Full Length Episode | #158 | December 23, 2021

Transcription for the video titled "Full Length Episode | #158 | December 23, 2021".


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Guest Introduction

Cal's Intro (00:00)

I'm Cal Newport and this is Deep Questions, episode 158. We're actually trying something new today that we're quite excited about. This is the first time we have had the technical capability to actually record and film an entire episode of this podcast live, as opposed to doing multiple cuts and takes, recording a question, stopping, bringing another question, doing another question, stopping, we're actually gonna try to do this whole thing live, which includes the ability to actually cut to a camera that shows our intrepid producer. Jesse, how are you doing? - I'm doing well, thank you. - Thank you for wearing black for the black background today. I always appreciate that. I didn't think about what I should wear as thoroughly as I probably should have. - Well, in fairness, I sort of surprised Jesse by bringing a whole bag full of cables to the HQ this morning, which actually makes this possible for the first time. So turns out there's a lot involved. The other thing we're gonna be able to do today is it's a "Lister Calls" episode. Jesse can play the calls live as if this was a live call-in show. We don't have to put those in in posts, so we really will be able to, in theory, roll to this whole episode. Now, of course, just to make things particularly well-suited for our first live episode, I'm getting over a pretty nasty cold. So my voice is definitely where you wanna be for talking for an hour straight. So I think we, Jesse, we really timed this one out well. - Good stuff, I'm excited about it. The cords are all set up, but we're ready to rock here. - So one quick bit of business before we get into the calls. Last week, I asked Jesse if we should decorate the Deep Work HQ, and today he hasn't seen it yet, but I brought in a artificial garland that has built-in Christmas lights that I am going to put on the desk in the main office of the HQ. So I believe that counts, and we can, with no exaggeration, now describe the HQ as being a winter wonderland when it comes to the level of decorations I've just introduced. - I'm excited about that. We'll see you at all in action soon. - All right, so with that out of the way, let's see what we can break, and we're gonna take our swing at doing our first live listener call show. So let's jump into some calls. Jesse, what is our first call about? - All right, so our first call, we have Nicola. He's gonna ask you a question about the Serbian scientist Tesla. So here we go, all right? - In regards Serbian scientist, Nicola Tesla is the ultimate Deep Work thinker, because he was 100% focused on his inventions, and that led him to become the greatest inventor of all time. - I don't know if I would say, it's such a good question. So if I'm hearing it correctly, the question is, do I personally consider Tesla?

Deep Thinking And Online Content Creation

Was Tesla the ultimate deep thinker? (03:05)

Nicola Tesla to be the greatest inventor of all time. I'm not sure if I would say that. I mean, it depends how we wanna actually define what makes you the greatest inventor of all time. I recently read a pretty dense Edison biography, and so something Edison had, for example, that Tesla didn't, was the ability to commercialize. So to take an idea, but then actually push that idea through into something that could be mass produced, sold at mass, Tesla was not interested in that, who's interested more in the technology. There's also some mythology around Tesla. I think that the Tesla mythology has grown to the point where he's seen as basically inventing every technology ever in a 10 year period. Like, well, Tesla thought about that, and he thought about this, and I think that's a little exaggerated. All that being said, from what I know about Tesla, he was a good exemplar of deep work. He had social phobias, he did not like being around other people. He could focus intensely on a problem and made some really big breakthroughs, and particular breakthroughs about how to actually make alternating current practical, how you could actually build devices to run an alternating current. I mean, this is maybe getting a little bit in the weeds, but the advantage of direct current is that you can directly drive a motor. And driving a motor is one of the most important early applications of electricity because it replaced steam engines and factories. Alternating current, if you just hooked it up to a direct electromagnetic motor, would have the motor go back and forth, back and forth. So you actually had to invent a clever electrical apparatus to allow the alternating current current to still drive a continuous motor forward. There's also some other work you did on transformers, et cetera. Anyways, great inventor, great example of someone who focused on being so good they couldn't be ignored, pushing the technology, pushing the technology. Clearly he played a big role in Westinghouse's rise, the downfall of Edison, the rise of AC over DC current. So I like the question, good example of deep work. Don't know if he is the greatest inventor of all time, but he does have a car named after him, so that's not so bad. All right, Jesse, what do we got next? All right, next question we got, Andrew, he's got some ideas about writing for a technical audience, and he wants your thoughts on that. So let's fire away with Andrew here. - Hi, Cal, longtime listener, first time caller. My name is Andrew, and I work as a virtual CFO who also builds data pipelines for my clients. I found some interesting topics when combining those two worlds that I'd like to write more about. I'm specifically writing more about timeless business management principles and combining those with the new data rich world that we're in. I've written for more of a general audience in the past, but I'm pulling with the idea of writing for an academic or a research journal type audience. My background is in a finance and accounting, which did not have a lot of writing in school, so I feel like this is a blind spot for me.

