Silent Power

This is from one of my favorite author’s, Stuart Wilde. I thought it was a good reminder.

“Trying to win people over and hoping the world will accept you for your wonderfulness is futile and weak. It destroys your real power; the stress of it can make you ill. Even if you get what you want, it rarely lasts. Today’s success becomes tomorrow’s rejection. Leaning psychologically is a fault; it undermines what you are. Gradually you become a manifestation of other people’s reality – subject, of course, to all their fickle whims, moods, and power trips. By accommodating the ego in this way, you drift from the real spiritual you that dwells within – which is contained and solid – to a fake you that is brittle, self indulgent, and powerless.

You can tell people how marvelous you are, and a hundred others can sing your praises and pump your worth, but that is all PR and hype. In the end, you’re the only worth the etheric feeling you exude; everything else is illusion and dysfunction.

If you want to be accepted, accept yourself. If you want to be acknowledge, acknowledge yourself. Simple.”


Meditation has moved to a more “normal” thing theses days. Lot’s of people do it, it benefits are well know, there are multiple ways to learn and practice with a myriad of books, classes and apps. When I learned nearly 30 years ago this wasn’t the case, I certainly was teased for do it sometimes or had quizzical looks when I shared that I was a meditator. Of course, I did the same thing to the friend (thanks, Greg!) that recommended it to me until a few months later I finally decided to try it. Although I had a good very “feeling” first meditation that kept me wanting to continue to practice it everyday at the beginning, many people struggle these days starting and keeping a practice going.

I won’t mentioned all the physical and health benefits because you probably have heard them all. If not, a quick search reveals a pretty impressive list of them. For me, less stress and more energy are my favorites. I practice in the morning and when I finish I almost always have more energy and feel clearer mentally than when I started. Another powerful skill that comes with the practice is learning how to let your thoughts “go”. Most mediation practices involve following a mantra, your breath, someone else’s voice (guided) or just being aware of your senses and thoughts (mindfulness). The practice of all of them is essentially the same as whichever you choose as while meditating you will have thoughts and other senses come up that you will have to practice letting go of and returning to the meditation practice. This happens over and over and acutally never stops. I still today get caught up thinking about something and sometimes catch myself after minutes of thought. I have learned that this is the practice, just when I catch myself go back to the meditation practice. I guess that’s why is a practice, right?

Being able to watch your thoughts and not hold onto them so tight is a helpful skill. We can all get so caught up in our thoughts, especially negative ones that can really take over how we are feeling. I think it’s impossible for anyone to control their thoughts or keep certain ones from coming. Like the mind game, don’t think of a white horse. Pretty hard not too, right? But, wouldn’t it be great to have a bit more control on how long the negative or distracting ones stay around? How about changing a negative thought to a positive one? That would definitely led to less stress.

To me, its amazing how much time we focus on training our bodies to be strong, more flexible, eat better, look better and spend so little, if any, time “training” our minds. In away, you could make a case that our physical focus is really backwards. I feel most stresses and many illnesses come from the negative thoughts we repeat over and over to ourselves. Think a a negative story you have been repeating in your mind. How many times have you thought it and for how long? Minutes, days, years, decades? That has an impact. That negativity goes into the body, just like a knot you have in a muscle that you can feel. So, it almost makes more sense to make mind “training” more of a priority.

Certainly meditation won’t solve all one’s problems and talking about mind training is not what typically comes up in discussion of meditation. I just wanted to offer another way of looking at mediation and have it be another reason to give it a try now. These days its pretty easy to try different ones. A lot of people use apps on the phone like headspace, which seems real easy. Other sources such as Deepak Chopa’s series, 10% happier and Waking up apps mix in discussions and lot’s of good information about meditation. If you are new to meditation try a few and see how they feel for you. Download some or head to a book store. If you want to start right now. Take a few minutes and just breathe. Close your eyes and take a big, deep, long inhale and kind of follow/visualize your breath coming through your nose and then staring to feel your belly filling up and going up into your chest and then the reverse with a long relaxed exhale. If you have time, do it for 5 minutes. If not, take three breaths like this. When you get sidetracked with thoughts, just breathe again. That is meditation, simple and no technology needed!

