Ep. 224: A World Without Twitter?

Transcription for the video titled "Ep. 224: A World Without Twitter?".

1970-01-01T02:32:07.000Z

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Introduction

Cal's intro (00:00)

Here's what I noticed in my cursory examination of media coverage of Elon Musk and Twitter is that essentially a decision has been made that Elon Musk is public enemy number one and it has led to news coverage that I find to be both boring and ironic. I'm Cal Newport and this is Deep Questions, Episode 224. I'm here in my Deep Work HQ joined by my producer Jesse. As Jesse will attest, I was late getting here today. I want to mention why because I think there's a general point relevant to the topics we talk about here on the show. Here was the mistake I made today. I had about an hour to kill before needing to start prepping for the podcast recording today. I had an idea that is common among people who were working on long-term projects that require deep work. This ambitious, optimistic idea that you know what I'll do? I'll write for an hour. I'm working on a book. Listen, there's no this. I'm writing a book on slow productivity and I figured I'm going to get an hour in writing because I have this little window before I move on to other things. That never works. So an hour goes by and now I'm up to my cognitive ears, my proverbial ears in this argument I'm trying to make. And here's the real issue. The argument I was trying to make wasn't working. And that's the worst case scenario from actually keeping deep work in a tightly constrained box is when what you're working on. The cognitive puzzle you're working on isn't quite working. Your brain basically refuses any alternative but to make this function because there's an unease if you're writing. I'm sure this is the same for people who are putting together code or working on some other type of creative process. There's this cognitive unease to this isn't quite working. We have these pieces from this paragraph we've been working on for the last hour. They're all loaded up in our head. They don't click together quite right. That's very uneasy. Your brain says we got to keep grinding on this until these things click and we get that relief of, okay, good. We're at a stopping point. This makes sense. So when the hour passed, my pieces weren't fitting. My brain was revolting and I had to keep writing. So eventually I had to write just and say, look, I'm running late. I'll be honest with you. I just got caught up writing. It's a reminder that an hour is not enough time for most deep work activities because it takes 20 minutes to get loaded up. And man, that's not enough time. What you're working on is not making progress. Good luck stopping. So there would be a little bit of planning optimism that came back to bite me. So a case study, Jesse, my own struggles is a lesson that everyone else can learn from. What's the optimal? What's the minimum time? For writing, I mean, for me, for book writing, I need two hours, maybe two and a half hours for that particular activity. There's other deeper activities. I can get in and out in 90 minutes, which is the minimum I usually say. There's other activities I can do it, but there are typically activities where it's clearly encapsulated. Like, yeah, in 90 minutes of which maybe 60 will be hard thinking, you'll be able to make progress. It'll be a clear stopping point. You know, brainstorming is sometimes like this. Sometimes if I have a proof idea that's pretty for my mathematics work, that's pretty concise. I was like, I got to just write this down. And I know it'll take an hour. That's fine. If I'm starting from scratch to try to make an argument, I need two hours or two and a half hours. So I'm going to try to write after this today. That's not my optimal time, but I'm going to throw ritual at it. I'm not going to touch my email inboxes. I want to go complete context shift from our work to getting in a writing block. Maybe I'll go to a different location, but I want to solve this puzzle. So we're going to try a little off-schedule writing time for me. It's like the potion from episode 223. Yes, when I was establishing myself as awesome and not a nerd, where we talked about Felix. Wait, Felix Felicidius. Felicis. I don't know. We'll see if we can email about that. But yeah, this was, okay, if you listened to the last podcast where I was being awesome because I was referencing Harry Potter, I was saying the way people time block too often is with huge optimism. It's a plan of, in a perfect world, if they were taking that potion from Harry Potter 6, in a perfect world, how they would want their data unfold, not the reality. That was me this morning. It was, I was Harry Potter, as Harry Potter, if he had not successfully used the potion instructions from the Half-Blood Prince's potion making manual that won him in Slughorn's class, the Good Luck Potion, which gave him that Good Luck Day. It would be as if Harry Potter never actually found or used those instructions. If he had listened to Hermione's reprimand that you should try to do your work on your own without the help and did not get the potion, that was me this morning when I optimistically said, I'm sure I can get an hour of intro writing done, no problem, cut it off after an hour and get right back to podcasting. But I did not have that potion. I did not get it done. Oh man, that cracks me up. That's so good. Harry Potter. Jesse loves when I talk Harry Potter. Because even when I was editing up the stuff for YouTube for 223, I heard you say it again and again, I was dying every time. It's so good. You know, there's these. It's true though. In the early days of podcasting, some of the monster, some of the monster podcast out there, I'm talking like, oh seven, right? We're Harry Potter podcast. Like that was, these were like the original deep dive on a topic podcast. That's normal now, but pre the major podcast revolution, you had these podcasts like Melissa Anelli, the leaky cauldron. I read her book at some point where they would just obsess over like every detail about Harry Potter. It's like the original intersection of fan culture and podcasting. I don't know if that's still a thing because I guess the books are over, but. Yeah. What I'm trying to say, Jesse, is I think we should change format. There is a gap in the world of hardcore Harry Potter podcasting that we can go and refill. Throw a little national baseball and then we'll be golden. National baseball, so there's a long list of things that our listeners write in and say, please stop talking about this. Baseball is very high up on the list. I think we can get Harry Potter on that list pretty quickly. I think a couple more segments. A couple more segments. We will have our readers begging us stop, stop talking about Harry Potter. All right. Well, speaking of topics that are listeners sometimes say, stop talking about. I am going to want to do a deep dive here shortly about Twitter. I do feel somewhat obligated to talk about it given my background of this topic and current events, but worry not as you will see, we are going to take an oblique angle onto this topic. We're going to come at it from a different angle, so hopefully we'll get somewhere new. Later in the show, we also have another live caller. So this is where I get to go back and forth with one of the deep questions listeners and help them in real time with their issue. We have a great collection of just old fashioned voice and written questions. And at the end of the show today, we have a segment that I call three interesting things. I take three things from the world of, I don't know, entertainment, media, literature, et cetera that caught my attention this week and I will go through all three briefly. So maybe point you towards some interesting ideas or things to consume in the week ahead. All right, Jesse, sound like a plan? Yeah, sounds great. All right, let's go on to our deep dive. I'm calling this one a world without Twitter.


Q&A Sessions With Cal

Deep Dive - A world without Twitter (07:51)

