Like lot’s of their work, Its a daily practice. When we focus on what we don’t want or like in any relationship or try to “fix” our partners or point out our partners areas for improvement, we actually are creating more distance towards what we do want in a relationship. We have to focus on the positives in our relationships, while still desiring or asking for, in a positive way, what we want additionally in our relationships. A challenging balance! The positive/negative bank account works the same in relationships!
Read something recently that really got me thinking about how most of us deal with problems. The Law of Attraction says what you focus on and the vibration or energy you create with that focus creates what we experience. So it seems most people are constantly talking about their problems. This doesn’t work, I wish my partner would be more like this, I don’t have enough money, I hate my job, ect, ect. I have gotten this in the past, but have learned from their message how it really can affect all aspects of of our life’s or all forms of abundance – health, money, and relationships.
What also became clearer is my personal part of a relationship. Lets take a friendship; a friend comes to me and says all his problems. Hicks’ says every moment we talk about his problems or me giving attention to his problems (thinking about them afterwards as well as during chat) is a moment further away from helping him and he helping himself. Their thinking is “there is no reason to deliberately stir up problems in order to stir up solutions”. Until you change the focus to thinking (and the new vibration/energy it creates) about the solution or what you desire, no change will occur. They also suggest my energies, as the listener, can be affected by this situation if I focus on the problems of my friend. Have you ever felt drained after listening to a friend or family member dump a problem(s) on you? How is your energy after that? How positive are you after that? Pay attention if that “negativity” last for a while in you or builds in your day? They say “Looking for the positive aspects and expecting good outcomes for your friends is the only way you can be of value to them, for there is no action that you can offer that is strong enough to buck your current of negative attention.”
Said another way I like “Nothing good ever comes from focusing in opposition to what you desire. It is detrimental to you and to whomever you draw into your negative conversation”………So, this is a much stronger reminder of my responsibility than I have thought about in the past. I have certainly felt drained from negative talk with a friend in the past and in the last few years have been playing with a “anti dumping strategy” in communication. I’ll give a person 5 minutes to dump, but no more unless we set up a specific time so I can be “prepared” to listen to the story. I’m doing this more often these days and sometimes its hard because I can feel not very compassionate or selfish. This reminder info has me thinking that this is part of the “why” I do not want to get caught up in these conversations too often as not focusing on the solution will not bring about the desired outcome. SO simple, get out of our old patterns and ways of communicating and focus on solutions!
Here are a few quotes from the book “Vortex” by Ester and Jerry Hicks. I have always liked their writings as their message is really pretty simple. So simple that they usually say the same thing over and over again in different ways and stories. A really good way to integrate their work.
“..the only way you can get rid of the things you don’t want is to give attention to the things you do want”
So simple and powerful to shift the focus. It’s so easy to fall in the trap of to keep thinking about the “negative” or things you don’t want. It seems we have a culture in the west of lack and a good dose of entitlement, I need this, I need that. But, its fine to want or need, but to do so from lack will not bring you those things.
I believe we actually have this “abundance bank account” that will be positive or negative depending on our positive or negative thoughts, feelings and actions. You can not attract things you want if for every positive thought or desire is offset with a negative thought or belief. Just like 1-1=0! Also, focusing on what you don’t have is the same thing as a negative thought as your putting out the energy of lack. This can be really hard as to align with the law of attraction as in practice as the Hicks say:
“you have to think the thought (of what you want) until it becomes reality, you must think it before you see it”.
What I have noticed is that people don’t understand this and/or have a challenge in creating the discipline to retain their thinking in this way. Also, I have noticed there is a patience one needs to have when working with this law, especially at first. Some people can actually have a negative “bank account” built up that may take some time to convert to positive (with more positive thoughts and actions). This can led to frustration and disbelief, which of course, fuels the negative side of the “bank account” again. However, with some patience you will get over the “negative” savings account and you will find the things you desire coming to you faster and faster. It’s cool to see you have way more power than you think!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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].”
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
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.”
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
99% of the value that people actually get out of Facebook, if you put
distraction aside, probably requires 20 minutes on Sunday.”
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.
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.”
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.