Remember to not be discouraged if you don’t “feel” something right away. The important part is to keep practicing. I would also offer not to worry about how long you practice, just do something as close to daily as you can. Most people find mornings best, though I practiced after work for many years and found it was a great reset for my evening. Meditation is often subtle and feeling different or its benefits may take some time, just as a physical training goal might take. Both take a bit of effort, but well worth it.

Feeling Abundant

Okay, Eckhart Tolle style can take some getting used to, but I find when I listen to him, I seem to always learn something. I have his “A New Earth” book on CD and I listen to it once a year or so. Every time I hear something “new”. Sometimes, I swear to myself, he never said that before……

Below is a 3 minute video on him talking about abundance and I just love when he suggests that “there is no abundance without the feeling of abundance”.  A pretty simple concept, but to me, profound. In each moment, I can chose to feel abundance in some way or another and it just is there. When I think of some reason not to feel abundant, which is ongoing, my practice is to just go back to the feeling of some abundance I have now and peace and happiness just are there like they never left, which of course, they didn’t, I kinda just changed the channel with my thinking.


Happy thoughts

Kind of easy to see the differences in people’s happiness around us today….

“You may think people are unhappy because of their circumstances and the fact that the world is full of trouble. But in fact, the world is full of trouble because the people are not happy. Happy people are kind to and respectful of others, while unhappy people are abusive to both themselves and others, and, either way, this affects the world around them. How we feel effects what we think and believe, our actions, and every action has a reaction.”

Listening takes practice

I have a book called “Five good minutes with the one you love” (Brantley & Millstine). I like its format of “100 short practices to deepen & renew your love everyday” put in a very simple and easy way. They give a short description of a topic regarding relationships and then give some suggested steps towards improving and/or renewing it. I have read and played with a few of them and find they can be used in most of our relationships. So far, from the ones I have read, the common theme I see is to be mindful or present with who you are with. Basic, right?

However, this is easier said than done. For example, how many of you while on the phone are practicing multi tasking? While talking, are your checking emails, organizing, cleaning the house, driving or making something in the kitchen? How about the classic of talking to someone and at the same time looking who’s on Facebook or Skype to talk/chat with? How about talking face to face (novel, I know) and your still not completely there; thinking about your to do list, bored, frustrated with the topic or formulating a response before completely “hearing” theirs?

Are we really listening while we are multi tasking or carrying on 3 conversations at once? Are we sometimes craving to be heard at a deeper level, but do not fully listen ourselves? Could we learn more about someone by listening closer?

Their practice on this subject, number 35, is titled “affectionate listening”.

They offer – How often is your attention elsewhere when your partner is speaking?
A deeper connection and more joy are close at hand when you replace inattention with affectionate listening.

They give these steps to practice:

1. When your partner is speaking to you, notice where your attention is. Notice also any feelings of impatience or mental “stories” that may be going through your head. Acknowledge them and let them go.
2. Take a moment to breath mindfully for a few breaths.
3. Set your intention. For example: “May I be more present for him”
4. As he speaks to you, focus mindfully on the sounds. Notice tone, pace, and volume, as well as meaning.
5. Look more closely at him. If you are on a phone, close your eyes and picture him.
6. As you listen, let gentle feelings of warmth and affection flow within you.
7. Let attention and affection guide your own words in response.

I like this practice as it brings us back to connection, being present with someone. I think if we were more present, that phone call might not need to last as long so you would not feel like filling the “space” doing something else at the same time. Of course, if you not able to be present in the moment or only have a certain amount of time to be present, communicating that to someone is just as important. For me, this builds relationships in a clear, conscious way.

Focus on joy

I really like this as a practice. See if you can avoid talking about problems for even one day. Every time you catch yourself starting to talk AND think about them, just stop and talk and think about your joys instead. Just one day. Notice what that day feels like.

Being Present

This is a great reminder from Eckhart Tolle.

Wherever you are, be there totally

If you find you here and now is intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options:

  1. Remove yourself from the situation.
  2. Change it.
  3. Accept it totally.

If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those options, and you must choose now. Then, accept the consequences.

