No.1 Habit & Procrastination Expert: We've Got ADHD Wrong! Break Any Habit & Never Be Distracted! | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "No.1 Habit & Procrastination Expert: We've Got ADHD Wrong! Break Any Habit & Never Be Distracted!".
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What's your thoughts on ADHD? This is a big topic and I'm probably gonna get myself in trouble here, but there's something fishy going on. We can get to that. Near Ayyal, one of the world's leading experts in procrastination, named the Prophet of habit-forming, talking about how to keep focused, how to set the right goal. This is a must-listow. Avoiding distraction is the key to not living with regret. 90% of the time that we get distracted, it's not because of what's happening outside of us, it's because of what's happening inside of us. If you can't sit with a friend without looking at your phone every three minutes, it's not the phone. It's your inability to deal with the discomfort of silence or boredom, all human behaviors driven by a desire to escape discomfort. It's not hard to do something you enjoy, but it's how do I do this stuff that I really don't feel like doing it? I found this technique thousands of studies have shown this to be very effective. If you don't master that, everything else becomes much more difficult and not impossible. So the first step is... The number of people being diagnosed with ADHD has significantly risen. ADHD is a very real thing that can be debilitating for people that suffer with it. ADHD is real, but I have a lot of concerns. 10% of children in the United States are diagnosed with ADHD and you're up with 1%. That's a big red flag. Training a generation to believe that solutions come in pill models. We do not wait how dangerous those pills can be. They have consequences. The whole chemical imbalance theory, no psychiatrist will tell you that's true. Scientificals. Skills before pills. And what I hate about a lot of people in the ADHD community, they feel like it's an identity and that is so dangerous. We need to look at ADHD as... Would you like to go for dinner with me and my guests here on The Diaper CO? We are holding dinner parties all around the world over the coming months and our subscribers on the YouTube channel are invited. We're inviting 20 subscribers to every dinner. So if you'd like to come for dinner with me and my guests here on The Diaper CO, I have a favor to ask you. All you've got to do is hit the subscribe button and I hope to see you at dinner somewhere around the world very soon. ♪ Kneer.
Strategies For Avoiding Distraction And Building Willpower
Being indistractable (02:02)
It is very good to see you again because I have to admit you've changed my life. But you also changed my father's life. You're the reason my father quit smoking. I've told the story maybe once or twice before, but once upon a time I came home from for Christmas and I left your first book, Hooked. In his bathroom, he picked that book up once I'd left, read it, understood habit loops, and from that moment he took steps which led him to quit smoking. So I have to say thank you, but also you've been on this podcast once before. A long, long time ago when not many people were listening and from that conversation there were small nuggets which have stayed with me every day since. My first question to you, Nia. For people that have just clicked onto this podcast and that are thinking about whether to listen or not, can you tell me who should listen? Why they should listen? And what value they're going to gain from listening to the conversation we're about to have. Yeah, so first of all, thank you for having me. It's an honor to be back for the second episode. I think the reason to listen is because regret sucks. Having regret in your life is awful. And so what I want to minimize with the work I do, and frankly I write for myself more than anyone else, I try and solve my own problems, is I don't want to look back on my life with regret. Not for a day, not for a month, not for a year, not for a lifetime certainly. And so avoiding distraction is the key to not living with regret because we all basically know what to do, right? We know we should exercise. We know we should eat, right? We know we should spend quality time with our family. We know we should do the hard work that we have to do to move our careers forward. But many times we don't do it, even though we know what to do. And if you don't know what to do, google it, it's all out there, right? So the problem is not that we don't know what to do. The problem is we keep getting in our own way. And so it's really about becoming indestractable. This is how we live the kind of lives we deserve. You described becoming indestractable on Twitter as the single most important skill that anybody in the 21st century can adopt and learn. Yeah, and I think it's the macro skill, right? Because there is no facet of your life that is not affected by your ability to control your attention. So whether it's learning a new skill, whether it's getting into relationships, whether it's business, whether it's physical fitness, all of these things depend on your ability to follow through. And so that's why I think it's a skill the century, that if you don't master that skill, everything else becomes much more difficult, if not impossible. But if you do, if you can become indestractable, I made up the word indestractable. It's meant to sound like indestructible. It's meant to be a superpower. It's meant to be a trait that we want in order to achieve our dreams. And so my goal is not to tell people what to do, right? I'm not going to say you need to exercise, you need to live right, you need to do this, you need to do that. That's not my goal at all. If you want to play video games for your waking hours, that's fine with me. What I want to help people do is do the things that they themselves want to do. Whatever it is that you say you want to do with your time attention, that's what I want to help you do. So why don't we do what we want to do? Because as you say, the information's all out there. We have Google, we have all of these books, we have podcasts like this. But regardless of, you know, we've had loads of health podcasts in a row on this show where we've had the best health experts from all around the world. And I'm sure those people that have listened to those episodes have heard, "Don't eat sugar. Don't do this. Don't do this. Do this. Do this. Do this. Do this." But they're still at home struggling now to turn that intention into behavior. What is standing in our way? What's going in our way? Yeah. So I wish I could give you a one sentence answer. But let me back up and kind of frame this a bit. So the best way to understand what distraction is, is to understand what distraction is not. And to do that, we have to start with where the word comes from. So the word distraction comes from this Latin root tracharo, which means to pull. And if you notice that the opposite of distraction is not focused, many people say, "I don't want to be distracted. I don't want to be focused." But that's not the opposite of the word. The opposite of distraction is traction. The both words end in the same six letters, ACTIOWN, that spells action, reminding us that distraction is not something that happens to us. It is an action we ourselves take. So we have traction. We have distraction. Traction is any action that pulls us towards what we say we're going to do. Things that move us closer to our values help us become the kind of person we want to become. Those are acts of traction. The opposite of traction. Distraction is any action that pulls us away from what we plan to do, farther from our goals, farther from becoming the person we want to become. So this is really important. This isn't just semantics because I would argue that any action that you do with intent, anything that is planned ahead, anything that involves forethought is traction. So there's a lot of talk today about how social medias, melting our brains and video games are bad for you. I don't agree. I think that anything that you plan to do with your time and attention, as long as it's done with intent, is fine. That becomes an act of traction, as long as it's planned for with intent. As Dorothy Parker said, the time you plan to waste is not wasted time. Now, just because something is a work-related test doesn't mean it's not a distraction. In fact, that's the worst kind of distraction because these distractions trick you into not even realizing you're getting distracted. I'll give you a perfect example. For years, I would sit down on my desk. I would take out my to-do list. By the way, we can talk about later why to-do lists are one of the worst things you can do for your personal productivity. We can get to that. I would sit down on my desk and I would say, "Okay, I've got that big project that I need to work on right now. Nothing's going to get in my way. I'm going to stay focused. Here I go. I'm going to get started." But first, let me check some email. Let me just scroll that Slack channel. Let me just do that one thing on my to-do list, that easy task. Just to get started here, just to get the rhythm going. It's a work-related task. And when I didn't realize that that is the most pernicious form of distraction, the distraction that you don't even realize is happening, because if it's not what you said you were going to do in advance within your time and attention, it is by definition a distraction. So what we tend to do is we prioritize the easy work. We prioritize the urgent work as opposed to the hard and important work we have to do to move our lives and careers forward. So just because it's a work-related task doesn't mean it's a distraction. That's the most awful type of distraction. It's not the video games. It's not the social media. It's the distractions we don't even know are distracting us from what we said we would do with our time. So now we've got traction. We've got distraction. Now the other two parts of the model involve what we call triggers. Triggers are these things that prompt us to action. We have two kinds of triggers. External triggers are things in our outside environment. These are things that we tend to blame like cell phones and our computers and all the pings, dings and rings in our life. But studies find that those account for only 10% of our distractions, only 10% are caused by these external triggers. So what's the other 90%? 90% of the time that we get distracted. It's not because of what's happening outside of us. It's because of what's happening inside of us. These are called internal triggers. Internal triggers are these uncomfortable emotional states that we seek to escape. And so that's the first step to becoming distractible and answers your question around why by and large, even though despite knowing what to do, we don't do it. It's because all of these problems are an emotion regulation problem. That in fact time management is pain management. I would argue weight management is pain management. Money management is pain management. In fact, all human behavior, all human behavior is about a desire to escape discomfort. And then answers your question around, why don't we just do what we say we're going to do? It's because we don't realize that these are always emotion regulation problems. So that's the first step to becoming indestractable, is mastering the internal triggers. Then the second step, we talked about traction earlier, making time for traction, the third step, hacking back the external triggers, and then finally preventing distraction with packs. And so that's the model, these four steps. And then of course we can go in as much depth as you like. But if you understand these four fundamental steps, and this is what took me five years writing this book, namely because I kept getting distracted, right? I was very distracted by myself and I wrote the book for me, as I mentioned earlier. But it was when I boiled down the hundreds of studies and research, and you can see there's 35 pages of citations in the book. It wasn't until I could kind of solidify this model that I could make it practical enough to change lives. It certainly did mine. One of the things this podcast has taught me from speaking to all these people across multiple fields, is that sometimes we can feel like our body, our wiring is against us, especially as it relates to health, right?
