Ep. 217: Using Slow Productivity To Do The Best Work Anywhere

Transcription for the video titled "Ep. 217: Using Slow Productivity To Do The Best Work Anywhere".

1970-01-01T03:37:45.000Z

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Introduction

Cal's intro (00:00)

Two, I would really lean into the slow productivity principle of obsessing over quality. How do I do better work? How do I become the best person who is doing this anywhere? When you obsess over quality, two things happen. There's two directions that it interacts with slowness. One, it's just when you're trying to do something really well, it's hard to be super busy. It's hard to be super interleaving. I need the man's concentration and attention, but two, quality once achieved at any non-trivial level gives you more autonomy to control your schedule going forward. I'm Cal Newport, and this is Deep Questions, Episode 217. For those who are new, this is the show where I take questions and calls for my audience about the theory and practice of living and working deeply in an increasingly shallow world. If you want to contribute your questions, there is a link in the show notes. If you want to watch these episodes instead of listening, go to youtube.com/cal Newport Media. I'm here in my Deep Work HQ, joined as normal by my producer, Jesse. Do you miss with Republic, the restaurant that was below us? Now it's gone, it's shut down, it's gone out of business. I kind of blame you, but not completely. Do you miss, now that they've been gone, the weird smell Wednesdays? No, I don't. I think it was Wednesdays or Wednesdays, but we would get these weird smells. It has to be the kitchen, that was our best guess, but it wasn't every day. So we weren't quite sure if they cooked something weird on certain days of the week or if they're cleaning their grease trap or whatever. But I just remember when you first started, we're getting here, Jesse, the first weird smell Wednesday. You spent a lot of time in my memory looking for, is there garbage in our studio? Is there a corpse? You know, somewhere I had to explain, like, no, no, that's just the building. It's actually kind of funny because they want our business right around the time when we got our first cleaning service into the building. So it's possible. It's true. It was definitely the restaurant. It's possible the cleaning service found the corpse of a raccoon that was in the closet somewhere. So maybe it's not, maybe we are casting aspersions against the restaurant that used to be there. But anyways, it's nice. So yeah, we have a nice and clean studio, no weird smells. I think we're ready to bring, you know, respectful of the delts up here now. It's starting to look great. So exciting. Yeah. Well, we'll do a video at some point.


Various Topics Discussed With Cal

CAL REACTS Brandon Sanderson’s Underground Lair (02:53)

Jesse's been helping me. We've been renovating this room by room, piece by piece. We've been renovating the HQ. We'll do a video. We'll use your, yeah, you know, study camp. So stay tuned for that. Check out the YouTube channel. We got a good show today. So we got a good segment of questions. I'm looking at it now. We have a call mixed in there. We have a case study mixed in there. Later in the show, I will do the books I read in September, 2022. We should have done that last episode. I forgot. So we're doing a little late. So we have that later in the show. First however, I wanted to do a brief segment about something I came across online that fascinated me. I then ended up writing a essay about it for my newsletter at Cal Newport dot com that went out last week. And I wanted to bring it up here. And it has to do with our favorite writer on the show, fantasy novelist Brandon Sanderson. I believe Jesse still gets emails from people. Mad that I once accidentally said that he wrote the name of the wind series. So again, any complaints about that can go to jessieacalnuport.com. He did not write that series. I'm not even going to try to say what the series are. He wrote because I don't want to get it wrong. But he's a very productive, very popular fantasy novelist that we've talked about before on the show. Well, I went down a rabbit hole online about the let's call it home office. And as you're going to see, this is really a stretch. But the home office that he built a few years ago and it's only now just finishing and only now just revealing to the world. So here's the setup. And then I'm going to show some photos. But let me give the setup first. He lives in suburban Utah. He doesn't reveal exactly where in Utah. It's not hard to find out because he teaches once a week at Brigham Young University, which is in a specific city in Utah. But we'll keep the location anonymous. But he lives in a standard cul-de-sac subdivision in a house he bought in 2008. This was before he became a very successful writer because on me, I went back and looked this up and his debut book was 2005. So this was early in his writing career. This was just a standard house called a sack, suburban Utah. The lot next to the house was empty. So they hadn't built the house there yet. So he started to have an idea. He's like, we could maybe do something cool with that one day if and when I have the resources. So the next year, he had done well enough with his books to buy the lot. So he had a house, there's an empty lot, house next to the empty lot on a cul-de-sac. So he bought the empty lot and he hatched this plan. He said, I want to build a home office, but because I'm a fantasy author, I don't want to just build a building on this lot. I want to build it underground. And he told his wife when he bought that lot in 2008 or 2009, I want a super villain layer underground that no one knows it's there. And he actually followed through on this. And it took him a long time to do. It turns out it's very hard to get the permissions required to do this from any reasonable city, but he got the permissions. He threw enough money at it and he built this super villain underground layer. So I'm going to show some photos here. So if you're listening, I'll try to describe what's on the screen. You can also see these. We'll put the clip up at the youtube.com/calnewportmedia. So the first photo I'm putting up here on the screen is the hole that they had the dig. Now, if you're looking at this, what you see is a massive hole and there's a, whatever that is, a skid steer at the bottom of this massive hole, the wall is there. I mean, Jesse, what would you say? That's probably going from the bottom of the hole to the top of the wall and then the rubble on top, it's probably almost 30 feet. Yeah, if you compare it to the guy's height, he's probably just shy of six feet. Yeah. So this thing looks massive, like something you would see in a giant lot. Keep in mind, this is a one house size footprint between two houses. So he digs this massive hole, then in the next picture, they're building the underground layer concrete walls, 20 foot high ceiling. So what you're seeing on the screen now is the concrete bunker structure of this underground layer. Now you can see the house right next door and you realize this is just in the middle of a suburban neighborhood, 20 feet tall steel I beams and concrete. This thing is never going away, by the way. 200 years from now, once we've all been exploded in nuclear war, this is what the archaeologists will find, this will still be there. All right. And then what he did in this third picture is the after, they built it, they covered it, and then he's building in this scene decoy buildings on top of it so that it doesn't draw your attention. So from what I understand, if you look in this picture, there's like a nice circular tiled driveway that's on top of the layer, his house I think is this thing you see to the right. So you see a little bit of his house. There's a garage they built that you'll see, they built that on top of the layer. So again, it's kind of a decoy. So you're like, oh, this is, it's just a big driveway next to their house with a garage. I can't quite figure out everything happening here. There's these windows. I think they're building a gazebo, but the main thing here is there, it's a decoy. So if you now show up at Brandon Sanderson's house, it doesn't feel like there's anything a mess. There's a house, they have a nice big drive and a garage and it's the next house. Underneath this is his super villain layer. All right. So as far as I can tell from my research, and again, I'm sure my collaborators as computer scientists are happy. I'm seeing all this time researching this. I'm sure my editors at the New Yorker are happy. I'm spending so much time researching this instead of working on articles. I'm sure my book editor is very happy that I'm researching this instead of working on articles, but it felt very important to me. I think they finished this construction around 2019, 2020, but only now are they finishing the actual interior design. We got our first look inside this super villain layer when he went on the CBS morning show, which I will say, Jesse, I have been on as well, though in less cool circumstances, went on the CBS morning show and brought them into the layer. So it's not done, but he brought them into the layer. So what I've done here is I've snagged some screenshots from that appearance. All right. So on the screen now is a very nice staircase, wide marble with red carpet, stained glass windows on the way down the stained glass windows turns out are his book covers. He had them custom built. The top of this staircase is I believe lets out into his garage. And so there's an entrance from his house to the underground bunker nearby. It's nice woodwork, right? Jesse, look at that. Yeah. Yeah. This guy's made a lot of money. I mean, what was his Kickstarter? He just did $40 million. And it sounds like that. It was like $48 million. So you know, he has some money. All right. Next picture is this is part of his bunker. He likes movies. I like movies too. There's some friends coming over tonight of a movie club. We watched him in my basement. He has a screening room. It's a full movie theater. As you can see him and the host are in these giant leather reclining chairs, five across three rows of these. There's a giant projection screen at the front. So that's where he watches movies. It turns out that he actually his staff, you know, he has a company and his company is not headquartered out of this layer. It has, you know, a warehouse and an office building somewhere. And he said something about the rotate through. You can sign up to rotate through to come watch, you know, movies here on Fridays. And then finally, I wanted to get to where is he going to write? He is a writer. And that is the scene we're seeing here. So it's him being interviewed by the host and they're in chairs in a wood-paneled nook. And he revealed later that nook is where he's going to put his desk. So if you're watching this on YouTube, this nook wood-paneled, it's beautiful work with books. That's where his desk is going to be. In the background, you see a giant saltwater fish tank in this big room with black and white tiles. That's what he calls the adventurous club and it's going to be for gatherings. Like he's having people over to attack goblins. I don't know. I'm not good at fantasy. Again, I should like fantasy. I don't. Guys, I thought that was cool. Brandon Sanderson wins the work from home contest. Anyone who has tried to build a cool space to work at home is at best second place compared to what Sanderson has done here. So a couple of notes about this. One, there are some complaints. I got some feedback from people that were frustrated at the amount of money. It is extravagant. Did he probably spend to do this? I believe this is probably 80% marketing/publicity for Sanderson. So it probably helps if you think about this as a business expense. He's this fantasy writer, really big audience, made a big push starting in the pandemic to have more one-on-one connection with his audience using things like YouTube and his email newsletter. He shifted away from going to conferences and trying to do digital connection with people. Using this one-to-many broadcast style marketing connection to your audience, I think actually having an over-the-top layer like this is a good business expense because it puts him in the minds of his reader into this lofty position of this aspirational, fantastical life. I'm in my adventurous club writing these books and it just puts an aura of true fantasy around these books that I think will help sell them. So it's actually probably a reasonable business expense. I'll also give him credit. He didn't move to a giant house. He didn't say let's move to a giant compound somewhere in the mountains of Utah. Let's go to Park City now and have near the ski slopes with one of these $10 million houses. He's in the same house he bought before he had money. He's like, let's just build this thing onto it. So I don't know if that's good or bad, but I think it is marketing more than anything else. Interesting point. Dan Brown did something similar. Dan Brown, the author of the Da Vinci Code series who earned, according to my paper, all the money with those books, he built in Rye, New Hampshire, a house that was also filled with over-the-top fantastical elements. You press the button hidden on the bookshelf and the whole thing swings open and there's a hidden room. These type of touches. He built a house like that as well with his money. Again, I think there's some marketing to it. Every time he does an interview surrounding one of his book launches, they come to this house. They see these cool touches. I think these things matter if that's the type of book you're writing. I'll give you another example of this from a non-fantasy, non-thriller world. I think Anne Lamott did something similar. So Anne Lamott, the novelist and non-fiction writer in the fact that she wrote Bird by Bird, the classic book on how to write, she moved to this really cool old property up in Marin County that they rescued her and her husband renovated over time. It was a little bit dilapidated, grew these gardens. It's a touch of marketing to that. When you think about Anne Lamott, you want to think about her in this scenic environment. It's a little bit rundown, but it's beautiful and she's planting flower gardens there. It fits with her novels. So again, sometimes there's some marketing in what writers do. But for now, let's just leave this as what I think is a great example of working from your home. That's that New Yorker article I wrote back earlier in the pandemic. Writers will often go to eccentric extremes in designing their workplaces to get out of their home to have somewhere new to go to try to get the juices flowing. So he's just pushed it to a new place. So there we go. Underground layer.


