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March 2, 2022

#57 Johann Hari - Stolen Focus

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Our guest is Johann Hari, writer, journalist, and author of “Chasing the Scream”, “Lost Connections”, and his most recent one entitled “Stolen Focus”. We talk about our waning attention spans and how this is affecting our children, how his trip to Provence Town changed (or didn’t change) his life, and how Google is stealing our attention.

Links and Resources:
Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention-and How to Think Deeply Again
Johann's Website

Support the show (http://patreon.com/candicehorbacz)


0 (0s): So I decided to, I booked her a little, a room in a post called Provincetown in Cape Cod. And I just went away for three months. I left my laptop. I didn't have a laptop that could get online. And I left my smartphone in Boston with my friend Shaylene, and I just got out of there. Right. You know, lots of things happened to me in Provincetown in those three months. But the thing that, and there were actually many changes I later realized I'd made that improve my attention, not just separating myself from the tech, but I thought by then I was nearly 40. Right. I thought, you know, maybe I just got old and maybe that's why I can't focus. My attention went back to being as good as it had been when I was 17. I could read books all day and not waver. 0 (42s): I mean, it was staggering how much my attention came back. 1 (47s): Hello, everybody. You're listening to Chatting with Candice, I'm your host, Candice. Horbacz back before we jump into this week's episode, I wanted to do our round up of shout outs. So for everyone that has bought me cups of coffee, I want to say thank you so much to Peter, to chase and to Zach, I really appreciate all of those cups of coffee and want to do a couple of Patrion members. I wanted to give a shout out to Hector Thomas and Shanley. I couldn't do this without you guys. I really sincerely mean that all of your donations go directly back into the podcast. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you. So without further ado, before I bore you, before we even get started, please help me welcome New York times bestselling author, Johann Hari. 1 (1m 36s): Well, Johann, thank you so much for joining the podcast. I know we have been in the works for this. I'm really excited to finally have you on. I think all of the topics that you've covered in the past are really incredible and crucial to our conversation is what does it mean to be the best human that we can be? That your newest book is, is no exception. So I kind of want to get into the conceptualization of it, of lost focus. I was reading your article that you had sent me in that you wrote for the guardian. And it really resonated with me because you focused on your godson and I have a young boy and I'm like, give me all of the information what's happening. What is constantly being connected? 1 (2m 18s): What does that effect on our brain? 0 (2m 20s): God. Yeah, I know the thing you're mentioning is this moment when I realized I had to write the book, oh, I've got even thinking about it now is really throwing me off. So I've got a godson who I call Adam in the book. It's not his real name. And when he was knowing he developed this brief, but really intense obsession with Elvis, which was particularly cute. Cause he didn't know that Elvis had become a cheesy cliche. So he would like sing Viva Las Vegas or suspicious minds. Totally. Honestly, I was probably the last person in human history who will ever do Elvis, like sincerely and what needs used to tuck him in. And I used to get me to tell him the story of overseas life again and again, I tried to skip over the bit where elder shits himself to death, a little toilet and, and one day I was telling the story and he looked at me really intensely. 0 (3m 8s): And he said, Johann, will you take me to Graceland one day, right where Elvis lived? And I was like, yeah, sure. The way you do with nine year olds, like, you know, knowing next week, it will be like our land or whatever. And we said, no, do you really promise your, take me to Graceland? I was like, absolutely promise. And I didn't think of that moment again for 10 years until so many things had gone wrong. He, he dropped out of school at the age of 15 and by the time he was 19, he was just, this isn't an exaggeration, literally spending all his waking hours alternating between apps and devices. He would be constantly flicking from his iPad to his iPhone, from WhatsApp to porn, to YouTube, to Snapchat. 0 (3m 51s): And it was almost like he was kind of worrying at the speed of Snapchat, right? Where nothing still or serious could touch him. And one day we were sitting on my sofa just directly behind where my laptop is. I'm stupidly pointing. Obviously you can't see by my laptop. And we were saying that, and one day he was just looking at his devices and I've been trying to get a conversation going and he just couldn't do it. And to be totally honest with you, Candice, I wasn't much better. Right? I was sitting there staring at my own devices and I suddenly remembered this moment. It was like, we can't live like this. I suddenly remembered this moment. Well there's years before. And I said to him, Hey, let's go to Graceland. And he was like, whoa, what are you talking about? 0 (4m 32s): Did he remember this Alba's obsession? I was like, no, we've just got to break this numbing routine. Let's get out of it. Let's go all over the south. But you've got to promise me one thing, which is that when we get there, you'll leave your phone in the hotel. Right? And he said, I absolutely promise. I could see it excite to something in him. Three weeks later, we took off from London, Heathrow to new Orleans where we went first and a couple of weeks later, we got to Graceland. And when you arrive at the gates of Graceland in Memphis, now this is even before COVID, there's no human being who shows you around. What happens is they give you an iPad and the iPad shows you around. So it says, you know, go left, go right straight ahead. And everywhere you are. It tells you about the room you're in. And there's a picture of that room and the iPad, right? 0 (5m 17s): So what happens is everyone just walks around Graceland, just staring at their iPad. And I'm sort of getting more and more tense. I've tried to make eye contact with someone to go like, oh, this is funny where the people who traveled thousands of miles and actually lived to the place we traveled to, but I couldn't get any eye contact going to anyone. And we, we got to the jungle room, which was Elvis's favorite room in Graceland. And there was a Canadian couple next to us and the man turned to his wife and he said, honey, this is amazing. Look, if you swipe left, you can see the jungle room to the left. And if you swipe right, you can see the jungle room to the right. And I, I laughed. I was like, oh, this is funny. 0 (5m 57s): And then I turn, look at them and they're just swiping back and forth. And I, I sort of leaned over and I said, Hey sir, there's an old function form of swiping. You could do. It's called turning your head. Cause look, we're in the general room. You don't need to look at it on your iPad were actually there. And they just sort of looked at me like I was crazy, possibly rightly and just backed away. And I turned to my godsend to laugh about it, to be like, oh, this is funny. And he was standing in the corner looking at Snapchat because from the moment we landed, he could not stop. And I kind of stormed up to him and I said, look, I know you're afraid of missing out, but this is guaranteeing that you'll miss out. Right? It's just, you're not showing up for your own life. 0 (6m 39s): You're not present at your own existence. And I tried to grab the phone of him, never a good idea with a teenager and, and he stormed off. And so I wandered around Memphis on my own that day. And that night I found him at the heartbreak hotel where we were staying down the street and he was sitting by the guitar shaped swimming pool. And I went up to him and I apologized just going through his phone and I apologized and he didn't look up from Snapchat, but he said, I know something's really wrong, but I don't know what it is. And that's when I thought for a long time, I'd been thinking about whether I should write about what's happening to our attention. Partly because I could feel something weird happening to my own attention with each year that passed. It felt like things that require deep focus, like reading a book, having deep conversations, watching long movies, we're getting more and more like running up a down escalator. 0 (7m 26s): You know what I mean? Like I could still do them, but they were getting harder and harder. And I saw this happening to everyone around me, but almost everyone. So really after that experience in Memphis, I decided to go on this big journey. I used my training in the social sciences at Cambridge university to go on a big journey all over the world. I, from Moscow to Miami, to Melbourne, I interviewed over 200 of the leading experts on focus and attention in the whole world. And I dug really deeply into their research. And what I learned from them is the scientific evidence for 12 factors that can make your attention worse. Some of them are in our, some of them go way beyond our tack from the food we eat to the sleep we don't get. But, but what I learned is loads of the factors that have been proven to make your attention worse. 0 (8m 8s): I've been hugely rising in recent years and your attention didn't collapse. Your attention has been stolen from you by these really big forces. But once we understand them, which what I tried to do in my book Stolen Focus, we can begin to see the solutions. And I saw the solutions all over the world. 