steps to avoid distractions (10:21)
So, you know, we know sugar is bad. So why does our brain send us these cravings to go and eat sugar? And in the case of distractions and sort of behavioral psychology, I know instinctively and intuitively that distractions, like hanging out on TikTok for an hour, is bad. But my brain is doing it. What does that tell us about how we should go about adopting behavior change? Yeah, so that's why it's really about this holistic model. So that's what took me the most time to figure out, was what are the four mandatory components of living without regret, of doing what you say you're going to do? So the first step is mastering these internal triggers, figuring out why you feel this way, right? What is that underlying sensation? So if you're trying to avoid that chocolate bar, it might be hunger, or it might not be hunger, right? So I used to be clinically obese, and I'll tell you what, I did not eat to excess because I was hungry. I was eating to excess because I was lonely. I was eating to excess because I was bored. I was eating to excess because I felt guilty about how much I had just eaten. It wasn't just about the hunger, right? Very few people who are obese are just hungry all the time. That's not what's going on. It's because we're eating our feelings. That's what's happening. So that's the first step. We have to understand the deeper reason. How did you understand that? A lot of work, a lot of figuring out stuff in my life to help me understand that. I think actually that's where my fascination with what I do today, in terms of it's the same exact reason that we would overdo our use of technology. It's not the technology's fault, guys. I hate to tell you this. I wish I could blame Zuckerberg and TikTok, but these are just tools, right? And then before those, there were other tools. They used to call our generation couch potatoes, and before that, it was the radio, it was the moral panic. And before that, it was comic books. There's always some moral panic, or at all, this is melting our brains, because we don't want to face the facts that we are looking for escape. - From... - These internal triggers, right? Time management is pain management. All human behaviors driven by desire to escape discomfort. So when you realize that, that, you know what? I was just unable to deal with these sensations in a helpful way that moved me towards traction. I was trying to escape them with distraction. It's not until you understand what sensations you're trying to escape from. That you can deal with them. If you can't sit around the table with a friend without looking at your phone every three minutes, it's not the phone. It's your inability to deal with the discomfort of maybe having silence or boredom or whatever else is going on in your life. So that has to be the first step. It's not the only step, but that's the first step. - I'm really compelled by really interested in how you figured out the thing you were trying to escape from, because I think that's the starting point, which is a very difficult starting point for most people. They can see those sort of compulsive behavior that's maybe making them live outside of their values or causing them to excessively eat or excessively watch porn or whatever it might be. But diagnosing the root cause of that is a difficult thing to do. Most of us don't know what we don't know. - It is and it isn't. I mean, I'm not, you don't have to go to therapy. Not if there's anything wrong with it. If it's helpful, please do it. But that's not a requirement. Something as simple as, you know, so whenever I work, I have on my desk, I have a little posted note and a pen handy. And when I get distracted or when I even feel the sense of distraction, just noting down that sensation, just writing down what is it that I felt right before the distraction. So I write every day and all I want to do when I write, you know this, right? When you write, all you want to do is go Google something or do some research or go check email for a quick sec or let me just find that one thing that might be. They're all distractions. They're all taking you away from the core thing you need to do, which you said you would do, which is right. And so if I can just pause for a second and reflect on what was that sensation that I was feeling right before, it was boredom, it was anxiety, it was fearfulness, it was uncertainty, just writing it down is an incredible first step towards gaining power over that discomfort, because then you can start to identify it. And so what I'll do many times is just pause to reflect on, wait a minute, what's going on there? Right? What is that sensation? Because then you can begin to do what's called reframing the trigger. So now when I feel the sensation of wanting to get distracted, I say, you know what, what's going on here? Okay, I'm feeling the sensation because I'm stressed. Why am I stressed? Because this is really important to me. I want to get this right for my readers and for myself. And so reframing it as not a negative, but something that happens not to me, but for me, that that sensation is a sign that I can listen to. I think most of us, we think when we feel this discomfort, that's happening to us, right? But it's not. It's happening for us. It's a signal for us to listen to. Now, how we interpret it is up to us. And that's where the magic happens. If you interpret it as something that is harmful, is dangerous, that you need to escape, right? You don't want to feel that uncomfortable sensation. You look for distraction. But what we find is that high performers across every field, when you think about the arts, when you think about sports, business, high performers, when they feel those internal triggers, they experience the same internal triggers the rest of us do. They experience loneliness and stress and anxiety, just like everyone else does. But they deal with it by using it as rocket fuel to push them towards traction. Whereas distractible people, as soon as they feel that discomfort, they try and escape it with distraction. That's the big difference. That's one of the things that you said to me when we spoke last time, that really has had a profound impact on my life, specifically around the area of procrastination. You said about that, which is like taking a moment to pause and ask yourself, what the which psychological discomfort you're trying to escape from in the moment. And then that second step. So now I'm clear, I'm trying not to do this book because this particular chapter, I just don't feel that competent on. I don't feel like I've researched it. It's making my brain feel a bit hot thinking about it. I reframe it and go, okay, so I've understood it now. Then what do I do? Yeah. So step one is- Understand it. Yeah. Is master those internal triggers? Yeah. Or they become your master. Yeah. That's step number one. There's a bunch of techniques we're just covering the surfaces over. A dozen different techniques that you can use to help you master those internal triggers. Now, the second step is to make time for traction. Okay. So when you have those doubts, one of these techniques that is really life changing is scheduling time for worry. Scheduling time for worry. That what happens is in the moment we feel these feelings, we think these thoughts and a distractible person will say, "Well, I got to deal with that sensation right now. I have to work through whatever it is that I'm feeling right now." And they stop everything to do that. And that's not the right method. The right method is to write down that sensation and get back to the task at hand as quickly as possible. We're using these four strategies. Then later on, right now that you've written down what that sensation is, you're going to make time in your calendar to think about that sensation. So using processing it.
minute rule to beat procrastination (17:37)
Using the book example, I've hit chapter 12 and I'm just struggling with this chapter. So you step number one, you have these tools. Maybe I can digress for a second. I'll tell you my favorite tool for mastering internal triggers. It's called the 10 minute rule. This comes from acceptance and commitment therapy. And the 10 minute rule says that you can give in to any distraction, any distraction. Maybe it's smoking that cigarette if you're trying to quit. Maybe it's eating that piece of chocolate cake if you're on a diet. Maybe it's checking social media, whatever it is, whatever distraction. You can give in to that distraction, but not right now. You can give in in 10 minutes. Don't misunderstand. Not for 10 minutes. Sometimes people get it wrong. It's in 10 minutes. So what does that do? What that does is we talked about psychological reactants earlier and you asked, how do you, what do you do about psychological reactants? You're allowing yourself to acknowledge that you are in control. That you decide what many people do is they have strict ops, abstinence, right? Strict abstinence says, no, I will not do it. Right? I won't eat sugar. I won't get distracted. I will do this. I will do that. As opposed to saying, hey, I'm an adult. I can do whatever I want. I choose not to go off track for the next 10 minutes. That's it. In 10 minutes, I can give in to whatever I want. So now I'm in control. You know, the whole just saying no technique turns out, makes you ruminate and think about and have more discomfort around the thing you want, increasing these internal triggers. And that actually is what makes you give in to that distraction. We know that with smoking, actually, it's very interesting. We're finding that nicotine is less and less part of the reason people get addicted to cigarettes. It's more about the rumination around, I want to smoke, but I can't. I want to smoke, but I shouldn't. I want to smoke. I want to smoke. I want to smoke. Fine. I'll finally smoke. Now I get relief. How do we know this? You ask smokers, why do they smoke? The number one reason is relaxing. That makes no sense. Nicotine is a stimulant. Makes no sense. Right? Why would it be relaxing? It's relaxing because finally, I can stop telling myself, I don't have to do it anymore. I don't have to fight with myself anymore. And that eases that psychological reactants. Ha, I can finally give in. So when you use this 10 minute rule and say, okay, I can give into that distraction in 10 minutes from now, what you're doing is you're establishing agency. Right? Now you're in control and we can do anything for 10 minutes. And if 10 minutes feels like too long, try the five minute rule. The idea is that you're building that ability over time. So the 10 minute rule becomes a 12 minute rule, becomes a 15 minute rule. And you're learning, wait a minute. I can't actually delay gratification. Remember, all these problems of distraction are an impulse control issue. So when you teach yourself, wait a minute. Okay, I can delay for five, 10 minutes. That's no big deal. You're proving to yourself, hey, I'm not addicted to these things. I'm not powerless. My brain isn't being hijacked. I do have control as long as I use these practices. Right? So the 10 minute rule is a very, very effective technique. Now, when we were talking about budgeting that time later on, okay, so when you use those techniques, that's step number one. By the way, there's a dozen other techniques that you can use. The 10 minute rule is just one of them. Later on in the day, you're going to put time in your schedule to come back to that feeling. Right? I want you to literally put time in your calendar called worry time. And that's where you're going to look back at that post-it note and worry about all the things that you thought would, that you thought you would normally have to get to throughout your day. Does that make sense? So, so I used to do this all the time. I would say, oh, I've got this worry. I need to work. I need to take care of that worry right now. And that would derail me. As opposed to when I started writing down and planning for that worry time, you know what happened? Nine out of 10 of those worries and emotions and fears and thoughts melted away. When I had a few minutes to think about them, you know what? Actually, that wasn't that important. That didn't have to get done. That wasn't really a problem. Right? And the one out of 10 that really was an issue that I did need to think about. Okay, now I have time to actually think about it. So one, it compartmentalizes that time so it doesn't pull you away. And it lets your brain relax. Second thing it does is that it lets your brain say, okay, I don't have to worry about this problem right now. I can think about it later. We see this by the way with children. You know, many parents, there's a whole section in the book indestractable on how to raise indestractable kids. And so many parents ask me about, you know, what do I do with social media and this and that? And part of my advice is schedule time for your kids to play video games. Put it in their daily schedule, like sit down with them and make a schedule for the day and have that time. Because then they don't have to worry about all day. When do I get to play Fortnite? When do I get to, you know, hang out with my friends online? It's in their schedule. It's coming. They don't have to think about it all day long. And so it's the same with any of these potential distractions. We want to compartmentalize these times when we can think about them later in the day and work on them. So what happens then? So I've compartmentalized it. I'm writing my book on chapter 12. I've got a bunch of worries popping. I'm scheduling that for later. And I'm going to crack on with the book. Right. That's what I say to myself. That's section two of your four-step process, right? Right. Making time for traction. So you're going to finish that time box. Yep. Right. So if you said I'm going to work on this book for 30 minutes, finish the time box. Even if you're just sitting