Cal talks about Eight Sleep and Rhone (15:15)

Yeah. That'd be cool. That'd be claustrophobic, I think. Twenty-five ceilings. Yeah. I'm just thinking of all that dirt. I'm going to die in here. All right. Let's take a moment to talk about a sponsor before we get to our questions from this week. The first sponsor I want to talk about is a sleep and in particular the eight sleep pod which you put like a mattress pad on top of your mattress and allows you to control the temperature on which you sleep. Now I want to forget the script for now. Let's do some frank talk. We have been using, Julie and I have been using the pod and I have personal experiences to share with you. Don't need a script because we have been enjoying this. Let me explain two things. One, when it comes to hot sleeping and I'm a hot sleeper, people often think the summer is a problem. Not the problem. The summary of air conditioning on, it's cool, it's dry. It's actually, I think, the fall that is the problem. You can have human nights. It's a little bit too cool for the air conditioner to be on but warmer than it would be in your room if the air conditioner was. I was waking up hot, too hot under the blankets and so we got the eight sleep pod up and running, got the app synced, got the whole thing running and it makes a really big difference. It really does work. The first thing I was worried about because I'm a mattress guy is will it change to feel my mattress? I'm a nice temper put it. Does not? Could not feel that I had it on. Two, I was like, "Okay, what's this going to be like? Is it going to be refrigerated?" It was not. You feel it's a little cool. It would feel if you were just into the bed for the first time. What I learned about using the eight sleep pod is it's not that it's really cold so much as it's taking the heat you generate and whisking it away. All of these little capillaries with the liquid inside the cover, it's taking that heat you're generating, whisking it away, cooling it and then bringing back. It's more as if it prevents your mattress from getting hot, not your sleeping on something cold. I can tell you it works. I'm now a believer. This is on my king size bed in my house here in Tacoma Park. I don't keep my phone in my room so we have the app is on my wife's phone and she can control it and I don't know what she does on there. It also somehow figures out things like how much we're sleeping. Anyways, I'm a believer. You wake up if you get hot, this thing really does work. I'm giving you my personal endorsement on this. They give me plenty of statistics here. They have data, 32% improvement, sleep quality, 34% more deep sleep, 19% increase in recovery I believe all that because I have lived it. I am now a believer in the eight sleep pod. That's a cool piece of technology. So go to eightsleep.com/deep to save $150 on the pod. Eight sleep currently ships within the USA, Canada and the UK as well as select countries in the EU and Australia. That's eight sleep spell it out. E-I-G-H-T sleep.com/deep. Do that/deep to save $150. I also want to talk about a new sponsor of the show which is RON. This again is a no brainer because long before they came to us about potentially being a sponsor, I have been using and wearing RON clothing. Jessie, you have seen me, I'm sure before when I'm not in my official deep question shirt. I'm often wearing the RON shirts with the little red X's. I'm particularly fond of a few things but I'll often wear their athletic wear t-shirt which is a very nice summer around here in DC. Looks nice, comfortable, moisture wick. What I'm excited about is they also have now clothes that you can wear in nicer situations. We're talking dress shirts, we're talking dress pants. For example, their commuter shirt is comfortable, breathable and flexible. Also it doesn't wrinkle. I have a white one and it's great. It has a flex to it. It's not going to be wrinkly. It's very lightweight. It's not going to wrinkle but it looks really good. You can wear it with a blazer on. You can wear it by itself with a pair of shorts in the summer. I'm really enjoying the commuter shirt. They also have pants, again, flexible, breathable, lightweight. You feel like if you needed to, you could pull a Tom Cruise mission impossible and jump off a building but they look great. It could be around with them all day, be active but still it looks great when you have to go to the event at your kid's school as well. There's some tech here. If we actually want to get specific about it, it's four-way stretch fabric. They have wrinkle release technology. They use gold fusion anti-odor technology so you'll be smelling fresh if you've been active all day long. Anyways, I am a fan of Rome from my casual clothes, the commuter shirts. I've been wearing it so I'm glad that we actually get a chance to promote them. The commuter shirt in particular can get you through any workday and straight into whatever comes next. If you head to Rome.com/Cal and use the promo code Cal, you can get 20% off your entire order. That is a really good deal. If 20% off your entire order when you head to r-h-o-n-e.com/Cal and use the code Cal, it's time to find your corner office comfort. It was great to see we're starting to get sponsors of things that I have long used. That's cool. Now we have to get a podcast blue shirt. There's just a company that needs to make me. Rome needs to make me the deep questions like Cal branded. Actually their commuter shirt would be great for podcasting. Yeah.