1 (8m 23s): That part that you describe it. The hotel is really heartbreaking to me when, when I was reading it, I was because I, you can't help it to put yourself in those shoes. And you're like, man, as a parent or as a caregiver, you must automatically be like, I've failed somewhere, right? Like how could, how did this happen? And obviously with the consequences of like, of dropping out, and it's a much, a much bigger effect on your actual life simply than just like being disconnected from human relationships. And it's interesting too, that everywhere there's a screen because they say you can only experience something once. So whether you're at a concert or you're visiting a museum or a historic site, or you're having a moment with your child, if you're too busy recording it, you're actually not getting the same biofeedback as you would, if you were present and experiencing that. 1 (9m 12s): So yeah, you might have captured that moment that you can now replay, but you never actually fully experienced it in the first place. And how sad is that when we really think about it and in real terms of, of again, capturing moments with a child, for example, like you think you're doing something that's beneficial because now you have archived this moment, but it's almost a lie because you weren't there in the beginning. 0 (9m 33s): That is such a good way of putting it. I wish I thought to put it that way. My, but you're absolutely right. What we've got is a crisis in being present, right? And that is going across the whole society. We've got profound crisis in being present. And if you're not present and presence is the heart of life, right. If you're not present at your events, what have you, we've all had that experience of, you know, go to a concert. I remember I was at the last night out and John ever performed at Caesar's palace and about a third of the audience, didn't didn't fucking look out and John they're just gone. No one wants to see your shitty video of Elton John. There's literally a million videos about John on YouTube. And they're all better than the shitty one that you're filming right. 0 (10m 14s): Showed up for your life. So I think what we have to understand is why, how we got into this place, where we're not showing up for our lives and how we can get out of it. Cause if you look at these deep structural causes, we can begin to build solutions. And I went to places that began to build solutions. Also that you're getting a really important thing, which is, this is bad enough for adults, but it's really a catastrophe for young people. Because if you don't form attention, when you're young, it's going to be harder to form it when you're older. So obviously a quarter of my books, don't our focus is about children. What we can do. And actually I'm really optimistic about this. Cause I met people who embody, who are in acting the solution for what we can do with children and it's free and it really works. 0 (10m 56s): So I'm sure we'll get to that later in the conversation, but particularly on childhood, I'm really optimistic that we can build this solution here. 1 (11m 3s): Well, that makes me really ecstatic because I've said this in a couple of recent podcasts, because they always tend to get a little doomy and gloomy. But I say like, you have to be optimistic, especially if you're a parent or your caregiver, because it's your responsibility to, to kind of extend hope to them. If you say what's the point 0 (11m 22s): And the truth is we're not fucked, right? We're really not. I'll give you an example of one of the 12 courses that I write about installer focus about the way that we've signed. So I think one of the causes of our attention crisis is that we have psychologically and physically confined our children. And what are the heroes of the book who should totally have on your podcast? Remind me, I'll intro. You is a woman called extraordinary woman named Lenore Skenazy who both identified the problem, but far more importantly brought the solution, right? So there's been a huge increase in children's attention problems in recent years for every one child who was diagnosed with serious attention problems. When I was seven years old, there's now a hundred children who've been identified with that problem. 0 (12m 3s): I can give, give more evidence about why we know children's attention has got worse, but I'm pretty sure that's a no shit Sherlock insight. That pretty much everyone listening is is, is down with, if not, I can go through more of the evidence for you. I don't think there's many things going on here. The way our children eat has profoundly changed. And the food we eat is deeply damaging their ability to focus children. Now sleep far less than they did. In fact, children sleep 85 minutes less than they did a century ago was staggering change the leading expert on sleep in the world, Dr. Charles size little Harvard medical school said even if nothing else had changed, just that one thing would have massively caused intention, crisis there's loads of factors. I think there's one really big one and that we can build a solution to quite quickly. 0 (12m 47s): So I don't think it's a coincidence that children's attention problems have exploded at the same time as there was a highly specific change in the nature of childhood. So let's think about Lenore's childhood Lenore grew up in a suburb of Chicago in the 1960s and what that meant for her and for everyone who, who grew up at that time is from when she was five. She left the house on her own and she would walk to school on her own. It was about 15 minutes walk away. She would generally bump into all the other kids because every kid walked to school on their own from when they were five, right? When she got to the school, there was a busy road. So there was a ten-year old boy whose job was to help the five-year-olds across the street. Right. She would go in score would finish it, whatever it was 3:00 PM. 0 (13m 28s): And she would just wander around the neighborhood freely with all the other kids. And then they would find their way home when they were hungry. Right? So that is what childhood looked like for all of human history, with almost no exceptions, children played freely with each other. And then in the space of one generation that ended by the time malaria was a mother in the 1990s, you were expected to walk even your teenagers to the school gate and wait there and be waiting again when they get out of school at the end. And in fact, by 2003, only 10% of American children ever played outdoors without an adult supervising them ever. And I think of that 10%, they got like 12 minutes a week. 0 (14m 9s): So basically no children play. So we've talked a lot about the damage to childhood during COVID and it's absolutely right. We talk about that, but actually we put our kids under house arrest long before COVID right. Childhood became a thing that happens behind closed doors, under adult supervision. And it turns out that childhood we've lost, contains loads of things that are essential for children to be able to focus and pay attention to given other no shit, Sherlock one, exercise, children for their brains to develop, need to run around professor Joel neg. One of the leading experts on children's attention problems in the world who I interviewed in Portland explained to me, you know, when children run around, they get more brain connections. One of the best things you can do for kids who can't focus is a, let them run around and then come back. 0 (14m 52s): Right? Again, I don't think people, I think it's so obvious to people. They know it, but we took all that exercise away. Even more importantly, when children play together freely as Dr. Isabel Kay, the great Chilean scientist has shown. They learn how to pay attention, right? They learn what they find interesting. They learn how to persuade the other kids to find their stuff interesting or fail to do it. They learn how to be brave, all sorts of things that are essential for attention. They learn how to wait their turn. And if an adult is just standing over them, telling them what to do all the time, they don't learn those skills. Right? Right. So I think most people listening are going to see that. What I've just said is true. 0 (15m 32s): It's easy to talk about problems, right? The reasonable nor is the hero of the book is not cause she identified that problem because she built the solution. Lenore leads a group called let grow.org, which I really recommend every parent and grandparent listening goes to. And so Lenore saw this problem. And at first she just tried to persuade parents as individuals to let their kids play outside more on their own. So she would often say to them things like what is something that you love to do when you were a kid that you don't allow your own children to do? And you know, people come up with so many things, right? I used to ride my bike in the words, I used to so many things, but she learned quite quickly. It doesn't work to just persuade people as isolated individuals. 0 (16m 14s): Because if you're the only parent who lets your child go out, the kid gets scared. You look crazy. Actually often people will call the police, right? So it just doesn't work to do it on your own. So what she does, what her organization let grow.org do is they go to whole schools and whole communities and persuade the whole community together to give kids increasing levels of independence that build up to playing freely outdoors, like all children did in the past. And I'll think of all the conversations I have to Stolen Focus. I had so many amazing conversations about all of the 12 causes of my attention crisis by actually one of the two or three most moving conversations I had was with a 14 year old boy who was part of a let grow program in long island. 0 (16m 57s): So I spent a lot of time with let grow programs. And this boy, this was a big strapping, strong boy. He was taller than me. Right? And his parents until this program began, had never let him out of his house on his own ever. They wouldn't even let go for a jog around the block. I asked him why. And he said, because there, the phrase he used was because they're afraid of all these kidnappings, right? Your child is three times more likely to be hit by lightning than to be kidnapped. And in this area where he lived to give you a sense of what it was like, this is a town in long island where the olive oil store is across the street from the French bakery, right. 