I first watched this TED Talk by Cal Newport (author of Deep Work) in January 2018 – it encouraged me to quit Facebook and Instagram cold turkey. Newport’s words had a powerful influence on how I view our current economy; it shattered the illusion that to be a successful professional, you need to devote hours every week to social media platforms. The talk reshaped the way I approach digital platforms… and led me to many hours of productive work.
In a competitive 21st century economy what the market values is the ability to produce things that are rare and that are valuable. What the market dismisses for the most part are activities that are easy to replicate and produce a small amount of value. Well, social media use is the epitome of an easy to replicate activity that does not directly produce a lot of value, it’s something that any 16 year old with a smartphone can do. By definition, the market is not going to give a lot of value to those behaviors, it’s instead going to reward the deep, concentrated work required to build real skills and to apply those skills to produce things like a craftsman, that are rare and that are valuable. To put it another way, if you can write an elegant algorithm, if you can write a legal brief that can change a case, if you can write a thousand words of prose that’s going to fixate a reader up until the end, if you can look at a sea of ambiguous data and apply statistics and pull out insights that can transform a whole business strategy… if you can do these types of activities which require deep work, that produce outcomes that are rare and valuable, people will find you. You will be able to build the foundations of a meaningful and successful life, regardless of how many Instagram followers you have.
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