How to Quit Social Media and Master Your Focus | Cal Newport on Impact Theory



why is social media you seem to correlate directly with rises in anxiety depression and self-harm there seems to be from the most recent research literature sort of one distinctly positive thing from social media and two distinctly negative so the two distinctly negative things is one they call it social snacking but essentially you replace actual high quality face-to-face interaction the type of connections that you need to thrive as a social being you replace it with the low friction interaction online and it's not a fair trade the second issue is social comparison so it's just not healthy for us to constantly be looking at these carefully curated positive portrayals of everyone's life that's not we're not wired for it and so that also makes us less happy so it's it's it's the social comparison which directly makes us less happy in the social snacking which keeps us away from the type of actual interactions that would make us more happy thanks for tuning in to this episode of impact theory sponsored by our friends at Skillshare enjoy the episode welcome to impact Theory our goal with this show and company is to introduce you to the people and ideas that will help you actually execute on your dreams alright today's guest is a Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestselling author who earned his PhD in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT he's the author of six books his work has been published in more than 20 languages and he's written 60 peer-reviewed papers that have been cited more than 3500 times he's a Provost distinguished professor of computer science at Georgetown University but ironically he's most famous for his views on digital minimalism his TED talk and why you should quit social media has been viewed over 5 million times and his work on this topic and related topics such as doing deep work and avoiding a life of distraction have been read by millions of people around the world his insights and expertise have made him one of the most sought-after minds on the subject and he's been featured in most major publications including the New York Times The Wall Street Journal The New Yorker The Washington Post and The Economist to name but a few so please help me in welcoming the man who true to his core philosophy has never had a social media account the best-selling author of so good they can't ignore you and digital minimalism Cal Newport show horse I'm super excited to have you because I have been beyond obsessed with you since you changed my entire view on passion yes so I was the passion guy talked about passion all the time have to have in your life yeah it's the answer oh and then a friend was like did you have to read this book it's all about how passion following your passion is actually bad advice yes so walk us through why is following your passion bad advice yeah well I mean I wrote that book in 2012 because I was going through a career transition so I was finishing up grad school I was in sort of a postdoc year going on to the job market to be in academic which if you do right means you your first and last job interviews your whole life and so I had this idea that if there was ever a time I was going to get leverage out of understanding how do people end up really loving their careers this was the point in my life where I'd get the most leverage and so since I'd written a couple books I figured instead of just looking into this on my own I can write a book about it as an excuse to interview some people so I went out there look at the research literature talk to a lot of people who seem to love what they do and try to get to the bottom of it how do people get there and the first thing you discover if you research this topic is especially at the time the most common advice is follow your passion right that's what everyone was saying you got to get after it you got a crush to just get after your passion and just figure that out and everything else will work out but you spend a little bit of time looking at the research literature you know a little bit of time talking to people who are actually passionate and asking their story and you see this advice really isn't that good if anything actually telling someone follow your passion might reduce the probability that they end up passionate about their work that's interesting why yeah well there's a couple issues so one that advice presupposes that most people have an intrinsic passion that they can identify through introspection and then use as the basis of their career choices we don't have a lot of evidence that's true in fact most people probably don't have a clearly identifiable passion this is especially probably true of young people people coming out let's say college where this type of thinking becomes very important so you tell someone who doesn't have this clear fashion I just gotta follow your passion you're setting them up right for failure it's already they're gonna be really worried and then second we don't have a lot of evidence that connecting a job to a pre-existing interest plays a big role in whether or not you get deep satisfaction out of that job that's really surprising yeah so so we have decades of research on what leads people to actually feel sort of motivation towards their job what lease them to be satisfied and it turns out that the traits have very little to do with this intrinsic match it has more to do with things like impact mastery connection with people doing something worthwhile getting better at a skill that's valued if you get these generic traits you tend to enjoy your job more and more in fact the research shows that if you can take a group of people who all had the same job and then they interviewed them to try to understand how they felt about it the main differentiating factor on what separated someone from feeling like the job was a calling versus just a job was how long they'd been doing it that is very surprised because the longer they'd been doing it the better they got at the bigger sense of impact they had the more connection they had the people and so in my in my book what I basically flipped the script and said what I'm actually observing out there is that maybe eight times out of ten if you interview someone who really loves what they're doing they probably started without a clear-cut vision that this is what I meant to do but what they did commit to was getting very good getting very good at skills becoming very impactful building mastery and that for this eight out of ten cases the passion follows the mastery yeah that that to me is it was one of those as soon as I was reading what you were talking about I was like oh my god this makes so much sense and I'm so glad that I read it when I did because as I stepped in front of the camera and started talking to people about how to build success in their life the the like outpouring of crushing anxiety that I got from people that that like yo I don't have a passion I don't know what I'm supposed to do like you're so lucky you you know you have this passion and I thought it's interesting though because it didn't start as a passion it actually started as what I'll call a minor area of interest and then tracing that back through the framework of your book and realizing whoa like this was a process it made me want to package it up in a way that I could get people and say you're misconstruing my own story and let me tell you what I actually did to get here do you have like a package that you give people that says alright step one do this step two do this if you really want to end up being passionate well you can you can shrink it all the way down to Steve Martin's advice which is where I got the title for the book which was be so good they can't ignore you it's like that's what Martin used to tell aspiring entertainers and what he said was well they always were hoping there was gonna be some secret or here's how you get noticed or hear so you get the right age and what he would always tell them is be so good they can't ignore you if you do that lots of other good things will come and so I ended up naming that book so good they can't ignore you is because that advice basically turns out to be incredibly applicable especially if you're new let's say you're new to the job market you're right out of school you want to be passionate about what you do by far probably the most important thing you can do the most important step you can take if you want to maximize the probability that you have a fantastic working life put your head down and go into apprentice mode I'm gonna master something that's unambiguously valuable you do that on that foundation all sorts of really good things come good things that include real satisfaction and passion for your work but I want to go back and really wrap everything up around the passion idea so are you saying that somebody could take something that intrinsically that zero interest or maybe even negative interest and simply by getting good that they will develop passion for it and do you think there's anything automatic in there about mastery equals passion in a sort of one-to-one way or is it you do need to