Ep. 216: Boosting Creative Insight With Deep Walks
Transcription for the video titled "Ep. 216: Boosting Creative Insight With Deep Walks".
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Cal's intro (00:00)
Eli, I'm a big walking fan, long-time listener to the show know this. I think walking is particularly good for creative insight. I'm Cal Newport and this is Deep Questions, episode 216. This is the show where I answer questions from my audience about the theory and practice of living and working deeply in an increasingly distracted world. We want your questions for the show. There's a link in the show notes. You can also find it at calnewport.com slash podcast. It's easy to submit online your questions, to do live calls, and to also send us case studies. So I'm here on my Deep Work HQ, joined as usual by my producer, Jesse. Jesse, last week we did an interview for the first time. Yeah. It'd been a while since we'd done those because we didn't have the video set up. So it's nice to get Ryan Holiday back on the show. How's that episode been doing? That episode has been doing well. I think a lot of people are watching the YouTube video, the full length episode of the interview with him. And then the audio podcast is doing well too. That's good. Yeah. People like themselves some Ryan Holiday. He's an impressive guy. He works hard. He's a good, he's good at selling Holiday. He's an impressive guy. He works hard. He's good at selling books. He writes great books, but he always makes the rest of us seem lazy. Yeah, he's really good at selling books. Yeah. So you did the pre-order, right? Yeah. So you got a Ryan Holiday world famous pre-order bonus bundle. Yep. I bought the package one. It was $20 for the book. Maybe $21 was shipping and handling. And I got three bonuses, which was the Spotify playlist, an additional two chapters, and then the annotated bibliography. So Spotify playlist, this is the playlist that he uses while writing, while research. What's the, it's the playlist that he, I was under the impression it was called discipline is destiny it was i was under the impression that it was the playlist that he wrote the book to oh interesting like so all the songs so what's on that type of playlist there was like 30 or so songs and there was some that i actually really like my favorite one i mean i used to listen to song all the time like back in the day the high and dry by radiohead oh okay i know that song and then work he had, um, champagne supernova by Oasis. I hadn't heard that song in a long time. That might drive me crazy. And then there was a Kings of Leon, uh, and a Coldplay one. Interesting. Talenia sky and then green eyes by Coldplay. Those are my favorite on his list. Little known fact. When I write, uh, I exclusively listened to on a loop old timey circus music, get yourself into that mood. You know what I mean? You got to put yourself into the mindset. Yeah. That's what, that's what, you know, there's a self-published writer that I read about just a while ago. I went down a rabbit hole and actually I have a point about this I want to make here in a second, but he was a self-published writer and he learned to write with Metallica. Maybe I've mentioned this on the show before, but he would write to really hard Metallica music and he did it in NASCAR, you know, NASCAR headphones. So they're meant to be incredibly, uh, so it blocks out all the sound and can, can play music through it. Um, and he did it because he had kids and they're allowed. And so I always think about that. Whenever I think about music, I always think about Blassie Metallica through NASCAR headphones. Yeah. Yeah. I think you mentioned that before actually as well. I remember you mentioning that. Well, so, but that's relevant. Now I know why this came up in my mind, because I'm looking at my notes here. I got an email from someone in response to the Ryan interview from last week. So in the Ryan interview last week, I guess at some point, Ryan and I were talking about fiction versus nonfiction writing and saying how in fiction writing, it's much harder to get established. It's harder to find an audience. It's harder to make a living as a fiction writer. You sort of either break through in a really big, or you can't even get through the door. And I got an email from someone, I have it here named Todd, who was saying, I mean, I'll read it here, but he's saying there is an option I don't know about. It's a little bit underground in the fiction writing world. That's actually really powerful. So I wanted to read this email. I thought it was interesting. So Todd said in your podcast interview with Ryan holiday, the two of you spoke about how difficult it is getting a foothold in writing fiction versus nonfiction. I'm a full-time fiction writer who makes money from self-published works. I'm a full-time fiction writer who makes money from self-published works. If a fiction writer is able to one, write a lot and consistently between two to 10,000 words a day, and two, knows how to write to a specific market or genre. In my case, I write to the niche of progression fantasy. There is a clear path to making a living at this by releasing lots of books to your market. It is not a sure path, nor is it the only path, but there are more fiction writers making a living through self-publishing this way than there are through traditional means. Todd says, I'm earning low six figures at the moment, but off the top of my head, I can name several authors earning seven figures a year. He names Amanda Lee, Mark Dawson, Will White, Sean Silvers, and Michael Andrell and more. What these authors have in common is that you probably haven't heard of them unless you're an avid reader in their genres. That's interesting. So there's this whole world of self-published books in really narrow genres where you publish a lot. So like multiple books a year and people are killing it. 10,000 words a day. Well, so that's what, so the guy I mentioned, I've forgotten his name, so I feel bad about it, but who would listen to the Metallica in his headphones, he had some crazy challenge he did where it was like a million words in a year or something like that. And maybe I'll find order of magnitude, but it was a huge amount, a huge amount of writing. And that might make sense. Million. Let's see if you did a thousand a day, that's 300. Yes. 3000 a day would get you to a million words. And he would write, I don't know, five books a year. And I remember, okay, so this will help me figure out who this person is I remember one of the series he wrote was called unicorn western and it was like westerns but in a world in which unicorns existed and I guess there's a there's a whole genre out there where you're in these super niche genres and there's like a comfort to it and you want to read three or four of these a month or five or six of these a month and you just you just get to know these authors I think they all cost $1.99 you know it it's Kindle direct programmer. It's all KDP stuff. And you buy these things cheap and they're fun and they're easy to read. And so it's interesting to hear that there's a whole, that's still going on and you can make seven figures, right? Unicorn Westerns. Ryan and I got into the wrong gig. Here we are with our, our radio head and old timey circus music, sweating out these books that take us a year to write. Doing the wrong thing. All right. So I figured I wanted to do before we got in the questions today, and we do have two good blocks of questions.
Infrequently Asked Questions By Listeners
Interesting Mail Bag (07:20)
I want to do a brief deep dive on a article that someone sent to my interesting at Cal Newport.com email address, an article on a topic we like here that had suggestions. So I like when people will capture an idea we care about and have concrete suggestions that I hadn't thought of before, but that real people are actually deploying in the real world. So let me pull up this article here. It's from the Wall Street Journal. It is from September 25th. So the week before this came out. And it's written by Robert Sutton. He's a very well-known business professor and business writer. All right. So the title of this article is Why Bosses Should Ask Employees to Do Less, All right, so the title of this article is Why Bosses Should Ask Employees to Do Less, Not More. The subhead here says, Too many leaders think the key to success is to pile on staff, technology, meetings, training rules, and more. The opposite is true. So you can already tell why I like this article. I don't want to go too deep into all of the arguments for this because we're already on the same page. What I want to do here pretty quickly is jump to some specific ideas that Bob Sutton pulls out, but let's just get the motivation, the highlights of the motivation here. So it was a great quote I hadn't heard before from David Packard that opens this piece. More businesses die from indigestion than starvation. So that was David Packard from Hewlett Packard fame talking in 1995 about the danger of doing too much as a company. That's the issue, not doing too little. All right. So then Sutton says, I think this captures the setup here. For many companies, less, less, less is the key to success. Subtraction clears our mind and gives us time to focus on what really counts. It sets the stage for creative work, giving us the space to fail, fret, discuss, argue about, and experiment with seemingly crazy ideas. The ideas that can transform a company and make employees happier and more productive. This should sound familiar. I'm always arguing for less. We have too much on our plate we need to do less it's the first principle of my slow productivity philosophy do fewer things sutton is speaking my language here and speaking it to a corporate crowd so how do you do less in a corporate environment this is where i want to jump to some of the suggestions that i liked from uh sutton's argument. All right, so number one, here's the first concrete example from this article. It comes from Google and a move that former Google head Laszlo Bock made when he headed people operations at Google from 2006 to 2016. So the issue that Laszlo was noting is that when it came to interviewing new candidates, it would drag on and on and round after round, and it would take forever to finally hire someone. So he came up with a simple rule. If more than four interviews were conducted with a candidate, a request for an exception had to be improved by him. So the rules are in place here that makes it harder to do