0 (17m 39s): There's never been a kidnapping there. And he had a level of fear that would be appropriate if he grew up in Syria, right? And then this let grow program began. And everyone in the community started to give their kids increasing levels of independence. He started to play outdoors with his friends. I asked him what he did. He said, first, they just played ball games in the street. But then he said, and he said this real or in his face, he said, we went into the woods, even though our cell phones didn't have reception there. He said that. And he said, and I said, what did you do in the woods? And he said, we built a Fort. And Lenore was with me that day. And when this boy left, she said to me, think about all of human history, right? 0 (18m 21s): Young people, particularly young men had to go out and hunt. They had to sink. They had to build things. And then in one generation, we took that away from them. And those boys given a tiny little sliver of freedom, went into the woods and built a Fort because this is so deep in our nature. And that boy seeing him describe it. And so many of the other kids in let grow programs, maybe this sounds a bit, I dunno, more dramatic. It felt like watching these boys come to life. Right. I thought about how many kids, I know who don't ever get to explore anything except on Fortnite and world of Warcraft. We can hardly be surprised our kids become obsessed with these things, but it's the only place they ever get to explore anything. 0 (19m 1s): Right. And yeah. So I think I go through, at the end of Stolen Focus, lots of the things we need to do to get our attention back. But one of the key things we need to do is we need to restore a human childhood, that our ancestors would recognize as a childhood. Does that ring true to you Candice? 1 (19m 20s): 100%. And you have to think of like the long-term consequences, right? Because now you're creating generational problems. If you are taking away these fundamental aspects of, of development, like exploring and being out in nature, I guess, do you know the origins of, because I remember back in the nineties, when you had that big spike of those, those commercials that were kind of telling parents and using fear-based propaganda to get inside and fencing off playgrounds and not walking your kid to school anymore, it's like how much evidence was there for serious, I guess, abductions. And is that still there? Like, is the world more dangerous than it was? 1 (20m 1s): And then are there more consequences of letting go of the reins? 0 (20m 6s): Yes. So violence professor, Steven Pinker shown this, this is counter intuitive because of we see so much violence on television, but violence has been massively declining for the past hundred years. Right. And it's not declined because we lock away our children cause violence against adults has also massively declined that we don't lock away adults. Right? So it was a big debate about why that's happened. He wrote a very good book about it, called the better angels, which is about figuring out why that happened. And there's lots of competing theories, but the fact is very clear. There's been a huge fall in violence. So to lock away your kids, because you're afraid. I mean, if I said to you, I will not let my child play outside because I'm afraid my child will be hit by lightning. 0 (20m 46s): You would regard me insane. Right? Your child is three times more likely to be hit by lightning than to be kidnapped. So this is a risk that is almost nil. Right. And that was, that's been the case for the whole of our lifetimes. Right. So, and that was the case when Lenore played outside. Right? So it's not that the decline of violence is not the result of locking kids away. Already. Violence has massively declined by then. And it's declined even further since against both adults and children. So out of fear of something that is a negligibly tiny risk, what we've done is we've imposed certain harm on our kids. We've made it harder for them. We've made them struggle to pay attention. 0 (21m 26s): We've made them obese. We you've got the certain, not the certainty, but the massive increased likelihood of harm, which is happening all around us. You know, a third of American children are obese, you know, 50% since the pandemic. Exactly. So we're just talking about staggering levels of obesity, staggering levels of attention problems in part, because we've, we've, we've taken away disability, we've taken away childhood essentially against a negligibly tiny risk. You know, it's partly about helping people to understand that, but also, you know, says, and I think she's absolutely right. She used to just try and tell people the statistics and the risk and it just doesn't work. 0 (22m 9s): Right. It just doesn't work. Our brains, our brains are not very good at calculating statistics. If they were, no one would play the lottery. Right. And I've just come back from Vegas, Vegas. We've not repacked every day, the way you understood statistics and odds, right? That's just not how we think. She said, what works is not telling them statistics to not be afraid. What works is letting them see their kids grow in competence. She says, the thing that works is they let their kids out. They're so nervous and their kid comes back sweaty having run around, telling them about, I saw a squirrel. I, I got a bit scared because I climbed a tree. But look, I did it right. Seeing how, what parents need to see is that their children are competent. 0 (22m 52s): Bright. What we're doing is we're making our children incompetent because it's small things that build confidence that make you, this is why college students are so fucking anxious, right? If you never, if you've never had the experience of a little bit of risk, a little bit of danger. And of course we know anxiety itself, independently damages, attention of focus. We've all had the express. If you're anxious, you can't pay attention very well. Right? So this is one of the 12 factors I think we really need to deal with. And I would argue every single school in the United States should have a let grow program. This is free. This is the lowest hanging fruit. This is something that all Americans could agree on. Right? I don't care if you're the most liberal or the most conservative or Americans. 0 (23m 33s): And one of the good things that might come from COVID. This has been a horrifying tragedy. Obviously, one of the good things that might come from this from COVID is we've just seen what locking away our children does them. And everyone knows it has fucked our kids, right? So let's think about, okay, if looking away our kids this much as harm them, maybe the extent to which we were locking them away before COVID harm them. Now we can set them free again. Right? And we can do it in a controlled way. We can do it in a way that minimizes risk, because the risk of what we're doing now is enormous, right? The risk of setting them free is low. Whereas the bank gains or setting them free are enormous. So yeah, you should totally let grow.org, everyone listening, please go to it. 0 (24m 16s): I go through other ways in which the way we live is harming our ways we live our harming our attention. I think the way we designed our school system is if you, if this is not the fault of teachers who never wanted it to be this way, if you wanted to design a school system that would kill children's ability to focus, you would design the school system. We currently have, particularly for boys, we've designed a school system that makes boys feel incompetent. And like, they can't do anything and bored all the time. We can design a different school system. There's all sorts of these big structural things. But yeah, so there's lots into the children. And obviously then a lot of the book is about adults and what we can do for our own attention as well. 1 (24m 55s): No, I mean, that program sounds incredible. So we use a Montessori school right now, which is very similar, so it's free play and it's not a lot of adult intervention. And it's teaching them to kind of get like, have pride in your work internally instead of exceed, seeking external validation, which crosses over to how adults are right now. Because you, everything we do is for likes and retweets and engagement. So we're getting our sense of purpose and fulfillment extrinsically. And that that's not gonna work because at some point, you know, you're, you can't control those things. The only thing you control can, can control is your inner state. So, I mean, it starts from childhood, but absolutely kind of like ripples out if you will. 0 (25m 40s): You're totally right. 1 (25m 43s): Oh no, go ahead. No, go ahead. 0 (25m 44s): Well thinking about those reinforcements and what they, and that craving for online reinforcements while that's done to us, obviously I took a lot in the book about the different ways in which that's harmed our ability to focus, but let's start if it's okay, Candice, with just one that I think everyone listening is going to think shit that's playing out in my life today. Right? So I went to MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of technology to interview one of the leading neuroscientists in the world, a man named professor Earl Miller, amazing man. And he said to me, look, there's one thing you've got to understand about the human brain. More than anything else. You can only consciously think about one or two things at a time. That's it? This is just a fundamental limitation of the human brain. 