start with something that you find intrinsically interesting it's just not necessarily going to be anything that feels like it could one day be a passionate yeah the latter is the right way to think about it and basically we have to lower the bar so we have to lower the bar from this impossible height where we put it which is you have a one true passion and if you figure it out you're gonna love your work starting the next day and if you get it wrong you're destined for a life of misery like we have to lower that bar down to there are many different things upon which you could build a life of real fulfillment and passion but it's not just dart throwing right I mean it has to be something that you have an interest in it has to be something that you think would reward you with more flexibility and options as you got better at it right so so it's not just arbitrary but most people could probably pretty quickly identify six or seven directions that pass those qualifiers and so a lot of what I'm saying is that's enough that's enough worth to pass the bar I like this maybe it matches some of my skills I like the options it would open up if I did it well it seems to resonate in some sort of ill-defined or ambiguous way that's all enough for something to be the foundation of a passionate career and there's probably a lot of things that that pass that criterion that's okay so now going to the idea of a apprenticeship there was an article written recently that I found really interesting and it brought out in me a rant so let's see how wonderful the inflammatory we can be here while being very honest this woman wrote an article saying whoa I have this business I used to get interns all the time like people would constantly be asking me if they could be an intern and she was like somewhere around six or seven years ago it just stopped and now people today are like unwilling to do or unint I think she may have even said they're uninterested in doing not meaning like I'm out here clamoring for people she was just like surprised that people didn't want to be an intern anymore and then the feedback on the article they were skewering this woman and saying oh can you believe that people don't want to be enslaved oh can you believe that people don't want to work for free and I was like whoa if I had one piece of advice for myself going back in time in fact the cameraman on this camera right here is leaving this company because he's taking my advice yes because the advice I gave them was go whoo hoo is like living your idealized life the very life that you couldn't imagine like oh my god if I have that I love everything go offer to work for them for free in exchange for knowledge and connections like if I can't give you that then you should immediately leave because you're in this beautiful part of your life where poverty is okay you can still get laid while being poor it's not so cute when you're 40 yeah but like in your early 20s hey it's not like this big knock on who you are and your value in the world and so he literally was like I'm gonna go do exactly that and so that to me is brilliant so the fact that they're like skewering this woman for deigning to suggest that somebody basically be an apprentice I find scandalous for their sake not mine yeah but for their sake yeah well I don't think we we think enough about how hard it is to actually do interesting and successful things and so this is a real issue that I got into in that original book where young people in particular would write their own script for this is how I want the world to work this is how you know I want to run this thing and I want it to be really successful and I want X Y & Z and here's what I want to be important for this that I'm on social media lot it's going to be key in the fact that I'm just a young go-getter and this will all work out in about a year but the reality is everything that is worthwhile is really really hard then it's often really really and so I'm always telling young people something very similar before you make your plan for how you're going to execute you know becoming a book author for example which a lot of people ask me about go talk to authors figure it out figure out what the actual reality is of what matters and how people succeed don't write your own script the with the answers that you want it to be because often there's a real conflict it's easy to come up with some plan where you're like I'm gonna do X Y & Z I'm gonna write 20 pages a day and something that's kind of hard but not too hard and you think it's going to be fun and it might have nothing to do with how that industry works but on the other hand if you can get the intelligence maybe by by interning with someone who can actually teach you about the field you really care about and you understand this is what's involved then you know where to put your energy you know where to get the leverage point that's why in academia for example why the people who write papers for star venues tend to train with other stars because you just learn right if you're at MIT in the sciences you're gonna learn from people that this is what they do they write papers for the top places they know how to do it the mind sets all built around that you can see what they pay attention to and what they don't pay what they don't pay attention to and that type of apprenticeship actually matters so the the intoxication I felt at getting a book called so good they can't ignore you which is certainly your credo in life is definitely mine how do people do that how do they become so good they can't be ignored well I mean I say you should look to let's say professional musicians professional athletes professional chess players people who have to get good in a world that has a well-defined competence hierarchy where you have a chess ranking and you can't run away from it you have a batting average right you know like you can't you can't get away from it watch how they train because in their world there's a lot of effort that has gone into how do you systematically improve and what you see is that they deliberately practice and there's really no shortcut to deliberate practice to gaining mastery in almost any field but in knowledge work in particular so in this sort of whole array of sort of various creative and other types of professions we don't think that way and people don't actually do a lot of this sort of systematic practice and so that's why in so good they can't ignore you I go and I hang hang out with professional guitar player and say okay I want to watch you practice and in this case there's actually a good reason to do so because this is someone who started playing guitar at the same time that I started playing guitar and at the age where like I was not that great I played in a rock band and we were like okay he was being had a record deal as being heralded as like this talent right in a new acoustic guitar playing so he said great I want to understand why did he become really really good and I did it watching him practice in this sort of musicians frat house he lived in in Boston with all these other musicians answer the question hundred percent he was so intense when he was practicing the guitar that he would forget to breathe so he'd be doing this he was trying to get a lick faster so the way he got the lick faster is let me play it about ten percent faster than I can comfortably play it he was so concentrated he'd forget to breathe and so he would do these ragged gasps everyone so when his body would force them to take and take an air that's the whole difference I never did that that's stretching you're like what I need to do is be better at this lick and so I'm gonna push myself beyond or uncomfortable I remember you saying with that example that you were watching him practice something that wasn't necessarily fun for him he didn't know how to do it so it was constantly facing his inadequacy and you said what I like to do was pick up my guitar and jam and play a song that I'm good at and you've got some Hendrix and like wail away a little bit right so now help people understand so you've said that there's a big difference between repetition and deliberate practice so how in even I like a lot of what I do is probably a little too close to just repetition and it's the far too rare moment where I really stop and think about wait what piece of this can I break off and do until I'm good at that piece and then reinsert it back into the hole so I'm not just repeating it yeah so how can people conceptualize the difference between repetition and actual deliberate practice right because repetition after an initial point when you're completely new to something repetition does not make you better and this is not it's not obvious right I mean there's actually this interesting performance psychology literature starting the seven years was trying to really understand how do people become masters at things and repetition was one of the hypotheses maybe you do it a lot turns out that's not the case other people thought it was understanding the world maybe building up the right mental models that's not the case it's deliberate practice and so what's the difference deliberate practice stretches you