Full Length Episode | #170 | February 3, 2022
Transcription for the video titled "Full Length Episode | #170 | February 3, 2022".
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Cal's intro (00:00)
I'm Cal Newport and this is Deep Questions, episode 170. Here in the Deep Work HQ, joined as always by Jesse. We're gonna be doing a listener calls episode where we take your calls to answer. As always, go to calnewport.com/podcast to get the instructions on how you too can record a call for one of these listener calls episodes. We are, as we talked about in the last episode, releasing all of these calls on YouTube. You go to our YouTube channel within a couple days after this episode airing, if all goes well, you should see individual videos uploaded for every call we capture today. You will also see a video of the entire episode we do these live from beginning to end one take. So if you prefer to watch instead of listen, there will also be within a couple days, the whole episode will be available live online. So for now, we'll just put the link for the YouTube channel will be in the show notes. Soon we will have a personalized YouTube URL. Jesse can probably fill us in here. Jesse, there's some rules, right? Like before YouTube will give you YouTube.com/somethingsimple, there's some hurdles we have to do, right? >> Yeah, so we just need 100 subscribers, if we already have, it needs to be up for 30 days. And I was confused whether that was like unlisted videos or published videos, but I think it's published videos. So yeah, just once we hit those things then we can get a simple name and it'll be rock and rollin'. >> All right, so by, at some point in February, we'll have a simpler URL. >> Yeah. >> All right, excellent. So it's just exciting, we're glad to have, you know, everything we talk about available in itself so that you can save the things you like, you can share the things you like, et cetera. All right, so we have some good listener calls to get into today. First, I wanna do a deep dive. I wanna do a particular type of deep dive that I introduced on Monday's episode, which is the core idea deep dive. This is where I am trying over the next few weeks to capture many of the big ideas we come back to all the time on this show and in my writing, capture each of them with its own dedicated deep dive which Jesse is gonna put in its own playlist on YouTube so now you can go back and reference it. So when you hear a big idea come up that we talk about a lot, there will then be a deep dive on just that idea you can go back to and reference. So I wanna continue with that. On Monday we did time management. Today I wanna turn our attention towards the world of careers and do a core idea deep dive on the idea that you should not follow your passion.
Productivity And Time Management Techniques
Core Idea (03:03)
So here's a core idea, don't follow your passion. Let me give some background here. What do I mean by don't follow your passion? Well, this all goes back to a book I published in 2012 it was called So Good They Can't Ignore You. And the whole premise of this book was to take a look from scratch at the core question of how do you end up loving what you do for a living? I wrote this book as a postdoc at MIT before I took my first professorship at Georgetown because professorship's have done right is a job you have for life. My thinking was if there was any time in which I would get a lot of leverage out of understanding what makes people end up loving what they do for a living this was the time that I would get the most leverage out of it. This was the time I needed an answer to that question. This was a time in which I was cementing what my professional life was gonna look like. And I said I better understand how people end up loving their work before I start setting into stone career trajectories that are hard to otherwise later change. And so I went and I researched and wrote this book as a postdoc at MIT trying to answer the question how do people end up loving what they do? At the time and continuing till today the common answer to that question was follow your passion. That's my far the most common answer especially in the American context. There are definitely some regional differences here but definitely in the American context. It didn't take much pushing. They realized that there are problems with this advice. Number one, a lot of people and by a lot I mean most don't have clearly defined pre-existing passions that they can identify to then follow. Real issue if you talk to a bunch of let's say 22 year olds just coming out of school and say look you gotta follow your passion or you're gonna be a miserable sad sack and they say well what's my passion? I don't know, that's a problem. Second, there is not a lot of good evidence that matching the content of your work to a pre-existing interest is a major driver of satisfaction in that job. We just assume that's true. That advice just assumes that true. Oh I like this thing so if I do that for my job I'll like my job but we actually don't have a lot of evidence that's true. We have a ton of evidence that other factors are much more important. Things like autonomy, seems like mastery, seems like impact, things like connection. A lot of other things that are really important for job satisfaction they have nothing to do with is the content of my work matching a pre-existing interest. And we of course have plenty of counter examples of people who build jobs out of