0 (26m 25s): The human brain hasn't changed significantly in 40,000 years. It's not going to change on a timeframe. You and me are going to see. You can only think about one or two things at a time, but what's happened is we fallen for an enormous collective delusion. The average American teenager now believes they can follow six or seven of media at the same time. So what happens is scientists get people into labs, not just teenagers, people of all ages. And they get them to think they're doing more than one thing at one at once, right? And they always find the same thing, which is that when you try to do more than one thing at a time, you can't, what you do is you juggle very quickly between those tasks, you consciousness kind of papers over it. 0 (27m 8s): You don't realize you're you're do you genuinely think you're doing more than one thing at a time, but you're not. And it turns out that juggling comes with a really big cost. The technical term for it is the switch cost effect. And it turns out when you try and do more things more than one thing at a time, your ability to do all those things rapidly degrades, you will do all the things you're trying to do much less competently. You'll make more mistakes. You'll remember less of what you do. You'll be much less creative about what you do. And when you hear that, it feels like, I think a lot of people are still be like, yeah, I get that. But it's quite a small effect surely. Right? I remember thinking that it was not that big, right? How big is that? I'll give you just one example of many. It's a small study, but backed by a much wider body of evidence, Hewlett Packard, the printer company, I've got a scientist in to study their workforce and he split their workers into two groups. 0 (27m 57s): And the first group was told, just do your task, whatever it is, and you're not going to be interrupted. And the second group was told, do your task, whatever it is. But you've got ones who are heavy load of email and phone calls. So pretty much how we all live now. And then at the end of it, the scientists tested the IQ of both groups. The group that had not been interrupted, scored 10 IQ points higher than the group that had to give you a sense of how big that effect is. If you were me, got stoned together. Now, Candice, if we'd smoked a fat spliff together, our IQs would go down in the short term by five points. So being distracted in the way, most of his are, is twice as bad for your intelligence as getting stoned, at least in the short term, there's a bigger debate about if you smoke cannabis in the long term, obviously, but in the short term, you'd be better off sitting at your desk, getting stoned and doing one thing at a time than sitting at your desk, not getting stoned and being just distracted and juggling tasks all the time. 0 (28m 53s): Right? Clearly obviously you'd be better off now. They're getting stoned, Norbit distracted, but, and this is a huge effect, a different study by professor Larry Rosen found that if you received eight text messages an hour, which doesn't sound like much to me, it lowers your brain power for the main thing you're trying to focus on by 30%, that's a staggering amount, right? So this is why professor Miller at MIT said to me, we're living in a perfect storm of cognitive degradation as a result of all these interruptions, all this distraction. And, and, and so you can see how one of the things that interrupts us and distracts us is this craving for rewards, right? We're trained, oh shit. 0 (29m 33s): What were people saying about me now on, on Instagram? How many likes did I get? Oh, someone's posts tag me in a picture. Right? You can see how that's one of many things that train us to seek out those constant interruptions that are so degrading our ability to focus. 1 (29m 49s): So when you talk about the task switching and not being able to focus on more than one to two things at a time, and that kind of just being a fact based off of the professionals in their research, I find that a lot of people feel like they're the exception to the rule. So they might like, well, sure, this brilliant guy at MIT, this one thing, but he's never seen me work or he's never seen any proposal. And I, I can do it because I'm a high performer. How do you get through to those people? Cause I, I find that we attach our abilities to our identities. So like I identify as this very high-functioning person that can multitask. And that's why I'm a C-suite level person at my company. 1 (30m 32s): So there's obviously a lot of ego attached to that. And I feel like anytime there's ego attached to anything, it it's really hard to break through that. So how do you create change? Cause you could do regulation all day long, but if someone is fighting it, it's not going to help them. Yeah. 0 (30m 47s): I think was a really good point. I think it's a bit like weirdly the point about Lenore and intellectually explaining it to people only gets you so far. They have to actually see it. So I would say to those people who say I'm really great at multitasking. And I used to say that give yourself a week where you don't do it. And honestly come back and tell me whether your focus got better and whether your performance improved. Right? So one of the things I did for the, because you know, Candice is I went completely offline for three months. I had no internet for three months after I came back from Memphis, this, this trip with my God son. And I was just so horrified and I was so tired of being wired. You know, I'd been basically online for 15 years. 0 (31m 29s): By that point, I just, I was in a lucky position. The film rights to one of my previous books had sold. So I had some money and I thought, fuck it. I have enough of this. So I decided to, I booked a, a little, a room in a post called Provincetown in Cape Cod. And I just went away for three months. I left my laptop that I didn't have a laptop. We could get online. And I left my smartphone in Boston with my friend Shaylene and I just got out of there. Right. I literally fled them on a boat. Right. And, and you know, lots of things happened to me in Provincetown in those three months. But the thing that, and there were actually many changes I later realized I'd made that improved my attention, not just separating myself in the tech, but I thought by then I was nearly 40. 0 (32m 11s): Right. I thought, you know, maybe I just got old and maybe that's why I can't focus. My attention went back to being as good as it had been when I was 17. I could read books all day and not waver. I mean, it was staggering how much my attention came back. And then I remember just before I left Provincetown, the very last day I was there, I went to a what's it called long point, which is where the lighthouse is. And I look back over the whole of Provincetown and I was like, I'm never going to go to how the way I was, why would I go back? This is amazing. The joys of focus are so great. I would just say to anyone listening, think about anything you've ever achieved in your life, that you're proud of. Whether it's setting up a business, being a good parent, learning to play the guitar, whatever it is, that thing you're proud of, took a huge amount of sustained focus and attention. 0 (32m 60s): And when focusing attention, break down your ability to achieve your goals, breaks down your ability to solve your problems breaks down. And when you get your focus back, your ability to achieve your goals and solves your problem so drastically improves. So I remember thinking I'm never going to go back. I've got my phone back. And within a month I was 80% back to where I've been. And later I learned how to build a lot of those improvements into my life at an individual level. But to be honest, I only really understood why I'd gotten so much worse. When I went to Moscow to interview a guy called Dr. James Williams, who had been at the heart of Google was horrified by what they were doing to people's attention. 0 (33m 41s): We can talk about why, if you like quit and became, I would argue the leading philosopher of attention in the world. And he said to me, the mistake you've made by going to Provincetown is I'm sure it was very nice for you. He said, but the mistake you've made is it's like thinking the solution to air pollution is for you personally to wear a gas mask, right? I mean, I'm not against gas masks. If I lived in Beijing, I'd wear a gas mask start solution to air pollution, right? We've got to actually solve the problem. And at the moment this isn't going to be on what he said now. But at the moment what's happening is our attention is being destroyed. A very large forces. 0 (34m 22s): It's like someone who's pouring itching powder over us all day. And then that person is leaning forward and saying, Hey buddy, you might want to learn how to meditate. Then you wouldn't scratch so much Twitch. The elliptical responses will fuck you. I'll learn to meditate. That's great. We need to stop you pouring itching powder on me. Right? So there's sort of two levels at which we've got to tackle all of these 12 factors that are degrading our attention. The first level is I think of them as defense and offense, right? We've got defend ourselves in our children as much as possible. And I go through dozens of things we can do in the book to do that. I'm passionately in favor of those things, but I also want to level with people, those things will improve your attention. I'm strongly in favor of them, but they will only get you so far because we're living in what professor Joel nix that we might want to ask. 0 (35m 4s): Whether it's an attentional, pathogenic environment and environment is undermining the ability of all of us to pay attention. And once you understand that you realize, okay, we've got to fix the environment. That can sound very fancy, but I talk about very practical ways we can do that are places I went to that have begun to do it. 1 (35m 20s): Yeah, because that does sound very overwhelming. And then it also sounds, it sounds very insidious to when you say the intentional, right? The like that descriptive, which it absolutely is. I'd love to. So when you mentioned that guy at Google, I would love to kind of get into what Google's doing specifically, because I think what a lot of people do is they'll look at specific platforms and they'll say, this is ruining people's minds. This is ruining people's minds. This is the reason that you're addicted to whatever. And I'm like, it's across the board. It's, it's all technology. If you can access it on your phone or your laptop, it is trying to monetize you. And they're all, they're all guilty. And I was listening to a couple of podcasts with Google specifically, and I didn't realize goo at this moment, Google is pretty much the internet, even if you're using other servers, like it all kind of has to go through Google first. 