Why We’ll Look Back at Our Smartphones Like Cigarettes

I really liked some of the thoughts that this article touches on regarding technology today and its possible effects in the various aspects of our lives. I really agree with the concept in the last paragraph that we are becoming so impatient with any down tech time (not staring a some screen) that we are sacrificing self reflection time of our lives or missing out on higher quality activities. Like cigarettes, were are hooked, until we really see the damage its doing and can create the discipline to break the damaging side of too much tech.

A Q+A with the computer scientist about his new book Digital Minimalism, why future workplaces may go email-free, and why tech backlash is about to go mainstream.

By Clay SkipperJanuary 23, 2019

In 2004, when Cal Newport was still an undergrad at Dartmouth, all his friends were making accounts on a new website called Facebook. Newport opted out. This was not the moral or political objection it might be today. “There was very little scary about 2004 Facebook,” he says. His reasons were twofold. One, he has always disliked listing his favorite things, and back then Facebook “was this presentation of self-fame: ‘Here’s my favorite movies, my favorite books.’” Two, he had, not long before, shut down a tech company he’d started during the dot com boom. He wasn’t exactly jazzed, then, that all of his buddies were so excited about this Zuckerberg guy’s project. “There was probably a little bit of petty jealousy,” Newport says. “Like: ‘Oh why is his company so popular? I’m not gonna give him the satisfaction of using his product.’”

Well, anyone who says jealousy doesn’t serve you should speak to Newport. Because that vendetta ended up giving him a unique perspective: While everyone else was sucked up in the ultra-connected, social media vortex, Newport maintained his distance. As Facebook’s presence mushroomed exponentially, Newport found himself watching and wondering, why are people so into this?

Those seeds of doubt grew into a hearty techno-skepticism that inspired both his hit 2016 book Deep Work (about the merits of mono-tasking and deep concentration in a world of constant distraction) and his newest release: Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. It presents a “philosophy of technology use” rooted in reclaiming control and intention back from the devices and platforms that have hijacked it.

Newport suggests beginning with a thirty-day detox during which you stop using any “optional technologies” that you can forgo without causing harm in your professional or personal life (you probably need email; you probably don’t need Facebook). That seems like a lot to ask, but trust: beyond this initial cleanse, digital minimalism is actually much more accessible than many of the prevailing anti-tech approaches that tell you to throw your phone in a river and save your brain while you still can. Newport doesn’t deny that the technology we use is both useful and imperative. (He is, after all, a professor of computer science at Georgetown.) The problem in our current digital world, he argues, isn’t about utility, it’s about autonomy: tech greatly improves our life, right up until the point where you stop using it intentionally and unknowingly fall into manipulative black holes—on your phone, on Slack, in your inbox—that are specifically designed to be addicting.

The theory is that with thirty days of abstinence, you’ll be able to figure out when tech stops being useful and starts being problematic. With that extra time, you’ll not only re-discover the meaningful leisure activities you left behind when scrolling through Instagram became a national pastime; you’ll also get a better sense of the values and goals that matter to you. Then, you can intentionally add back the digital tools that’ll enhance, rather than distract from, the things you want. (For instance, maybe Facebook is the most effective way to keep in touch with far-off family, or Twitter is the best, most up-to-the-moment source of news—but you should at least press pause long enough to reevaluate if that’s true.)

What’s more, Newport compares the burgeoning “attention resistance,” in which people enact these purposeful guidelines for how they engage with tech, to America’s current fitness obsession. If the explosion of CrossFit, boutique fitness, and hard-bodied Instagram influencers was a reaction to the increase in processed foods—and, subsequently, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease—in the 20th Century, then, Newport believes, we’re going to see a similar explosion of lifestyle trends that counter tech’s takeover of the early 21st Century. If that proves true, then movements like digital minimalism aren’t just some marginal fad. In the world of health and wellness, they might be the next frontier.

GQ: I want to jump right to one of the ideas at the core of your book: techno-maximalism. Digital minimalism is a response to it. How would you define techno-maximalism?
Cal Newport: It arose in the 1990s. The basic idea is that technological innovations can bring value and convenience into your life. So, you assess new technological tools with respect to what value or convenience it can bring into your life. And if you can find one, then the conclusion is, “If I can afford it, I should probably have this.” It just looks at the positives. And it’s view is “more is better than less,” because more things that bring you benefits means more total benefits. This is what maximalism is: “If there’s something that brings value, you should get it.”

