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“Simply put, humans are not wired to be constantly wired.”
It’s become increasingly harder to just put the phone down. Because the latest apps and digital platforms are specifically designed to addict, we have become slaves to their irresistible allure.
Our precious attention is being hijacked. The ability to focus — to concentrate on that which is most meaningful — simply cannot compete with the magnetic pull of our Instagram feed. No longer need anyone ever be bored. Alone with one’s thoughts. Or simply present with one’s self.
The result is a global epidemic of distraction. A fomenting of loneliness and isolation. And a degradation of our humanity.
The solution isn’t Ludditism. Instead it’s agency. We need not be victims of technology. We have the power to liberate ourselves from the tether of digital dependency. And the freedom it creates isn’t just the salve to what ails us, it’s the gateway to that which we seek most. Meaning. True human connection. And a reconnection with our innate humanity.
Indeed, there is no substitute for real relationships. Boredom is useful. And focus is the new superpower.
Cal Newport is someone who has spent a lot of time thinking deeply about these issues.
An associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University, Cal is the author of six books, many of which focus on the impact of technology on society. The primary focus of today’s conversation is rooted in his latest New York Times bestseller, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World*.
Cal’s work has been published in over 20 languages. He is a frequent guest on NPR and has been featured in many major publications, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New Yorker, Washington Post, and Economist.
Regular listeners know I have a penchant for dropping Cal’s name with regularity. I became acquainted with his work in early 2016 by way of his seminal book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in A Distracted World* — pages that profoundly impacted how I think about and apply my attention. We struck up an e-mail friendship. And I’ve been trying to track him down for the podcast ever since.
People often ask me which books have influenced me the most. The aforementioned two rank close to the top — manifestos of great practical import for our modern age. Similarly, I estimate that this episode rates among the most consequential conversations I’ve had in the 6+ year history of this podcast. Packed with practical, actionable steps, Cal’s message will empower you to free up precious time. Declutter your mind. Connect you more deeply to the work and relationships you care most about. And profoundly improve the quality of your professional and personal lives.
It was an absolute pleasure to spend time with Cal. I sincerely hope you not only enjoy the listen, but heed his message, and put his advice into action.
The visually inclined can watch our entire conversation on YouTube here: bit.ly/calnewport447 (please subscribe!) and the podcast is of course available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Peace + Plants,
Photos courtesy of Ali Rogers
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Check out Cal’s latest book: Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World*
Background, Context & Reference:
- Learn more about Cal: calnewport.com
- Read Cal’s Blog: Study Hacks
- The New Yorker: What it Takes to Put Your Phone Away
- The New Yorker: The Urgent Quest For Slower, Better News
- The New Yorker: Can “Indie” Social Media Save Us?
- The New York Times: Steve Jobs Never Wanted Us to Use Our iPhones Like This
- The New York Times: Digital Addiction Getting You Down? Try an Analog Cure
- The New York Times: How to Actually, Truly Focus on What You’re Doing
- The New York Times: Now Pay Attention Dear Reader. No, Not to That Article, to This One
- The Wall Street Journal: Weekend Interview: It’s Not Too Late to Quit Social Media
- GQ: Cal Newport on Why We’ll Look Back at Our Smartphones Like Cigarettes
- New Statesman: Finding the Off Switch
- USA Today: 5 books not to miss: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, plus Digital Minimalism
- TIME: 15 New Books to Read This February
- The Washington Post: 10 leadership books to watch for in 2019
- Blogpost: Why I am A Bad Correspondent by Neal Stephenson
- New York Magazine: Andrew Sullivan Quits Blogging
- CBS This Morning: (VIDEO) How to declutter your digital life
- YouTube: (VIDEO) Digital Clutter| The Minimalists
- YouTube: (VIDEO) Brain Hacking with Tristan Harris and Anderson Cooper | 60 Minutes
- YouTube: (VIDEO) Andrew Sullivan on quitting blogging: “It was killing me.” | 92nd Street Y
- Book: Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude* by Raymond M. Kethledge, Michael S. Erwin
- Book: Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age* by Sherry Turkle
- Documentary: Free Solo Directed by Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Books By Cal Newport:
- Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World*
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in A Distracted World*
- So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love*
- How to Be a High School Superstar: A Revolutionary Plan to Get into College by Standing Out (Without Burning Out)*
- How to Become a Straight-A Student: The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less*
- How to Win at College: Surprising Secrets for Success from the Country’s Top Students*
Notable People Discussed:
- Ryan Holiday: Author of: The Obstacle Is The Way* and Ego Is The Enemy* and podcast guest
- Alex Honnold: professional free solo rock climber (Free Solo the Movie) & podcast guest
- Andrew Sullivan: author, editor, and blogger. Sullivan is a conservative political commentator, a former editor of The New Republic, and the author or editor of six books
- Tristan Harris: co-fonder of Time Well Spent – a nonprofit organization which seeks to reverse the “digital attention crisis”, caused by technology companies designing mobile devices and social media features in order to capture as much attention as possible, regardless of their impact on users’ quality of life
- Marie Kondo: otherwise known as Konmari, is a Japanese organising consultant and author. Kondo has written four books on organizing, which have collectively sold millions of copies and have been translated into multiple languages
- BJ Fogg, PhD: Behavior Scientist at Stanford University
- Larry Page: computer scientist and Internet entrepreneur who co-founded Google
- Adam Alter: Associate Professor of Marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, with an affiliated appointment in the New York University Psychology Department
- Merlin Mann: Independent writer, speaker, blogger and podcaster based in San Francisco
- Joshua Becker: author, founder and editor of Becoming Minimalist, a website dedicated to inspiring others to find more life by owning less
- Courtney Carver: author of Soulful Simplicity: How Living with Less Can Lead to So Much More* and creator of minimalist fashion challenge
Jonathan Haidt: professor, moral psychologist and author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion*
Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy:
- RRP #253: How To Be A Minimalist: Joshua Fields Millburn
- RRP #294: Leo Babauta’s Mission To End Human Struggle
- RRP #117: Your Imperfections Make You Human. Your Humanity Makes You Influential (Part 2)
- RRP #370: How To Be Well: Frank Lipman
- RRP #351: Alex Honnold: The Free Soul Of Free Solo Climbing
- RRP #347: James Altucher On The Art Of Thinking Differently
Thanks to Jason Camiolo for production, audio engineering, interstitial music and show notes; Margo Lubin and Blake Curtis for video, editing and graphics. Theme music by Ana Leimma.
*Disclosure: Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
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