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Stay Still & Go Deep
Wisdom Letter #4
Have you ever had a feeling while reading a book or an article online that you’re not making any progress. You’re reading the words, you think you get their meaning in piecemeal but still not getting the point of the paragraph as a whole. You re-read a difficult paragraph multiple times but still feel stuck and just give up reading on it altogether, unable to focus hard on 5 long sentences and grasp their meaning.
Yeah, we have all been there!
Bloggers today are given an easy ‘tip’ to write viral articles: Keep your sentences shorter, and have a maximum of 3 sentences in a paragraph. Not more, lesser the better.
And single sentence paragraphs are the best to attract attention.
This helps them hack into the reader’s inability to focus hard for long. With an increasingly distracted landscape of digital content that we consume on a daily basis, our powers of concentration are taking the biggest hit.
And worse is the fact that we seem to be getting addicted to our distractions. Writer Tony Schwartz explains in this New York Times article from almost 4 years ago
They say all of man’s problems can be solved if he has the ability to sit still alone in a room for half an hour by himself.
But alas, he doesn’t.
There’s a certain beauty in staying still, in sitting quietly for a while and focusing on the smaller details of life. There’s a certain relief and relaxation in going slow, in having an empty ToDo list, having large expanses of time to do nothing but think.
In his Ted Talk, travel writer Pico Iyer makes a profound statement
Sometimes making a living and making a life point in opposite directions
Watch his talk to get transported to a different world. A much slower, relaxed and a deliberate world.
The Art of Stillness
We all work very hard, and we work very long.
We are connected to our jobs 24x7. Answering emails late into the night, and checking responses soon after getting up.
Our work lives seem to be merging fluidly into our personal lives. And we love to boast about it as a badge of honor. Those dark circles indicating lack of sleep are talked about like battle scars, with pride.
I am no one to judge how one treats their work, but surely there are ways to improve the quality of our work as well as our personal lives from whatever situation we are in.
Shane Parrish of Farnam Street makes an interesting point about working smarter, not harder to succeed at work.
He explains graphically how we can do better work by having less on our plates. This is an innovation on Warren Buffet’s 2 list system.
A classic “less is more” argument. Much needed in our busy lives
Dr. Cal Newport says, the ability to do ‘Deep Work’ is a superpower in the 21st century.
It is defined as the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.
The future increasingly is going to be more rewarding to people who have the ability to go deep with an idea and build something complex than to people who do non-cognitively demanding, logistical type “shallow work”.
He hypothesizes this idea in his book Deep Work.
He talks about ways we can inculcate deep work habits in our own lives and avoid doing shallow work.
One of my favorite quotes from the book—
The real rewards are reserved not for those who are comfortable using Facebook(a shallow task, easily replicated), but instead for those who are comfortable building the innovative distributed systems that run the service(a decidedly deep task, hard to replicate)
Find the book here (304 pages)
Unsurprisingly, Dr. Newport is not on social media. Watch his Tedx Talk where he implores the rest of us as well to reject social media:
Quit Social Media
Whether you quit social media or not, we hope you keep reading this newsletter every week :)
By the time you get your hands on the book, watch this quick 3 minute summary on Youtube.
Signing off for the week, here’s a quirky quote worth thinking about
If I was a scientist and wanted to make someone depressed, I'd:
- Keep them isolated
- Feed them tons of sugar
- Keep them away from sunlight
- Force them to stare at a screen
- Prevent them from getting exercise
— @LifeMathMoney on Twitter
If you have a desk job with a computer terminal that you have to stare at for 9 hours a day, you should ponder over this idea. Think about what you can do about your screen time, what you are eating, how much exercise you get and how you spend your leisure time.
Also, don’t forget to hit the subscribe button to receive this Wisdom Letter directly in your inbox next week.
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Aditi & Ayush
In case you missed last week’s wisdom letter, check it out here, its called “The Quest for Meaning!”
And if you’re wondering why we are doing this project, what is the point of it? checkout the intro post, it might make some sense!