more. You can if you need to, but that's the thing that costs more. You have to actually go get permission to do more. All right, here's another example. Scroll down here. Meeting audits. All right, I really like this idea. So meetings, obviously having more meetings is one of the classic examples of more leading to less in the sense that it overloads people and takes up their time so there's a couple stats here to scare us about meetings over the past two decades meetings have ballooned by 50 or more the pandemic alone has increased those meetings by 13% in just two years. So as Sutton points out, some organizations are fighting back with these meeting audit-based ideas. So my favorite of these meeting audit-based ideas is what, and this comes from Work Innovation Lab, which is part of Asana, which does a, programmers know what I'm talking about here. Asana does agile style task management. They put in place something called a monthly meetings doomsday, meeting doomsday program. I'm already sold. I'm already buying stock in that idea. When I see meeting doomsday as the title. Here's how it works. We'll see how they explain this. A standing group of employees. By the way, this is ironic. They have to meet to do this, by the way, Jesse. Through a series of a dozen additional meetings, they were able to identify one meeting a month to get rid of. Now, a small group of employees does a meeting audit where what they look for is recurring meetings that lacked value. All right. So you have a standing group of people who all they do is watch all the meetings that are being regularly scheduled and keep interrogating. Do these still need to be here? Are these adding values? Does this earn a place onto the calendar? And then they remove the ones that don't pass that muster. It says here with their meeting doomsday program, they added a second stage that was even more aggressive, where they just blanketly removed all standing meetings with less than five people from people's calendars for two days. We're doing just no meetings, these standard standing meetings, no meetings for two days. We're doing just no meetings, these standard standing meetings, no meetings for two days. And then they say, only add meetings back if you really missed it, if you really felt it was valuable. So there are these two different ways of cutting down on standing meetings, a standing committee that just continually put these things to the test and these experiments where they say, why don't we all just step away from a bunch of meetings and ask ourselves, was this really so bad? What did I really miss? If I really didn't miss having this standing meeting that's been on my calendar forever, it's not coming back. So I love this type of thinking. This is the issue with addition that Sutton talks about throughout this article. It's easy to add, hard to take away. Someone adds a standing meeting because there's some committee that's formed and it makes us all feel confident that, hey, at least we're not going to forget this work. It's on our calendar. We're addressing this work. I don't have to do any additional productivity thinking. We have a meeting, we'll get to this. And that just adds up and these meetings add up. And most of them after a while probably aren't actually adding much value. So meeting doomsday, where you blow them up and see what you have to add back or you aggressively make meetings earn their right to stay on your calendar i appreciate that a couple other things they started doing at asana shorten meetings 30 minutes go to 15 60 minutes go to 45 shorten the default length freed up a lot of space all right the third way people do subtractions is what Sutton calls a top-down purge. These are way more drastic. This is where someone on the top just comes in and says, we're not doing a lot of this stuff anymore. We've got to simplify. The core example Sutton gives is Steve Jobs coming back to Apple in 1997. Jobs eliminated most of the existing product lines within 10 months. If you remember Jobs taking over Apple, that's when he simplified the Mac line, got rid of all these other things. We have four computers, here they are, and an iPod came a little bit later. So what he notes here is these can be very effective, but he doesn't recommend constant use of them because you don't want everyone operating in a environment of fear and uncertainty that at any moment what you're working on could be axed. So top-down purges are very effective, but have to be used judiciously. The last example I wanted to point out from this article, this comes from AstraZeneca and they, one of the ideas they came up with was making it harder for employees to reply all to more than 25 email recipients. So just adding in these points of friction at the place where doing more could have a disproportionate negative impact on everyone, make that a little bit harder. If you want to do more, it's harder. You want to have a standing meeting, it's going to have to hold up the review again and again and again. You're going to go through meeting purges where you're going to have to then say, I want to bring this back. You want to send an email to everyone in a hundred person division and start a chain that's going to occupy a hundred people's attention for a week to come. You're going to have to go get a special exception or click a special box and get special scrutiny on it. Adding friction, adding speed bumps to doing more. Here's how Sutton concludes. None of this is easy in large part because leaders are inclined to think that more has to mean better, but ultimately the old saying is true. Less really is more. So let's start subtracting speaking my language i think the general philosophy being pushed there where things in your schedule have to earn their place in the schedule have to be viewed with skepticism where there is friction or what sutton calls internal speed bumps to adding more to your life i think this is just as effective for individuals as it is for the companies that bob sutton talks about that's my first principle of slow productivity, do fewer things. We thrive under fewer things. We thrive when we have more than enough time. So I was happy to see this article show up in the Wall Street Journal. That actually goes hand in hand with when you were talking with Ryan and when he was mentioning keeping the main thing, the main thing. Yeah, that was interesting, right? In our conversation, he was saying, look, books for him, uh, books are the core thing. And that's the main thing. And if you're not getting enough time to write books and writing the best possible books, nothing else matters. He has a chapter in the book, his new book about that. That's a, that's advice I give often to, and it's common advice to pre-tenure professors. The thing that matters is your publications. What matters is your publications, really good publications. That's everything. That's the main thing. If you're not doing that thing, you don't get to keep doing everything else because you're not going to get tenure. And we did a case study. Where do we do the case study? Let me think about where this case study came from. I might be mixing up something we did on the show with an article I wrote. So I think in my newsletter at calnewport.com, I published an article recently that was drawing from Laura Vanderkam's upcoming book, Tranquility by Tuesday. And I gave a case study from that book where Laura worked with a professor at an education department at a school in Long Island, and this professor had no, she was getting no research done. Everything else, all these other demands were taken all this time, and she was prioritizing her research last. It just wasn't getting done because she had committees, and she had the supervised student teachers, and she had to prepare her classes, and the child care situation was such that they had moved, her and her husband had moved to be near her university. So that was good for her because she's near there. But it meant that her husband had to commute an hour into Manhattan, which meant who was going to take care of the kids after school? Well, it was going to be her because he can't get back in time to do that. And Laura had pushed this professor, put aside two big blocks a week. That's just for research. You got to actually protect that time. And the blocks that she came up with at first was 630 to 730, one morning a week, 630 to 730 before her husband left for work. And there was like a gap. One day a week, she taught a night class. And so there was a babysitter who covered the childcare. They picked up the kids from school and covered it till after the night class. And it left a one hour gap between the professor's afternoon class and the night class. And so she had these two little tentative one hour blocks. And Laura was like, no, you need to put real time into your calendar. None of this other stuff matters. Who cares how good you are at your classes and supervising all this stuff? If you don't get tenure, you're going to be out of that job in a few years. And so she came back this professor and fought for her time. And it actually wasn't too hard to do. She's like, well, you know, I don't have an afternoon class on Tuesday. What if we hired the sitter to also come on Tuesday? And I could just from one o'clock when I'm done with my morning stuff to five o'clock when the sitter has gone on Tuesdays, just do research. That started to make sort of sense. And then she looked at the weekends. Her husband was missing the kids because he had these long commutes. She's like, why don't we just make Saturday afternoon consistently dad time? And I have a four hour block every Saturday afternoon without distractions where I work on research. So once she fought for it, made the main thing the main thing, she realized, oh, I flex here a little bit, can really put aside some real time to do the thing that matters. So that's what that reminded me of, is it's really easy to let the things that people want you to do become the main thing because you don't want people to be upset. But if you're not doing the thing that actually matters, it doesn't matter if they're upset at you or not, you're not going to have that job anymore. A bit of a tangent, but yeah, it connects. Yeah, yeah, it connects. So we've got a lot of questions, excited about it. Two blocks of questions. We've got a good mix of work and we had some technology questions in there and a lot of deep life type questions as well. I want to briefly mention one of the sponsors that makes this show possible.