you you stretch yourself past where you're comfortable with the just like you do with the muscle right you have to tire out the muscle exhaust it if you're gonna if you're going to get growth right but it's very uncomfortable stretching is uncomfortable and that's why people don't do it but like when I was trying to upgrade my riot II and so I my first three books I wrote as a student and they were student advice books a paperback and I wanted to be an idea book hardcover idea book writer I kind of went out into the wilderness for a while and say I have to get better at writing and what I was discovering was like just writing on my blog for example wasn't stretching me enough and so I said I'm gonna write for magazines I found the magazine where you know they paid for commissions and there was an editor who was going to accept or reject it so now I could deliberately practice I had the stretch to try to get my my assignments accepted and published you know by this magazine right it wasn't just repeating what I was doing before now I was trying to stretch myself and I did that for a year and it made a big difference and so that's deliberate practice I love the way that your work really weaves into itself and reinforces everything so so good they can't ignore you obviously really helps people understand how they become passionate how they become extraordinary that it's a process and then deep work talking about well now let's talk about how you make that process efficient by getting rid of all the clutter how do people get good at deep work itself yeah and your early books were a lot about like how to be effective at studying and you were saying you thought it was just so bizarre that people don't try to optimize their ability to study yeah so one how do we optimize our ability to do that and then how do we begin to carve out that space to really be successful at going deep yeah so it's a deep work which is just my term for concentrating very intensely right you give something intense focused without distraction so you don't glance at things no phone no browser tabs you just focused in this skill was essentially the answer to the question that my readers had about so good they can't ignore you which was okay how do I become so good I can't be ignored and in a lot of fields this ability to concentrate very intensely first of all that's necessary for deliberate practice deliberate practice requires you to be in a state of deep work and deep work is also just what allows you to produce very effectively if you want to use your skills to produce high-quality work you want to produce it at a high quantity for time spent very concentrated effort is what's important but but what I discovered working on that book is that it's a skill that has to be trained so it's a little bit circular if you're good at deep work you can pick up skills very quickly but deep work itself is a skill that has to be trained which a lot of people think of it more like a habit like flossing their teeth right I know how to do deep work I just don't do enough of it but it really is trained it really is much more like plane to get hard that if you haven't been practicing you shouldn't expect that's gonna sound very good and so why is that like when I really think about it like I hear you and I know you've thought a lot more about this and I have but it does feel like flossing my teeth it does feel like I just need to not pick up my phone and look at it I just need to focus so is it kind of like meditation where I'm learning to extend those periods of time where I'm able to focus or what is at work right well it's a very unnatural activity actually so so giving sustained concentration doing deep thinking it's not something that has a long evolutionary history and so is actually really the invention of the rented word in particular that helped make the ability to think a deeply more widespread you say the rented word the written word written that makes a lot more well because reading itself right is also a very unnatural activity and it requires an incredible amount of training to basically get your brain able to do this activity that we didn't evolve to do but what you get out of doing reading is that your mind becomes comfortable with this very unnatural activity of keeping intense focus on something right so so in some sense it's not something that we were evolved to do and so if we don't practice it our mind wants to do what it did in the Paleolithic savanna what's going on I want to survey is there is there like a mastodon over there is there like my tribe member and trouble over there except for now it's is there someone on Twitter areas there is someone but it's the same that's that same instinct and so it's something that has to be practiced we used to get this practice sort of in our schooling right because when you're going through college for example before we had let's say wireless internet or cell phones it was just a lot of time in the library and it was you in a book and and there was no distractions around you you would have to walk all the way back to your dorm or something so like we would get hours and hours of just sort of practicing reading deeply concentrating but we've lost a lot of that now because you know even in like the college environment you're you're constantly doing this and you're constantly doing this while you're looking at things and so we actually are missing a lot of the necessary training that I think you need if you're going to be comfortable but I argue it's really worth it because so few people are actually training their ability to concentrate that if you're one of the few to do so you have a huge competitive advantage it's really interesting in the book you talk about solitude deprivation which I found really interesting so one define solitude which I thought was interesting that you took the time to do that and then why it matters yeah so we think about solitude in different ways but the definition I liked came from another book it was called lead yourself first it was a book about solitude and leadership but the definition they used in this book was that solitude is freedom from input from other minds so it has nothing to do with physical isolation I mean in this room you could certainly be in solitude if you're just alone with your own thoughts but if you're up on a mountaintop completely isolated but have earbuds in right you're not in solitude so it's nothing to the physical isolation it's what mode your brain is in so if you're if your brain is processing input that was generated from another mind you're not in solitude and if it's not it's just observing or thinking its own thoughts you are in a state of solitude and what we know is that solitude is crucial I mean you have to have this on a regular basis in your life if you're gonna flourish and thrive as a human being now this wasn't a problem until about seven years ago because it was unavoidable you're gonna have solitude just going about your day-to-day business right you would just you'd be in the car you didn't like was on the radio solitude you're in line at the drugstore and you have to wait ten minutes it's solitude right you're just alone with your own thoughts but for the first time in human history we create technology that makes it possible to banish every last moment of solitude from your life because now you have ubiquitous high-speed wireless internet and the supercomputer in your pocket and there's big back-end algorithms that will feed up to you a sort of optimized selection of nuggets at any moment the problem with that is it gets all solitude out of your life creating a syndrome called solitude deprivation syndrome which we're not really wired for and it makes us anxious it impedes our development it impedes our creative and professional insights not good how do we build it back into our life and what are the consequences some of the things you talk about in the book in terms of the consequences of the way that we're interacting with our digital devices it's if you're right about the cause it's pretty terrifying and I don't think anyone's gonna argue the sort of realities about mental health issues about attempted or hospitalizations due to attempted suicide I mean it's pretty crazy yeah it really is I mean I think it's getting stark that having this thing is a constant companion it's not good for us and what's important about this to understand is that it's also not fundamental so this behavior of constantly looking at the phone it's not intrinsic to this technology in fact we had both social media and smartphones for years before it became normal to look at your phone all the time the reason we do that and this is the behavior that's causing all these issues the reason we do that is that around the point when the major social media platforms were preparing for their IPOs they completely re-engineered the social media experience so instead of it being about posting and reading your friends post it became about this steady incoming stream of social approval indicators like likes and retweets and photo tags and comments and so now you had a reason to keep going back to the phone because every time you hit this there