What is so pernicious about that type of thinking?
People have been writing about why this is a bad idea in different contexts for a really long time, actually. Thoreau was really on this, looking at economic maximalism, at fellow farmers in Concord in Massachusetts. He was saying, “They have this mindset of, ‘If having this much land makes me this much profit, then having twice as much will make me twice as much profit, so that’s twice as good. You want to get as much land as possible.’”

He had this rhetoric that I think is still relevant today, even in the digital world, which is: there’s a cost [to these additions]. You can’t just say, “Another hundred acres of land is gonna give me another hundred dollars a month of profit.” You also have to say, “Another hundred acres of land is gonna cost me another 30 hours a week of labor, and that’s life that I’m losing.” He had this great example: Consider the farmer who buys the new wagon and says, “It now takes me only 20 minutes to get to town, instead of an hour, so I’ve saved myself time. What a great investment!'” Yeah, but if you do the numbers, you’re having to work two extra hours a week to afford the wagon. So actually, you’re worse off.

Digital minimalism is the same thing. We see these tools, and we have this narrative that, “You can do this on Facebook,” or “This new feature on this device means you can do this, which would be convenient.” What you don’t factor in is, “Okay, well what’s the cost in terms of my time attention required to have this device in my life?” Facebook might have some particular thing that’s valuable, but then you have the average U.S. user spending something like 50 minutes a day on Facebook products. That’s actually a pretty big [amount of life] that you’re now trading in order to get whatever the potential small benefit is.

[Maximalism] ignores the opportunity cost. And as Thoreau pointed out hundreds of years ago, it’s actually in the opportunity cost that all the interesting math happens.

One of the problems here is a sort of digital FOMO. “If I don’t have that thing”—Facebook, Instagram, whatever—”what benefit might I be missing out on?” You’re pretty unplugged. How do you deal with that digital FOMO?
There’s a rarefied number of activities to invest time in that are really important and return a lot of value—the amount of value [in these activities] is way higher than, say, the little bit of value you get by seeing a funny Tweet or writing a comment on a friend’s Facebook post. Spreading your time and attention over these low value things takes your time and attention away from the things that are disproportionately higher value.

If you want to maximize the amount of value you feel in your life, the mathematics are clear: You want to put as much of your time and effort as possible into the small number of things to give you these huge rewards. When you think about it that way, fear of missing out looks like, just mathematically speaking, a really bad strategy.

“You’re gonna look at allowing a 13-year-old to have a smartphone the same way that you would look at allowing your 13-year-old to smoke a cigarette.”

Most people value their social life, and connection, and community. When people take their energy, and, in a really focused manner, say, “Here’s how I’m going to connect with my family, my close friends, and have good standing in my community through these high-energy, real world, analog type interactions and commitments”—people who do that frequently feel a much stronger value and sense of social connection than someone who is dissipating that energy to try to maintain one of these very large, weakly-connected, arbitrary social media friend contact groups [with] lots of comments, and Happy Birthday!’s, and likes.

I don’t fear missing out. I fear not giving enough attention to the things that I already know for sure are important.

You talk about how we’re always ceding our autonomy to these devices. I understand the immediate implications of that—you’re not being intentional with your time, you’re not in control of how you use it—but what are some of the long-term ramifications of always craving that constant hit of stimuli and distraction?
You get actual lasting changes to your brain chemistry. Now you have a brain that needs stimuli just to get back up to normal. Just like the drug addict: after a while it takes more and more drugs just get back to normal.

If you train your brain, “I always have to have stimuli. I can’t be bored for a moment,” you’re gonna have both professional and social ramifications. Professionally, it makes it very difficult to concentrate without distraction. I wrote a whole book about this called Deep Work that makes us log arguments for why it’s really valuable in our current economy to be able to focus very intensely. So to train yourself out of your ability to do that is sort of like economic self-sabotage.

Personally, it can be impoverishing. Not just in a way that it takes time away from things that are more important, but when you’re doing things in your personal life, you extract much less value out of them, because you can’t sustain presence or attention. Going out for a drink with a friend is not as satisfying as it might have been 10 years ago, because you just have this itch the whole time, “I gotta check [my phone].”