hobbies and are miserable. I mean these are cliches. The baker, the amateur baker who's miserable as a professional baker, the amateur photographer who's miserable doing six wedding photography gigs per week. This is so common it's a cliche that when you take what you love and say let me make a job about it you no longer love that thing. That's because the things that makes you really love a job is not me really like this topic. Me job now has this topic in it. Me now really like my job. Way more complicated than that. And the final issue I'll throw in a third here that I noticed when I was researching so good they can't ignore you is that if you just go out there and grab a bunch of people who love what they do for a living and look at their actual stories nine times out of 10 they were not following a clear preexisting passion. So if this is the universal advice we give you would expect that it's what most people who love their job did. That's why we give this advice. Most people don't. And the reality is when you just ask someone casually who loves their work, what's your advice? And they say follow your passion. What they really mean is follow the goal of ending up passionate about your work. They don't mean identify and advance what you're passionate about, match that to your job and then you will love your work. It's not really what they mean. It's not really what they did. It's just a shorthand. But we interpret it as meaning we're wired to do one thing, match our work to that one thing, then we will love our work. That's not actually the way it works. And you know what, we can't blame people for falling back on that shorthand because the reality of what really matters for building a career of love is complicated. We're about to get into it. Took me a year of research to really untangle this storyline. So we should not expect it when we grab some entrepreneur in a magazine interview and say, what's your advice that they'll have this all figured out? They just say follow your passion, but they don't really mean it because it's not really what they did. They followed the goal about being passionate about their work and how they got there was complicated. All right, let's get into it. How do you get there? What I uncovered in my work is that the skill, the what we want to call attributes of a job that makes it great, the properties of a career that makes it something that you love are almost always in demand. The rare and valuable, most jobs don't have them. And so if you want those, if you want those in your job, you have to have something rare and valuable to offer in return. The world doesn't care that you want to be happy in your job and you think those things will be good for you and you just want them in your job. It doesn't care. You have to have something to offer in return. And almost always the things you have to offer in return is rare and valuable skills. So if you want the rare and valuable traits that makes great jobs great in your job, you have to have rare and valuable skills to offer in exchange. And therefore the whole game in building a career you love is skill acquisition, step one, get really good at things. Step two, use those skills as leverage to shape your career towards the elements that resonate in a way from the elements that don't. Get good, use this leverage. Get better, use this even bigger leverage. You cultivate over time a career that then is a real source of meaning and satisfaction for you. It has nothing to do for nine out of 10 people with leaving college at 22 and saying, I am wired. And I just know this, I've known this my whole life. I am wired to be a social media brand manager for a major hotel chain. And if I could just go get that job, I'm gonna be passionate. And if I don't, I'm gonna be miserable. It's not how it works. Get good, use this leverage. Get good, use as leverage. I ended up calling this career capital theory. As my metaphor is, as you get good at things that are rare and valuable, you are acquiring more career capital, you then must invest that capital to get returns in your job that are positive. So I use that metaphor of career capital. Two quick follow up. One, how do you do that? How do you get good at things? How do you build rare and valuable skills? The short answer is deliberate practice. You need to very carefully figure out what's valuable in your current career or job area. And then train to get better at that deliberately, like an athlete, adding a new jump shot to their repertoire or a chess player mastering a new in-game strategy. Specific activities designed to stretch you past where you're comfortable on things you know are valuable. You gotta be training yourself to get better. That's how you get career capital fast. That's how you move towards passion very quickly. Two, how do you know what to do with that career capital? How do you know like what do I want to invest that career capital to get in exchange? When I say you want to invest that capital to move your work towards things that resonate and away from things that don't, you might be suspicious that I'm just being circular here and somehow it all comes back to some pre-existing passion but no, it's much more complicated here. What do I mean by moving your work towards things that resonate away from things that don't? What you need to do here is what we call on this show lifestyle-centric career planning. You have to, through reflection and experimentation, fix in your mind a very clear