0 (36m 11s): Yeah. So just before, because I'm so conscious of what you said, and I'm really glad you said it earlier about hope. I want to give an example about hope that I think will help us to think about Google because it can sound like fucking hell. We're trapped in the matrix then. Right. And I want to give a very specific example, I think will help us to understand the solutions to problem we're about to talk about. So I think you're probably too young to remember this Candice, but I can just remember that there used to be the Eastern normal that people, in fact, the dominant form of gasoline in the U S and Britain used to be leaded gasoline, right? So you'd put lead in into your car. And then that lead would be pumped out into the air and everyone was breathing in led, right? And a bit before my time, it used to be normal that people painted their homes with let it paint. 0 (36m 54s): And then it was discovered lead fucks your brain. And it particularly devastates children's ability to focus and pay attention. Right? They actually knew about that going all the way back to the 1920s, there was an amazing scientist could talk to Alice Hamilton who figured it out. But the led industry funded a kind of bullshit denial kind of science, a pseudoscience that said, oh no, no, lead's fine. It's just that people need to dust their homes a bit more. But by the time you got to the seventies and the early eighties, it was just undeniable that lead was having this terrible effect on people's attention. So a group of moms, they were mostly moms got together and said, why are we allowing this? Why are we allowing a for-profit company to fuck our child's brand children's brains? 0 (37m 36s): Right. Maybe they didn't swear as much as I did, but that was the gist of what they said. Right? So what did they do? It's really important to notice what they didn't do. They didn't say ban all gasoline. They didn't say ban all paint, right? Cause paint and gasoline are good things. They said let's bound the specific aspects of the pain and the gasoline that are harming people's attention. Really important to bear in mind for when we get to the internet debate, because we don't want to ban all this stuff loaded. It is great and good. We want to deal with the specific aspects that are damaging our attention and what happened with those moms. They fought, they fought for years, they succeeded as a result. We're not exposed to lead anything like the same amount. 0 (38m 18s): And what's the outcome. According to the center for disease control, because of the reduction in exposure to lead, the average American child is three to five IQ points higher than they would have been. Had we not Bangladesh, right? An amazing piece of progress, a real model for us, something was identified in the environment that was fucking up our ability to focus. And so we got rid of that thing from the environment, right. It can be done. So let's go to Google. For example, another one of the heroes in my book is Tristan Harris, who is an extraordinary person. I'm sure you know, his work he's become very famous. I forgot because I got to know him before he was famous and I still know him. Now he's my friend. So Tristan, if you want to understand what Google's done to our attention, there's many aspects of this, but give you an example of a story. 0 (39m 3s): Tristan told me years ago that really haunts me. So Tristan worked on Gmail, which is owned by Google. It was developed by an is a Google product. He works on Gmail really early in the development of Gmail. And they were trying to figure out how to get people, more people to use Gmail obviously, but also they particularly wanted to get people to use Gmail more often. I'll come to wine a little while. So they're trying to figure how can we get people to use it more often? And one day sitting in the Google Plex and one of Tristan's colleagues said, I've got an idea. Why don't we make it so that every time someone gets an email, their phone vibrates a little bit. If I said, that's a good idea, let's do it. A week later, Tristan was walking around San Francisco and he just hears this, this buzzing everywhere, this noise, like a kind of weird dystopian bird song. 0 (39m 55s): And suddenly he realizes shit. We did that. That's ours. That's my colleague sitting next to me. We, we did that. And then he realized that that's happening all over the world, right? He later calculated it. That one decision had led to 10 billion interruptions to people's day, every day across the world. 10 billion. Think about what we were talking about before, but how being interrupted damages, your attention professor Michael Posner discovered that if you're interrupted, it takes you on average 23 minutes to get back to the level of focus you had before you were interrupted. But loads of us now navigate 23 minutes spare, right? So Tristan is horrified. 0 (40m 36s): It seems like shit. So he starts to try to persuade people inside Google. This is really bad. What we're doing, right? We're really, we're not being responsible. Custodians of people's attention and focus, but what he and often his colleagues were very sympathetic. Not least because all of them are having their attention fucked up as well. You know, there was one moment Dr. James Williams, who also worked at Google, spoke at a tech conference in front of people who designed the things that we all use every day. And he said to them, if there's anyone here who wants to live in the world, that we're creating put up your hand now and nobody put up their hand, right? 0 (41m 20s): So they don't want to be in the machine that they're building either. But what's really important here is to figure out, okay, how do we solve this? Cause just, don't try to persuade people on the inside, which is totally understandable. He was on the inside. It seems logical. I'm at the heart of the machine. Why not try and persuade the people here who better right to persuade. But Tristan kept bumping up against something. And to me, this is the understanding. This is the heart of understanding. What is the equivalent to the lead in the lead paint, right? What's the thing we need to fix. The primary thing we need to fix to deal with this, which is one of the 12 factors that write about installing focused at harming our attention. And the key thing to understand here is that they didn't listen to Tristan. 0 (42m 2s): Not because they're evil people. They're not evil people, right? Not because they're like James Bond villains. They're not the reason they didn't is because of the current business model. And if you understand the current business model, you understand why they're damaging our attention and how we can start to put it. Right? So anyone listening, if you open Facebook, now, if you have been Tik TOK, now, if you open any social media app, now the app starts to make money straight away for two in two ways. First is really obvious. You see ads, okay? Everyone listening knows how that works. The second way is much more important. Everything you do on these apps is scanned and sorted by the artificial intelligence algorithms to figure out who you are. Right? So let's say that you click that you like, I don't know, bet Midler Donald Trump. 0 (42m 47s): And you tell your mom you've just bought diapers. Okay? So the algorithm is gonna figure out if you're a man who clicked that you liked, but middle of you're probably gay. If you click that, you liked Donald Trump. He probably conservative. And if you're talking to someone about buying diapers, you've probably got a baby, right? I mean, so there's gay, conservative with baby, right? That's they figured out they've got tens of thousands of facts like that about you, right? And they're building up those facts for two reasons. One is to sell information about you, to advertisers, to sell your attention to advertisers. So advertisers can target you, but also to figure out what the weaknesses in your attention are, what are the kind of things that keep you scrolling, right? So the longer you scroll and the more often you pick up your phone and look at these apps, the more money they make. 0 (43m 31s): So every time you pick up your phone and look at these apps, they start to make money. And every time you put them down, that revenue stream disappears. Right? So all of that, our AI, all of the algorithms, all of this genius and Silicon valley is geared towards one thing, figuring out how do we get Candice to pick up a phone as often as possible and scroll as long as possible. How do we get Candace's kids to pick up their phone as often as possible and scroll as long as possible? That's it, that's all they care about as a corporation. That's all they care about. Just that they had a KFC. It doesn't matter if he's a nice guy or an asshole. All he cares about is how much KFC did you eat today? That's it, that's his job, right? So the whole machinery is built around, getting you to about invading your attention and get you to scroll as long as possible. 