there staring into space, right? Steven Pressfield talks about this and the the the war of art. It's about putting your butt in the chair. That's what makes a professional is you do the work. Right. And what you find is it's very boring for a few seconds. I had this. This happens every time I sit down to write. There's that pause of, you know what? Maybe I'm just not feeling it. Maybe I should just stop for a little bit. Right. You feel that all the time, right? If you just sit there, if you just stick with it, even if it's just putting your hands on the keyboard, just hang enough for a few seconds, it always comes back. Right. Maybe a minute or two or 20 later, it'll come back. And if it doesn't, that's fine. Just finish that time box. That's the most important thing. Step three. So step three is hacking back the external triggers. So this is what we do talk about the usual suspects, the pings, the dings, the rings. That's where we, you know, very systematically go through what a lot of people complain about, but it's really only 10% the problem. Because 90% of our distractions begin from within. But people do have these issues. You know, we talk about the phone, the computer. What turns out to be a much bigger problem is not the technology. It's what the technology is attached to. Right. So what if it's your boss? That's the distraction. What if it's your kids that are distraction? We love them to death. Right. Our kids are great, but they can be a huge source of distraction. Meetings. Oh my God. How many stupid meetings do we have to attend that are nothing but a distraction, especially now that Zoom makes it accessible so that wherever you are, you know, people can call meetings. Those are huge distractions. Of course, Slack channels. And that's what we get into more in the book in terms of, okay, systematically, what do you do about these various external triggers? What would you do about that? And what's your general view? Let's take this into the professional context now. You know the design of like most offices, the kind of open plan format where everybody can just walk over to someone else and say, "Oh, Jenny, if you've got a minute, could you just take a look at this?" Yeah. Yeah. The same applies in, you know, the healthcare field and other sort of scientific fields where you're working around a lot of people who can just tap you on the shoulder and say, "Could you just take a look at this?" Yeah. Can you pass me the book? Yeah. So every copy of the book comes with... Oh, did you tear it out already? Maybe. Oh, you've had this for a while. So you tore it out already. So usually right here in the back, there is a piece of card stock that you put, it's this red piece of card stock that you fold in the thirds and you put on your computer monitor. And it tells your colleagues, "I am indestractable. Please come back later." And that screen sign is a wonderful way. You know, you put on your computer monitor if you work in an open floor plan office that says, "Hey, I just need to be indestractable for a little bit." Right? People say, "Well, why don't I just put on headphones?" Well, people think you're listening to an episode on YouTube or something. They don't realize that you're working with intent. So that's one easy way to do it. Another thing you can do is to start managing your manager. And this is something that all of us can start doing. If we have bosses who I hear this all the time, says, "Look, I'm indestractable. I followed all your techniques, but my boss keeps interrupting me. What do I do?" So one of the things you can do, one of the benefits of step two there, where you can make time for traction is when you have a time box calendar, you have an artifact. You have something that you can physically print out and show to other people. So what I want folks to do, and they say, "Look, my boss isn't leaving me alone when I need to work with that distraction. What do I do?" What you want to do is you want to sit down with your boss for 10, 15 minutes. You say, "Boss, hey, can we sit down for 15 minutes on Monday morning? I want to ask you something." You sit down with them and you show them your time box calendar. You take out the calendar for your working hours and you say, "Hey, boss, okay. Here's what I'm doing this week. See, here's my time for this meeting. Here's my time for email. Here's my focus work time. Here's what I'm doing this week. Here's the various projects you asked me to work on. Now, you see this other piece of paper here? This is where I wrote down all the things that you asked me to do that I'm having trouble fitting into my schedule. And what you're doing with this process is you're avoiding one of the worst pieces of productivity advice that we hear all the time, which is if you want to be more productive, you have to learn how to say no. That is a kind of advice that only a tenured professor would tell you. That is terrible advice. You're going to tell the person who pays your bills. No, you're going to get fired. That's awful advice. Instead of saying no, what you want to do is to engage your boss in helping you do the one thing that they absolutely have to do as a manager, which is prioritize. So you ask them, how can I make sure that I do what you ask me to do based on my schedule for the week? And here's what they're going to do. They're going to look at them and say, you know what, that meeting, that's actually not that important. But that, this project over here that you put on the piece of paper, that's actually super important. Can you swap those out? And so by doing that, you're doing what's called schedule sinking. You're making sure that their priorities are also reflected in your schedule and bosses will worship the ground you walk on. They love this because every boss out there, every manager, we're wondering kind of what our people are doing, right? That's what they want to know. But they don't want to ask you that because they don't want you to feel like you're being micromanaged. So you're proactively doing that for them and you're showing them, hey, this is the time when I need to do focus work. This is what I'm going to be indestractable. On that point of priorities, you said that startup founders really only have one job, which is to prioritize.
Prevent distraction & improve sex life (27:40)
And that really did smack me in the face because that's so unbelievably true. We have a finite amount of resources founders. We have a lot of things we want to do. We have more things we want to do than time in the day. And creating systems, like you said, where we can sit down and reflect on our priorities. It's so important because we might have an idea every day, then we get to one month later, and there's an art to do list or our teams are overcome by doing the first things we said, not the most important things we've said. And a lot of the time, because of cognitive dissonance or pride or ego, whatever, you don't want to throw something out that A people have started working on, or that you've told them to work on. Like going up to your team and saying, okay, we're just going to cancel that project we've just spent two weeks working on because this is a new priority of ours. Sometimes can feel difficult. Absolutely. It's called the commitment bias. That when we commit to something or sunk cost fallacy, that when we have a sunk cost and something, we value it more. But of course, that's silly, especially in business. I mean, I had a professor at business school who said, every business dies for the same reason. Businesses only die for one reason. Cash. They run out of cash. Cash is oxygen. Oxygen is life. And the number one cause of a business running out of cash is doing the wrong thing for too long. So being able to cut your losses and saying, I know it feels wrong, but I know it's right in my head, that is an essential skill of every CEO. Because again, prioritization is your only job. And good prioritization, people who are good at prioritization make for good CEOs, and people who are bad at prioritization make for bad CEOs. So we're in step three of the four steps. What's step number four? So step four is preventing distraction with packs. So packs are these, what's called a pre-commiment device. So this is what you do after the first three steps. So you master the internal triggers, you make time for traction, you hack back the external triggers as the last line of defense, as the firewall against distraction, you're going to prevent distraction with a pack. Now what are packs? It's when you decide in advance what you will do to keep yourself in that task. And there's three types of packs. We have we call effort packs, price packs, and identity packs. An effort pack is when there's some bit of friction in between you and the thing you don't want to do. So it's just us and you're millions of viewers here. So I'll get a little personal, okay? A few years ago, my wife and I, and again, we've been married for 22 years now. A few years ago, before I was writing this book, we noticed that our sex life was suffering. That every night we were going to bed and I was fondling my iPhone and she was caressing her iPad. You and me both. Right? And we were going to bed later and later. And not only were we not getting proper sleep, we all know how important rest is. Our sex life was suffering. So when I started this research, I came across this, this research around the importance of these effort packs. And I went to the hardware store and I bought us this $10 outlet timer. Now this outlet timer, you plug into the wall and whatever you plug into that outlet timer, we'll turn on or off at any time of day and night. So what did we do with that? We plugged in our internet router into this timer. So every night in our household at 10 p.m., the internet shuts off. Now, could I turn it back on? Of course I could, but I'd have to go under my desk, unplug this timer, reset it and plug it back in. That would take effort. So I put some friction in between myself and the distraction. And lo and behold, every night we all knew, the internet's going to shut down at 10 p.m., finish up whatever you need to do. And it gave me that bit of mindfulness to say, "Okay, do I really need to still check email or social media or whatever silly thing I was doing? Or is it time to do what I said I was going to do, which is get some rest, go to bed and maybe be intimate with my wife?" People might hear that and go, "You didn't need a timer to have sex with your wife." But I did. I did. Because look, in the moment, you're tired, you're just kind of drifting off. We've all done this, right? Where you're looking at something on the internet. And it's kind of harmless because she's brushing her teeth and I'm waiting. And just one thing leads to another. And before you know it, you've gone to bed later than you anticipated and you've given up a lot in the process. So having that rule, again, having that time box calendar, that's step number two where you have to, we have in our calendars bedtime. Why do we do that? I know, okay, I'll eventually I'm going to go to sleep, but why do I have a bedtime in my calendar? It isn't ironic for those of us who have children. We tell our children, "You need a bedtime." We're adamant about how our children need bedtimes. But for us, we don't need a bedtime and my daughter called us out on this. She said, "Daddy, what's your bedtime?" And she was absolutely right. We've all read these books. We all know how important sleep is. And yet, we don't go to bed. It's crazy to me how many, I see this with multiple domains and health and fitness. We get new tropics and we get blackout curtains and we get melatonin. Just go to bed on time. That's the number one reason people don't get enough sleep. They don't go to bed on time. So did I need an internet timer? Yeah, we all do because this is what keeps us awake. Right? We do all these interesting things. Again, the price of progress is that you can find anything you want at any time of day or night on the internet. So we do need these packs, again, as the last line of defense. It's not the first thing. I don't want people to listen to me and say, "Okay, fine, I'll get an internet timer, then I won't get distracted." No, if you don't first deal with the internal triggers that lead you to distraction, you'll find something else. Someone's also going to say, "Listen, you've got 4G in tonight on your phone. You've got Sally Lareng tonight, so you can just go up." True. Again, but now it's effort. If I really wanted to lie to myself, of course I could. That's not the point. Right? Yeah. That there's always a way. The point is it adds a bit of friction. Yeah, yeah. Right. It's a bit of effort that now I have to take. And more than anything, it's a statement you're making to you and everyone in your social environment, that at 10 p.m. is a shut off time. Whether people are dear to that, as you say, there's ways to circumnavigate that, but it's the statement of having that shut off time now. Exactly. And now, by the way, it actually wouldn't even matter. Because we all know the internet's going to shut off at 10. We all need to start getting ready to stop doing whatever we're doing, because it's going to now we don't even need it anymore. It's become part of our nightly ritual. And by the way, what I want to illustrate is the concept, not the practice. Right? Tactics are what you do. Strategies is why you do it. That's more important. You know, I think a lot of these books around similar topics around, you know, dealing with focus and productivity, it's a lot of life hacks. Right? But what I wanted was more the strategy, the psychological principles around why we get distracted. And then I'll let people come up with their own tactics. I give you lots of tactics as well. But this is just one illustration of how we can use this strategy. And that's only one pack. There's also two other packs I can share as well.