Writing for academic audiences (06:10)

What advice do you have for a non-academic, trying to write for this world? Are there any resources you'd recommend checking out? Thanks, Cal. - There definitely is a gap between general audience writing and academic writing. Probably as much as anyone else in the world I know about this gap is I'm someone who has done quite a bit of both. General audience writing, in some sense, is harder, right? Because you actually have to deploy more craft to do general audience writing well. So the actual writing itself is harder to do. The clarity of the ideas, the structure of the writing, the examples you give, the narrative momentum that brings people from one idea to the other, the introducing a lay audience to complicated ideas without overwhelming them, like giving them enough to latch onto so they can keep figuring out what you're trying to talk about, that's all hard from a craft perspective. When it comes to technical writing for, let's say, a journal, an academic journal, you have to be clear, but no one really cares about the craft. You don't have to have a lot of narrative momentum in your journal article. You don't have to have nice illustrative examples. You don't have to worry about redundancies. You don't have to worry about the issue of, I mentioned this thing earlier and it needs to pay off here. And I need the end, the callback, the beginning. You don't need a turn or a nut, necessarily an academic writing. It's more workmen-like. You wanna write clearly, you're conveying the information, but the real craft and academic writing is generating that information in the first place. Here's the theory, here's the experiment, here's the idea. So it's two very different worlds. Now, I will say as an aside, I sometimes bring the craft that I have worked on in the world of general purpose writing to my academic papers. I will sometimes, for example, as I'm known among my collaborators to do, obsess over introductions, wordsmith them, so it flows really well and there's a storyline. Here's the thing, none of that really helps. I mean, I think the readers appreciate it. I have not seen a discernible impact on whether or not my papers get accepted or not into academic venues if I write at a, let's say a New Yorker-style introduction to my academic paper. So I do it because I can't help it, but it doesn't really matter. If you're gonna do academic writing, don't wing it. You have to understand for the venue that you're writing for, what is required for a paper to be accepted for publication? Who needs to be on that? Like, can you do this as a virtual CFO who specializes in building data pipelines for the journal you wanna write for? Can you just write for them from that perspective or do you need an academic co-author? So who needs to be on these paper? What is the level of original theory or ideas that needs to be in here? What sort of backing you need? What type of literature, reviewer understanding do you have to convey? This is a big piece of a lot of academic writing is showing a sophisticated understanding of the landscape of existing publications and showing that you understand where your work fits into the landscape. It's one of the big sins in academic writing that if a reviewer senses you don't know our field well, they're not gonna publish your piece. Don't guess at all this. You really need to know the right answers 'cause your papers will not get accepted if you try to wing it. There's very specific parameters for each different particular venue that you might try to publish in. So that would mean at the easiest, deconstruct existing papers in the venues you wanna publish. Perhaps more effective though slightly harder is to talk with people who are publishing in those venues already, people who are writing similar articles, talk to them about their work and what's required for these things to get accepted. Even more effective and even more difficult would be get a co-author who is experienced, convince someone who is already publishing multiple times in a venue, the co-author a paper with you, learn on the job, what is required, what do we need, what standard of evidence, what review, what is it really take. But all this comes back to the same idea. You need information. You need hard, realistic, on-to-ground information about how this type of publishing works before you try to do it. And I'm gonna attempt to generalize this for lots of different issues 'cause I think this comes up a lot when people are thinking about new projects or endeavors. And it's very easy when they come up with what you want to be the reality. Here's what I'm gonna do. Here's what I want it to be. I wanna be a novelist and that means I'll do national novel writing month with a proper Scrivener configuration and that will make me a novelist. We want the story to be what we want it to be but the reality might be, no, there's a lot more training involved. There's a lot higher bar that you have to pass. Here's how you can tell if you're at the right level. And so in general, I like to push that advice. When doing something new, first do the work of figuring out about what is actually required to succeed. What is actually required to succeed? So there's a story I told in a podcast interview recently. It has not come out yet. I don't usually reveal interviews I've done until after they've come out. But I think Jesse knows who I'm talking about here. Did I did a podcast interview recently with a relatively large podcaster? You'll verify it was a pretty large podcaster. - Yes, for sure. I'm a fan of his podcast as well. - All right, that's all we'll say for now. And that's coming on the new year at some point. But one of the things we got into in that interview is how did I get started in non-fiction book writing? And I got into detail about the path I took because I was 20. I was 20 years old when I got serious about writing books and I signed my first book deal with Random House right after I turned 21. So we're getting into it on this podcast interview. How did I make that work? And what I did, I think this is the biggest differentiating factor between me and the other