Cal Newport on Digital Minimalism – The Moment with Brian Koppelman

Key Takeaways

  • Instead of looking for the one thing that you’re passionate about, look for something that’s interesting, well-suited for your skills, and can open up options for you in the future
  • Most technology isn’t purely good or bad, it all depends on how it’s used
  • Even when a service is free, you still have to think about the cost (time) and value you get from it
    • For every online activity you perform, weigh the time and energy input vs. the value output you recieve
  • Technology companies engineer their apps to be as addicting as possible

Intro

  • Cal Newport is an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University

A Little Bit About Cal

  • Cal signed his first book deal at 21-years-old
  • Cal tends to write about things that interest him in different stages of life
    • His first book was about getting better grades in school while his most recent book was about how to apply the principle of minimalism to technology
  • Cal loved to read books as a kid and developed his interest in writing during college

Finding Your Passion

  • Both Brian and Cal don’t really agree with the commonly stated advice – “Find a your passion”
    • Instead of looking for the one thing that you’re passionate about, look for something that’s interesting, well-suited for your skills, and can open up options for you in the future
      • Keep an eye out for the thing you have the potential to become so good at, that people can’t possibly ignore you
      • Be curious and try many different things to discover what interests you
        • Once you find something, then go all in

Digital Minimalism

  • This is Cal’s new book which teaches people how to properly use smartphones and social media
    • Even though Cal himself doesn’t use social media, he makes the point that sometimes it’s good to get an outsider’s perspective on a topic
    • Digital minimalism is all about removing “optionable technology,” identifying which tech adds value to your life, and then slowly adding it back in
  • Most technology isn’t purely good or bad, it all depends on how it’s used
  • Cal ran a digital minimalism experiment with several hundred people
    • About 50% of people in the experiment quit using social media altogether
    • The other 50% of people who kept their social media accounts all changed how they used it (for example – many of the people deleted the social media apps on their phone and began only using it on their laptops)
  • Younger generations tend to have a harder time doing a digital detox because they grew up turning to technology whenever they had free time
    • Brian says deleting the Facebook app from his phone was a huge plus in his life – he now checks Facebook just once a week or so to catch up with important notifications instead of spending time on it every day
  • Even when a service is free, you still have to think about the cost (time) and value you get from it
  • Just as food companies engineer their food, technology companies try to do the same with their apps in order to make them as addicting as possible
  • Minimalism is an ancient idea that goes all the way back to the Stoics
    • It’s all about taking your time and energy and focusing it on the things that you know are highly valuable
      • For every online activity you perform, weigh the time and energy input vs. the value output you receive
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