is you have to resist. You have to resist the appeal of using your kids as a proxy for your own accomplishments. This is a big DC area thing. I think this is true in other major cities as well. I'd be interested from our international listeners how common this is. It's so easy. If you're like a relatively accomplished adult who has kids and you look at your kids and say, you know, the competitive structures where they exist, what's required to stand out, man, that's not so hard from the perspective of an adult as compared to like trying to get partner at this law firm that I did. And so let me just push these kids into accomplishments that are visible and impressive and by proxy that will reflect well on me. And you get a lot of this. Now parents are saying, my kids and their accomplishments are going to reflect well on me. And you know what? It's a lot easier to have them do the work than me have to do the work. It's a lot easier to say, no, go back there and keep practicing the clarinet than it is to actually have to practice it yourself. And you use the kids as a proxy for your own accomplishment. This, I think, is a problem. I used to study this in a lot more detail. In my 20s, when I was doing more work on students stress, high school student stress was an area that I used to give talks on and do a lot of writing on. And there's a real problem with this approach. What happens is, is you can burn out the motivational drive of your kid. So they get turned off on this idea, this extrinsic motivation of like, man, it's go, go, go. If you got to do everything at the highest level, why don't you have the highest grade? Your parents are getting a real kick out of, hey, you got to the most advanced, you know, you're in the most advanced reading group. You're on the best select team. You're the first chair and the whatever. And they're getting all this, this, whatever, this energy out of it. They feel like it reflects well on them. And you're burning out the kid's motivation drive. And then they're going to go through some sort of simplistic rebellion where when they're looking at their options, a sort of more intentional, careful discipline, which is really important to life. They're not going to pull that option out of their toolbox. It's like, I did the like discipline thing when I was 17 and it burned me out. And now that I'm, you know, I made it to whatever, brown, I'm going to go the opposite direction. And it's not great. So I'm just going to throw in that thing. You want to demonstrate the intentional construction of a life that includes discipline organization. You want to talk about it why it's important, but don't, I mean, the kid has to pull it out of the toolbox themselves. And they might not be ready to pull it out when they're 17. And if you force them too hard to do it, you might, and I don't want to strict this metaphor, but you might end up breaking that tool early. And then they won't have it when they need it later on in life. When you coach a lot, Jesse, I don't know what you see, but yeah, like sports culture around here. Yeah, no, you nailed it. I mean, though you work with some fantastic athletes. I mean, I think it's a difference if it's you're really gifted, you know, athletically, for example. So like, let's, let's foster that and like really make that a part of your life. But there's this whole second tier of, of, you know, young people athletes where it's like, you don't really need to be away every week in these tournaments. You don't really need private coach. Like it's fine, but you're not, you're not going to play D one college. Yeah. So, so why is your, why are you spending so much time and sing other than you can get addicted as a parent to the like, we're on this team and we got selected for that team. And every time that happens, you as the parents, somehow it makes you feel like physically stronger for sure. There's some pretty intense parents out there as well. Yeah. That, you know, push a lot and it can be difficult for like the head coach too, because they're always, do you have parent? Well, I don't want you to talk out of school, but just abstractly speaking, do parents, parents interacting with head coaches is something that is very common at the high school level? Very common. It's even common with their college level. Like there's like college coaches that I couldn't have to deal with some parents for sure. That baffles me. As someone who did a little bit of D one college athletics, I couldn't imagine a parent coming in to definitely exist. Oh my goodness. Yeah. Well, hey, look, I had, if this helps, I had none of that growing up. I think we had a lot of kids and it was busy. We had good structure and we had good routine and good role models in our parents, but like we were never, at least I wasn't, there was never this thing of this particular activity you're doing.
What are Cal’s tips for writing better articles? (34:48)
Why can't we be doing this at a higher level? You know, and it worked out okay for me. Like everyone is going to have to look into their toolbox at how do I build my life at some point. And I'm just, it's my theory. Make sure the right tools are in there and don't be frustrated that they're not ready to open the box at 15 and 16. Some kids are, but some kids are. All right. What do we have next, Jesse? All right. Next question is from Max. He's a 40 year old marketer from London and he says, I've been asked to start writing regular articles for my company. I'm struggling with this assignment. I cannot find my voice. When I write, I come across as very rigid and contrived. How do you write your articles? That's a good question. How do you actually craft an article? It seems like it's a easy thing. They're not that long. It's not a book. But more than a few people like you, Max have faced the reality when it comes time to write what needs to be a smart, good article, in this case, representing your company that it's hard to do. You don't know where to start. So I have some tips to share. Let me just start with the preface of I have been writing professionally for over two decades. And it's all I do. All I do is write. I write every single day. I showed you on the show last week. My keyboard has completely worn away after just a couple of years of use because of how much I write. I write academic articles. I write public consumption magazine articles. I write books. I write essays every week for my own newsletter. And so I've been working at this for a really long time. So I only say that just as a preface that don't, let's say, read one of my recent articles and say, why does it my stuff just sound like this? What's wrong? There's 20 years of work that goes behind that. So it's a process. You get better and better with work. So I'm going to start there so that you're not and forget. Okay, maybe don't use me as an example. I don't want you reading John McPhee and saying, why don't I sound like that? He spent a lifetime honing that ability. I do have some specific advice that I wrote down a few things here about article writing. One, spend more time thinking through your idea, your thesis before you write. Preferably do this on foot. I think interesting articles, good writers spend a lot more time thinking about the point they want to make and the pieces that go into that point. They spend a lot more time thinking about that than you might