So I made what's perhaps the mistake of checking in this week on media coverage of Twitter, Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter, what's going on there. I regret it. I kind of want those 30 minutes of my life back. Here's what I noticed. In my cursory examination of media coverage of Elon Musk and Twitter is that essentially a decision has been made that Elon Musk is public enemy number one. And it has led to news coverage that I find to be both boring and ironic. So I think it's boring because what we have is just everyone lining up to take their shot at attacking Musk and why he's bad, right? So there's a piñata hanging, a proverbial piñata hanging, and there's a full consensus that this is a bad piñata that is going to destroy democracy. So I don't know where you buy your piñatas from, but don't buy it from that store. And everyone's just lining up to take their take. Now, why this is ironic is because it feels as if this consensus of he is bad guy number one needs to go away was formed on Twitter, is being enforced on Twitter, and after everyone takes their turn with their take, they're going to take their take. And when they turn with their take down piece on Musk, they then return to Twitter to see if they're getting enough laudits or how much celebration they're getting. So it's this weird sort of incestual circularity going on where all these reporters are obsessed with Twitter. That obsession with Twitter is fueling their take down of Twitter on which they're seeing what the reaction is to their take down of Twitter. All of it's all mixed up and it's just uninteresting to me. So I thought, let me come at this topic from a different angle. So one of the discussions is happening, which I think is more interesting, is will we see a viable alternative to Twitter emerge? And in particular, there's a strain of conversation that's big right now that's saying, will the potential fall of Twitter lead to the rise of one of the independent social media alternatives? So these independent social media alternatives that are not massive platform monopolies owned by billionaires. Now, I don't want to act as if I'm ahead of all trends, but I do want to point towards an article I wrote for the New Yorker back in 2019. I'm loading this on the tablet now for people who are watching at youtube.com/caledupportmedia. This was actually my first article I ever wrote for the New Yorker. It is from May of 2019 and the title is, Can Indie Social Media Save Us? So the point of this article was to look at this subset of the social media universe which had been overlooked, which is independent social media services, small, often open source social media alternatives. At the time, there wasn't much discussion of these. Today there is. In particular, in the last new cycle or two, there's been a lot of focus on one particular independent social media service called Mastodon. I'm going to scroll here in this article to show you that Mastodon is something I mentioned about. So here we go from my piece Mastodon, another popular indie web service exists in the middle ground between centralized and decentralized social media. So I talked about Mastodon back in 2019 as a potential Twitter alternative. So this is what I want to get into today. How does Mastodon work? Will it emerge as a potential more independent alternative to what Twitter was doing? And if so, will that be better? And if not, what does that tell us? So how does Mastodon work? Will it become an alternative to Twitter? And then I'll return to what I wrote in this article and see how my conclusions from back then mess with what I'm thinking today. All right. So what is Mastodon? Well, the right way to understand that is it is an open source Twitter style service, but unlike Twitter, it is distributed. So there is open source software for running a Mastodon server. Anyone can go and download the software. They can install it on their own server and they can run a Mastodon server. It's open source, so it's free. You just have to give proper acknowledgement that, hey, this code comes from the Mastodon project. So there's a little aside. There's a whole controversy that only really tech nerds understood, but when Donald Trump first launched his social media network, Truth Social, they essentially just stole all the code from Mastodon without doing any of the acknowledgments. And that created a bit of a problem. That sounds familiar. Anyways, so anyone can download the software, start their own server. So Jesse and I could put a computer here in the studio and we could run a Mastodon server on it. When you're running a Mastodon server, you can have users join, sign up, have a username for your server, and what the server implements is something like Twitter. You can post things on the server, up to 500 characters, and you can see what other people have posted in reverse chronological order. So very much like a Twitter short form post reverse cron sorting type system. It has a similar follower dynamic to Twitter as well, so you can actually say, well, here are the people I want to actually follow, so show me their posts when they come up in reverse chronological order. I don't want to know about that person, et cetera. So that's the core of Mastodon. I can start my own mini Twitter for free. Anyone can join it. Typically, the way these servers are supported is Patreon. That's pretty common. I mean, it's not super expensive to run one of these servers, but you might just ask the members, hey, can you kick in and donate? So that's a nice benefit from those who are concerned about attention economy dynamics. It's typically not ad based. It's, you know, hey, this is going to cost whatever. A couple thousand dollars a year to run, hey, users on my server, can you chip in some money? Mastodon also comes with a protocol for different servers to talk to each other. So now what can happen is, let's say you have an account on the server that Jesse and I have here in the studio, and there's whatever. A hundred users who use this server and you follow some of them and you post it, it looks like Twitter, you can follow people on other servers as well. So let's say someone else we know has their own Mastodon server, and someone else who's interesting, who you find to be more interesting than Jesse and I, is over on that other server. So maybe you're like, you know, I kind of like the Callen Jesse server. A lot of Harry Potter talk going on. Not so sure that I only want to hear what they have to say, but someone else we like is on another Mastodon server. You can say, I want to follow them. And this protocol, what it will do is basically your server will then talk to that other server and say, hey, we have someone over here who cares about a user of yours. Let us know when they post things. And so now I can see posts from other servers show up in my feed. All right, so it's a distributed solution. Individuals run these servers, but the servers can talk to each other. So I can see what people post on other servers if I choose to follow them and send a request. That's Mastodon. It has a real community niche feel. So traditionally each individual Mastodon server, which are called instances in Mastodon speak, will develop their own often quite complex community standards. That's a whole feel of Mastodon. So over here we have very specific rules about what you can and can't talk about. Over here they might be different. This is similar a little bit to what we see with Reddit and subreddit. So you get these very specific community standards that exist on different Reddit. As it's become clear in the recent news cycles, it also has very powerful banning type features. So you can easily as an admin keep people off your instance. You can also block people on your server from following anyone from another server. So I can if I run the Jesse Cal server and I don't like this rival Harry Potter server. I can ban that server, which means no one on my server is allowed to follow anyone from that server. You can also ban individuals. No one on my server can follow this particular individual. So there's a lot of power the admins have to control not just what's posted, but who the people on their server can actually follow. Or receive information from. So that's basically how Mastodon works. So it is Twitter, but it has its own thing going on. Back to my 2019 article, I'll just show a couple things I wrote about Mastodon back then. So one thing I wrote in that article is because most Mastodon instances are small, typically each number is a couple thousands of users, and crowdfunded by their members, they feel different from mass social media with an enticing free form energy reminiscent of the Internet's early days. The contrast between this atmosphere and the one found on existing social networks is striking. So you definitely get this feel I hung out a lot on Mastodon when I was writing that 2019 article. It feels like early web stuff. Very specific niche communities, very specific rules. It's reminiscent of the textual conventions of Usenet news groups or the weird acronyms that were developed, the standards that were developed on early bulletin boards like the Well. Here's a more concrete summary I gave from that experience. Mastodon at least for now is a human scale environment in which users are happy to chat about quirky things with other quirky people. Recently when I logged into the Mastodon instance Sunbeam.City, a quote "libertarian socialist solar punk instance", I found a photo of someone's blooming spider plant next to a conversation about the consequences of ethical transparency and hierarchical systems, it struck me as the quintessential early Internet experience. Alright, so that's what Mastodon looked like to me in 2019. It's like old Usenet boards, it's cool. Everyone's doing their own thing. The following between servers didn't seem widespread. It was more "I like Sunbeam.City, I like these people, we have our own quirky thing going on. Let's just go hang out there." So a really good early in a web energy. Can this be a replacement for Twitter that doesn't have one person? Priorly that might have been Jack Dorsey. Today it's Elon Musk. Can we have a version of Twitter then where there is no one person? Some sort of utopian alternative to Twitter. Can these good vibes I picked up in 2019 scale to be a Twitter-sized impact on the Internet? And here my argument is no. Mastodon will never be Twitter. It will never have its same significance or its same audience. The reason for this, and as I've talked about before on this show, Twitter is incredibly successful because it is a finely tuned engagement machine. That is very difficult to do. So we've gone into this before, but at the core of Twitter's success is three elements. One that has a massive user base that includes many potentially interesting people with engaging things to say. So you need a huge foundation of potentially interesting people with potentially interesting things to say. And I'm using interesting here in a completely value neutral manner. It could be interesting means engaging. So it could be outrageous. It could be shocking or it could be funny or it could be very smart. So you have comedians, you have expert commentators, you have celebrity figures, you have figures who have interesting takes on different aspects of the culture. It's a huge user base. Number two, Twitter has this massive social graph where all of these people have painstakingly defined these one-on-one diatic follower connections. This creates this densely connected social graph that is encoding these types of social cultural/capital relations. I'm following you because of all these subtle things I know about you and your standing in society or the content that you produce. You combine that with the retweet button and they come together to give you this sort of emergent distributed curation algorithm that's fantastically effective. So you have all these interesting people throwing out potentially effective things. Then you have the cumulative impact of 237 million users clicking retweet in this complex social graph. And what emerges is this really successful filtering function where stuff that's engaging is identified and spread. As a result, if you click that Twitter app on your phone, it's ability to show you thing after thing after thing. That's going to capture your attention that you could lose hours into is almost unparalleled. Instagram can do this pretty well with a similar sort of setting. Facebook used to do this pretty well but is now struggling. TikTok is doing this very well as we've talked about before. They've replaced this human centric distributed curation with pure algorithmic curation but it works pretty well in the sense of you can get lost in TikTok even more effectively than Twitter. But very few people can do this. It is a tight wire act. It is very difficult to pull off. This I can get lost in hours streaming. Almost everything I see scrolling on this app is going to catch my attention in some way. Mastodon can't replicate that. It doesn't have enough critical massive interesting people. It doesn't have this existing deep complex follower social graph which does a really good job of amplifying things. In fact, the dynamics of Mastodon, there's a few choices that they've made specifically and by they there's an actual founder, Eugene Rochko. They've made these decisions to try to cut down on virality. You can't quote tweet people, whatever they call it, I'm asked to unquote post people. It's difficult to spread other people's things. Eugene wanted it to be more people just talking back and forth. It's difficult to do threads. You have all this dynamic of very niche content moderation and banning back and forth between different people. You don't have that virality. You don't have the core of interesting people. So what you don't get on Mastodon is that experience of I open that app and I am engaged for as long as I want to scroll. What I saw when I was on Mastodon, which I think is true of the experience today, is you enter a conversation with a community. Most of the stuff you see is not that interesting. It's more about going back and forth with people that over time you get to know and you find interesting things. You have to do a lot of work. You have to do a lot of sifting. That's early web stuff and it's cool. But from a pure engagement perspective, can't hold a candle to Twitter. No one is going to fall down a Mastodon rabbit hole hours at an end. As reporter after reporter is realizing as they write about the service, it's actually kind of hard to spend a lot of time on Mastodon. It's like a Usenet News group in the early days. It's like the well. There's some cool stuff. You meet some cool people. Most of it's not that engaging. So no, I don't think Mastodon is going to be a replacement for Twitter. Is that a problem? I would say no. I don't think we need a replacement for Twitter. There is a great danger in taking essentially the entire populace of Internet users and putting them all together on a homogenized interface. Everyone has easy access. The exact same accounts. All information looks the same. The network of connections through which information is being amplified. The curation is happening on the scale of hundreds of millions of users. I think that is a dangerous recipe. I think that is a dangerous recipe. It does not play well with the human social brain. The virality dynamics create these, as we've seen, intense tribal pressures, intense psychological distress. Yes, it's very engaging to look at Twitter, but Twitter of the last three or four years has become engaging in the same way that the Roman Colosseum was engaging. It's more about watching gladiators from your tribe do battles from gladiators from the other tribe. Reveling in the outrage when someone from your tribe is being unfairly speared with the proverbial trident. The people commenting on how unfair this is. Celebrating when your team gets someone from the other team, we found an angle of attack. We threw that net thing around them and dragged them into the lion pit. It's spectacle. It's a spectacle of the elites, as I said, in a recent New Yorker piece. Yes, it's engaging, but we don't need that type of engagement. I know there's lots of other arguments in favor of Twitter. Journalists like it because it helps them find what's going on in the news. I don't mind if you have to work harder to find out what's going in the news, because the side effect of you all using the same platform is that everything becomes consensus. Everyone just says, "What is our particular tribe in the world of media think about this?" Great. Let's go. There's not enough interesting new angles. There's not enough, I would say, diverse viewpoints of world events. It all just breaks, volcanizes into three viewpoints and everyone goes back to the arena. I don't care if it's harder for you to find news. It can help you connect with interesting people. There's other ways to connect with interesting people that aren't going to put your blood pressure through the roof. It's not going to give you a low-grade anxiety disorder like Twitter can do. Mastodon's great for that. Join an instance. Have several instances. Have affinity groups related to things you care about. You can build really interesting relationships there. It's a small scale. It's a human-style scale, but it's connecting you people that you never otherwise would have found without the internet. That's brilliant social internet possibility at work without those downsides of Twitter. The engagement part of Twitter, find other things that are engaging. Read books. Watch streaming shows. Listen to episode after episode of the Deep Questions podcast. Do stuff in the real world. Make more Harry Potter references. I don't know. The fact that this is engaging is not enough of a justification for we should keep it around. I don't think Mastodon can replace Twitter, but I don't think we need anything to replace Twitter. Let me go back to the conclusion I made in that 2019 article. Let's see if I was clairvoyant or not. I did say the internet may work better when it's spread out as originally designed. I like this idea of more distributed, more niche, less universal. But then I conclude, despite its advantages, however, I suspect that the Indie Web will not succeed in replacing existing social media platforms at their current scale. For one thing, the Indie Web lacks the carefully engineered addictiveness that helped fuel the rise of services like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This addictiveness has kept people returning to their devices even when they know their better uses for their time. Remove the addiction and you might lose the users. I think that's just another way of saying what I'm saying today. Those existing giants were fantastically effective at generating engagement Indie social media can't compete. Get rid of the engagement you lose most of the users. As I go on to say though, that's not necessarily a bad thing. It may be too that people who are uneasy about social media aren't looking for a better version of it, but are instead ready to permanently reduce the role that their smartphones play in their lives. That I think is the most hopeful potential conclusion here is, sure, there's alternatives that can some people who are into social internet stuff can find actually healthier, more community driven, more eccentric, original early web style online communities. Most people will say if Twitter fell, I'm not going to sign up for a Mastodon instance. Honestly, it's nice to be able to hear the birds again and see the sunshine. I'm glad this thing is gone. I don't need a replacement. That's where I fall. We're not going to see an obvious replacement for Twitter and I don't care that that might end up being the reality that we go into next. The real question, Jesse, is Twitter going to go away? I'm not convinced. It's hard for me to tell. I don't think it's going to go away. There's issues about engineering. This is the conversation right now is because so many people are being fired that it literally crash. Putting those aside, it's an engagement engine like almost no one else. For people who are too old or I'll get yelled at for this, or have too much self-respect to be on TikTok, it's the next most addictive thing they have. It's an incredibly engaging thing, especially if you're a well-educated upper-middle class elite knowledge worker type. It's put it in my veins engagement. There's very few things that can compete with that. It's really hard. That's my thing. That engagement requires all of these elements to come together. A lot of them relied on first mover advantages. 237 million users include all these interesting people. This incredibly valuable social graph that the interface retweet dynamic does such a good job of curation. It's hard to do that. I'm kind of with you. I mean, a less musk shuts it down. The tech crashes and he says enough of it. Let's just shut it down, which I don't think is going to happen. He wouldn't waste $40 billion to do that. His debt service on his Twitter acquisitions is $1 billion a year. He owes $1 billion a year just to service the debt on Twitter. I don't think he's going to do that. I think what's going to happen is, and something I talked about a while ago, is that Twitter was actually well-positioned to be taken private like he did. It could easily be something that generates a couple billion dollars a year in revenue pretty sleekly with really high profit margins, which is really all musk needs out of it. Once you lose that ambition that Facebook has to be a trillion dollar valuation company, which was their ambition before the wheels fell off, we don't have to be a trillion dollar competitor to Apple. Once it's, hey, this thing generates 2.5 billion a year off of 150 million really engaged users and it has a sleek background and we have a 2,000 employee company and it's, you know, we can service our debt and it makes good profit for the people who own it. I mean, I'm sure that's the play. The question is like whether he's all there. That's the only, that's the only A-baller. I don't know. It's hard to tell because everything's so negative on Musk right now. If he's literally losing his grip mentally, then God knows what will happen. But if we assume a strategic Musk, I don't think it's that hard to make this a sleek, profitable, semi-nish service. It's not trying to be TikTok or Facebook. It's not trying to be Mastodon. It's somewhere in between and generates like a reasonable amount of money for a small number of people. It's probably where it'll end up. You should ask your boy Lex. Yeah. Yeah, I should. I think Lex is buddies with Elon. Yeah. He's on a show. Yeah. Yeah. I think they're buddies. I'll ask him. I'll say what's going on here. All right. So I want to get to a live caller. Enough about me. Let's get to a live caller.


