#1458 Cognitive Smoking

Are You Addicted?

I’m absolutely loving connecting with our Heroic Masters in our daily coaching sessions at 1:01 p.m. Central time.

There’s something magical about getting together as a community to move from Theory to Practice to Mastery TOGETHER every.single.day.

Yesterday I got to spend some time connecting with Fernando, a Hero from Mexico.

His challenge was creating bright lines around his social media usage so he could use it as a tool for his business without becoming a tool for social media companies to make their money hacking his attention.

Fernando is a big fan of Cal Newport.

Of course, I’m also a big fan of Cal—which is why we had him join us in our fourth Heroic Chats with Masters—right after three of the most influential guides I’ve had: Phil Stutz (my beloved coach and spiritual father), John Mackey (the co-Founder and former CEO of Whole Foods), and William Damon (the renowned Stanford professor who is the world’s leading scholar on moral development/how to live a purposeful life).

And, of course, we’ve featured Cal’s wisdom in our Notes on Deep Work and Digital Minimalism (and So Good They Can’t Ignore You and How to Become a Straight-A Student) and he even joined us to lead his own class with us called Digital Minimalism 101.


Fernando and I talked about one of my favorite Ideas from Cal’s work—which we discussed WAY back in the day with +1 #559 called "A Cognitive Athlete Who Smokes.”

Here’s the short story…

Research shows that our addiction to digital stimulation does long-term damage to our ability to focus and be present.

When we constantly give in to digital distractions, going from app to app and site to site, we become what Cal refers to as “the cognitive equivalent of being an athlete who smokes.”

Our supposedly harmless quick check-ins while we’re waiting in line at the grocery store or at a stop light or while boarding a flight are not as harmless as we might imagine.

Think about it.

Let’s say 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. (Right?)

Now, as we said in that prior +1 and I’ll repeat again here…

You may or may not have the ambition to be a world-class thinker or a 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 showing up at their Heroic best 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?

Day 1. All in.


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