Was it a mistake to drop out of college? (21:43)

Yeah, it's good for them. I'm thinking about other things I used when we need to sponsor us now. About the generic white coffee cup. This gets used a lot. Are you tired of burning yourself as you try to hold hot coffee in your hands to bring it to your mouth? We have a solution. White cup. Put the coffee in the cup instead of in your hands and you get 98% less burns. All right, now for that nonsense. Let's do some questions. Actually, be useful here. So what do we got? What's our first question, Jesse? Hi, the first question is from Julian. Julian says, "I intended university for a brief period to get a degree in film but dropped out. I want to be a screenwriter but I currently work in the service industry so my days can be long and tiresome. At 20 years old I feel incredibly behind in my writing. I was dropping out of university a bad decision." Well, Julian, first of all, I think dropping out or not dropping out, this is a red herring when it comes to the specific question of screenwriting and jump-starting your screenwriting career. I think there's a lot to be discussed about dropping out of college whether you should or shouldn't but I don't think it really matters either way, good or bad when it comes to this very specific question of are you behind in your screenwriting career and what would you need to do? So I'm not a screenwriter myself. I don't have a specific background in it. I am a big fan of movies. I am a big fan of the movie industry. I know screenwriters so I'm going to try to pull together from stuff I have learned to try to offer you some advice here. I have two things to recommend, Julian. One, surround yourself by other artists. This is critical in the movie industry, in particular if you're going to be a screenwriter, you have to be around other people with high artistic aspirations in this field. If you're trying to do this in isolation, how do I write a movie that gets made? You're going to produce things that are formulaic. You're not going to find traction. You have to aim incredibly high and be around people who are really pushing themselves. You see this again and again when you look back through the personal stories in particular of directors or director writers that really break out, they're surrounded by other aspirational film industry types. They're pushing each other. They're learning from each other. They have big aims. I'm just reading right now of Francis Ford, Coppola, or Coppola, Coppola, Biography. About that generation of filmmakers, they came from various places but they were all with each other. He had George Lucas. They were very close with George Lucas. Then that crew met up with the USC crew. You had Scorsese, you had Brian De Palma. Then they connected with Spielberg who didn't get into USC but also had a deal with universal at 19, so it didn't really matter. Spielberg, you had Scorsese, Coppola, you had Lucas. They're all hanging out and pushing each other and working with each other. Out of that came really interesting work. JJ Abrams has a interesting similar story. Surround yourself by other artists. People who are obsessed with this. I just went down a PTA, Rabbit Hole, Paul Thomas Anderson, Rabbit Hole, same thing. You see him at Sundance Labs as a really young filmmaker just surrounded by all of this talent. Surround yourself by talent. If you're not, it's not going to work. Then when you write, aim really high. Does the other thing I picked up, even with screenwriters that you associate later on with this seems like a commercial blockbuster movie. So if we're thinking, I'm thinking JJ Abrams, maybe go back and think about John Millius. They were artistically really ambitious and they were working on and they would work on scripts that were really stretches, novelistic, literary, interesting, nuance of character and pacing. Your produced works are going to fall below where you're aiming. If you come into the industry thinking, how do I write an action movie like one I just saw, like a Marvel movie or something, you're going to fall below that standard and do nothing. When you come into the industry with interesting artistic stuff, you show real skill, that is what is going to develop your skill, that's what's going to catch attention, even if the things you end up getting produced later are farther down the ladder. Now 50% of what I'm saying here, Julian might be nonsense. Again, I'm not in the movie industry. I did though have an interesting conversation once with the head of story at Paramount. So it was someone who doesn't write scripts but helps develop all the scripts that Paramount is actually going to work on. I learned a lot from that conversation. But basically you have to be, if you're going to succeed in screenwriting, people have to see you as having this spark, this artistic genius. And then they're happy to have someone with an artistic genius, take a hack at the next Guardian of the Galaxy franchise. But you have to come in with this spark. So aim really high, be very aspirational, very ambitious, surround yourself with other artists. That's what matters. Whether you dropped out of college or not, it doesn't matter for that specific thing. So that'd be my advice. How would you suggest that Julian balances it with his service industry job? Like say he works some nights, he might work some doubles, stuff like that. I mean, go back and read a bunch of Tarantino oral histories. That's a good one. A lot of early interviews with Tarantino. Find out about how he was crafting his scripts when working at the famous, what was it called? He said the video store. But I don't remember the exact name of the video store. I think that's a good example. Kevin Smith is another good example of people who were honing this skill while just working in a service industry. Tarantino is where I'm going to point you, actually, Julian, if you really want to see that what I'm talking about in action, because he was obsessed with film, obsessed with it, watching everything, tracking down where the weird prints were. His art house across town is playing some early carisawa. I want to see Hitchcock's rope, which is not really widely played, but there's maybe an interesting print happening over here. He was obsessed with film and that obsession with film drove it. He had a service industry job. He was working at a video store doing other odd jobs. And that's when he also started writing. By the way, look at Tarantino's rise. He did a lot of script work early on with some pretty major blockbuster type films.


What tools should I use to manage my processes? (28:44)

Blanken on what some of the names are now, but films you would remember from the early the mid '90s films that were just straight up like Nicholas Cage action films. He would call it, they would call them in to work on those things, which again shows that the writers who work are artistically ambitious, even if not everything they work on itself is artistically ambitious. So use Tarantino I think is a good case study. You're 20, you have energy. So if you get obsessed and let that obsession drive you, you can, you have the time. You have the time. All right. What do we got next, Jesse? All right. Next question is from the alchemist. He's an actuary in his 30s. He says, "In a world without email, you make a case for processes. Is there a preferred method or tool for where you or how you store, update or communicate these processes?" I mean, my answer is kind of yes, dot, dot, dot. So what I mean is you should have a preferred tool. I don't care what it is. So the tool you use to keep track of and promulgate the details of the processes you use on your team or in your organization, the processes you use to try to get away from the hype or active high find where everyone just rocks and roll on email or slack or teams. They do need to be similar. Everyone needs to understand where they are. They need to be able to find them. There needs to be some process for how they're reviewed and for their updated. The details of how you do that I could care less about. This is one of these situations where technology is not going to save us. We have to figure out the right processes and then go find a technology to use to actually work with those processes. So you could have a Google Doc somewhere. You could have drop boxes with subfolders for the different processes and text files in each that describe them. You could chisel it on stone. It could be laminated and posted up on the office wall. I mean, I don't really care how you do it so long it's as clear and everyone understands. What I am going to recommend though, and I think this is very important, is no matter how you store the processes your team or organization uses, you have to have a meta process or on a regular basis. I think at least once a month everyone who is involved with one of these processes, everyone who it affects, I have to actually now follow some of these rules, needs to review and say, is this working or not? And if it's not working, how can we fix it? And if it's out of date, we don't really need this anymore. This never really worked. We needed it back last January when we were crunching on this client. We don't need anymore. You get rid of it. Now, that's really important because dead weight processes weigh down everything else. So if your team puts together, here's seven different processes we use for collaboration that keeps us out of our inbox. It's great. And two of them don't really work very well or don't really need to still be there, but they're sticking around and people feel like they have to go through the motions. That will put friction on the entire idea of using processes. In this example, those two dead weight processes could bring down the other five. It could bring down the whole idea that we follow processes. That friction makes the whole gears of processes begin to seize up and people just fall back to hyperactive hive mind. And not going to go through, I have to upload this. And this seems like a waste of time. This seems like busy work.


CALL Help with slow productivity (32:10)

