Ep. 230: How Well Are You Living?

Transcription for the video titled "Ep. 230: How Well Are You Living?".

1970-01-01T05:03:04.000Z

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Introduction

Cal's intro (00:00)

And he gets into it later in this article. He gets into how this came about. He was collecting this stuff because if you know GDT, he does these beautiful, fantastical movies that often have the macabre or terrifying in them. So he was collecting these somewhat disturbing objects. And at some point, his wife very reasonably said, this cannot be in our house. Like we have young kids. If you want to know what I'm talking about and you're watching on YouTube, I have an example on the page of something that's in his bleak house. It's a man's face that has been ripped open and there's like jaws coming out. I'm Cal Newport, and this is Deep Questions, episode 230. I'm here in my deep work HQ, joined once again by my producer, Jesse. Jesse, welcome back from vacation. Thanks. Good to be back. I was actually pretty impressed that I remembered how to do most of the stuff that happens on the computer screen. I, it was muscle memory. I was actually thinking about that. I mean, it's not overly complicated, but there are steps that I would. It's just a lot of little things. Yeah. But it's like riding a bike. So recording on garage band podcasting is like, uh, riding a bike. Um, all right. News, Jesse news to share. Uh, I think I can say officially that as of this morning, I am done with a complete first draft of my new book, slow productivity. That's pretty awesome. It's a little bit hazy to really put a line in the sand and say the draft is done. Um, because for example, I example, I have a couple examples I've come across recently that I want to go back and integrate into prior chapters. I also want to do a pass through and see if any of the major stories I want to change before I submit it. But my definition of being done is like, as of right before I came here this morning, every chapter of the book has been written and polished. So in theory, I have a complete version of the manuscript, maybe not the version I'm. So in theory, I have a complete version of the manuscript. Maybe not the version I'm going to submit, but there's a complete version of it. There's nothing that's either not yet written or, uh, written still in a, in a rough draft. So I, I finalized the conclusion. So as you were walking us through, you know, the quarterly plans and stuff since last, when you started, did it all fall into place? It did. I laid my game plan for this manuscript. Well, let me think about that. Let me, let me be a little bit more careful about this. I started writing it in earnest, late spring, early summer. Um, and so I had a plan through the summer that I think I was a little bit light on. So when I got to the end of the summer, I was a little behind schedule. Um, beginning of the fall, I laid out a plan from the beginning of the fall to completing the manuscript and my target was to be done basically now. Wow. Right. Now it might sound like, wow, how did I predict that so well? But that's not how this works with quarterly planning. It's not that I made a prediction and I happened to hit it. It's having that plan in place gave me back pressure to, okay, I got to work harder now. I got to fill in extra time now. It gave me milestones. So when I could see I was going behind, I could put an extra effort to catch up. And when I got ahead, then I could pull back and put that effort elsewhere. So that's the way I like to think about these sort of quarterly scale plans is it's not, let's just see if I hit it. It's not a prognostication. It's actually a set of milestones you can use to govern your activity throughout the way. So it was the structure I used to govern my energy all fall long and it works. And so I ended up coming in for a landing right around, I mean, within a week of when I was hoping to do it. That's so good. So you probably, how many hours a day did you average writing? Like six days a week. So the way I normally do it. That's so good. So you probably, how many hours a day did you average writing? Well, you know, the way I normally do it is I'll have a mile. So I'll go from just, this is multi-scale planning. So I'll go from my quarterly plan will influence my weekly plan. And then my weekly plan will influence what I do each day. And so typically when I'm writing, I have a particular milestone I'm trying to hit. So it just depends how close I'm getting to it. So if I'm getting close to it or I'm falling behind, I might put in a five or six hour writing day. My average writing day is going to be two hours, two and a half hours. And I would just write in the morning, most mornings, not Saturday, was my typical schedule. Sometimes I'd miss a morning with a meeting and I would just try to write for about two hours, two and a half hours. I mean, this was really a, to quote McPhee, John McPhee. And I know this quote because it's actually at the very final section of the conclusion of my book. It's from a 2010 interview McPhee did for the Paris Review. It was interviewed by his colleague at the New Yorker, Peter Hessler. by his colleague at the New Yorker, Peter Hessler. And he has this book where he has this quote where he essentially marvels at this idea that people think he's very hardworking or prolific because it says from his point of view, he's just putting a little drop in the bucket every day. But he said, the thing is, it's not hard, it doesn't look that impressive to add a drop in the bucket on a given day. But if you do that 365 days, when you get to the end of the year, that bucket's pretty full. That's the approach I took with slow productivity. I wanted the writing to be good. So I really just kept my focus each day on what section am I working on? I want this to be really good. And then it's not overwhelming, right? Because then you're focusing on, I'm writing a section where I'm telling the story of X to make this point. And over two days, I just want to do that really well. And I did that really well. Good. What's next? And then you just add that up over about six or seven months and you hope what you end up with is a manuscript that's pretty, pretty well crafted, that there's not a lot of flab in it. I mean, the thing I dislike in pragmatic nonfiction is where you clearly see evidence of writing for the sake of writing. I have 10,000 words I got to finish. I have a week left to do it. Type, type, type as fast as I can. Lots of rhetorical questions, throwing in random examples. Like just, you can tell the author is like, my God, I got to get these words done. I never want that to come through in my writing. So it's always just today I'm writing a thousand words or whatever. And I want those thousand words to be great. And I think that's how you get density. So it really worked. I mean, we'll see how the book turns out, but I really feel good about this drop everyday method of by the time I got to what I'm working on today, all I'm caring about is that and keeping the whole pressure of there's this whole book that needs to be finished. And I'm not that far into it, keeping that at a higher scale of planning. I only have to confront that every once in a while, maybe once a month. And really what I want to be doing each day is just this one I'm working on this week. This is the part I'm doing today and just focus. So anyways, I'm excited about that. It's kind of exhausting, Jesse. I mean, I find this with every book, um, it's mentally exhausting. So I'm, I'm sort of happy to have a little bit of a break coming up because, you know, I'm doing New Yorker stuff at the same time. Yeah. I'm doing academic stuff at the same time. It's a lot of thinking. And I think about my brain the same way athletes think about their muscles, right? I mean, you have a hard season. You got to recharge a little bit. Yeah, I guess. I mean, we've heard a lot of examples, too, of people like authors who write five, six hours a day, every single day. It just seems like you also write pretty fast, you know, cause this thing got done pretty quickly. Yeah. Uh, yeah, it got done. I mean, this is about my pace. If I can give it daily attention, see, I don't need five hours a day, but I need most days to be able to give it two. And so for me, it's, if I can connect a summer term with a teaching release, I can make it happen. Right. So I really got going in May. Not surprising, right? Because May is when my courses end. I had a very busy spring semester because I was teaching two courses and was co-chairing a university level search committee in which we were trying to hire three people. Right. So it's very time consuming, lots of being on campus, meeting with candidates, going to talks and a lot of overhead. And so I didn't write basically at all. I knew I wasn't gonna be able to write, but once I got the May, it was like, let's turn it on because it's summer, right, right, right, right, right. And off-term, right, right, right, right, right. And so that's why I was able to get it done in about six months. If I was teaching this fall, I would have to, this is, this would be a one-year process. So probably May to back around again to May again, because if you think about it, it probably reduces the number of mornings you can write by about 40%. Yeah. And then you got to factor in loss of momentum because can write by about 40%. Yeah. And then you got to factor in loss of momentum because of that. And yeah, yeah. That, that, that makes about sense. It was, I have some, some big swings ideas for the New Yorker. I'm excited to get to, I have some, uh, cool academic paper I'm working on. So I'm really looking forward to the next few months going back to a, a non book schedule where I'm teaching and I have some articles I'm working on, but there's not this, I mean, I wake up every day for the six months, woken up every day. First thought is what am I writing today? Yeah. You know, let's get after, what am I writing? What am I like? Not, I don't waste time. Don't waste time. We got to get into it. Got to get into it. You know, that's been six months of that. So I'm looking forward to a slow start. it you know that's been six months of that so i'm looking forward to a slow start your um your recent new yorker article was in the new yorker weekly summary email i just got that yeah well yeah so they do the new yorker oh it's in the weekly summary yeah i only get you can get you can sign up for a bunch of different ones i get the weekly one and like one other one i don't want the daily one can you control which ones you get oh yeah i get too many you can i mean i write for the magazine but i was talking my wife and i were talking about that because i get like the daily humor yeah no you can which i don't need right and i get um this week in the magazine which i don't need because i have the magazine i really just want the daily but i don't get the weekly well i guess it's this week in the magazine which i was talking about you came up oh okay but okay. But yeah, I think that quiet quitting one did well. Interesting podcast shout out for that article. The quiet quitting article came out of our podcast. Some editor heard us talking about it and was like, you should write something about it. Yeah. So the podcast is providing a platform. Actually, it's one of the questions I'm going to tackle later in the show. Someone wrote in about coming up with these ideas, my process for researching. So actually, we're going to get into that later in the show. But before we do, I also have a request. I realize it's been, I don't know, six months since I've asked this, and I realize I should. Leave a review of the podcast if you get around to it, I want to go. I think it's a good way to get some new listeners. It's confusing. If you just come across this show, you just see it on like the podcast technology charts, like what the hell is this? Uh, and reviews kind of help people figure it out. So if you like the show, consider leaving a review. Um, if you dislike the show, I just heard that the review feature will give you a computer virus. You don't want to do that. Right. So if you like it, leave a review. If you dislike the show, I just heard that the review feature will give you a computer virus. You don't want to do that, right? So if you like it, leave a review. If you don't, do not. All right, Jesse, thanks. Segment is three interesting things that people have emailed to my interesting account, newport.com address. You know, I forgot Jesse to do the little tagline for the show. I'm trying to be better at identifying the show for people. So I'll do that now. This show is one in which I answer questions from my audience and give advice about the struggle to live deeply in a world beset by distractions. So I like to remind everyone, that's what we're doing here. Our deep dive will be about that. Our questions will be about that. All three of our interesting things we'll cover later. We'll all come back to that theme. How do we live deeper in a world that's trying to destroy us with distraction? All right, so let's get going with our deep dive.