How to become disciplined & have strong willpower (34:56)
There's a lot of, well, just before we get onto the two other packs, a lot of debate over the years about this idea of willpower. All of, you know, just before we started recording, I said to you, I looked up all these time management techniques and I've looked at these diet fads. And there's so many of them, because it appears that none of them really work without this underlying thing called discipline. So you can have all that, you know, I can time box and I can, the one, two, three, four technique and the ABC five technique, whatever. But if I don't have the underlying discipline, then I'm not going to do any of these things. Discipline is such an interesting word. It kind of catches a lot of different things, a lot of psychological forces you've described. But, and this other theory of willpower, that's sort of trundled on through the ages, that we have a limited amount of willpower. And if we try and do too many things at once, then we'll do none of them. And I only take on one bad habit at once. Is there any truth to all of that stuff? No. No. No. Well, willpower is not a limited resource. At least from the latest research, you know, science is never conclusive. But from what we know today, it seems so a few years ago, there was this concept called ego depletion. Ego depletion is exactly what you mentioned. It's that we run out of willpower, like someone would run out of battery charge on their phone, right? That it's a depletable resource. And this concept was promoted and kind of widely circulated in the popular press. And there was some fantastic claims made that if you, if you drink sugar, sweeten lemonade, that you would boost your willpower. And it turns out, as often happens in the social sciences, when something sounds a little fishy, we replicate the study. We try and run the study again. And Carol Dweck, you might know from, I just probably been on your show, from her book, Mindset, she decided to replicate these studies. She decided to run them again, these ego depletion studies. And she found that the only people who experienced ego depletion, the only people who actually did run out of willpower, like someone who run out of battery on their phone, the only people who experienced that were people who believed that willpower was a limited resource. That's it. So it turns out, I mean, this is this incredibly important because it has implications for all sorts of things in our life, right? When we believe that we are somehow deficient, that our brain is broken, that the world is conspiring against us to hijack our brains. When we believe these self-limiting thoughts, we act in accordance. And so it's very much the case with this ego depletion myth that ego that our willpower is not limited unless we believe it is. And on this point of, because I think the word discipline is somewhat interchangeably used with willpower, it's doing the thing you said you were going to do, like, and you intended to do. I was trying to figure out what discipline is and where it comes from, why in certain aspects of my life, like going to the gym now. So for the last three years, I've gone to the gym about six days a week. Before then, I couldn't. DJing, I've started DJing and I've done that for about 12 months. I've been disciplined with that. This podcast, I've been able to do it. We released two episodes a week and we have done for a while now. Why am I disciplined in some areas of my life? Why can I continue to show up? And why in other areas of my life is it this kind of failing battle to like, you know, get back on the horse every other week because I've fallen off? I had a hypothesis where I was like, well, with DJing, I have like a goal. That means, this is maybe my discipline equation. A goal, that means a lot to me. It's worth the pursuit. If I attain it, you know, it feels like it's worthwhile. Plus, the psychological engagement and enjoyment of the pursuit of the goal. So like, like I want to be a DJ, plus the psychological engagement and enjoyment. I love the process of DJing. It's like, meditation or therapy, listening to your favorite music for hours, doing nothing other than being in that flow state. Minus, this is where you kind of come in, I guess, is the psychological discomfort or disengagement associated with the pursuit. So for example, if the DJing equipment was up in the spare room and I had to load it up every day and it took 35 minutes to do it, and then I had to load up the software every day and it was really difficult. I might find the process not worthwhile and I might discipline might wane. When you look at that equation, the Y, the enjoyment of the pursuit, minus the sort of un-enjoyment of the pursuit, does that make sense? There's a lot there. I mean, the basics are there. I think what's missing is that you, so with this DJing pursuit, you enjoy it. And so it's not hard to do something you enjoy. This is my problem with flow. You've heard about me how to accept me high with the concept of flow. That you can get into this state where time flies and it's effortless. And the examples, if you read the book, many of the examples are from sports. They're from things that people really enjoy doing. And that's like Hollywood. It's nice work if you can get it. How do you get into flow when it's something you really don't want to do? So right now you enjoy DJing because, correct me if I'm wrong, it's you're not doing professionally or maybe you are. Not really. So my guess is right now as an amateur, it's fun. Stakes are low. You're just enjoying the process. Very much what I used to do when I first started vlogging, right? I was just writing for myself and then I got a few readers and it was kind of fun. Just pure joy, pure amateur behavior. And then what happened when I said, okay, now I want to publish a book or when you, if you decide to professionally DJ, it's going to start getting hard, right? Now there's all this other stuff you don't want to do around the core experience, right? Now you got to figure out how do I build my brand and how do I get people packed into my show and all this stuff that you have to do that maybe isn't as fun. And that's where flow falls down. So this is exactly what's happening and happened. So started DJing and then we announced I'm going to do a show. We've got 3000 people to come to this venue. And in the lead up to that, DJing became a lot less fun. Right. And even now, so they've, they've, they're trying to book me to do a show when I'd be through in Marbea this year. And suddenly I'm getting all uncomfortable about DJing again. Because, so when I look at the, the equation I presented, what seems to have happened in that equation is the perceived psychological cost has increased suddenly. Because nerves and yeah, yeah, there's like worry and all these other forces at play. And that equations now have killed my discipline has dropped. Right. Exactly. Exactly. And so that's where becoming indestructible comes into play. You don't need to be indestructible for something you love doing anyway, right? There's no problem with that. Follow through is easy. It's how do I do this stuff? I know I need to do, but I really don't feel like doing it. If you ask, you know, we talked about earlier, the only reason businesses fail is because they run out of cash. The only reason we fail out our goals is only one. The only reason we fail out our goals because we don't feel like it. I don't feel like it. I don't feel like going to the gym right now. I don't feel like working on that book. I don't feel like whatever it is. It's a feeling, fundamentally it's a feeling. Of course there's outside factors, of course. But in terms of the number one reason we don't pursue our goal is we quit. Right. That's the, the most prominent reason. We don't follow through and that tends to be because of a feeling. So when there are these tasks that suddenly get hard, right, are suddenly difficult, that's when we need different tactics. It's easy to do the stuff we enjoy. It's hard to do the stuff that we don't enjoy. So what would you advise me to do then? In the case of DJing, I've got, you know, potentially two shows this summer in Europe. So I would start with your values. And that's part of step two of making time for traction. When people ask, you know, how do I make a time box calendar? Where do you start? You start with your values. So what are values? The definition of values in my book is attributes of the person you want to become. Attributes of the person you want to become. So then what you do is you put your, your, your values in terms of these three life domains. I look at them as concentric circles. At the center of these three life domains is you. If you can't take care of yourself, can't take care of others, you can't make the world a better place. So in that, when it comes to that life domain, you look at the things that you want to do for yourself, the time you want to spend to become the person you want to become. And you look at your calendar, you look at this blank calendar for the next seven days, and you ask yourself, how would the person I want to become spend their time? And you put that time in your schedule. So time for rest, time for reading, time for video games. It doesn't matter. Put that time in your schedule. The next life domain is your relationships. Part of the reason we have this loneliness epidemic in the industrialized world is that we don't have the time scheduled for our relationships like we used to. As the industrialized world became more secular, the church, the synagogue, the mosque, we don't go to these social interactions where we care for others and others care for us. We don't have that schedule in our day anymore. And I'm not saying, and I'm pretty secular myself, I'm not saying we have to do that, but that is what we have lost because we don't have these regular, what used to be religious institutions. It doesn't have to be real. Robert Putnam was talking about this in the 1990s in his book, Bowling Alone. We don't have these regular social interactions like previous generations did. And we need to bring those back. I actually think social media overuse is a symptom, not the cause of the fact that we don't see people regularly. So you need to put in your calendar time for those relationships, your friends, your family, your kids, your significant others. You have to put that time in your schedule. Don't give them whatever scraps of time are leftover. Put in your schedule. Then finally, your work domain. This is where most people start. It's actually, I think where we need to end. Work comes in two flavors. We have what's called reactive work and we have reflective work. Reactive work is how a lot of people, how distracted people spend their days. Reacting to messages, reacting to notifications, reacting to requests, all day long, reacting to things. And that's fine. Everybody's job will involve some amount of reactive work. But if you're not scheduling time for reflective work, you're going to run real fast in the wrong direction. You have to put time in your schedule to think. If you want to do work that is creative work that requires focus, you have to schedule that time. It's okay if it's only 15, 20 minutes, but that time has to be on your schedule. So to answer your question of, okay, well, what do I do with this passion I have around DJing? It's a factor of how much time you want to put into it based on your values, based on the kind of person you want to become. So what would the Steven you want to become? How much time, first and foremost, not outcome. I think that's the problem with a lot of goal planning. This is one of my beef with to-do lists. To-do lists are a series of outputs. I want to do this. I want to do this. I want to do this. I want to. And it has no constraint. A to-do list has no constraints. You can always add more. And so what happens? You come home with your to-do list of a million things after you've worked really hard all day long. And most of those things you have not crossed off. So what does that say to your self-image if every day you come home and all these things still haven't been done after a long day of work? And you haven't done what you said you would do, loser. So day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, you're reinforcing the self-image of someone who doesn't do what they said they're going to do. Right? As opposed to a time box counter has constraints. Same 24 hours in a day. Right? And I don't care if you're Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk, you can always make more money. You can't make more time. I think it's exactly flipped. Most people are cheap with their money and generous with their time. I think it should be the opposite. Right? We should be cheap with our time and generous with our money because you can always make more money. You can always make more money. You cannot make more time. So a time box calendar forces you to work with constraints and decide based on your values how much time you can afford to spend on whatever you want to do. Right? Because if you put in everything, you'll get nothing. You'll live in regret. Whereas if you say, look, I only have four hours a week for DJing and Devers. And here's where I'm going to put that in because I also want to spend time with my friends. I need to take care of myself. I need to take care of my business. So it's not based on outcome. It's based on input. Right? So if you went to a baker, okay, and you said, hey, my kid has a birthday party. I needed a two dozen cupcakes. Bakers going to say, okay, I need flour. I need sugar. I need butter. I need all these inputs. I need these ingredients to make the output. But when it comes to knowledge work, we only think about the output. But what's our input? Our input is just two things. Time and attention. Those are our ingredients. That's it. So you can't just think about the output. You can't just think about the cup case. You have to think about the input. The input is time and attention. And that, just like ingredients for a cupcake, has to be budgeted for. You have to plan that ahead or it's not going to work out.
