We are visual creatures. Society places a tremendous amount of importance on what we see. The way we dress, our shape, and our color. It is so powerful in fact, billion dollar companies such as Instagram are all about visuals.

It is this urge to appeal to our visual senses where our reality gets distorted. We are able to filter the output and filter the input. Or that is what we are led to believe.

Tuesday afternoon around 2:15pm. Cranking away on a report due in a few hours. Ding. A notification pops up on your phone. A post from a former colleague from two jobs ago. Someone you have not spoken to since you stepped out of those office doors.

A picture from their family vacation. Cool.

Posting a picture of a fabulous vacation in the Bahamas sends a lasting ripple through our mental networks, causing more harm than good.

This is a shallow activity yet perceived to be important.

What we see fires off our neurons in our brain to feel the joy of the Bahamas. Often it turns into jealousy and anger.

“Why am I here working on this report when I could be in the Bahamas?”

Instead of focusing on the report, our mind is distracted. The attention economy is in full effect. You’re plugged in now. Get ready.

You’ll end up wasting a considerable amount of time on the Bahamas now. Also, trying to convince your wife the trip is a good idea.

I bring up this small scenario as recently I read “Deep Work” by Cal Newport. This is one of those books where when I was done, it changed my reality. I had been living in the matrix all along.

Seemingly, innocent notifications drain our mental capacity and set a chain reaction of shallow events. All to appease our urges.

The question then is does being connected all the time in real-time be a fruitful way to live? Newport argues it isn’t. I agree.

There are extreme measures some take by completing cutting themselves off. Digital detox I think its called. Abstain from technology for a period of time.

I’m not buying it. It is just like any diet. If you’re back to your original weight then what was the point?

This require a lifestyle change.

Deep Work is about increasing our mental capacity to reach new heights in getting important things done.

Setting aside hours a day of uninterrupted work sessions. Scheduling out your work day. Being diligent about what to focus on.

I have noticed this has offered me more rewards than before.

More time with family. More productivity in the best way. Less busyness, higher quality output.

Newport offers several tactics to support how we can incorporate “Deep Work” into our daily schedule. 

Some are interesting. However, I fear many won’t take them seriously. So I offer two simple suggestions to be more productive and reach new heights.

  1. Use “Do Not Disturb” feature on your phone and laptop religiously. When you are working on important work. Turn it on and focus your attention on your work. No notifications.

  2. Turn off all notifications. I mean all of them all the time. You choose who to give your attention to and when.

After some experimentation, I tend to prefer the second option. I get so much more done. It’s ridiculous. Almost like a super power or what dunking on someone might feel like.

This by no means is easy to do. I still struggle with this as an entrepreneur and being a part of a growing startup my time is often fragmented. That’s ok. Just keep doing the best you can and try to block out a few hours of uninterrupted a day. 

In a deep working session, focusing on the task at hand is critical. An innocent email popping up can derail everything.

I’m not against social media and as Newport says it isn’t a “moral” issue for him. Not for me either. It is all about getting things done. Important things.

Be focused about where your attention goes and to whom.

This isn’t easy but I can promise you one thing. You’ll find life more rewarding.

It turns out we don’t need to be connected all the time. We just need to go deep.

This is the “Deep Life.”

A few years ago I am four floors underground walking to catch a train in Seoul I hear a loud “pop”! The 60 pound case I was wheeling around a foreign country decided it was time to break a hinge holding the wheel. The case now felt like dragging a house.

It was a crowded subway. I stopped right in the middle like a rock protruding in a stream. The stream of people kept going around me without any hesitation.

I managed to drag the case out of the way to the side. I notice the train is a few minutes away. After letting out a few expletives I think, “What I am going to do”?

We all have these moments where we are faced with a decision. Seemingly simple but what you choose and why you choose it makes all the difference.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “There are two guarantees in life, death and taxes”. It makes sense. These are two strong driving forces in our lives. However, for me something was missing.

I kicked and kicked the wheel hinge until I jammed it back in place. I tried to Macgyver a brace that would hold until my meeting was over. Now all I had to do was survive for a few more days while also dragging the case back to the Bay Area. How did I do on that trip? Did pretty good. I think.

“Seemingly simple but what you choose and why you choose it makes all the difference. ”

What motivated me to man up that day in the train station was bigger than death and taxes.

I believe there is a third guarantee in life. More subtle. Invisible. Nuanced. The third guarantee is “higher expectations”.

There is always more expected.

Ask any sales person. What have you done for me lately? Every year our quota goes up. Bank on it. Every year more revenue is expected. Cost of living keeps rising. Better products required. More features. Faster. Cheaper. Push the boundaries.

It is human nature to expect more. Venti mocha two-pump triple shot light ice frappuccino with whip, please.

What got me going that day was thinking about my family. They expect more from me. I expect to do more for them. I am constantly pushing myself to keep going.

Started from the bottom…

There is no amount of money or fame to pick you up from the bottom. You have to have to turn to something bigger. For me it was family. For you, it may be someone else or an important cause.

As an entrepreneur, seriously think about your business. Build up a good network of friends, family you can turn to, advisors, and mentors. I truly believe there has to be a human element in what we do to make it more meaningful. Our personal connections are what drives us to do better. You’ll be more successful in every way.

Eating healthy and exercising may help prolong death. Educating yourself on money may lower your taxes. Higher expectations are a guarantee.

Finding something bigger than yourself will help you better handle the higher expectations. You will need it to pull you through the abyss of entrepreneurship and sales.

I was dreaming about winning the lottery yesterday. If I ever do, I’m not sure I would even quit my job. I just wouldn’t show up. Drop the mic on all the bullshit. See how long it takes for people to notice. Good thing for me I try to be quite productive at work, so I think people would notice. I hope.

If I do win the jackpot, it would be glorious. What would I do with all that money? That part is easy. Probably the first week I would spend it on something really ridiculous just to get it out of my system. I have some time to think about what that might be.

Time Management

What really got me thinking is what would I do with all that time? Would all that money and time change me drastically? Would I still be the same ol’ G? Maybe. I would like to spend more time working with charities. Try to help my family more. But what is stopping me from spending the extra time now? Nothing really. Just have to make that effort with or without the jackpot.

A Unicorn Comes Tumbling Down

I recently read the story of how a once Silicon Valley unicorn came crashing down to earth. Stories of excess partying at work, sex in stairways, shots for closing deals, extravagant trips. Maybe you are thinking, “what a great place to work!” You would think I was describing The Wolf of Wall Street. This is story is unfortunately about Zenefits. Read the details and you’ll be shocked it got that out of hand.

LIES, BOOZE, AND BILLIONS

They won the Silicon Valley jackpot. Great idea, well-funded, and seemingly good team. Then they lost their way. The success, money, and fame got them. Lying to customers. Trying to skirt the law. How could this happen? How could anyone believe they can build a lasting business this way.

What’s the point?

Whether you win the jackpot or not, you have to stay true to who you are and how you got there. Especially when building your business. Focus on building the best user experience throughout the company life cycle. Rooted in simplicity.

Companies change as they are raising a seed round or Series A. Adding more people makes it tough to keep a certain culture. Ten employees are easier to manage than thousands. However, the truth is establishing a strong value set and culture based on authenticity goes a long way.

I help startups keep that focus and maintain a genuine approach. A good VC pitch deck should tell a simple story of the problem you want to solve. Most often the message that does not get enough attention is why do you want to solve the problem in the first place? What is your mission? Your values? Why should I invest in you? Don’t lose your mission as the business grows. Be authentic. Solve interesting problems and do good things.