image of what you want your life to be like. All the elements of your life, you're really like imagining typical days in a way that just you feel this intimations of that's right. That's what I want my life to be like. Where do you live? What type of place do you live? Where are you working? How much work you're doing? What else are you doing with your time? What's happening with your family or your community? Are you in the woods all day? Are you in a high rise? Are you in this vision? Are you a master of the universe type that's making deals and moving things? Or are you a Bill McKibben type cross country skiing in the snow for three weeks before writing one article the next week? You really just want to have this feel of what type of lifestyle resonates with me as deep? What I want. And then you work backers from that. Okay, what I'm trying to do now is build up rare and valuable skills in my job so that I have leverage and then use that leverage to shape the way my work unfolds. What I work on when I work on the arrangement for my work, all of that. So it is pushing me more towards this image of the optimal lifestyle for me and away from things that are contrary to that lifestyle. So you're working backers from a clear image of the lifestyle and the way you get there is not by saying at 22 to your boss, I want to live in the woods. I want a lot of free time. I'm going to cross country ski all day. So I want my work to be just stuff I'm interested in and I only work on on Monday and Fridays and they get paid really well. The boss will say in that context, that's great, good luck with that. Can you get your stuff off the desk there because the person we just hired to replace you is here and they need to get back to work? That's not how you do it. How you do it is you become so good, you can't be ignored, they're desperate to keep you and now you're able to start adjusting. Well, you know, I'm going to work part time or I don't do this type of work. That goes to the entry level. I'm not at the entry level anymore or pay me by my performance. I want to shift to a pseudo consulting type contract if you pay me by my performance. All of that requires, I have gotten very good and that requires that you train. All right, so let me pull together these pieces. This is not as sexy as the Disney version fairy tale of you were wired for one job and if you can figure out what that is, there will be fairy dust in the air and you'll be happy in your career from then on out and conversely, if you don't like your job, if you find it hard or there's anything that's hard about it, that's because you have the wrong position. If you just quit and try something else, you're almost there. Then everything will be easy when you get the right job. The storyline I'm going to give you is much harder than that but it actually works. So the compress everything I just said here, don't obsess too much about what job you take. Yes, the choice matters but you know, any job that matches your interest in some sense is going to give you good options if and when you get better is good enough, don't obsess over the dream job or having just the right job. Two, train like an athlete, what matters? I'm going to systematically improve that skill. No one else in your job is going to be doing that so you're going to start getting advantages, opening up really soon. Three, use the resulting career capital as leverage to push your career towards things that resonate and away from things that don't and your compass for that is lifestyle center career planning. Very clear image of what you want your days to be like, all the elements of your days and so what can I do to make my life more like that and get away from the stuff that gets in the way. Do those three things, give yourself five years, you will probably be pretty happy in your job, give yourself another five years, you might be downright passionate about it but then just what you have to do for me is when someone fresh out of college looks up at you and says, well, how did you do it? How do you have this cool job where you ski all day or whatever? Don't just say follow your passion. Say it's kind of complicated, go watch this video at Cal Newport's YouTube page. All right, so there's the core idea. I'm glad to get that down because we talk about this career stuff a lot so now I can point people towards this idea but I want to get on the questions. Jesse, let's do some calls. What do we have here for our first call? - All right, the first call is from Vanessa. She has a question about time management. She works in AI and she has a bunch of other stuff going on so we'll take a listen and see what you have to say. - Hi, Cal. My question to you is that in a recent podcast you talked about dividing your time into maximum two areas that you want to grow in. For me, those areas are space and artificial intelligence and although my degree is in my under, I'm studying, I'm doing my undergrad in software engineering, I do feel like my time and attention is divided with obligations that are uncontrollable, like obligations at home. I work two part time jobs and I'm doing school so I don't feel like I have the time to do what I want to do and it's almost uncontrollable. So I was wondering if you had any advice for that. - So Vanessa, it's a well timed question because I think the deep dive I did earlier in this episode is actually really relevant here about how you actually craft careers that are real source of meaning.