might be another reward there another indication of social approval none of that was in the original social media model but they added it because it changed it from something you checked every once in a while that's something that you checked all the time and it was really hard to resist and then that changed our entire relationship with these devices and so now we think about something we look at all the time it sort of trained us to think of it like this constant companion that we always need to be looking at in every downtime but that's very recent and it's very contrived and it's causing a lot of trouble so how do we begin to carve out that space for solitude are there things that we can do I know you've talked about walking like what are some things that people can do to train themselves cuz obviously now most people are in a very like you said Pavlovian response cycle where it's not gonna have by accident for them to stop so how do they break out of that and what can they do to reintroduce solitude well just for the issue of solitude it's pretty easy to get it back all you have to do is on a regular basis do something without your phone you basically go back to about ten years ago not all the time but just occasionally right so maybe one you walked a dog at some point like I'm like a bring my phone you go to the drugstore I'm not gonna bring my phone like just have some activity you do most days without your phone even if it's 20 minutes there you're already getting little doses of solitude you're breaking the solitude complete solitude deprivation syndrome so now how do we build in you talked a lot about detoxing from technology you have a method for sort of stripping everything down and then reintroducing it what does that process look like yeah so this is the this is the bigger answer right and and so the question is how do we improve our relationship more generally with technology in our personal life and so the philosophy that I teach is digital minimalism which just takes minimalism which has been around forever and it's an ancient idea and it applies to all sorts of different parts of the human experience an idea that says you should focus on the things that are really really valuable to the exclusion of other things that are much less valuable so by putting your attention on the things that you know for sure give you big wins and concentrate intensely on them you can do better than taking that same attention trying to spread it over many more things that also give you smaller win so if you apply this to your digital life what you get is a approach to the apps and the services and and the gadgets that says I only want to use digital tools that give me really big returns on a small number of things I really care about and I'm happy missing out on everything else which is a completely different way of thinking about it than I think most people have thought about their personal digital life which is much more of a maximalist mindset hey this thing might bring me some value or some convenience and I don't want to miss out on that so I might as well try it out I might as well download that app or I might as well sign up for it this sort of more haphazard approach the digital minimalist say no no I know what I'm all about I know what I want to do with my time I know what's important to me and I put tech to work incredibly strategically to help those things I really care about and then everything else that's out there I just ignore so what is attention residue how do we make sure that we don't find ourselves in that death loop yeah well I mean attention residue is the the killer for almost any creative endeavor and it comes out of the psychology literature this term actually comes from a psychology researcher named Sophie Leroy basically what it says is if you're if you're focused on something difficult and then you shift your attention over to something else and even if it's for one minute right like you shift over to look at an email or whatever and then you come back to the original hard thing there's a residue left from that context switch and that residue takes a while to clear out and until it clears out your cognitive performance has declined so it's like you've taken some reverse neurotropic and you're Dumber right and so the problem is is the way that a lot of us work today when we bring on more and more demands or that we're really plugged in the email or social media or what have you is that we're constantly doing these quick checks and we feel like hey we're single two are doing the right thing I don't have this window open at the same time as this window I'm not multitasking anymore I've got it all figured out but what we're not realizing is the context switch of each of these quick checks is create an attention residue and reduce our cognitive performance and actually what a lot of knowledge workers do is like every 10 minutes it's this quick glance right so now they're in a state of persistent attention residue and so they're performing at a much reduced capacity and they don't even realize this which is one of the reasons why people who really prioritize long stretches without any of the breaks one of the reasons why they do so well is that they're just avoiding the attention residue they're avoiding the artificial lowering of their how can people get into flow assuming that they like carve out there they're not doing quick checks residue isn't the problem how can they get themselves into a state of flow yeah well I mean in general we're really bad at figuring out how to get a good return on human brains and one of the reasons why we're so bad is that we've adopted this workflow when we had low friction communication electronic communication tools come along we adopted this workflow of let's just have a constant unstructured conversation like let's just do what we would do when it's the three of us in the savanna hunting the Mastodon we're just you know talking as needed on the men hey go there go there what do you see over there we try to scale this into our companies the problem is that requires that the service does ongoing on structure conversation you have to be constantly checking in on these communication channels and everyone is feeling the same fingers on the blackboard that you're feeling because if you can't do anything else with your brain if you have to service these conversations so sort of go to your follow-up question so let's say you've you've somehow been able to find some space from this like how do you actually then make the most of these deep work sessions well something I noticed there's a lot of people who are good at this have rituals so they always have a ritual about how they get to started animals well like for Darwin for example Darwin the Darwin Charles Darwin he built this path through his estate the down house outside of London right and he called it a SAN walk because it was paved with sand and and he had it go past the most scenic parts of his property and the way that he would get ready to do his work on the Origin of Species every day is that he did a certain number of laps of this and in fact so he was start doing the laps and this would start easing his brain into like looking let me get it in the thinking mode let me clear out the other let me clear out the residue let me start loading up into my ram like what it was I was thinking about and he had a set number of laps he wanted to do and so he would lay out that many rocks on the path so that he wouldn't have to waste mental resources keeping track of the count and every time he would pass by the rocks he'd kick another one off and so when he kicked the last rock off he would then detour into the study and now I'm doing my whatever doing my riding my reading or whatever that's actually really common a lot of deep workers have some sort of ritual like that something they do do you have one yeah I mean it depends on what type of deep work I'm doing like what location I'm using but like in my in my house for example I have a study where I do my work and it's different than where I keep my computer and so I had a library table made because I've spent a lot of time in university so I have an old-fashioned library table with library lights and my my books in the mahogany bookcase next to it and so when I work in there there's a whole ritual clearing everything off and getting the lights right making it seem like it seemed back in the day when you're in the the room in the library as an undergraduate studying or something like that to me that puts me in the mindset let's start doing deep work and so this type of rituals are important you've got a concept you called productive meditation yeah what is that so it's one of these training exercises if you want to be better better at focusing and what you do is you go for a walk while you're walking you try to make progress on a professional problem just in your head so you're just whatever it is figuring out a strategy or outlining a chapter or whatever it is just in your head while you walk and as in mindfulness meditation when you notice that your attention wanders off of this and starts writing emails or whatever it is you and your attention do you