Cal talks about Zocdoc and Amazon Pharmacy (20:25)
And that is our friends at ZocDoc.com. One of my favorite URLs to mention. This is, and we'd like this type of sponsor on the show because we have a very rational audience. We have a lot of tech engineer types. This is one of those ideas that just makes so much sense that of course you have to use it ZocDoc is a free app that shows you doctors in your area that take your your insurance are available taking new patients and you can read reviews from actual patients to see what's the deal with this doctor without something like ZocDoc it's this weird word of mouth game you're either Google searching or just talking to people you know and like, I don't know, there's this dentist I saw, you know, he saved my cat from a tree once, maybe you should try to show up there. And it turns out that that dentist meets in an old storm drain culvert down by the old docks. It's a weird random way to do it. ZocDoc says you wouldn't tolerate that for restaurants. You would go get good reviews. What do people like this restaurant? When is it open? They'll make reservations. You wouldn't tolerate this for buying a new car. You'd go online, get reviews. What do people like? Of course, we should be doing that for our medical care. ZocDoc is how you do it. They have a great mobile app. Go on there. We've used their website as well. Find doctors, read reviews, make sure to take your insurance. You can also book appointments on there. As I learned, because I now have two different doctors in my life that use ZocDoc, my primary care doctor and my dentist, you can do the paperwork. Some of them will set it up so you can do your appointment paperwork through the ZocDoc interface. You don't have to clipboard it when you actually get there and are sitting in the little waiting room. So it's just an idea that makes sense. And it's a really easy URL to say, ZocDoc.com. So go to ZocDoc.com slash deep and download the ZocDoc app for free. So you can start your search for a top rated doctor today, many of whom will be available within 24 hours. your search for a top rated doctor today, many of whom will be available within 24 hours. That's Z-O-C-D-O-C dot com slash deep. Zocdoc.com slash deep. Say it three times fast and you get an extra discount. That last part's not true. I should probably clarify. But the slash deep is important because then they know you came for me. All right. As long as we're talking about sponsors, that just makes so much sense that it's a surprise that it didn't exist before. Let's also talk about a new sponsor of ours, which is Amazon Pharmacy. There's few things people love more than waiting in line at the pharmacy at the end of the day when everyone else is going to pick up their prescription. And yet again, you're in that long line and the person at the front of the line is having some sort of complicated question about, you know, this generic version is the same as this. And they have all of these notes and it's the first conversation they've had that day. And they're going to be talking to the pharmacist for the next 20 minutes and you need to get home. We all love that, of course. But if you want to get away from that Amazon Pharmacy makes things simple so it's Amazon the Amazon you already get all of your packages from you already get all of your Cal Newport and Ryan Holiday books from that same Amazon now has a pharmacy that delivers a better pharmacy experience and delivers directly to your door Amazon Pharmacy will work with most experience and delivers directly to your door. Amazon Pharmacy will work with most insurance plans. So it's a way to save time, save money and stay healthy. It has very transparent pricing, which I appreciate. So, you know, oh, here's how much this drug costs. You know what you will pay before you pay it. Not this like you're at the counter. So how much is this? Okay. You know, ahead of time, just like you were buying something else off of Amazon prime members can save up to 80% on their prescriptions. As mentioned to Amazon pharmacy works with most insurance plans. If you ever have questions or problems, they have real pharmacists available at all times, no matter when it is at day or night to answer your question. And then the medication comes straight to your door once you order it. So a pharmacy that works for your life with meds delivered to your door. It doesn't get any better than that. Switch to Amazon Pharmacy to save time, save money, and stay healthy. Learn more at amazon.com slash deep. That's amazon.com slash deep. Amazon.com slash deep. That's amazon.com slash deep amazon.com slash deep. Quick disclaimer, average savings are based on usage and inside RX data as compared to cash prices. Average savings for all generics are 78%, 37% for select brand medications. Restrictions apply. All right, Jesse, let's do some questions.
Does walking help or hurt my work? (25:00)
Who is first in our docket here? some questions. Who is first in our docket here? All right. First question is from Eli. And the question states this, I finally purchased a treadmill that goes under my standing desk so I can avoid sitting all day and get more steps in. I'm wondering your thoughts on the effects of walking while working. Does it create the same issues as contact switching? Well, okay. So Eli is one of these people who does the exercise equipment at their desk with their computer. If you listen to this show, instead of watching it on our YouTube channel, you might not know like our YouTube watchers know that when Jesse and I are recording this show, um, we're doing so on Nordic track machines. Not right, Jesse. And sometimes you're on a rower. Sometimes I'm on a rower and Jesse holds a microphone on a boom and just moves it back and forth with me while I row because I'm not going to give up opportunities to stay in shape. Eli, I'm a big walking fan, long time listener to the show, know this. I think walking is particularly good for creative insight. So I need a solution to a problem. I need a new business strategy. I need a way to open this article. How am I going to open this article? I'm working on a proof and I don't even know where to get into it. Something about the motion helps. I've heard a lot of explanations. I don't know if this one is true, but it's the one I often think sounds right, which is the circuits involved in motion are prescribed. And somehow when those circuits are fired up, it suppresses other parts of your brain. It makes it easier somehow to focus on whatever you're trying to focus on because there's a lot of sort of distractions or other things pulling at your attention. They're somehow being suppressed. I don't know if that's true. We'd have to ask Andrew Huberman. We should just have a hotline, Jesse, ask Andrew Huberman whenever we have a brain issue that comes up. And basically every time I would say something about how the brain operates, you would then call, press that button and Andrew would conference in and explain how everything I said was just wrong. That's a great idea. That'd be a great idea. I'm sure he would be game. Yeah. What else does he have to do? Yeah. Yeah. Um, all right. So I'm a big fan of walking. I'm not a big fan, Eli, of walking desks or even to be honest, standing desk, because to me, it feels like you're capitulating. Work means I need to be here in front of this glowing rectangle all day. So how can I compensate? I think you should be walking a lot during the workday outside. You need the novel stimuli, the weather. It's cold today. It's hot today. I'm seeing different things. I'm hearing the birds. That's good for your soul as a human. And you're going to get more insight out of that other type of work that is not creative insight work, I think actually could be harder while you're, let's say, on a treadmill. So if you're trying to answer an email, that's very different. Now here you're trying to do very precise English composition. Okay, how do I precisely say this thing I want to say in a way that has to write inflection and conveys the nuance of what I mean? That's actually something I think is harder to do while you're in motion. So the idea that you want to be in motion for all types of your work, I don't think I agree with. So I think walking is good for some work, bad for others. And the right way to take advantage of that is make walking be something you do outside and make other computer screen work be stuff you do at your computer screen. Keep in mind, there's a lot of things you think you need your computer for that you can actually work out on notebooks and then come back and enter into your computer. So yes, your business strategy or the article you're writing eventually does have to be typed, but you can bring a notebook with you, walk, figure that out on foot, and then come back and type it in. So that's the way, that's where I fall on walking. I would also say if you work from home right now, it's like maybe due to the pandemic, your company has a more permanent remote work setup. Take advantage of it. 10 to 15,000 steps a day throughout the day. Not a mega hike at 5 a.m. Walk first thing in the morning. Walk at the end of the day, shut it down. Walk at lunch and have a couple of short walks in between. Put it on your calendar. Keep walking. It's one of the great advantages you have with working from home. So don't lose, don't lose that possibility.
How do I tame the flow of work from outside teams? (29:10)
All right. What do we got next, Jesse? All right. Next question is from Andy. He says, I work in a big bureaucracy, which means progress on my projects depends on a lot of outside teams whom I have no control or influence over. I find I'm pretty good getting things off my plate, but I'm fine if they come back in boom or bust periods. Do you have any suggestions for taming the flow to have a more consistent workload? Well, when you work with a lot of outside teams or outside clients, to some degree, booms and busts, as you put it, Andy, are unavoidable. They're going to have project cycles that you unavoidable. They're going to have project cycles that you don't control. They're going to wait till the last minute to get back to you on something, even if you wish that they were more ahead of schedule and talking to you. And so the first part of my two-part answer will be lean into that. So if you're in a boom period where you have a lot of stuff coming back from these people, a busy period outside of your control, but just the way these teams are operating, lean into, okay, this is a busy period of working with teams. Let me strip away other stuff. I'm really going to pull back on my self-initiated initiatives. I'm going to pull back on things that can wait. And just, this is what I'm doing right now. There's a deadline happening. This team was very late. We're scrambling. Let's clarify. Then during the quiet periods, that can wait and just this is what i'm doing right now there's a deadline happening this team was very late we're scrambling let's clarify then during the quiet periods lean into the quiet work on self-initiated things maybe do some of these phantom uh what i call that the phantom part-time job type schedules where i'm ending work kind of at three you know it's the federal government they don't know you're getting your work done. It's okay. You know, I'm pulling it back. I'm taking my online film school class surreptitiously in the afternoon on the computer. So lean into the easy periods and lean into the busy periods. Don't overload the easy periods and don't curse a situation in the busy. The other point I want to make my two-part answer is protocols. This is an idea that's from my book, A World Without Email. It's an idea that will probably, just looking ahead here, we probably have at least one other question where I'm going to talk about this. When it comes to working with outside parties, if you do not implicitly have a protocol in place for how you interact, they will interact with you in the worst possible way. People for the most part are very bad at this. They're haphazard. They're reactionary. They're trying to get things off of their head. They want quick responses because otherwise they're going to have to keep track of this thing and they don't know how to do that. They are not going to collaborate in a reasonable way spontaneously. So you need implicit protocols to the degree that that's possible. I'm using the word implicit here to be clear that you are not talking to an outside group and saying, here is my protocol. You have to follow it. You're bad that you're not following it. You don't want to actually make that clear, but you just find ways of, here's how we interact on this. You lay out the lay of the land without being too forceful, and then you get a little bit more control over your work. So it's, okay, I know this project is coming up. on Friday into the shared folder. And on Tuesday afternoon, I'll be in this Microsoft Teams, God forsaken meeting room, come there with any questions you have. And then at the end of that day, I'm going to post a draft and then give you a day to comment on it. And then on Thursday morning, I'm going to put it live. You're not telling them this is a protocol. You're not preaching to them why it's important, but you're giving them implicitly guide rails. This is how this project is going to unfold. And you know what? People are fine with that. They don't have to figure it out on their own. They just want to know what do I need to do? When do I need to do it? Great. I got it. I'm moving on to something else. So you can use implicit protocols where you're laying out when and how discussion and information moves to help gain some control back over what that interaction is actually like.
