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Interviews with Cal Newport

I was listening to several interviews with Cal Newport this week. He has published his new book called “Digital Minimalism” last month, and thus he goes on many occasions to publicize the ideas.

One of the ideas I liked was the notion that focus is the new IQ. Doesn’t mean much by itself. I understood it so: for knowledge workers, focus is a competitive advantage. And by focus, as far as I understood, Cal didn’t mean a lazer-like penetrative attention for overachieving one’s goals, opposed to the hustle propaganda. Focus was presented as long spans of uninterrupted attention.

Another idea (or perhaps a fact) was that social media wasn’t designed to be very addicitive in the beginning. What Cal says is that reading a few posts by one’s friends and family doesn’t cause an obsessive urge to check the feed every two and a half minutes. Apparently, people at Facebook needed to boost their numbers before the IPO, so they employed a few research papers with some theory and psychology behind the slot machine industry. After that things like a like button have been added, which feeds on our urge for social approval. Or batching of likes and comments — same as with slot machines, it’s the intermittent positive feedback that causes addiction.

The third idea is something called “digital detox”. I’ve intuitively did something like this last month (ideas do float in the air). Cal suggests going cold turkey on all of the tech stuff for 30 days, unless one needs it for work, and then slowly adding bits and pieces that add real value (social media most likely doesn’t fall in this category). I must say that after doing something like this I do appreciate modern tech conveniences a bit more. It feels magical to be able to go through email for half an hour while waiting for a doctor appointment. Using wireless headphones feels so good.

I probably will end up not reading the book. I’m actually compelled to read Cal’s other book called “Deep Work”. And I definitely recommend listening to the interviews.