Cal talks about Wren and Ladder (30:58)

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Live caller - starting a new company along (34:40)

All right, Jesse, while I'm liking the live interaction we've been putting to the show last week, we had our friend David Sacks in the studio helping us answer some questions. Today, let's take a live call from one of our listeners. Yep, we got Philip here, so let's take a listen. All right, Philip, thanks for calling into the podcast. What is on your mind today? Hey, Cal. So I've been recently going through a bit of a life shift. I spent a few years as an entrepreneur running to venture capital back startups. Then after selling my last company, I worked in product management roles at a couple of later stage technology startups for a few years. And that was a lot of hyperactive hive mind, over 100 Slack channels for 30 meetings per week. A lot of structured what I was working on also, though. And so now I've split out to start a new company. And my goal is to build it solo without external funding, kind of base camp style. And I'm spending about half of my time doing consulting work to cover costs. And I'm spending the other half of my time developing my own in-house products. The goal is to grow these in-house products and revenue so I can eventually focus on them more full time. And I split out solo because I did some value-based lifestyle-centric career planning and decided that starting a solo product development studio aligns more with the values and lifestyle that I wanted to pursue. So my high level question is, how do I apply the principles of slow productivity and deep life to set myself up for success? I've gone from a lot of structured and no structure and I could use it in help making sure that my habits are sustainable. Well, I mean, first of all, I'm upset that you're not using our acronym for VLCCP. VBLCCP. Yeah. I mean, we got to be pithy. I think we all agree that that rolls off the tongue. Okay. This is a great question. Tell me a little bit more though about this studio situation you have set up. What's that like? So what's the work going to be like? Yeah. So I'm doing some product development. So I'm working with the clients, kind of building an entire application and end, including like definition and design and things like that. And I'm working on a couple of personal projects, one of which is the main focus. Already has revenue. Already has some customers. It's not quite like revenue to live off of. This is a path I used to start my previous company, Moonlight. So we did some freelancing as we grew the company and eventually it grew in size and raised venture capital and kind of took a traditional kind of path. And I think a lot of what I'm trying to do with this product studio is also not necessarily trying to pursue that traditional path. There's a lot of extrinsic markers of success. You can go raise money and hire employees and things like that. I'm trying to be a little bit more controlled about that. So my day to day is really unstructured. I have full control of my time now. I have one client meeting per week, which is a lot less than what I had at later stage startups. So I'm tending to break my day into three two hour deep work blocks with kind of two hours in between each for a mix of admin work and breaks. So I guess kind of like a general high level question I have is this too much or too little deep work in a given day? And with more control of my time, is it better to break up my day more or to try to keep deep work and more admin work focused on more of a traditional kind of nine to five slots? Yep. It's a good question. We'll get in this nitty gritty. I want to underscore first. I like your decision you made of, well, let's keep this small. Have you read Paul Jarvis, the company of one? Yeah, I've read part of it. I don't think I finished it, but it's a good book. I mean, you're right in line, I think, with Paul's thinking here. If people haven't read that, they should. It has a blurb from me, so you know that it's quality. Paul also, he was a designer, I guess he was in web design. And the whole book is about instead of expanding your company. So companies that begin with you and your skill, instead of expanding it to hit those intrinsic markers of success, so size, revenue, and funding, his whole point is keep it small. If you get more in demand, you can just charge more and therefore even work less. Like, actually, it can be a great engine for a lifestyle that you have a huge amount of autonomy over. And I think it's a great model. So in terms of your specific date, there's no right answer to the exact right way to move deep work around how many blocks to have. I have a couple things I'm going to throw out there, a couple heuristics, and you can see which of these might stick. I'm a big believer in these situations of doing meeting free Monday and Friday, if you can. So you just have the scheduling heuristic that client calls, client meetings, whatever. I got to call my accountant, we got the IT person's upgrading some sort of software, whatever it is, nothing gets scheduled for Monday and Fridays. That alone just changes the character of the week because it's like you have a four-day weekend, you're just deep working on Friday, you're deep working on Monday, you can really get lost in things. So I think that can make a big difference. And then the other thing I might suggest would be consolidating the deep work. Deep work to lunch, meetings, clients, administrative stuff in the afternoon. Trying to keep that together, keep that mindset going, and not have anything interspersed into that that's unrelated. So those are two heuristics I've seen. Would that graft well onto your current setup? Some, yeah, I really wanted to live more asynchronously when I started this company, so I only have one meeting per week normally. So that makes it easier, but that also is a lot more uncertainty in terms of should every day kind of be the same or kind of create more texture throughout the week. But, yeah, so you think that kind of training to do longer periods of deep work is better? Yeah, I would do it first thing in the day, Intel lunch, maybe just make that be a standard. And then the other thing I would do, I mean you have a very enviable situation here. You have a huge amount of autonomy in terms of demands on your time because of the way you set this up, so congratulations. This is something I do during the summer, like when I'm a professor in the summer, I'm like you all the time. So I have many fewer obligations, my time is very, very open, and so I have the same concern about how to structure it. It's deep work in the morning, and then variable, but clearly defined shutdowns. That's another thing I lean into is I'm going to time block out my afternoon. I'll be clear about when my shutdown is going to happen this afternoon. And when I'm shut down complete, I'm not working on work anymore. That can be really early some days, right? So what this allows you to do is it's Tuesday, you know, a deep work till lunch, and that went really well. I don't have any like particularly pressing administrative thing. I'm going to do a formal schedule shutdown ritual at one o'clock. And because I recognize, hey, this day is done and I feel good about it, I can really lean into those other hours to do other things. You know, completely unrelated to work or whatever. And then on another day, you said, look, I got my call with my client, and now I really got to figure out whatever, this new software package. And so this is going to take me to five, and I'll do the clear shutdown then. But having to clearly define shutdown each day, I mean, allows you to really work with this variable workflow and take a lot more advantage of what it gives you. I mean, maybe you want to become a cinephile. It's like, great. Two days a week, I'm going to the movies, the two o'clock show or whatever. You know, that's the type of thing you can do when you feel like I shut down, I feel comfortable shutting down. I'm looking at my schedule. This is good. I'm on track for things. And so now I really have to figure out what to do with my time. That's what I might also be concerned about if I was you was making sure it's not this hazy mix of work and non work. In the afternoon, like, I don't know, so I maybe I should go back on email, what's going on. Be clear about it, but then be very comfortable taking advantage of all the advantages you have. Okay, great. Another kind of question along the lines of slow productivity is, should I work on weekends? So I'm trying to do some client work and some personal work. So I am not sure if I should continue working on weekends right now. I'm taking one day off per week. But I think there could be value in getting more done. So how do you think about working on weekends? Would it be the personal project that you're mainly doing on the weekends? Yeah. I think it's fine. I mean, if you have the time and you find it interesting, I think you're smart to take, you know, whether it be Saturday or Sunday, a full day, completely off is fine. But if you're working on a personal project, I think that's fine. I typically will write on Sundays, for example. I don't do any other work on the weekend. So I'm not going to do, I'm not going to do CS work. This producer Jesse knows I'm probably not going to answer emails about issues with the podcast, whatever. But I do write because that's it's a very personal activity for me. It's meaningful to me. It's a it doesn't change me into a mindset of hyperactive hive mind. So I think if your personal project is not throwing you back into a world of scheduling meetings and sending emails, but it's coding or is trying to master a new system, I think that's completely fine. I mean, if you enjoy it, go for it. Keep it one day off. I mean, I think you got this pretty well dialed in here, Phillip, from what I'm hearing. So one of the life buckets is community. I've moved around a lot. I was a nomad for two years and I'm temporarily in a new city, well, my significant others and grad school. How do you think community should factor in for somebody in my situation? I think there's not a lot of local people that are in the same situation as me, but a lot of online communities tend to be more real-time, like discord or telegram and I don't want to have those kind of synchronous demands on my attention. What do you think is a good way to kind of continue to have some community? I don't really have that from coworkers or from other companies in the same situation through an investor or something like that. What city are you in? I'm in Chicago. I mean, I think you should have community involvement. I think they should have scheduled synchronous demands on your time and I think they should be in person. I think that's an important part of the human condition. As I talk about in digital minimalism, it's actually the non-trivial sacrifice of time and attention on behalf of other people that makes that connection something just valued by your brain. So I would put in that work now. Are you saying your significant others in grad school somewhere else or you came to Chicago? Okay, that's good. Yeah, we're here in Chicago. She's in school. I agree with what you're saying. I think what I'm having trouble with is finding peers. There's a lot of people that are more advanced or learning from me. But I think where I find have issues is a lot of my peers that I know are in other cities, not necessarily locally. Yeah, well, I mean, I'm saying get entangled in some community involvement here, unrelated to your work. Okay. And it could be-- That makes sense. Yeah, I mean, it could be through fitness. It could be through faith. It could be through activity. Whatever, trail, running, or whatever. I mean, there's such a wide variety. But I would anchor myself right away with-- or if you're into-- I mentioned movie. You're in the movies. Like, let me find a club that meets and does these things. And that becomes the offshoot of making friends and people you end up spending time with one-on-one. I think that's really critical. I would give it-- I would recognize it's hard, right? Because we don't have like an app solution for that. We can't just like swipe a thing and then like a friend comes over. But I would put a lot of effort into that, especially if I'm new to a city. And you have the time and flexibility to do this. And I think that's a great investment of the time you have. Yeah, I've done a good job of meeting friends and communities locally. But I think the thing that I'm finding hardest kind of being solo is like professional peers and people that are working on similar problems and things like that. So I've considered kind of like setting up like a mastermind call or something weekly. Some people that are working on similar things here. I think that's really kind of the main thing that I'm concerned about is meeting other people that also think this isn't as crazy and that are going through kind of similar professional challenges or things like that. Yeah, I see what you're saying. I mean, I think that could be helpful. Writers have the same issue. It's a very lonely job. You don't go to an office and it's weird. Like most people aren't writers. So it's hard to find. And I've done something similar. I've been involved in various, you know, writers groups. I mean, in my sense, the value with the value falls out of those is not the fact that we're getting together on Zoom, you know, every other week. It's the six months in this particular member of the group you kind of connect with. And now there's someone you text with. Now there's someone that like you see when they're in town. So I see your question better now. I would say it's worth it having the you talked about the secret is commitment. Make the commitment. I think that's fine. Yeah, get together some groups. Yeah, they usually mix. These groups are okay, but it's like who you meet in the group could be could be pretty valuable. So I see what you're saying there. But on the other hand, hey, as a writer, I can say it is pretty lonely. I mean, I know other writers, but it's a it's a pretty it could be a pretty lonely job. And that's just part of it. So you you you find connection, you know, outside. I mean, look, I built this studio so I can come hang out with people because otherwise I'm just writing writing by myself, but also having my Georgetown position. I noticed a really big difference when the campus opened again, for example, post COVID. Like, oh, just being able to come here be around people. So I think that is really valuable. It's also just really hard. I just know a lot of writers who some of them meet other writer friends, but it's a weird job. Your situation might be similar. So I think it's worth it to try those those groups. It might help. You might meet some people, but I think you need to be okay with the fact that you may not ever have the same experience as the other person, you know, who's in the 30 person venture back startup and they're in the office 12 hours a day. And it's, you know, here's the ping pong table. We're just getting after it. You know, it is a little bit more lonely. I think Paul Jarvis is great about that in that book because he moved to the middle of nowhere. I mean, he lives, I don't know in the woods. He was in the woods in British Columbia somewhere. But they love it, but it's like completely different. I mean, they're, they are on their own up there doing their own thing. And, and so you can be happy with that too. So I basically have validated your pain here, Phillip. It is hard and you could probably, you might be able to do better, but I don't want to sugarcoat it. Like when you do a solo per newer type situation like this, I think a lot of your community connection comes outside of outside of work. Yeah. How do you think about coaches? I think coaching is kind of having a moment right now and I've had some friends recommend hiring like a professional coach. I think that also kind of factors into accountability, but on some of the client projects, I feel like I can be working harder for someone else than I work for myself. Do you think like, how do you think about coaching? I think you should try it. Yeah. Do do a six month engagement that like this is what we're trying. So it's more like you reop not that you would have to actually cancel it yourself to see if it's a good fit or not. I have a coach. It is someone she specializes in dealing with creatives who also are struggling with the issues of the business side of being a creative. So I mean, it is a very narrow expertise that I need a lot of help on. So she works with writers and filmmakers and screenwriters and directors and where businesses build up around their creative endeavors. And I found that to be really useful. So I would say I'm on board with coaching. Not every coach is going to be a fit. So try it out, but absolutely invest in that because you can get a huge return on that investment. If it really changes the way you think about your business, the way you change, you think about your life. So yeah, you got my stamp of approval on that. I think there should be more coaching in general. And I think you're right. It's having a moment where people are realizing I do a high end job. There's a lot at stake. It's complicated. There's huge dividends to get in my life if I could make big changes. I don't quite know how to do that. If there's someone who can help me through that, it could massively change the trajectory of my life. I'll hire a trainer. I'll hire a doctor. I'll hire all these other things. Why am I not hiring someone that's going to work on probably the most important thing I do, which is sort of figuring out exactly how my career unfolds. So yeah, you got my approval on that one too. Awesome. Thanks a lot. Great. Well, Philip, thanks for calling in. I think it's a good case study and a good constellation of related questions. So definitely keep us posted on how things are going for you there in Chicago. We'll do. Thanks, Kyle. Thanks. All right. Well, thank you again, Philip. We're calling into the show.