This seems like bureaucracy. I'm just going to hit you up on Slack. So more important than where you store the processes is making sure that you update them. That everyone is involved in what works, what doesn't, what do we have to get rid of? Because there is a fine line between a well-structured collaboration environment and stress-inducing bureaucracy. So the latter is terrible. That's poison for morale. The former can be great. The line is fine. So you have to be careful about that. See here. Oh, it looks like we have a call coming up. I like calls. All right. Let's see what we got here. We have a call from Robert about slow productivity. Hi, can I help you? My name is Robert from Nova Scotia, Canada. And I'm a process improvement consultant. And I've been thinking a lot lately about your skills of productivity, including your most recent interview on the Tim Fayer's podcast. And in my role, I'm stuck between balancing slow productivity and build blocks. So my measure for productivity is build block hours, but it does be a very short-term focus. I know in the long term I can be more productive by doing activities such as building a better sales engine, creating better training programs, basically all of these other elements of being so good that our team can't be ignored that aren't associated with build blocks. So currently this has led to extra work in the evenings and weekends, which seems counterproductive to slow productivity. So do you have any recommendations for slow productivity for workers that are measured by build block hours? Thank you. That's a good question, Robert. First of all, I want to comment on the audio of your recording. It sounds like in your effort to work from near home, you are working to record your question from within a inside a large metal buoy. I'll just say what you think. It does sound like he's in a Sanderson's lair. Maybe he's in Sanderson's lair before they put in the walls, or he's trapped in a metal box somewhere. No, it is a good question. Billable hours throws an interesting wrench into discussions of slow productivity. I do have a few thoughts about it. So I'm going to suggest two things. One, start billing yourself for hours put aside for long term projects. Projects that's going to make your team more effective in the long term. I have a goal, I'm spending two hours a day, three days a week, working on sales engine, working on updating the technology we use for this particular process that we're often consulting on. And keep track of those hours and report them. So when your boss says, "Okay, Robert, what was your billable hours this quarter?" You say, "Well, I built this many of that client. This many hours were billed to this long term improvement project, which I think is going to make us more profitable in the long term." By having specific numbers, the only feedback you can really get from your boss is like, "A, that's good," or, "B, maybe you should not do that improvement," or, "Let's do less hours," but you have a particular number to kind of deal with. You're quantifying this work that otherwise wouldn't be quantified. You'll want to quantify it because now once it's quantified, they can understand, "Oh, your total number of hours you're working is a good amount." And I see that 20% of those hours were going towards long term improvements. So I'm okay that the other billable hours were reduced by a little bit because I see where your time is going. If you don't keep track of these non-clients focused activities, then you do have to end up doing them at night or on the weekend or in the morning because otherwise it would just look like to the outside observer that your total amount of work has shrunk. So you've got to capture why that works shrunk. Two, I would really lean into the slow productivity principle of obsessing over quality. How do I be better? How do I do better work? How do I become the best person who is doing this anywhere? When you obsess over quality, two things happen. There's two directions that it interacts with slowness. One, it's just when you're trying to do something really well, it's hard to be super busy. It's hard to be super interleaving. Quality demands concentration and attention. But two, quality once achieved at any non-trivial level gives you more autonomy to control your schedule going forward. So as you get better at what you do as you find specialties within your field that you become world-class at, you will gain more flexibility. You can bill higher hours. You can start doing less total hours because you're still generating the same amount of work. So I would say obsessing over quality, that principle three of slow productivity is something that you really want to keep in mind there. So keep track of what you're doing for the non-actual billable hours and treat them like they are billable and two, obsess over quality. And three, I would say if you need help getting out of that giant metal buoy floating out there in the Nova Scotia Bay, let us know. Because I don't know if that's the most productive place to actually be doing your work. Jesse, I'm going to, because we've had to, I mean you weren't here when I was first saying up the studio, but like obsessing over echoes and sound is a big part of setting up podcasting studios. So I think for audio engineers everywhere it gives them hives. I agree. The live space. Yeah. I have a lot more respect for sound quality now than I did prior. Yeah.


What hobbies will improve my concentration? (37:40)

Then speaking of rabbit holes, very impressed by anyone who's good at sound. Yeah. Yeah. We need a sound person too. Let's put out the bat signal. I'm over going to catch you in the middle of an episode. If you're in the DC area in a very good sound engineer, let Jesse know. Yeah. So if you heard that last recording and thought it sounded good, then don't contact us. Otherwise we're always in the market for a good sound person. All right. What do we got next? Next question is from Paul. He's a software developer from Zambia. What are great hobbies to have outside of work that will aid in our focus levels during our deep work sessions? Well Paul, when it comes to becoming better at concentration, so training your ability to concentrate, which readers of my book, Deep Work, Know is something that I find to be important. This idea that concentration is something you have to train, it is a skill you develop, not a habit that you just need to do more of. So once you decide you want to train your ability to concentrate, I typically divide relevant training activities in the two categories, passive and active. So the passive activities when it comes to concentration typically have to do with becoming more comfortable with boredom. And by boredom in this context, I mean lack of novel stimuli. So if you're going to try to concentrate deeply on a hard problem, that effort by definition is going to be boring if we use the official definition of boredom, meaning a sort of uncomfortable lack of novel stimuli because you're doing the same thing hour after hour. So if your brain is uncomfortable with that, if most of the time when you're not working on something hard, you're pulling out your phone at the slightest hint of boredom. I'm in line, I'm in red light with my car. I'm waiting for someone to come back from the bathroom at a restaurant. If at every hint of boredom, you're exposing yourself to hyper palatable digital distraction, your brain will create a Pavlovian connection. Distraction follows boredom. Distraction follows boredom. And once it has that connection made, it's not going to tolerate three hours trying to work on a book chapter. Two and a half hours working out a complicated business strategy because it will say we don't have stimuli. We always get stimuli when we lack it. Where's the phone? Where's the phone? Where's the phone? And no matter what your intention is, no matter how much you told yourself, it's very important that I concentrate now. I read deep work. I know I will produce at a higher level. If I don't switch my context, no matter how much you pep yourself up, if the last three or four years you've trained your brain for distraction, for distraction, it's not going to put up with it. Uncomfortable, you're not going to be able to concentrate well. So passive training activities for concentration are just things that get you used to not giving in to boredom. And almost any hobby you come up with has this capability. I like films. You know, I have a film watching group with somebody's of mine watching movies. Believe it or not, is great passive training. Put your phone away, put your tablet away. You have to just follow the movie that's happening on screen reading books, going multiple chapters without taking out your phone, without looking at a tablet. That is great passive training. Anything outside is as well, basically any sport. You're playing pick up basketball. You're focused on the basketball. You're going for a long walk or a hike without a phone with you, without an ear button, your ear, you're getting that passive train. So you want a lot of that in your life. You want on a regular basis to be doing things with your full attention, without looking at a phone, without looking at a screen. So almost any hobby will get you there. Just be sure whatever hobby you do, you keep purified in a distraction context. So no screens while you do that hobby. All right. Active training is where you actually practice maintaining your focus on something difficult. You can actively increase your capacity for focus by doing that very activity. So if we're going to connect this back to hobbies, any hobby that requires really unbroken concentration to succeed is going to actually help you get this training with concentration. The most common place you're going to get this is actually training. So it's maybe not the application of the hobby. Like once you know how to do it, it's when you're trying to increase your skill at that hobby. So I don't know, if you're playing pick up basketball, you might be in a flow state. I'm just playing. I'm just trying to be loose. And that's not actually a state of I'm really pushing my ability to concentrate. But when you're practicing, you're practicing, like I'm trying to get a jump shot that works and you're thinking so hard about, okay, what's my arm angle? What am I doing? It's that deliberate practice zone of trying to increase your skill. That's actually where you get a lot of the improvement. This is another example. Playing the game of chess, yes, you do have to concentrate. You're trying to read the board and what's going on, what are the moves? That's good training. The practice for the games though, if you're a serious chess player, you're going to be doing puzzles with your coach, with your trainer, where they're setting up scenarios where you have to try to solve it that are just past where you're comfortable. That's even better training because every single thing you're doing is at the limits of your comfort, whereas in a chess game, maybe that's only true of 20% of the positions. Any hobby that has you concentrating really intensely in a way that if your concentration waivers, your success reduces is going to get you more comfortable with concentration as an activity. Do those two things.


CASE STUDY Building a Deep Life on House Hacking (plus: thoughts on FIRE) (43:26)