Dividing time between multiple pursuits (16:20)
The advice I'm gonna give you is actually gonna be slow down. Let me elaborate this a little bit. You're in a moment now where you're training in school and you're working two part time jobs to essentially support yourself while you're in school. I'm actually gonna suggest just do school well, do your part time jobs well and don't be pushing pretty hard on anything else right now. That's a hard setup. It can be hard enough just to find time to get that school work done. Your learning software engineering is a great foundation. I'm assuming that a degree from your school is then gonna allow you to consolidate and clean up your professional situation. The part time jobs are gonna go away, you're gonna have one job that's gonna be a skilled job, probably something in software given your degree. That's gonna be step two. I'm still gonna advise that you start slow. I give this advice a lot on the podcast. When you're new to a job, you wanna make sure that you're dependable. You don't let things fall through the cracks. Someone tells you to do something, you do it. You tell them when it's gonna get done. If you can't get it done in time, you tell them in advance and deliver it. Where you say you're gonna deliver it, like they trust you. Again, the secret there is just to use my time management philosophy to capture, configure, control. You'll seem like a rock star by comparison to everyone else. And to deliver things at a high level of quality. I'm gonna give myself enough time to do this. I'm gonna start in advance. I'm not gonna rush it. I'm gonna ask questions. I'm gonna deliver good stuff. You just wanna do that for a year. Just to lay a foundation. So you have the job now. You're done with school. You've laid a foundation. You have your first inklings of career capital. So your first leverage, you know, in your career. Now I would start thinking, okay, what's the plan? If the plan is, I wanna get into AI pretty hardcore and then I wanna apply that to the space sector. Now you can start thinking through what's my plan at that point. And it might be, okay, what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna use my leverage to keep my workload reasonable. I'm gonna throw a lot of Cal Newport time management at it so I can do a phantom part time job. And I'm gonna bring into my life at this point a side project that's gonna push my AI abilities up really good because I have a one year plan. Or I'm gonna do this for a year and shift over to an AI type position. And then once I'm in the AI type position, I'm gonna earn my stripes there and then move into their division that's working on space related things. Now you can start really laying out these plans. What do I want? What do I want my lifestyle to look like? How do I build up those skills? I know it's probably a sense of impatience pervades your situation right now. Like can't they just be doing this now? But you've got a lot on your plate finesse. I mean, you're doing multiple jobs in school. So crush it in your classes. Learn to stuff well. Give yourself a break. So like really cherish the free time you have right now. Then choose a good job after this that has gonna have options if and when you get better. Be dependable deliver quality for your late foundation. And then you start putting your foot down on that gas pedal and you start really aggressively moving towards this really cool vision you have of what your life could be like. So you're going slow now Vanessa, but you're gonna be going very fast about a year or two from now. And I think that's something you can be excited about. But by pacing yourself, you can also avoid burning yourself out or setting yourself objectives that are impossible to the frustration of having objectives that are really probably impossible to meet right now. All right. Good call. Space and AI. What do we got Jesse for call number two? All right. Next question. We have another mom and she has a question about how to implement some of your ideas from a world without email. Hi, Cal. My name is Madeline. Prior to staying at home the last five years to raise my three young kids, I received my MBA and was an internal strategic consultant for a large healthcare company. Much of the work I did was to create quarterly plans, identify and track key project metrics, and develop and implement process improvement projects. Very in line with the recommendations you've laid out in a world without email. First, I want to thank you for creating a language and culture around the deep life and clarifying why this type of structure is important. Looking back at my prior role, I sometimes wavered in my confidence to hold people accountable to the systems we developed because it felt like additional work for them. My question is, after being out of the workforce, I like to reenter and coach small businesses on the productivity tools I did in my previous job and also the theories and recommendations you've laid out. Do you have any thoughts on how someone can help small businesses implement your concepts? I plan to work part-time, but also I would love to collaborate with other consultants doing this type of work.
Implementing ideas from A World Without Email in small biz (21:03)
Any recommendations would be much appreciated. Thanks so much in advance. Well, it's a great space. It's a great space. This is my read having, you know, what's really interesting about this, and I think the question I've had in my research, and I think the question I've had in my research, and I think the question I've had in my research, is that I'm not a professional without email. It's that there is an immense hunger out there at all levels within companies. To figure out better alternatives to simply, you're on email, you're on Slack, let's just rock and roll and hope things get done. And people recognize this, whether we're talking about the small business entrepreneur or the CIOs of major corporations, which in both cases I have had these conversations recently. So I think this is a great space to get into. I don't actually have a good process for helping companies develop these processes. I kind of wish I did because I get asked to do this a lot, which is why I'm glad, Madeline, that you're thinking about doing this, and that I think this is going to be a big space in consulting for lots of people. There's going to be a lot of room for this. Typically what I tell people is I'm an idea guy. I come in, I study the issue, what's going on here. I get really deep into the issue. What are the actual roots of the issue? And then try to figure out philosophically what you would have to change to improve this problem, but I'm not in the world of business. So you don't want me to come into your business and start giving specific advice on how your business runs, because I don't know how businesses run. So I don't