In-Depth Discussions

Deep Dive - How well are you living? (11:30)

The title is How Well Are You Living? This is a deep dive that is supposed to be well suited to this current season of new year resolutions. Now the inspiration for this deep dive is an email I read actually this morning. It comes from a writer's group that I'm a part of. And it was an email that someone was sending to the writer's group. It was a well-known writer talking about a conversation he had with another well-known writer. I want to read an excerpt from this email. I'm going to get rid of any identifying information, of course, we'll obfuscate that, but I'm going to read the core of this message, what caught my attention. So the well-known writer who's sending this email says, by far the most interesting topic to emerge, and he's referring to a lunch he had recently with another author, was the question, how well are you living? It's not the type of question that comes up often in overachiever circles, and we took a long pause to consider it. I mean, if you were to grade yourself on how well you're living, what would the grade be? That's how we framed the question. Well, that gave us something to really think about and led to an incredible set of text exchange in the days, weeks, and months to come. Some of the most meaningful exchanges I've had in years. So food for thought as this new year begins, how well are you living? Now, I thought that was a provocative prompt because it gets at a core issue that I think people have when they think about improving their life as so many are doing right now in the new year season. In particular, the tension I think this highlights is the tension between holistic and focused approaches to self-improvement. So the question, how well are you living? This is a holistic question. Looking at your life as it exists in its entirety. If someone was to write a short story about your life or film a documentary about your life, would it resonate with others as a life well-lived? Would it resonate with you? I like hearing about this life. There's a question about the holistic properties of your day-to-day existence. Now it sounds obvious, yeah, I want to live well, but when people tackle this goal, they tend instead to fall into focused approaches to self-improvement, where you isolate specific elements of your life where you want to remove something bad or do something better. So for example, you might say, I want to be in better shape. So I want to exercise more. I want to eat better. I want to go to the gym more. It's just classic New Year's resolution. You might say, I want to be a better parent. I feel like I'm too disorganized. I'm not able to show up at enough of my kids' events or give them enough time. I want to be a better parent. Or you might say, for example, I want to be better at this aspect of my job. I want my newsletter to double the amount of readers. I want to get promoted to be team lead at my programming job, et cetera. Now, the issue with this focused approach to self-improvement is that it ignores the complex ways in which different aspects of your life interact with each other. So actually, the problem a lot of overachievers in particular have, so this is the crowd that this email I read was really talking about. It's a bunch of overachieving writers. The problem that overachievers have with the self-improvement is not their failure to make progress on things. It's not their failure to follow through on their resolutions. It's actually what happens when they succeed. Because when you're doing focused self-improvement, you're messing with a complex mechanism by taking one aspect and maybe amplifying it. That might then interact with or interfere with how the other aspects of your life unfold and things can get even worse. Because often the way to solve or improve parts of your life is to improve your life as a whole. The isolating of looking at one thing might throw everything else out of whack. So for example, maybe you say, I want to be in better shape and you come up with these, I'm going to train and I'm going to train for a triathlon or I'm going to run a marathon. I see this all the time. Like I'm an overachiever. I'm going to take on like a really serious training regimen and I'm going to get really careful about my eating. I have to run this much and lift these weights and do all of these things. And yeah, you maybe are succeeding in making that part of your life better, but now it's completely swapping, taking out time that you didn't really realize you needed before to recharge between work or home or taking away time from your family. You have to wake up real early to do this. And now suddenly other aspects of your life just got worse. So the holistic system of your life is now actually worse off because you succeeded at the focus goal of I want to be in better shape. Now, sometimes the other issue that happens with focus versus holistic approach is that the solution requires other things to be involved. So maybe we're looking at this hypothetical issue of I want to be a better parent. I want to be in my kid's life more. I want to go to more whatever events at their school. I feel too harried. It might be that the solution to that has nothing to do with your commitments to parenting, but actually changing your work situation. Oh, it's actually, when we see the whole picture, it's the demands of your specific job that's making it impossible to do this other thing that matters to you. So we have these two issues of being focused. One, you might succeed and in doing so actually make other things worse. Two, you can't actually get to the real solutions because the problems you need to fix to improve this aspect of your life involve other unrelated, seemingly unrelated aspects. This is why I like the question, how well are you living? Because it demands that you look at the big picture. Not are you in shape? How's your parenting? How's your work? How's your whole life? Is this a life well lived or not? And what it asks you to do, if you're going to resolve to improve yourself this new year, it asks that you resolve to improve the entire picture of your life. Shift from this holistic picture to that holistic picture. This one's better than this. You think about all the aspects of your life, how they interact, how they push back and forth on each other, and you make changes that make sense for the whole picture. That's what I think, and I'm going to recommend that those who are thinking about doing new year's resolutions, this is how I think you should go about doing it. Do not write down a disparate collection of discrete and unrelated resolutions of things you want to improve. Instead, record an image of an improved lifestyle. When you get to the new year 2024, what do you want your life as a whole to look like? When you get to new year 2030, what do you want your life as a whole to look like? And think about then, how do all of these pieces need to change? What's holding back this? Is it my job is the problem here? Is it I've taken on too many, I have seven hobbies and they're eating each other's time and this isn't working. I need to simplify here. Is it what I really need to do is shift this leisure attention to something I can do with my kids because now I'm able to use the same time to connect with my family and find an outlet with something that's completely unrelated to my work. You see the whole picture and you think about what does your whole lifestyle look like? Do we need to move? Is this really the issue? Do we have to get out of the DC suburbs and, and move to, uh, you know, a farm in Southern Appalachia? I don't know, but you're not going to get to an answer unless you're seeing the whole picture, because if you're not seeing the whole picture, you're going to be picking at specific things. I guess I'll get up at 5.00 AM to run. Now, I guess I'm going to work later so I can try to get this promotion. You need to see the whole picture. So that's what I'm going to recommend is a holistic approach to New Year's resolutions this year. The question is, how well are you living? And if you're not happy with the answer, you need to focus on how you upgrade your life as a whole, not little individual aspects of it. So anyways, that was a good question, Jesse. How well are you living? It's the right way to think about it. More and more. I'm realizing that in my life as I get new years after new years is the whole game is crafting lifestyle and how things interact with each other. I mean, everything is so related. The thing that comes up most often, I think is how much your job, the details of your job interacts with like everything else. Yeah. You know? And so it's the issue and over job interacts with like everything else. Yeah. You know? And so it's the issue and overachievers, like, I'm just going to like crush it even more at my job. I'm this successful. How would I be more successful? If they don't realize how much that is often crushing everything else, or they'll try in isolation to say, I'm going to be, you know, the coach of the little league team and train for the triathlon and realize because of the reality of their job, there's no way to actually do that. And then it becomes a huge source of stress or anxiety, or the commute is the issue. And, you know, if we moved here, but we'd have to change the job. I mean, it's all about seeing this whole picture as a puzzle. How do I figure out if I move this piece, I can adjust that piece. This then allows this piece to move over here. Oh, the whole thing clicks together into a new hole. That's much better. It's a, it's a it's a dynamic system and then as you always talk about it gets distorted when people you know look at social media and stuff like that yeah and that just makes it worse because again social media especially instagram it's going to isolate these individual features of people's lives and exaggerate it and make it seem that's what people want yeah you're like oh that's what i need like why why don't i look like uh this came up last night we were watching the family was watching a movie on netflix it's a kid's movie called finding awana i might not be saying that word right but it takes place in hawaii and it's like a family from Brooklyn comes back to Hawaii because their grandfather had a heart attack. And as happens, they find a lost pirate treasure map and are sort of Goonie styles like the kids are trying to whatever. But anyways, it's kind of built around their dad had died and he comes back, spoiler alert, but he sort of comes back as a ghost. And it turns out this guy is an Instagram fitness model because my my son was like where have i seen him before and so you look at these pictures gentleman is in very good shape he is he's like he's like the it's like um you know if you're a producer and you're like get me the rock and like the rock is not available you're like then get me the rock. And like the rock is not available. You're like, then get me his like much cheaper non-union equivalent. Like you get this guy, right? He's like a really buff guy who the promise he's 10 inches shorter than the rock. But where I'm going with this is you see his Instagram photos. He's a Hawaiian cowboy. So he's shirtless with like 36 inch biceps with a cowboy hat on horses or whatever. You see that in isolation and you're like, oh man, you know, I guess I should be spending two hours a day in the gym. Yeah. Just like ripping at it to become like a buff Hawaiian cowboy. But you know, how does that fit with all the other aspects of your life? Like if you're going to play, um, ghosts and movies or whatever of like Hawaiian warriors, like, yeah, that's what you should do. Uh, that's all you're doing. Like your job is to get in really good shape. Um, where I'm trying to go with this, Jesse, is I'm going to move to Hawaii and just work out all the time, all the time. I'm not sure why I thought about the example. Um, all right. Anyways, uh, we got a whole good chunk of questions to get to. I want to briefly mention before we get there, one of the sponsors that makes this show possible. And that is our friends at Hinson shaving. I shaved with my Hinson razor just a couple hours before it is one of my favorite things I own. Like if I did like an Oprah's favorite things, uh, bit, you know, Oh, he's the five favorite things of this year. This razor would be on the, would be on the list. So let me tell you what it does, um, and why I like it.


