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Stolen Focus Book Review

How to focus and get into flow state



Flow State Tips you'll learn today on The Sales Podcast...

From “Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention—and How to Think Deeply Again
    1. The Increase in Speed, Switching, and Filtering
    2. The Crippling of Our Flow States
    3. The Rise of Physical and Mental Exhaustion
    4. The Collapse of Sustained Reading
    5. The Disruption of Mind-Wandering
    6. The Rise of Technology That Can Track and Manipulate You (Part One)
    7. The Rise of Technology That Can Track and Manipulate You (Part Two)
    8. The Rise of Cruel Optimism
    9. The First Glimpses of the Deeper Solution
    10. The Surge in Stress and How It Is Triggering Vigilance
    11. The Places That Figured Out How to Reverse the Surge in Speed and Exhaustion
    12. Our Deteriorating Diets and Rising Pollution
    13. The Rise of ADHD and How We Are Responding To It
    14. The Confinement of Our Children, Both Physically and Psychologically
    15. Attention Rebellion

Related episodes and posts

The Increase in Speed, Switching, and Filtering
  • Pre-commitment
  • Homer's Odyssey
    • Ulysses had his crew tie him to the mast
    • Beat the temptation of the sirens of the sea
  • Haze of decompression
  • Exhaustion and stillness
  • The speed and switching induces panic
  • Diving deeply for a focused time induces perspective
  • Slow down to give your receptors the chance to open up to more attention and connection
  • In business and in sales, we must think something that is different from everyone else. Otherwise, why do they need to talk to or buy from you?
  • Things reach peak popularity faster and drop faster
  • We can't handle the volume of information, which is why we feel exhausted.
  • Depth takes time, reflection, energy, and commitment.
  • Zuckerberg alone controlling you with the virtual reality headset on
  • It's an upper class of people who are aware and then the rest of the world living a virtual life, manipulated by the elite.
  • It's an ongoing battle.
  • What makes us happy is doing something that is a little bit difficult.
  • Increase speed, decrease comprehension.
  • Increase speed, decrease desire to engage with challenging material
  • We talk and walk faster
  • Slowness nurtures attention, speed shatters it
  • We're deluded
  • We are single-minded. 
  • We cannot multitask.
  • We can only think about one or two things at a time.
  • Juggling comes at a cost
  • Switch cost effect
    • Time
    • Intelligence—up to 10 IQ points lost, i.e., 2x the loss of smoking dope
  • Screw up effect
  • Creativity drain
  • You need to give your brain time to follow your associative links down to new places to really have original and creative thoughts.
  • Diminished memory effect.
  • Perform 20-30% worse when interrupted during test taking.
  • Distracted drivers are nearly as bad as drunk drivers, with 1 in 5 car accidents now due to distracted driving.
  • Respect your mind's limitations.
  • You'll feel better and mentally restored.
  • Your brain is like a muscle...you can improve your focus.
  • But you must distance yourself from the distractions...willpower is not enough.
  • The prefrontal cortex wards off unimportant things, but it's getting overwhelmed.
  • Noise pollution is real.


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The Crippling of Our Flow States
  • Everyone is broadcasting but not receiving.
  • You'll interrupt yourself if you are set free if you've been interrupted for too much of your life.
  • Nature abhors a vacuum.
  • If you set all the noisy stuff aside, you must fill it with something.
Everyone is broadcasting but not receiving."
  • Felt most alive when doing something difficult.
  • B.F. Skinner showed you can control one's focus and attention.
  • Instagram engineers applied this thinking to make their app sticky, i.e., take selfies, get hearts and comments.
  • Artists get into a deep state of focus where time seems to fall away.
  • When artists completed their work, they set it aside and started over rather than seeking accolades or even money.
  • The purpose of flow is to keep on flowing.
  • Flow states are the highlights of our lives.
  • If we can drill down, there is a plethora of focus inside ourselves that can carry us through tough situations and make it painless, even pleasurable.