Do performers need an active social media presence? (33:04)
All right. We had treadmill federal government. What's our, what's our third question of the day here, Jesse. All right. Next question is from Meredith and she says, I'd love to reach a point in my career where I no longer need social media to raise awareness of my existence as a performer.
CALL: Should Robert keep on a writing role? (33:20)
Until then, how do I intentionally use social media in the meantime? Right. So I think what's relevant here is the demographic information on Meredith is she's a 27-year-old Broadway touring artist, which I take to mean she's in a touring company of a Broadway show. Meredith, I don't know the world of acting that well. I don't think for theater acting, social media is all that important for you. I don't think that's what's going to make or break whether or not you get a role. I am assuming that's going to come down much more to the qualities of your performance, the dancing, the singing, the stage presence, how versatile, how reliable you are. I think this is probably one of these industries where it's infected by the idea of social media because you are on stage, but that's probably more of a distraction than a help. I mean, I've definitely noticed that this year, my wife and I subscribed to the Kennedy Center. So we had a subscription at the Kennedy Center. So we went to see a lot of plays this year. And everyone in the playbill has their Instagram handles. social media presence somehow helps if you're cast. I'm sure that's percolating down, but I can't imagine if you're a casting director for a touring company of a Broadway play that you're like, well, I mean, how many followers does this people have on Instagram? What you want is your play to work. So you really care about the actual attributes, acting or acting skills the person actually has. I mean, maybe I have that wrong, but my sense would be, Meredith, don't sweat that. Your sweat instead should be preserved for practicing and getting better at your craft. All right, I think we haven't done a call in a little while. Yeah. Looks like we have one here on deck. Let's do a call from Robert. Hey, Cal. My name is Robert Cade, and I have a two-part question. Here's the context. I'm a researcher in a government lab, and on the side I'm working on a nonfiction popularization about my scientific field. So part one is that I've written a good bit of this, the first chapter of this manuscript, maybe 10 or 15 percent. I feel like I'm on a roll. But given the nature of non-fiction publishing, I tried to stop writing and start editing, for example, chapters for a book proposal. But I found this very difficult and discouraging compared to just writing. Should I fight these bad feelings and just polish out a few chapters, or should I keep on a writing role? And part two is about book writing and the workplace. So I'm concerned about people at work finding out that I'm writing this book on the side. I think maybe my supervisor will assume it takes time away from my work duties. What's the best way to navigate book writing and work, especially if there's significant overlap in the subject matter? Alright, thanks Kyle, appreciate you. Alright Robert, well I like in the weeds writing questions. So two parts to your question. Number one, you feel like you're on a roll with your writing. It's not as fun to stop, edit a couple chapters, work on a proposal for the book should you just keep on your writing role or do the hard work of writing the proposal. The answer there is do the hard work of writing the proposal. The biggest pitfall people have when they enter into these type of creative pursuits, as I often say on this show, is that they create the rules they want to be true as opposed to dealing with the rules of the world that actually are true. People like writing every day. You can immediately feel like you're the full-time writer. You do it in the morning before work. It's inspiring. You see the words build up. There's a clear feedback of the page filling and the word count growing. But it's not, for example, how the world of nonfiction publishing works. They don't want you to finish a whole manuscript of your popularization of your field. They want you to send a proposal. And they want that proposal to be written with the help of an agent. So what they really want you to do first is find an agent that you query with your idea. Here's who I am. Here's the book I want to write. Here's why this book will have a big audience and why I'm the right person to write it. And you convince an agent, they help you write the proposal. The proposal will have some sample chapters. If you're a first-time writer, the agent then sells this to the publisher. The publishers give you a check. Then you write the whole book. I see this a lot where people don't want that reality to actually be true because they're worried about that very first step. What if the agents just say, no, what if people don't want that reality to actually be true because they're worried about that very first step. What if the agents just say, no, what if people don't like my book? But you know what? If agents don't want to represent your book, you probably shouldn't be writing it in the first place. You're not going to in run around this whole industry. So you need to do this in the right way. Agent proposal sale. That's the way this world actually works. If you follow those real rules, you're going to be more likely to succeed. And if you get the negative feedback, no agent wants to take your book instead of giving up. Now you have a very clear point of improvement. What would I have to do? What idea would I have? What experience would I need? What else would I have to change to be able to succeed with creating an agent? Why did I fail now? What would I need to succeed? You're actually now asking the question that matters. Now, if you want more about that process, there's an essay I wrote on this on my blog years ago, and I believe it's called something like how to sell a nonfiction book or something like this. That calnewport.com, this would have been from a decade ago or more, where I wrote about the selling of my first three books. And I have a bunch of rules in there about here's how this industry actually works. Pragmatic nonfiction, here's how it actually works.
CALL: Should Robert be worried about his full-time job discovering his side job? (39:17)
So you might want to search for that article. All right, second part of your question. Should you be worried about your boss at your government lab finding out that you're writing? What's the right way to go about that? As someone who has written his whole professional life while having other jobs, I definitely empathize with this. Actually, true story. The way my doctoral advisor at MIT discovered I was writing books was seeing one of my books at the MIT co-op. So she was like, wait a second, is this you? Are you writing books? Now I had the benefit of, if you're a student, you can write books. If you're a professor, it's actually one of the activities that is folded in under scholarly pursuits. I mean, the things that professors do is they publish papers, they publish books, they go and give talks. So in the world of academia, this is a lot easier because it's actually not an unrelated outside activity, like I'm starting a business. It's something that you expect scholars to do. In other fields, it gets a little bit trickier. Now, what I would recommend is right now from the beginning, so you don't have to stress about this, just figure out, is there a process here? And that process might just be talking to your boss. Hey, on the side, not interfering with my work, I'm working on a book proposal about our field. I'm interested in writing. I have plenty of time to do that. Is there any sort of approval I need at this lab? Because as government, there might be. Probably not, but there might be. But whatever it is, you'll clear it out out front. It's very unlikely they'll say, no, no, you can't write books in your spare time. That almost never happens. There are obviously some positions in which there's review procedures, especially if confidential information is involved. But just go talk to your boss. They're not going to be mad at you. Like, that's cool. Yeah, you're not doing it four hours in the middle of the day. Okay, great. Or here's a form you have to fill out. So do that up front. And that might also have the added benefit of giving you a little more motivation. Hey, I've kind of declared this to someone that I'm doing this, so now I'm going to feel bad if I don't keep pushing at it. Jesse, I heard a story once about the government review of confidential information, which it was actually kind of interesting. I didn't realize this had happened, but I guess there was a book that came out, No Easy Day. I don't know if you know this book. No, I don't. It was written anonymously by a member of SEAL Team 6 about the mission where Osama bin Laden was killed. And it was about that. It was like a SEAL Team 6 about the mission where Osama bin Laden was killed. And it was about that. It was like a SEAL memoir. And so he wrote it anonymously and didn't go through the review you're supposed to go through. So if you're, I guess you have clearance if you're a SEAL. And so if you write a book, even after you retire, you're supposed to run it through clearance. And so if you write a book, even after you retire, you're supposed to run it through clearance. So like, for example, what's the name of that seal thriller writer terminal list, the guy who wrote the terminal list? I don't know. I feel bad. I'm blanking on. I'm so old. I'm blanking on his name. But anyways, there's a novelist who actually now I'm going to now I'm going to go and say, can you look this up? Look up, look up terminalist. Anyways, he's a former Navy SEAL who now writes thriller novels. So this is not nonfiction. These are fiction books. There's a Jack Carr, Jack Carr. Yeah. I'm so old. And there's a mini, there's a series on Amazon about his first book, the terminal list. Anyways, even his novels had to go through classified information review because he had classified information and he actually kept it's like a political protest he kept the blackout so the stuff they had blacked out in his manuscript he kept it in his manuscript blacked out it's like you could actually see that the government was taking out stuff anyways this navy seal who wrote no easy day anonymously did not submit it to government review and they sued him for all of the money he made on that book. It's a huge bestseller. Was that what Zero Dark Thirty was based on? I think so. Might've been. That was a great movie. I like that movie. That movie is so good. I like that movie. I'm forgetting all, why am I forgetting all names now? What, what is the name of the- You're so old. I'm very old. I'm not as old as you. I am in my 40s. I'm blanking on the name of the director. Of Zero Dark Thirty? Yeah. I'll look it up. She's great. She did The Hurt Locker. And won a Best Director Oscar. Great movie. I like Zero Dark Thirty. Catherine Bigelow. Yes, Catherine Bigelow. Used to be married to James Cameron. Really? Yeah, back in the day. They must have had some good discussions at dinner about directing movies. Yes, spoiler alert, James Cameron's kind of a difficult person to live with. I'm sure. He's a difficult guy to work with too, I think. Yeah, could you imagine being married to him? He's very particular. Yeah. But anyways, they sued, I think his name is Mark Owens. They sued him for like millions, like every single, and he didn't have, you know, the problem was, it's not like he just took every dollar he earned from the book and put into a bank account. So he's bankrupt. Yeah. They basically, they ruined him. Like you can't do that. They made an example of him. Pretty brutal. So yeah, Robert, if you're a navy seal submit it submit it to review and don't marry james cameron it's the advice what we do jay jesse is we give the practical advice the stuff that people need to know all right enough of that nonsense what do we got let's keep rolling here all right next question is from graham a 42 year old administrator from canada and a few episodes, you were lamenting the loss of blogs.