notice that you bring it back to the problem no no I just have to think and try to hold all the variables in my head to make progress on the problem just in my head you do this it's very very difficult you'll find that at first to be very hard to keep your concentration just in your head on something that's hard because you have to hold you have to hold the variable steady and try to make progress honor if you're writing you have to remember the whole outline but you get better at it and so it's very intense but you get better really quick it's like doing pull-ups right they're really hard when when you first do pull-ups but if you keep doing pull-ups every day you start to really get stronger there seems to be from the most recent research literature sort of one distinctly positive thing from social media and to distinctly negative so the two distinctly negative things is one they call it social snacking but essentially you replace actual high-quality face-to-face interaction the type of connections that you need to thrive as a social being you replace it with a low-friction interaction online and it's not a fair trade and so if all you're doing is talking to people on Twitter and on Facebook on Instagram and snapchat and you're not actually sacrificing your time and energy to be there for friends close friends family community you feel much much more lonely much more anxious the second issue of social comparison so it's just not healthy for us to constantly be looking at these carefully curated positive portrayals of everyone's life that's not we're not wired for it and so that also makes us less happy so it's it's it's the social comparison which directly makes us less happy in the social snacking which keeps us away from the type of actual interactions that would make us more happy those are probably the two leading drivers for why we see these correlations with increased social media use and less happiness unless sociality so they were part of your argument on this I thought was really made powerful by the things that they were like well maybe it's not that maybe it's this and maybe it's this and they ended up seeing that actually those don't line up walk us through those because I think it really adds punch to see you take away well I mean a lot of these studies are correlational you're looking at different generations you're looking at different birth years and you're trying to understand in general why is that population different so when it came to teenagers and mental health there was this sort of off-the-charts moment where the demographers that measure different properties of different generations when they got to this generation Z the first generation that have ubiquitous access to smartphones starting their adolescence these mental health issues increased more rapidly than anything they'd ever seen before increase between any generation so it was literally off the charts like they don't see changes usually the changes between generations is much more gradual and so they're trying to figure out why what exactly are they measuring in this case we're looking at think about it as like birth year versus like per capita incidences of anxiety and anxiety related disorders right and so you get to this birth year in the 90s that puts you at the smartphone era in your early adolescence and that goes up right and so they're trying to figure out why but like any good demographers you see there could be a lot of different issues so there could be a lot of different conjectures and so they explored a lot of different things but the timing wasn't working out for other things they thought well maybe has to do with you know the Great Recession and economic anxiety but that started earlier and in this didn't start till a little bit later and like well maybe it's like political stuff and everyone's stressed out but no no that's much later that comes much later so they're they're really trying to figure this out they said well maybe it's self reporting okay so maybe yes it's true that starting at this Berthier people report anxiety anxiety related sorters but we've just become more used to that and so maybe just people are more comfortable but then they look at the hospitalization data and hospitalizations for self-harm went right up with it right so it's not a reporting error and so what you see is this sort of narrowing of consensus around the idea that there's really no other explanation that fits the data as well as giving social media to adolescents that's what's causing it you've made some pretty bold statements about how people are gonna look back on social media what's the analogy that you use well I think the cigarette analogy is one that they caught some attention then the actual analogies if this research literature does end up in a place that says it's causing this much harm for adolescents I said this was in a GQ interview we'll probably look back then at giving a thirteen-year-old social media the same way that we look today I keep in a thirteen-year-old a pack of cigarettes because we're learning that the brain at that point really can't handle the forces that are unleashed by these sort of highly optimized tools which are built to exploit psychological vulnerabilities in order to get a lot of uses just like we artificially increased the nicotine content in the tobacco and cigarettes because we wanted people to smoke more I mean these things have been tuned up to a high degree like we talked about before it had the tune up this sort of psychological exploitation if we were to get people to look at it as much as we needed people to look at it if the revenue numbers are going to go up so these things are really tuned to play on sort of psychological vulnerabilities involving social approval in connection you give that to a teenage brain which is obsessed with that right that's very very volatile now what I love about all of your work is that it really feeds into one super powerful notion which is what you said was the reason that I write about the stuff the reason that I think this matters is it stops people from leading basically the good life and you talk about how we've been trying to define the good life for a very long time or an interesting life I'd love for you to define that like what why does this matter what are we missing out on what what is a good life what should people be striving for well I mean I'm a big advocate of what I sometimes call the deep life but basically doing a small number of valuable things really well we know that is incredibly fulfilling so I think that's why I'm fulfillment for me human flourishing I think Aristotle got it right with his concept of eudaimonia which is not about happiness and it's not about good things happening or avoiding bad things eudaimonia was you're reaching a point of human flourishing so you're sort of taking the potential you have as a human and you're making good on it right so you feel like you're making the most of what you're capable of doing and I think he was right writing all the way back then that this is what for the ancient Greeks you know this is what you were looking for it's eudaimonia and so the deep life is very much complementary to that but it's not just about what you do professionally it turns out sort of this this depth right doing the the important things well is very important in your social life as well and so this is why you know in digital minimalism I'm so concerned about people being very live about how they're gonna change what sociality means like I'm gonna do things on my phone now I'm going to be doing streaks on snapchat and selfies and like let's just completely change you know what it means to be social that has big impacts because we know we've known since the Ancients that what do you need to also feel like a flourishing thriving human being is you have to take responsibility for and sacrifice on behalf of family close friends and community you can't just do that it has to be I am connected and serving the people in my immediate orbit we need that as well the flourish so in your work focusing to do really good things and in your social life focusing to actually be there and serve and sacrifice for family close friends and community this is like an ancient formula for flourishing as a human being a lot of recent tech has inadvertently pushed us away from those things yeah service and sacrifice that's actually really pretty interesting why do you think those two especially the sacrifice like doing something for others why is that so meaningful do you think well we're wired for it I mean we're an intensely social species which is why we're so successful we can band together and you know make a TV show right I mean we can we can work together and actually solve problems how are we able to do that well we're wired to be very very good at social dynamics and working together towards a common goal in order for that the work you have to be willing to actually make sacrifices on behalf of other people and this doesn't necessarily mean like jumping on a hand grenade but like calling someone or someone's having a hard time and like I'm gonna take an afternoon I'm gonna go over there and I'm gonna be there and I'm