  • Relaxing won't get you into that state
    1. Defined goal: focused, not multitasking
    2. Do something meaningful
    3. Work on something on the edge of your abilities but not beyond them
  • We live in a world dominated by technologies based on B.F. Skinner's view of how the human mind works, i.e., that make us dancing chickens, i.e., you can train living creatures to desperately crave arbitrary rewards.
  • We'll be happier and healthier if we create the right circumstances to let our powerful internal forces flow.
  • We can focus for long stretches and enjoy it.
  • We are irritated and diminished when we are distracted.
  • Flow states are fragile and easily disrupted.
  • It's not enough to remove the bad...we must add the good and strive for it. Otherwise, what's the purpose of life?
  • Find your flow to break the pull of distraction.


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  • Flow carries you through the difficult patches and the frustrations.
  • Give yourself the gift of flow early in the day and feel relaxed and optimistic the rest of the day.
  • Healing your brain is possible.
  • Fragmentation shrinks us. Flow expands us.
Find your flow to break the pull of distraction."

The Rise of Physical and Mental Exhaustion

  • We live on the permanent edge of exhaustion.
  • Get enough rest, so you don't need coffee to feel awake and alert.
  • Stop living by the rhythms of machines.
  • Sleep without chemicals to dream more vividly.
  • Then you can think more clearly.
  • Sleep is not purely passive.
  • You can't focus when you are sleepy.
  • Being awake 19 hours makes you as cognitively impaired as being drunk.
  • 40% of Americans are chronically sleep-deprived.
  • Children have lost 85 minutes of sleep in the last century.
  • "Local sleep" kicks in when you are tired, i.e., part of your brain is asleep, but you appear to be awake.
  • Adults become drowsy, but children become hyperactive.
  • Typical college students have the same sleep quality as active-duty soldiers or a parent of a newborn.
  • Students are sleep-deprived since puberty.
  • Being sleep-deprived makes your body shift into the sympathetic nervous system zone.
  • Your body thinks you're in an emergency...raises your blood pressure...makes you crave junk food and sugar for fast energy...raise your heart rate...
  • This hurts both short and long-term focus.
  • This stifles creativity and memory.
  • We're all sleep-deprived, and we block our body's ability to detect the adenosine in our body with caffeine that tells us we're sleepy, so we end up with symptoms of ADHD...
  • We're all rushing around...impulsive...easily irritated in traffic...
  • Sleep improves our moods...obesity...concentration...
  • Sleep deprivation may lead to dementia.
  • Taking sleeping pills increases your risk of death from all causes.
  • Electric light has scrambled our internal rhythms.
  • We evolved to get a "surge of waking drive" as the sun sets...helpful to build a campfire or set up a tent or get back to camp before darkness set in.
  • This is artificially created as we watch TV...surf the web...etc.
  • Sleep is a big problem in the world of consumer capitalism!
  • We need less light in our bedrooms and need to avoid looking at screens for two hours before bed.
  • We need to change our relationship with our phones...it's not our "baby." It doesn't need our constant attention and care!
  • Sleep in a cool room.
  • Why can't we do the obvious, i.e., slow down, sleep more, focus on one thing at a time?
Taking sleeping pills increases your risk of death from all causes."
The Collapse of Sustained Reading
  • "I only read the first chapter or two...I can't focus."
  • The buzz of online conversations pulls us from prolonged, focused reading.
  • 57% of Americans do not read a book in a given year.
  • The average American spends 17 minutes reading and 5.4 hours on their phones.
  • We can get into flow by reading if we'd only allow ourselves to.
  • Reading books trains us to read in a linear, focused, sustained fashion.
  • Reading from screens trains us to read in a manic manner, skipping and jumping around.
  • We now skim and rush and create a different relationship with reading.
  • It's no longer pleasurable or immersive.
  • It's "screen inferiority."
  • We absorb less what we see on the screen.
  • We're losing our ability to read long texts...
  • We are losing our cognitive patience...and the stamina and the ability to deal with cognitively challenging texts.
  • Even Harvard professors are turning to YouTube and podcasts.
  • The medium is the message...
  • We see things through the filter and the goggles of the medium...
  • Twitter? Don't focus on any one thing for too long. Don't go too deep. Master things quickly and confidently. Success means quick, broad appeal and agreement.