0 (44m 15s): Don't take my word for it. Don't take the word of dissidents like James and Tristan, listen to the people at the heart of Facebook, Sean Parker. One of the biggest initial investors in Facebook said publicly, we designed Facebook to maximally invade your attention. We knew we were doing, and we did it anyway. God only knows what it's doing to our kids minds, right? That's what he said. We know from Facebook's own leak to tap leaked research, they know they're destroying our collective and political attention. They know their own data. Scientists are telling them that, right? So obviously I was thinking a lot about, well, how do we solve this? Because it can feel really overwhelming when you hear that hazer Raskin, who is invented a key part of how many websites work told me. 0 (45m 1s): Look, if you want to understand the solution, it's really simple for this part of it. You've got a ban. The current business model, right? A business model is based on figuring out the weaknesses in your attention in order to hack them and sell your attention to the highest bidder. That is just any human it's like the lead in lead paint, just ban it. And loads of other people in Silicon valley said that to me. And it took me a long time to get my head round it. Cause I was like, well, hang on a minute. Let's imagine we do what you're saying. And the next day I open Facebook, would it just say, sorry, everyone we've gone fishing. Instead of course not. What would happen is they would have to move to a different business model. And absolutely everyone listening has experienced of the two different business models that they could move to. 0 (45m 43s): One is subscription. We all know how Netflix and HBO work. You pay a small amount. You get access. Alternatively, think about the sewers before we had sewers, we had shit in the streets. We all got where people got cholera. It was a disaster. So we all pay to build and maintain the sewers. And we all own the sewers together, right? Whatever city you're in, you own the sewers. Along with all the other citizens of that place. It may be that like, we want to own the sewage pipes together. We want to own the information pipes together. Cause we're getting the equivalent of cholera for our minds, for our attention. But whatever alternative business model we move to. The key thing to understand is all the incentives for social media then change at the moment. 0 (46m 24s): All the incentives are finding out the weakness in your attention in order to hack it and invade it. If you move to one of these different business models, that's not the incentive anymore. Suddenly they don't want to hack and invade your attention to sell you to advertisers. Suddenly they're like, oh, Candice is our customer. Now what does Candice want? Turns out. Candice wants to be able to pay attention. Let's design our app to heal her attention. Not hacker attention. Candice wants to meet up with her friends offline. This is a button that makes it much easier for her to do that, right? Because it turns out people feel better. As we all realize during COVID. When we look into each other's faces, rather than when we stare at each other through screens, there's all sorts of, it's unbelievably easy to redesign Facebook and all the other apps to facilitate attention rather than destroy them. 0 (47m 13s): But you have to get the incentives. Right? Right. And these companies are not going to do that on their own. Any more than the led industry was one day going to go, you know what guys I am, I think we've made enough money. Let's start fucking up children's brains. But they're never going to do that. They had to be made to do it by a movement in the same, because at the moment we're in a race, right? Marriage of the 12 factors that I talk about in Stolen Focus that are invading people's attention are on course to get worse, right? If we don't stop them, you know, Paul Graham, one of the biggest investors in Silicon valley said, the world will be more addictive in the next 40 years than it was in the last 40. Think about how much more addictive Tik TOK is the Facebook, right on the other side of this race, we've got have a movement of all of us saying, no, no, you don't get to do this. 0 (48m 1s): No, this is not how we want to live. No, you don't get to invade our children's brains. No, you don't get to invade our brains. And it requires a shift in a shifting consciousness. We are not medieval peasants begging at the court of king Zuckerberg for a few little crumbs of attention from his table. We are the free citizens of democracies and we own our own minds and we can take them back, but we're going to have to fight for them. 1 (48m 28s): I couldn't agree more. I would push back a little bit and say that I do think a lot of them are bond villains. And I think that you turned, you turn the human race into a product without our consent. So I have a little bit more, 0 (48m 45s): I think they become bond villains at the point at which they know they're doing it and they don't stop. Right. It wasn't, they didn't at the start. They didn't, it was not their intention to have these effects. I mean, it sort of was with Facebook actually. So maybe I'm probably being too nice and generous about them, but it's not. But you find this even with like, you know, for one of my previous books, I interviewed like Hitman for the deadliest Mexican drug cartel, who to killed loads of people. And even people are rarely, I think it's all things rarely stem from people being sort of deliberately wicked. Like generally they're pursuing some other goal that they think is good and they end up doing something harmful. But I agree with you the point of which they know they're doing it and they carry on doing it anyway. 0 (49m 29s): Well then they are villains, right? And then they are responsible for their actions. And then, then, and they know they're doing it. We know because we've got all this leaked information from Facebook now, thanks to the heroic work of Francis Haugen, who Lee made the very brave decision to leak it. Yeah. They know what they're doing. Right. They know very well what they're doing. 1 (49m 47s): Yeah. And I think it's interesting cause there's obviously multiple angles and, and solutions as to how to go about this and create the world that you want to live in. I tend to be more libertarian and like less regulation, less government across the board is generally a good idea. I do like how you mentioned like the sewage system, because it does make me think of Dows, which you start to see right now with, with platforms like minds. So they're trying to become a dollar and the process of doing that, which ends up being user owned and the users are voting and you actually can get paid based off of your engagement. And if you decide to sell your data, so it gives you a lot more agency and went as to how you participate in social platforms. 1 (50m 31s): Their CEO, I think is amazing. And I really hope that that he does well, but I think it comes down. And I know that some people are in favor of the whole personal accountability thing. But to me, it's kind of like a mix between personal accountability and the collective when you were talking about the moms and the lead, right? So if we all say this is bullshit, we know what's happening. And then you leave these platforms and you go to ones that actually care about the users like-minds and you support that, those systems and the other companies like Twitter won't have a base. They won't have anything to profit off of. 0 (51m 6s): I have a lot of sympathy for that, but I also think, I think you're right, there's two levels of which we got to do this, right? There's all sorts of things we can do as individuals and people who want to leave these platforms. I give them, you know, develop platforms, built around different principles. I have a huge amount of sympathy for, I think it tells a libertarianism. I think what's interesting about this is we can build really broad coalitions about this. Cause you know, I'm not aware of any hog, you know, the most super hardcore libertarian doesn't think we shouldn't have a sewage system that's collectively and the most hardcore libertarian doesn't think we should legalize lead poisoning again. Right? So there are certain that, you know, even really, really, I mean, I'd have to be a total abolish the government anarchist. I mean, there are some, and so my friends, no disrespect to them, but I think there are certain things that we, we almost, everyone agrees the government should do some things. 0 (51m 53s): There's some people who say the government should do very, very little and that's perfectly legitimate position. And I have lots of friends who take that position. But even the people say very, very little would say, well, sewers getting poison out of the air are pretty good ones. And I would argue and other people would disagree. And it's a perfectly legitimate debate dealing with these factors. I would put now in the category, I think it's pretty close to lead poisoning. And it's pretty, you know, if there are things that are so profoundly degrading our attention, but you're absolutely right. The fight for that. Sometimes it's framed as, and you're not smartly not doing this. Sometimes it's framed as there's two ways of thinking about this as either individual responsibility or collective action. 0 (52m 35s): And I always say to people, obviously we need both. It's bizarre to set them again. And collective responsibility is a form of individual responsibility, right? Like coats, collective action only happens if lots of individuals come together and do it. It's not like, I'm not saying wait for some political Messiah to deliver it to us. That will never happen. Right. If you think about those moms whose kids were being poisoned, the way they took individual responsibility was by acting together. Right? So I don't, I think you're in six months is right. But these are not separate things, right? I mean, well, they're separate to some degree of this. I'll give you an example of a purely individual acts that I recommend everyone doing these guys should so be paying me commission. 