sort of weird, nerdish 20 year olds who might think about writing books is I said, I wanna get the real answer about what would be required for someone my age to get a book deal. And so I used a family friend who was in journalism and said, can you connect me with a literary agent? And you can make it clear to this agent that I'm not gonna try to sell them something. I'm not gonna get her to sign me. I just want 30 minutes information. And so my memory is he hooked me up with a phone call with an agent. She was a fiction agent. So this was good. There was no chance I was gonna try to sell her. She primarily focused on fiction, but she was very well established in the industry well. I said, look, I'm a 20 year old. I wanna try to sign a book deal. What would really be required? And she gave me the reality. And honestly, it's probably not what you'd wanna hear. I think what I wanted to hear was like, your idea is great. Just start writing every day and your book will be published. And it's not what she told me. She's like, look, there's gonna be a huge bar for you to cross as someone that young, trying to get a book deal. It's a risk. So here's the things you're gonna have to do. I think what you need to do, first of all, is get more publication credits. You have to start writing articles that are on the topic you wanna sell the book on. They're gonna wanna see writing samples in this genre to see that you really know how to write. She gotta sell it. Also, you're gonna wanna do a lot of research in advance. They're not gonna trust you to come up with the right idea. So you need to do that all advance. I would do as much of the research for the book as possible in advance, that you can give the agent followed by the publisher a really detailed table of contents. Here's what I'm thinking. So I can write on this topic. People have paid me to write on this topic. I've done all the research. Here's the content. You can see exactly what's gonna be. She said, you're probably gonna have to do some pretty extensive sample chapter writing. So I took that all to heart and it took me a while. I went out there and got commissions. There were small publications. My first books were aimed at college students. So these were student focused publications. Some of these were online only. Some of these were paper magazines that they would distribute for free on college campuses. There used to be a publication called Business Today. I'm sure if that still exists. Came out of Princeton University students would run it. But whatever, there's these publications. They weren't high bar publications, but they were publications. And I began pitching articles that were student advice oriented. And as part of that effort, I did all of the research for my first book. It was one article commission that required me to talk to a small number of Rhodes scholars for the article commission. And I took that commission and interviewed 25 people. Way more than I needed for that article, but it was all the research I needed for the first book I was gonna pitch, how do I wanna call it? So I did that work and it was a pain and it's not what I wanted the answer to be. And it took me a year. But then when I was done, I could get an agent like that. And she could turn around and sell that book like that. And we were off to the races. If I had done what I wanted the right answer to be, which is just people will recognize your brilliance when you give them a one-page summary of your idea and they'll just give you a lot of money, I never would have started writing. So this is my broader interpretation here. If you wanna do something new, regardless of what it is, face the hard truth by talking to experts about what's really required, it stinks in the moment because it's usually more than you wanna do. But it is a huge competitive advantage in the long term because it means you're actually gonna put your energy on the things that really matter. Well, all of your potential competitors trying to get started in the same world will be doing national novel writing month and optimizing their Scrivener configurations and they're never gonna get there. All right, I think that works. Jesse, would you be excited to read a book about virtual CFOs and rich data pipelines? Possibly, that was a good answer though. I mean, you gave Andrew a lot of content there. Andrew's gonna be happy. I hope so, yeah. It'd be funny if what Andrew was really wanting to write was like a thriller novel, but about virtual CFOs who through the construction of a rich data pipeline saves the world from a meteor strike and gets to girl in the end. I'd be there for that book. And he also throws like a mean fastball. Yeah, he plays baseball on the side. He plays baseball on the sea. Richard, we're giving you the secret here. That's the book you need to write. Forget what everyone tells you. Just start writing, man. Ten pages a day, follow the muse. You're gonna be Dan Brown this time next year. The baseball throwing virtual CFO who's rich data pipelineing, he's been using just to attract women, but decides to put his skill to use and takes a break from his pitching responsibility slash data pipeline responsibilities to save the earth from meteor. I love it, man. You're set. All right, what do we got next? All right, our next question, we got a question about the deep work buckets and then keystone habits. So let's take a listen. - Hi, Cal. It's Navek here. I'm wondering if you could explain the difference between deep work and the roles that you play and your buckets and your keystone habits in those. I'm assuming you have other things you do in the buckets and I'm just not clear how you see the relationship between the buckets and your roles. And I suppose deep work. Thanks. - All right, this is a good question because we can clarify the relationship between the deep life, the philosophy that includes the buckets and deep work, which is a type of professional activity. Jesse, let me ask you though, right off the bat, I sort of stumbled into this terminology of buckets early in the pandemic when I was thinking through the deep life and now we're kind of stuck with them.