  • Facebook? Your life exists to be on display, and your edited highlights should be immediately liked. Those who do this repeatedly are your "friends."
  • Instagram? How you look on the outside is all that matters. Period. Oh, and that people like how you look on the outside!
  • These messages are wrong, which is why we feel wrong after spending so much time on these platforms.
  • Perhaps deeply reading fiction is a kind of empathy gym by immersing yourself into their worlds!
  • The more novels you read, the better you are at reading the emotions of others.
  • Becoming more empathetic is a powerful tool
  • Children grow in empathy if they are read to, watch longer movies, but not short shows.
  • Adults can grow in empathy by watching a longer TV series.
  • We internalize the texture of the voices we're exposed to.
The Disruption of Mind-Wandering
  • William James wrote, "Everyone knows what attention is."
  • We need to set our minds free...turn them loose...let them wander, and find "crazy" connections our "sane" rational, conscious, focused mind wouldn't dare make.
  • "The default mode network" is the part of the brain that is when it is waiting for instructions...or when you are daydreaming.
  • Give yourself time to allow your mind and thoughts to float freely.
  • First, you are slowly making sense of the world.
  • Mind-wandering will help you...
    • have more organized personal goals
    • be creative
    • make patient, long-term decisions
  • Second, you'll start to make new connections between things, which often produces solutions to your problems.
  • Great breakthroughs often happen during periods of mind-wandering.
  • Creativity is not the creation of something brand new...it's a new association of things that were already there.
  • Mind-wandering is not just being distracted.
  • It's a mental "time-travel."
  • It's a different—and necessary—form of attention.
  • Loose patterns of association can lead to unique insight.
  • Give your brain time to digest what you've fed it...
  • Our constant switching between tabs and skimming is neither focused nor mind-wandering...it's just an unsatisfying whir...
  • This suppresses any train of thought you might have created...
  • It's hard to make sense of the world like this.
  • When we're tired and confused, we're more vulnerable to the next fad or distraction.
  • Learning to think is more than learning how to focus.
  • We've trained ourselves to believe that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.
  • We allow ourselves to ruminate...to get stressed out...to become anxious...
  • When you have low stress and safety, mind-wandering is a gift, a pleasure, a creative force.
  • When checking his email after three months...the world had accepted his absence with a shrug! Email breeds email...if you stop, it stops.
  • The mania...the demands on your time...make you feel important.
  • Complexity and compassion of normal, deep life are replaced with snarky, crude, and mean comments on social media.
  • We get a sense of affirmation and approval when we are liked, shared, and commented upon by others online.
  • "They" want you to think it's all your fault...that you're weak...that your efforts to stay deep and focused are fragile and futile.
The Rise of Technology That Can Track and Manipulate You (Part One)
  • A digital detox is as effective as wearing a gas mask twice a week to fight pollution. (James Williams, former Google engineer)
  • Unsustainable and doesn't address the root issue and systemic issues.
  • An individual is limited in what they can do against the environment.
  • Tristan Harris, former Google engineer, The Social Dilemma.
  • The destructive nature of social media and how it affects our attention.
  • He learned magic as a boy and that "It's really about the limits of attention."
  • The magician manipulates your focus.
  • It's not about intelligence...it's more subtle...it's about our weaknesses...our limits...our blind spots...our biases that trap all of us.
  • We are fallible in predictable ways.
  • A magician can turn you into his puppet.
  • They don't have to know your strengths...just your weaknesses!
  • Stanford, 2002, Persuasive Technology Lab, Professor B.J. Fogg
  • Computers may become far more persuasive than humans.
  • "The psychology of mind control" course.
  • Books based on the philosophy of B.F. Skinner, who got pigeons and rats to act based on  the right reinforcements.
  • He was excited but didn't realize the ethical components of this.
  • He and Mike Krieger launched Instagram.
  • "What if you had a profile of every single person on earth?" A deep profile...? A psychological profile?
  • How could you target them? (Think Donald Trump and Cambridge Analytica.)
  • "This is horribly concerning."
  • Imagine a control room with 100 people hunched over dials controlling the thoughts and feelings of a billion people! This was Google in 2011...and now.