have a good process for this, but I think there are good processes to be constructed. I think it's going to be a major sector of the sort of knowledge work, management consulting world, that sector. I think helping companies develop processes to sidestep the hyperactive hive mind is going to be a big deal. So Madeline, I would say probably you should have some sort of process you follow that you're willing to evolve very quickly as you actually try it out there in the real world. I would say I've learned you need to probably learn more about a team than you think before you're ready to propose things. There's often very, you have to surface these hidden dynamics that you don't really know about, but they're actually driving a lot of how work actually gets done. And three, I would say it's important that you eat your own dog food here. So make sure that you run your consulting firm very much aligned with these ideas that it's not just email me whenever. Just hit me up on Slack and we'll figure out the contract. You should have very clear processes that you love that you can communicate clearly and that clients will enjoy that clarity because then they will see that you're the change you're the change you want to see in the world. They will see you do it and get a sense of what it's going to look like when they do it as well. I might point you towards Jenny Blake's new book, which is a book I believe is called Free Time. And it comes out in March, but I did an interview with her in December on the podcast. You can go back to that episode and learn about a lot of the ideas, but it's a whole book about how to do this with your small consulting style business, how to figure out your processes, what to focus on, what not to focus on. So read that book, it'll help you with what you're doing, and I might give you ideas on how you can help other companies do the same thing. All right, but that's good to hear. I do. I mean, Jesse, I think this is going to be a huge sector doing this type of consulting. I mean, it makes my eyes bleed thinking about me doing it. I mean, could you imagine something worse than me, just individually me being in like a corporate board room and having these sort of jargon filled small talks about how their team, their Q2 quarterly metrics. And like, I'd be terrible at it because after like half hour, I'd be like, you guys should all just go write books. Like, this is crazy. What are you doing here? This is a terrible job. So I would be terrible at it. But other people would be great at it and it's going to make a lot of people's lives better if their companies actually get rid of this hive mind. Just don't ask me to do it. All right. So what do we got? All right. Next question we got from Michael. He's in operational technology and he's got a question about estimating time to complete a task. Hi, Cal. Michael from Sunny Bellarat, Australia here. I work in operational technology where the real things happen. So studies suggest we're terrible at estimating time required to complete a task and that getting started is after battle. I feel like there is completing thoughts on how to deal with this. On one hand, a task will expand to the time allocated to it. So allocate a short time and just get what you can done as a forcing function. On the other hand, take your estimated time needed to complete it and double it to make sure you don't over commit or overshadow yourself.
Estimating the tie required to complete tasks (26:01)
I'm always running out of time in a block or finishing early. How do you approach this tension? Well, Michael, the good news is that you are time blocking. So if you're time blocking, you have a hope of actually figuring out how long things actually take. It's one of the great advantages of time blocking is that you get real time feedback. I gave this type of work this much time on my time block plan for today and I did not hit that time. How do I know because I had to build a repaired schedule next to it because I blew past that time? Most people don't get this feedback, right? They're just like, what do I want to work on next? They kind of work on something and it takes longer than they think and then they're scrambling at the end of the day. But they don't get that clear feedback for three weeks from now when that same thing is on their plate that they think, oh, wait, I actually need to start this a little bit earlier. This really takes this much time. If you're not giving every minute a plan and seeing how well that plan unfolds, you're really not internalizing this feedback. So this double the time you put a side rule, that is useful when you are new to time blocking, or at least when you're new to time blocking a particular type of activity. So that's our instinct is we scheduled not enough time. What I usually tell people if they're new to time blocking is 50% more. Doubling would be a little bit more conservative, but people really underestimate at first. However, and this is the real benefit, you won't have to keep doing that forever because you will get better at these estimates. So you put down time when you hit it, you're happy when you don't, you're getting reinforcement here. Do this for a few weeks, you're putting down the right amount of time. So if you're time blocking, yes, there's a place for this heuristic of just add more time than you think, but it's only when you get started. If you're more or less hitting it just about right, then you say, okay, I know how much this takes. And then you can then you can stick with that time. So that's what I would suggest is if you're blowing past your blocks, use a 50% rule. If that's working, then stick with it. You're probably right about where you need to be. So you'll get better at this as you keep practicing with your blocks. All right, we're pretty technical today, Jesse. I think we had a call about. Yeah. Process consulting. We got an operation technologist talking about time blocking. So we're sort of in the sort of in the business weeds today. Yeah. Are we keeping that up with the next one? What's the next one? Next one's a little different. It's a question about designing household space for better productivity. Nice. Hey, Cal, big fan of the show. Calling in today with a question about household space in productivity. My fiance and I just moved into a two bedroom apartment. There's plenty of space, but what we're finding our trouble is, is how we set up. What areas are for what we're trying to keep the bedroom is certainly no technology. Our living room, we're trying to keep that the same way. And our other bedroom we're using as an office space as well as a workout space with a stationary bike and some other. What we're finding troubling is how do I determine how to separate my work time from my workout time. If I'm at the desk doing work for my career versus having to do some paying bills and all that.