realize. I think amateur writers get started too quickly. And especially for an idea article, you're not going to figure out on the page. There might be passages you figure out on the page. Like, let me just go for this and then see if it's working or not. But you're not going to figure out, here is my big point or the thesis and the four things support it. That has to be done on foot and it can take a long time to get there. You can try and not like what you have and you have to keep thinking before you start writing. All right, number two, for this style of article, you'll be writing and I can see from your elaboration, it's like a philosophical angle on ideas related to the products your company builds. So for that type of philosophical idea type article, start with a standard structure at first. I think it's a good way to enter into professional article writing. One of the standard structure is going to be you open on a illustrative example that leads to the nut graft. This is where you're actually explaining, here is the idea I'm going to try to convince you of in this piece. And now you suddenly understand what that example that you just read was about. So you create a little bit of narrative tension, which you relieve partially with the revelation of your thesis, then you go into elaboration. All right, let me work through this connection idea. Let me support it, give you the necessary caveats. Now they have a complete understanding of the idea. The narrative tension has been fully released. And then your conclusion should pull back, have a call back to what you open with. And then there's a sense of completion. So like that standard idea writing 101, you build up narrative tension. And then the release of the tension pulls the reader through the article towards the end. And the call back gives them the sort of satisfying sense of completion to the to the whole story they just went through. Similar things happen if you study, you know, Aristotle's Poetics and storytelling, similar types of structures and goes back a long way. Three show don't tell one of the big differentiators in these type of articles between amateur and professional writing is the professional writing is a lot denser, by which I mean it's points are established with quotes, citations of specific examples. So it's denser. There's a density of citation. I don't mean formal, you know, you're doing some sort of AP style citation, but it's you're showing don't telling. Such and such said this, such and such example went for 14 years. This car in 1950, I had on average this Malice per gallon. And now by 1990, it was this me, Malice per hour, and show don't tell related. This is piece of advice number four, be wary of the conversational voice. All right, it's a real temptation. I think when people are new to this type of article writing to ask rhetorical questions and have more colloquial aside of you, I think this is the case, but it's not really. What would you do if you are suddenly faced with 10 million dollars? Maybe not what you would think if you blah, blah, the conversational tone reads amateur. It that's more, that's more acceptable, I think, in a sort of personalized blogging world, but you want to avoid the conversational tone so that like colloquial idiomatic expressions really avoid rhetorical questions except for maybe occasionally. And this is my bugaboo. I think rhetorical questions and idea writing is, you know, it's my version of using cliches. It's, I think it's weak writing. Don't ask for a rhetorical question. Show don't tell, show don't tell, move it forward. And then finally, don't write for the sake of writing. It really comes through an article writing as well as book chapter writing. You see this a lot when people are writing books that maybe they're not writers. It's based on their expertise. It's like, man, I know that you know how many words this chapter needs to be. And you are trying to get to that word count. That comes through really clearly. That's what I call writing for the sake of writing. Like there's no real reason for the last two paragraphs to be here other than you're trying to get to 2000 words. Professional writers look to pull the rip chord on whatever passage idea or paragraph they're working on as soon as possible. The sooner I can get out of this, the more comfortable I am with this. So go back and read, you know, some New Yorker articles. And you'll see this. They're out of each argument as quickly as they can. Like what's the essence of what I'm trying to say here? You know, we cite this, it's different than this. We also see it here, rip chord. I'm out. Next thing. You don't see this dragging out of like, you know, and maybe this and maybe that. And let me rhetorical question here. And let's go back and summarize. And so when you're writing rip chord, I actually, in the slow productivity book I'm writing now, the voice I'm using that book is another right way to describe it. But I'm really trying to non-over elaborate things. I guess it's a little bit more enigmatic, but a little bit more declarative because it's supposed to have a sense of some timeless wisdom. I literally, on multiple occasions when I'm editing something, have written rip chord, rip chord, rip chord. As a reminder to myself, like, get out, get out, get the point, get out, get the point, get out. The reader is smart. They'll fill in the details. Don't over explain. All right. So those are my tips. I guess I gave one, two, three, four, five ideas here for making those articles really look a lot better. And then my, or just to reiterate my original point, also you will get better with time. So don't compare yourself to your very favorite writer. Just say, why am I not there yet? You want to be better than you were with the last article you wrote. And so hopefully these tips will help. So with the example, then the nut. What's the nut again? So that's where you actually lay out what the big idea is going to be in the article. So imagine something I was writing. Let me draw a quick example from writing I've been doing this week. So I opened a section of a chapter. I'm talking about Georgia O'Keefe and I was talking about how busy her early careers. I think I talked about this on the show last week. This is the example though. So I'm telling the story about Georgia O'Keefe and how how many different jobs she had all over the country. And then the summer she would come back east and go west. And it's just this really busy life. And she really was trying to study painting. And but would have to take these long breaks. And she needed to really uncover potential is going to need something more that that more came when she started getting involved with Alfa Stiglitz and their family owned this land by Lake George. And she started going up there with him and became unlocked the most prolific period of her career. So kind of hearing the story like this is interesting. The nut there is then pointing out so in this particular section, seasonality. This is what Georgia O'Keefe was demonstrating seasonality. Different times of the year you're working on different things with different intensities is something that we we've sort of lost track of. But it's actually really key to the human experience and something to we should try to get back. There we go. So you have this opening story like what's this why this is interesting.