You float the idea that the freshness of devices will wear off and we’ll be left to re-evaluate how we engage with this technology. What do you think might happen in the next five to ten years?
My prediction is things like digital minimalism are going to become much more popular. When I say “things like digital minimalism,” I mean named philosophies of technology use. I think the right analogy is food and fitness.

If you look at the 20th century, we had this influx of highly processed food and fast food, and, as a result, we had a large increase in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome. At first, the way we tried to deal with these was with tips and good intentions: “Try to eat better, try to move more. Here’s a food pyramid, look at this. This will tell you what to do.” But it was really ineffective. As people got more and more fed up with being less healthy, now we’re starting to see changes. But if you ask yourself who’s the healthiest person you know, almost certainly they subscribe to some sort of named philosophy that helps them make consistent and value-driven decisions about what they eat and how they move. Maybe they’re vegan or paleo. These named philosophies emerged as a response to, “There’s a real health issue, and the forces behind it are too strong for just good intentions and advice to solve it.”

The transition we’re going through now with digital technology is like that transition. People are shifting from self-deprecating jokes, like, “Ah, I spend too much time on my phone,” to actually being concerned. They’ve already read the article about turning off your notifications. They’ve already heard about digital Shabbat, that you should put your phone away for a night, or that you shouldn’t have your phone in the room before you go to bed. They’ve heard these tips; it’s not making a difference.

“Like 99% of the value that people actually get out of Facebook, if you put distraction aside, probably requires 20 minutes on Sunday.”

Digital minimalism is a clear philosophy: you figure out what’s valuable to you. For each of these things you say, “What’s the best way I need to use technology to support that value?” And then you happily miss out on everything else. It’s about additively building up a digital life from scratch to be very specifically, intentionally designed to make your life much better.

There might be other philosophies, just like in health in fitness. More important to me than everyone becoming a digital minimalist, is people in general getting used to this idea that, “I have a philosophy that’s really clear and grounded in my values that tells me how I approach technology.” Moving past this ad-hoc stage of like, “Whatever, I just kind of signed up for maximalist stage,” and into something a little bit more intentional.

I feel like we’re at an inflection point, where we could go that way. But I can also see the other way, where we just keep using these devices without thinking about it and we all become digital zombies.
As someone that’s been pounding the drum for a while, I noticed a real big shift about two years ago. Something is different now than it was then. Clearly there’s a fulcrum right around the presidential election. The week after, I had an Op-Ed in the New York Times, in which I was saying critical things about social media. And I got the standard response to that: a lot of pushback, a lot of, “This is crazy. Here’s all these benefits. You’re a loon.”

But by, let’s say, December of that year, or January of the next year, this TED Talk I had done on quitting social media had jumped from a small number of views to millions of views. Somewhere right around there, there was this inflection point. Pre-Trump election, many people still had the model of technology that Silicon Valley had been pitching, which is this idea that, to quote Bill Maher, these are just gifts being handed down by the nerd gods. Just purely positive.

The election really shook things up, because for just about everyone, on all sides of the political spectrum, it introduced at least one negative narrative about social media. If you’re on the left, there were these sort of narratives about, “Wait a second, Facebook has some involvement in Donald Trump, and the Russians were using it.” If you’re on the right, there were these narratives about censorship, like, “Well, maybe they’re censoring what we’re allowed to post or not post”… [And that] changed the way that people categorize social media in their minds. This went from something like, “The notion of it having flaws is something that doesn’t makes sense to me,” to “Now that I see that it could have flaws, all of the sudden, I’m seeing all these cracks.”

And the other thing that’s happening is that the psychological data on young people is just incredibly distressing. Hospitalizations for self-harm, for example, among young women of Gen Z, so the first generation to grow up with smartphones and social media from their very earliest pre-teen years, it’s like a hockey stick. This isn’t curmudgeonly stuff. This is 13-year-olds who are going to the hospital at unprecedented levels. It’s social media. Nothing else fits the timing. This starts right around the time that about 50% of people that age had access to a smartphone. And I think that’s going to significantly change the way we think about use in these technologies.