  • Google, Facebook, etc., measure success by "engagement."
  • "Your distraction is their fuel."
  • Instagram filters lead people to get cosmetic surgery to look like their filters!
  • "I'm concerned about how we're making the world more distracted."
  • "We're living on a treadmill of continuous checking."
  • The average person who clicks on a photo is pulled away for 20 minutes.
  • "Humans make different decisions when we pause and consider."
  • Socrates said writing things down would ruin our memories, so people always panic when new tech is introduced.
  • He became Google's first "design ethicist."
  • Snapchat streaks hooks teens.
  • "Your recommendation is at odds with our bottom line."
  • Many Silicon Valley workers ban their kids from using the tech they design.
  • Companies don't have the right incentive to change.
  • Aza Raskin's father, Jef Raskin, invented the Apple Macintosh for Steve Jobs.
  • Aza was the creative lead on Firefox and created "infinite scroll."
  • He thought it would increase our speed and efficiency...
  • Now we're hooked on scrolling through crap.
  • Now, every day, a total of 200,000 more human lifetimes are spent scrolling through a screen.
  • He feels "sort of dirty" for inventing this.
  • "Making something easy to use doesn't mean it's good for humanity."
  • "Are we making technology that tears us, rips us, and breaks us?"
  • Saw people becoming more unempathetic, angry, and hostile as their social media usage went up.
  • What social media really sells is their ability to grab and hold attention.
  • The techs in Silicon Valley are kids...they are making toys that end up conquering the world...they seek to mediate in order to fight the programs they created...
  • Workshops on "mindfulness" are popular at Google and Facebook...how to make mental space to make decisions proactively...while perpetrating non-mindfulness.
  • Sean Parker, an early investor in Facebook and a hacker, saw them seek to consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible.
  • They exploit a vulnerability in human psychology.
  • They knew it and did it anyway.
  • Chamath Palihapitiya, Facebook's VP of growth, said the effects are so negative that his own kids "aren't allowed to use that shit."
  • Tony Fadell, co-inventor of the iPhone, wakes up in cold sweats thinking, "What did we bring to the world?" He's worried he helped create "a nuclear bomb" that can "blow up people's brains and reprogram them."
  • "How many of you want to live in the world you are designing?" Silence. (James Willams speaking to hundreds of leading tech designers.)
The Rise of Technology That Can Track and Manipulate You (Part Two)
  • Facebook won't show you the physical proximity of your friends.
  • They want your attention...and they want to scan, sort, and store what you send, post, and search.
  • They're building a profile on you to sell to advertisers.
  • Imagine a little voodoo doll of you at Facebook and Google etc.
  • They have a doll like that for one in four humans on earth.
  • They (maybe) are not listening, but their models of us are so accurate that it's making predictions about what to show us.
  • The tech they give us for free is to improve the voodoo doll, i.e., Maps.
  • The Echo and Next are sold below cost, so they can monitor you.
  • It's "surveillance capitalism," says Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff.
  • KFC wants you to eat more chicken, and these sites want you to spend more time on them.
  • This design to grab our attention is not inevitable.
  • Silicon Valley chose to treat us like this...and we allowed them to do it.
  • This is not a pro-tech or anti-tech debate.
  • Silicon Valley execs and techs intentionally stole our attention.
  • So what tech do we need? What is it designed for? And who benefits?
  • Facebook has algorithms that vary all the time in order to keep you hooked.
  • As humans, we'll stare at outrageous, negative things a lot longer.
  • It's called "negativity bias."
  • So on YouTube, include in your title words like "hates," "obliterates," "slams," "destroys."
  • An NYU study showed that when you use words of moral outrage, your retweet rate will go up by 20%, so use words like "attack," "bad," and "blame."
  • Fill your Facebook posts with "indignant disagreement" to double your likes and shares.
  • If it's more enraging...it's more engaging!
  • Do this long enough to enough people...and you change the culture.
  • You turn hate into a habit.
  • The algorithms reward fury and penalize mercy and harm our attention in six ways:
    1. They train our minds to crave frequent rewards.
    2. Push you to switch tasks more often, which erodes the quality of your thinking as if you were drinking or getting high.