Are newsletters the new blogs? (44:35)
I'm wondering, do services like Substack get us back to that type of online communication? I think it's a fair comparison. So when I think about what we had in the age of blogs versus what we have in the age of newsletters, email newsletters, especially supported by services like Substack. I think they're quite similar. There's one place where blogs are better. There's one place where this new world of newsletters is better. So it's going to be an incomparable comparison. Where I think they're similar is that they escape the trap of algorithmic curation. I've talked about this on this show before. They escape this trap of we are going to allow algorithms maybe working in concert with manually constructed social graphs to curate what we're going to show you to look at. Most of the ills that we point at in our current world of social media fuel distraction really comes from these algorithmic curation strategies. So everything from the immense slack-jawed distraction to the polarization to misinformation, tribalization, a lot of this is generated from having algorithmic curation. The blogosphere didn't have this. The way you surfaced articles to read was typically through distributed human webs of editorial trust. I know this person. I like their blog. I see they're linking to this person. Someone else I like is linking to this person. I am now going to add a link to this in my web of trust. I now will trust and read from this new source. I'll see who they're linking to. You know, those recommendations are a little more provisional. I don't know this person as well yet, but someone over here I trust is linking there. and this guy, and you build out this web of sources you trust, and it's all human connections drawing upon our social assessing, social assessment tools in our brain. How does this thing look? Who is recommending it? And it was actually a really good way of surfacing a variety of interesting, high quality information from diverse sources, way more diverse than you would get with just a very narrow legacy media channels. I think it worked really well. Blog-based distributed curation worked very well. When you switch over to algorithmic, a lot of those advantages went away. Newsletters are closer to that blog model. It's not algorithmic curation. You find your way to a newsletter because you have other social capital reasons to trust the person who is writing it. And I think that is superior. In general, the more we're relying on social capital and interaction as the way of surfacing what we want to read tends to be better than just an app is doing something. And there's sparks and blue smoke, and then a suggestion comes up. I'm wary of that type of world. All right, so I said there's one way that newsletters are worse, one way that they're better. The way that they're worse is I think this distributed curation is not nearly as energetic or robust with newsletters because there's a lot less linking. So a real characteristic of the blogosphere was the hyperlink. I link to this blog, that blog links to this blog. There's a lot more linking, so there's a lot more discovery that could happen. You could start your entry point into the blogosphere. It could be something very specific. It's a sports writer, right? It's Simmons, right? And I'm reading his sports guy blog or what have you. But that's another name I'm forgetting,, his sports guy, his sports guy blog or what have you, but that's another name I'm forgetting, by the way, what's going on today? You can go Peter King's money, uh, Monday morning quarterback, Bill Simmons. I couldn't remember Bill from Bill Simmons. I'm going to start calling you Jason by the time this episode is over anyways, like professor Jason, my professor Jason. So, but anyways, you would enter somewhere like, I'm reading Bill Simmons's sports guy blog. And then that leads you to other types of sports, sports blogs. And then some of those over to some of these cultural sports blogs. And now you're kind of in pop culture land and that leads you over to a film critic. And now you have this world of film critics. You follow. It was very good. This energetic linking, you had all the advantages of human distributed curation, but it could lead you to many more interesting places. Newsletters are more siloed. So people tend to enter the newsletter universe through non-web based or non-other newsletter based, let's say social capital. I know this person because I've read their books. I know this person because I've seen them on TV. I know this person, perhaps through social media. And so then I'm going to subscribe to their newsletter. There's very little outgoing from the newsletters. So you have to individually identify each of these newsletters to subscribe. So that's a place where I think it's a little bit worse. There's a little less serendipity, a little less diversity there. You're not going to stumble into as many interesting things. Where they're better is monetization. So the blogosphere was revolutionary in the sense that it did democratize the publishing of the written word. It did not really make it easy for the individual writer to make a living. And so because of that, people thought it was a failure. But it did lead to a lot of small to mid-size media companies that could not have existed before. And I think we really overlooked that. We set our standards too high. We set our standards to like, everyone could just start blogging in their basement about their thoughts on whatever, and that's what their job would be. And this should sound familiar because we hear this about every new democratized media technology that comes along. And that didn't happen. I ran a blog from 2007 onwards, very difficult to monetize at any sort of a high level. So where the blog technology really had some revolutionary impact is that it allowed the small to mid-sized media company to emerge, to be a competitor to the large legacy newspapers and magazine companies. But it couldn't allow the individual to monetize. The newsletters do. And I think that's the advantage they have over the blogs is the subscription sub-stack model is a robust one. It is a way that you can make a living if you're a high-level writer, you can make a good living just as well as you would as being an elite member of a news team at a newspaper magazine. So that is new. And I think that is an advantage is that we're used to now this notion of I will pay $5 a month. That didn't really exist in the blogging world. Ad rates were way too small in the blogging world. So I think in that way, that way it's better. So it's interesting evolution with the text. I mean, you know, I, I still publish my essay on a blog, but I would say a lot of the energy is in people subscribing to that blog via email. So you can still go to calnewport.com slash blog. That's where my essays post, but then they get sucked out of there and put into my email newsletter. Now I did look at the numbers recently and there's still a lot of people, a fair number of people who actually come to the website itself. So we have- You looked at that on like Google Analytics? Google Analytics. Yeah. So there's still two or 3 million people a year who will come straight to calnewport.com. And because I think we have a lot, there's a lot of old articles up there. There's a lot of Google juice. Just wait till the website gets better. That's coming folks. That's coming. And then we have 70,000 subscribers to the email newsletter. So I guess we could do that, do that math. Um, the number of reads of the email newsletter is much that will add up to be, I suppose, much bigger. Yeah. We could do that math. Let's just do 50 weeks a year. So 70,000 by 10 will give us 700,000, and then by 5 would give us 3.5 million. So at one essay a week, yeah, we get 3 or 4 million reads through the email newsletter and maybe 2 or 3 million on the website. So the newsletter, I guess, officially generates more eyeballs than the website when you went to analytics was it uh two to three million on the blog page or was it on the whole website the whole site but i mean most of that is going to i think people go to that site to listen to the podcast every once in a while too yeah so slash podcast has a good amount of visitors and the um the home page well, and the deep work page, like just the page for the deep work book that just has links to where you can buy the book. Yeah. I guess that page has a lot of Google juice. Yeah. But then everything else is blog posts. It's always calnewport.com slash blog is the really big. And then whatever the most recent article was, when I go to Google analytics, that'll be next. And then there's various evergreen articles. Yeah. Yeah. big and then whatever the most recent article was when i go to google analytics that'll be next and then there's various evergreen articles yeah yeah i haven't been there in a long time google analytics yeah yeah that's interesting a lot of math and a lot of forgetting names on this show uh a lot of yeah math is fine i'll do the math i just can't remember the names of people i've known for a long time though i will say the problem with the analytics is a lot of people who get the newsletter like to click and read it in their web browser on their phone. So there's overlap there. Yeah. So there you go. More than you need to know, Graham. All right, let's keep rolling here.
