Cal Newport Podcast Notes Episode 269 Oct 9 2023

Some notes I took while watching Cal Newport’s latest show tonight.
Episode 269 of the Deep Questions podcast

“The Cure To A Mediocre Life: 3 Unexpected Ideas To Reinvent Your Life | Cal Newport”
Video link:
Cal Newport’s YouTube:

Care what you pay attention to

14:20 We should treat our minds like a private garden (Cal’s blog article:
14:40 Care what you pay attention to. What engagement sites you allow yourself to turn your attention towards? How much of your time and attention do you want Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk to monetize? … I think they have enough money I have better things to do than to be involved with that.

Appreciation for quality

… when you could be reading a book, reading a classic. Trying to like put yourself into the mindset of a great thinker from times past to push yourself, instead of again watching …What if you were going back and watching great films, and reading secondary sources on them, so you’re prepared, let me try to pull this apart, to understand why this movie is good.

There’s so much stuff you could be paying attention to that points out the good in the world, that gives you appreciation for quality, that makes the world seem like the miraculous can happen and people are divine, and there’s really interesting things that are always around each corner.

What you pay attention to matters for how you think about your world

What you pay attention to matters for how you think about your world.
And never have we had to think about that more than in an age in which there are plenty of companies that can reach us through that little piece of glowing glass in our hand and control every ounce of what we focus on.
So we need an independence from that. We need to treat our minds like a private garden. The effect can be phenomenal.

16:32 Here’s the thing about a book. You spend a long time thinking about those ideas and a lot of people work on them with you. By the time you get to the book you’re seeing a sort of crystallized form of human thinking pushed to a level of consideration that you’re not going to see online.

17:28 “Think like an artist but work like an accountant”
David Brooks’s column was about geopolitics. Mason Curry’s book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.

“To summarize these observations, Brooks quotes Henry Miller: “I know that to sustain these true moments of insight, one has to be highly disciplined, lead a disciplined life.”

He then offers his own more bluntly accurate summary: “[Great creative minds] think like artists but work like accountants.”

Or, to put it in Study Hacks lingo: “deep insight requires a disciplined commitment to deep work.”

19:02 There is a paradox at the core of organizational productivity. Productivity that is focused on organizing the obligations in your life, so that you have more intentional control over how you spend your time.
19:26 There’s this paradoxical observation that the better you are at that, the more free creative and relaxed you can be. And this goes contrary to a lot of people’s instincts. To be organized is, in some sense, where creativity goes to die.

20:05 But what Brooks is pointing out here, his lesson from studying Mason Curry, his lesson that he quoted Henry Miller making is that actually this organization supports creativity, relaxation, and freedom. To have your arms around, here’s the things on my plate. Here’s what needs to be done, here’s when I’m going to do things on them.

20:48 When you can control your times and obligations you can realize with precision the impact of everything you’ve said yes to, and have the courage then to pull back.

20:59 When you realize exactly what happens with your time and how long things take, you’re much more realistic when you say yes and no.

21:22 It gives you this type of autonomy over how you time actually unfolds. So I like the way Brooks put it. Think like an artist but work like an accountant. So when you’re thinking, be creative, be deep, be free. But when structuring your work, be much more structured like an accountant, and you’ll be able then to get more out of your time.

23:21 Mason Curry’s Daily Rituals book.

Avoid recommendation rabbit holes

52:05 Is it okay to still use YouTube to get innovative ideas? It’s a complicated platform. Video and independent produced video,
I do strongly believe is the future of independent content for whatever reason, video has a stronger hold over the human psyche than either audio or text, and yet it can also be a source of major distraction because of recommendation rabbit holes.

YouTube, use it like a television and a library

52:32 … my advice is always YouTube is fine if you use it in the right ways. I say you should use it like a television and a library.
52:37 What I mean about that when I say use it like a television, I mean there’s particular shows you like, that you might turn on on the TV to watch. Seinfeld’s on tonight I want to watch it. It’s fine to use YouTube that way. Huberman could be your Seinfeld. I like Andrew Huberman ‘s show, very high quality content. It’s interesting. It’s better than anything I watch on cable.

53:18 Use it like a library is also fine. … There’s a lot of great how-to stuff on YouTube. Use it like a library.

53:34 What you don’t want to do is use it as a default source of distraction.
53:39 You don’t want to use it as I’m bored let me go to YouTube to be entertained. That’s where the danger is. You start following these weird videos until eventually it’s like someone in a weird costume opening a box as they fall into a fountain that gets full of money from Mr Beast or something.

54:02 Use it to watch particular things you like. Maybe you like my show. You like the Andrew Huberman show. Great. Think of it like you’re watching a show on CNN or NBC it’s just an internet delivered Channel, fine. Looking up stuff, how do I do this, how do I do that, use YouTube fine. Just don’t use it as a default source of distraction.