Cal talks about Henson Shaving and Grammarly (23:12)

So a Henson's razor is this precision built aluminum, precisely CNC routed metal razor. Um, you put into it standard safety blades, 10 cent blades. And because this thing is made so precisely, you can get a great shave by just using a 10 cent blade within this beautifully milled razor. So here's the idea. Yeah, you pay more upfront to get this beautiful razor, but then going forward, you're just buying 10 cent blades and replacing them every week so your cost your average cost of shave begins to plummet and after a while it's much cheaper than using a subscription service or buying the the drugstore brands how do they make this thing so precise well the company that makes henson's razors is a family-owned aerospace parts manufacturer so they have all of the equipment needed to do incredibly precise milling of parts. They've worked on the International Space Station. They've worked on parts for the Mars rover. So they had all this equipment to make the razors precisely milled. This turns out to be the key to having a successful shave. You want just a very little bit of the blade protruding on either side of the safety razor body just enough to shave but not so much that you get flex you have too much of that blade coming out you get flex it's called the diving board effect that's where you get nicks so you want just a little bit coming out and they're able to build these things so precisely with their aerospace grade CNC machines that they have a 0.0013 inches of blade. That's it extending out. So anyways, it's a beautifully manufactured piece of equipment. It gives you a great shave and it gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you're going to be saving money in the longterm. You're gonna be feeling good about that. So it's time to say no to subscriptions and yes to a razor that will last you a lifetime. Visit hinson's shaving.com slash cow to pick the razor for you and use that code cow, and you will get two years worth of blades free with your razor. Just make sure you add the two year supply of blades to your cart and then enter that code CAL and the price of those blades will drop to zero. That's 100 free blades when you head to h-e-n-s-o-n-s-h-a-v-i-n-g.com slash CAL and use that code CAL. Let's also talk about our longtime sponsors at Grammarly. I'll tell you what Grammarly is and then why I'm proud to have them as a sponsor. So Grammarly gives you an AI-powered writing assistant that will help you jump boldly into the professional fray with clear, mistake-free writing. This runs on all of your devices and all the applications where you do writing. It sits there and helps you make your writing better. There's some features in Grammarly that is going to blow your mind. So for example, the Grammarly premium product has whole sentence rewrites. It will take hard to read sentences and say, rewrite them this way. It's going to be much clearer for people to read. Grammarly also has a way of helping your style with vocabulary suggestions. Here's a clearer word. Here's a better word. Maybe here is a more vivid word. It also has, and I find this amazing, a tone detector. So we'll come in and give you a second opinion on how your tone is coming across. Huge issue with written communications. You think you're being super clear in your email, you're typing, not realizing that it comes across as you being angry or you being upset. Well, really what you're trying to do is you're just in a hurry. Your Grammarly writing assistant is like, this is the tone I'm detecting here. You might say, okay, good. Thank you, Grammarly. Let me rewrite, this is the tone I'm detecting here. You might say, okay, good. Thank you, Grammarly. Let me rewrite this in a way that's not going to accidentally upset my colleagues. So it's a really cool product. It's going to keep your writing clear, concise, and correct. Now, why am I proud to have this as a sponsor? Because writing is how you express yourself in the 21st century knowledge economy. It's emails, it's Slack, it's documents, it's pitch decks, it's text messages. Writing is our primary mode of communication, especially as more and more work is remote. If you can write clearly and concisely with the right tone, with not only grammatical correctness, but this type of forceful confidence of what you're saying, it is a huge competitive advantage. Grammarly, you put grammarly on're saying, it is a huge competitive advantage. Grammarly, you put Grammarly on your devices, it will give you that edge. It's one of the simplest things you can do, in my opinion, to begin to stand out more in almost any knowledge work job. So start the year off right with Grammarly. Now here's the good news. My listeners can get 20% off Grammarly Premium if they go to grammarly.com slash deep.


How do you track deep life habits? (28:16)

That's 20% off at G-R-A-M-M-A-R-L-Y.com slash deep grammarly.com slash deep. All right, Jesse, let's do some questions. All right, sounds great. First question's from Chris. How do you keep track of all the other habits you develop besides your keystone habit? All right, this is a good New Year's question. So as longtime listeners know, I have this procedure I pitch on this podcast for how to transform your life towards the goal of depth. So how to go towards what we call the deep life. And the procedure I talk about is to divide your life into different buckets that cover different aspects of your life. So you have craft for your work, community for your friends, family, you have constitution for your health and so on. And I have this procedure I always come back to where I say, if you're going to overhaul your life towards depth, start by putting in place a keystone habit in each of these, what we call buckets, something distractible, but non-trivial. And that's just about setting your mindset right. You know, when it comes to my health, when it comes to my work, when it comes to my relationships, when it comes to my sort of ethical or spiritual development, there's something I do every day that's, uh, it's not trivial and I do it. And that signals to myself, I care about these areas and I'm, and I'm willing to do work that's optional, but important. Once you've laid that psychological foundation, then I talk about going bucket by bucket and spending a month or two to really overhaul each. So what Chris is asking is where did the results of that bucket by bucket overhauls get written down? How do you remember, let's say when you overhaul constitution, what you've decided about your health and fitness, when you overhaul craft and you've made changes in how you approach your work and you have new visions, where does that go? That's a very good question. So Chris, and I brought my computer here, Chris, because I'm going to actually look at my own documents and answering this question. But the basic answer is two part. So the first place, if I'm overhauling a bucket, the first place those proposed changes are going to go is in my strategic plan, what we also call a quarterly plan or semester plan. That's where it lives at first. So that every week I see these changes and I'll give it a name often, you know, I'll be like, okay, this is the project, whatever. I like to do that, you know, project work 2.0 or something. And I'll often even put, and I'm looking at on my screen right now, like a table inside the Google doc I use, there's a border and put the name at bold and I'll have that right at the top of it. And it's a reminder of like, this is the, this is what we're trying right now. We're doing this every day. We're using this new system and we have, you know, we're trying to hit this milestone every month for the next three months. So it's right there, right in your face. I will leave it there for a while because not everything is going to stick and I'll, I'll change it maybe over time like let me get rid of this let me update this so it's sort of a living document after a while if this overhaul has created changes that are going to stick this is just going forward what i always do with fitness this is going forward something i always do with craft, I have another document where those changes will then get encoded. And on my system here, I'm looking in my core folder in my personal Google Docs. And I have my work strategic semester planning here. I have my personal family life career strategic planning here. I have my values documented here. And the fourth document is called core systems that run my life. This is where new habits or systems or rules to become a permanent part of my life eventually migrate and find their permanent home. So I'm loading that up now. I'm not going to, uh, I've've talked about this before I won't read the details but let me give you the category so right up top at the top of this document I've written below are summaries of the three main categories that contain the elements of my core systems those categories are core documents productivity and discipline so under core documents this is where i i discuss how my value document works how my uh strategic plans works and maintenance like when do i check on these how do i update these under productivity this is where i capture um daily weekly planning uh how that works multi scale planning shutdowns capture like the different elements that are at the core of sort of how I organize that. And then under discipline is where I have, okay, these are just things I do on a regular basis and all these different buckets, you know, aspects of my life. So this is where, this is where permanent changes to different buckets of my life end up. They'll largely be in this core systems document. Exceptions abound. Okay. So some things become so core, I don't even bother writing them down. I just sort of get used to this is what I do. Other things like live pretty permanently in my strategic plans, right? So for example, there might be some vision I have and let me be specific. There is a vision I have for where I'm trying to get with my work. Like what I, the, the, the lifestyle vision of my working life. I want that's in my, at the top of my strategic plan for work that lives there. So like every time I'm up, you know, overhauling that strategic plan or just looking at it to make my weekly plan, I just see again and again, this vision I have on my life. And so I don't forget that where I want to get. And on this list, it's five attributes that I have. So some things just live in my strategic plans. These sort of like lifestyle visions and stuff live in there. Some things I just do. I get used to it. I don't bother writing it down. And other things make their way into my core systems. All right. So Chris, that's a good question. Um, that's how I, that's how I run it. Uh, I will say psychologically speaking, the point of that core systems document. So like, I don't worry about forgetting it. Practically speaking, I never read it because if you do, if you do these things again and again, after a year or two, you don't really need to be reminded.