The difference between Deep Work and Deep Life buckets (18:25)

Do you think this is a good thing or a bad thing? - You've talked about the buckets for a while because I've been listening to your podcast since the very beginning. I like the terminology and I remember you mentioning it even before I started working with you but I've always been a fan of the buckets. I use it when I explain it to certain people. So I think it's fine, but. - Yeah, all right. So we got what it is. Buckets, we're stuck with buckets. Let me do, by the way, let me do an update on the book and then I'll get to this answer. But I just finished my sixth version of the potential outline for this book. I've gone through six versions. Had a hard time with it. This is the first version that I actually sent off to my literary agent and said, okay, I think I have this thing cracked. I think I might be ready to write a proposal. So Jesse, let me do an update. Let me give you the latest update on the potential book I will be writing about the deep life and then we'll get to the meat of this question. - Yeah, let's do it. So here's what was struggling with me before. I was struggling before when I was thinking about this book because it was important to me that for this subject matter that the book was, for lack of a better word, smart. I didn't wanna tackle something as philosophically resonant as living a deep life. I didn't wanna tackle it with, and now here's the seven steps and here's bullet points and here's lazy writing, which in the nonfiction space, the pragmatic nonfiction space, you know you get lazy writing when a lot of rhetorical questions enter the scene. That's a little tip when you get a lot of, but would this really work? What about a da, what about a buzz? Like man, that's your notes for like what you need the craft good writing about. You can't just put the rhetorical questions into the writing. So I thought this topic really needed, it needed to be smart. I mean, it's a complicated topic, but my issue was when all I was doing was trying to come up with a table of contents for the book, I was putting all of the necessity to make the book smart onto the table of contents. And so it was leading me down these unusual and contrived structures for the book because it's like, well, I want the structure itself that convey that this is something different. And eventually what I realized was, now keep the structure simple. And let the writing do the work. And in fact, not only make it simple, why don't we distill down to its essence, like the very elements of a Cal Newport book and simplify them down to its purest form. So the structure is there and it's there, but in a minimalist form. And then let your writing do all the work of showing the philosophical depth of this topic. And so that's what I ended up doing with my current outline in the prologue. Like right up there in the prologue, it's me, it's early pandemic, this topic arise, like coined the term buckets. And I just let this one short prologue is gonna do all the work of just motivating why this topic matters. It's been around forever, each generation comes out of differently, we have our own moment where we're kind of re-appracing this topic. But no, like multiple chapters with citing 70 things, a prologue that is just grounded in a place in a time and me, boom, right? Then we go to a next chapter, prepare. All of the stuff we've talked about, I mean, the buckets, in general, what makes a deep life deep, I mean, I'm pretty much simplified into my own thinking that the definition of a deep life is, you radically align, radically aligning your life to be in alignment with things that you really value. So it's about not just aligning elements of your life, but being willing to make radical changes to your life to align into things that you value. I think, let's just give the definition. Let's talk about it. Like what's the hard thing about it? Well, it's hard to figure out what changes to make. We have this bucket system we'll talk about in a second that can help, but like, there it is. It's one chapter, call it prepare, out of the way. Not dragging this out, not going whatever, just boom. And then the whole rest of the book, I have five chapters, each is a different element of something you might radically align as part of building a deep life, naming them with one word verbs, and let the writing do the work. So you have this prologue, you have this prepare chapter, and then it's right now, the terminology I have is move, quit, serve, train, wonder. It's the current list. And the list might change, but one word, one verb. Like I'm trying to get down to the essence. Like let's get down to the essence of a cow Newport book. Here's the problem, here's the solution. Let's look into how you implement the solution. Just getting it down to the essence. And then I can let the writing do the work. And I'm gonna follow my own journey through these chapters. I'm a character in this. They're gonna be asymmetrical. So it's not like every chapter has the same structures, every other one. I really wanna get away from opening story, interpretation of the opening story, complicating story for bullet points. It's gonna be, some chapters be different than others. I'm a character in it. Let's be nuanced and tackling these issues. Take these different elements of building a deep life, and really go try to understand why do they resonate, what's at the core of them, what do you have to think about if you're trying to do an alignment here. Give some respect to the reader to help put the pieces together. So that's where I am now. A very simple structure. Now it then ends with an epilogue. Okay, here's how I've changed my own life. Very simple structure, one word chapter titles. Get down to the core of it. And then we'll really let a journey unfold, what the writing do, what the writing needs to do. I don't know. Can you just, you better or worse than where I was before? I like it. So I have a question. When you were doing, when you were trying to make the book seem smart and you were developing the table of contents, how did you explain that to the agent or whoever you submitted it to, that it was the writing that was gonna be the smart work. Or did you write the epilogue as well so they had an example? You know, so yeah, it's a good question. So like what I was doing before is I was getting too cute with the structure. Well, I think the last time I talked about on the podcast, maybe at that point I was doing paths, like here are the four main paths that people follow. And that wasn't quite right. I wanted to get to the crux of the matter. Like what are the actual changes that create the, the resonance, I wanted to be more concrete. So that seemed too complicated. And then I had a form where each chapter was a setting. I was like, I'm at this farm. I'm at this like writer's retreat or something like this. And