How do I (carefully) convince my employer to embrace Deep Work? (51:32)

All right, Jesse, let's do some written questions submitted by our listeners. Hey, by the way, just a reminder listeners, we want your written questions. You can go to the link that's right in the show description. It takes you right to a survey where you can submit your questions for consideration on the show. If you want to be a live caller, you can indicate it there. We also have a link in the show description if you want to leave a voicemail. So go check those out, submit your questions. We love them. All right. What is our first submitted question of this week's episode, Jesse? Okay. Question is from B. Have you found effective methods to sell the principles of deep work at an organizational level? Now, B elaborated in addition to his question, he elaborated some details that he is at a company that is hardcore into the hyperactive hive mind mode of collaboration. He elaborated that the department, he runs, he wants to move them away from the hive mind and maybe even spark change throughout the whole company, but he is concerned about being careful and political about how to do this, so that if he, like in a lot of big companies, if he just rushes in and says, you all bad, Cal good, slack go bad or whatever, that's not going to go well. So he's trying to be strategic about how he helps move his organization away from the hyperactive hive mind. All right. This is the issue I tackle in my book, A World Without Email. My book, Deep Work, pointed out the value of concentration in the knowledge word context. A World Without Email is about how did we get to this point where that's so hard to do and how do we go forward? How do we reform the structure of knowledge work to be more cognitive compatible? So drawing from that book, I'm going to give three steps to be, three steps to carefully start moving your department, perhaps organization away from the hive mind. Step number one is to identify the proper enemy. So in your discussions with other people about this issue, do not talk about it in terms of imposition or distraction. Don't say, you know, people are doing too many meetings, people are bad at email, people are on slack too much, people need to leave me alone. It's a negative framing and it's too imprecise. It rarely leads to actual change. The proper enemy to focus on in my opinion is context switches. They say, let's do some neuroscience here that neuroscientists have known about for decades. The human brain is slow to shift from one target of attention to another. It is a complex process where lots of things happen in lots of different systems inside this gray matter between our ears. So if you are rapidly shifting context, so jumping over to email back to what you're writing onto a short meeting over to slack back to what you're doing, it is a cognitive disaster. You're initiating context shifts, you are aborting the context shifts before they can complete trying to go back to the original target of your concentration. Before that you can entirely return to that context, you shift to something else like slack, then you rip it back. This puts your mind in this permanent state of being in between context, which is a state in which it is very difficult to work at high capacity. It is also a state that is exhausting. It exhausts us as humans, we're not meant to be doing this, so we burn out, we get tired, long term, it makes us want to leave our careers, short term, it makes us literally dumber. So now you have a very specific enemy. How do we minimize context shifts so we can get more value out of our brain? So if we want to borrow a sort of a genio del graduate seminar speak here, we're introducing a productivity discourse into this issue, which is probably the right discourse if we're working with managers, we're talking to the C-suite, let's talk productivity. We are getting a suboptimal return on investment and cognitive resources if we're having these minds have all these context shifts. So the goal now becomes, and this is step two, which is to clarify the solutions, the goal now becomes, how do we put in place systems for collaboration that gets the work done with less context shifts? And we want to do this because the work will get done faster and better. Oh, we have this nice side effect, we won't burn everyone out and make everyone miserable. Right? That becomes the solution. Do you feel the difference in this tone versus instead saying at the executive board meeting, I hate all these distractions. It's annoying. You guys have too many meetings. We're on email too much. This is all bad. That just comes across as accusatory and defensive, and it might all be true, but it rarely leads to change. When you're instead coming in and saying, okay, we have this clear enemy and here's our clear solution. Alternative systems of collaboration that will minimize context shifts. We can quantify this thing. All you see is sweet types of nerds anyway, so they like this type of talk. Let's try to minimize context shifting, put in place collaboration systems to get the things done with less context shifting. The work will get done faster. It'll be at higher level of quality and you'll have much higher employee satisfaction and engagement. Now you're speaking to lingo. Now you're speaking to corporate lingo. There's a few critical pieces here. I'm going to try to do this solution defining. One, be very careful in your sales pitch. A, that you have this very clear goal, context shift reduction. Two, to make sure that you're particularly pulling out convenience and speed is not particularly useful. That if our in metric here, the thing we really care about, the end goal is producing really good work at a good rate with high sustainability. Convenience doesn't matter. Who cares? Yeah, it's easy if you can email me. Who cares about convenience? Good work systems are rarely convenient. The definition of work is the application of force against the tendency towards rest. It's supposed to be hard. So forget convenience. Forget speed. Speed by itself is not a value. Quick responses. Getting quick answers to things. That by itself is not valuable. It is only valuable in so much that it actually helps an endpoint of high quality solutions at a good rate in a sustainable way. Once you've pointed out that actually reducing context switches will really boost that, you can isolate convenience and speed. Convenience and speed are the handmaiden of the hyperactive hive mind. It is the secondary endpoints that you're like, let's just pursue those that leads you to a culture of we're always on Slack or always on email. You can now isolate those. You can segregate those and say, this is not what we thought they would be. Forget those. Context switching reduction is going to make us better. Even if it's less convenient, even if certain things take slower in the moment. So you have to at some point isolate convenience or speed or they will pull your whole system back to everyone's on Slack all the time. Another critical step here for the sales pitch. Steam release valves. I talked about this in a world without email. Any system you devise. Okay, here's how we're now going to do this type of work. And however you do it, there's office hours plus some sort of shared document. Plus we use some sort of three day protocol where we know what goes where. However you do it. And we've talked about this a million times on the show. So I won't go into too many details about what these systems look like. But whatever systems you start coming up with, make sure they have steam release valves. That is a break glass in case of emergency way to get in touch with someone if the system's not working. This is a key piece of psychology for buy in. Because what more than anything else. Once everyone's bought in on the context switching reduction goal more than anything else what will stop you is catastrophizing. So the CIO is like, look, I get what you're saying. I'm on board about the context shifting. I'm on board about convenience and speed being overrated. But what if we get in a situation where this is urgent and we can't get back to the client and we lose the client. Catastrophizing is a big obstacle once you get to the stage of actually constructing these systems. Steam release valves is my term for these break glass in case for emergency alternatives if something like that happens. All you have to do is have a backup communication method that induces some friction. Call me. We all agree that you can call the person on this number which will never be blocked if there's some really time sensitive emergency. This gives people the psychological cover necessary to avoid catastrophization. All right, if the client comes back and needs something right away, I could always just call you. We're not going to lose the client. And the thing is as long as there's a little bit of friction in these release valve strategies no one ever uses them. No one's ever going to actually call you or they'll call you. It'll happen once. It's more about giving people that relief of if there's an emergency we can step out of this system will be okay. If there's not enough friction this doesn't work. If you say well if there's a real emergency just hit me up on slack. There's too little friction there. So everyone will just fall back to slack. But if I have to pick up a phone and call you and talk to you in real time, I'll just follow the system. All right. Step three, create a bottom up culture of ongoing experimentation and participation. So it's not about just going through and saying here's our five new collaboration systems that reduce contact shifting. Many fewer emails we have to answer. Many few slack. You have to A have it be participatory. I didn't say that right. Participatory. There we go. Everyone who's involved in this new system has to have a say in constructing it. It won't work if you come in and say hey everyone here's the new system for collaboration because I read Cal's book. And here's how we're going to get rid of contact shifts. Immediately people's hackles will go up. I don't like this. I don't know about this. This is, you know, this is like typical, whatever B was the guy saying. This looks like typical B type behavior. But if it's instead here's Cal's work. We're worried about contact shifting. We think blah, blah, blah. Everyone's on board. Hey, let's all work together. What do you think we should do? Everyone's on board if they're involved with it. And then ongoing means you have to assume 40% of whatever you do is not going to work. So like every week for a while we're going to go back. Let's go through things. What's not working? If you want to throw out, what do we want to tweak? It's an ongoing culture because you're not going to get it right the first time. So people need to be involved and you need an ongoing culture of cutting off the dead wood. If this was right for this quarter but not right for this quarter, get rid of it. If this never worked, change it. If this is going well, celebrate it. So there has to be an ongoing culture as well. So B, I'll just step back and say here's the thing. Everything I just described to you adds up to a pretty complicated play. In some sense, this is the biggest explanation I have for why the hyperactive hive mind continues to dominate even if alternatives would be more profitable. And it is because of complexity. Those three steps I gave you are not easy. It requires a lot of buying from a lot of people and a lot of energy engaged. This is why I think we're still stuck in the hive mind. And this is often the case. I think when we have revolutions in business practices throughout different industries over history, especially technologically driven revolutions, it just takes a long time because it's hard. And it's the example I gave in the book about Henry Ford and the continuous motion assembly line. Once he figured out how that worked, it was clearly more productive than the old ways of building car. But the technology was in place for these assembly lines for years and years and years before he figured it out. And why? Because it was hard. It was hard to get all the details right. It was hard to get all those things to work. They had to invent new tools and systems and hire people and spend money and it made things worse for a while. So essentially knowledge work needs its own kind of Henry Ford moment. Someone persisting through the hardness to figure out these better ways. And then once the rest of the industry sees, hey, that guy is producing digital cars 10x faster than us, that's when you start to get the fast spread. All right, Jesse, I haven't been able to do my world without email sermon in a while. Sounds good sermon. That's nice. I got to preach sometimes about hyperactive hive mind. All right, what do we got next? All right, next question is from Charles, a 58 year old software developer.