gonna be with you I'm gonna be a source of comfort right that's a that's a sacrifice of time and energy which is much harder than just you know where you at on on you know Facebook or something like that right but I think the reason why we're wired to find great meaning and fulfillment in that is because if we're doing that we can build much stronger much more cohesive social structure so it's sort of in our Homo Sapien DNA that we want to have these very strong responsibility sacrifice base connections with people in our immediate orbit mm-hmm your next book which I am just enthralled with the title so probably about five or six years ago I started saying the email will be the downfall of Western civilization yes and I'm only sort of joking yes a world without email how is that big enough for a book what's the the themes that you're gonna be tackling there and why do you think it's important enough well I think we're terrible at knowledge work right especially knowledge work in the age of digital technology and digital networks and so if you look back historically whenever you have these intersections of Technology and commerce it takes a while to figure it out so you get the steam engine and rail infrastructure or the Industrial Revolution starts it takes a long time for us to really figure out how to effectively build industrial goods in a factory so we're in the early stages of knowledge work in the age of digital technology I think we're just really bad at it and I think it's it's literally holding back the economic productivity of the world at this point I mean non industrial productivity metrics have been stagnant for over a decade yeah well all of this sort of technological innovation was going on and I think it's because the way that we are working right now is naive and simplistic and incredibly ineffective and in particular what I mean is we have in general adopted a workflow that I call the hyperactive hive mind which is let's just take the three Paleolithic Hunter model and let's just scale it up to our whole organization will all have an inbox or a slack channel and we'll just keep the conversation going on they will figure things out on the fly will this rock and roll like hey I need this from you Tom do you get that and we'll just have this ongoing conversation happen all day just like we would do on the savanna like we just keep talking the unstructured manner will kind of figure things out so it makes sense because it's sort of our instincts and it's incredibly convenient it's incredibly flexible but it's at direct odds with what we know from psychology and neuroscience about how you actually use a human brain and create value and our entire economy is increasingly based on taking human brains having those brains think about information and produce new information that's valuable this is entirely at odds with how we're working because we should be going deep and we have constantly because in order to do the hyperactive hive mind you have to constantly service the conversation if you have to constantly search the conversation you can't get anywhere near your cognitive capacity and so we're just leaving productivity on the shelf so what do you think the world without email actually looks like we eat I'm the CEO if I write now said don't ever fuck and send another email they'd be like yo yo I got email bro like they wouldn't they would deal it like drug dealers oh yeah I know they'd still do it so what I think is gonna happen is that we're gonna take the hyperactive hide mine we're gonna have to replace it with something that's much more well thought through and it might be very industry specific but like if I ran google there's no way I'm gonna spend the 500k a year on a 10x programmer and give them an email address say I can hire look I'll hire you know twenty two-year-old whose whole job is to sit there with 19 monitors open and communicate with the HR department in the parking and whatever and go to the meeting of whatever but I want this person with their team you know coding and giving it their full attention because I'm gonna get so much more value out of this person then if instead I just say well you should also be an email and slack and so that everyone can bother you about everything right now that latter scenario is very convenient for everyone but but business is not about convenience it's about value production and so my my example from the industrial world see assembly line right the assembly line is a giant pain in the ass if you're building cars like the easiest thing to do they're equivalent of the hyperactive hive mind is like we have a team of five guys here and they're building a car right here and if we want to scale this up we get five more guys and they work on their car over there and we got five more guys and they build their car over there we just took what was natural we scaled it up and then Henry Ford at some point said wait a second the assembly line is going to produce cars much faster but it was a huge pain in the ass I mean it's really hard to get an assembly line to work it's incredibly inconvenient if you don't get it just right the whole thing falls apart because you know this thing is coming too fast and these workers aren't ready for it you have to spend more money you have to put in more overhead you need more managers it was like ten 200x more cars and so that's the type of thinking I think we need a knowledge work is I'm willing to be radical I'm willing to make things really inconvenient for everyone but what I really want to focus on is taking our core resource which is these human brains and set up an environment where those brains can produce value at their peak and do so in a way that's really sustainable and rewarding to the brains and doing this all day I just think it's a incredibly naive and ineffective way so a world without email the email protocol might still be around we might actually use email for certain purposes we might use slack for certain purposes but the workflow is gonna change and it's gonna be focused on how do we get the most value out of brains not just how can we take our Paleolithic hunter conversation just scale it up I want to lock you in my basement until you come up with the answer I'm I'm so desperate for this yeah like oh man this is gonna be big if you can anyway like paint the picture of how each industry moves forward yeah that that is definitely an itch that I am particularly desperate for somebody to scratch so I'm super excited to see that one man and the way that your books have all stacked on each other is as a consumer in somebody who puts your work to immediate and voracious use ferocious probably would have been a better choice of words ever thanks for letting a slide thank you it's amazing tell these guys where they can find you online well not on social media yes that is very clear yeah Cal Newport comm nice and simple yeah all right what is the impact that you want to have on the world I think I want to help people live deeper more meaningful lives and I want to do so from the perspective of figuring out how to put all this technological miracles that computer scientists like me helped invent how to put them to work for you and prevent them from just getting in your way from reaching that state of eudaimonia I love that all right guys you will you will be changed by the gestalt of everything that he's working on if you really want to be extraordinary pick up his books read them do as they say it will make your life better if you haven't already be sure to subscribe and until next time my friends be it legendary take care thank you so much that was amazing what's up impact of this if you want to acquire new skills or improve the ones you already have then you're going to love this as you know a huge part of my life is about acquiring skills that have utility and exist in service of something greater than myself and that is why I highly recommend Skillshare Skillshare is an online learning community with over 25,000 classes across more Skills than you can imagine at impact Theory we view skills share for things like project management marketing analytics and even for our comic book and today skill share is giving the first 500 people who click on the link in the description to three months to their entire library of courses that's 60 days access to literally thousands of courses on whatever topics you choose for no at all you just have to click on the link in the description below and join the classes that work for you and you will be in very good company as one of the seven million people on Skillshare and should you decide to stick around beyond your free trial an annual subscription to Skillshare is less than $10 a month that's nothing for a skill that can very well change your life so go ahead and click on the link in the description below to start acquiring those skills today and until next time my friends be legendary – take care if you found value in Cal's interview be sure to check out Ryan Holiday and Robert Greene click either of the links below enjoy and I'll see you there I want to influence them I want to get inside your skin inside your brain and alter how you look at the world