Organizing household space for productivity (29:21)
We really don't want to bring the laptops out into the kitchen or the living room area, but are also having trouble not. When sitting at the desk thinking about work. Any clues or tips you might have on that would be appreciated. Thanks, Cal. Okay, good question. So first of all, I think this is obvious. You need to take one of those bedrooms and that needs to be dedicated to Cal Newport related material. This is where you want to have a whole wall for my books. You want to have a whole wall for my planners, a really good stereo system for playing the podcast with a chair that's just aimed at it. Like that should be priority one and then everything else can fit into your main bedroom. But now assuming you don't want to do that, which would be my suggestion, I have a couple things I'll say here. All right, so you're basically putting everything work and exercise related in the one room. That's not a bad idea. Maybe you could think about exercises, something that you also interleave throughout the workday. You know, if you're working from home anyways with your equipment there. Twenty minute rides, some pushups like going back and forth between exercising and work is actually a pretty good rhythm for work. So you might not actually want to separate those as much as you think. When it comes to breaking up household work from other type of work. Small, I think it's the right way to say the small changes to the environment. So small contextual changes can go a long way when it comes to trying to change your mindset. And so what I mean about this is that you can have a slightly different setup for bills or what have you than what you do in the same room for your normal work. And that little change in context can make a big difference where you can do the bills or what have you without falling back into that mindset of regular work. So like one thing you could do is have a very small desk or table that is separate from your main desk. Right. So you can imagine a setup where against one wall, you've built a long desk that both you and your fiance can both sit and you bring your computers there and you have all your files there. And then over in another corner is a very small desk. Kind of like they used to use if you look at the Victorian age where they'd have those stationary desk was like very tall with a very narrow desk in front of it. You go and you would write your correspondence on or something. So these are shallow desks. You have something like that in a different corner of the room. And right next to it is the filing cabinet for your household stuff. It seems like it's the same room, but that context makes a difference. I'm at this desk on my laptop doing email. Now it's Sunday afternoon. And I want to pay some bills and take care of some of that type of work. And I don't want to think about email and I don't want to think about my job. I don't want that same room, but you're going over to that other little desk. It makes all the difference in the world. That's the bill desk. That's different than the work desk. So I think you do that. You can get a lot out of the same space. The other contextual cues you can do is with lighting and music. Okay, when I'm doing deep work in this desk, I have the light slow except for one bright spot on my desk. When I'm doing email, I have the lights higher. When I'm doing exercising, we do something different, right? Those type of cues can matter as well. So small cues, give your mind what they need to know that this is a different context than this, even if you're in the same physical space. So I think that's a good idea. The final thing I would suggest is being the habit of using that office is where your phones go. So I'm a big proponent of what I call the phone for your method, which says when you're at home, you do not keep your phone with you in your pocket. Just like 25 years ago, you didn't just pick up your old fashioned telephone with a very wide, long wire and just walk with you wherever you went in the house carrying this phone with you. That'd be eccentric, but we do that with our portable phones. And so it's always there for distraction. So I say, when you come home, your phone's going to a set place. You plug them in and you charge them. If you need to make a call, you go there. If you need to text someone, you go there. If someone's calling you, you go there. If you want to see if someone texted there, you go there. If you want to look something up, you go there. And that's where your phone is. It's not with you as a default distraction. I call it the phone for your method because if you're in a house, you might have a lawyer by your front door. It's a good place for it. You have a two bedroom apartment. Use that one apartment, that one room for it. Go in there. We plug in our phones. We could put the ringer on high. So we'll hear it, you know, if someone's calling or something. And that's where we go to use our phone. That is, I think, a great, I think that's a great setup. We have a living room and a bedroom that you don't look at your phone in. You don't do email in. You don't do work in. And then you have this multi-purpose room where you have exercising in there. You have your main work in there. You have your phone interaction in there. You have your household admin, like bill pain in there. You have your Cal Newport shrine in there that takes up most of the room. And the context is just slightly different between all of those different things. And so when you're switching from one thing to the other, your mind knows it's different. And it doesn't invade at