Ep35: FOCUS: The Superpower of the 21st Century | with Cal Newport


In our 24-7 world of constant distractions, focus is quickly becoming the superpower of the 21st century. Your ability to get meaningful work done, become successful, and avoid the endless trap of busyness that we are so tempted to get sucked into is directly proportional to your ability to do ‘deep work’ and focus intensely on one important action at a time.

In today’s interview I speak with one of the foremost experts in the world on the topic of focus. Cal Newport is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University. In addition to studying the theoretical foundations of our digital age, Newport also writes about the impact of these technologies on the world of work. His most recent book, Deep Work, argues that focus is the new I.Q. in the modern workplace and that the ability to concentrate without distraction is becoming increasingly valuable.

For those of you who feel like you’re spinning your wheels all day but not getting anything done, only to jump on the hamster wheel the next day and do it again…this episode is a MUST LISTEN. Adopting just a few of the principles of this book can literally change the way you live your entire life. And if you haven’t already, I highly recommend listening to my previous episode with Greg McKeown, the author of “Essentialism” because these two topics complement each other extremely well.

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Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  • What do creativity and focus look like on a neurological level?
  • Why your ability to focus is more important than your IQ level
  • How to maintain your mental hygiene
  • What is “deep work”? (Hint: It might just be a modern superpower)
  • The current demand for focus and its relationship with our fragmenting technology
  • Learn to break your brain’s addiction to stimuli
  • “You can choose between being busy or being remarkable. Not both.”
  • The benefits of scheduling your entire day
  • How much are your phone glances at work really costing you?
  • What is a flow state and how difficult is it to achieive?
  • Deep work isn’t about getting more work done, it’s about getting the same work done faster
  • How much good work can one person complete in a day?
  • The ability to focus deeply is a skill and requires practice, not a set amount of time

Useful Resources Mentioned:

Cal Newport’s Site

Our Generous Sponsors:

This episode is made possible by Ergodriven, the makers of the Topo Mat, my #1 recommendation for anyone interested in moving more at their height-adjustable workstation. Listen, standing desks are only great if you’re standing well, otherwise you’re constantly fighting fatigue and chronic pain. Not like any other anti-fatigue mat, the Topo is scientifically proven to help you move more throughout the day which helps reduce discomfort and also increase your focus and productivity. And they’re really fun and a great conversation starter.

This episode is made possible by the HumanCharger,  a revolutionary new light therapy device made specifically for people who spend long days in the dark and don’t get enough sunlight…i.e. You and me. Simply put in the earbuds for 12 minutes a day to receive your daily recommended dosage of UV-free white light. Doing so can drastically increase your energy, improve your mood, and increase mental alertness and focus.This device has literally changed my life and I use it every morning without fail. Use the code ‘OPTIMIZE’ to get 20% off your order.

This episode is made possible by StoryBlocks, my go-to resource for professional stock images for my sites. Use this link to download anything from their library of over 400,000 stunning photos, textures, images, and icons free for 7 days and get discounts on millions of more items.

Guest Bio:

Cal Newport is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University. In addition to studying the theoretical foundations of our digital age, Newport also writes about the impact of these technologies on the world of work. His most recent book, Deep Work, argues that focus is the new I.Q. in the modern workplace and that the ability to concentrate without distraction is becoming increasingly valuable. He previously wrote So Good They Can’t Ignore You, a book which debunks the long-held belief that “follow your passion” is good advice, and three popular books of unconventional advice for students.

Show Credits:

This episode was edited by Curtis Fritsch, and the show notes were prepared and published by Jakin Rintelman. Special thanks to Krystle Penhall and Sarah Furie for helping to spread the love!

The original music in the opening and closing of the show is courtesy of Joe Trapanese (who is quite possibly one of the most talented composers on the face of the planet).


Note: I believe in 100% transparency, so please note that I receive a small commission if you purchase products from some of the links on this page (at no additional cost to you). Your support is what helps keep this program alive. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, and the creator of the Optimize Yourself program. Zack helps ambitious creative professionals and entrepreneurs overcome procrastination, depression, and creative burnout so they can get sh*t done and achieve the most meaningful goals in their lives...without sacrificing their sanity in the process. If you’re interested in learning how to better manage your time, your energy, and develop ninja-like focus, download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”

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