Are someday/maybe lists worth it? (44:20)
But what's it all about that nut graph explains it. But you still have narrative tension because you want to say, well, why is that true? You know, why is seasonality important? Can we really get it back? What happened to it? Now you want to have that be resolved. That's the rest of that chapter then resolves those questions. So that's an example there. Got it. The alternative would be you could just come right in and say seasonality is very important. Here's the definition of seasonality. I will now get five reasons why. And that's fine. But it this is the difference between having narrative tension and not. Yeah. Yeah. It's textbook versus like, okay, I want to see what happens next. All right. What do we got? Speaking of next, we'll be having our next question. All right. Next question is from Joe. He's a software engineer from Minneapolis. Do you use anything like a someday maybe list? And if so, how do you manage it? All right. So someday maybe for those who don't know, that's a getting things done, a GTD reference. So in his book, Getting Things Done, David Allen recommends keeping a someday maybe list. So it's projects that you're not actually actively working on now. But you might one day. The point is, in Allen's book, is you don't want this rattling around in your head. You don't want this idea you have or something you might want to do one day having to be maintained just in your brain. Because anything you have to maintain just in your brain can become a source of stress. You can become a source of anxiety. You want it in a written down somewhere where you trust it won't be forgotten. And so he says, just have this one list. I think it's a good idea. Something like that is a good idea. You did a place or places where potential ideas are captured that you trust they will not be forgotten. Now, I actually think this is a piece of my system, my personal system that I need to improve. My someday maybe storage right now is distributed among multiple different role specific systems, which is probably not optimal. So for example, I have role specific Trello boards where I keep track of tasks and related obligations. We've talked about this a lot of other episodes. Each of those boards has a column labeled back burner. That's one place that certain things go. But these tend to be the things I put on a back burner list. Don't tend to be grandiose ideas. It's more we need to someday probably update our such and such software. I don't want to do this now. That's something we should probably do. We should think about improving our setup for having calls on the podcast. That's on a back burner list. I'm not working on it now maybe, but it's on a back burner list. So those are there. Then in my online note taking, and right now I use Obsidian, which we have a question about coming up, there's places in there. So I have a document in there for my academic research, and in particular, my academic research on impact to technology on society and digital ethics, something I'm just starting to do some more work on. There's a page in my online note taking for that for the podcast and media company. There's another place where I keep track of visions for the future. That's too many places. So Core idea one is yes, Allen is right. You need place or places you trust to keep ideas so they're not going around your head. Two, I have a system right now that is too distributed, so I want to fix it. What am I probably thinking about doing? I'm thinking about having some sort of rooted someday maybe setup, where there's a core root to where all these ideas are stored. Like that's all I have to remember is the root. This is my someday maybe document in my online note taking software, or my someday maybe directory in my Google Drive. And then from there, I can link out or spread out to here's stuff for this part of my life, here's ideas for this part of my life. So I'm going to do something like that. And I'm going to root my system.
How can a researcher embrace slow productivity? (48:23)
That's a good question because I think it's an important piece of organizing an intellectual life that we haven't talked much about. You're going to have to put that on your someday maybe list. It's a circular irony. Improve your someday maybe list. You put that on your... I need to start a someday maybe list and I need to put that on my someday maybe list. I think this is the productivity nerd version of if a tree falls in the forest and no one's there to hear it. Oh, well enough of that nonsense. All right. What do we got? Let's keep rolling. See, I'm getting quicker now, Jesse. Okay. I'm picking up the pace. So next question is from Sam. He's a 28-year-old PhD student. And he says, "I found the 500 words a day formula for slow productivity to be a useful frame. However, as a PhD student in computer science, a lot of my work doesn't involve much writing. How would I adapt the 500 words a day target for my research?" So the context of the 500 words a day reference there from Sam is at some point, I don't know, maybe a few months ago, on the podcast I talked about John McPhee. And I think I was probably talking about an essay I wrote for my newsletter, whatever. The point is I was emphasizing that John McPhee is seen in the context of his entire career as being very productive. He's written all these books. He has the Pulitzer's, he has the National Book Award, and a huge bibliography. But he doesn't actually work that much on any given day. In fact, his target is he admits just to write 500 words a day. So this was a classic example of slow productivity. This working at this natural sustainable pace over time can produce great stuff. So if we expand the timeline at which we're evaluating productivity to be a career, or the last 10 years, as opposed to having a narrow timeline of today or the last week, you get this much more sustainable rhythm of work. You don't have to be busy or killing yourself every day with work to produce stuff that you're proud of. Okay, so Sam is saying, "What is the equivalent of 500 words a day if you're not a writer?" And I think that's a good question. So we could address this first of all just specifically in terms of Sam's particular context, which is a PhD student. And look, I see that. I feel you're paying