all into the other parts of your life. I think you do that. You're going to have a great setup for your house. And you really would be taking advantage of the way your brain actually works. All right. We should have a shrine. We kind of, we don't have a shrine in here, Jesse, but we do have some various things that fans have sent us that maybe to the outside eye is a little bit shiny. Give your books, shelf. The books, but I only have, I don't have all my books up there yet, because I ran out of shelves and I got too lazy to buy, to buy more. But we have someone sent us a, like a comic book artist did an illustration to me as a superhero, like heavily muscled. You've seen that out by the refrigerator. And then a class I gave a talk to, they do like a lot of original illustrations about me and my life, like hand drawn illustrations. The ones I have on the wall. Yeah, yeah, in the main room. Both of those are a little out of context. Maybe oddly shrine like. I think out of context that might be weird. But the idea was here in the HQ, we're going to put it up in a way. Brings up another issue. People are asking for a look inside the HQ video. So, so here's the here, which we should do. We're going to do. Yeah. But I'm. I want to decorate the HQ better. You know this, right? I'm just bad about this. When you came, I had to buy some chairs. Right? So, so when you started working for me, I only had one chair. So that's what I did. But we still are missing a lot, right? Because I've just weird with decorations on lazy. And so I think we got to figure that out. We got to have a plan for it. And then I think the video should be before after. Like, okay, let's tour the HQ as it as it stands now. That's a good idea. And then we do some work or hire some people to help us do some work. And then we. Here's how it looks after we're done. So then would be a forcing function. We got to get stuff on the walls. We got to get. We probably have to get rid of those old desks and do something cooler. We should have better CD. We should get a good TV in there. Like, there's so much we probably. People want to see your board. People want to see the board. Yeah. Oh, yeah. We have the white board in there. We're going to have a little bit of a clip. And then we're going to have a little bit of a little bit of a clip. You know, I asked my listeners once to send me suggestions for the HQ. But I don't know. I used to call it the cave back then. And some of the suggestions were a little on the doze. Like, someone wanted me to actually build a cave. I'm not sure if I could have sourced this one. But anyways, we're committing now. We're committing now on air. Jesse and I are going to. Yeah, we'll put out some videos. We'll put out some videos of what it looks like in here. Yeah. And then we're going to make it look nicer. And then we'll put out another video and you'll be like, ah, now it looks nicer. And there'll be a huge shrine. It'll be like really embarrassing. All right. Do we have one more question? Yeah, we have one more question. It's from a student.
Study Techniques For Competitive Exams
Tips for passing a highly competitive exam (37:20)
I have a question about starting for a highly competitive exam. Now let's do it. Hello, Cal. Shubam here from India. Firstly, thank you so much for your podcast and books. Your books have profoundly influenced my academic career and life in general. As a student preparing for civil services examination. One of the highly competitive examination held in India. The only way I think to stand out is to putting extra number of deep work hours in the preparation. And it takes for that and in general about cracking and highly competitive examinations. Thank you. I used to deal with these questions a lot when I was doing primarily student focused advice back in my early days. The big high level point that applies to any high stakes examination and really sort of any high stakes grading situation. Is to make sure that your approach to preparing is what actually matters and not what you want to matter. It's the most common trap that happens here is that people write a story in their head of what they want. Preparation for this exam to be. And it matches something that's typically it's some sort of activity that it's hard enough to feel fulfilling but not so hard that it's really going to have it cramp their life or be too hard and. Or they just like the idea of it and they just throw hours at it and they just want that to be what matters and often what really matters for doing well for the exam might be completely different. And actually require a lot less time once you know what it is. So you got to figure out what really matters for passing the India civil service entrance exam and the way you figure that out is you talk to people who have done it. Know about it from direct experience. And you say what mattered. What was the prep you did that really was useful and what was the waste of time and you talked to five people like this. And if it's a big enough exam there might be books on it you read the books to you figure out what really matters. And then you get a realistic picture of this is what I the activities I actually need to do. The activities I actually need to do to prepare for this exam and then you find the time for it okay well how much is that going to take and so how early do I have to start then where do I want to put that on my calendar. You should autopilot schedule it let me get that all my calendar in advance the same time from the same days and then you just execute and you're executing the stuff that matters. If you're really working backwards