Friday, October 4, 2013

Cal Newport meets Sertillanges (I hope)

Since a friend convinced me to read, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, I’ve been following Cal Newport’s blog and have been looking for a way to connect with him to share some of my ideas on focus.  On September 11, Cal announced that he was looking for “stories of people who use radical strategies to reduce the amount of distractions in their life and improve their ability to focus on hard things (be it at work, at home, or in parenting).”  Ah ha, an opportunity to share some insights from the Intellectual Life with Cal.  Below is the main part of the email that I wrote him.

Dear Cal,

A month ago, I started implementing the radical ideas about focus in a book called The Intellectual Life by Antonin Sertillanges.  Inspired in part by the book and in part by Study Hacks, I started my own blog about The Intellectual Life around the same time.  Shortly after starting this process, I was mentally assaulted with poetic verses as I walked along the crowded streets of Manhattan to work.  Have I ever written poetry?  No.  Have I read any poetry in the last ten years? No.  But, I was implementing Sertillanges’ advice on focus outside the time of focused work: “A thinker is like a filter, in which truths as they pass through leave their best substance behind.”  I dutifully collected these ideas in my notebook and very unexpectedly produced a few poems during my time dedicated to focused work.  


I highly recommend Cal Newport’s blog and his book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You.  I can’t speak from my own experience about his other books, but a few friends of mine have found them useful.  Currently, Cal is exploring ideas, such as “deep work,” “deliberate practice,” “passion at work.”  So Good They Can’t Ignore You aims to destroy the idea that we should try to find our pre-existing passion in order to enjoy our work.  Instead, Cal recommends getting so good at your job that “they can’t ignore you” by engaging in deliberate practice and deep work.  He also acknowledges that not all jobs lend themselves to getting so good, etc.…  Realizing that my old job fit into this category helped me to decide that it was time to move on.  

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