How do I become more social? (Bonus: How does Cal avoid being killed by Jocko?) (34:25)

But it makes me feel good to know at least it's written down somewhere. All right, what do we got as our next question here? All right, next question. Terry, a software developer from England. I'm currently 36. I spent a while neglecting all my deep life buckets. I had a minimum wage job, irregular exercise, no social life. Then I discovered deep work and so good they can't ignore you around 2017. Thanks to those and Jocko Willink's podcast, I learned to code, landed a programming job I enjoy. I tripled my previous salary and now exercise four or five times a week. So thank you for the assistance there. Your podcast also poached me away from Jocko's. The one bucket I still struggle with is community and simply just being social at the basic level. I really know what to say in a one-on-one conversation, even with people I've known for years, and I often fail to take advantage of social networking events because of it. All right. So first of all, Terry, you got to be quieter about talking about me poaching you away from Jocko's podcast. I do not want Jocko Willick to snap me into three different pieces. He is one of the scariest human beings alive. And, uh, I don't want him to know or think of me as a competitor because he could, um, he could destroy me in a very literal, very literal sense. If you don't want him to know or think of me as a competitor because he could, um, he could destroy me in a very literal, very literal sense. If you don't know who Jocko Willink, by the way, just look at seven seconds of a Jocko YouTube video. And you know exactly what I talked about. In fact, Jesse, I think we should, we should try doing some Jocko style YouTube videos. Get you on the rower. Have you seen, do you watch any Jocko videos? Yeah, I've seen them over the years. Black and white. And then he, he puts a mic, he, he eats the mic and they put up the bass and he's just like, you know, I was, you know, whatever, whatever he's saying, right. Get after it. Yeah. Get after it. It's like terrifying, you know? So he's a terrifying man. And I think it'd be funny if we did our videos that way. So first things first, Terry, don't tell Jocko that you stopped listening to his podcast because of me. Second thing, second, congratulations on the turnaround. We'll get to the one remaining issue you have about community bucket in a second. But I just want to make a quick aside because I hear from a lot of different people from a lot of different situations in life. And I think there's sort of an important and positive force in their life. I mean, look at Terry went from minimum wage job, a regular exercise, no social life to a really good programming job. And he's in very good shape and is actively working on trying to improve his social life like this is a real turnaround um and i think the reason is as someone who gives advice who's given advice my whole life what i've learned is that different people have different uh there's different things that resonate with them and you want to reach someone you have to figure out what it is exactly that resonates with that particular person and it's different for different people for a lot of men, but not all, but for a lot of men, there's something about a sort of traditional, you know, Jocko has giant arms and wakes up at four 30 and growls in his microphone. And it's like, you can do more than you think, you know, get after it, have discipline, um, discipline. Was it discipline is freedom. Is that right? For a lot of guys that really resonates, right? Just because of the way they're wired and biochemically and hormonally or whatever that resonates and it can really lead to a lot of changes. Now for other people, it doesn't, but I think this is this pluralistic advice is, uh, pluralistic modes of advice is something that we, we need to embrace. And so I think there is a pushback against the, the Jockos of the world where other people that makes them uncomfortable. So having like a 250 pound, uh, silver star winning sort of war hero, Navy seal type growling at them makes them really uncomfortable, which completely makes sense because again, different people get advice different ways. Right. right so like I don't get that uncomfortable around Bernie around Jocko but I was talking about this story recently I remember years ago I was on the same circuit as Brene Brown and I remember back in like 2011 her and I spoke at the same event and she did her presentation and the crowd was on their feet and they were dancing I remember turning to the person next to me and being like, I don't understand a word she just said. Because she was speaking a language that really resonates with some people, but for me made no sense. So I think recognizing, uh, different tones of advice work for different people. And we need a pluralistic approach to advice. I think this is really important, sort of advice diversity. So just like I shouldn't say, Brene Brown should go away because I don't understand why she has people dance, like what's going on here. I feel the same thing when people are saying, I don't like Jocko. Like, I don't know, this makes me uncomfortable. He turned Terry's life around and there's a lot of other people like that. So I think there's two things. And people like that so i i think there's two things and again i'm just going on a tangent here because i've been thinking about internet culture recently and i'm going to get back to your question terry but i think there's two different things going on uh when we see something like uh discomfort with jocko um and the first is what i just talked about here is just like that particular tone doesn't resonate with me. So I think, you know, this person can go away. Second, and I'm going to add a bonus here. So second, I think is the mixing of the universal with the existential. So I'm about to teach propositional logic to my undergraduate mathematics class starting next week, and that's the first topic we cover. So this is on my mind. I think this happens a lot where we go from a proper dislike of the universal leading to an improper rejection of the existential. What do I mean by that? Well, we might look at the trope of manhood promoted by someone like Jocko and correctly say, this should not be the only vision of manhood that we push. If this is the only thing that's available, if it's the only thing we promote or support, that's a problem because not all men this is going to resonate with. That's a completely appropriate rejection of the universal. It is easy for that to slip, however, into the fear of the existential, where you go from this shouldn't be the only vision of manhood we push to we should never push this version of manhood the existence of anyone still pushing that is a problem so it's very easy i think in when you're thinking about uh in a broad sense like progressive and i don't mean this in a political sense but in the actual definition of the term evolution of culture it's very easy to go from the rejection of the universal to the demonization of the existential. There shouldn't only be Jocko as our model for manhood, but we shouldn't say there should be no Jockos because for some people that really resonates. The third thing I think that's happening here is also, there's some real, I don't know, I don't want to, I don't, this is a non-explicit podcast, so I don't want to curse, but there's some like terrible toxic guys out there as well. And it's easy to start mixing it up. So it's easy to say, and I don't know much about this guy, but there's this guy, have you heard this Andrew Tate guy, Jesse? No. I mean, I don't know. I only know about him because I don't, I'm not on social media because this is now crossed over into, it was on the front page of the Washington post, but I guess he's like one of these, um, it's like a toxic, like, uh, he got arrested for sex trafficking in Romania, but like, um, his whole thing is alpha male, like, but in like a caricature sort of, I'm going to be outrageous sort of, uh, to get eyeballs type of thing and smoke cigars and stand in front of my jet. And, and you know, that like that type of thing, like really sort of over the top and annoying, um, and he just got arrested or whatever that exists. And so maybe what's happening is also people are somehow mixing, mixing that up because like, well, Jocko has muscles and like talks in a deep voice, but man, those are so different things. Jocko has like two silver stars, you know, for like heroic valor a deep voice, but man, those are so different things. Jocko has like two silver stars, you know, for like heroic valor on the battlefield, like saving people's lives. He, he, he ran the brutal task force bruiser during the battle for Ramadi has had to watch, you know, and he's cried about this on air, having to watch the death of people who were close to him that were just doing the mission, the suicides that came after and getting through this. He's like a leader to this community. So we have on one hand, an American hero, and on the other hand, a sex trafficker who smokes cigars and really, well, they're both kind of muscly or whatever. It's completely different. But again, if you're not really familiar with the world, maybe you mix it up. So those are my three reasons why, these are my three please. Different type of advice resonates with different type of people and be worried about proper rejection of the universal leading to fear of the existential and also don't mix up people that seem superficially similar. The real reason why I'm giving these three explanations, Jesse, this is all about trying to prevent Jocko from killing me. I spent five minutes defending Jocko because I'm terrified of him. Actually, I hear he's a nice guy. We have friends in common. I hear he's a really nice guy. You guys would get along. I think so. I think those guys who are like, know what they're about. Navy SEAL, black belt in jujitsu or whatever are like the nice guys because they have nothing to prove. They're like, I just go through life kind of, you know. Yeah. Yeah. Um, you know, nice. He lives in San Diego because it's sunny, he surfs. He probably reads your books. He might. I should, I should meet him. And his podcast is mainly, uh, uh, military. So he has on a lot of other military people. All right, Terry, as for your question about community, um, my, my concern here is you're, you're thinking about it too systematically. Like, how do I talk to people? How do I like optimize interaction? And I'm going to suggest change the name of this bucket in your mind from community to service and say, what I want to do with this bucket is forget, like, am I having enough conversations with people? Am I, am I a good socializer is how do I serve other people? And let's just get that bucket going. Start with a keystone habit and build up to an overhaul ways that you can give non-trivial amounts of your time, attention, and energy towards improving other people's lives. And this could be straight up community service. Like I'm, I'm, you know, volunteering for my church and we're helping run this initiative. Or it could be, I'm a part of this group of other people who share an interest and we try to help each other out and encourage people. And I see what I'm trying to do here is like, they're giving me help, but I want to help other people. You know, I want to just, how can you serve other people? And this is an idea that I argue in digital minimalism, my book, digital minimalism. This is really where the, the factor that causes our mind to think about a social connection with someone else being strong is not how well do we talk? It's, am I sacrificing non-trivial time and attention on behalf of this person if you do that your mind says this is a member of my tribe we're in the group together they're an important person in my life it's what makes you feel social it's what makes you feel connected not how much you talk to people but how much you give for other people so don't worry about the talking right now and think more about how to serve other people you will feel more connected the conversation will come after that. The friend, the other stuff will follow, but I would, I would say turn away from you and turn towards other people. That's probably the best way for you to tackle this community bucket. All right. Just looking at the door to see, I don't want to hear like the footsteps of Jocko.