there, Sam. I used to do a lot of appearances at boot camps, graduate student dissertation boot camps. You see this at Georgetown. And I would also do it at nearby Catholic University when I knew some professors over there. It's very common that you would do these once a year gathering. They're called dissertation boot camps where grad students get together to hear talks and motivate each other to work on their dissertations. And I was a broken record at these boot camps because all of the advice was always centered on write every day. Get your writing done. Don't forget the write because in a lot of disciplines, writing is the actual primary activity that pushes a thesis forward, not the case of mathematics, not the case in computer science. You write papers eventually, but research is not writing. It's solving math equations, trying to figure out theorems, running experiments. And so I used to come to these boot camps, and I was a broken record. I would say stop saying writing is your generic verb for working. For a lot of people, the core to their work has nothing to do with actually writing. So I feel your pain, Sam. Writing should not be seen as a universal verb for doing deep work in graduate school. But what I want to do here is generalize out and answer this for people in general. I don't want to get too academia specific. So let's just be in general, how do we translate this general philosophy of 500 words a day to other types of work? What I think is key here is this notion of slow and steady and timeline expansion. If you expand your timeline on which you are evaluating your productivity to something at the scale of years, then often a very slow and steady approach is going to work quite well. And when you're evaluating your production on what you really care about at that type of expanded timeline, you begin to see the futility or the performative, unnecessary of really hard days. I'm just burning the midnight oil. I've been writing all day. I'm going to write till midnight tonight and wake up really early to write. You could do that. And maybe in the moment, you'll be like, man, I know I'm being productive because look how hard I'm working. But when you're talking about what do I produce over the next five years, that's not sustainable. It also doesn't really matter. Working quality work again and again in the right setting, giving the work to respect and the support it needs to be good. Going up and down in intensity, you know what? I'm taking a week off. I didn't get there to my, I was sick today. I didn't write who cares. We're talking about the end of this year. Did you produce something that you're proud of? And that is going to be best served by slow, steady quality. So I think that's how we generalize John McPhee as 500 words a day is you don't have to be exhausted or frantic today to having ended up produce something great next year. You need to slowly accrete good quality work at a reasonable rate. And that also happens to be a much more sustainable way to live and work.
Why did Cal switch from Roam to Obsidian note-taking software? (53:48)
So, you know, that's what I would say, slow, steady, don't not work, but don't be so proud of yourself for, you know, staying up real late. That just means you forgot a deadline. And you will guaranteed when a poll is surprised like John McPhee. All right, Jesse, what have we got? All right. Next question is from Will. He's an economist from Tacoma Park. We won't be able to meet him at Republic. Did you say, and he has to say, did you say you were using Obsidian now? Why the switch from Rome? That's what, yeah. Well, first of all, maybe it's what we should do with the Republic space is because I learned from Obsidian from another friend of mine in Tacoma Park. He's a big booster. So, shout out to Scott. So me and Scott and Will, we could just create Republic into a space where people gather to geek out in incredible detail about various zettled casted inspired electronic note-taking systems. All right. Well, I did. I am using Obsidian now for nerdish reasons. And just to give the really high level explanation, Rome, well, I like Rome too. Actually, Rome has, Rome has its uses as well. Rome is a nice interface. Obsidian is based off of text files. So when you're taking notes in Obsidian, yeah, you have this interface. We're taking notes. You can link the notes together. But what you're doing is actually writing in what's known as markup. So just a generic markup language in text files. And what the Obsidian interface is doing is just reading these text files that sit in a directory on your computer where you pointed it. And it's just reading those text files. And you can go in there and read them. It's just playing text with markup symbols around it to indicate this is bold. This is a list. This is a link. And let's say if this links to something else and you know, just the other document is just there in the markup. And so when you go through your notes in Obsidian, it's a nice interface. You can click around and format and do these type of things. But nothing lives in the cloud. There's not some proprietary format that's on a AWS instance somewhere. It's text files on your computer that you can go and read. You can open it up in text edit. You can change it. And when you look at it with Obsidian, it will be you will see those changes. So Obsidian is just an interface that allows you to edit text files in your computer and displays those text files in a nice way. So I like that. It's full control. So Obsidian could go away. I have all my notes. I could read them just directly with a text editor or get any other type of markup reader that exists and still read those notes. I mean, I only need to use Obsidian because I might like its interface. Now I use Dropbox with synced backup. So like my Obsidian setup is in a directory that's auto synced to Dropbox. So all of these notes are automatically also updated and copied to Dropbox. So everything's backed up. And so if I get a new computer, I just re sync to my Dropbox directory structure. And I have those notes there. So the notes live in multiple places. I'm not going to lose them. Anyways, that's why I like it. It feels like a sophisticated version of the my dependence on plain text files that I already use in other parts of my productivity.