0 (53m 16s): I promise you. I'm not the product we're about to mention, but I noticed that sales have massively got up since I started talking about them. So over in the corner of the room, I have something called a K safe. It's a plastic safe. You take off the lid you put in your phone, you put on the lid, you turn the dial and it will lock away your phone for anything between five minutes and a whole a whole day. Right? I will not sit down with my partner and watch a film unless we both imprison our phones. I will not let people come round for dinner. And that's, we both put our phones in the phone jail. I wrote four hours a day. I imprisoned my phone then, and this laptop, I have an app called freedom, which locks away, which cuts you off equally the cut you off from specific websites. 0 (54m 1s): So you had a problem with Twitter or PornHub or whatever it might be or shut you out at them, or it can shut you off from the entire internet, however long you tell it to. And once you've done it, you can't get it back when it's just nothing you can do. So those are two examples and like purely individual force, the personal responsibility that I take every day. And I'm passionately in favor of, I can, you can sort of see how the individual responsibility interacts with collective responsibility. When we think about another layer of this. So loads of people listening will have heard me say what I just said, that I put my phone away for four hours a day and they're going to think, well, fuck you. I can't do that. My boss might text me right. Any minute of the day or not. I can't do that. I get fired. 0 (54m 41s): Screw. It doesn't sound like lovely advice. It's like a kind of tone to them, right? And there's a solution to that that I think has to come collectively. So in France, in 2018, they had a huge crisis of what they called Liber and out, which you need me to translate. And the French government was trying to figure out why so many people were getting burned out. So they set up a kind of inquiry to figure it out an investigation. And one of the things they discovered is that 35% of French workers felt they could never stop checking their phone or email because their boss could message them at any time of the day or night. And if they didn't answer, they'd be in trouble. And, and you can see a big change that is in the economy. 0 (55m 23s): Right. I remember when I was a kid, the only people who were on call were doctors and they weren't on call all the time. Right? Whereas now almost half the economy is always on call and you can see, I can give those people, all the lovely self-help advice in the world about you want to sleep more unplugged, you'll feel better your attention. They can't do it. Right? So the French government under pressure from kind of collective movements introduced a really simple legal reform that deals with a big part of this is called the right to disconnect. And it just gives every French worker two rights. The first right is you have a right to your work hours to be legally defined in your contract. And secondly, you have a legal, right, unless you're being paid over time to not check your phone or email outside those work hours. 0 (56m 9s): So I went to Paris before the play struck to talk to people just before I was there. Rentokil the big pest control company got fined 70,000 euros for trying to get one of their workers to check his email an hour after he left work. Now you can see how that's a thing, a collective thing. I mean, you could have companies start to offer that as an inducement to people as well, because there's competitive labor market at the moment, but you can see how that's a collective change that frees people up to make the individual changes they want to make. So you've got those, both those levels. So a lot of people, if they were given a right to disconnect would be able to use the case. Save would be able to use, you know, freedom in a way they can't at the moment. 1 (56m 48s): Do you think part of that's cultural though, because I've heard that people have brought in people like, like Simon Sinek, for example, to come and talk to their employees and talk about an employee led company and creating a better work environment. And for it to be less take, take take from, from the leaders in that and in those companies and that it doesn't end up working because I guess maybe specifically in America, we're just so competitive that the employees don't listen. So you might even have a benevolent leader or CEO, and he's trying to create this healthy space for people. But even if you were to pass something like the right to disconnect, you would still have other people that were like, I'm going to see this as an opportunity and take advantage of, and I'm still going to be available after work. 1 (57m 33s): And then that possibility is thus going to make the people that even though legally protected have the right to disconnect, they're still going to be available 24 7 because now they lost their edge. 0 (57m 44s): Partly I think it's a really important point. I think it's partly about one of the things we have to do in the culture. You're right. That part of it's cultural, we have to challenge the conception of productivity that we currently have at the moment, because our concept of productivity is, and this is in my head, right? I'm not saying standing above this, it's very deep in our culture. The productive person is the person who works all the time, right? If I get to the end of the day and I've done 12 hours of work and I'm exhausted, I'll get a little Puritan rush. I'm like, ah, what really hard today I've been productive. But actually all the evidence shows that is a terrible way to work. Just purely. If the only thing you care about is outcomes for your work. 0 (58m 27s): And I think we should, of course care about other things, but let's say that was the only thing you cared about. Even if that's your only, the only way you measure your life. It's a really shit way of doing your work. Right? And it's interesting. We all know that professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, who's a professor of organizational management at Stanford. One of the leading experts on organization in the world said to me, at some level, we all know that because ask any sports span, we're speaking, you know, two days off to the super bowl, ask any sports fan. Do you want your team to go onto the pitch? Exhausted. Having worked 12 hour days every day in the week, leading up to the super bowl, cos not, you'd be an idiot. If you thought that, right, you want your 10 to go onto the pitch while rested up for the game and, and press the deficit to me. 0 (59m 13s): Why would it be any different with the rest of us? Right. Actually working yourself to the point of exhaustion is not the way to be productive actually. So you think you're getting the competitive edge. If you're the one who's, I'm going to be available all the time, actually it's about a culture change where both you and the boss know the person who's available all the time. He never rest, never unplugs, never sleeps. That's actually your least productive worker. That's not the worker you want. That's not the kind of worker you want. That's the worst thing you want, right? This is one of the reasons, by the way, why the us has very low, hourly productivity compared to Germany where people work fewer hours, but are much more productive in the hours they do work, right? So you can see how I think you're right. 0 (59m 53s): That for this to happen, we have to understand that the way we work is completely counterproductive, right? Hard work is a really good thing. I work really hard. You work really hard. I'm passionately in favor of hard work, but hard work beyond the point at which you become productive is self-defeating work. Right? And I saw this. It's really funny. I went to a really fascinating workplace in New Zealand. There's a guy called Andrew bonds. You should also have him on your podcast is great person. So Andrew was worked in the financial sector here in London for years and years. And if you picture like the 1980s, those guys who were screaming at each other across the stock market floor going south. 0 (1h 0m 35s): So he was one of those guys, right? And he used to get to work at seven 30 in the morning. And he would leave work at seven 30 at night. And in his well world, you know, you were a fool. If you got to work later than seven 13, you were a pussy. If you left before seven 30, right? So he used to half the year. He didn't even see the sun because he would leave in the dark and get home in the dog and no relationship with his children. His first marriage fell apart and Andrew was smart enough to realize that I don't want this life. So he left. He went to Australia and New Zealand became extraordinarily successful businessmen in Australia and New Zealand, but he never forgot those years of sort of darkness. Right? And one day he was on, he said, one of the businesses he owns is called perpetual guardian who run wills and trusts very successful business. 0 (1h 1m 21s): And one day Andrew was on a plane and he read an article in a business magazine that showed that the average worker is actually only focused on their task for three hours a day. So they're sitting at their desk for eight hours a day, at least, but they're actually only focused for three hours a day. And it was like, well, this isn't a good deal for anyone. The worker's life is passing them by. They're not doing the things they want to do. And it's not a good deal for me because they're not doing their work. What would happen if we did this differently? So he did a kind of back of the envelope calculation. He figured out part of the problem here might be exhausted and overworked. If I gave my workers one extra day off a week, but I paid them the same. So I paid them the same as I pay them for five days. 0 (1h 2m 4s): But they only had to work four days. If in return, they focused for 45 minutes better a day. Then, you know, I've made up for the loss, right? So very boldly. He gets the whole company on a, on a conference call and he says, Hey, everyone, you've ever to work four days now, no cut to your pay. His head of HR literally fell over. So we're going to do this an experiment for three months. Let's see what happens. So they did it. And the results were monitored by the university of Oakland business school. And I went to New Zealand to interview these people. I spent, I interviewed everyone who worked for the office in a town called Rotorua, which is a slightly weird town that smells a farce because they've got a sulfur problem. But apart from that, very nice. And it was fascinating to talk to the people there and to look at the scientifically measured results. 