It’s no secret that smart phones, the internet, and social media having been constantly eating into in our lives, and the number of people who regularly carve out time to think and work distraction-free has become fairly miniscule. Not surprisingly, the scarcity of deep thinkers will make them the biggest winners in our economy in the coming years.
It was recently said, if a machine CAN do your job, a machine WILL do your job. With the proliferation of robotics and artificial intelligence, the world as we know it will cease to exist. Especially with respect to our economy. I have been reading a book, titled Deep Work by Cal Newport, which is about the importance of uninterrupted deep thinking. Newport believes that only the best performers will thrive in the future and people who don’t offer anything uniquely valuable will have an increasingly difficult time surviving in the new economy. Let me say that another way, only the people who are the absolute best in their field or who can provide a useful product or service that is not readily available elsewhere will be of any value in the near future – everyone else will probably be expendable. This won’t happen overnight but it is already taking place incrementally.
I have always believed that you don’t have to be good a lot of things, but you need to be the best at something. This has many applications. My son and I were recently talking about his basketball skills. He believes he needs to get better at ball handling and defense, but he knows he is the best shooter on his team and maybe in the entire conference. This is what makes him irreplaceable to his team. The same thing applies to business. You can be good at a lot of things, but it is far more valuable if you are the best at something. How do you become the best at something? Simply put, it takes focus. The ability to lock your mind (and body) on a single goal without allowing any room for distraction or deviation.
I have as much trouble as anyone putting my iPhone down, but I do try to spend time every day thinking creatively. One of the reasons I write this blog is because it forces me to organize my thoughts and spend a couple hours every Saturday trying to produce something interesting. The book Deep Work is divided in two sections: the idea (making the case for deep thinking) and the rules (how to apply deep work principles in your life). It’s an easy read and less than 300 pages in length. The book connected with me, because like most people I admire successful people, but I have always reserved my greatest admiration for the creators; the people who by the sheer force of their ideas have moved our society forward.
My advice is for you to spend time each day thinking big thoughts. Focused thoughts. The bigger and more outrageous, the better. Write down your ideas and flesh out the ones that you like the most over time. It has been therapeutic for me. I write letters to people that I never send and I write business plans that I usually never use, but the process sharpens my thinking and makes me better at everything I do. No machine will ever replace the human brain and each of us need to spend more time using it.
A farmer and his son had a beloved stallion who helped the family earn a living. One day, the horse ran away and their neighbors said “Your horse ran away, what terrible luck!”. The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.” A few days later the horse returned home, leading a few wild mares back to the farm as well. The neighbors shouted out “Your horse has returned and brought several horses home with him. What great luck!” and the farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
I’ve written about this in other iterations. I’ve talked about finding your rhythm, and the importance of letting things come to you, not forcing things, and then riding the momentum when you have the wind at your back. The point of it all is that success is not linear. Progress doesn’t follow a straight line. For most people, the journey is long and winding. It looks more like a stairway or a hockey stick.