CASE STUDY - A World Without Email got my team through a crisis (57:05)
So that's a nerd reason. I think for a lot of people that doesn't really matter. So I would not use this reason as a as a general recommendation that everyone definitely needs to be on Obsidian. But if you're a CS nerd like me or presumably like Will, it is kind of cool. All right, so I want to try something somewhat new here. Well, we're trying to do more case studies on this show. This is the feedback we got that people would like to hear more details about real people's experiences putting these ideas in the practice. As I've mentioned, the medium term goal is call. We want to have people call in live and actually interact with me. That's all complicated, sound is complicated. Don't even get me started on that. But we're working on it. In the meantime, I'm also soliciting you can send in text case studies in the same question survey that you can use to submit your questions. That link is in the show notes. But I wanted to read one today from Josh. He was a network engineer who's in his 20s. All right, so here's what Josh had to say. And I'll just read this. A world without email got my team and me through a crisis. I got a copy of it on pre-order. And it just after it arrived, my wife and I went on vacation to Puerto Rico. It was really lovely being able to just read about a better way to work while sitting on the beach and returning home from vacation. My IT team suffered an unexpected crisis. And I was thrown into a demanding management role. I'm the kind of person who likes to feel in control. And the one mission I could give myself to preserve some siblings of that feeling was to make sure that we didn't drop a single ball in response to this crisis. As a team, we had minimal shared documentation and we had no central work repository. So I didn't even know what engineering work was happening. My first thought was to collect all work items into a task board, just like a world without email lays out. But I didn't have the time to wait for a corporate procurement to approve and enterprise trellis subscription. And we didn't have a way to get the team onto any sort of task board. So I ended up creating a minimum viable product out of folders on a shared drive. We had a folder called active work inside of that folder. We had a new folder for each work item. The folder name was a short description of the task itself. Inside that folder was a notes dot txt file that detailed the task. Any emails pertaining to the task were copied and pasted into an emails dot txt file. Any working documents were also saved in that folder. So for example, we might have a folder named design data center core that would contain a notes dot txt file detailing all the design considerations and a working diagram and a spreadsheet also in that folder. If I were to take ownership of a task, I would modify the folder name to indicate that. So now it might say Josh colon design data center core. That way an alphabetical sort of the active work folder would isolate all of my work. As I finished a task, I would update the notes dot txt file with close out notes and change the folder name to completed colon Josh colon design data center core. We could focus exclusively on a task by opening that folder. We could share notes and feedback between team members by dropping a txt file in that folder. We could see work in progress at a glance. We had a way to gather detailed information about a task without actually having to own the task and start working on it. We only use that system for a couple of months, but it accomplished its goal. We didn't drop or forget even a single task. There were no external teams that might have company that felt like they needed to escalate issues to my manager. We were able to share the increased workload through the team, even though I was primarily the one collecting information about work items. From there, we were able to move to a real passport and 18 months later, our little team is now seen as an agile transformation leader within our broader organization. All right, it's a cool case study because two reasons. One, it highlights something I say often on this show, which is when it comes to organizing work, especially in teams, start with the process first. What makes the most sense for us to organize our work? And then two, figure out what tools you need to implement that. And that is exactly what Josh did in that story, because they couldn't procure the right tools fast enough. They say we can just use text files and folder names, and it worked great. What mattered was the process. And then once they got approval to switch to a task board, oh, they switched to a task board, but it was that process that they switched to a task board. And it didn't really matter if they were implementing it by changing the name of folders, or if they're on a trellibord, it was the same process. And so I think that's really cool to see. And then two, I just like that specific setup. That's a cool system. Right? Folders for each thing that we're actively working on, all of the information relevant to that thing go into that folder, including relevant emails, have a key readme file in each folder that gives you the overview of exactly where everything lands, put your name into the directory title. So we know who's working on what that's a great system. And see what Josh said there, Josh said, all of the incoming was directed at him. So it's this was a the his elaboration explained is an IT team within a big organization. So IT teams get hammered with build us this, fix this, add this new feature, implement this system. It's all day long. It all came to Josh. And yet he said he felt like all this work was very intelligently distributed to the whole team. Everyone was working on different things, beautiful collaboration. And because they built a process here that made sense. So anyways, great example, Josh. I appreciate appreciate that those specifics. And I appreciate that opportunity to talk about when you get specific about workflows, as opposed to just saying, look, we're all in slackless, rock and roll, things can get a lot better. I like how he says when he does the alphabetical shirt, chicken to show all his work right there. There's definitely an ITE flavor to that system. Yeah. Well, if you put your name in the folder and you can alphabet alphabetize folders, alphabetize folders, but it is true.