I just quit my job. How do I reset my life? (01:03:59)

I'm 58 years old software developer who just quit his job in June. I spent the summer with my school age kids during their summer vacation. I figure it was important to do this while they still like me. Now that they're back in school, I want to take time to do a deep reset on my life. What are your thoughts and how should I proceed with this? Well, first of all, I'll note that as part of Charles's elaboration, he mentioned that he had previously in his life already gone through a lifestyle centric career planning process that actually explains his current situation. So he works remotely living in a small country town in Oregon, which he said was a big goal of his early. He wanted to live in the country, have a country lifestyle work remotely. So he had already gone through some lifestyle centric design. He quit his job, in part because he's tired of it. The particular job he found that allowed him to live in the country was a remote job that had time zone issues. So it actually, this company worked with developers in India. There's a lot of him having to be up at 5 a.m. to manage time zone differences, to check in with these teams. It also had a hyperactive hive mind culture that was getting to him. So it makes sense why he left. He's a little bit late. He's getting closer to something like retirement or pseudo retirement is on the table. And so he's looking to make a change. So I thought this was a good example of lifestyle centric career planning in what we can think of as like Q3 of your life. It's a little bit later in life. So Charles, a couple pieces of advice I'd have for someone in your situation at your age is let's think location. So as you think about this Q3 of your life where you're heading towards retirement, do you still like living in the country in Oregon? Do you want to do something different? Do you want part time in the city, part time in the country, depending on the season? Now's the time to figure out what the new configuration is. Your kids leave and go to school. What's the new configuration that you think is going to be optimal? Two, look through your buckets, your deep life buckets and ask the question, what has been neglected in recent years? Are the things that are important to you that you've neglected as you've gone through maybe this more career centric focused part of your life? Like for example, is health and fitness neglected? Are you thinking this would be a great time, especially as they get older to get an excellent shape? Like I'm going to give that a lot of attention or becoming a leader in your community. You've been disconnected from the various communities you're involved in and now you want to do that more. It's a good time to go through those buckets and say what's been neglected. And finally, it's a good time to think through what's sometimes called third act missions. So in this part of your life, as you've gone through the first act of getting started in the world of work, you've gone through the second act of becoming established and establishing who you are in the world of work. You've done that. Now you're almost 60. With your third act, do you have a clear mission and it could be professional or non professional, but something that you really want to focus your energy on and matters? Those are the type of questions I would be going through right now as part of doing lifestyle center career planning from scratch. Once you have a new lifestyle for this, whatever Q3 of your life, whatever you want to call it. Once you have this new lifestyle fixed down, you have a lot of options. You're a successful software developer. You left your job at that existing firm. There is a lot of opportunities for you at a lot of different levels of income versus autonomy trade-offs. There's a big demand for software developers. You could be freelancing. You could be contracting. You could take a job at a company that's fully remote and has more results oriented so that you can have a lot more flexibility. You can build your own product. You have a lot of different options here. So this is great. Work backwards from your answers to these questions and say, "As I re-enter the working world, what do I need to support my answers?" And seek out employment working backwards from what you resolve there. I think this is a really important part of your life where you've had a career, you've done well, you've made money, you have succeeded. So it really is if there's any stage in your career to start seeing your work as functional. It is a utilitarian means to an end and the ends are what I'm really thinking about. Now, this is the time to do that. So get those answers really clear. Focus on those three things and get incredibly strategic with your work situation. What do I need to support those while minimizing the negative side effects of whatever I'm doing for work? It sounds like that's where you are in your particular life. I also like, by the way, I just want to make the note, spending the whole summer just with your kids. Yeah, I mean, that I think is a big issue. Definitely something, I've been talking about this more. I think as my kids get older, so they've left that little kid toddler age, which is just all hands on deck kind of survival mode. And now they're becoming their elementary school age kids. I have certainly noticed this and I have all boys, so there might be a sort of dad boys things here. They need as much time as possible with me. I feel that dynamic now, and I talked about this in our interview with Yale, I feel that dynamic now much more than I did before. And it's actually been one of the sparks of my development of the slow productivity philosophy because now the question becomes, how can you service ambition to create things of value and interest in legacy in the world without having to give it most of your time? How can you find some sort of middle ground where you can, for example, my case spend as much time as possible with my kids while still producing things I'm proud of? How can you be okay with maybe the rate of that production is lower? But when you zoom out to 15 years from now after all my kids are in college, I look back and I said, look at these things I did. I wrote these books and these articles. There's four things in here I'm really proud about. I don't care that maybe there could have been seven instead of four. The thing is I did things I'm proud about. How do you navigate those dynamics? That's a big question that I'm trying to answer with slow productivity. So Charles, I really empathize with what you're saying there. And it's something I'm working on as well so everyone should stay tuned to hear my thoughts on that.


How do I deal with having too much freedom in my job? (01:10:22)