from focusing on what people know from experience makes the difference is probably less time than you think. For God's sake is much less time if you come at this with the mindset of just this is a morality set up like the more sacrifice I do the more I'll be rewarded so let me just make sure I'm miserable and doing lots of hours. Your hours are only interesting to me as a secondary side effect if you figuring out what prep matters you scheduling it. And then that'll take whatever it takes. Hours are not a planning tool trying to hit another hours is not a planning tool trying to hit a certain level of misery or so you feel like you're at least trying hard means nothing all I care about is are you doing the actual concrete activities you have evidence work. Did you give yourself enough time to get those all done do those things when you've done them you're done if you don't you're not that's it. A real differentiating factor when it comes to high stake test the people who figure that out and the people who want it to be some sort of morality play about sacrifice and sweat. You know that's not the way it works like let me here's an example. For my own days in college so I went to an Ivy Lee school here in the US and had a lot of friends go to Harvard Law School. After college right which by the way side note. Naive public school kid I was going to this Ivy League school was completely surprised that most of the people I know went to Harvard Law School right because you know in my mind I just. I didn't have this mindset of like these are the these are the professional tracks that are allowed a course this is why you went to the school so they can then go to Harvard and then get a law firm job. I just thought everyone was going to be professors and journalists and and start nonprofits and cool companies and now they all went to Harvard Law School right because I was from a however naive public school background right so I didn't realize like oh this is these are all pathways you become a doctor or lawyer or management consultant or finance and you go through these schools and whatever. So you look at it from the outside like man. How did all these kids get into Harvard Law School and you and depending on your orientation on the optimist pessimist scale about human nature you think it's one of two things. Either they must all just be brilliant. Man I'll never be like that like these smart kids they all can just go to Harvard Law School or you say. And yeah it's all just like what school you went to and look at that pipeline you just for free you get to go to Harvard Law if you go to Ivy League school and so it's just perpetuating you know sort of entrenched privilege. But there's a third element here that I noticed up up front, which was they systematically figured out. What is needed to accomplish this goal. And they looked up there's these matrices you could look up first of all that shows you with your current GPA. What else that score would you need to have a high percentage of being accepted into Harvard Law School and they all looked at this and they all looked at their current GPA and said great I have to get this LSAT score so they're specific. And they figured out by talking to people who had gone before and gotten good scores on the LSAT what really matters they and it was practice a lot of it was practice real test under real conditions. You would learn some techniques in the real test in the real conditions and so they organized a club internally where they would just do these tests real LSATs under real conditions. And then they went and took the LSAT and they got that score and they got in the Harvard. The reason why I tell the story is to show what they were doing there is what often happens when you see people who do very well in high stakes testing is they figured out. What do I really need to do and how do you actually do it and they put aside the time and these students my memory is they spent like a whole quarter working on this. They're like okay we're probably going to end up having to dedicate. You know, I'm trying to add this up in my head 100 hours of work on this to get our LSAT scores where they are so we got started early. And we do this every Friday or whatever every Thursday morning and let's just go. You know, so I just use as an example of this is the key to anything high high stakes is get the ground truth evidence. What really matters here and confront that for better for worse. This is what I would actually have to do to prepare for this and then try to find time to do it build your schedule start early to fit it in so and then either do the work or you don't. But do not invent your own story for what you think should matter. Do not just retreat to storylines about there's nothing I can do because I'm not brilliant so I'll just never get a good score. No, it's work. Like how do I get to where where I need to get so figure out the real solution do the real work. It's not very exciting but that's that's honestly that's how the world turns with with most of these most of these types of high stakes exams anyways. Alright, so I'm looking at the time here. We should probably wrap this up so thank you everyone who called in go to Cal Newport.com slash podcast learn how to submit your calls. You like what you heard you will like what you read on my weekly newsletter you can sign up at Cal Newport.com for that as well. We'll be back on Monday with some new episodes. You can see videos of every question talked about today and a video of the full episode at our YouTube channel that link is in the show notes. Until next time is always stay deep.