Cal talks about Blinkist and ExpressVPN (01:03:37)
Like existing technology is great. Yeah, it's not the problem. The problem is not that someone hasn't built a fancy web interface for what you're trying to do. The problem is you don't have a system that you're just on email. Like, did you get my last message? Why don't you respond? Uh, so good for you, Josh. All right. Let me talk about sponsor real quick before we move on to our second block of questions. It's one of our longest standing sponsors, one of my favorite idea related companies. And that is Blinkist. As I often say, ideas are power in our current world. And the best source of ideas is almost always books. The issue is figuring out which books you should read and which books you don't need to. That's where Blinkist enters the picture. They offer 15 minute text and audio explainers called blinks of over 5000 nonfiction books spread over 27 categories. They're also now doing short cast, which gives you summaries of long form podcast. So here is how you use Blinkist. You're interested in a topic, right? So you're interested in crypto and blockchains. You go find two or three books, blockchain, revolution, blockchain, et cetera. Listen to the blinks while you're on a walk or on your commute or read them while you're waiting in line somewhere, whatever, get the main ideas from those books. Now you know the lay of the land of that idea. You're already way better off anywhere before and you've only spent 30, 45 minutes. You also can figure out if you need to read something, which of those books is going to be best because you've seen their summary and what they focus on. So I think a Blinkist as a sidekick that any serious idea reader needs. Okay, it's something that you should have if you're serious about the world of ideas. I read a Blink today actually. Which book? It was a physics book. It was like pretty cool. And the thing I like about it is because you listen to a lot of podcasts, you read a lot of articles and stuff, you get all these lists of books and then you're never going to be able to read everything. So it's like it's a good little way to maybe cross off some of those books on that list that you want to get an idea of. That's a smart idea. Yeah, so you listen to a podcast, you hear seven book recommendations. Do the blinks. Yeah, for all seven books, like you'll have the main ideas of those seven books and maybe one of them you'll read. I mean, I don't know if you have this experience Jesse, but for me, it's like really obvious. It's very bimodal when I'm reading a Blink of a book, whether I'm like, yeah, I got what I need. And whether I'm thinking I gotta read this book. There's a cool feature on the app too, where when you're going through the Blink, it's got like the little timeline down below so you know how much more you have as you're reading it. So just hanging out. That's how I should evaluate my own books. I should go back and read the blinks. Like if this doesn't make me want to buy the book, I need to go back and make a better book. So right now Blinkist has a special offer just for our audience. Go to blinkist.com/deep to start your free seven day trial and you'll get 25% off a Blinkist premium membership. That's Blinkist spelled B-L-I-N-K-I-S-T. Blinkist.com/deep to get 25% off a seven day free trial. Blinkist.com/deep. I was laughing when I was thinking about, you said physics. I was imagining reading a blink on Albert Einstein's 1905 paper on special relativity and he just opened up the blink and it says E equals MC squared. It was talking about that actually. That's great. All right. One of the sponsors I want to mention, another long time friend of the show, that is ExpressVPN. If you access the internet places outside of your home or your work, you need to use a VPN. And we've explained this before on the show. This is CS Security 101. With a VPN, you do not directly connect to a website or service. You instead connect to a VPN server with a secure encrypted connection. You tell that server, this is the website or service I want to talk to. That server does it on your behalf and then sends the information back to you over the encrypted connection. Why is that important? It means the people who are watching who you're talking to. So the people who are sniffing the packets, you're sending to the access point at Starbucks. All they know is that you're talking to a VPN server. They have no idea what site or service that server is going to talk to on your behalf or what you're asking for because that's encrypted. All right. So you need to use a VPN. If you're going to use a VPN, I recommend ExpressVPN. And it's because two things, they have a lot of servers. So for a VPN to work well, you want there to be a server to connect to that's not that far away. If you are in Washington, DC, you don't necessarily want to go through a server in Australia, that would add extra lag. So the more servers the better ExpressVPN has a ton to they have a lot of bandwidth, fast connections. And I can add three. Why not? Third, the software is easy, runs in the background. You turn it on with a click and you're just using using the VPN without even thinking about it. Of course, there's other advantages to VPNs. Locality stuff. Oh, I can't access UK content on Netflix. They live in the US. Hey, connect to a VPN server in the UK Netflix things here in the UK. So there's kind of cool stuff you can do. But this is just basic CS you need a VPN Express VPN to wand. I recommend.
How can I concentrate on work with so many bad things happening in the world? (01:09:11)
So get your money's worth from your internet and get security and privacy at express VPN.com slash deep. Don't forget to use this link express VPN.com slash deep. Don't forget the slash deep. That's how they know you came from me. If you use that slash deep, you will also get three extra months of Express VPN for free. Check out my time here. Oh, we're doing well. All right, so let's move on to our second block of questions. What we tried to do here is as we often do try to do is make the second block a little bit more deep life philosophical first block we got into the weeds on some things. Second block will get a little more philosophical here. So what do we got, Jesse? All right, first question here. It's an anonymous question. And it states, how do you think about long term career work issues in the face of seemingly growing existential threats such as climate change, economic disparity in the world, and new technologies such as AI? I mean, I think the key there is stop using so much social media, stop reading so much online news. Let me explain where I'm coming from with that answer. First, let's begin with the premise that there always has been and there will always be to varying degrees up and down a lot of distressing stuff happening in the world. There is nothing exceptional about our current moment. I think back in a circumstance like this, think about a question like this, I think back to the Irish Christian monastics of the early medieval period, the late Dark Ages. This was a very rough time. There was a lot of bad things happening. There were diseases that could kill 30, 40% of a population of a continent in just a couple of years. There was no political stability. These monasteries were often raided by, for example, Vikings where everyone would just be murdered. This was not a time where you're like, yeah, pretty peaceful and pretty happy about things. But what were those Irish monastics doing? They were very carefully preserving and copying over a lot of the intellectual fruits of the ancient period. And you know what? We're glad they were. We're glad they worked in this terrible time because it was actually in a lot of these monasteries that we maintain our only copies of some of the key ancient philosophical and mathematical texts that then helped spur the Renaissance a couple hundred years later. There's actually a book about that I read called How the Irish Saved the World. I guess what it's called. But I use that example to say in much worse circumstances of our today, people working on things that were important ended up being really important for humanity. We are glad that our forebearers in much worse situations than today that had to deal with the entire continent is half dead and will probably be murdered within a week. That is worse. That is a worse situation than we are unsure about what the average temperature increase is going to be over the next 100 years. They still worked on what they thought was important. They still pursued a