I'm comfortable with boredom and I'm used to the feeling of concentration. I've practiced that. That will translate. Now when you're doing the cognitively demanding professional task, you're writing the code because you're a software developer policy, that makes sense. You're writing the code or whatever. You're going to lock in longer. You can have more intensity. You can hold more of the variables in your working memory. You can play around with the algorithm designs. So, yeah, hobbies can really help if you know what you're trying to achieve. I want to try a case study. Next, I'm trying to work more of these in where we actually have people reporting back on various successes or failures with the ideas we talk about on this show. So, the case study I want to share today comes from Bryce, a 28-year-old living in North Carolina. All right, so let me read what Bryce sent me and then we'll talk about it. I started house hacking right at the beginning of the pandemic to lower expenses and have more financial flexibility. Now I'm on my third house plus guest house in two years. This allows me to live what I currently consider to be the ideal work schedule and deep life. Here is my current daily work schedule. He puts work in quotation marks. First, I consult part-time for a health care startup. Long-term career goal is to fix U.S. health care. I do that in the morning. Next, I listen to the podcast during lunch. When I train for powerlifting or go out to walk on non-lifting days, this is the afternoon, occasionally meetings or networking calls on non-lifting days as well. I watch a show during dinner. I read a physical book or go to a meetup or work on an upcoming speech when relevant. Then I listen to audio books or podcasts until I go to sleep at 9.30. That was Bryce explaining his current deep life. Let me just define a few things here. He's talking about house hacking. You might not have heard of house hacking before. That's the concept where you buy a house as a primary resident so you can get a very low mortgage rate. Then you rent out part of that house and the renting of that house then pays for the rest. Maybe you buy a duplex and you live in the one half of the duplex. You rent out the other half of the duplex. The rent from the other half of the duplex covers the mortgage payments and insurance or what have you on the whole building. Now you're living for free. Not only are you living for free, but you're building up equity in this property as well. Eventually you're also going to own this property outright. He says he's on his third house plus guest house. I think he's property lattered up to bigger properties where he can rent more of it. He may be. He's renting out multiple houses. That's not house hacking. I'm a little bit confused, but basically he's using real estate in a way to keep his expenses very low. If you're young like he is, if you're 28, you don't have a family on your house hacking. You might have zero living costs while building up equity in the house, which means you can live pretty cheap because you don't have to pay for your house. It looks like he's doing part-time consulting. Part-time consulting is giving him more than enough money to live on because, again, he has no housing expense. It's an interesting lifestyle that he's designed there. Why I like this is because it is a great example of lifestyle-centric career planning going to an extreme place. We talk about the deep life. One of the tools that we commonly discuss on this show is lifestyle-centric career planning where you start with a vision of what you want your life to be like in the medium-term future. Then you work backwards from that to try to figure out how you engineer it. What Bryce did here is when he was fixing that image, he had an image of a life, at least for his later 20s, before he had a family or whatever else he wants to do. He clearly had an image that was very autonomous, very focused on, as a young adult, coming into his potential, establishing himself as an adult. He wanted a life where he was reading and he was exercising and he had a lot of flexibility and he was getting exposed to self-ideas and getting sleep. I think it's very aspirational for someone who's in their 20s to think about. It's a pretty good thing to do. Once he worked backwards from that, he said, "How do I get this? How do I get this much flexibility?" Here's the magic of lifestyle-centric career planning. When you work backwards from the lifestyle instead of forward from career options that seem available to you, you can land on some pretty radical solutions. That's what happened here. Probably working backwards from that vision, he was thinking, "Well, to have this much autonomy, the exercise and the long evenings with friends and all the reading, that's going to be hard if I'm working till five or six every night. How can I cut down my work hours? He's probably doing the math. Well, I have some background in healthcare." It turns out if he elaborates the story, I think he has a pharmacy degree or a background in pharmacy, he's probably thinking, "Well, I could probably do consulting, but that's not going to be enough money to live on. I can be living super frugally, so that might not be great." Then that's what probably brought him to house hacking. If I could get rid of my living expenses though, now these numbers track and this makes sense. If I'm building equity in my house, let's say I want to start a family in my early 30s, by then I might own this house that I've been living in for free. Then I could turn around and sell that house. With that money that could really get me started with setting up a new home for my family, you don't end up in these interesting, unusual configurations if you go from your current situation forward. "Hey, what job is available to me? How would that work?" You only get there when you work from a lifestyle backwards. That's what I like about Bryce. Not that his particular path is some sort of model that we should all do or that is available to everyone, but that his approach can lead to really interesting places. I think that's interesting. Good for you, Bryce. Working from a lifestyle you can end up in interesting places. This reminds me, Jesse, of we're talking about quiet quitting in a recent episode. One of the things I pointed out is my one frustration on behalf of the quiet quitters, or those who are having this discussion, is that they're missing how much of an existing conversation there is out there already about what to do when you feel burnt out or stuck in your work life. This is another example. You have lifestyle center career planning, you end up somewhere interesting, you get there with intention, you feel autonomy, you feel control. There's just so many more levers available to people in crafting their life than simply have to have a job and I'm upset at my job. I guess I'll just not do as much of my job and wait for capitalism to be overthrown. There's all these really interesting ideas out there. Well designed, the Tim Ferriss lifestyle center career planning, what we talk about, the financial independence people, they're under fire. Financial, the fire community, we talk about them sometimes. Ironically, the fire community, so this is the financial independence retire early community, is under fire themselves. I think the media in particular has decided that fire is bad and there's now a pretty consistent drum beat against that movement. If you don't know fire, it is a relatively narrow movement but it was basically largely came out of people who were young and in the tech sector because salaries were high in the tech sectors and they worked the math and say if you have a high tech sector salary, because it's a high salary, if you work, live really cheaply, you can actually save up a huge amount of money because you started a pretty high salary early on in tech and if you're living really cheaply and saving most of your salary, in about 10 years you can actually save enough money where you can continue to live equally cheaply just off of your investment returns. People in the tech industry also figured out there's a lot more freelancing or consulting opportunities so you can live cheaply, quit the full time job, do some consulting, live off the money you spent and you have a lot more flexibility. That was the fire movement. The fire movement is under fire right now. The senses I think is the general media response is that they're not sufficiently on board with other things they care about. There was an article in The Washington Post last week for example about Vicki Robbins who wrote Your Money or Your Life which was this book from the 70s. It was the bible of sorts that fire used in the 2000s and building up their movement. It's a sort of throwy and argument about your life is worth money, hours of your life is worth value. How much of that you want to give away for this much income. It's really a beginning of this idea of getting financial independence early came from that book but the whole point of this article was she and us are very disappointed in the fire movement because they don't talk enough about various political issues they think are important. It's interesting. The fire movement is being discarded for not sufficiently engaging in discussions of economic inequality or other political issues. My friends the frugal woods who are in the fire community, I talked about them in digital minimalism. The lids won't talk about fire anymore. Even though that's their whole thing they left Cambridge, Massachusetts to move up the Vermont to a homestead and they lived very cheaply, saved a lot of money and used that so they could have a lifestyle on a homestead and not have to work as much. I think it's actually pretty cool what they're doing up there. She has announced recently, "I'm not going to talk about fire anymore. All I'm going to do is maybe give personal finance advice to people who write in because she couldn't take the negative feedback." The tide turned against fire and she started doing these long disclaimers about like here's the 17 different ways, privileged and people still get mad at her. I just don't think she could take it and she's like, "I'm just not going to talk about this anymore." Anyways, fire is under fire but I think it's interesting as a case study of the broader goal of lifestyle centric career planning. When you work backwards from what you want your lifestyle to be like, lots of different options can show up. You could end up like the frugal woods. They're in a homestead in Vermont. She was freelance writing. Nate was doing computer programming remotely and then was able to stop that. They're basically living off of, they kept their house in Cambridge and they rented out and she makes some freelance money and they live cheap and they live in the woods. It's kind of cool. That's an option. You could end up like Bryce house hacking. I don't have housing expenses so I can do part-time work and have a lot of other free time. That's an option or it could be something completely different. It could be like me where to me it's not so much that I want to have very small work hours but I wanted to be able to write and do intellectual work and have some flexibility in my schedule and spend my entire adult life trying to craft exactly what I'm doing right now. I'm kind of rambling here but let me just bring this in for a landing. Lifestyle's such a career design working backwards from the lifestyle to your decisions in the near future leads to a lot more interesting opportunities than just saying what's available to me right now, what's reasonable of those things, which is the things I'm going to do. That's how we should think about fire just like house hacking, just like anything else. It's one geo arbitrage working remotely while living somewhere cheaper so now you don't need as big of a salary because where you live is cheaper but you like the environment more. All of these are just tools in the big toolbox of stepping back, taking deep breath, getting excited about a vision for your life and figuring out what do I need to take out of here and apply to actually get there. Mr. Money Mustache has said I wasn't as special on Netflix. Oh yeah? Yeah. Someone sent me a Mr. Money Mustache thing recently. Yeah, I thought. Yeah, that's interesting guys. So did you see the special? Yeah. What's the show? It's like a day, fall several different people and Mr. Money Mustache advises this one couple about lowering expenses and stuff like that. I like him. I like him too. He isn't one of your books. He has learned digital minimalism. And then you talked about them in another book, right? Yeah. Yeah. They may have talked about them in a world without email. By talking about digital minimalism, he blurbed it. My story, my Mr. Money Mustache story is that he told me the way he read digital minimalism, I sent him the book to read the blur, is he went to a tree and he read it under a tree because he wanted to be away from all distractions while he read it. And I was like, you get the prize for the coolest way to read this book, Mr. Money Mustache in another tree. He's a cool guy. He's an interesting story as well. Again, he had a clear vision for what he wanted his life with his son, what they wanted to be like. Yeah. And he's very intentional about how it works. Now he's an interesting situation because he lives cheaply. They had this all figured out. And then him writing about what he was doing suddenly became incredibly lucrative. So then he had this fire hose of money, which was not part of the plan. And to his credit, he just didn't change his lifestyle at all because of the money that that Mr. Money Mustache website was producing. He would give a huge amount of it away to charity. So he's seen six figure charitable donations. And then he bought some real estate, which I thought was cool in downtown Longmont and renovated it and built a co-working space. So people could come and work and they have events there where people come and give talks about this. I mean, it's a little bro-ey because he's a bro-ey guy. I mean, he's literally a bro. He's a big guy. He likes to lift weights. He welds. Really handy. Yeah, he's very handy. He builds a ton. He renovated this whole place, but there's a weight racks there and squat racks and stuff like this. And I know that's one of the attacks on some of these people is what they're bro-ey, but like, yeah, this guy is literally a bro in the sense that he's like a, you know, Burke Reynolds type character, but he built a very intentional life. Yeah. And he didn't spend the money on, you know, buying big houses or this or that. All that stuff's interesting. I sort of feel a synthesis coming for a lot of these ideas.