    3. They learn how to "frack" you, i.e., drill into your attention.
    4. They make you angry often, which decreases the depth of your processing.
    5. They make you feel surrounded by angry people; thus, you become hyper-vigilant, so you don't do slower forms of focus like reading or playing with your kids.
    6. They set society on fire.
  • We pay attention together as a society.
  • Social media sites are harming our collective attention, so we can't come together to tackle major issues.
  • The algorithms spread outrageous information faster than the truth.
  • It's forcing us to focus on nonsense.
  • When we are lost in lies and always angry, we can't discern the truth.
  • This means life will become more dangerous.
  • YouTube wants you outraged as well, so they'll show you shocking, outrageous videos as an option.
  • "No matter where you start, you end up more crazy."
  • YouTube is radicalizing people.
  • We don't just have a few bad apples. We're producing bad apples.
  • These algorithms are "debasing the soil of society..."
  • Social media is intentionally steering us away from our destination.
  • It's a "human downgrading," (Tristan and Aza).
  • "We're in the process of reverse-engineering ourselves."  (Aza)
  • We're upgrading machines and becoming less rational, less intelligent, less focused.
  • It's like Dr. Frankenstein.
  • His friends at other major sites say they're not sure why their algorithms are making the recommendations they are making!!
  • We've downgraded our attention spans, our capacity for complexity and nuance, our shared truth...our common sense...and the system is built to make things worse!
The Rise of Cruel Optimism
  • Nir Eyal, "Indestructible."
  • Our kids are learning that whatever is on our phones is more important than them.
  • We get out of shape when we eat our feelings.
  • The food is not the problem, it's the underlying feeling we're hiding from, and the food is just the outlet.
  • Why are we drawn to use these devices and apps so compulsively?
  • Individual changes are the first line of defense.
  • It starts with a little introspection.
  • We must understand ourselves.
  • It's not your fault...but fixing things is your responsibility.
  • What's your internal trigger? The moments in your life that push you to bad habits? It's an uncomfortable emotional state.
  • Study them nonjudgmentally and find out how to disrupt them. (Like "The Dog Whisperer" tapping the dogs who are on edge.)
  • We can interrupt and break our habits.
  • Adopt the 10-minute rule: wait 10 minutes to look at your phone when you get the urge.
  • Block or batch your time.
  • Turn off notifications on your phone and computers.
  • Delete most of the apps off your phone.
  • Unsubscribe from email newsletters.
  • Check email at set times.
  • 2/3rds of people with a smartphone never change their notification settings!
  • Plan your day. "What do I actually want to do with my time?"
  • But the tech firms are in agreement with Nir. They want us thinking this loss of focus issue is our problem, not theirs.
  • We need more self-restraint...not the tech firms (that's what they want us to believe.)
  • Nir Eyal also wrote "Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products" a few years earlier.
  • It's a "cookbook" with "a recipe for human behavior."
  • We are "users" of apps just like a junkie is a user of drugs.
  • It's mind manipulation meant to give us a craving.
  • The designers want to create "internal triggers" that keep us coming back again and again.
  • They create the user persona and design around their fears.
  • Our tech habits may help us...but they surely help the bottom line of the developers.
  • There are big, powerful forces striving to get us "fiendishly hooked" and in "pain" until we get our next tech fix...but Nir wants us to use some gentle personal changes to beat them and free ourselves.
  • "Cruel optimism," per Ronald Purser, professor of management at San Francisco State University. (First coined by historian Lauren Berlant.)
  • You give people with big issues hope—optimism—that they can tackle their huge issues, but it's cruel because your solution is limited and ignores the deeper causes, so it will fail.
  • "Let them eat cake...let them be present!"
  • The ugly aftereffect of "cruel optimism," is when the small, cramped, limited solution fails, as it will most times, the individual won't blame the system. He'll blame himself.
  • It becomes a form of victim-blaming.
  • We shouldn't have to go deep into ourselves to solve the problems intentionally created by these mega companies.
  • We shouldn't have to accept this environment as the norm.