then I would build out from the setting, but I was like, this is again, it's not clear to the reader why are we at this setting? And I don't want this to be just one of these reflection books where I just like, I have these kinds of reflections and I proved that I'm smart with my writing. And that seemed too cute. And so really, and then I had more complicated traditional structures where, you know, here's like three, four chapters on like, what's needed to prepare, you know, for the deep life. And it was, I was like spending all this time on it. Like that felt forced or whatever. So I just simplified it down to these one word chapters. And I sent it off just for my agent to look at. But I was like, the structure should make a lot of sense here. So my standards, I've just simplified it. But it's, the writing is going to do what the writing does. It's going to follow my story. Not every chapter is going to be the same. And it was more for me. I just felt a clarity. And I felt like a book like this needed a lot of clarity. Just you look at the table of contents. Like I know what you're up to. Let's get into it. If that makes sense. - Got it. So this being the sixth version, how long is that process? Like six months? Like you submit a version every month or is it? - So this is the first version I submitted. So it's like the first five versions as like, no. So my whole thing, my whole process is, I rely heavily on my sense of taste. The bar of the terminology from Ira Glass that like the first step into trying to produce something good is you have to develop the taste, the recognized good things. And it can be frustrating because then you know when you're doing stuff that's not hitting that, that's not hitting that level. So I know what I'm looking for. And I'm very empathetic. Right? So I can, I put myself into the head of a potential reader and try to simulate, what's that response? Is there an aspirational response or not? Right? So I'm very empathetic. I like this in person, by the way too. I very strongly read and feel empathetically what's going on in a room. If I'm talking to someone like every little nuance about their state of mind and how they're feeling, it hits me really big, right? And this has negatives and positives. It has some social implications that aren't great, but it's good for writing because I can simulate the mind of the reader really well. And so I really began working on this in earnest in July. Just trying to get an outline. And for the other five, I would finish it. I would sit with it and it was just a feeling. It's not right. It's hard to explain. It's like a little premonition of like something's not right here, there's some grit into gears. And I would sit on it and I'd just say this is not right. And then I would try again. And I think that's not quite right. And I would try again, it's not quite right. So it's really for me, it's all this intuition. I just have an intuition when I finally feel like I think I'm honing in on, I think I'm honing in on something that the reader's it's gonna get. It's all about pressing just the buttons I wanna press. I want the experience of reading the book to be exciting. Like you have the sense of I'm gonna change something in my life and I'm getting some revelation. And there's a whole sense that I'm going for. And so I've been sitting with this one for a while and feel better about it. So I think I'm getting closer. - Were you influenced at all by your friend Ryan Holidays, new books with the one chapter titles that he's been doing? Did that influence at all with the one chapter? - Yeah, yes. Yes, so Ryan, I think the Ryan is a great example of this of keeping the form simple and clear and then letting the writing do the work of actually affecting the person. Yeah, I think he's a great example of that. If we're gonna be really high-feluting about this and self-important, you know, as you know, I went through this phase of reading a lot about film studies, et cetera. Technically, you could think about what I'm interested in is the pragmatic nonfiction equivalent of auteur theory in film. So in film, when you look at Fellini and Auteur theory, there is this sense of like what the, such in the 70s and 80s that these Auteur directors would take a well-established genre and then they would work within the constraints of that genre to create art. And it was actually in the tension of their work against the constraints that you would subvert this or what they would do with this that you would actually create the value that somehow that there was something to this that was even more special or magical than just starting with a blank slate, right? So this would be the difference between Ford working within the constraints of the Western and visually and storytelling-wise working with it or Clint Eastwood and Unforgiven, which I recently rewatched, taking the constraints of the genre that he helped define earlier in his career and is in the subverting of the constraints that actually like the power comes out. And comparing that, for example, to like Terry Malick, who was just like, I'm gonna construct this thing from scratch. This movie is gonna be whatever it's gonna be. The Auteur theory, you work within the genre. I think it's an incredibly self-important way of describing how two books that I write, but at least it gives me some sort of motivation that, and Ryan does this too, work within the constraints of the genre. So I have a very clear constraint, you know, motivation, idea, all right, so here's this issue. Here's my original idea about what to do about it. Digital minimalism, deep work, replacing the hyperactive hive mind. Then a journey to understand how to implement it, which is where you help the reader instantiate in their own mind what changed, or how their life might actually change to act on that promise. Like that's my Western movie or detective novel. And I'm trying to work within it. So that's what I'm doing with this new one. Like let's just distill it down to one word, incredibly simple, get the motivation to a prologue, get the whole like, here's the idea down to just one chapter, use all the new muscles I've been building up in New Yorker to be clear and well-crafted and balanced and momentum going, and then just see where it goes. So this is like the self-important stuff I tell myself. So I don't get bored, you know? I don't know, do you buy this? This is probably going too far, right? Talking about Arturo Theory. - No, I like it a lot. In fact, if it becomes a movie, we can get Andrew from the previous call to be a character and I'd seen all those other traits. - Yeah, I left that, I did leave that out, that that's gonna be a big part of the book is gonna be these big call out boxes. And I'm gonna have like a sketch of Andrew, you know, really dramatic sketch of Andrew, and then a lot of details on rich data pipelines. Because like you