The power of time allocation (47:33)
So I, you and my inspiration for starting time blocking, I've called it, the time boxing. Yeah, same thing. And it's really, really been helpful specifically in times when I'm not in work. So when I go away to write, for example, and I don't have meetings that I like, I have to do, or that pop in and out, etc. It's been super helpful. And also, I'll be honest, during the pandemic was when I really, to the point that I started developing a time blocking app with a friend of mine. Oh, yeah. Because it was that useful for me. The pandemic had happened. We weren't meeting anybody. We weren't having sort of in person meetings. So I had long days, but that felt a bit more empty than usual. So to sort of get a grasp on them and stop them being whittled away with by distraction, I started time blocking. And it was amazing for me. I guess one of the questions I want to ask before I get on to this is, do you even, so I, in my personal relationship with my girlfriend, we've been together for about four years, pretty much ever since we first met, we knew first met. It's the first time I've lived with someone. She's moved in, we live together. And one of the things that a busy lifestyle can do, and I think you've described it as well, is it can have an impact on your sex life in relationship, dates, date night, etc. So I propose the idea to her, because of you, we should schedule these things, because I schedule everything else that's important to me. So we should schedule our date night and those kinds of things, because that's equally important to me too. And she was a bit resistant to the idea at first, because it, in her rebuttal was that it kind of takes the, you know, the spontaneity and the spice and the... Date night or scheduling sex? Because some people schedule sex. I don't go that far. I wouldn't, I wouldn't go for scheduling sex, but it's really like spending time together and doing stuff. She like, she was resistant to scheduling it, because she felt that it took the, you know, the work. But the, so there's an interesting concept. Okay, so when I was, my wife and I met at university, and we met an economics class. And in this class, they discussed this concept of a residual beneficiary. A residual beneficiary in business is the person, the chump, who receives whatever's left over, when a business is sold. So first, debt holders get their share, then the equity holders. Whatever's left over, the residual beneficiary gets, right? And after we've been married for a few years, she sat me down, she says, "Neir, you have turned me into the residual beneficiary." Wow, what a thing to say. Right? I get whatever scraps of time are left over. If, if you and your relationship, by the way, my book is not for people who have a perfect life. Okay, I don't have a perfect life. I still get distracted from time to time. The difference is between a distractable person and an indestructible person is that a distractable person keeps getting distracted by the same things. Poila Coila has a wonderful quote. He said, "A mistake repeated more than once is a decision." Such a good quote. A mistake repeated more than once is a decision. Good, right? So distractable people keep getting distracted by the same things again and again. How many times are we going to complain about TikTok and Facebook before we say, "Oh, I'm going to do something about it." Right? Indestructible people say, "Okay, I got distracted once, but you're not going to let it happen again and again." So I'm going to take steps today to prevent getting distracted tomorrow. So when my wife and I found that our schedules were getting busier and busier, and we weren't making the proper time for each other, it wasn't happening spontaneously, then we had to go to plan B. And plan B, for a long time, there was no plan. It was just, "Well, it's not happening." The problem is people interpret the fact maybe you felt this, that not making time, not being spontaneous, means that we don't love each other as much. And I think that's a huge mistake. That's not at all. It certainly wasn't in my relationship with my wife. I still loved her just as much. Just thought, "I was busy, honey, and there's this big thing happening here, and I need to do this, and I need to do that." And the time was the boy, and we wouldn't spend time together. That's no indication that I don't love my wife. It's an indication that I didn't know how to prioritize my wife properly. So I stopped making her the residual beneficiary. If we have extra spontaneous time, sometimes a meeting is canceled. Great. Let's do something together. But at minimum, we know on Friday nights, that's our day night. Quick one. 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To find out more, all you have to do is search BlueJeans.com and let me know how you get on. I'm in an interesting phase at the moment in my fitness and health journey because I'm training for Soccer Aid, which takes place in June at Old Trafford. I've been training a lot differently, but regardless of how I train, regardless of whether I'm doing strength training or cardiovascular training, which is predominantly what I'm doing now, I need this, which is Heals Nutritionly Complete Protein Product. The crazy thing about this, which I almost find hard to achieve, is that it's 20 grams of protein. You get 26 vitamins and minerals and it's only roughly about 100 calories, 105 calories. And it tastes like a dream. The Salted Caramel one is my favourite. I've got the second favourite option of mine in front of me, which has been in a fudge. Both of them taste amazing. A little bit of ice in it. It tastes like a fantastic healthy milkshake. Give it a try. 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Stop burnout (53:33)
When we do fall out of, quote unquote, "balance" in some way, when we maybe don't have our priorities in order, or at least this is what people think. People diagnose themselves with this thing called burnout. And I've been quite intentional with my words there, because I have my own opinions on burnout. I don't really think burnout is what people think it is. People think of burnout as basically doing too much work. I think most people, 90% of people would say that burnout is when you do too much work. It's a big topic in conversation now. This subject matter of burnout. What do you think burnout is? So there's some amazing research done by two British researchers, Benio, Stan's Fielding Candy. And they concluded that a toxic work environment is not the work you do. It's the type of work you do. And so they wanted to see that the study was what kind of work correlates with increased rates of depression and anxiety disorders. And they found two conditions that raise the rates of anxiety and depression. They literally the kind of jobs that make you sick, psychologically. And those two conditions are high expectations coupled with low control. Coupled with? Exactly. Low control. So high expectations and low control. If you had high expectations and high control, no problem. People rise to the occasion. But when you have a job with high expectations and low control, that's burnout. Why? Because it's the lack of agency. I'm expected to do all this. And I can't. Right? I'm trying. I'm trying. I'm trying. But as much as I do, I don't have enough agency to meet these expectations. So let's zoom in on both of those. I'm really compelled by this idea of low control. When people think of control, that can mean a number of things. Is that the ability to make decisions for myself on how to accomplish the challenge? To affect the outcome. Okay. Right. So if you have your small cog in a big machine, but you have these very high expectations, but it doesn't all depend on you. There are other people. No budgets. Searching stances beyond your control. That is hard. No matter how hard you work, you can't meet someone's expectations. Why? I'm trying to think from the psychological discomfort framework. Why that environment of high expectations, this being pulled this way, but then being suppressed on this end would cause burnout. And burnout, I guess we have to define it as that. What is it? It's this sort of psychological overwhelm. It's giving up. Which makes you give up. Yeah. I think it's because it's the definition of death. Right? Schopenhauer describes life as anything that tries to affect its environment. Life is defined by something that affects its outside environment. Changes where it is to its benefit in some way. That's what a live organism is. So if you cannot change your environment, you cannot change your circumstances. It feels like death. And eventually you give up. It's you learn helplessness, where eventually it's not worth continuing to try, because you can't affect the outcomes. I've always thought of burnout as being somewhat intrinsically attached to meaning. And maybe that's exactly what you're describing there, because you're being robbed of your ability to affect your outside environment, which maybe is what meaning is. Meaning is, I think, the can be the relief valve. So if you are toiling, I mean, you think about the role of religion in many people's lives historically, religion tells you that even though your lot in life may not change, there was reward to come. So you have agency, you have control. It's just that the reward is delayed. So even if your life is awful now, someday it'll be better. That gives you agency. So that's meaning. That gives you that meaning, that purpose of it's coming someday. But if you believe that there's nothing you can do to get that reward, that it makes no difference, then the only logical thing to do is to quit. I might be totally wrong here, but I think the reason I thought meaning was so important was because when you think about people in roles that typically feel that burnout, it seemed to me that it was like monotonous, tedious work, where, you know, maybe like working in a production line where you're doing very, very long hours of work that is absent of meaning for you. You don't really care about the work, but you're being pressed to do long hours. So that was my kind of understanding of it, because I tried to contrast it to areas where I'd never get burnout, you know, watching Manchester United play or playing video games, whatever. And I thought, what's the difference? Well, it's because of my sort of subjective meaning or enjoyment of the task. So I thought the enjoyment and the meaning part was central somehow to becoming burnt out. I don't know. I'm not sure if it's necessarily requires meaning per se. I mean, you see people working two or three jobs sometimes, you know, when they're getting started from base level, just to feed their kids. It's like they can do very repetitive, boring work, and they do it because they are affecting change. They have agency. They can see the results. They need to feed their families. And this idea of agency and control is fundamentally linked to our physiological health as well, which I find quite surprising that people that have greater degrees of control in there professional endeavors are healthier. Right. This concept of locus of control, right, where it's external locus of control versus internal locus of control, where people who have external locus of control believe that things happen to them. People who have internal locus of control believe that they affect change. And what's fascinating about this is that people who have internal locus of control on every metric of well-being do better. They're wealthier. They have more. They have better relationships. They're healthier. Every metric of well-being, having an internal locus of control benefits you. Even when your circumstances dictate that you shouldn't think that you have that much control, even when you're in a really awful situation, believing you have agency makes you better off, even if it's not true. Because that mindset, again, back to what we were saying earlier about how mindset affects what we do. If you believe willpower is limited, you will act as such, right? I used to come home after a long day of work and say, "Oh, you know what? I've had a hard day. I don't have any more willpower. My willpower has been exhausted like we talked about earlier. Give me that pint of Ben and Jerry's. I'm going to send him a couch and eat my ice cream." Because I believed I was spent, right? But it was in my head, whereas people who believe that they have agency, they do have control, live much healthier, better lives. This raises the point about responsibility, which is one of a controversial point for some reason.