deep life and we are all the better for it. So that's the example I wanted to give there. You know, Ezra Klein had, he wrote an article New York Times op-ed about this a couple months ago where he was hearing this about climate change in particular. He was hearing more and more people from his circle who were saying, well, why would we even bother having kids? Why would we even bother trying to perpetuate humanity because of how bad climate change is going to be? And Ezra was like, I'm very concerned about this topic. Obviously, I'm very much, you know, progressive on this topic. But my God, we had kids as a species in much worse times with much worse things happening on the horizon and much worse things happening at the moment. We still continue to perpetuate the species and we're glad we are because we want to be here and all of the good and the art and the beauty and the love that has been formed and all those centuries passed, all these other past hard times, we're glad that all existed and we're better for it. So, so even as our Klein had to write something that says, guys, ease up a little bit, right? Like we humanity faces tough stuff. All right, so that's my generic answer to that question. The reason why I cited social media and online news was just to emphasize that both of those things can make this reaction worse. I think we're getting this question in part because there's the online culture for various reasons, some intentional, some unintentional, can give you this sense of immediate existential threat that is paralyzing in a way that, let's say, in a pre-internet age, one in half. And so, it was being somewhat facetious when I said my answer to your question is, how do I do this? I don't use social media. I was being sort of facetious, but I'm also being somewhat serious. There's a couple different effects going on here. Certainly, there's the police blotter effect. Start reading the police blotter for your town and suddenly it will seem a lot more violent and crime-ridden than you thought about it before. It's because you are seeing consolidated all the bad things that have happened over time in a relatively large area concentrated and our mind is not used to that. It's used to gathering, aggregating observations from our actual immediate vicinity. I saw a crime happen the last three days in a row. This is dangerous. That's the way we're supposed to see things. This warning system is not good at, here's a list of all crimes from this million-person city over the last six months. It can't put that in the statistical scale. The internet makes that even worse. So now you have Twitter cybernetic curation, distributed curation algorithms. So the effect of all these individuals making retweet, non-retweet decisions, all pushing and pulsing through a power law graph, topology graph, does a really good job of centering, surfacing things that are interesting or engaging or will catch our attention. And all these bad things are happening in the world. Course this network can all get brought to your attention. It's like the police plotter effect magnified. Man, it's just crime everywhere. Everything's falling apart. Or if it's political news, democracy is days away, days away from failing. Or if it's climate change news, it's like, I'm surprised I even am alive today. How is anyone alive? Because it is essentially the day after tomorrow's style vortexes of arctic tornadoes destroying cities as far as I can tell. Because there's all these things I'm seeing. Because the volume, I see so many things in such a large volume of these things, this must be a real problem. Our mind cannot do statistical modeling of like, yeah, but this is over 350 million people in the country. I don't know. That's probably not that many. So social media can do that. You also have to be worried about sensationalism. There's this idea of like, if it bleeds, it leads, news sources are trying to get clicks. I think that's partially true. I mean, I think that is true. So like being sensationalist and talking about how bad things are, maybe is good business. There's also something else that's happening now. I mean, I read this interesting analysis from the Niemann Center about recent developments in a lot of mainstream media publications where there's a few different things going on here. But one of the things that's going on is there's definitely more of a sense, and this kind of comes out of the linguistic background of criticality and critical theories. But there's definitely more of the sense that the role of reporting is in part trying to actually shape the world. So part of your job as a reporter is to try to push the world towards what is just. So I think that the dominant academic theories right now come out of French postmodernism, which has a real linguistic deconstructionist background. So it's very language focused. And it's like, you can't just be neutral as a writer according to these theories. You're going to affect the world one way or the other. So you need to aim yourself towards what is the good. And so you might see this. And there's like obvious applications, like sort of post-Donald Trump election. You're going to see coverage philosophy that's like really what we're trying to do here is this is such an existential threat is like our reporting needs to help. Don't report something that could be positive, for example. Because the bigger issue of we need this person in our office would not be certified that. I think some of that is bled over into other types of issues. I think we're seeing a little bit of that with climate change. So a serious issue to be addressed. But there's also a sense in the reporting of trying to challenge the people who are not worried about it. So typically, this would be on the other political tribe. Well, I dare you not to be worried about it now. Well, what if we ratchet up? Now I dare you. Well, you're going to be dead. Here's a headline. All of your children will be dead by Sunday because of climate change. Now, I dare you to say you don't care. There's this sort of one-up citizenship that you've seen in the coverage of climate change. Even where the on-the-ground information hasn't changed much. There's still the same concerns and whatever is you see this one-upmanship of, well, what about this threat or that threat? And we're going to put it on the page more and we're going to try to ratchet it up. And again, that comes out of this new philosophy, perhaps, of journalism is trying to advance towards the Justin away from the non-justs. You get more of that too. There's some of that early in the pandemic as well where, okay, what's the pandemic policy that we think is going to be the best? How do we then in a reporting be careful to support that? Don't talk about this. This would see doubt, really push this. Oh, look, there's some popularity going around this idea that doesn't affect young people. Let's quickly get on our front page up a pro of nothing in an article about a 30-year-old who died because we need to push back on that. So once you see coverage trying to shape how people trying to shape how people understand things or trying to push things towards the just, on alarming issues like climate change or the pandemic, you're going to get also increasingly alarming coverage because that in theory would serve the purpose of getting people to care more, but it has the side effect of getting people who say, "Why should I even work?" All right, so that's a bunch of words. But honestly, get more local, serve your community, serve your friends, care about the people around you. Move more of your attention landscape to the locality that your brain evolved to expect, which is these are people in my town and to people in my organizations. Spend more time immersed in that world, you're scaling the concerns your brain can deal with and concerns where you can actually make a difference. I do not subscribe to this idea that you are somehow not being a good global citizen if you're not marinating yourself in story after story about negative things that you can't do anything about. I guarantee you, you will still know about climate change even if you're not surfing every day 10 or 15 climate change damage porn type articles. You'll still know about it. But instead of surfing those 15 articles, how about we want to fix the playground that's down the road because it's a good place these kids after school, they need it, they don't have it here, how do we get that changed? That's the scale at which your mind's supposed to work. So let's spend more time, more time there.