It’s just like with smoking, where we started by making it illegal for people under 18. That was the beginning of, “Well, wait a second, if it’s so dangerous for them, why am I doing it so much?”

How do you see this playing out in the political realm? Do you think there will be regulations?
I don’t know if there’s gonna be regulations or not. I’m convinced that within a five-year window, the culture’s gonna shift on young people and smartphones. You’re gonna look at allowing a 13-year-old to have a smartphone the same way that you would look at allowing your 13-year-old to smoke a cigarette. The data is so stark—and a lot of this is really recent—that it’s gonna shift. No responsible parent’s going to want to do it… I think that’s gonna be a cultural shift that’s probably gonna happen, maybe even before regulation is needed.

I’m a skeptic on a lot of privacy legislation, just because I’m a computer scientist who knows it’s very, very hard to even get a sensible definition of what privacy means. So, I personally don’t see the regulatory arena as being what’s gonna save us here. I think what’s gonna save us is this idea that we don’t need the giant walled garden platforms to attract the value of the internet. We would be fine if Facebook went away. A lot of the problems that we’re facing—almost all the problems I write about—are an artifact of trying to consolidate the internet behind the walled gardens of one private company. You go back to the wild, decentralized social internet, and most of the issues that people worry about go away.

“We’re not properly valuing attention capital. We’re not properly valuing how to get the right return out of human brains.”

Just like we went through the AOL phase before people were comfortable with web browsers. The whole pitch of AOL was, “We’re easier. It’s a walled garden we control. The internet’s scary. You have to download a web browser. The web is weird, you want to be on AOL.” And then people left, like, “Actually, I’m okay with the internet”—only old people were left on AOL. I think we’ll see the same thing with these walled gardens. I don’t need a Facebook account in order to meet interesting people, encounter interesting ideas, and express myself using the internet.

Sometimes a sense of morality can get inserted into this. It’s like when people first went gluten-free—when someone said they were gluten-free, you felt like it was kind of an implicit attack on everyone who wasn’t gluten-free. I’m curious if you’ve encountered any resistance of that sort when you’re telling people about this digital minimalism plan.
That’s like the last five years of my life. I’m like the first gluten-free person, or the first person to do yoga. Like, “You gotta do yoga!” There is a lot defensiveness. I’m seeing a lot of that changing as more and more people accept this.

And the other thing I’m seeing that’s effective is this minimalist’s additive message: “How can you make your life better? Here’s how to put technology to work in a more intentional way, and you’ll get much bigger return.” What you’re selling is this sort of better life. That’s different than focusing on the reductive approach, and saying, “Here’s why this thing is bad, and you’re stupid to be using it.”

Minimalism is much more positive. This is why a big focus of the book is this 30-day declutter process, which is actually a bit unusual for my writing. I don’t usually have processes like that. But I thought this was really important, because it was a way for people to actually go through a ritual and come out the other side with a different type of life… This additive of, “I’m rebuilding my life better,” as opposed to, “I’m just trying to identify what’s bad,” does reduce defensiveness.

You can make a career now just by being a micro influencer on Instagram. Those things make me think maybe we’re trending towards more, not less, social media use.
This whole edifice depends on this really arbitrary cultural decision that we’re all gonna look at these screens, and feed them demographic data, and look at ads all day. That’s what makes it so valuable. And this was a shift. You can go back and trace this. Essentially, Facebook made its shift to mobile [when] its investors were like, “Okay, we want our 100x return. Figure out how we can get that.” [Facebook] had to significantly boost their numbers. And that’s when they they shifted to mobile: “Let’s change this experience from this much more slow-moving, browser-based experience where you come in, you check to see what your friends are up to, but there’s no reason you’d check back the same day, because your friends aren’t gonna change something on their Facebook profile that day.” So they had all these innovations—adding likes, comments, re-Tweets, auto-tagging in photos—so they could create these rich streams of social approval indicators that get delivered in an addictive, intermittent fashion. They created this arbitrary behavior of, “I have to keep tapping this thing throughout the day.”