How can I prevent my law clients from interrupting me so much? (53:35)
What do we got? So next question is from Aaron, another 42-year-old. He's an attorney in Phoenix. I'm an attorney with a solo law practice in a large city. I thought getting out of a big law firm to do my own thing would be good for me to provide more flexibility, opportunity for deep work. But a lot of the time, I'm just as interrupted now I was in the big firm. The difference now is that I'm interrupted by clients instead of colleagues. So let's go back to protocols. So Aaron, I talked about this in an earlier question as well. If you don't give people implicit rules or guardrails or systems to use about how contact happens, they will do it in the worst possible way. People's default behavior when trying to reach out to people is relatively terrible from a productivity perspective. Essentially, by far the most common behavior is in the absence of a more structured way of communicating with you. What I will fall back on is getting a response from you as soon as possible from whenever it is I happen to send something to you. And why is that? It's because I'm disorganized. I have this thing. I have a question for my lawyer. I don't want to remember that. I don't have a time block planner or I can add it to another day or this or that. I just want to send it to you and get an answer back and then it can be done. And so I'm just going to want full responses. And then you as the lawyer now find yourself having to respond to people immediately whenever they get in touch with you because that's their default and you've given them no alternative. So the whole game here is putting in place an alternative that's better for you without shoving that alternative into their face, without having to give them a big lecture on productivity. And so I don't know exactly how that should happen for law, but just put some structure in place. People want clarity. They don't need full accessibility, but they do need clarity. In the absence of accessibility, they do need clarity. So it could be office hours. It could be, here's the portal where you send your questions. You can go and look on the calendar when I'm checking questions every day, so you know when I'm going to get back to you. It could be, you have the ability to, you know, grab a paid slot, the talk something through with me at various times in day. I don't know. Just get people's structures. They know here is how I get in touch with Aaron. Here's the system. Here's my expectations about when I hear back. They adjust their expectations to you. They could care less. They have other things going on in their life, but you have made your life much easier. So if you have no systems or structure in place, you're going to get swamped. Put the systems and structure in place without preaching, and you might be surprised by how little people actually care about the details. It won't be the imposition you fear it is, except for maybe one or two people, but it'll always be one or two annoying people, and you really need them as clients anyways.
Is Cal’s prediction about the rise of virtual screens a ‘hellscape’? (56:20)
All right, let's keep rolling. All right, next question is from Sam. He's a 19-year-old software developer from Sweden. And he says, in episode 212, you mentioned how you think consumer-facing computing will go to the cloud and how we will be streaming screens. I think this is a hellscape. If the company you work for is in control of your screen, they can mandate email notifications and pop-ups. Well, so what Sam is talking about here is my longstanding prediction for the future of consumer electronics, where I think most computation will happen in the cloud. The only real consumer electronic device that you'll own, your primary device will be AR glasses. Screens will just be virtually inserted into your environment. So if you need a phone, a computer, a television, you just create that screen and you have it right there in front of you. We won't own separate laptops and computers and phones. I think this is an inevitable transition. The economics make sense and it's where everyone's investing money right now. So Sam says that's going to be a hellscape. It might be, Sam, but I don't think for the reason you mentioned. She said, look, companies could control your screen and mandate email notifications and pop-ups. They can do that now. That capability already came about as we shifted towards networked computers in the front office. I mean, my laptop from Georgetown, when I use it, it's a problem because there's all sorts of things they can just do that I have no control over, including these very aggressive resets, the update security, whatever patches that you have no control. They'll just warn you like, hey, in 40 minutes, your computer is going to restart and you can't do anything about it. Why is this a problem? Because you might be minute one into an hour long lecture in which you're using your computer to show slides. They already have control. There's all sorts of software on my Georgetown computer when I use it that monitors things and sends updates and is checking things in the background. So that ability is already here. Shifting to a virtual screen model, I don't think it's going to change that ability much more. Again, the software is going to exist virtually. It's not as if your company, the IT firm you work for, is going to then be getting their fingers into whatever Microsoft Word installation that's streaming from the cloud and changing exactly what it shows you. The other thing I would point out about this having already happened is more and more work is done on cloud-based software as it is. Google Workspaces, for example, are very popular. I spent all morning editing a New Yorker piece in Google Docs. That's a stream screen. It's streaming to a laptop instead of AR goggles, but it doesn't matter. The end of the road, last mile doesn't matter. So we're already there, Sam. The hellscape you worry about is already possible. So that's not going to be the issue. The two issues I think with this shift towards a world of virtualized computation and screens is, well, one, there's a phenomenological philosophical concern, which is what does it mean for the human condition when many elements in our world that we perceive at any one time are not real? Some are, some aren't. You can't really even tell the difference between the two. This screen over here, it looks as real as an iPad would today, but actually that's virtual being inserted to my field of vision, but this camera over here is real. And the mixing of the real and the virtual, it feels from a philosophical perspective that there is some sort of fundamental shift here happening in the human experience where the digital, where the invented is on a phenomenological par as the real. So smarter philosophers than me can actually grapple with that. The second issue I think we need to worry about here is economic. Huge industries will go away when we no longer need to own expensive, carefully designed things with planned obsolescence, devices and objects for all of our different consumer electronic consumption. Apple computer is not going to exist if we don't need to own nice looking phones and laptops. Their software will get eaten up by some conglomerate somewhere and they can stream the Apple experience through your VR goggles. Samsung is going to have a hard time existing when we don't need to buy physical television screens. Sony is going to have a hard time existing when we don't need to buy physical television screens. Sony is going to have a really hard time. There'll be one factory that remains, whatever factory makes the really leading in AR goggles. So I mean, I think this is going to be a huge economic disruption. Whole industries on which economies are partially propped are going to consolidate massively. So that's going to be something we're going to have to definitely look forward to. I learned more about this, by the way. I recently read Matthew Ball's book, The Metaverse. And actually, he has some really good technical numbers in there about some of the issues with doing this. The biggest issue right now really is latency, right? So you have to have a really fast connection to whatever's doing this computation in order to get screens streamed to you and displayed on your glasses fast enough. But this work is being done. So I'm not going to go down this path too long, Sam, but where this work is being done is for streaming video game industry. There's this idea of, there's a couple of products like Google Stadia that's working on this. This idea of you don't need to own a PlayStation. We should just run the game on our high-end server and just stream to you the screens that you're seeing from the game. And you can just get your joystick or mouse commands back to the server. Why do you need a supercomputer at your home? That could be in the cloud. You just need something to display the image that our supercomputer is generating. This is a really hard problem because you need 30 to 60 frames per second. It's a lot of fast back and forth computation. And if it's interactive, we can't buffer that up ahead of time. So they're getting better at this. Games are pushing it, but that is really a problem. The other issue is 3D is a problem. 3D is not good for cloud. There's a big issue with the metaverse vision is 3D graphics like you would see in a video game or you would see in a virtual reality world. Those are generated on GPUs, these special chips that do nothing but generate a bunch of polygons to make 3D shapes. You can't distribute those well. So if I am having my 3D world or my 3D game being computed in the cloud, somewhere in the cloud, there has to be a GPU chip that's doing nothing but working for me. So you don't get these nice distributed economies of scale where we can use the same hardware for 50 different people. So there's a lot of issues. It's not trivial, but I do think it's inevitable. Sc screens are not going to be real they're going to just be projected on our on our glasses zuckerberg talked about that a lot with brogan when he was on there yeah my facebook facebook knows about it facebook's more vr heavy but they're investing heavy in ar yeah they have their ray-ban deal so they're working with ray-ban on trying to develop develop goggles facebook's big. Magic Leap is big. Magic Leap is basically Google. Google's a huge investor. Magic Leap is big AR. Amazon's investing. They're investing more in the cloud piece of it. Apple's investing big because they're screwed. Apple has the most to lose. Do a lot of your computer science friends talk about this stuff? Well, my friends are theoreticians, so they don't understand computers. They're talking about Martingale bounds on weekly correlated distributions. Got it. Type of stuff we talk about. We'll take a quick break, talk about a sponsor, and we'll get back to another block of questions. Jesse, let me quiz you here. On the walk from my house to the studio today, as you know, it's about five minutes away.