Stop blaming social media (01:00:27)
Funny that that is, right? Why is it so controversial, do you think? I think it's this idea, rightfully so, of not victim blaming. But I don't think that that is incongruous, that you don't have to blame victims, as well as saying that we should take as much responsibility as we possibly can. So in my line of work, I'm fairly controversial because I wrote Hooked how to build habit-forming products, and then I wrote "Indistractable" about how to control your attention and choose your life. And many people see those as opposites, right? But I didn't write Hooked and Unhooked. I wrote "Indistractable" because it's about having our cake and eating it too. It's about having both. We can have the best of both worlds, that we can build apps, we can build technologies that help us exercise and learn new languages and stay healthy. We can use these amazing technologies for good, but we can also find ways to not get distracted from the devices or whatever the distraction might be that lead us away from what we really want. But yeah, sometimes people will say, "Yeah, but that's, you're blaming the victim here. We're all victims of these technologies. The technology companies are doing it to us." The social dilemma movie tells us that our brains are being hijacked. And they interviewed me for the social dilemma movie. Did you see it, by the way? I did. Okay. So they interviewed me. And I know you've had Johan Hari on the show, and I have big issues with his whole thesis because it's a line around, "It's not your fault. It's being done to you." And look, there is no doubt that these companies design their products to be engaging. That's the point, right? Do we want, "Hey, Netflix, stop making your show so interesting. Apple, your phones are too user-friendly." That's ridiculous. That's the point of these products. We want them to be engaging. We pay for the privilege of having them be engaging. So it's ridiculous to think that somehow they're going to stop doing that. It's also ridiculous to think that the government, in all its brilliant wisdom, is going to figure out how to regulate these companies properly, right? We see every time I come to Europe, I can't use the internet because these stupid GDPR rules that I have to constantly click, accept, "I don't even know what I'm clicking on." They're so annoying. We see what happens when government tries to regulate these companies most of the time. They're incredibly hamfisted. So do we just sit here? I'm not saying I'm anti-regulation. I am for smart regulation. But in the meantime, what are we doing? We're just going to sit here and wait. Please, Zuckerberg, stop addicting me. It's ridiculous. There's so much we can do. Starting with, not thinking we're powerless in all realms of our life. Again, even when circumstances are beyond your control, it benefits you, it behooves you to believe you do have agency. You do have control. You're going to be better off as opposed to saying, "Well, there's nothing I can do." Because what do people do when they believe they're powerless? Nothing. It's so interesting because I had a conversation with a friend of mine last night who is single, been single for a while. We were huddled around. There was a couple of us, and everyone was single in this circle. I'm currently not single. I saw some of that. I saw some of that. Well, it's just the nature of the modern dating world. You hear it all, "I don't want to be on these dating apps," and social media doesn't work, and "I can't meet anybody," so it's just the way it is. You can see in that moment, it's almost like declaring defeat. Well, there is agency in that as well. Remember, if life is defined by something that changes as an outside environment, that's a great way to say, "Well, I have agency. I decide to quit. It's in my control to say it's impossible." I guess so. Even if it is self-defeating, it feels good to say it's impossible. But it's going to reduce your chances of finding someone. Of course. If you just say, "Okay, I can't," and you blame external factors on that, Mark Zuckerberg has become a villain in society. People have really portrayed him as being the source of so much evil, destroyed people's mental health because of these apps and all of these kinds of things. I sense you have a slightly different approach to that, or you think that's a little bit too simplified. Am I right? Which part? I saw something yesterday where Mark Zuckerberg was playing Jiu Jitsu. Have you seen the video? I saw the video. I didn't say playing Jiu Jitsu. He was doing Jiu Jitsu. Do you see the video? I do. Like the top... The person who would quote retweeted it had said, "He's destroyed our generation's mental health, but he's pretty good at Jiu Jitsu." He has been attacked for the last decade because people think that he bought these apps and these apps have now made our lives significantly worse. The framing that you present seems to say, if it wasn't those apps, it would be something else. It's not necessarily the apps itself. It's our relationship to the apps because of emotional regulation in other parts of our life. You said something super interesting earlier, which we moved on from, where you said that you don't believe you believe that the apps are a symptom of a wider social issue. Is that an accurate representation of your views? I think, look, I'm not saying these companies are guilt-free. By the way, I have been asked many times to work for them and with them. I always refuse because I don't want any conflict or appearance of conflict of interest. I don't get paid by these companies in any way. But I think there is absolutely a moral panic around social media. We already see it now fading. Last week it was social media. This week it's going to be AI. There's always a moral panic. And if you look back at the history of mankind, we have always had moral panics of one thing or another, especially with media. Media that hijacks the brain of a population that's always been a big fear. I think, in general, it's way overblown. If you actually look at the research in terms of the effects of mental health, look, overuse of any media is going to have deleterious consequences. When my daughter was into Harry Potter and she was reading Harry Potter five hours a day, I said, "Hey, honey, that's too much Harry Potter." That's going to have some deleterious consequences as well. You need to go outside. You need to see your friends and you need to do other things. Any extremes are bad. Now, I do think there is room for regulation for two protected classes of people. One, we currently protect, which is children. My daughter can't walk into a casino and start playing Blackjack. She can't walk into a bar and order a gin and ton. She's too young for that. There's certain protections for children. I think we should have those protections for social media. I think 13 is probably too young. The current regulation lease in the States is 13. That's probably too young. The other group of people who don't have protection, who need protection, are pathological addicts. Addiction, we tossed around this word addiction so much these days. My wife got a box of shoes from DSW. The box says, "Danger, addictive contents inside hits shoes." We use this word addiction. We throw it around. Addiction is a disease. It's a pathology. Just because something is addictive doesn't mean it digs everyone, clearly. Many of us have a glass of wine with dinner. We're not all alcoholics. We have sex. We're not all sex addicts. It's ridiculous to think, just because something is addictive to some people, it's addicted to everyone. If you are addicted and the company knows this might be the case and I've been advocating this for years, this is the kind of legislation I do support, then I think the company has a responsibility. If an alcohol company, they don't know who's addicted. How would they know? How would they know who the alcoholics are? They wouldn't know. The online companies, they do know. They have personal identifiable information and they know your time on site. They could reach out, and this is what I'm advocating for. I call it a use and abuse policy. If you are using this product, give me a number, 30 hours a week, 40 hours a week, whatever number is in the several standard deviations of use, we're going to reach out to you with a very respectful message that says we see that you are using our product in a way that may indicate you are struggling with an addiction. Can we help? Can we help? Very respectful message. If they say no, fine. But offer to help. Can we help you use blocking tools so that you're self-select out? Here are resources. I think you have a responsibility. Now, that's about three to five percent of the population that struggles with addiction. The problem is there's this popular narrative and a lot of people are selling a lot of books telling us that our attention is being stolen. Right? Stolen from us. If you're addicted, you could argue that. That pathology of addiction? Okay. Everybody else, if you're not a child or you're not addicted, this personal responsibility issue is not an addiction. It's a distraction. But we don't want to call it that. Right? Because if it's a distraction, ah, shoot, I got to do something about it. That's no fun. Can't I just blame Zuckerberg? No, I got to take some personal responsibility. You know what I have to learn how to manage my internal triggers. I have to schedule my time. I have to hack back these external triggers. I got to put in some packs in place. This is not hard stuff, folks. Right? The book isn't that long. Think it may be an hour and a half, two hours to read it, and you will be indestractable. You'll look it back at this and think this is a joke. We were complaining about this being addictive. Come on. It's a few simple techniques. Right? So to sit here and complain and say, our attention's being stolen, our focus is being stolen, it's not being stolen. We're giving it away. Give me a break. We're just not stolen. We are willfully giving it away because we're not doing anything about it. So I think, yes, is there room for regulation? Of course. I think there's a lot we can do. But let's start with personal responsibility. That's the first line of defense. Wouldn't that make sense? First, let's see what we can do. And then we can also figure out, while the politicians figured out, we can find ways to regulate as well. One of the things I found compelling was the role that our psychological trauma and our childhood trauma can have on us.
Overcoming our traumas and improving confidence (01:10:17)
Because one of the psychologists I sat here with described it as gremlins and goblins. He said, Sir Steve Peter said that we have, some of us have goblins. These are the hard to move, hard to budge traumas usually happen below the age of 10 that will just stay with us the whole time, really severe traumas. And then after that, generally speaking, they're gremlins where you can do work to overcome them. When people are thinking about taking those steps in relationships or in a gym or whatever, you talked about obesity being clinically obese, sometimes we have these goblins at the heart of us that limit us from taking that first step. That just act as a gravitational force against the behavior we want to take. How do we, can we overcome that? Is it relevant? Well, so severe trauma is out of scope for what I work on. But I would say for the goblins, as you described them, that is where I think it is very helpful to realize that they're just feelings. They're just feelings. But feelings can be very convincing. But feelings don't happen to us. They happen for us. So if we can leverage that, if we can learn from that, if we can use it like rocket fuel to propel us towards what we want to do, if you look at amazing artists or athletes, if it's interesting how many of them have some kind of trauma, right? Have you ever noticed that? They're running away from something just as much as they're running towards something. They're trying to prove something to their alcoholic father. They're trying to prove something to somebody because of what happened to them. So we have post-traumatic stress. We also have post-traumatic growth, depending on how we frame that and what we do with that discomfort. There's a lot of people who do amazing things driven by these same goblins that other people run away from. It's about how we reframe that discomfort. Every successful person that sat here, in fact, the last person that sat in the chair, said, "I asked them." They said they were basically running away from their trauma. Actually, they actually got diagnosed many years later in therapy with post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. They are the number one in their industry, I'd say. Right? I mean, it's so common. Many of the people I interviewed for the book, that was what was so fascinating. It wasn't trauma or trauma-free. Everybody has trauma. From these high performers, they all had it. Something. We all do in some way. We've all suffered in one way or another. Of course, it's very difficult way. It's very touchy. It's very much subjective to us, how we deal with it, how we will grow from it. I think that's the big lesson. I think the psychology community as well will teach that it's about learning how to deal with that discomfort in a way that is adaptive, as opposed to maladaptive, something that hurts you, that these experiences are neutral. It's how we interpret them that matters. That's a really key point that I've learned from doing what I do here, the point about trauma being neutral. It's a subjective thing. Someone's natch is a toy of you and you're a kid. Now, you might interpret that as being a fun game, or you might interpret it as, "I can't trust anybody." It's the same incident, but it's interpreted in two entirely different ways. That child might then go on to be incredibly