Is Cal using Zettelkasten? (58:10)

Maybe not for me, but there's a whole generation that's like, so how does this work thing work? And there's so much interesting ideas. You always need to go to umbrella to put over the whole thing. And I'm excited for the potential for all these people out here right now. They're thinking, I don't know. I don't really like this job and I'm on Zoom and what is work and all that sort of youth anxiety. There's more options now than there's ever been before for how to really rethink work. So it's exciting. All right. Let's see. We've been a couple more questions here before we get to my books. What do we got next? Next question is from Jeannie, she's from Singapore. In episode 165, you said you would give an update on your experience with Zettelkasten. How are things going? All right. Well, I'm not really doing much Zettelkasten. I failed at that experiment. I'll tell you where I might need it so I can put out the bat signal to the Zettelkasten experts out there if they want to respond. So where I have systems that work just fine is books I'm writing, articles I'm writing, stuff I'm committed to, they each just get their own project in Scrivener. Scrivener has great tools for organizing research and notes. That's where I want the research and notes because when I actually writing that book chapter or writing that article, I want all of the relevant research right there. So my thoughts, my notes, all of that goes in the Scrivener once I'm actually working on a writing project. Same thing for academic writing, for computer science work. I'll start a Latex document for a paper I'm writing, even if it's very early stages. And I'll use an online tool called Overleaf, which is just a browser based editor that all your collaborators can edit the same file. So we used to, whatever, I don't want to get too technical. We used to use code based version management software to keep track of files when we're writing papers together because we're nerds. And now there's cool tools like Overleaf, it's all web based. But anyways, I'm early in a paper, I'm going to start a document and everything is going to go in there. And it's going to get huge. And then eventually I'm going to pull out of there, you know, what will actually submit for publication. So all that's fine. The place that's weakest in my note universe is ideas that I'm not really working on that, random ideas, thoughts for things I might want to do, and just interesting information. Like this could be useful for a book one day. This could be useful in an article one day. From what I understand that that universe of, we can think of it as like non-instrumental note capture is where Zetal cast in type ideas might come into play. I am capturing a lot of this in Obsidian, which is a markup based note taking software that's very compatible with the Zetal cast in style philosophies. But I'm not doing it well. It feels disorganized or forced. So I'm just not there yet. So, Jeanie, I'm not there yet, but I do need help. I don't think I'm quite capturing non-instrumental notes properly yet. So again, I will give you another update if I advance in that particular area. Some of your notes carry over on your moleskin right from month to month?


How I schedule work with an unpredictable medical issue? (01:01:20)

Yeah. So my moleskin captures typically lifestyle design related questions. So things about my life, my vision, examples that are aspirational to me. But things are supposed to move out of there when I check it every month into more permanent systems. Sometimes it happens in the very obvious ways. Great. I'm now going to put this into my strategic plan. I'm now going to update my values document. My strategic plan for work has this long-term vision for what's going on with my academic work and I'm going to update that vision. So sometimes it's obvious. But sometimes it's not, it's just an idea and I don't know what to do with it. Got it. And it'll sit in there for, yeah, it made a little languish in there for a while. So that's the piece I need to get better. I like obsidian as a tool. My methodology is not great though. All right. Let's do one more question. All right. Nature's call. I'm a PhD candidate in humanities and your system has helped me enormously in creating structure for myself. The main thing getting in my way is my IBS. I have good days and bad days, but on bad days I find my deep work sessions frequently interrupted by trips to the bathroom. I love your tips for realistically mitigating these issues. I did a little IBS or irritable bowel syndrome research. I was looking up list of famously productive people who have had digestive ailments, some sort of variety, probably of IBS. And some of the names I found, for example, were Tyra Banks, the actress Sibyl Shepherd, the musician Kurt Cobain, former president, JFK, and onwards and onwards. And the reason why I'm pulling out these names is to underscore a point here that I think is important. And this is a point that comes up often in discussions of slow productivity, which is if you're returning to something that's important to you with intention, again and again, to the best of your ability in the situation. So some days are better than others. When you zoom out to the scale of many months or years, you can have a highly productive impact on the world. Cobain, JFK, Shepherd, Banks, huge amount of productive output into the world, stuff defined very important. So at that scale, the scale that matters, you can be producing things that you're proud of, even if on the scale of days and weeks, you have wildly varying abilities to actually do things, even if I could do very little today or this week has been a bad week. Even if that's happening to that scale, if you keep coming back to things with intention, the good days or the small progress on the bad days adds up the things that are really important. The shift of scale I think is important, the shift of timeline from days and weeks instead, months and years is going to take some pressure off of you and your self evaluations. JFK had terrible days. He had Addison's, IBS, she had all sorts of issues. He had days where he was immobilized in the White House, immobilized in constant pain. But if you look over the period of the whole first year, you see he did things that were important. FDR was similar. It was an IBS with FDR, obviously it was the issues with his polio and how difficult that made things. Very bad days, bad weeks, some days could do more than others, but you zoom out and you say, "Ah, you helped win World War II." So I think that scale shift is really important so that you're not so down, you won't be too down on yourself during the temporary bad periods. I mean, to give a contemporary, let's say, relevant example from the headlines is Hillary Mandel died recently, the acclaimed historical fiction writer, Sherwood Wolf Hall, among other books. She had huge chronic issues. I don't know exactly what they were with pain and other types of things. Very difficult sort of day to day. She would have days where she could do nothing, but she wrote these books that when you zoom out, read her obituaries, when you zoom out, incredibly influential. She was a claim for the work she did. So to me, I think that's very important, shifting scales, especially when the reality of your life is one where every day is not going to be a banger. All right, let me give some practical advice now, once we've done the bigger picture shift. One, simplify your professional life. So simplify your obligations. Consider a humanities PhD student to the extent possible, just be focusing on your dissertation. You might be able to get out of other types of things that other PhD students might be doing. Simplify. That's fine, because what you want the ability here is relatively flexible days that mainly what I'm doing until this afternoon is just working on my dissertation and I'm flexible on that. And so like some days I get less work done than others, but it's flexible. It says what I'm doing each day is doing it as much work as I can or feel comfortable doing. So there's not enough time to do it. Not this highly pressured. I have one hour here, two hours here. If all these other things going that I'm falling behind on, so give yourself flexibility. You have an issue that is real and hard and other people don't have it and you have to acknowledge that and give yourself a bit of a break. It's okay for you, for example, to have a lighter load than the other person who started in your program who doesn't have the same chronic medical issue. Two, not to get graphic, but in your elaboration you did talk about one of the ways the frequent bathroom trips become a problem is that you bring your phone with you and you mindlessly scroll and now you are out of the whatever cognitive context you are in before when you're working on your dissertation and really can derail you. So the simple answer there is bring books into the bathroom. My grandfather very well established the illusion and scholar, brilliant professor, former provost, etc. etc. Was famous for this. I remember his students telling these stories at his funeral that he would come up to them and say, "Oh, I found the perfect chapter for your dissertation. I was just reading about this. This is going to be perfect for you." And what they always would notice is many of his bookmarks were toilet paper. So work can be done in many different environments. Let's just leave it at that. Practical advice, piece number three. I think this is relevant for anyone who has some sort of issue going on that is high impact. It could be chronic health, it could be mental health, it could be a traumatic life event, someone close to you died, etc. Or you're going through even like a difficult situation with your job or difficult situation with a friend and there's a relationship breaking, whatever. There's something non-trivially difficult happening in your life. This is a good time to really focus on all of the deep life buckets. To feel like you're giving each of them attention, that you care about it. There's keystones, you've overhauled them. The reason why you want to focus on all of the deep life buckets when times get unusually hard is because it gives you a sense of control and b) at decenters, if you allow them to use a more trendy term coming out of postmodern critical theory, it decenters work in your perception of your day to day existence. Work which falls under the craft bucket is one of the many things that are important to your life that you're doing what you can given the difficulties of your situation. That mindset will make you less stressed about, "I'm not crushing it with my dissertation. I'm not writing all the book reviews that my fellow grad students are." That becomes less ominous. That becomes less stressful when you're like, "Well, I have my craft and I have my constitution and my contemplation and my community. I'm working on all these things and trying to keep a foothold in each during this hard time. I feel intention and I feel some sense of control. Maybe I'm in an emergency backup mode in a lot of these because there's a big issue going on right now. But I know what's important. There's lots of things in my life are important. It's not just work. Work is just one of the things that I'm working on and trying to keep alive. You can get through hard periods with much more calm and confidence than if you've centered work as this is all that matters. If I'm losing time from work, this is a crisis. Paradoxically, focusing on more will help you feel better when you have time to do only less. It's one of these interesting paradoxes of productivity. There's my advice. Good luck with that. Again, though, I would just say replace the toilet paper bookmarked before you bring the book, before you bring the book into school. That's my only one piece of advice. What I want to get to soon is the books I read in September. Every month I like to talk about the books I read in the month before.