0 (1h 2m 49s): So this first thing was very challenging. They achieved more in four days than they had in five, right? It wasn't just that they achieved as much. They did more, almost everywhere where they've done a four day week experiment. They found similar results. Microsoft in Japan, that productivity went up 40% when they moved to a four day, week Toyota in Sweden, they produced 120% of what they produced in four days. And they had in five, right? Lots of other examples, I think for precisely this reason, right? That you've got a challenge, the conception of productivity that we have, this concept of productivity, the exhausted worker is the good worker is just wrong. There's lots of scientific evidence for that. 0 (1h 3m 30s): And at some level we know it's true, but you're right. It's hard to get out of the competitive ratchet where you feel like if you're the one not doing that you're falling behind. And this is why we have to really deeply challenge these ideas and why it's easier to do it. If we all do it together, if you sort of feel like you're the only person who stepped out of the race, but this is another blessing of COVID right. We've seen that the way we work can enormously change. Right? I remember talking to Andrew Barnes who did the New Zealand experiment. I obviously saw him in New Zealand before COVID and I remember interviewing him about three or four months into COVID to him saying to me, if you had said to the leader of a bank a year ago, you can send all of your workers home, every single one of them and your bank will still function just as well. 0 (1h 4m 19s): They would have thought you were completely crazy. Right. But look, it happened. Right? So one of the things COVID has taught us is that we can really change the way we work in enormous. I don't think we're ever going to go back to working in offices the way we did. Right. Which to me, I think is probably a good thing. We have to do it well. And I don't think a hundred percent remote working is a good idea either for not businesses. I mean, maybe there's some where it's a good idea, but yeah, I think we've really learned. I've got where you can actually change lots of things and see what happens. 1 (1h 4m 50s): No, I think that's, again, that's one of the silver linings of COVID as well. So they're at least in the U S the job market is down. You can't find employees anywhere. Oh, what people aren't talking about is that entrepreneurial ship is actually up. So it's not like just disappeared. They just didn't go back to work. So they're kind of creating the life that they want. They're creating their own hours, their own work environment. And I think that they're, you know, they're taking charge of, of how much their they have to be 0 (1h 5m 18s): To enter. It's so exciting. Right? And that, and to me, I really care about entrepreneurship and innovation. And, you know, if you look at all these 12 factors that I talk about in Stolen, Focus that undermining attention. If you want an innovative population, you've got to have a population that can think deeply and pay attention. And I think that one of the things we've been doing is undermining entrepreneurship and innovation, or just having people who are added. If you look at anything, whether it's scientific invention, business invention, they all come from deep thought and contemplation, right? You need some periods where you're speedy and busy, but you need times when you can think deeply, the average fortune 500 CEO only gets 26 minutes a day without being interrupted, right. 0 (1h 6m 4s): That's a disaster for business innovation, right? So you can see how restoring attention through all these things, whether it's sleep the way we eat. So many of the factors that I write about stress, dealing with them, boosts in the term innovation and our ability to be entrepreneurial, which is, you know, one of the crucial engines of our society. 1 (1h 6m 25s): And I think it's like, how do you tackle? How do you tackle the problem? And I think, again, it comes down to the individual level and the, and the collective. And I think, unfortunately, we, as human beings, we have to feel enough pain to want to start the change in the conversation. So it's like with anything else, like you get sick enough and then you change your diet. You don't really think about it. If you can be one of those very rare people that can down all this processed food and you have no ailments, you're not going to think I have to change anything. You're like, this is making, this is poisoning me. And I have to look at my food. 0 (1h 7m 1s): No, I had to run currently saying that reminds me of a real low point in my life and Christmas Eve, 2009. It's so sad, but it was Christmas Eve. I went to my local KFC in the afternoon. And I remember going in and I said, my normal order, which is so disgusting or whatever repeats it. And the guy behind the counter said, oh yeah, I'm really glad you're here. It's like, all right. And he went off behind where they find the chicken and he came back with all the members of staff and a fucking massive Christmas card in which they'd written to our best customer, pass it or messages to me, one of the reasons my heart sank is I was like, this isn't even the fried chicken shop. 0 (1h 7m 42s): I come to the most right to me. But that was a point that did make me sort of change. But one of those moments where you're like, oh, something's gone wrong here. Right? But I think you're right, that there's a thing about pain can motivate change. And I think most people listening to this podcast can feel the pain of not being able to focus properly. Right? You can feel this is diminishing our lives. And what I want to say to people is it's not just you, right? This is happening to almost all of us. And, and we've got to deal with this. And together as individuals and collectively, we can deal with this. We don't have to tolerate this. This is not like the weather, right? 0 (1h 8m 23s): This is not just some random thing that happened to us. This is the result of specific changes that are relatively recent, right? Dr. James Williams, the guy I mentioned before said to me, you know, the acts existed for 1.4 million years before anyone thought to put a handle on it, the entire internet has existed for less than 10,000 days. Right? We can deal with these factors that are fucking our attention. They're relatively recent. They're not that powerful compared to big forces that human beings have taken on before we can deal with this, but we have to understand what's happening. And then we have to build the solutions. And, and I've seen the places that are building the solutions. They're not science fiction places. 0 (1h 9m 3s): Right. I've been to them. We can deal with it, but we've got, we've got to change our consciousness and we've got to understand what's happening. 1 (1h 9m 12s): No. Well, I don't want to take up too much of your time. So this was amazing. Do you want to tell the listeners where they can find your book and follow you in any ways that they can? 0 (1h 9m 20s): You know, it's funny, I got in trouble in a podcast a while back because I was interviewed by this guy who was about 50. And he said, at the end, he said, what's your Facebook? And I started it. And he said, what's your Twitter? And I said that, he said, what's your Instagram? And I said it. And he said, what's your Snapchat? I said, I am a 43 year old man. Right? Only 43 year old man on snap. Men on Snapchat are certainly pedophiles. And he didn't laugh because he didn't laugh. I sort of lead into the joke. And I said, you know, that show to catch a predator where they catch pedophiles. The next season of to catch a predator should be, they just go up to adult men in the street and say, what is your Snapchat handle? And if they have one just immediately arrested that, bro, he didn't laugh all later. And a bit word later, I looked it up and he's a 50 year old man with quite active on Snapchat. 0 (1h 10m 4s): I was like, oh, I have no idea, but I still think it's slightly sinister. But anyway, anyone who wants to follow me on social media, I don't look at it that much, but I, I tweet, but I don't read back. They can go to the book's website is Stolen Focus, book.com, where they can see where to get the audio book, which I read myself. They can see where to get the can listen for free to loads of the audio of the experts that we've talked about. What else am I meant to say, if you go to my website, it's J O H a N N H a R i.com. You can also learn about my previous books. You can learn about the TV series or maybe Samuel L. Jackson, the fix, which you can watch on Roku and lots of our, you can watch my Ted talks about addiction and depression. 0 (1h 10m 49s): So yeah, I think that's all I meant to plug. I'm trying to think my publishers tase me by don't mention other things, but I think those are the main things that I meant to. They give you this ridiculous blurb that I meant to read out by concept. It makes me sound like an absolute Twain. Yeah. Brilliant. I've really enjoyed this conversation. Thank you so much. 1 (1h 11m 8s): Hooray. 0 (1h 11m 9s): Brilliant. 1 (1h 11m 9s): Well, that's it for this week's episode. If you enjoyed the podcast, please share it with a friend two or three. And if you haven't hit that subscribe button and leave a five star review, if you have time, I would greatly appreciate it. It is the number one way to help me with charting and showing up in the algorithms. So I really appreciate anything you can do to help me on this podcast journey. And I'll see you next time.