How do I distill essential ideas from complex topics? (46:23)

Um, all right, what do we got got let's do another question all right next question scott a scientist from boston i write on the platform medium my problem is whenever i get an idea for an article i get stuck into a trap of being unable to stop going too deep and have trouble distilling the essential idea down to a 10 to 12 minute read how do you distill complex idea into short form for the New Yorker articles without getting into the trap of trying to capture everything there is to say about a complex topic? Well, Scott, the first thing to recognize is that distilling complex ideas to something that's essential, that hangs together, that captures people's attention and improves or augments the way they understand the world, that is really hard to do. And so I want to lay that as a foundation so you're not overly hard on yourself or disappointed that you're not just naturally able to accomplish that pretty easily. I think that type of idea writing is in a way like screenwriting in the sense that the finished product is so familiar and natural that we make the mistake of assuming, well, I should be able to do that easily as well. So when you see a lot of movies in your life, screenwriters talk about this all the time, people in their lives see a lot of movies. And when you see a movie, it's just natural. People are talking and things are blowing up and you think like, well, yeah, I mean, I could do that. I have ideas and I have a plot ideas. And what if like the robot was actually, you know, um, secretly this guy's brother and, and his sister was dead the whole time. Like we come with plots and kind of imagine it. And we say, yeah, we could do that too. But what you don't recognize is to actually make a screenplay work, the make a screenplay just seem natural. Like, yeah, there's this plot and it happened. It's incredibly hard because there's a million things that makes a screenplay break. All of the MacGuffins, all the red herrings, like you got to be very careful to get rid of all those things. All the pieces have to fit together. Everything that sets up has to be resolved. Motivations have to be here. There can't be any wasted beats to make a screenplay feel so natural is incredibly hard to do. Similar with, I think, idea writing. In the end, if you do it well, it's like, oh yeah, that's a good way of thinking about that. Yeah, cool. Good idea. And you're like, I have good ideas all the time. Why can't I do that? But it's actually really hard to deliver that because the idea has to, everything has to work. No red herrings, no MacGuffins. The things you set up are resolved at the end. The idea makes complete sense of exactly what you introduced. There's no loose threads. The whole thing moves. There's some sleight of hand. You kind of navigate around the complexities as if they don't exist. That's really hard to do. But when you read it, you're like, oh yeah, this is natural. So I want to start with that. So you don't feel too bad about yourself. I do a lot of idea writing, but you have to remember, I'm kind of an exceptional character in this in that some sense I was like bred in a lab, like Drago in Rocky IV to be an idea writer. I was exposed to all this writing in my teenage years because I was a teenage entrepreneur. So I read a lot. I read a lot of pragmatic nonfiction. I read a lot of idea nonfiction. I was sort of like obsessed with this as a kid. So I read a lot. I read a lot of pragmatic nonfiction. I read a lot of idea nonfiction. I was sort of like obsessed with this as a kid. I was also a precocious writer. I was pulled into this gifted and talented writing program when I was eight years old, where instead of having to do normal English class, we'd read really hard books and write, write, write, write, write, constantly writing these really long short stories and essays. And so I was a precocious writer who happened through happenstance to be exposed to the style of writing really early in college. I became a serious writer, uh, editor of the humor magazine, a columnist for the newspaper and began writing idea books, signed my first book deal right after I turned 21 years old. So I've been doing this my entire life. This is why I say I've been bred in the lab to do idea writing. So now by the time I'm 40, it's a little bit more natural for me. I can pretty quickly assess, here's an idea, I can deliver pretty quickly, but that's all really hard. All right. So all of that's just to say, don't be down on yourself. Now I have some advice to give to you. So if you're doing idea writing, A, remember your goal is not to cover all of the details, all the possible caveats, all the alternative paths forward. You're trying to tell a coherent, cohesive story with narrative momentum that in the end will give the reader another tool to use in trying to build an understanding of the world. You're not writing a textbook. You're delivering one new take that people can add to their collective understanding of the world. The thing I think that often slows down new writers in this space and leads to the excessive research issue that you talk about you having, where you spend so much time researching, you never get to the article. It's often fear of imagined critique. You get paralyzed by this idea that someone's going to come along and say, wait a second, Scott, you didn't talk about this. You told us that this is the way the world works, but you didn't talk about this effect or that study. I don't think you really understand what's going on here. That imagined critique critique it can be really paralyzing especially especially for new writers and i have a theory that the the current moment because of the rise of social media and in particular the hair trigger critique culture on on twitter where a lot of writers engage makes this problem even worse you know when i was writing as a 21 year old makes this problem even worse. You know, when I was writing as a 21 year old, maybe a letter would make its way to me or there'd be a review in a newspaper that was mean, but that was about it. Like today, everything is going to get picked over. And so you're so worried about triggering critique because it's so accessible. I think it paralyzes writers more. It's not your goal to write a textbook on the topic. Tell a story that hangs together that's going to help me understand the world. If I'm the reader, I'm smart. I recognize that, you know, Cal's story about quiet quitting and generational relationships with work is not the full story. And there's three other things going on here and it doesn't apply to this group. And he didn't talk about Generation X. I know all of that as the reader, but I'm just going to pull out here. Here's a new tool to add to my toolbox. So that's your goal. So that should help. B, work backwards from the insight and then find support. So if your approach and in your elaboration, Scott, you talked about this more. If your approach is I'm going to learn everything I can about this topic, and then hopefully I'll be able to emerge a cohesive story about how this part of the world works. There's no end to how much you can learn. And, and so typically in advice writing, you sort of have the insight first, and then you're working backwards from that. Like, how do I make this argument? How do I fill it in? We're going to get into those details in the next question. So stay tuned. Um, and then C, A, B, C, the pieces you present all have to fit. So the story has to, it's like a screenplay. The story has to be cohesive. If you introduce something early, that has to, there has to be a reason for it. It has to be made sense of later or be responded to later. If you bring in an example, that example has to be just what you need to fill in a point. No red herrings, no MacGuffins, right? So you can't have things that you put in there that end up not being so important, or you end up just leaving hanging. So you have to think of yourself as, I'm gonna open up these ports, and I have to close them again before the article ends. So that type of consistency is actually more important to comprehensiveness. A consistent, cohesive story is more important than I've covered every possible angle. All right, Scott, those are my, that's my advice.


