Two Core Abilities for Thriving in the New Economy: 1. The ability to quickly master hard things. 2. The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed. — Cal Newport
Cal is an assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown. He got his Ph.D. from MIT and as I read some of his notes (here is a good article about Deep Work on Medium), I got excited about sharing it with you. Maybe because it relates to my pro athlete life, maybe because it draws parallels for me in startup life, but the closer you get to the top of your profession, the more 1% means and does for (to) you.
You want to quickly master new skills and produce at an elite level?
Here are some tips that will help you learn the mindset that will help you find the 1% improvement principle and constantly find yourself in Deep Work mode.
Oh, what does that deep work mode feel like?
Content with mental/physical discomfort.
Many of my life’s problems start with being mediocre across different domains. If I was a master in startups, I’d already be the CEO of my version of OrangeTheory Fitness. If I were a master in relationships, I wouldn’t be single (or would I?) If I were a master in small business marketing, my youth basketball skill training business would be global.
But I get distracted, just like every one else.
In my case, the dopamine rush of online dating is a terrible distraction.
I swipe Bumble right or left, hundreds of times. But it is so much fun to see the new women. The parallel lives. To imagine the possibilities. To fantasize. Day dream. Could I get married? Will she love me? Will I laugh with her?
Why does she have a Red Sox hat on?
But when does my brain allow me to stop?
When I tell it to stop and focus on something else. When I train myself to not get distracted.
Yet, you and I all have tons of distractions at our fingertips. Maybe your distractions are Twitter, Instagram, the Book, or worse, TMZ. We all fall into the online trap of watching other’s lives instead of deeply focusing on our own.
And this means less self-improvement in the areas you want to master and be so fucking amazing (proficient) that no one can ignore you.
Let’s break this down into sport terms:
In basketball, instead of getting 30,000 jumpers a month, you only get 10,000. Over a year, that is a difference of 240,000 shots. Over a day that is just 700 shots. (Ps. to put that in perspective, I can shoot 300 shots every half hour).
In writing terms, instead of focusing on writing one million words a year, you only get 100,000. That comes down to staying in deep work mode for your daily process of writing 2,739 words per day versus 273 words per day.
I’ll tell you the main sinner here:
These hand-sized dopamine slot machines are becoming thieves of time, happiness, and peace through sound bites, cheap, meaningless entertainment, and anxiety producing dopamine patterns.
We can literally watch TV on our phones and then do computer work a minute later. So instead of being so damn good in one domain, you spread yourself thin, get distracted (yes, I know you know I check social media, Facebook, Twitter, Insta, and dating apps Trevor), and maintain a homeostasis of mediocrity.
This is a real battle for me, ironically, it wasn’t like this when I was trying to be a pro athlete. My focus and intensity allowed me to create a rare set of basketball skills because my growth obsession wasn’t disturbed until my hour of training (2x a day) was over.
My why was stronger than my distractions.
And let’s be real here, this type of distraction-free deep work takes a certain level of self-awareness, understanding your growth mindset, focus, and intensity that most aren’t willing to practice or develop.
This mindset and deep work principle runs inside mastering any field or profession.
“If you lose your ability to sustain concentration, you are going to become less and less relevant to this economy.” — Cal Newton
That’s for you millennials (or those of us acting like millennials, wink — wink!) The key to deep work is understanding the fixed mindset versus the growth mindset, and then taking it a step further to actually to do the work in a consistent and sustained way.
Try to put away the social media until you finish your work today.
Let me know how hard that is!
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