Cal talks about ExpressVPN and Policy Genius (01:10:36)

That's coming up next. Let me first just mention one of our sponsors that makes this show possible. That is our good friends at ExpressVPN. Privacy matters. Most of us think privacy is important. We would like to believe that when we are browsing the internet, we have privacy. Unless someone is looking over our shoulder, we would like to believe that I'm going to calnewport.com or whatever. The fact that I'm looking up celebrities with IBS, that's my business and no one else's. You have a lot less of that privacy than you might hope. Did you know, for example, that major internet providers will keep track of what sites you're visiting and they will sell that information, for example, to advertisers, to people who are trying to mine your data? It doesn't sit well with me and probably shouldn't sit well with you also. What do you do to try to get away from this type of mining of your behavior and your data? You use a VPN. A VPN is like a digital middle finger to data miners. Here is how it works. I've explained this before, so I'll be very brief. Instead of just directly connecting to, let's say, calnewport.com, you instead, if you use a VPN, are going to connect to a VPN server. It's an encrypted secure connection, so all your internet provider knows is that you're connecting to a VPN server. They don't know what you're telling that server. Then you will be sending that server an encrypted message that says, "I want to go to calnewport.com." The VPN will say, "Are you sure about this?" Because I mean, come on. I know, I know, but I still want to see calnewport.com. Then it goes to calnewport.com on your behalf, gets the information from the site, then sends it back to you encrypted. All your provider knows is you're going somewhere through a VPN. They have no idea where you're going. They have no idea who you're talking to. There is no data for them to scrape and sell. I love that feeling every time I'm using a VPN, of knowing that Verizon can't keep track of what I'm up to. If you're going to use a VPN, you should use the one I use, which is ExpressVPN. They have, in my opinion, the best selection of servers. No matter where you are in the world, there's probably going to be a server not that far away for you to connect to. Being nearby is important because the latency is lower. They also have great bandwidth. Connection is very fast. Yeah, you're going through a VPN that talked to calnewport.com, but you don't even realize this because you have these blazing fast connections. Their software is great. You put on all your devices, click a button to turn it on. You're just using all of your normal internet browsing apps and tools like you normally would. But now it's going through a VPN. So you need to use a VPN. And if you do, use ExpressVPN. And I can get you a discount. This is the good news. So if you visit ExpressVPN.com/deep, you will get three extra months for free. That's e-x-p-r-e-s-s-vpn.com/deep. Go to ExpressVPN.com/deep to learn more and get those three months for free. I also want to talk briefly about life insurance. All right, here's the thing. If you have a family, if you're married, if you have kids, if you have a partner you've been living with a long time, you need life insurance. You know this. You're probably stressed about it because you don't have it and it seems like a pain. So right now, I want you right now, you're going to pause this podcast and go get life insurance. You can do that and be back to this podcast with barely missing a beat if you use policy genius. Our policy genius was built to modernize the life insurance industry. Their technology makes it easy to compare life insurance quotes from top companies like AIG and Prudential. And just a few clicks to find your lowest price. I think my life insurance is AIG. With policy genius, you can find life insurance policies at start at just $17 per month for $500,000 of coverage. So you just go to policygenius.com, you put in the information, they come back and say, here's the best price we find. You say, I want that one. If you have questions, they have licensed agents who can help you find options to get you the coverage that you need. Policy genius is a marketplace for insurance. So they're not incentivized to recommend one insurer over another. They really are trying to just get you the best possible deal. So if you don't have life insurance, pause this. Pause this.


Book Recommendations By Cal

Books Cal Read in September, 2022 (01:15:13)