gotta subvert expectations, you know? Like, oh man, what's gonna happen? This guy's gonna quit his job, and then it's XML formats for maximum data portability. That's, I think that's where the magic's going to be. - No, I love the explanation, I think it was great. So-- - There's an actual question lurking in there, wasn't there? - Yeah, so the question was about deep work and working with the keystone habits. You get this type of question decent amount, but I always love hearing the explanation because I'm a big firm believer that people need to be continually coached. - Yeah, okay, so yeah, now let's get back to the meat of it. All right, so we have the deep life. We have this growing definition of the deep life that I've been refining where it's really about living your life in radical alignment with things you value. So you're aligning the things you value, you're willing to make radical changes to actually make that alignment, maybe radical changes to where you live and work or the structure of your day. Implicit in this definition is also you're comfortable missing out on other things to do this priority. So I'm gonna really focus on a few things that really matter and radically align my life with it. All right, so that's my vision of the deep life. The hard part about the deep life, and this is something I've been refining when I've been thinking about this potential book, the hard part is, well, figuring out what that is, like what's really important, how do you align your life to it? There's some preparation that's actually required to get better in tune with yourself and to get more comfortable with the idea that you have efficacy, that you can actually influence the way your life unfolds. A lot of us aren't really used to that, except for in very minor ways, like trying a new exercise routine. And so the bucket system I talk about on the podcast a lot is in some sense a way of doing that preparation, beginning to learn what's important to you, beginning to build that muscle of aligning your life with the things that are important, even if that requires sacrifices or de-emphasizing other things, it's the preparation stage. And then once you're done with that preparation stage, then you might actually make some more radical steps. Now I'm ready to, like with confidence, move across the country, go to the farm, radically change our work situation, whatever it's going to be. So I see now the buckets as a preparatory step towards a more extreme push towards a deep life. The idea briefly is you identify the important areas of your life, I call these the deep life buckets. The examples I give often are alliterative and I'll start with C. So the original group I used to talk about was craft, community, constitution and contemplation, but people have different lists of what's important to them. And what I would recommend in this system is that you start step one, identifying a keystone habit for each of these buckets, something you do on a daily basis and track that you actually did it. That's not trivial but is also tractable. So it's not, I clap my hands twice, but it's also not, I ran a half marathon every day. These keystone habits should be something that advances something you care about in that bucket. The idea here is not that this will radically transform your life, but that you begin to get used to this idea of I intentionally prioritize each of these things, each of these things gets attention. So that's step one. Step two, then I recommend taking each of these buckets in turn and giving it four, six, maybe eight weeks. So I usually say average at four to six weeks where you focus just on that area of your life and overhaul it. Like what more permanent changes do I wanna make? What things do I wanna eliminate? What new things do I wanna do? What more permanent changes do I wanna make to make sure that that part of my life is getting a good amount of attention. And I'm extracting from it a good amount of value in my day to day life. And that takes some time and experimentation. So that's why I say take at least four to six weeks for each. This is a concept that I stole from the medieval Jewish practice of Musar, MUSSAR, which is a practice of virtue cultivation where you actually focus one month at a time on different virtues that you're trying to improve and then you cycle back again, very into that idea. I think it's a really cool idea that should be known more widely. So I'm sort of polling from there. And then when you're done with those overhauls, you are gonna be in a state now where you know what's important to you because you have been experimenting with it and trying to amplify things and just getting in touch with those intimations for each of the areas of your life, you've just spent a month thinking nothing about that. And you feel a lot more efficacious because you've now done non-trivial rewiring of elements of your life to make sure that each of these buckets is being satisfied. That by itself is gonna put you on a much more stable foundation. If you did nothing else, I think your life is gonna be deeper. It also puts you into the right place if you wanna make the radical changes. 'Cause now you really know what you're all about and you're confident you can make changes. So that's the deep life bucket system. Deep work by contrast is a particular type of professional effort. It is when you're working on something that is cognitively demanding and you don't context switch. So you give it your full attention. Much more minor in the grand scheme of things. So where might that show up in here? Well, the craft, what I call the craft bucket is the bucket that's dedicated to what you produce professionally. It also by the way can cover other things you produce that maybe it's not at the core of your job, but any type of producing of things that are valuable. If you're the actor Nick Offerman, for example, from Parks and Recreation, he has this fantastic woodshed warehouse in the suburb of Los Angeles somewhere where he builds these great wood creations. Yeah, it's not a business for him, but it's craft and that's important to him. So it's building things, so definitely your professional life is covered there. When you're considering craft, deep work matters. Because as we talk about, you want to produce things of value, that means you want to make sure that you have good time protected for deep work and you want to work on the load of work in your life probably so that you have enough ratio of deep to shallow work. Yeah, that's all considerations that apply narrowly when you're trying to figure out your craft bucket. So to get to the definitive answer to the original question, the deep life is this big idea. If you're going through my preparatory deep life bucket system, during the time you're focused on a craft or whatever your equivalent is of the craft bucket, that's real care about deep work.