Concerns And Questions About Designing Deep Life
What if I don’t enjoy the deep life I designed? (01:20:30)
All right, what time we got here? I think we got time for one more question, Jesse. Okay, so we got a question from Michael. He's a 41, 41 year old engineer from the UK. This is what he has to say. I have worked hard to clarify ideas outside of my work that feel important to me. However, I still struggle. For example, creating a garden is something I've always envisioned in my life for a long time. But now I'm doing it, it feels like endless drudgery, labor and effort. However, I've sunk so much effort and expense into getting here, I cannot just reset and walk away. Is it normal to find conflict between one's cultivation of a deep life on paper and how it actually happens in the real world? That's an interesting question. Let me give you a short answer and a long answer, Michael. The short answer is stop gardening. I won't tell anyone, Jesse won't tell anyone. You don't like it. And I get it. Like here in DC, here's what I've learned. It's often the season in which you'd be maintaining a garden or a yard, it's often terrible outside and it's not that fun. Because the humidity is roughly whatever it is. I don't know how to measure humidity, I guess, a dew point. The humidity is terrible. You're in a swamp, it's hot, there's bugs and there's mosquitoes and you know, this is why God invented air conditioning. So stop gardening, you don't like it. Long answer. And we talked about this last week too. Be wary about a mental conception of the deep life that is too heavily focused on hobbies. That is not going to be a successful recipe. If all you think about is what do I do outside of work in terms of my leisure time, what's going to be like interesting and fulfilling to me, it's too self focused. That stuff matters, but it cannot be central to your conception of the deep life. If you go back and think about the deep life bucket, so we're talking about craft, community, constitution, contemplation and celebration, what you talk about as hobbies is maybe just in celebration. I mean, I don't know if you did the constitution, maybe like there's some exercise you do that could be hobbyist. Sometimes in craft, there could be something like you're really into an instrument, you might put that in the craft. But most of the deep life is more about keeping your body in shape, serving your community, engaging your brain in the world of ideas and philosophy and theology so that you can be a moral intellectual being so that you can follow Aristotle's theory that it is in deep thought that humans reach their deepest potential. It's craft. Okay, I'm spending my 80,000 hours in my life in a job. Like, what am I doing? Am I producing things of value? Am I a leader to other people? Am I a useful member of my community? A lot of that is not what's going to make me entertain me. What's going to be something that's kind of fun to do. And so if you really go through those buckets one by one, the reason why this works is that the human brain is not so happy if all it thinks about how do I make myself happy? How do I be happy in the moment? That's important in moderation, but basically the history of ideas tells us that just the hedonic pursuit of what's going to be fun doesn't work as an organizing principle for life. So when celebration is just this one part, like having things you really enjoy doing, then it's the stakes are lower. You're doing other things that sacrifice and service and important, and you're going to be a lot more confident and fulfilled. And then when it comes to that, let's say celebration bucket where it's like appreciating the things that makes life cool, having gratitude, then I'm just going to suggest have a more experimental approach. Don't dive in fully into something that you hope will be something you really like, because you might not. So guardian, I don't know, let me get a garden box and see if I like that minimal impact. If I really like it, expand out with that bucket, larger and larger people who have these big, all consuming hobbies usually work their way incrementally, you have to discover what's the right fit for you. So just don't go into it. Don't just say, like, I want to be a cinephile. I think that'd be cool. I'm going to sign up for this film course and start watching all these movies. You might not actually like movies that much. You're right. But instead, if you like, I've always liked movies, and I've started to study them a little more and I'm enjoying that. So now let me ratchet up to like go watch this series at the local theater. Now I'm going to sign up for this film class. When things ratchet up in terms of self-directed autonomous non-distramental hobbies, that's how you figure out what you really like. Okay. So stop gardening. You don't like that experiment with other things. But remember that is just one small piece out of many on what goes into making a deep life and most of what makes a deep life deep is much less about what is going to make me happy tomorrow and more about what's going to make my life feel more grounded, what's going to make my life feel more centered and meaningful and important. And that's very different than enjoying pruning your roses. Let's see here. We had a couple of other questions, but I think this is probably a good, probably a good place to wrap it up. Sounds good. All right, everyone. Thank you for submitting your questions. If you want to submit your own questions, look at the link in the show notes and I'll show you exactly how to do that. You can watch a video of this episode and clips at youtube.com/countableportmedia. We'll be back next week with a new episode and until then, as always, stay deep.