Then, that allowed them to build this whole edifice: “Now we know everything about you, and can sell things to you all day long.” I think that’s way more shaky than they’d probably like to admit. It took this careful attention engineering, and cultural engineering, to try to make this seem innovative, and high-tech, and like you had to be doing this. If that falls apart, the whole thing goes. They need you using this a lot, all day long. If you go back, and say, “Yeah, I use Facebook groups, and I check in on my daily pictures, and I do it on my browser—that takes me 20 minutes on Sunday,” they’re out of business. Like 99% of the value that people actually get out of Facebook, if you put distraction aside, probably requires 20 minutes on Sunday.

I know you’re working on a book called A World Without Email. I’m curious how realistic you think that is, and how you think the role of email will change.
Basically what we’ve done is we’ve taken this sort of paleolithic tribal model of communication: “Hey, there’s three or four of us hunting the mastodon, we just have this unstructured back and forth conversation, and we just attack. You go over there, I’ll go over here. Did you see this? You, circle around.” We’ve taken this and tried to scale it up the large companies. We talk over email messages, or Slack. It’s this ongoing, unstructured conversation. We’ve decided this is the right way to run an organization.

Turns out, this is a huge failed experiment. Partially because we know from the research, that this type of ad-hoc, unstructured conversation, once you get above about five people, it doesn’t work. As we shift towards knowledge work, where we’re trying to create value with our brains, maintaining that conversation requires topic context switching, which is like poison to cognitive performance. We’ve invented an approach to organizing our work that makes us really terrible at what we do.

“Yes, it’s scary not to be distracted, but I think it’s even more scary to avoid all of the deep good that comes from having to just be there with yourself, and confront all of those difficulties and opportunities that entails.”

We’re gonna see the role of knowledge work evolve past a workflow in which we just say, “Everybody has an email address, let’s rock and roll.” We’re gonna move past that into much more structured approaches to work that are heavily dependent on what you do for the company, and how we can actually help you produce the most value from your brain in the most sustainable manner…

We’re leaving a lot of money on the table. It’s like the way they used to build cars before the assembly line. It’s just a terrible way to work. No one really designed it, it emerged haphazardly once these communication technologies were introduced. And we’re getting to a point where people are gonna step back and say, “I could make a lot more profit if I was willing to step away from this really easy but terribly ineffective way of organizing work.”

We’re not properly valuing attention capital. We’re not properly valuing how to get the right return out of human brains.

You write about digital distraction as a way we can avoid ever having to be with ourselves. What’s the value in having to turn inward?
You have to actually confront yourself and engage in self-reflection: thinking about your life, what’s important, what’s working, and what’s not working. And this process of self-shaping is absolutely crucial to building an impactful and flourishing life. That’s when you shape yourself. That’s when a life of focus and value is built.

The second thing, and maybe this sounds a bit more trivial, is that through time immemorial, the way that people dealt with this void—whenever they were lucky enough to be in a time and place where they had some leisure time—was to seek out high quality leisure activities…. usually highly social, highly skilled activities. As Aristotle used to write, these activities you do just for the sake of the activities—just for the quality and joy of it—gives you this resilience that makes it much easier to deal with all the other hardships of life. Your life is not just all hardships, there’s these things that we do that are intrinsically full and joyful.

If you can taper over the void with a constant stream of distractions—make it just comfortable enough that you don’t have to confront it—you’re in a really bad situation. Now you’re avoiding that self-reflection that you need to actually grow up and to build a life worth living. Also, you can distract yourself enough that you never have to answer that drive to actually fill your life with the quality activities: getting engaged with your community; picking up a skilled hobby; art and poetry; these type of things.

I think it’s actually pretty dire. Yes, it’s scary not to be distracted, but I think it’s even more scary to avoid all of the deep good that comes from having to just be there with yourself, and confront all of those difficulties and opportunities that entails.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

No “dumping” zone

No dumping zone - abundance guy

I had a link on last weeks post to this blog back in 2017. I couldn’t figure out how to fix it, so I just thought I’d repost the blog:)

Do you feel people are often “dumping ” their problems on you?

Do you feel like you can’t say no or stop someone from talking about their problems? Does it leave you tired?

Do you feel obligated to hear someone’s problems? is it supportive for you?