Do YouTubers have a terrible job? (38:30)

And I like to make this point because I think deep work as a concept has inflated for some people to cover a lot of things. And I'm trying to keep these separations more clear. So this is why I like to talk about, let's get deep work narrow to what it is, focusing on something hard without distraction. And let's use the term deep life to capture this broader goal of living a life is radically aligned with your values. All right, so I don't know, do you think, I think just that's probably the breaking, I'm breaking records here for length of answers before we actually get to any information relevant to the original question. - That was a good one, that one was 21 minutes probably. - Pretty close. - Yeah, dear Lord, but only. - It was solid. - All right, I'm going fast. I'm going fast, this is my challenge. Fast answer on this next one, be ready for it. - All right, so here we go, the next question we have, a question about your dislike of the words content and content creator, she explains more. - Hi, Cal, my name is Tina, and I'm an academic medicine. You've mentioned in the show several times about how you hate the word content and content creator. I find that I don't like these terms either, but I can't quite articulate why. Can you explain further as to why these words just don't sound right, considering your deep life and deep work philosophies? Thank you very much, I'm a huge fan of the show. - All right, I'll be quick on this answer. I think the content and content creator terminology, the context in which it is often used is in a very sterile business technique optimization type context, right? So when you hear content creator, you're imagining that you're going to be watching a YouTube video about optimizing your subscription numbers for your YouTube channel or something like this. When you think of content or content creator, you think of people saying, "I want you to smash that subscribe button," and hit the bell. And so anyways, it's sterile and business focused where I tend to focus more on the craft itself, the Steve Martin advice of be so good they can't ignore you, that you're not a content creator who's trying to meet a content schedule. You're trying to instead craft a book that hundreds of thousands of people are going to feel like changed their life. You're not trying to optimize readership numbers, you're trying to write an article that is going to change the way a whole segment of the population understands an important issue. So I like to put the focus concretely on the actual artistic thing you're trying to create and put as much energy and possible into making that as good as possible. And then all the other stuff, it comes along, but it's kind of on the side, I don't know. I mean, yeah, there's some stuff you have to do, but that's not the focus. The focus is producing the good stuff. Now, Jesse, you've been teaching me about some of this stuff, right? So like you're helping me get videos online. You will admit to the audience that I know very little about YouTube or videos. And I practice what I preach. I do not know any content creator information. - I'm not, I'm okay with YouTube and stuff. I have a channel on another field that's decent, but all in all, yeah, I mean, I can attest to that. - See, I guess that, okay, one other, I don't wanna go long, 'cause I promise to be short. So I'll be short here, but I think there's also a, there, but for the grace of God, go I type fear I have, which is there's a very specific job in the world of people who work in written or visual mediums, which is being a YouTube personality. And they are really beholden to these algorithms. I guess if you make money off of like YouTube advertisements, it really matters if your videos get recommended, right? I guess that's where a lot of views come from. And there's all of these little things that matter for the algorithm to get your video shown more and obsessing about these things really probably makes a very practical difference to how much money you make. And so to me, I, when I see my son watching like Minecraft YouTubers, I'm like, what a hard job, man, this is a smart guy. Like I'm wondering if he should go to med school. I mean, because like they have to do this all day long and get subscribers and this and this bell. I don't know what the bell does, but if they don't do this, it's not going to get recommended. If it doesn't get recommended, they're not going to be able to pay their heating bill and they have to like render videos all night long. And, and like I don't want to do any of that. So for me, I'm also, I think just in a self protective way saying like, I don't want anything to do with that world. I care about my books, like when it comes to metrics of success, how many copies my books sell and podcast listeners, I think downloads of the podcast is very important. I like this medium, it's distributed, we control it. I think it's given us a great relationship with the audience. And if YouTube videos help those things, that's great. But I really, I think once you go down that line of trying to serve the YouTube algorithm, it's a, it's a Faustian bargain. - 100%. I think the gamers, they have a tough lifestyle. I mean, they probably don't have the best diet in the world. They're probably not exercising that much. Their backs probably hurt all the time. But they, some of them make banks. So I mean, as long as they're not blowing all the money, maybe they're okay, but who knows? I mean, I completely agree with you though. - Here's my counterfactual though. Let's say we take, let's say everyone who in the last five years made a serious run and let's just focus on one game at a Minecraft YouTube video, right? Like where there's doing it almost full time. Now if we took all those people and said, almost anything else, like try writing books, try starting a software company, like just get your college degree and try to go into banking. I bet we'd have the same income distribution. There'd be like a small number of people who made a lot of money and like some other people, most other people, actually would probably be a better distribution. You'd have a few people that made a lot of money, but a lot of money would be more than the best YouTubers make. And then almost everyone else would have at least a stable middle class lifestyle where with the YouTubers, probably the curve is much more brutal that like 80% can't even pay their bills with it. But it would be the time demands of, you know, I don't know, I ran a software company or a bank or would probably be better than the work. But I guess my counterfactual is like, is this actually opening up? Because I don't think it's a better lifestyle. It's a really hard job. Is it really opening up like more income making opportunities than these are smart kids than other stuff they could do? - That's probably more rational thinking than they went into. They probably first started doing it and then realized they might be able to make some money with it and then all of a sudden it was like a snowball effect. So like people were doing it. - And there's attention. - And I don't think that they would ever even want to begin, you know, starting an accounting firm or doing some sort of thing like that where they have to report to work and do whatever. - Yeah, but you could be, they're all tech savvy. They could, most of these guys, I bet could build up pretty good computer programming skills and work, I don't know, half the year on contract. And have the other half the year completely free and probably have, maybe it's just not as much fun. Maybe I'm not a romantic. - Some of them might be. I think a lot of them might be. Like my good buddy who has like an online business plays games all the time. He doesn't do videos, but I mean, yeah. Well, this is just me justifying myself. But okay, good question. That's semi fast. That's semi fast. Do we have another one? How are we doing with time? - Yeah, we have one more question. This is a question about studying for the GMAT and then at the tail end, she's also juggling job hunting. So we'll take a listen to what Lindsey has to say. - All right. - There you go. - Hi, this is Lindsey. Huge fan of your work. I am wondering if you could speak to two things. The first is most effective way to study for the GMAT test. I took it back in 2011. I have to retake it now that I'm applying to school again for something else because they have changed the test. And there's so many guides and books in online courses out there that I do not, I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. So if you could speak to that or like generally standardized, like higher education. - Just a quick, can we pause her right there? - Secondly. - So let me answer her first part and then we'll get her second part if that works because GMAT, I have a simple answer for any of those standardized tests.