How does Cal research his articles? (53:55)

I think we got, I purposely scheduled this next question, Jesse, because it follows up directly on what Scott was asking about. Okay. Next question's from Enzo. In a previous episode, you discussed quiet quitting and described how you researched the origins of the phrase in a TikTok video. Can Cal talk through his article research methods in more detail? Right. So this is an elaboration of what I was talking to about Scott. Let me get into how I typically work on idea articles. I sort of wrote down my process here. So I'll go through it. I have a bunch of steps on here. So I start with having a foundation of just broadly consuming, potentially relevant information. That's key. You got to have grist to the mill of creative insight. So this includes the five books I read, you know, my five book a month reading pace. I read a lot of articles. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I do research to answer questions on this podcast that sometimes is a source of ideas. And I read a bunch of the stuff you guys send me. Interesting at calnewport.com. You guys send me really interesting. So I'm reading a lot and I'm creating this sort of broad base of just generally potentially useful information. All right. Two, I constantly riff off these things, especially when I'm walking, trying to come up with different ideas or theories. Now, sometimes I'm responding to something I just heard like, Oh, I just listened to Mark Manson's interview on Tim Ferriss's show. They were talking about the death of blogs and the rise of YouTube. Let me see, as I'm walking to pick up my kids from school, is there an interesting, coherent story to talk about evolution of internet content? And maybe there's not, but let me just try it out. And I'm doing this all the time. Now, again, I talked about in my answer to Scott, I was bred in a lab to be an idea writer. So this is just how my mind works, but I'm constantly riffing off ideas. Eventually an idea will click and this is pure instinct just through experience. Boom. Oh, there's something there. I have the storyline about, uh, the, there's a parallel between the transition from blogs to YouTube videos. There's a parallel between the transitions from the Penny Daily newspaper, the Penny Press newspaper to radio, because maybe I've read something about that. I read Tim Wu's book, The Master Switch or something, and I kind of learned about that. I read his Attention Merchants book, and I bet there's a parallel there. Oh, that's interesting. And it clicks. I'm like, okay, now I have something that could actually be a complete beginning, middle of end story where everything pulls together. At least it has that potential. At that point, if I want to work with that, I'll do a little bit more basic research. Let me see if this rough story I just outlined actually holds up. Let me go back and reread my marked notes in that Tim Wu book about the attention merchants. Let me go back and actually re-listen to that piece of the interview with Mark and Tim. Do I really remember that right? Like what exactly did he say? So I'm doing some sanity checking, some basic research, like does the storyline I wrote in my head actually match? Am I remembering properly these sources? And I'll tell you 40% of the time, that's not going to be the case. I'll go back and read the thing or re-listen to the thing and be like, oh, they're actually kind of saying the opposite. Like my mind is so desperate for, find such pleasure in cohesive stories, it will sometimes change things. And when I go back, I'm like, oh my God, it was actually the opposite. But if my basic research kind of confirms, yeah, we have the pieces here for a story. At this point, I'm ready to pitch it. So it's a pitchable story. And at some point I might pitch it. If I'm going to write it for a magazine, I'll, you know, I'll pitch it to my editor. If it's going to be a book chapter or a podcast segment, it's just, you know, there's no one to actually pitch it to. I just, it's in my list of like, let's go for this. Once greenlit, then I will go back and more thoroughly fill in the details. So get the depth of research needed to actually write about it in a confident way. For something like a 2000 word New Yorker piece, this might only take a couple of days. It's like, okay, let me go. I have like, let me get the transcript of this interview. Let me get this chapter. Let me write down my notes from this chapter of this relevant book. Let me find three articles and pull out the relevant notes. Okay. Now I have enough to actually, uh, support this story. If it's a longer piece, you know, like the, uh, New Yorker piece I wrote on natural productivity, that was five or 6,000 words. Or if it's a long book chapter, this could take longer, maybe even a couple of months. I'm working on an article right now and I won't give any details because I don't give details on things in progress if it's being done for other publications. But just speaking in generalities, I'm working on the early stages of a potential bigger article now where I've read five books on it already. And I have probably two or three interviews I need to set up before this rough storyline I have in my mind. I'll really be able to flesh it out. So, you know, it could take a long time or it could take a couple of days. It depends on how big of a thing you're writing. Then I will rework my storyline with this more detailed research. And sometimes it's just tweaking it like, okay, actually here's the best beat. Forget it's not about the penny fart, the pinning, it's not pinning fart And sometimes it's just tweaking it. Like, okay, actually here's the best beat. Forget. It's not about the penny for the pinning. It's not pinning for these, a bicycle, it's the penny press. So it's not about like the penny press going to the radio. Actually, the really good story here is, you know, about television's rise versus, um, paperback mass market, paperback nonfiction or fiction books or something, right? You might realize the story is more or less true, but there's better examples to make this true or there's another angle to it I want to add. So I evolve the story. Now I have the fully evolved story and I'm ready to write.


Should I get a Deep Life tattoo? (59:35)

So that's my process, Anzo. That's how I get from nothing, just a general foundation of having lots of interesting thoughts to a finished piece. All right, let's let's move on, Jesse. All right, time for one more. Another question here, Nicholas from Tucson. I haven't heard you talk about much of the symbolism of per value expression in the pursuit of the deep life. If you've held a core value for 10 plus years then would it be appropriate to celebrate that with a tattoo a good question you got to be wary about tattoos um nicholas i regret jesse's seen it i have a full back tattoo of it's a Brandon Sanderson's face and like right under it, you know, like you would have mom with a cherub angel holding it up. It says, never forget the name of the wind. I regret that tattoo, you know, like I probably should have done like a little bit more research. And it was expensive. It was expensive. Yeah. Yeah. Expensive. And Brandon, it's really sent a lot of cease and desist letters about, you know, because I go research and it was expensive it was expensive yeah yeah expensive um and brandon has really sent a lot of cease and desist letters about you know because i go there a lot and try to show him the show him the tattoo yeah show up shirtless outside of his underground layer brandon the wind brandon the wind um no nicholas okay specific answer, broad answer. You're absolutely right that we, we underestimate, we often underestimate the value of symbolism, capturing things that are important to us symbolically in objects and the way we set up an office, the things we buy, the things we collect. select. It's really easy to see that through the sort of miserly pragmatic economical lens of why are you wasting money on that? Isn't that an extravagance? But it's actually really important, I think, to have totems of things that you really care. In the three interesting segments, three interesting things segment that follows, I have a really cool example of this where I'm going to show you something involving the director, Guillermo del Toro. So stay tuned for that. But let me just say more broadly, I think it makes complete sense to invest in things that do nothing else but remind you or solidify values that you hold important. So if you're a writer and you invest in expensive first editions of influential books to you, I don't think that's a waste of money i think that's you're capturing the written word is important to me you know and i really value it i'm thinking about for the hq for example i want to get a pre-micro processor arcade cabinet and i actually don't care if the cabinet itself is rebuilt but i want it to be original circuitry And I actually don't care if the cabinet itself is rebuilt, but I want it to be original circuitry for a game from before there was actually microprocessors. I just love this idea of analog circuitry being wired up in such a way that you can have it come together and create something like a video game. And so that's nonsense to almost anyone else. Are you really going to spend that money on asteroids or whatever? But to me, there's something symbolic about things I care about with technology and culture and the way technology can alchemize into cultural influence or something bigger than the sum of its parts. And as a computer scientist, I really love the history of digital electronics before we get to the sort of bloodless reality of today, of these sort of just processors where one piece of silicon does everything. And the idea of Steve Jobs and Wozniak sitting there in Atari in the mid-1970s trying to just get together a breakout clone before there was something like a microprocessor to use as just timing circuits. And the puzzle of it, it's symbolic to me. And so it's something that I would, I would, you know, invest, invest money in. So I'm a big believer in exactly what you suggest here. Capturing values in symbolic objects. Tattoos, like, sure. I mean, my, my, my real thing about tattoos is my rule of thumb. Wait till you're in your thirties. Because when you're getting the tattoo in your twenties, you haven't really developed that full value system yet. So then the tattoo might play more of the role of like, I'm just so desperate to sort of, to individuate, that's not the right word. Individuate, is that a word? To sort of define myself as a unique individual. And I like what it signals to other 20 year olds of like, I look like, I don't care. I have this, like, I'm really unique and interesting or whatever. Uh, but in your twenties, you're an idiot. And you know, you're going to look back and say, I thought at the time it was really cool to get, uh, deep work forever in a face tattoo, but like actually, you know, Cal's kind of a dork. I regret that. Right. And by the time you get to your thirties, then it's like, okay, now I kind of have a handle on, I'm not so interested in, you know, looking cool to the, uh, the, the 24 year old at the bar. I have a bigger sense of my values. I know a lot of writers who do this. Ryan, Ryan holiday has, um, multiple forearm tattoos from his books. I think he has an ego is the enemy. The obstacle is the way you should a four book deal. So I guess he's going to have to, I don't know. He's going to run out of body parts, you know, at some point. My friend, Brian Johnson, I think did he, he's done. So I think I've seen a lot of like forearm tattoos, like writers have done. So I'm for it, man. I'm for taking big swings and I'm not a tattoo guy myself, but whatever your equivalent is of a tattoo, I think taking big swings, the signal to yourself that you take, you care about something or take something, think something's important. I think it's cool. There's a real psychology behind it. And it's makes life boring. If we see that all through the lens of like, is that really strictly necessary? Is that a, is that an indulgence? Is that a contrivance? I mean, life is short and if you're involved in something that matters to you, you know, lean into it. I would say by far the most consistent group in my life who has tattoos is actually moms. Really? The kids' names. Very common. Which makes sense, right? I mean, they're unlike my Brandon Sanderson name of the wind tattoo. There's one thing you could probably be pretty sure that you're not gonna like 10 years later be like, I'm not really that into this anymore. We are kids, right? And it's such like a huge life altering. Your whole life is like reorienting around this thing. A lot of moms have their, it'll be like the initial it's just subtle the initial somewhere the name somewhere anyways um the best tattoo humor so i just got to recommend a clip the the tv show superstore of if you saw it or if you've seen the show or not it's from a few years ago but there's a whole scene there where he wants to get his mom's one of the characters wants to get his mom's face tattooed on his back and she's been learning how to do it but she's been practicing on melon so it's not going well you know what she does on his actual back so it's a really funny sequence um she gives him like a top hat you know and keep it growing the top hat like cover over the mistake. He says really funny. So in the end, there's like this giant top hat and it's humor guys. It's great. I recommend that clip. All right. Um, that's enough questions. I want to get the three interesting things. I have a couple of cool things I want to show everyone.