It feels good to vent now and then and I enjoy supporting family and friends that are working through issues. However, to hear someone go on and on about their problems, especially when its filled with gossip or blaming others is usually draining. I certainly have noticed this for myself. Sometimes when I feel this obligation to listen, I notice a few things happen. First, I resent it and my energy gets drained. Also, I’m not as present as I’m usually wanting the conversation to end after a while………. Any of you, start checking emails or doing chores around the house when a conversation becomes one sided? How much value are we really adding in this “not so present” listening mode. If someone is really stuck in “drama” mode, getting stuck talking excessively about the problem, gossiping or blaming others for their situation, that is a lot of negativity to hear. I feel it eventually it starts to drain ones energy.

In the past I have gotten mad at myself for “listening” too long as now my energy has been affected, sometimes lasting for hours or more after I leave the conversation. No matter how much we love someone, does allowing our energy to be drained really serve either person? I feel keeping my energy high actually helps the other, even if they can’t see or feel it.

A few years back, I added a 5 minute “dumping” rule for myself. That is, I would allow 5 minutes of “dumping” to go on in a conversation and if it went beyond I then asked the person if we could schedule a time (if I wanted to) when I could better listen and be present for them. I would say something like, “this sounds like a really important issue for you and I want to hear you when I can be fully present” or being more direct, “it is sometimes draining for me to hear someone talk at length about their problems when my energy is not so strong”. If their was a lot of gossip and blame, I sometimes would offer, “I feel I might be more helpful to you to be a sounding board for SOLUTIONS to your problem” (rather than gossiping and blaming others). Of course, communicating this can be a delicate balance in relationships. I have noticed that it is best to bring up how you want to communicate in the future to those closer relationships, as in the heat of the moment can be a bit harder for the other person to handle. Practice those “I” messages when communicating, “I feel this way”…..”I notice this about myself when”, ect. We all are allowed to feel how we feel about something.

Know that this is a practice and you will likely mess it up, at least I do. I believe in taking small steps to improvement  and that often comes as two steps forward and one step back.

I have been practicing this 5 minute rule more these days. It takes some communication and patience and what I found was and is that when I did this with some people they would eventually dump somewhere else and in many circumstances our connection grew as we more frequently moved into real feelings and solutions when some of the drama was removed. Also, there is an definite energy shift when you change from talking about the problem to talking about the solution.

This is still a work in progress for me and I’m always on the look out for creative ways in dealing with “dumping”, so let me know if you have any ideas!

Energy Bus

I read a book called the energy bus a while back and really like the simple message the author had in an entertaining story format. The story in a nut shell is about a guy with nothing going right in life learns how to be responsible for his own energy. The story gets going as the guy hops on a bus, after his car breaks down, and gets on a bus with a “special” bus driver. The bus driver over the days he is taking the bus, teaches him some steps to improving his energy and thus his life. Though it is more focused on the guy’s business life, it has a lot of lessons that are great reminders for everyday life. 

The book has 12 “steps” to creating better “energy” for yourself and the one that I resonate now as I reflect back on the book it is “getting rid of energy vampires”. Basically, saying we do not have to keep relationships that are taking our energy away or draining us over and over. I would offer that can be very important in your overall daily attitude and health. It seems there are willing “energy vampires” that will dump their problems on you until your glossed over and drained. I think some of us do not realize how draining these conversations can be. I feel sometimes we can get caught up in others story and or feel obligated to listen. For those relationships that truly are draining the book says, get rid of them.

I agree for the most part, as it seems life’s too short to let yourself get “energetically sucked” all the time. So, saying no to being “dumped on” is important to me. I wrote an earlier blog about having a 5 minute dumping rule (click here) you might be interested in reading.  In that, I mention that it usually feels better to handle more difficult conversations on your terms, when your energy is higher and your better prepared. Also, guiding or requesting conversations to focus on solutions always feels better to me. With taking about solutions I feel I can keep my energy higher and of course, that conversion usually has more positive energy around it.

Clearly their are certain relationships that maybe more complex that you chose keep or maintain for various reasons and times when you just have to “be there” for someone in time of need. I’m just suggesting to take a look at the those consistent “energy vampires” in your life. Also, even though a person maybe be a co worker you must be around or maybe a family member, that still doesn’t let you off the hook for “managing” that particular relationship. Often, having the courage to tackle the tough relationships often leads to a better relationship and/or just more energy for you.