  • We've become obese in much the same way. Our food is crap. Stress is through the roof. Comfort eating is a thing. Our cities are hard to bike or walk around. So we gained 24 pounds as a society between 1960 to 2002.
  • Now the diet industry makes us blame ourselves. (They are right, but this is a limited approach.)
  • 95% of people who lose weight on a diet regain the weight in 1-5 years.
  • We have no systemic analysis, so when you end your diet and you're still deep in the unhealthy environment that led you to gain weight in the first place, you gain the weight back!

The First Glimpses of the Deeper Solution

  • Ban "surveillance capitalism."
  • We banned lead paint, CFCs, the selling of human organs (unless you're Planned Parenthood...but I digress).
  • Microsoft was deemed a monopoly in 2001, and they survived.
  • Make these social media platforms become subscription models.
  • The author says the gov't could take them over and run them like public utilities like the BBC does in his home country,...but I'm not a fan of that.
  • They could batch notifications to once per day, much like a newspaper.
  • Turn off infinite scroll.
  • Turn off recommendations on YouTube.
  • Show our nearby friends so we can meet offline.
  • They could help you limit your time based on your own personal limits.
  • Instead of being set up to grab your attention and sell it to the highest bidder, social media could be set up to understand your intentions and help you achieve your goals.
  • In the spring of 2020, Facebook created an internal team called Common Ground that reached a definite conclusion: "Our algorithms exploit the human brain's attraction to divisiveness..." and "Our recommendation systems grow the problem" of people becoming radicalized.
  • Facebook dismissed and even mocked the findings as "Eat Your Veggies."
  • If Facebook literally won't stop promoting fascism, it must be stopped by us.
The Surge in Stress and How It Is Triggering Vigilance
  • The business model behind our technology is the main issue, not the technology itself.
  • 48% of people surveyed say stress is the #1 reason for their lack of focus and attention.
  • 48% also said a change in life circumstances.
  • 43% said poor sleep.
  • Sexual abuse wrecks kids! (Duh.) But they get misdiagnosed and put on ADHD meds.
  • Hypervigilance is not good for us.
  • Childhood trauma is wrecking our kids. Financial issues at home, serious illness in the family, court appearances by parents, etc.
  • Kids need to feel safe to focus in school.
  • "Ritalin does not treat sexual assault."
  • "Be grateful for your suffering, because it allows you to empathize with the suffering of others." ~Buddhist saying
  • Small, short doses of stress can help us perform better.
  • Long-term stress is not good, it can lead to insomnia.
  • The middle class is collapsing. 60% of Americans have less than $500 in savings.
  • IQ scores go up 13 points when you're not stressed about money.
  • We're working an extra month per year compared to the average worker in 1969.
The Places That Figured Out How to Reverse the Surge in Speed and Exhaustion
  • "I sacrificed my twenties on the altar of ambition, and later in life, I probably sacrificed my family." ~Andrew Barnes
  • Average British worker was only actually engaged with their job for <3 hours/day.
  • He ran Perpetual Guardian in New Zealand...started a 4-day workweek.
  • During WWI, a munitions factory in Britain increased production when they switched to a 6-day week from seven days a week.
  • They spent 35% less time on social media during work!
  • Engagement, teamwork, and stimulation at work increased 30-40%.
  • Stress decreased 15%.
  • W.G. Kellogg in 1920s Britain went to a 6-hour day from eight hours, and workplace accidents dropped 41%.
  • In 2019 in Japan, Microsoft went to a four-day week, and productivity increased 40%.
  • Toyota, in Gothenberg, Sweden, cut two hours per day off the workweek, and their mechanics produced 114%, and profits increased 25%.
  • If you want your favorite team to win, you want them rested before they play!
  • It's easy for cruel optimism to take over with all of this advice.
  • Workers first began striking for better working hours in Philadelphia in 1791. They were beaten and fired, but by 1835 they were organized and pushed for the eight-hour day.
  • Companies must be compelled to do the right thing.
  • Bring back unions so workers can bargain and not be left hanging out to dry in the gig economy. (This needs more debate and consideration, but it could help.)