Cal talks about Stamps.com and My Body Tutor (01:06:56)

First, let me mention another sponsor that makes this show possible. It's a tattoo parlor. See, that would be synergy. That's how you get the real CPMs. Jesse is you rebuild your whole show around, uh, the thing you're about to talk to. So our, our tattoo parlor that we're opening downstairs in the old Republic restaurant, it'd be really successful. It's all Brandon Sanderson theme. Okay. Uh, no, no. What I really want to talk about is something that's way more pragmatic and way more clearly useful stamps. successful. It's all Brandon Sanderson. Okay. No, no. What I really want to talk about is something that's way more pragmatic and way more clearly useful stamps.com for over 20 years. Stamps.com has been indispensable for more than 1 million businesses. It gives you access to USPS and UPS services that you need to run your business right from your computer anytime, day or night, no lines, no traffic, no waiting. You just print your own postage with your normal printer. You put it on what you want to ship. You schedule a pickup, no going to the post office, no going to the UPS store. They also have negotiated these large discounts on shipping rates. So you end up not only getting more convenience, but saving money as well. If you run a business that does any sort of shipping, you have to be using stamps.com. Don't go to the post office, just print, paste, schedule, boom, discount convenience. Most importantly, I think time not to waste that time. I can just get this part that this quintessential shallow work task, shipping something. You want to squeeze that into the smallest possible amount of time as you can. So stamps.com is just something you need to have. If you do any amount of shipping, this is just a straightforward productivity hack. to have if you do any amount of shipping this is just a straightforward productivity hack it just makes sense it's one of the easiest pitches i do don't go to the post office you can just do it from home bam sign me up stamps.com is the way to do it so you can start the new year right by saving serious money on your mailing and shipping get started with stamps.com today sign up with the promo code deep for a special offer that includes a four week trial plus free postage and a free digital scale, no long term commitments or contracts. You go to stamps.com, you click on the microphone at the top of the page that will then let you enter the promo code deep and you get all that cool free stuff. All right, another sponsor I want to talk about very appropriate for the new year. All right, another sponsor I want to talk about very appropriate for the new year. My body tutor. My body tutor is a 100% online coaching program that solves the biggest problem in health and fitness, which is lack of consistency. It's not hard to figure out what you should be eating. It's not hard to figure out a workout plan that's going to make a difference. What's hard is actually doing it on a regular basis and making the tweaks you need to make it work for your life. What MyBodyTutor does, and that's why it's so smart, is that it connects you with a coach dedicated to you. And they're going to figure out your eating plan. They're going to figure out your exercise plan. And then you check in with them every day. It's a simple app on your phone, boom, boom, boom. And they read it and respond every day. That gives you accountability. The accountability leads to consistency. The consistency leads to results. It also gives you expert advice. So, you know, like I'm trying this plan, but like, this isn't working for me. I'm having a hard time with this part of what we're talking about eating. You have this coach. It's like, let me specifically address that issue. Why don't we change this or move the Wednesday things to Thursday, or let's not care so much about this and your diet. Really what we should do is maybe instead prepackage your lunches. You have expert advice to help deal with the specific issues you have in your life as you're trying to succeed with these health and fitness goals. So if you're here in the new year, wanting to get in better shape and you're just going to do it on your own, don't go to my body tutor, get the online coach, work with them every day. It's going to work. It's what actually works. Now, here's the good news. If you mentioned deep questions, when you sign up, they will give you $50 off your first month. So just mention the podcast, deep questions when you sign up. And if you talk to Adam Gilbert, my old friend, Adam Gilbert, who founded my body tutor, tell him Cal says, hi, that guy is awesome and in really good shape. So if you're going to, if you have any resolution getting better shape, let me just make this clear. Mybody.com mentioned deep questions i think it's the it's the best way to do it me and the boys jesse have been watching uh limitless on disney plus which is a darren arf nesky directed uh documentary series that follows chris hemsworth thor as he like does all and beautifully shot. Yeah. Darren Arnesky is a, a great film director did black Swan and his, but he's been doing these beautifully shot sort of documentary series for national geographic, which Disney owns because it's through Fox. He did one with Will Smith a couple of years ago. But anyway, so it's a lot of, a lot of Chris, a lot of Chris Hemsworth that made us think about our discussions before about how do these guys like how did he get in the shape to be yeah thor and um let's just say he wasn't doing on his own he had a coach he had a coach i heard some i heard a whole discussion about himsworth about uh on the show but not on this show but on another podcast about there's uh some needles that are probably involved i don't want to cast dispersions but like supposedly it's a whole dark underside not dark but it's just like an underside of these superhero movies is there's really no way for these guys to get as strong as they do as quick as they do without some aids which are probably not that healthy but you got to inject this inject that and the whole agreement in the media is just like, don't ask about it. Yeah. It's not like they're, it's not like the rock is saying, I don't use this or Chris Hemsworth to say, I don't use this.