All right, we got time for a few more. What do we have next year, Jesse? All right, next question is from Gabe, 28 year old in Virginia. I currently have a dream job. It's deep work paradise with an excellent work life balance. My problem is that I'm not used to having this level of autonomy. As a result, I find myself filling my time with nonsense just to feel busy. I jump into meetings, reread emails, sometimes put on a video game or a Netflix show or another screen to fill the void. How do I embrace this deeper environment? Well, I'm guessing that Gabe does not work at Twitter. It's just based off of what I discovered when I look for 30 minutes into the news about Twitter. It looks like that's not the environment right now over at Twitter. Important piece of background on this particular question is Gabe elaborated that he's been active service military for 10 years. And this is his first job after that. So he's used to from his military positions a much more reactive, hyperactive, hive mind style workflow where there's just constantly stuff being given to you or you're constantly reacting to things. So in particular, going from that to a fully autonomous, it's a tech industry job. He's having a hard time with that transition. So Gabe, I'll start by saying, yeah, it's a good problem to have and the core of your solution is going to be multi-scale planning. If you're just haphazard in a highly autonomous workplace, it can be a disaster. People think, oh, this is the dream to have a job where I have a lot of free time and I can kind of control what I work on. It's not a dream for most people. This is very difficult. Gabe goes on to talk about how anxious this is making him. We don't like having time that we don't know what to do with where we're in that weird liminal space between complete relaxation and productivity and we're sort of working or sort of not. I mean, that is soul crushing. And that is that is soul crushing. The solution is multi-scale planning. That's going to be the foundation of the solution. So with multi-scale planning, Gabe, and you can get more details of this. Go look at my time management video on my YouTube page or many other places I've talked about this. With multi-scale planning, you start at multiple temporal scales to get control and get intentional about your time. So you have a quarterly or semester plan that's laying out bigger vision. You look at that every week when you build a weekly plan. What am I doing with my week? This is where you can make changes to your schedule to optimize better what's available. You look at your weekly plan every day where you build a daily time block plan. You're giving every minute of your day a job. You're not just looking up and saying, "What do I want to do next?" Learn that habit and you're going to feel much more in control of your time. All right. So once you have just the mechanics of multi-scale planning in place, the extent of the free time you have is going to be clear and this free time is going to be consolidated. If you're doing multi-scale planning, when you get to a day, you're looking at your weekly plan, you're confident about what you're trying to work on this week and therefore what needs to be done today. You time block the time exactly when you're going to do the various things this day. All that's really clear, the time that remains is clearly left over. So you've clarified and consolidated the free time you have. And it sounds like right now that's a lot. Good. First step, let's just get our arms around it. Here it is. Three hours today, one hour this day, I had nothing to do on Thursday. You've isolated it and clarified it. Now that you've captured this elusive substance free time, you can be concrete about what you want to do with it. And you have options here. We've talked about a lot of these on the show before. Autumn number one is the Phantom part time job. So maybe you are accomplishing what your employer wants you to do and you're doing it well. And with confidence, you know that you're giving it enough time and you can shut down that work with clarity. Great. Maybe you're working on a side hustle with the time that remains. We call these Phantom part time jobs because you don't talk about this publicly. We talked about what last week's show, Jesse, this over-employment movement. Yeah. I felt like that was going too far, but that was this movement where you have like an actual another job. But Phantom part time job is more side hustly. You know, I'm building out something on the side. But you're doing it with complete control over your time. It's a bit of an ethical gray area, but I do think there's some integrity in Phantom part time jobs if you really are an expert multi-scale planner because you are being very clear about how you're using your time. You're accomplishing the goals your employer has given you. The time is very clearly segregated from your work time. As long as you're getting the things done and your employer is happy, I think it's okay. All right. That's one option. Option two, rapid career capital acquisition. Great. I have this free time. Let me do some careful self research on my industry to figure out what skills are valuable, what skills aren't, what would really help me write my own ticket. I'm now going to systematically dedicate this free time, this clear and everyday time clock schedule towards the rapid acquisition of these skills. I'm then going to take these skills out for a spin to shift my career in directions that resonate in a way from things that don't. That would be the method I would talk about like in my book. So good they can't ignore you. Like great. I am in five years going to have so much career capital that like the listener from before, this question, I can live in the small town in Oregon and trail run all day and only work three hours a day and make a good living. So that's another good option. Intentional rapid advancement. The third option of course is non-professional structured pursuit. I will use this time to pursue something true to my values, that servicing one of my non-professional buckets in my deep life scheme. But this is very important to me. I'm in a lucky stage of my life where I have this free time. I'm in control of my time. I'm on top of things. My employer is happy. I'm going to whatever. And maybe it's like Cam Haines who has a full time job working for the state of Washington Oregon, I forgot which. But you know, became this high endurance super endurance, super athlete bow hunter, which he documented and has become like a source of inspiration for a lot of people. So maybe it's some sort of, you know, over the top fitness pursuit that gives meaning to your post military life and can be a source of inspiration for others and structures your life and injects all this discipline. Maybe it's a community investment. You know, the small church in my town that I belong to is struggling and I'm going to, you know, step up and really help turn this around or going to start up a community service program. You know, maybe it's a creative pursuit that is not for profit, but just you're trying to be a part of this community. There's a lot of things here. Maybe you buy land and you're renovating the land, you're refreshing it and you're going to eventually retire from your job and it's going to be a retreat center. I don't know. But you could have a very structured pursuit that's not directly related to making money or your job. So what I'm saying here is multi scale planning is what gives you the clarity required to make the most of the resources you have. And if you're in a lucky position to have a lot of leftover time, don't squander it. This type of structure is what's going to allow you to actually take advantage of that time. So the story, all I want is free time and no thoughts about it completely unstructured free time, but that's not true. We want like three hours of that a week and then we get unhappy. We want autonomy. We want control over what we're doing. We want to aim our actions towards things that are meaningful. We want a variety in our activities. We want to get to those key human nutrients like mastery and connection, et cetera. But we don't necessarily just want nothing to do in no plans. So multi scale plan game and then lean into being very clear about what do I do with the time that remains. All right. What do we do? We've done an old fashioned call in a while, Jesse.


Call - Which tool should I bring when I only have room for one? (01:18:07)

Yeah, we got a call from Raquel. So we'll take a listen. Excellent. Hello, Kelly and Jesse. My name is Raquel. I create online courses for a company. My productivity problem is the number of artifacts to carry with me. The time block planner, a mall skin notebook reserved for meetings, which I rarely use. I loosely know that I make out of half sheets of recycled paper attached by one metal book ring in the corner, which I use to dump everything in my mind as I work or create checklist as I'm working on a project. I also find myself implementing a working memory that TFC file on my computer based on your recommendations. But then on Sundays, I switch completely to my Franklin copy planner. When I go to work, can be office or when I go to the doctors appointment and I need to wait, I want to take one planning item with me to do some planning, either a weekly planning or a new routine I want to try or habits and initiatives I want to incorporate. But I find myself in a dilemma as to which item to bring. I wish I could stick to one item, but I think my personality prevents me from staying at peace with one system. Any advice? Raquel, good question. I think the answer here is to have one of those old school media carts. We used to have in grammar school with the TV on it and everything, multiple layers. I just drag this thing with me. You can have monitors, you can have multiple notebooks, you can have an easel that you can put out and write with a sharpie. No. Okay. Too many artifacts. What to bring when you are on the road? It's a good question. I think the right thing to do here is to separate capture from long-term systems. Let's get that right first. Have your long-term systems, for most people these will be digital, for long-term task storage, long-term note-keeping, ideas, etc., thoughts about whatever changes you want to make in your life. You have these permanent systems that you use. You have your calendar for appointments. You have your weekly plan for what you're doing this week. If you're a time block plan for today, you have your task management system for keeping tasks. You have your note-taking system for ideas and other types of long-form capture. Preferably, there's ways you check in on each of these. Multiscale planning, that's just built into the system. I like to do roughly monthly check-in on my broader catch-all note-taking systems just to see, "Hey, am I missing ideas?" etc. That's all permanent. None of that has to be particularly portable. None of that has to have particularly efficient interfaces for entering information to it. Separate that from capture. Doctors' office and meeting. Let's use those as our two case studies here. I'm at the doctor's office. I'm at a meeting. I'm attending in person. How do I bring with me? You could bring a laptop and try to interface into all of these systems on the fly. Not going to work. You're not going to have the laptop at the doctor's office. It's too hard to think through and interface with your systems on the fly anyways because often you have a half-form thought in the moment that you have to actually later give some attention to to even figure out what does this mean? Where does it go? How do I word this? We need some sort of capture intermediary to capture this information to later be integrated into the background systems. There I'm going to say just have a digital and a paper working memory.txt. If you're in the meeting and you have your laptop open, always have working memory.txt right there on your desktop. Have it be a plain text file. On my Mac, I use text edit for this. I have it set the plain text. There's no fonts. There's no formatting. There's no bolding. It's just all plain text. It's simple and fast as possible. If you're in the meeting and there's ideas that come up, appointments you have to add to your calendar, tasks that need to go on your task list, things you're confused about that you just need to think and be like, "What does this even mean?" You're writing that at the speed of typing into working memory.txt. When you're at the doctor's office, you have a good high quality spiral bound notebook and you can capture right in there. If you're bringing a time block planner with you that has no capture spaces for this information as well. I need to discipline that by the time I get to the shutdown, as part of my shutdown routine, I look at these two captures. Obviously, my working memory.txt on my computer, I process it before I shut down for the day. What's going on here? What does this go? That finds a home. You just have the notebook right next to you when you do this and you take the same stuff out of your notebook, the things you jotted down and it goes into its permanent system. I think that differentiation helps people. Permanent systems can be big and clunky, but you trust them. On the go capture should just be simple. One digital, one paper. There are systems that try to put all of these in the one artifact. I think bullet journaling is a good example. That's fine if your life has a level of complexity that enables that. I just think for a lot of knowledge workers, that doesn't work. There's just too many things coming at them. Too many hundreds of ongoing tasks, rapidly moving calendars, seven or eight different roles that you have different objectives for. Typically, you need the power of digital systems. You can't have all that captured in one notebook. I just separate the two. It's allowed there to be glorious inefficiency and clunkiness in my permanent systems, but incredible low friction efficiency in the mobile systems I take with me. All right.


Who does Cal personally admire? (01:23:52)