successful because they were low in trust. That might hurt their personal relationships. The other child who had the same thing happened to them might just be... It's not only psychologically true, but also physiologically true. I don't know if you've read mind-body prescription. It's an old book, but it basically is a lot of people read it for back pain. It's incredible. I had my last company, a business partner of mine, she would be on the floor in pain. In the middle of the day, she would have to go to a back office because she just could not move. She was in so much pain. Her husband had incredible carpal tunnel. He would wear all kinds of devices and stuff to try and immobilize his hands, and he really suffered. Then they came across this book, the mind-body prescription, which basically talks about how you don't want to stop doing the painful actions that most pain, this chronic type pain, after the healing has occurred, of course, is a window. If you still have pain, I think, what is it? Six months, if you still have pain, then it's called chronic pain. The body has already healed within that time period. We're sure the body is healed. Why is there still pain? That there isn't necessarily... Pain does not mean physical trauma, per se. I think this is relevant to psychological trauma as well. The pain happens because we focus on our attention on the pain. You can't have pain without attention. Do you notice that? You can't have pain without attention. There's these cases, by the way, in World War I, where soldiers would drag their buddies to the medic and say, "Medic, my buddy's dying. You need to help him." The medic would look at the soldier and say, "Soldier, your arm is gone." You wouldn't notice that half his arm is missing, because pain requires attention. When we over-focus on our pain, when all we pay attention to is our pain. I'm saying here physiologically, as well as psychologically, the pain becomes worse. The pain becomes worse. More so, when we try and not do the thing that causes pain. Now, the advice is not... If you have a back pain issue, it used to be, "Okay, we'll immobilize, don't move, don't stretch, just rest, rest, rest, rest." Now, the advice is really changing, same with carpal tunnel. It's not, "Get all the risk braces and don't move your wrists." It's the opposite. If you feel back pain, do whatever caused that pain three times, because you want to regulate the brain to learn that this is not a threat. Again, emotions, pain, don't happen to us. They happen for us. It's a lesson for us to learn from. It's just a signal. Now, we can interpret that signal any way we want. When we hyper-focus on something that was painful, physiologically or psychologically, when we don't do the thing that causes discomfort, when we want to go to safe spaces with trigger warnings and we're not exposed to the things that make us uncomfortable, that only makes it worse and worse and worse, because we're paying more attention to it and we don't have the exposure. We know the way to treat phobias. How do you treat a phobia? Exposure therapy. When someone's scared of a dog, when someone has severe reaction to a dog, what do you do? Well, first you show them a picture of a puppy. Then you show them a picture of a full-grown dog. Then you show them a video. Then eventually, you'll put them in a room with a puppy out the other side of the room 20 feet away. Then you expose them to the threat until their brain downregulates and teaches itself not to cause this reaction, this emotional reaction to this potential stressor. It's the same way with many of the potential discomforts in our life. Isn't it the same way with just belief itself, like self-belief? Think about how our beliefs form. People always ask me questions and one of the most popular questions anyone wants to know in the self-development community is about how we become confident and confidence is a belief. One of the ways that I've become confident in my life is by exposure therapy, I guess. How you learn to speak on a stage is by doing it. You can't read a book on it to get it to overcome the nerves. Have you thought much about confidence and the role it plays in everything we've discussed today and how to build confidence? Funny you should say getting on stage. I'm a professional public speaker. I do that a lot. It shows. Thank you. Very good. Well, okay. Well, let me back up a few years. When I first started out, I wrote the book first and then I started speaking about it. When I would get on stage, I would have incredible stage fright. At first, this is with my first book, Hooked. I would tell myself this script of when I felt my heartbeat, when I would get sweaty pits and I get very nervous and I tell myself, "It's funny just talking about it. I can actually feel it." I would tell myself, "If I was a real public speaker, I wouldn't feel this way. I'm going to mess up. I'm going to stumble over my words. I'm going to fall flat and people are going to laugh at me." I would do worse on stage. Then when I started researching, indestractable, I found this technique called reimagining the trigger. And reimagining the trigger is when we take the same exact physiological reactions and we reinterpret them. So now when I go on stage and I feel my heart racing, I don't use the old script. I have a new script. The new script says, "My heart is beating fast because it is pumping oxygen to my brain so I can deliver the best possible talk." That's where confidence comes from, is reframing the triggers. What used to scare you should embolden you, should strengthen you. Someone that's low confidence. Are they lacking in something? Are they lacking in positive evidence or are they abundant in negative evidence? I guess it can be either... I think they're stuck to a script. This is why we see Michael Poland's book, "How to Change a Mind," where my psychedelics are so interesting for treatment of depression, anxiety, and various conditions. It's not the drug itself. There's no healing taking brain. Even the whole concept of the broken brain and this whole chemical imbalance theory turns out it's rubbish. Nobody believes that anyone in psychology communicates. Only the public thinks that there's a brain, chemical imbalance. It's not fixing anything in the brain. It's simply showing you that a different perspective exists. That's all it does. It simply shows you that a different perspective exists. That can snap you out of this what we call a trapped prior, a trap relief around how things are and says, "Wait a minute. I don't have to think that way." So when it comes to confidence, what do actors do? Actors inhabit completely different characters on demand. That's a skill I think we could try on for size. We should actually, once in a while, say, "What would it be like if I acted different? Do I have to stick to my old beliefs?" No, there's no law that says you have to act the same way every day. It's simply that our sense of self, our self-image is based on what we did previously. A topic that's actually emerged a lot in public consciousness and conversation since we last spoke is, and it's very much linked to all the work you do, is attention deficit disorder.
Why is there a rise in ADHD? (01:20:39)
You wrote a book about not being distracted. What's your thoughts on ADHD, ADD? This is a big topic and I'm probably going to get myself in trouble here. But let me start by saying it is not up to me or anyone you would listen to on a podcast to tell you whether you have or don't have a diagnosis, go to a physician and get a diagnosis one way or the other. I will say that I think there's something fishy going on when it comes to ADHD. I have a lot of concerns. One, the discrepancy between what's happening in the states and in Europe is weird. 10% of children in the United States are diagnosed with ADHD and Europe is 1%. Something strange there. There's something about the culture in the United States that I believe over diagnosis. And it over-diagnoses because I don't think there's a great check and balance to disincentivize the diagnosis. Meaning if a teacher says this child is a pain, this child can't sit still. And we're talking about, you know, many times, five, six, seven-year-olds where it's funny. A lot of people say how technology is this and technology is that, you know, public education is also a technology. It's only about 150 years old. It's not that old. We haven't done it for that long. And so there are negative repercussions also to putting a bunch of kids in a box and expecting them to sit still and be quiet and listen to some boring person lecturing on the front of the classroom. So I think there's a clear incentive for teachers and parents to try and calm kids down. And I don't know if there's enough of a check and balance to say, look, is this really necessary to diagnose, especially when there are pharmaceuticals involved. So I like to repeat, and I'll repeat it again and again, skills before pills, skills before pills. ADHD is real. These diagnoses, and for many people, medication is the appropriate course of action. But I have talked to so many people in the field who just don't have the resources to teach skills. And so all they can do is prescribe. And it's the first thing they'll do. Kid will get diagnosed. Here's some pills. And I think those pills, we do not properly wait how dangerous those pills can be. Not only, look, these things are amphetamines. They have consequences. They have side effects. And many times we will give pills to take care of the side effects of the pills we just diagnosed. And more importantly, they are training a generation to believe that solutions come in pill bottles. And I think that has some very severe potential consequences, especially when for many, many people, adults and children, the skills are here, right? If you have tried the skills and they still don't work, if you've taken, you know, a day or two, just a day or two to learn some of the skills that I talk about, indestractable. And then if you find, you know what, it's still not working. Okay, got it. But to jump straight to the pharmaceuticals, I think is a big mistake because they all come with side effects. So skills before pills. The justification that I got from one of my my friends that was diagnosed was that his brain doesn't make enough dopamine. That's not true. There's we don't know that. That's, uh, that's pure conjecture. The science doesn't support that. We, we, the whole chemical imbalance theory, no psychiatrist will tell you that's true. It doesn't, that's just scientifically false. Where did that come from? Came. There were, it was a theory that has since been discredited with, with FERSA research. We, we actually, you cannot find ADHD in the brain. There's no brain scan to say there's no blood test. You go to a doctor, they will ask you questions, you'll take a little assessment. And then if you get whatever it is, six out of eight of these criteria, by the way, very gameable, completely gameable. You'll get a diagnosis. And of course, many physicians, unfortunately, um, will cater to what they think the patients want because they don't want a bad review on Google that says this doctor didn't believe me. Right. So they, they, they fear a bad review and they'll, they'll do what the patient wants. Furthermore, I think a big problem. Okay. Again, I'm, this isn't black and white. I'm, I'm very much for a proper diagnosis. I'm sure that ADHD is absolutely, absolutely real. Let me say that again. But if you go to a physician that does not also give you an undiagnosis plan, everybody thinks about diagnosis. What about undiagnosis? Right. When you go to the doctor and you have a broken arm, they put on a cast and they say, come back in a few weeks, we'll take the cast off and you'll be healed. Where's the undiagnosis plan for ADHD? It should exist. It should exist. We should be able to help people overcome and we see this all the time. When people want to, I, I, in my family, I've seen this. People in my family have been diagnosed with ADHD. They go on medication. They suffer from the consequences of the, of the, some of the side effects. They go off the pills. Then they get to the skills. They learn the skills and they functionally don't have anymore. Remember, it is not, I, what I hate about a lot of people in the ADHD community, they feel like it's an identity. Right. It is who they are. And that is so dangerous. We need to look at ADHD as something that is treatable. Okay. It's treatable sometimes through medication. It's treatable through behavioral practices. We can learn to overcome many of these things because if it's not functionally hurting you, you shouldn't have a diagnosis anymore. But for, you know, I think if, if you go to a physician that doesn't give you some kind of undiagnosis plan, which could take years, it's not an instant solution. But there needs to be some kind of plan to how do we make sure that this functionally doesn't debilitate you without, you know, medication as, as a constant course of treatment, especially when it has side effects, that's a big red flag. The treatment is based on what people believe the cause is. So if I, if I think the cause is a chemical imbalance or your brain is broken in some way, I can't create an undiagnosis plan. Right. That's the problem. It's not. Look, people are cured of addiction. Addiction is a pathology. You have it for a while while your circuit. So addiction is a confluence of three things. The person, the pain they're going through, and the product that they are addicted to. But when any of those three things change, they're no longer addicted. I don't believe in this. I'm an addict for life. I think that's incredibly harmful. And you will be very hard pressed to find someone who's in the addiction treatment community who calls people addicts. We don't call them addicts anymore. We call them people struggling with addiction, because we don't