#559 A Cognitive Athlete Who Smokes

Let’s Not Be One

In our last couple +1s, we’ve talked about Optimizing your FOMO by unplugging from the incessant consumption of the inessential.

Today I’d like to look at the same basic idea from a slightly different angle.

In An Audience of One, Srinivas Rao talks about the importance of creating an environment that supports our ability to go deep and drop into flow at will so we can do truly great work.

He tells us that it’s not just about making sure we’re unplugged during our deep work sessions—which is, of course, obviously important if we’re serious about doing great work. He tells us that we ALSO need to make sure we’re keeping our brains strong when we’re NOT in deep work.

He references the latest neuroscience that demonstrates the fact (!) that our addiction to digital stimulation “does long-term damage to our ability to focus and be present.”

Then he tells us that “constantly giving in to digital distractions, mindlessly shifting our attention from app to app and website to website” “turns us into what Cal Newport refers to as ‘the cognitive equivalent of being an athlete who smokes.’ Our harmless ‘checks’ while waiting in line at the grocery store or boarding a flight are not as harmless as we might imagine.”

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this line from Cal about how all those supposedly harmless “checks” turn us into “the cognitive equivalent of being an athlete who smokes.”

Think about that.

Let’s assume you want to be a world-class athlete. Perhaps an Olympic or World Champion. You’re committed to being the BEST athlete you can possibly be!!

Would you smoke?

The idea is absurd. Of course you wouldn’t.

Now, you may or may not have the ambition to be a world-class thinker or world-class leader or to be world-class at whatever it is you do, but we’ve gotta know that all those little addictive “checks” on our smartphones are the COGNITIVE EQUIVALENT OF BEING AN ATHLETE WHO SMOKES!!

Puff. Puff. Puff.

Of course, any one quick puff of a cigarette or quick digital hit may not do any “significant” damage.


Aggregate and compound those two packs of puffing a day or your equivalent dozens of digital puffs a day and what do we get? Some badly atrophied and scarred lungs and equivalently atrophied and scarred neurons.

Anyone serious about their responsibilities wouldn’t choose to do that.

That’s Today’s +1.

Are you taking any digital puffs that you know aren’t serving you?

Today a good day to kick the habit?

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