  • The $15/min wage he touts as a success...but is it?
  • We need to stop equating working ourselves to exhaustion with success.
  • Work hours went up during our government's idiotic, dictatorial COVID shutdown.
  • We must work together to change the rules.
  • Things seem fixed and unchangeable...until they change.
  • France created a "right to disconnect."
  • You are entitled to clearly defined work hours.
Our Deteriorating Diets and Rising Pollution
  • We eat like crap.
  • Energy spikes and crashes.
  • Then brain fog.
  • Add in caffeine, and it gets amplified.
  • We're deprived of the nutrients our brains need to develop and function properly.
  • Ultra-processed food is terrible for us.
  • 70% of kids who eliminated crap increased their attention by 50%.
  • These "foods" have chemicals that act like drugs and make kids hyperactive.
  • Refined carbohydrates, processed food, and junk oils are killing us and our kids.
  • The stuff in the middle of the grocery store is not food.
  • You try to eat well, and an army of marketers is trying to stop you from doing so.
  • A Canadian study found that you're 15% more likely to develop dementia if you live within 50 meters of a major road.
  • Air pollution affects children even more.
  • Lead has been known to be terrible for us for thousands of years, yet GM put it into gas in 1925, calling it a "gift from God."
  • Dusting your home and washing your hands won't help stop lead poisoning.
  • The poor were disproportionately affected.
  • Industry creates diversionary tactics to boost profits.
  • The health issues you have are not always your fault.
  • The IQ of the average preschooler has now risen five points.
  • Our blood lead level is now at 0.85 micrograms vs. 15 micrograms per deciliter since 1975.
  • Pesticides, plastics (PCBs), BPAs, flame-retardants, cosmetics are all bad for us.
  • Endocrine disruptors are everywhere.
  • Chemicals are now assumed to be safe until proven otherwise. We need to flip that script.
The Rise of ADHD and How We Are Responding To It
  • Between 2003-2011, ADHD diagnoses have increased 43% overall, 55% among girls.
  • 13% of adolescents have been given this diagnosis...and a lot of powerful drugs to combat it.
  • Is ADHD biological?
  • All agree that ADHD is real, but what is its source?
  • The market for stimulants is at least $10 billion.
  • Veterinarian Nicholas Dodman prescribed Ritalin to dogs in the 1990s.
  • He discovered it by accident when treating a horse in the '80s for cribbing, which affects 8% of horses who are LOCKED UP ALL DAY!
  • He gave pacing bears Prozac.
  • Parrots are on Xanax and Valium.
  • Wild horses don't crib.
  • These locked-up horses are suffering from "frustrated biological order."
  • Dr. Sami Timimi is looking into the lives of his young patients and is reducing the ADHD meds his predecessor doled out.
  • Kids no longer play outside and are fed crap and live in pollution-ridden cities.
  • When a child had his dad come back into his life, he started acting better. (Shocking, right!?)
  • When a "bad" child got into a good school without a chaotic teacher, he improved. Wow!
  • ADHD is not a diagnosis. "Why" is what you must uncover.
  • A child's environment is the most important determinant in them developing ADHD symptoms.
  • Stressed-out parents can't soothe a worked-up child.
  • They give meth addicts a similar drug to Ritalin to help them break their addictions!
  • These stimulants can stunt the growth of children and lead to heart problems.
  • But we don't really know the long-term effects.
  • Stimulants help kids with repetitive tasks...but not with learning!
  • They reduce your sleep.
  • "Twin studies" is the source of most of the stats we have on biological vs. environmental...but it's an unreliable scientific method.
  • Genes don't operate in a vacuum. They are turned on and off in response to environmental input. (Alan Sroufe)
  • Our experiences literally get under our skin. (Professor Joel Nigg)
The Confinement of Our Children, Both Physically and Psychologically
  • Children need to be allowed to play without helicopter parenting.
  • By 2003, only 10% of U.S. children spent any time playing freely outdoors regularly.
  • Now they drill and prepare for tests.
  • Free play and recess are going away.
  • Lenore Skenazy walked alone to school in the 60s as a five-year-old.
  • In the 90s, she was expected to escort her children to school.