want to stigmatize them to believe that's who I am. What do people do when they have an identity? They conform to that identity. That's, that's terrible. You struggle with an addiction for a while, and then you are treated and then you recover. Why do we think that ADHD would be any different? The BBC wrote an article this week, which is what sort of caused this, this discussion amongst my, my close friends where the BBC said they were, they kind of presented the, the idea that TikTok had been really driving an over-diagnosis because on TikTok you'll see a lot of videos that say things like, you know, if you have this problem, this problem, you can't focus on this, where you like lose your keys a lot and you forget where you've put them. That's ADHD. It's kind of simplified the, the ailment. And the BBC wrote this piece sort of saying that is it driving an over-diagnosis in culture? And I've seen it. I mean, if I go on, if I go on my social media, that's what I see. I see so much content around saying, well, if you've got this, this, and this, if you've got this habit, then that's ADHD. And that does consign me a little bit because we both know that ADHD is a very real thing that can be debilitating for people that suffer with it, but trivializing it into small, small little, right? And it's, and it, if you look for it, right, it's recency bias. When you are looking for something, you'll find it. So if you do, do, do people who, everyone who loses their keys from time to time, have ADHD? Of course not. But if you were looking for it and you say, okay, I lost my keys, it must be this or, you know, I was having difficulty reading a book, it must be this. When that's repeated at nauseum in the popular press, we, I think that's part of the demo, whether whether the, whether the media is TikTok or traditional media, there has been, I think a, a popularization of the diagnosis and the more people hear about the diagnosis, the more they potentially will look for it. And I think we, I think the pendulum should, should swing the other way. Now, I don't think there's anything wrong with teaching the skills that could make ADHD functionally not a problem. But what's wrong with that? There's no problem. I think the problem comes in when we a get people to identify, you know, we hear this all the time say, oh, I have undiagnosed ADHD. Well, you haven't, you haven't gotten the doctor, you haven't taken any kind of assessment. How do you know? And even then, if you did want, there's also, okay, there's some gray area there too. Or people say, oh, I'm so OCD. OCD is a, is a terrible pathology, right? It's not. I like to wash my hands more than others. I like to keep my room clean. No, no, no, that is a serious pathology. So when we addiction, I think is probably the most overused phrase. Addiction is a terrible pathology. When people say, I'm addicted to this, I'm addicted to that, it has two terrible consequences. One, it's I think greatly offensive to people who actually struggle with this disease of addiction. That's one big problem or the pathology of addiction. Two, you are, you are creating this identity for yourself as someone who is powerless. Addiction, the word addiction comes from a dixxio in Latin, which means slave. So you're a slave to something. So when you call yourself a slave to something, you're basically saying your, your palace against it. So using these, these medicalized terms and moralizing these terms, I think is a really bad path. Who stands to gain from this? I've sat here with so many health experts and they tell me about the sugar industry and the smoking industry that, you know, published a lot of sort of media back in the day saying that sugar was good for us and cigarettes were good for us. And, and I think about this, this conversation around ADHD now, who stands to gain from an increased diagnosis of people with ADHD. Well, I don't want it to sound like the tobacco industry that, you know, was sitting in smoke filled rooms plotting, but there are systems in place which benefit some groups or others for sure. I mean, the, the, I think the psychology industry, the pharmaceutical industry benefits quite a bit. Again, I don't think they're sitting there thinking, oh, we're going to convince people that there's, that they should be diagnosed. But of course there's incentives. And more importantly, there's no disincentives. I'm not, I'm not so worried about the incentives. I don't think there's, I'm not pointing fingers at unethical practices in psychiatry or in the pharmaceutical industry per se. What I'm worried about is where are the disincentives? Who is saying you're diagnosing too many people here. It can't be that 10% of American children have ADHD. How can that be? Something fishy going on? Where, where are the breaks? Who says this doesn't seem right? What's the, what's the most important thing you think we haven't talked about today that we should have talked about? So we didn't talk about how to build an indestructible workplace. Oh, okay. Yeah. I read, I read a stat that you tweeted a couple of years ago that said, um, nurses had managed to reduce the rate of mistakes when they're giving subscriptions by like 80%, just by wearing like a vest that said, do not disturb me. Right. Exactly. So that's where I got the idea of that, uh, that screen sign that comes in every copy of the book is so these nurses in the UK actually, uh, it was this huge problem of prescription mistakes that patients were being prescribed the wrong medication or the wrong doses to medication. It turns out that in almost all cases it was caused by distraction. They were, you know, on their dosing rounds and somebody would tap them on their shoulder and disrupt them and then they would make mistakes. And the solution was that they had these nurses where these bright red vests that says drug round in progress, do not disturb. And they reduced the percentage of prescription mistakes by 88%. They almost eliminated the problem. And so I tell the story, I know that, you know, not everybody who reads the book is in the medical profession, but I tell the story to illustrate one, how we too don't realize the problem is happening until it's too late. Right. We think we're doing our job. We're doing great. Everything's fine. And just like these nurses, not until they came back to work the next day, did they realize, hey, did you realize you gave Mr. Johnson the wrong medication? You almost killed the man. Right. In that case, they got that immediate feedback. It's awful life threatening. For us, we don't realize how much better we could be at our jobs or at life when we work with that distraction. The, when I did, there's a whole section in the book on building an indestructible workplace. We found that there's three characteristics of an indestructible workplace. The first is that there is a play, sorry, a sense of psychological safety. This comes from the work of Amy Eddenson and at Harvard. And she's identified that psychological safety is this ability to talk about your problems without fear of retribution. So if you can't raise your hand and talk about the problem of distraction, hey, boss, you know, I, I'm really having trouble finishing my work because I constantly feel I'm interrupted. If you can't talk about that problem, that is the problem. It's not the technology. It's that you can't talk about the problem. So number one trait, psychological safety, the ability to talk about the problem. Second is a forum to talk about the problem. So a little sidebar, Slack was one of these products that a lot of people complained about when I was researching the book and I said, you know, what do you find most distracting and Slack kept coming up or other group messaging services, but Slack is the biggest or what was the biggest of the time. And so I went to visit Slack. I went to Slack headquarters in San Francisco. And I expected if Slack is this super distracting technology, well, nobody uses Slack more than Slack. I expected to see an office full of people who were constantly distracted. But that's not what I found at all. That at Slack, the parking lot clears out at 6 p.m. And if you use Slack on nights and weekends, you are reprimanded. You are told that is not what we do at our company. And what I found was that they exemplified these traits. There's another company I profound the book, but Slack is one of them. So they have psychological safety. They give people a forum. That's a second trait. They give people a forum to talk about the problem. And so they created Slack channels where people, it was called beef tweets. They had a Slack channel where people could post complaints or suggestions about the company. And so what was important about this as a practice, it doesn't have to be on Slack. Some companies, I profile Boston consulting group as well. They had a massive turnaround as well when it comes to their company culture. They went from one of the hardest places to work. It was my first job out of college. It was really rough from a work life balance perspective. Now it's one of the best places to work. According to the they got an award for one of the best places to work in America. And they did that by creating a forum, by creating a place to talk about the problem. So Slack has a Slack channel where people can talk about things that they want to improve with the company. And the important thing here is not that everything has to be acted upon. Management can decide what's important and what's not important, but employees need to be seen. So what does Slack management do? In order to make sure that people felt heard, they would use emoji. They would say like if somebody had a complaint, they would post the iemoji to show them, okay, we saw that or the check emoji to show them it's been taken care of. So it's a forum for people to talk about the problem and feel like they're heard. The third trait and the most important is that management needs to exemplify what it means to be indestractable. So when you walk into Slack headquarters, there's a huge pink neon sign, I also have a picture of it in the book, a huge pink neon sign in the company canteen that says work hard and go home. It's part of the company ethos that people do their best work when they're fully focused. And then after work they need time to be with their families, to do other things. So, and that was part of the company culture. So psychological safety, a forum to talk about these problems and making sure that management exemplifies what it means to be indestractable. So much of that, I'm going to implement. We have a closing tradition on this podcast where the last guest leaves the question for the next guest, not knowing who they're leaving a question before.
Last guest’s question (01:37:31)
It's a new tradition since you last came on. And the question that's been left for you is what is one idea that is important that most people would disagree with you on that you feel needs to be said. Oh, the Peter Thiel question. Okay, you asked me what I changed my mind on. And I mentioned it a few times in passing, but I've really changed my mind on the importance of religion in that I'm secular. I don't believe in anything supernatural, but I think we as skeptics, I would say, to describe us, whether you call yourself agnostic or atheist or whatever, we give up a lot. We give up a lot. And I've changed my mind on the fact that organized religion has a lot to offer us. And this is something I'm really struggling with, because I have such a problem with accepting the supernatural elements of religion. But the benefits are amazing, right? Taking care of people who you may not know directly, but are part of your community, having a place to go to that you know you will be taking care of as well, having rituals that mark the year. Higher purpose, a forced disconnection and reflection meditation prayer. There's so many things that I think we miss out on that I've I have a newfound respect for the benefits. I think a lot of a lot of people get stuck with you, but I can't believe the hocus pocus, right? The writing, the writing we said. But we miss a lot. And I think we we should acknowledge that. Thank you for writing such a great book. Thank you for coming back onto the podcast. You're an incredible person and I can't wait to buy whatever you write next. I appreciate that so much. It's a huge honor. Thank you so much. Thank you, Nick. Ladies and gentlemen, our newest brand partnership will come as no surprise to regular listeners on this podcast. The first episode of 2023, I was joined by the incredible Professor Tim Spector to hear more about his work at a company called Zoe, using data to understand our bodies better so that we can live more fulfilled higher potential lives. Zoe was born from the truth that our overall health is impacted by our gut health by helping you to understand how your body is working so he can help you to reduce your risk of long term disease and increase your energy levels. For me, this is the future. And that is why I became an investor in the company. And that is why they are now a sponsor of this podcast. You can read up about everything they're doing and you can preorder your Zoe program at joinzoey.com. And they've been kind enough to offer an exclusive 10% offcode CEO 10. So you can put that code in at checkout CEO 10. You got to the end of this podcast. Whenever someone gets to the end of this podcast, I feel like I owe them a greater debt of gratitude because that means you listen to the whole thing. And hopefully that suggests that you enjoyed it. If you are at the end and you enjoyed this podcast, could you do me a little bit of a favor and hit that subscribe button? That's one of the clearest indicators we have at this episode was a good episode. And we look at that on all of the episodes to see which episodes generated the most subscribers. Thank you so much. And I'll see you again next time.