Preparation For Business Exams

Preparing for the GMAT (48:00)

Doing sample test under the real time conditions is by far the actual best practice. I can do real sample test and get this score under those conditions, then you will get that score in the real test. If you can't, you won't. The only thing you do is use books. I don't think you need the online courses, get books to learn the techniques they recommend for each of the different types of sections. So like, okay, I'm gonna study these type of questions and look at the techniques. Now I'm gonna try it under time conditions then I'll go back and deconstruct the answers I got wrong, figure out how to answer them right, see if I'm missing any techniques. Why did I get that wrong? Was it a mistake or I didn't know how to do it and then do it again under time conditions. And that's it. I mean, this is how I did for example, the GRE. When I was applying to graduate school and computer science, most of these schools cared only about your math section. I knew you needed a high 700s in the math that being contention for any of these schools. They preferred 800, but I gained it out and was like, okay, high 700s would be enough. And that's all I did. Like, okay, let me read a book about the different types of questions and the techniques they recommend. Sample test, how'd I do? Try again, try again. Okay, I'm in the high 700s, go took the test and we're done. So that's the way to prepare, nothing else fancy. Get in real conditions, do the test, figure out what you got wrong. Look at one book on techniques, but it's really a game of practicing. All right, let's see what your second part of the question is. - Dively, job hunting, you know, organization, best way to practice answers, things like that. You know, in the reels. So I'm kind of doing both at the same time. Thank you so much. Okay, bye. - All right, well, first of all, tangentially, Jesse, was that the first call we've had where someone seems to actually be walking? - There seemed to be a lot of talk in the background. - I heard footsteps. Yeah, so I don't know, can the technology we use for people to call in, I guess that must work on your phone, right? - I think so. - Okay, so now we know, now we know, we've never heard someone actually walking. I think it'd be funny if the reality was, Lindsey had a really large media cart and like on the media cart, she had a desktop computer with a monitor and like a keyboard. And then there was another wagon that had a generator in it. And there was like someone pulling the cart and someone pushing the generator and she had like a headset on, connected to the computer as she walked, trying to answer the question. It's either that or SpeakPipe works on your phone. We'll see, but anyways, that's cool. So all right, everyone, now we know, you can answer these questions from the phone. And if you wanna know how to do this, by the way, calnewport.com/podcast, there's a link, but it's just a service called SpeakPipe. And you like record right from your web browser. Okay, so for job interviews, so for corporate job interviews, if you're gonna be doing corporate recruiting in particular, you gotta practice that too. And the way you practice that is it has to be practiced specific to those types of interviews. Just to give you a little insight or look, if you're at an elite college, for example, and watching people interviewing for banking jobs or consulting jobs, there's practice sessions that they do again and again with sample types of questions. How do you answer case questions? How do you answer brainstorming questions? Coders, so let's say you're trying to get a job as a computer programmer at Google, tell you just based on our grad students here at Georgetown, they practice a lot. And there's various tools like LEAT code, I think it's called, where you can practice the types of coding puzzles that they will give you to do on the whiteboards. But it's a very specific skill. You have to think about corporate recruiting like you're gonna juggle, I gotta practice how to do this. Quick personal story, when I was at Dartmouth, I signed up for one of these interviews for a consulting firm. And they were doing the first pass on campus. And I was like, I don't need to practice. I'm a smart guy of foros. And just got destroyed because it was so specific. I was like, what the hell are you talking about? Because I did not practice. They're like, all right, well, I forgot the question was, something like, help us walk you through how you think through this question. Like how many windows? I think the question was like, how many windows are there in Manhattan? Now to me, I was like, what the hell are you talking about? I don't know. But it turns out, oh, that's a very specific type of question that corporate recruiters ask. And there's a method for how you practice it. And I hadn't practiced it. Right. And so that interview went disastrously. So that's all I wanna say is that, these type of jobs, especially for elite companies, people practice a lot specifically a type of interview questions are gonna do. So that is worth finding a course for just online training tools for different types of interviews. There's online courses for doing different types of interviews. It is highly specific. So you do wanna practice that. So get that practice in. And it's just like with the GMAT. Once you know, I've done a hundred of these type of questions. I know how to do these questions. I know how to figure out the number of windows in Manhattan. I know how to come up with a binary search algorithm on the whiteboard that uses a single array. Pointer, whatever the challenge is. Like I've done it a hundred times. Then you'll be confident for the interview. All right, Jesse, I think we made it. I think we made it through a whole episode live of questions. And the text seems to be holding up. So I mean, I think the only thing we're missing now is we have to figure out, do you think actual live calls might be possible one day? - If people have generators and wheelbarrows that they can take over. - They can move their cars. We will demand that. We will demand that you are in the wilderness on a generator with a media card. That's the only thing that stands that are way. Actually, I see why not. I mean, they could zoom into your computer or something like that. And because your computer's hooked up to our mixing board now. So all right, stay tuned everyone. But the technology is advancing. This was a big step. We'll put the full video of this online as soon as that YouTube stuff gets rolling. So you can actually see a full episode video if you're curious what it looks like in here. But until then, I believe that's a full episode. Jesse, so let's call this a wrap.

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