Comments
  1. Thank you for the informative show. 4 years ago, I started with no passion, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I was modelling, but I didn't really want to pursue it as a full time career. My parents were hounding me to go and study something, but I knew that I was not built to become an academic like them. So I got a small time job as a Fashion Consultant, I was awful at it. But I met my ex husband and where I was not enthusiastic about anything, he was getting his fellowship in ortho surgery. I got pregnant a year after we were married, and soon I was a mother. When my daughter was born I focused on her. It was then did I start to like something, spending time with my kid. I used to hate the bedtime stories they sold in the shops and I felt they were all so boring, and common, so I took a pen and paper and started writing my own down. It was something I had a small interest in. A few years in writing stories, my ex asked me if I wanted to study, I said no. I had no interest in anything. He saw my 'kid stories' on the table and read a few of them. He told me why don't I write. I thought about it, and the next morning, around 3 (I am an early riser) I started writing. What started out as a time passer become an obsession and after almost 4 years, 11 books published I can say that I am obsessed with writing, I am addicted to my work and I am passionate about the process. I hope you guys all find something that makes you smile when you wake up in the morning. When those days are hard and you feel like the world might split in two, know that you are where you need to be, there is a lesson to be learned, and a new path which you will earn.

  2. you can be poor and still get laid…but not to the kind of women you want. so i think that's kind of overlooked…never mind