Let's do one more question here before we get to our three interesting things segment. All right. Sounds good. Question from Natalia. You've mentioned that one way to answer the question, what makes a good life good is to turn to biographies of people whose life you admire. Who do you personally admire? Well, I have a lot of answers to that question, but why don't I just give you one example of someone I admire and that admiration has been developed and nuanced through the reading of biographies. One of my classic examples there is Abraham Lincoln, real influence on me. I'm actually reading John Meacham's new biography of Lincoln and there was light, so I'm not halfway through that. I'm enjoying that one. I've read a lot of Lincoln books, but that one is ranking pretty high up so far, so I like what he's doing there. All right. So here's the two things I learned about Lincoln through going deep through biographical material that makes him someone I admire. One is the fact that Lincoln was a moral being. I want to be really clear about what I mean by that. I don't mean that in the sense that he was a superlative example of morality, that even by 21st century standards, we look back at everything he did or think and said, "Wow, he had found some sort of crystalline pure morality. He had broken free from any sort of parochial or cultural influences and just saw the abstract platonic light of the perfect moral sentiments." It's not that his morality was at a very high polished plane, but that he saw his morality as an important part of his life and he worked on it explicitly throughout his life. He is a moral being. What you get out of reading his biographies is the degree to which he thought that maintaining and evolving his sense of principles and living his life by them was a key project of a life well lived. A good book that really looks at this is William Lee Miller's Lincoln's virtues. Miller, it's a moral biography or an ethical biography, I think he calls it, of Lincoln. He goes through just the development of how Lincoln repeatedly would interrogate his own underlying principles and evolve them and grow them and nuance them and then let that then speak back to what he was doing in his life and in his political career. That's what I think was important. He thought that was key. I am more impressed by someone who throughout their life really cares about struggles with and tries to evolve and live by an evolving empathetic moral code than I am by someone who maybe has in isolation the better moral beliefs but came by it easy. That they were born at a time where it was just really obvious. In fact, if you had a different belief, someone would yell at you anyways. There's no strain there. It's the life interrogated. That's really rare. He really did that. All right. Number two, the other thing I've learned about Lincoln, why I admire him, is the fact that he has a propulsive intelligence. P-U-R-P-O-S-I-V-E. I think it was actually William Lee Miller who used that term in talking about Lincoln. What that means by propulsive intelligence was he had a brain that worked and he put this brain to work to try to impact the world in positive ways. He saw his brain as an asset and systematically developed this asset to try to get a return out of it in a particular return in terms of making a positive impact on the world. It really is an amazing story. This kid growing up in the depths of early 19th century American poverty just on the strength of his brain alone emerged out of this context, backwater Kentucky, barely literate father, dead mother, single father, barely literate who had him just doing the harshest of manual labors, suspicious of book learning, renting him out to other people for just be labor for these other people. You don't get to keep the money. Lincoln hated that. He emerged from that just off of the strength of his brain, which he developed. He knew there was something there and he developed that and applied it. All of his impact comes from the very careful cultivation of this intelligence. You look at his debates with Stephen Douglas. It's a masterclass in just working through clarity and thinking. Look at his Cooper Union address as he's building up to his potential nomination for the president of 1860. You see here again, a masterclass in weeks, if not months of research into the history of the country building step by step these incredibly logical arguments. You have to understand how unique this was in its time. The great repetitions of the 19th century were pompous and it was emotional. It was a lot of classical illusions, a Cicero being quoted and a lot of personal vindictive or emotional appeals. It was a lot of trying to get people fired up by appealing and inflaming their passions. There's a lot of ad hominin going on and trying to establish your intelligence. Look at all these different books. In sight, Lincoln came in and said, "I'm going to be logical and incredibly plain-spoken. I'm going to step by step like the lawyer he was bring you through why the Nebraska Act is actually against the founders' intentions, why this would be devastating to the country." Taking down his anti-slavery arguments were not like you would get more from maybe the William Lloyd Garrison, not barn burners, but we're going to go A to B to C to E. When we get to F, it's clear that this makes no sense. That was an incredibly effective rhetorical strategy. It's all based off of propulsive intelligence and it made a massive difference. It was why he got nominated for the Republican ticket was because he had built this reputation of he's not out there inflaming people. He's not out there in the 1860 equivalent of Twitter trying to score points for his team. It's this incredible reasonableness and logic. There's a modernism that actually that's what worked. That's what led to the 13th Amendment. To me, that was a big inspiration. The way that he cultivated an intelligence to effect change. Very systematic. A good book for that, so I'm giving book recommendations around the way. John Stauffer from Harvard, his book Giants. What it does, and it's interesting, is he takes Frederick Douglass and Lincoln. Here's two people who are coming out of impossible situations. Douglass's situation, of course, even more impossible being in an Eastern Shore slave on the Eastern Shore. Lincoln, of course, was not a slave. They were both coming out of these impossible circumstances. They both, this is what Stauffer really characterizes, is through the development of their mind how they were able to become the end giants. Their lives became very intertwined. That sort of giants gets into the intertwining of the lives of Frederick Douglass and Lincoln. They kind of have these parallel emergencies all about taking these minds, cultivating them, and then putting them systematically towards what they thought was important uses. Their lives end up becoming quite intertwined. They were, at some point, they were almost adversarial. You get Douglass's famous speech on what the Fourth of July means to a former slave. But they come later in life. The Douglass is an incredible supporter, actually, of Lincoln's very systematic approach and his very functionalist approach. Let's try to actually make change happen as opposed to making the people on our side as happy as possible. There's a whole interesting story there. One more book recommendation then, if you like that particular line of thinking, H.W. Brann's zealot, which contrasts John Brown and Lincoln and their approach to anti-slavery movements. Brown's was very zealous and very pure. We get a lot of likes on the Twitter. He ended up not only pung, but actually perhaps even causing issues with the movement. Lincoln would not be popular on Twitter, but to get the 13th amendment. So anyways, that's an example Natalia. Lincoln is someone who I grew to admire through reading as much as possible on him and picking out these very specific things, which I think have a general application, are generally relevant to a lot of us. Justin actually met someone at the live event. Mike. Mike gave me a recommendation. I got to read this book. It's about, this sounds so me. It's Lincoln Civil War and the role of technology in the Civil War and how the telegraph and the railroads and it was actually these really advanced technological systems were so intertwined in Lincoln's managing of the war. I mean, that's kind of hitting all my buttons probably. How many Lincoln books do you think you've consumed? Like 30? Probably not 30. A dozen, I would say. Have you always been a fan? I came to him through books. I came to him through, he was my mother-in-law, bought me Lincoln's virtues and then Miller wrote another book about Lincoln's time in the White House. I read those. This would have been grad school and that kind of set me down. And then John Stauffer we knew. So John Stauffer, when I was at MIT, my wife worked at a non-profit in Watertown with John's wife and they did, it was an education non-profit, history education non-profits. John, he was always involved in what would do events. So I remember John Stauffer and Skip Gates from Harvard were always sort of around. And so I remember his book signing party for that book. So we knew John just knew him from our time and came to babysat his kids before. So then that book also was exposed to around that same time. It was a great book. All right. I want to get to this new segment.


Cal talks about Eight Sleep and Grammarly (01:34:26)

Three interesting things. First, let me briefly mention another sponsor that makes this show possible. That's our friends at Eight Sleep. As you now know, if you've been listening to this podcast recently, I am an Eight Sleep Attic, Attic, Attic. What am I saying? Attic or Attic? Why can't I say this word, Jesse? You say it. Attic. Like in Europe, about the basement. Yeah. I live in an Attic with an Eight Sleep machine. Attic. See, it's hard. Like it doesn't sound right to my ear. It all sounds like the word Attic, TTIC, instead of ADDIC, Attic. Attic. I'm an Eight Sleep Attic. Well, anyways, the Eight Sleep Pod is a cover you put on top of your mattress and then you hook it up to this Eight Sleep machine that allows you to control the temperature of what you're sleeping on. It has all these little capillaries and it runs water through it and back to this machine that takes heat out or adds heat in. You control it from an app and you can set the exact temperature you want the surface of your bed on both sides. I am completely hooked on this because here's what it does. It can take the heat away when you sleep. So you can have the blankets on. You can have the comforter on on that winter night and not have to wake up two hours later and be completely overheated as all this body heat builds up. It can just, you said it just right. It just whisks away enough of that heat that you're always comfortable. You're not too hot. You're not too cold. I now have trouble sleeping on other beds because I have become so used to the Eight Sleep. So I'm giving you my full personal anecdote here, my full personal endorsement. I'm a hot sleeper. This thing really works. It allows you to cool as low as 55 degrees or as hot as 110 degrees Fahrenheit. If you're an Eight Sleep user that you'll see they use numbers, I'm a negative one. I'm negative one on that scale is my sweet spot. They have surveys about how it helps people sleep better. You don't need to hear the surveys. Hear it from me. I sleep worse without it. So even better, the Eight Sleep recently launched the next generation of their pod. The new pod three enables more accurate sleep and health tracking with double the amount of sensors delivering the best experience on Earth. Yeah, it gives you information about your sleep, by the way. But it'll actually tell you if you look at the app, like, hey, you slept this much last night. Here's, you know, et cetera. Cool technology. So the pod's not magic, but it feels like it. I'm a big Eight Sleep fan. If you sleep hot, you got to try it. You got to try it. So go to eightsleep.com/deep to save $150 on the pod. That's eightsleep.com/deep. You need that/deep to get the $150 off. Eight sleep currently ships within the USA, Canada, the UK, select countries in the EU and Australia. I want, you know what I want to just see is like an eight sleep chair, you know? I don't have to make the podcast studio frigid. If I just had like an eight sleep chair, you know, just like, just keep taking like a little bit of heat off of me. That'd be great. I could podcast all day. David Sachs made a lot of comments about the temperature of the studio. Oh, yeah, he couldn't take it. Yeah, I don't want to cast dispersions. But David Sachs did not like the cool weather, but different people run hot and different people run cold. Like when I'm doing an event, my concern is like, I'm going to be too hot. That's always my concern. I'm never worried I'm going to be too cold. Sachs came to that event at City Books wearing a sweater and a jacket and a shirt. I could never. If I had like an undershirt, a dress shirt, a sweater and a blazer on, I mean, I would just faint. I'd be like, thank you for coming out. Baint, you know? But you know, some people are very different. So if Sachs was using an eight sleep, he would probably be on the positive side of the scale. Like I don't want to get too cold. I'm the opposite way. I don't want to get. Honestly, to me, the optimal outfit for like doing an event, like giving a speech or something. This might not be the image I want to give. It would be like a loose pair of athletic shorts and no shirt. I don't know how this would go over on the Today Show or, you know, what I'm doing, Tim Farris' podcast or on the video screen. But honestly, that's what I would be the most comfortable in. Outside in October. So there's like, it's not frozen, but it's like 50 degrees out and there's like a like, it's brisk. I'm shirtless. I try it, but you know, the event organizers never love it. All right. Let's also talk about Grammarly. Grammarly was the original. I believe they were the original sponsor of this show and for good reason. I make my living as a writer, but even if you're not a professional writer, clarity in your expression and written word is at the core of almost every profession it seems these days. If you can express yourself clearly confidently with the right tone, make such a difference, especially as more and more work is remote, more and more communication is happening on email, more and more communications happening on Slack. It's never been more important to be clear in your writing. This is where Grammarly enters the scene. It's like having a professional editor looking over your shoulder as you write every email and send every chat message. Grammarly is free to download and works where you do. So it will help you be clear and get your projects done faster. So if you start with the free version of Grammarly, what you're going to get is comprehensive spelling, grammar and punctuation suggestions. So this is just going to make sure you don't make mistakes. You're not going to miss spell words. You're not going to get grammar wrong. Like don't do this. You're not going to get the wrong form there. This is possessive. It shouldn't be. You probably should have a semicolon here, not a comma. So the free version of Grammarly is going to make you come across sharp. This is a good writer who doesn't make mistakes. Very professional. Where the magic really starts to happen I think is with the premium version of Grammarly, which keeps all of the world class spell checking, grammar checking, et cetera. And it adds clarity focused sentence rewrites. So this is where it'll actually say rewrite the sentence this way. It'll make your point clear. It's simpler. This is where you begin to get that reputation as a particularly clear communicator. When people see your super sharp sentences, they just think you're smarter. You're going to get promoted faster. People are going to have more respect for you. Grammarly also has, once you have the premium version, a tone detector. That might be in both versions. I'm not quite sure about that, but it has a tone detector, which will look at what you write and say, this is what we're detecting on tone. I wrote about this issue in my book, A World Without Email. We're very bad at judging for ourselves. The tone of our written communication. We think we're being funny. We think we're being sarcastic. The other person thinks you're mad at them. Grammarly's tone detector helps you come in and recognize when this is not the tone that you're going for. In today's world, especially remote focused knowledge work, you have to be a clear communicator. Means you have to have Grammarly. Get more time in your day. Get more done. Be more confident in your communication with Grammarly. Go to Grammarly.com/deep to sign up for a free account. When you're ready to upgrade to Grammarly Premium, you will get 20% off for being my listener. To get that 20% off though, when you first sign up, you need to have gone to Grammarly.com/deep. Don't forget that/deep. That's 25% off at g-r-a-m-m-a-r-l-y.com/deep. All right, Jesse, for our last segment of the day, I call those three interesting things. These are things that I either came across on my own or sent to me at my interesting@countyport.com email address that I found interesting. I will share them with you now. All relevant links to each of these things are in the show notes. The first interesting thing is a news report.


