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Johann Hari On Why You Can’t Pay Attention (& How To Reclaim Your Focus)

By February 14, 2022January 5th, 2023No Comments
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Episode #661



We are living in a time of upgraded technology and downgraded humans.

Our collective ability to resist distraction and sustain attention is in decline.

Although will power plays a role, this problem is not entirely our fault—it’s the by-product of powerful forces incident to modern life.

Disconnection from nature. Disrupted sleep. Toxic environments. Predatory tech.

What exactly does a focus-less future augur? And what can be done to reclaim our ability to truly concentrate?

Back for his second appearance on the show, our steward for these existential questions is journalist & multiple New York Times bestselling author Johann Hari, who, when confronted with his own deteriorating attention span, dove deep into the individual and systemic solutions to this dispiriting collective trend.

Johann has written for the LA Times, Le Monde, and many other outlets, has two of the most-watched TED Talks, and has been profiled in essentially every prominent media outlet. His books include Chasing The Scream and Lost Connections, which explores the roots of addiction, and was the subject of our first exchange back on episode #416. But today, he’s here to share big lessons from his latest book, Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention, which is a provoking journey into the forces robbing us of our attention and a look at how we might begin to reclaim our minds, and our lives.

“Your attention didn’t collapse. It was stolen.”


Today’s conversation focuses on the problematic impact of big tech, smartphone addiction and surveillance capitalism on our well-being and that of our children.

We discuss the specific factors contributing to attention decline–from reduced sleep, environmental pollution, and something called the switch/cost effect, to chronic stress, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and disconnection from others and the natural world.

Beyond the many problems, we, of course, also address solutions—both systemic and individualistic—such that we may recapture our focus and be the best version of ourselves.

Johann is quite the entertaining storyteller, with humor that makes hard truths go down a little easier.

The visually inclined can watch it all go down on YouTube. And as always, the podcast streams wild and free on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

This is a hopeful conversation about how to build a life of greater joy, enhanced personal fulfillment, and focus. My wish is that it serves and enlightens.


Peace + Plants,

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