  3. I go days at a time not going on social media, this method stops me from being dependent on and addicted to social media. I love his reasons to quit. Great interview again tom

  4. Don't be a wage slaver…. find your passion that drives you. The key is if you find a passion that does not make alot of money, then get the money and fund your passion. My passion is for industrial arts. This is not going to make much money… so I made a plan to become wealthy… you have to figure that out. Then funding your passion leads to your happiness. You have to listen to your inter guide, not what this guy is talking about.

  5. OMG, I can testify what was told here is spot on. I am a doctor of 9 years now and if I have to be honest, I hated medicine. I was so bad in biology in school. I was so much better in maths and I always score >90 marks in maths and fail biology. But for some reason, I ended up taking medicine and I hated it wholeheartedly up until I finish my internship. I was so lost when I finished internship coz I didn’t know what I should be doing because I really hated my job. Until I met my respectable mentor whom I look up to until now, and he gave me such deep insight, knowledge, connections etc. It was surreal. Right now I’m pretty good with my job and I really love being a doctor, I don’t think I can live doing another job. I quit my social media during my residency and life had been so much better. Right now, I’m a subspecialist in Cardiac Anaesthesia and learning to subspecialise deeper in perfusionist, and most of my friends were surprised coz they were so sure I was going to quit the moment I finished internship. And lo and behold, I didn’t just specialised, I even subbed twice. Right now I lead a so much better life, I’ve never been more content and passionate. If I go back ten years ago and tell this to my past self, me in the past probably wouldn’t believe it. Being passionate isn’t about doing things you’re passionate about. It’s about breaking your limit and make yourself so good at it, people just can’t take it away from you. Nowadays I don’t care about social media or what people think. I know what I achieved, I have family that supported me and friends and that’s all that’s important…

  6. Was waiting for Cal Newport to show up on Impact Theory. Thank you Mr. Bilyeu on behalf of the student community 🙂

  7. Fucking love this tom like alway impact theory is amazing thank you for continuing to help change our live and making a true impact!!! 🙏🙏🙏

  8. The thing I most appreciate about Cal is that you can tell instantaneously that he is a ZERO Bullshit guy…he knows what’s up, and he’s not interested in playing the game everyone else is so desperate to play.

  9. I litreally imagine myself in this show, almost everyday … Tom give me 10years and ill achieve something worthwhile so that you can interview me

  10. By the way, the answer to your question, "How does industry move forward…" from using tech as a crutch and using brains more is simple. We will have A.G.I. which we can setup to answer e-mails for us and only send through specifically requested and/or emergency data. We are not that far.

  11. Wow, I have seen all of the episodes you have produced Tom, and feel that every single one of them have brought me and hopefully many others value. But I have to disagree with many of the things Cal said. Technology and social media has and continues to bring humans increased productivity, access to knowledge, entertainment and so much more.

    I believe that for the first time in human history, people are starting to wake up and access their full potential. They are starting to understand that consciousness and reality are more subjective than we thought. And we now have access to teachers and mentors like you that would have never been accessible before social media and tech.

    As with any good side, there is a bad side. But I don't think that these extreme cases represent the entirety of America. Yes, we lost something when it comes to solitude, but I have replaced my minds chattiness, which was far worse for my ego than accessing audiobooks on my phone while I work out, killing two birds with one stone. Mindfulness training following some of the best teachers in the world, like Sadhguru.

    I really appreciate hearing your point of view though. Listening to an intelligent and thoughtful person present their ideas which contrast some of mine helps me to solidify my personal beliefs.

    Thank you for such great and thought provoking content. you have a viewer for life!

  12. Another great interview. Thanks again. I go on regular SM sabbaticals. Always for a minimum of one month at a time, sometimes longer. So far, the world hasn't ended and my relationship with others, and myself, is so much the richer for it!

  13. Amazing interview! Had to rewind multiple times to catch up with the numerous points delivered. Cannot thank you enough. Will def get the book and read it!

  14. When did Michael Bluth start writing books??? 😂 that aside, I read his Deep Work book, good read to keep you focused on completing your work

  15. This one is great! The statement that passion at your job and not having that as soon as you graduate is so accurate. I didn't know where I was going after college other than getting into a sales job, but everything has worked out well so far! I've talked with other students now and while I still say search for your 'why,' but it's not the end of the world if you don't have that at graduation or at 25 or 31. Thanks for coming on the show Cal! Just ordered your book!

  16. Excellent talk by one of my favorite authors Cal Newport. Can Jordan Peterson be your next guest, please?

  17. Wow – what a superb mind, a rare reason for cloning. Thank-you for some phenomenal insights and valuable directions on how to stretch our potential and get closer to self-actualization. More, more, more of these elite humans, please.

  18. Goddamn it! Didn't even get to watch this video on avoiding social media because of

    SOCIAL MEDIA! Somebody help me! I'm an addict!!!!!! 😶

  19. I worked for a huge business for almost 6 years, nearly mastered the work and even slowly bled in to management and also loved almost everyone I worked with. I HATED working there and couldnt get out soon enough. Mastering the craft of your job and enjoying the people you work with does not mean you will enjoy your job. Theyre just pieces in the spectrum. You could very rarely if ever place an introvert in a job that required them to talk all day to costumers and not have them burn out and hate their life or go postal.

  20. Amazing how someone so intelligent can be so foolish. Evolution has been widely disproved all over the Internet for many years now.

  21. This interview was EPIC!!!! Tom, why did I actually picture you locking him up in your basement?! LOL! You're the best, thanks so much!!

  22. Really need to try all of his advice. Learning a skill and using it for free. Deep work and removing all distractions.

  23. I love all of these interviews so much! Just waiting for you to interview Esther Hicks 😍 Now that would be intriguing! I know you have different views on how to go about “action” towards goals/desires. Would be super cool to hear.

  24. Fuck working for free. If there is work to be done it should be paid. If you can't afford to hire someone then you are not as successful as you would like to think. If your business model is dependent on free labour your business is not viable.

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