A novel solution to cell phones in schools (01:42:40)

News report out of Cleveland, Ohio. I've loaded this on the tablet for those who are watching at youtube.com/countyportmedia. If you want to find this, this is the video for episode 224. Here's an article from Ohio in particular, Warren'sville Heights, Ohio at the T-squared Honors Academy. This is a charter school in Ohio. This is a report from NBC News. What happened with this charter school is coming back from COVID-19 last year, they had a lot of challenges, especially with discipline, etc. The leaders of this charter school started looking through their data to say what is causing these issues. What they found is that the bulk of the problems, and I'm quoting this article now, were linked either directly or indirectly to cell phones. Students were scrolling social media, playing games, and late to class because they were making TikToks in the hall. Last week we talked about a boarding school. Was this two weeks ago, Jesse, when we talked about the boarding school? Last week? I think it was two weeks ago. We talked about a boarding school that banned smartphones. We said, "Okay, you can kind of do that at a boarding school. Would this work at just a normal, this is a charter school, but a school you just go to in the morning and come home?" Here's how they solved the logistical problem. They're using yonder, YO, N, D, R, bags. These are the bags that they use at, for example, performances, comedians that are working on a new set, a big comedian like Dave Chappelle. They will have you put your phone into one of these bags. What happens with these bags is you get to keep your phone. It solves the issue of, "Oh, we have to store everyone's phone and get it back to them if there's an emergency. They can't get it." You get to keep your phone, but it's in this bag. As long as it's in this bag, it can't receive. It's a fair day cage in a bag form. It can't receive calls, can't receive text. You keep it with you, but it can't work. When you leave the performance hall, you take it back out. At the school, they're like, "Great, you can keep your phone, but you have to keep it in this bag." That solves the logistical problem of how do we collect phones from 200 kids? It also introduces an environment where no one's on their phone. Now, of course, it's really easy to see violators here. If you see anyone holding a phone, anyone taking out of their bag, you say, "Okay, look, discipline." They use these yonder bags. Students lock up their phones, and I'm quoting the article here, from the moment they walk into the school to the time they are dismissed at the end of the day. How did this go? I have a couple of quotes here. This charter school was initially worried about enrollment dropping with this new policy, because the charter school, so people can choose to not go there anymore. They ended up having the opposite problem. More parents wanted to send their kids to this charter school specifically because of their policy of putting the phones in these bags. Here is a couple of the quotes. Here's from the principal. It's taken a layer of distraction and stress for some kids away, so it's great to see. The principal went on to say that transitioning to the pouches was surprisingly smooth for the students, and most of all, it's been refreshing to see kids just being kids again at lunch in the halls and at recess, interacting, having fun, talking. Recessed their playing football, basketball, and just being kids. It turns out that over 25 schools in Ohio are using these cell phone bags to get cell phones out of the schools, including six in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District alone. In particular, Charter Academy is, there's over 1,200 schools across the country that are doing something similar. A survey of 900 of these schools that are putting cell phones in these bags throughout the day found that 74 reported an improvement in student behavior. 65% have an improvement in academic performance. Anyone in school reform knows those percentages are massive. It's like magic being level, almost like don't try to find some intervention that's going to make such a difference in schools. This one thing is. Anyways, I like this article. I found it interesting because it shows this notion that kids these days have to have their phones. There's no way to take them away. Pandora's box has been opened. All we can do is just say we had our own things when we were kids or parents to understand they have theirs. Those arguments do not have strong support. There's over 1,000 schools already in this country that takes kids' phones away and they're almost all finding very positive benefits. It's almost like a secret weapon to improvement of school environments. So I no longer accept the argument of kids these days as a way of maintaining the status quo with phones. A lot of schools are doing things about it and the kids are happier, the teachers are happier, the performance is up, the discipline is up. So to me that's good. That's progress. So that is an interesting thing. My second interesting thing is one of these buzzy articles from the Atlantic that is making the rounds.


The age of social media ending (01:47:40)

This is from November 10th. It's titled The Age of Social Media is Ending, written by Ian Bogost or Bogost. The subtitles that never should have begun. It has just what I think is a confusing graphic. So for those who are watching on the YouTube channel, I thought this was a white domino with three blue dots that for some reason had a little thing coming out of it. But I guess this is like a plastic version of, I don't know, like the, I'm typing in text message bubble. You see what I'm saying? Do you think that's right? It looks kind of like a speech bubble with three dots in it. Or is that a Twitter thing? I don't really know. Yeah, it looks like a text thing with the dots. But look, not the, not the blame here, but this is an article about social media, not texting. So I don't know about this graphic choice, but if we can make it past there, this is a, a buzzy article. It starts by saying it's over. Facebook is in decline. Twitter is in chaos. Mark Zuckerberg's empire has lost hundreds of billions of dollars and laid off 11,000 people. Blah, blah, blah. It never felt more plausible that the age of social media might end and soon, but now that we've washed up on this unexpected shore, we can look back at the shipwreck that left us here with fresh eyes and perhaps we, here we can find some relief. Social media was never a natural way to work, plain socialized, though it did become second nature. All right. So basically I'm glad this is spreading and Jesse, you can back me up here, but my, my reaction to this is, all right, well, welcome to my party. I've been hosting this for a while now. I mean, it really was about two years ago that I began going on major shows and saying, you guys don't understand that the decline of social media has already been set into motion, that this age of these monopolies being at the center of cultural life, the apex of that has already passed. You just don't notice it yet. And there's going to be this decline in fragmentation. And no one really bought that. And now like a year or two later, I feel like I was right. But A, it is fragmenting like I predicted it would. And B, that's good because it's very unnatural. These are the two things that no one would accept in 2020 or 2019. No one would accept that it was somehow unnatural. All of this tweeting back and forth and Instagram with these tags and you click on these icons and you forward these things and you swipe on the phone. And I'm saying, like this is so out of character, human character. This is an artificial way to interact. It is a perversion of the internet to try to run it through a small number of walled gardens. And this is very unstable. It's not going to last. And no one came around to that. But now in this article, it's being proposed to what's happening now. So you know, welcome to my party. And I'm glad people are, I guess I'm glad people are showing up. This may be maybe the way I'll think about it. People are coming to your party. Like I'm in my party. All right. Let's do the third interesting thing. All right.


Concluding Remarks

Eat, pray, herd (01:50:42)

What I'm going to do for this third interesting thing is I haven't read this yet. Someone sent this to me. The concept sounded great. So we can discover this together. So this is an article from the Wall Street Journal. And let me get the data. I think this is recent. Let's see here November 17th. All right. So here's the name of this article. And this is all I know about this so far is the article and subtitle, but you'll see why this caught my attention. Here's the title. "Pray heard how an IT guy found career happiness owning 78 camels and the subhead is Muhammad Isaac grew tired of office life in Canada. So he returned to a Somaliland birthplace and took up an ancient trade." So speaking of deep life and deep resets, getting back in touch with something, making a radical move, getting back in touch with values, shaping your life in a very intentional way, this seems like it's one of those canonical examples. All right. So let's get just a couple of details here together. Let's see. "Tucked 78 camels, but Muhammad Isaac is no longer miserable and reversal of the usual way of things. Mr. Isaac had fled to stress a city life in the West to become a camel herder in the drought-stricken scrublands of Eastern Africa." Oh, Jesse, is that all a cliche? If I had a dime for every knowledge worker who reacted to the stress of the life, the move to drought-stricken Africa, raised camels, I would have one dime. I'm going to -- let me just push back here. We're reading this together live in the reversal, the usual way to do things. That's not a reversal right now of the usual way to do things. I mean, if anything, this is the big trend of the last three years is especially knowledge workers radically rebuilding their lives in ways that are more valuable. So I would say in a further exemplification or a particularly strong example of how things are going now, Mr. Isaac fled the stress of the city, I mean, unless the implication here is the usual way of doing things is that camel herders from the scrublands in Eastern Africa moved to Canada to become IT professionals, then that might make sense. But I don't know how strong that pipeline is. All right. We'll see a little more details here. Mr. Isaac worked as a computer network administrator in Ottawa. This is not fair. Jesse, I don't know if you agree with this, but for some reason, office life is something I don't love. I like to be my own boss. For some reason, it feels like office life in Canada is probably even worse. This is even nicer and more bland. At least in the US, you're going to have one or two people who are kind of crazy and it's -- it'll be the QAnon guy. At least it'll be like some excitement, right, or like the guy who has like way too into, you know, weightlifting or the like, I'm really into the woman really in the goop and like at least you're going to have some wacky characters that sort of also like are very threatening. So there's like some spice to it. I just feel like in Canada, everyone would just be like really nice. That was fun. Anyway, so he returned. We'll just skip through this. But just to get the highlights here, he has a long family history of the camel herding. He's not just doing this from scratch. And what he says is what's important is happiness. So it's interesting. The Nomad life is not easy. He also adds, but this is our heritage. He's 53. He looks much younger because he worked as an IT administrator his whole life instead of a camel herder. He worries about sunburn. It's some interesting details here. Interesting details. So this is cool. Let's just pull out the, there's a lot of interesting history of Somalia here and other types of things. It's a good article. But I'm scrolling here as we read. It's about how he learned how to do this. He read camel herding books, not a lucrative niche in the publishing industry. I can tell you that from experience. They watched the documentary called Camilicious. All right. He learned how to do it, move there and begin camel herding. So I think the takeaway message of that interesting thing is not to become a camel herder, but look at the general outline of what Muhammad Isaac did here. He stepped back to do a deep reset. He was a network administrator in Ottawa. He was bored. He felt disconnected from his heritage and his family. So he said, let me do some equivalent of a deep reset. What are, what's important to me? How can I radically realign my life around what's important to me? And for him reconnecting to a ancient family trade from his homeland that he had left and felt disconnected from, that is pure intention, a crafting of a life around things that really matter, throwing in a dash of radicalness and doing so. That general structure, I think, is replicatable in a lot of different specific flavors. So I should say that general recipe is implementable in a lot of different flavors. But what I think these type of deep reset share is that intentionality, values based, and radicalness. I want to be very careful about how I craft my life. I want to base this off of what's important to me. And I'm willing to do radical things to follow it. So you don't have to become a camel herder, but a lot of people have their own probably equivalent of camel herding in their own life. Heritage family connection, things really important to them that you could make a radical change route. That's definitely an interesting thing. Alright, Jesse, I think we've talked enough today to wrap things up. I think everyone who sent in their questions and left voicemails and did life calls and sent in interesting things. Wow, we really have a lot of interaction going on. So thanks for that, everybody. We will be back next week with another episode of the deep questions podcast. And until then, as always, stay deep.


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