Cal talks about Henson Shaving and Blinkist (01:04:08)
How many people do you think stopped me to compliment me on my shave? Three, 27 people. It took me one hour and 15 minutes to walk here because people were so impressed by my shave. And what I told them is this is courtesy of Henson Shaving. is this is courtesy of Henson Shaving. Now, one of these products I've actually been raving to, to people unrelated to the show. I love this concept. So here's the story. When you shave, what you really want is a blade that's held very firmly. So if the blade's not firm, you have a diving board effect and you get nicks and missed spots and you want it to be just enough of it exposed. If you have too much blade exposed, you get the diving board effects. You want it very firm with just a little bit of the blade actually exposed. That's hard to do. So what the subscription services and disposable razor people do is they put a bunch of blades in a piece of plastic. So you have all these different blades shaking around and they think, but somewhere between the seven or eight blades now that they have, you'll get a shave. But what Hinson's figured out is one standard blade that cost a dime to manufacture is enough to give you a really good shape if you have a good razor to hold it. And that's what they manufactured. So this company was specializing before they started building these razors, the Hinson razors, they were specializing in doing very precise manufacturing of parts for the aerospace industry. They have these highly precise routing CNC routing machines. And so using that technology, they built this beautiful aluminum metal, And so using that technology, they built this beautiful aluminum metal, incredibly precisely calibrated razor that you can put standard 10 cent blades into. And you screw the handle into this top piece of metal and it holds it firm with just a little bit of blade sticking out of the edge. I have the number here, 0.0013 inches of blade coming out of either end, incredibly firm, and you get a great shave with just one blade using this beautifully manufactured razor. I think this makes a lot of sense. So yeah, you spend money up front to get this beautiful piece of this tool. But then over time, all you're replacing is these 10 cent blades. And so quickly, you're going to come out financially much better off after a few months because yeah, sure. You can, you can join a subscription service for cheap, but every month you're paying for the 19 blade things that come in the cheap plastic. And so you quickly make back your money by having this beautiful tool and using just standard 10 cent blades with this beautiful metal razor. So this is why I'm a big fan of Henson's. It's the only, uh, it's the only razor I use right now. So it's time to say no to subscriptions and yes to a razor that will last you a lifetime. Visit hensonshaving.com slash cal to pick the razor for you and use code cal and you will get two years worth of blades free with your razor. The key here though is to make sure that you add the blades, the two-year supply of blades, to your cart when you're at hinson's shaving.com. Then when you check out and use code CAL, those will be changed to be free. So you have to add them to the cart. Add the two years worth of blades to your cart to actually get them for free. And definitely go to the slash CAL and use the promo code CAL. That's the only way they know you came for me. So you'll get 100 free blades when you head to H-E-N-S-O-N-S-H-A-V-I-N-G.com slash Cal and use that code Cal. I also want to talk about one of our original and longest standing sponsors of this show, and that is Blinkist. Actually, Jesse can attest to this. Before we recorded today, I was on the phone with one of the ad agencies we work with. And the person I was talking to was saying, you know, I talked to you a long time ago when I first joined this company, the very first call I had with a podcast host years ago was with you and it was about Blinkist. And I said, you know, that was your first call at a podcast agency that was probably my first call as a podcast host learning about a new sponsor because blinkus was one of our very first sponsors there's a reason why they continue to be one of our most steady sponsors because what they offer makes so much sense for our audience as i say when it comes to ideas ideas are power and the best way to expose yourself and master new ideas is books it's not tick tock it's not twitter it's not funny captions under instagram images you want high quality ideas they come from books because it's where experts have spent years trying to get their thinking just right the problem is figuring out which books to read. This is where Blinkist comes in. It's a subscription service that gives you 15 minute text and audio explainers called Blinks for over 5,000 nonfiction books spread over 27 categories. They also now have Shortcast, which are Blinks for podcasts. You can get quick summaries of long podcast episodes. So what I recommend is if you're interested in a topic, download the blinks for a collection of related books. Right away, you will get the main ideas of those books of this topic. That might be enough. If it's not enough, you'll now know which of those books is worth actually buying to read further. So if you're a serious reader, serious about getting ideas from book, Blinkist is the tool you need to help guide you. So right now, Blinkist has a special offer just for our audience. If you go to Blinkist.com slash deep to start your free seven-day trial, you will get 25% off a Blinkist premium membership. That's Blinkist spelled B-L-I-N-K-I-S-T. Blinkist.com slash deep to get 25% off on a seven-day free trial. Blinkist.com slash deep.
CASE STUDY: What should I put on my new website? (01:10:00)
It's been a while. I actually don't know when I started advertising. The podcast is summer of 2020. I actually don't know when I started advertising. The podcast is summer 2020. I know that for sure. May of 2020, late May. I don't know when I, I think it was like nine months in. That might make sense. Because I was just a fan then, and I was listening to every episode and. Before I started doing advertising. So you remember, you remember when I added them. From the very beginning. Yeah. Interesting. I think it was like nine months in, something like that. Cause you explained it on the show at the time. Yeah. It's interesting. I do remember Blinkist was very early. Grammarly was very early. I don't know which was first, but one of those two was first. Well, time marches on. All right. Let's see. Check my handy analog watch here. Let's do a call. I want to hear another voice. What do we got? We have a long call. Don't we remember that? Yeah, this is a long call from Joanna. So we'll take a listen. I'm a legal scholar and I have a question about having an online presence. So three years ago, I read your book, Digital Minimalism, and after that I deleted all of my social media accounts and I even deleted my WhatsApp. And I'm really happy with that decision. Since then, I was able to establish a daily yoga practice and I successfully completed my legal studies, even including a clerkship at the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany and I recently got accepted into an LLM at Harvard Law School. And especially I had the time to really put in deep work and pursue my research. Yeah, so but now I face a new challenge. Recently, my work on the persecution of animal cruelty crimes in Germany has gained a lot of media attention, which is great. But yeah, I'm not really sure now how to proceed. So I have an online presence on the university website, but it's really unreliable. It gets kind of deleted every two weeks. I don't know why. Yeah, so it's difficult for people to contact me. So I set up again a LinkedIn account but yeah I'm really not happy with that decision and I want to delete it again. And instead decided to put up a website. Yeah, but I really want to think that through and be really mindful about um yeah what to put in there and especially on how to contact me um and now my question for you like on the one hand um i want media like serious media outlet outlets to be able to contact me and also i want other young researchers um to contact me and to get in touch, have coffee, discuss the law and other topics. So on one hand I want to invite others to contact me, but on the other hand I'm really afraid to get a lot of messages I can't and don't want to respond to. That's already the case actually, but i think it's going to be even more if i write on the website you know get in touch contact me yeah so i would really like to have your advice on how to proceed like on how to invite on the one hand other interesting people i want to get in touch with but yeah be, yeah, I don't want to respond to all these weird, crazy messages you also get. I really like your approach, you know, the interesting at calnewport.com with the, yeah, just giving a lot of clarity, but I feel for me being a young researcher, it would maybe seem weird if I write, you know, I get so many messages, I can't respond to all of them. And also, I feel I'm maybe not that interesting yet that people would contact me even if I wrote on the website, you know, I don't respond to messages. So yeah, I would really appreciate your advice. And thank you for your amazing work. Well, your decisions are all right. Let me just emphasize what you did right so that other people in similar situations can learn from this. So one, not returning to social media, very good. Do not go on social media. Do not have an urge to try to promote quote unquote your legal work on social media. I once wrote an article for my website based on an interview with a professor, law professor, maybe at Harvard, last name Posner, another first name I forgot, Jesse, but where I excerpted a speech he gave where he said, my advice to young legal scholars, do not go on Twitter. Your job is not to be on Twitter. That's going to get in the way of doing good legal work. So good for you. Do not return to social media, even if your work is getting attention. Number two that you did right. Another good decision. Start your own website connected to your own name, an online presence that you can control and that is going to be one of the primary places people are pointed if they search for you. This is like me and calnewport.com. You want it to be your name.com if possible, or.net is okay. You want your name in the title. You want your name in the page so that Google sees this is where this particular person resides. This site can be simple. It allows you to present yourself to the world. So what's your one paragraph self-description? I'm a legal scholar here who specializes in this. There you go. Then you can have selected press. This is social proof. So you have some press here, the pieces about you. Now you have social proof that you're a scholar, that people actually listen to and have publicized your work. Then you might have some selected academic work. There you can have a link to a university page or to a CV for a more detailed presentation of your work. And then you have contact information. All right, so let's get to the contact information. I think you're too worried about what's going to come in and what you have to do to deal with it. I mean, I think you're probably fine having two addresses for media inquiries interview requests etc contact here academic related inquiries contact here that's probably fine maybe a third category if you want if you want like for all other requests proposals or whatever contact here, have those addresses. If possible, this is like the only bit of technical work to do. Don't have any of those addresses be your name is Johanna Johanna. So don't have any of them be Johanna at website dot com. Have each of them be some other non-personal words. So media, you know, I guess it could be your academic email address is fine for academia. And if you have something other, it could be other interesting requests, something like that. So you're depersonalizing the addresses. They become channels for communication, not a window you can open to talk directly to this human being. And then that will be fine. I don't think you're going to get overwhelmed with a lot of weird stuff, but this makes it easy to deal with. I think the expectations for a media request inquiry email address is that you're going to get ignored a lot of times. You can ignore messages in there that are crazy or weird. You can ignore messages to your academic address that are not academic. for academic use only. We can't respond to other types of requests. That's fine. You probably even have to put that note. And if you have another third address for other things, you can basically just ignore everything that comes there and that's fine. And I don't think you're gonna get too many messages. And I think the expectations will be set straight. And I love the fact that you can control your presentation. You can control how people, what they learn about you. They have the ability to find you and contact you directly and that you are not being corrupted or distracted by, uh, the wasteland that, that is social media. So you're doing all the right things and hopefully other people can learn, learn from your lesson.