Guillermo Del Toro Bought a Second House to Boost his Creativity (01:12:51)

They just, just no one talks about it. It's just kind of like the price you pay to, to do these, do these movies. So if I show up looking like Chris Hemsworth, be suspicious within the next three months. Yeah. He's suspicious. All right.worth, be suspicious. Within the next three months? Yeah, be suspicious. All right. Final segment of the show, three interesting things. This is where we take three things that I found interesting that you have sent to me in my interesting.calnewport.com email address that all relate to the general theme here of trying to live a deep life. And I take three I like like and we look at them so if you are listening to this show you might want to jump over to the youtube version of the episode because the three things are visual that's youtube.com cal newport media we launch a video of the full episode of each podcast usually the same day that it comes out i'll explain in words what's on the screen here but it's it's better than, so it's a good chance to jump over to YouTube. All right, the first interesting thing I want to talk about is the director, Guillermo del Toro, or as I've discovered, his fans call him GDT, his so-called bleak house. All right, so I've loaded on the screen now an article, there's a lot of articles about this. This happens to come from a Southern California radio station. And the headline here is Bleak House, a tour inside Guillermo del Toro's creative man cave. There is a picture of him in a Victorian decorated room with a terrifying monster statue. So here's the subhead. I'll read this on the screen right now. The director behind Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy owns a house filled with artifacts he has collected throughout his life. Now, the reason why we're hearing about this is there's a exhibit they're now doing where you can come in a museum exhibit. We can see a lot of these things. But the key thing is before this exhibit, he has a two-story house filled with more than 10 000 items artworks sculptures artifacts books movies collected over a lifetime but he insists he's not collecting for collecting sake so let's dive a little deeper here Here's a Guillermo quote. This is a religious place for me. See, to me, everything that surrounds us is not a collection. It's a relics. It's relics or it's talismans, whatever you want to call them. They have a spiritual hold of who I am. Essentially, this goes right back to the question we talked about before the break about the value of having symbolic objects to capture your values. GDT is getting right to the core of this. He sees these things he collects as relics. It's a power is being captured in there. Where is the bleak house? It's in the suburbs. He just bought a house in the suburbs of LA near his existing house. And he gets into it later in this article. He gets into how this came about. He was collecting this stuff because if you know GDT, he does these beautiful, fantastical movies that often have the macabre or terrifying in them. He was collecting these somewhat disturbing objects. And at some point, his wife very reasonably said, this cannot be in our house. Like we have young kids. Like we have young kids. If you want to know what I'm talking about and you're watching on YouTube, I have an example on the page of something that's in his bleak house. It's, um, it's a, a man's face that has been ripped open and there's like jaws coming out of it. Like it's not the type of stuff you want in your house. So he said, fine, I'll buy another house. And that's, we're going to store my collection. So he has the second house. Here's another big picture I put on the screen. It's cool. Jesse, look at this. It's a, there's a monster a giant frankenstein head the whole thing is done up victorian red walls all the pictures are covered in framed art but it's like weird macabre uh sort of uh hieronymus bosch style artwork like it's it's uh old lamps and bookcases so um oh here's the quote by the the way. Uh, his wife said, that's too close to the kitchen. The kids are going to get freaked out. And he GDT said inside of me, something cracked. And I said, I'm going to get my own place. He has a haunted mansion room based off the Disney thing. He has a room that simulates a rainstorm outside. He has 13 libraries. So each room has a different library. He used that as a research area. So like he, this one opens and you're in a room that's a haunted mansion. Uh, but the haunted mansion room has a library. That's all about mythology, folklore, fairy tales, and myths, et cetera. So he, he, he uses this house, not just to capture things that are valuable to him, but also as a, uh, source of creative inspiration. So he's not just reading about fairies when he's working on Pan's Labyrinth, he's in a haunted mansion room, taking these old volumes off of the shelf. I think this stuff really matters. And I talk about this a lot on the show. If you do any sort of creative endeavor where you're trying to alchemize value out of the stuff in your mind, environment matter, rituals matter, objects matter. If you're an accountant, you might say, this is crazy. You bought a second house just to store stuff, how indulgent or whatever. But this is at the core of what GDT does for a living. These fantastical, incredibly creative inspired visual masterpiece style movies. This is just a completely pragmatic investment. And I think people might say something similar about the Deep Work HQ, but for what I do for a living, it's an investment that makes a huge amount of sense to have a place to come to that I'm specifically decorating to celebrate what I care about in terms of cognitive work, to have the ritual of coming here versus somewhere else. The lab we're building in here, I mean, Jesse saw today when he came back from vacation, I bought a lot more electronics equipment because me and my oldest son are building things. And that's really important to me and having that connection to, so it seems completely crazy to, you know, I don't know, like my brother, but the me, because of what I do, it's like, of course, I'm going to invest in this. You know, it matters. Symbolic value matters. Ritual matters. Location matters. So anyways, I just think this is cool. Here's a, I like this picture. So for those who are watching, there's a picture of a, a incredibly scary looking doll on an old Victorian chaise lounge. And I just, I want to pull this up because of the photo caption, which just reads a couch piled with books and a demonic doll. An awesome photo caption. Here's the freak's room. That guy's there. I'm just showing, if you're, if you're listening, I'm just showing like terrifying pictures on the screen. Here's the simulated rainstorm room. Anyways, I put the link to this article in the show notes so uh there's frankenstein drinking tea now frankenstein's monster i should be precise here drinking tea film room anyways i love that stuff jesse who wins gdt's bleak house brandon sarinson's underground lair seems like gdt had more stuff to look at i think he has to i think it's right i think he has the cooler house it's organ it's bigger i love the idea of having themed rooms for different libraries uh sanderson just wins on the coolness factor of being underground yeah but it's yeah i'm gonna give i'll give this one that you also might just be upset because he hasn't answered you know door knocking when you're outside his house it's just me shirtless sanderson so now you're just knocking his yeah screw his lair screw his lair all right uh second interesting thing let me load up i'm switching over to a different aspect all right a reader sent this in this is the uh nobel lecture.


Kary Mullis’s Nobel-Winning Moment of Insight (01:20:12)

So the lecture given when you're awarded the Nobel Prize, this is the transcript of the Nobel lecture given by Cary Mullis, who won the Nobel Prize in 1993 for his work on developing the polymerase chain reaction, PCR technology, that's at the core of a lot of the genetics explosion. So it's a cool lecture because he's going through in detail his whole story of how did he get his training, his ups and downs, how he left the academic track to try to become an author, that didn't work. He worked in restaurants for a while, came back to academia. It's like he really gives more detail than I'm used to seeing about building up to something like a Nobel caliber academic career. There's this one quote in particular I want to point out, and I've marked it in this document. So I'm just scrolling down to this now on the screen. I thought this was cool. So he talks about about halfway through his lecture. One Friday night, I was driving, as was my custom, from Berkeley up the Mindocino, where I had a cabin far away from everything off in the woods. My girlfriend, Jennifer Barnett, was asleep. I was thinking, since oglinonucleotides were not that hard to make anymore, wouldn't it be simple enough to put two of them into a reaction instead of only one such that one of them would bind to the upper strand and the other to the lower strand with the three prime ends adjacent to the opposing base pair in question. This is the type of things we think, right? We all think when we're driving up to our cabins, we think about ugly nucleotides. Um, anyways, he had some more thoughts. And when he finished this thought, he realized he had everything he needed to do PCR, which he'd win the Nobel prize for. So I just love this idea that he just had the habit of going to a cabin in the woods to think. And it was going to this cabin in the woods to think that ritual of doing so that eventually led to the thought one thought on which his whole Nobel prize winning work was eventually based. So again, this goes back to like the bleak house that gdt has the accountant our hypothetical accountant says wait a second you're like a young academic why do you have a cabin in the woods what an indulgence what a waste this is what one of his nobel prize thinking is hard creativity is hard coming up with things in your brain that has great value to the world outside is very hard it needs this process needs all the help it can get. So doing these things that seem kind of radical or unnecessary sometimes are exactly what you need to get radically impressive results. All right, I have a third thing. This is a short, someone sent this to me. This was just in honor of the Christmas season that just ended. I didn't get this in in time last week, but here we go. I've written about this a long time ago. I wrote an essay about this, but it's a, um, I've loaded on the screen here was just a note from Reddit, uh, TIL while writing a Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens was taking nighttime walks of 15 to 20 miles around London to build out the story in his head. around London to build out the story in his head. What's TIL Jesse?


Moment Of Insight: Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens Wrote “A Christmas Carol” on Foot (01:23:27)

I kept on looking at it as TDL. Yours. TDL. Yours is the deep life, but I don't know what. TIL. It's okay. We just, I don't know anything about the internet, but anyways, I've heard this story before and I think it's cool. Um, Dickens did a lot. He did a lot of work on foot, which I always advocate. He's upping this to the next level. 15 to 20 miles is pretty impressive. But this idea that he worked through this masterpiece in his head as he was moving through the night streets of London, I think is really cool. It might not quite be true. This might be mixing up, uh, an essay that Dickens wrote about his nighttime walks in London, where he was talking about how he used these long walks as a cure for an about of insomnia. So some of these stories might get mixed up, but let's just keep the pristine folklore in our minds for now. Him walking through the gaslit streets of London, conjuring up ghosts of the Christmas past, present, and future, building out this classic story in his head, a great Victorian personification of depth and a good holiday story to kind of end the whole holiday season. So there we go. Jesse, that's all we got. I got to go send some more photos to Brandon. So we should probably wrap this up. Thank you everyone who sent in your questions. We always want more. There's a link right in the show notes for how you can go online and send us as many questions as you want for us to potentially answer on the show. Remember, if you like what you heard, you will like what you see. Full episodes and clips are available at youtube.com slash cal newport media. We'll be back next week with another episode of the podcast. And until then, as always stay deep.


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