Go to policygenius.com. You can be back to this show in a handful of minutes having taken that critical, critical piece off of your to-do list. Your loved ones deserve a financial safety net. You deserve a smarter way to find and buy it. Head to policygenius.com or click on the link in the description of the show. Look at your free life insurance quotes and see how much you could save. That's policygenius.com. All right. So as promised, I want to go over the books I read in September. So as long time listeners know, my goal is to read five bucks a month and I then review them on the show. So let me go through in the order that I finished them. See five books I listened to or read in September, 2022 was kind of a weird list this month, Jesse. I was looking at this. I'm all over the place. I'm excited. All right. Number one, I might need your help on number one, Jesse, because I might I'm mixing up this author's name in my head. So it's the book in Duhr, the memoir in Duhr by Cameron. Is it Haines or Hayes? The Bo-Hunter extraordinaire. Haines. H-A-Y-N-E-S. H-A-N-E-S. Oh, okay. Cameron Haines. Anyways, I'm going to double across this. But Cameron Haines is- Probably Joe Rogan. He is on Rogan a lot. He's on a lot of shows a lot. So probably when he was doing publicity for this book, I caught him on some show I listened to. One guy got very into Bo-hunting and I guess revolutionized the sport because he brought to it extreme physical fitness. So he realized if you're in incredible shape, so sort of ultra endurance athlete shape. You run marathons a couple of times a week to train type shape. You would be more successful Bo-Hunter because often you're in the backcountry hiking up and down mountains. You pack these things hundreds of pounds of meat out of the mountains on their backs. And so he trains like a fanatic year round and then goes on these Bo-hunting trips in the season. But he I guess catalogs a lot of his training. And so he's been inspiring for a lot of people as part of the sort of discipline culture that's out there. The internet discipline culture. The David Goggins, Jaco Wilick, Rich Roll was a part of that world now Cameron Haines. The people who do really, really intense training. The book was okay. I would say my main complaint is I wanted to learn a lot more about the mechanics of Bo-hunting. Like this is very how does it work? Like what made the successful Bo-Hunter not? I wanted many more tales of you know, actual hunts and I wanted to be brought into that world maybe a little bit more. But it was interesting just to hear about this guy rebuilding his life. It's a similar story to Rich Roll. Troubles with alcohol, trouble with his family and he turned it all around on discipline. The main thing I'll say about that entire subculture, that discipline, internet subculture, it gets maligned and I don't think it should be. It gets maligned because people say it's bro-y or these guys are like super men in weird, unattainable ways but I'm pretty sure the service that the figures in that internet subculture serve is not you need to be like me or you're a failure. It actually I do believe is very inspiring for a lot of men that they need to be in general more disciplined in their life and that leads to lots of good things and their relationships and their ability to show up as a husband, as a father and their ability to succeed and be a leader in work. It introduces the idea of discipline. What I've gotten away from it is not that people are going to become marathon running bow hunters but that they might stop drinking and exercising every day and spending more time with their son at their baseball game. I think there's a lot of good way more good than bad coming from the discipline subculture. Where were his workouts like? He does crazy stuff man. He'll just casually run marathons just to train. I ran a marathon today to train and then the next day he does super endurance events too. 100 miles or 150 miles. How old is he? He's a little older than us I think. He's like mid 40s. Mm-hmm. Might be wrong. His kids are older. I think he's mid 40s maybe late 40s. I might be wrong about that but it's a beast. He's famous. Okay the thing he said in the book that the reason he got on Joe Rogan's podcast for the first time was he saw a video of him. One of his training things he did was just there's this mountain where he lives in Wyoming or not Wyoming. I think Washington state and he would pick up this giant rock and he's like I'm just going to go to the top of the mountain with this rock and then he brings the rock back down. Like that was his training. I'm just going to hold this giant uncomfortable rock and carry it to the top of the mountain. There we go. Carmen Haines. All right my second book is from someone who is in slightly less good shape I would say than Cameron Haines at least physically and that is Great Movies by Roger Ebert. The late great Roger Ebert. Ebert's a I'm a huge Ebert fan. You know he won a Pulitzer. There's not a lot of pollsters that have been given out for movie reviews and he has one of the only ones. Maybe the only one. I don't know if Pauline Kale ever got a Pulitzer. That's a good question. Well anyways he has a Pulitzer and movie reviews. Great movie reviewer died in the 2000s at some point in throat cancer tragic but at some point later in his career he convinced a Chicago Tribune to allow him to write these every other week essays where he went back and wrote essays on what he considered to be just great movies from past. Instead of just reviews of new movies coming out can I go back and look at great movies from past can I write an essay on taxi driver can I write an essay on Casablanca or some like it hot. And then he collected them in this book so it says the 100 movies 100 essays and it's part of my efforts I'm trying to more formally pursue an understanding of film. I like films a lot but I've been self educating at a higher level recently and this was just part of that effort. I was like I should probably just read 100 essays by a great movie reviewer on 100 great movies and just sucking that information like a sponge so I enjoyed that. It's a great writer it's a great introduction to a lot of these movies and so I learned a lot. And what I've been doing is when I watch movies now my method is I'll watch the movie and then usually about a half hour into the movie I'll stop and then go rabbit hole reading everything I can on that movie and then return and finish watching the movie with all that information in my head. So I get to experience the movie fresh and then read a ton of stuff and then watch the rest of the movie. And one of the it's my insider tip one of the coolest places I found when rabbit hole in on movies to get really interesting information is cinematographer magazines and forums. You go to see cinematographers will write often these incredibly detailed articles for example like American cinematographer magazine where they'll write these long articles on how that particular movie was shot and it's fascinating and there's these discussion boards where you can learn so much about how movies are made. This is my secret weapon for rapidly building up a sort of cinema appreciation. So like my oldest and I were watching the second Hunger Games movie because he's reading that series and he likes them. It's too scary for the orchids we're watching the second one and then I went back and found an article that was being written by it was the no it was in a form was even an article it was in a cinematographer form it was the lead cameraman from that movie and you've learned so much because he's just getting into it he's like and then when we went to this set we were using this and this and then this type of lens and this is the issue we were having with the lighting and the smoke and everyone was asking him questions and then at some point the cinematographer who's actually a quite famous cinematographer joined the discussion and so now the cinematographer is in there and they're getting into it back and forth about the different choices they made and the lenses and you learned all these really interesting things like I didn't realize this but with the Hunger Games second movie they were filming anamorphic on 35 millimeter up until the halfway point when Katniss goes up the tube into the arena the Hunger Games arena they switched to iMacs and they kept the same aspect ratio but with this huge level of detail owner they expanded the aspect ratio so in the movie theater they actually expanded the picture expands on the screen anyways cinematographer forums you find a lot about movies did you find any other good movies from that book oh yeah yeah um i mean they're the classics but i've been i found i can get through about a movie a week if i it takes me about three sessions and i use some combination so what i'm doing now is at least once a week i try to schedule uh a lunchtime viewing right going to get a sandwich from the butcher shop in town and just for an hour or so just the middle of the day the kids are at school just watch and that's great just watch a movie for an hour i can usually get if i'm very careful about it if it's it's my wife and i switch back and forth bedtime duty so if it's a night where it's her turn if i'm really careful about getting all the other chores done i can get an hour in you know because i can kind of start early and then you know while she's doing bedtime and so usually in like three sessions i can i can get through get through a movie um yeah so i've gone through a lot what i i went through a a bit of a copola 70s any movies in that book that you have on your list that you didn't know about yeah there's ones i didn't know about i don't know if yeah he there's definitely some a lot of foreign films a lot of yeah yeah um interesting films you want it know about but he's trying to yeah draw your attention to i might watch there's a good famous um Warner Hertzog movie he talks about and a gear the wrath of god that's about conquistadors and central america and it's a classic Hertzog you know everyone almost died during the filming they're in the jungle uh and like i'm gonna that's on my list now i never would have known about that without without reading him also it's a really good introduction to the the French and Italian new wave directors because he'll just say like here's the five movies to watch so you don't have to fall too far into a mess of gadard and phalini and trying to understand you know um Bergman like what should i be watching so i guess you say Swedish as well as French and Italian he's like just watch this one this one this one just here's one you know from each you should be watching you know eight and a half and seven seal and it just shows you like just watch these uh i learned about i didn't really know a lot about the blow up like a langelo and toenio's the blow up but then i learned about it and then i watched frances for copa as the conversation which was very inspired by it so the blow up is a involves a photographer who's trying to reconstruct us potential murder that he was captured on film so he's like working with the film and it's ambiguous and the conversation it's a potential murder plot captured on audio and hackman is playing with the audio and i listened to the director's commentary for that one too anyways look i'm nerding out sorry about that but it's one of my hobbies right now is is uh cinephalia and so that's why i read that book that's how i'm doing it all right let's speed up book number three the metaverse by Matthew ball i just need to read this and i write about technology for the new yorker i need to know about these things the metaverse is it's it's a buzzy book written by a real booster of the idea of the metaverse he's trying to explain sort of where we are why it's inevitable the thing i like the best about this book is he gets into the tech specs he really and i learned a lot about this you know here is the specs on like the latency and how much of a fast-fit internet connection you would need to have a persistent 3d world here's actually the difficulties with having a hundred thousand people in the same simulation we can't do that right now you understand how much servers this would require uh anyway so it gets into the weeds on all the different technical aspects of having something like the ready player one oasis where these large 3d persistent worlds for everyone participate so actually i like that the best about the metaverse and you don't see that enough in these tech books like let's get into the weeds uh with information all right number four genius makers by kadmetz cade metz genius makers is on uh the rise of deep learning artificial intelligence so it sort of tells the stories of the main figures you got uh you know gregory hinton etc etc i've noticed a sobby deep mind i needed that for an article i'm writing can't tell much more about it now because it's in progress but uh it's good it's it's accessible so you can learn a lot about the recent rise of artificial intelligence and what's driving that number five here's the weird one jesse and then there were none by agatha christy one of her original why don't you call these mysteries or cozy mysteries i listened to it on tape well july listened to it first i was like oh you'll love this so then i listened to it on tape as well and it's great it i mean it was written in the 30s but it's very modern and it's pacing and it's it's what a great high concept it's you know ten people show up on this island and um they die one by one and they're like okay what's going on here what's and and then the people are trying to figure out like what's happening is there someone else on the island they're dying one by one by one by one uh and it's not spoiler because of the title then they all die uh and then there's an epilogue where the whole thing is explained fantastic what happened like i say read it read the book uh i i recommend it it's fun in audio it's like six hours it's not it's not even that long i did not figure it out don't terrible at figuring things out but it and it's very cleverly constructed like at the end you're like yeah yeah yeah oh yeah okay it's like a round of applause and a tip of the cap you know the type of writing all right well speaking of round of applause and tipping caps we should probably wrap this one up so i thank you everyone who submitted your questions if you want to join the show go to the survey link in the show notes and you can submit your question right there if you like what you heard you will like what you see at youtube.com/cal Newport media videos of full episodes and clips of popular questions and segments we'll be back next week with the next full episode of the deep questions podcast and until then as always stay deep


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