Timing And Note Taking Techniques
How do I complete things on time? (01:17:55)
All right. I'm going to go rapid fire here. Let's, uh, let's do a few more questions. I'm going to give quick answers, Jesse, because I know we're running a little late, so I'm going to be pithy. Sounds good. Next question is from Shibuzo, a health administrator in Nigeria. I find that I'm always excited to start things but struggle with finishing them. I'm constantly having competing overdue tasks on my ascent. Where do I begin to stop this habit? Ah, typo. I think that's Asana. They got typoed in there. Asana. Okay, so he must be using Asana for his tasks. All right, if you're not completing things on time, there's two issues. Either your plans are unrealistic, so you're giving yourself too much to do, or your execution is too unfocused. So you have a reasonable load of things to do. You're just not doing it. Two different types of solutions. Unrealistic plans. You want to do multi-scale planning. Here's what I'm working on this quarter of those things. Here's what I'm working on this week of those things. Here's what I'm working on today. So you can see the whole ball game. You're not just bouncing around randomly. You also should use doubling heuristics. Whatever list you think is reasonable for you to do today, cut it in half. However much time you think you should give yourself to complete a project, double it. So if you use those doubling heuristics, because people are bad at estimating how long things take place, and you use multi-scale planning, you'll get a better grip over what are we working on? What's the reasonable load? If your issue is unfocused execution, you need the time block plan. Otherwise you're just bouncing through the day, emails here, there, hoping that your energy carries you through execution. That's not sustainable. That's not scalable. Give every minute of your workday a job, make a reasonable plan for the time you have available, force yourself to actually make decisions about given this time, what do I actually want to do and when's the best time to do it? That's how things get done. Not just going randomly through a day with seven inboxes and WhatsApp open and just continually asking yourself, what do I feel like doing next?
How do I take notes on a complicated project? (01:20:01)
All right, let's roll. What do we got, Jesse? Next question is Lost in Technology, a 55-year-old from Texas. He says, I'm an older master's degree student and I cannot keep track of all the literature reviews and research. I don't have a quick way to look at the information I've collected. I try keeping track in Obsidian, tried writing in Scrivener, Liquid Text, Notability, and GoodNotes. How can I consolidate everything I'm learning and calm my brain? How can I consolidate everything I'm learning and calm my brain? Well, I think what you need here is a recalibration of your mindset and expectations, not a recalibration of your tools. This is the type of terminology that I would come across a lot back in the golden age of productivity pran. When there is this belief that if you got the digital tool just right, work would become effortless. I think what your brain is seeking here is that if we get just the right digital note taking setup, I'll be able to effortlessly capture information and pull forward what I need just when I need it. And it's going to make the process of writing my master's thesis seamless. And you're finding that it's just not happening no matter what tool you use. Well, spoiler alert, it's never going to happen. Taking notes is hard. Remembering and finding the information you need is hard. That hardness is part of the job. It's like being a runner and saying, it hurts my legs to run long distances. Like, yeah, that's part of the job is that you put up with your legs burning. Taking notes is slow and annoying. Finding the notes you need is slow and annoying. Reset your mindset and expectations for that to be slow and annoying. That's part of the job, not something that you have the possibility of eliminating. Once you recognize that, I don't care what technology you use. Use a Google Doc, use a spreadsheet, use Obsidian. I don't care. You know, have a place where you put your notes, take your time to take good notes, be comfortable with the fact that most of the notes you take, you're not going to use, be comfortable with the fact that it's not always easy to go back and find what you need.
Strategies For Completing Creative Projects
How can I buckle down and finish my novel? (01:22:10)
Factor in that overhead into your scheduling, slow and steady, slow and steady. Keep working bit by bit on thinking, writing, collecting, moving forward, slow and steady, slow and steady is how you produce dense, interesting academic work. No bit of technology is going to save you from that. All right, let's do one more question. All right. Final question is from Mike, a standup comedian from Boston. I'm trying to write a novel. I could always sit down and write as a kid, but I feel since social media and internet distractions, it's hard for me to focus on completing one book. How can I work better? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is this could be a situation which is common for aspiring novelists where your brain doesn't trust your plan. So one of the real sources, one of the major sources of procrastination around this type of first-time creative work is that one part of your brain just likes the short-term satisfaction of I'm writing a novel and the sitting down with Scrivener on your air book and like doing the typing. It kind of lights that excitement. There's another part of your brain. The part is really good at long-term plan evaluation. That's saying, wait a second. I don't think we're going to succeed with this effort. We know very little about writing novels. We don't know anyone who has done it. We don't even really know the process. We don't have taste to figure out like what makes it good or bad. I can't even look at this chapter I'm writing and saying, am I on track for something that's sellable or not? I don't know about this whole thing. I think we're burning calories. We need those calories to run away from saber-toothed tigers. Shut it down. And you experience that as, I have a hard time getting motivated to write. So this might be a situation where you need to trust your brain. this might be a situation where you need to trust your brain. Having confidence in how something works will give you trust in whatever process you're doing. If your process actually has a good chance of success, that trust will give you motivation. So I would almost say my recommendation is stop writing for a second and go and learn more about how this would work. Find other people who had written novels of the type you're trying to write in your situation. Learn how it worked. How did they sell it? What was important? What differentiates a good from bad novel? Are you writing at that caliber? You're not sure? Join a writing group. Pay to hire a freelance editor for just one week to look at the chapters you've already written to get that cold, hard feedback. This seems like you're slowing yourself down because you're stopping the typing every day. You're stopping the, I'm in the cafe with a beret and the striped shirt, which is what all writers wear when they write. You're stopping that fun part to go do stuff that might make you feel bad. Like where you find out, oh, I'm nowhere near ready to write this. I'm not good enough at this. I don't know this style. I don't know what I'm doing. This agent says, I'm not interested. This freelance editor says your writing's no good, but you're getting the information you need to trust a process. If you come across process to work to actually trust that process. So it feels like you're taking a step backwards, but the only way you're actually going to be able to eventually get all the way down, take steps all the way down this path is if you trust what you're doing. So go build trust, become an expert on what it takes to be a comedian who succeeds with writing a novelist. Feel like your first goal is to write a book about how comedians can succeed at writing novels, that you're doing research for that book. Make that be what you're doing right now. Do those efforts now, spend a month doing those efforts and you'll be rewarded in many months going forward. Trust is motivation. All right. And with that, Jesse, I think we should wrap things up. I thank you everyone who submitted their questions. If you want to be a part of the show, you can use the links in the description or go to calnewport.com slash podcast for instructions how to submit your own queries or calls. If you like what you heard, you will like what you see. Videos of full episodes and clips of popular segments can be found at youtube.com slash calnewportmedia. We'll be back next week with a new episode. And until then, then as always stay deep