  • Kids are meant to wake up early, go outside with their friends, and play all day.
  • She became "America's Worst Mom" for allowing her nine-year-old son to take the subway home alone.
  • Her "crime" was not living in fear for her kids.
  • Now Sesame Street episodes from the late 1960s have warnings on them since they show young kids walking alone outside, talking to strangers, and playing in vacant lots!
  • Attention improves when we exercise.
  • Children learn vital skills when they play.
    • How to make something happen.
    • Be creative and imaginative.
    • Be persuasive.
    • Read people.
    • Negotiation.
    • Needs and desires.
    • Cope with disappointment and frustration.
    • Cope with getting lost, being excluded, etc.
    • Form social bonds.
    • Develop "aliveness."
  • Parents now take you to organized sports and essentially say, "Here's the environment. I've already mapped it out for you. Stop exploring."
  • Homework is exploding.
  • Learning through play makes our brains more supple, plastic, and creative.
  • Anxiety is exploding.
  • Children don't learn to cope when you deprive them of unsupervised play.
  • Intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.
  • Intrinsic is better, but we're depriving children of the opportunity to develop intrinsic motivators.
  • Learn to focus by finding something of interest.
  • You need free time to figure out what is important and exciting and interesting to you.
  • "Let Grow" was started by Lenore.
  • One day a month or a week, a child's "homework" is to do something new without help or supervision and report on it.
  • Small things build confidence. We need to let kids experiment and explore and experience.
  • We have to chase to eat and hide to not be eaten...until now. Let kids explore and expand.
  • Lots of kids love learning but hate school...so stop drugging them!
  • School focuses too much on testing.
  • Diagnoses of severe attention problems in children rose 22% since Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002.
  • Sudbury Valley School was started in the late 1960s in Massachusetts with no teachers, classes, homework, curriculum, or tests!
  • Kids who have been "unschooled" like this were more likely to go on to higher education.
  • The modern school was designed in the 1870s to train children to be good factory workers.
  • Play in rats makes them have less fear and anxiety and increases their ability to solve new problems.
  • In Berlin, Evangelische Schule Berlin Zentrum created a similar model but with a little more structure.
  • Finland has no school until kids are seven.
  • From 7 to 16, school is 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. with almost no homework and few tests with 15 minutes of play after every 45 minutes of instruction.
Attention Rebellion
  • His attention actually got worse during the COVID lockdowns!!
  • James Williams, former Google strategist
    • Spotlight layer: when you focus on immediate actions
    • Starlight layer: when you focus on longer-term goals (when you feel lost, look up to your guiding lights, your North Star)
    • Daylight layer: this form of focus lets you know what your longer-term goals are in the first place.
      • Losing your daylight focus "is the deepest form of distraction."
      • You may begin "decohering."
      • This is when you stop making sense to yourself.
      • You become obsessed with petty goals or dependent on simplistic signals from the outside world, like retweets.
    • We are losing our light.
    • We are living through a real-life "denial-of-service."
    • We are distracted or paralyzed.
  • Six big changes he made:
    1. Pre-commitment
    2. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi helped him be easier on himself and gave him some tips on getting back into flow when he loses focus.
    3. Takes six months a year off of social media, usually in chunks. (I might experiment with every other month off or maybe every other week.)
    4. Allow your mind to wander.
    5. Be strict with getting a good night's sleep.
      1.  Get eight hours of sleep.
      2. Unwind before you go to bed.
      3. Don't look at screens for two hours prior to bed.
      4. Keep your room cool.
      5. Track your sleep with an app and device you like. (I use my Apple Watch.)
    6. Play freely with your kids (he plays with his nieces and nephews) or let them play unsupervised.
  • Things to consider doing:
    • Cut out processed foods.
    • Eat more meat.
    • Eat fewer vegetables and salads.
    • Meditate.
    • Take up slow practices like yoga.
    • Take an extra day off each week.
  • Our dictatorial government sycophants forced us to lock in on our devices and stay online and disconnected from human contact during the man-made COVID-19 virus and confinements.
  • 300% increase in searches for "how to get your brain to focus."
  • Your individual efforts are confronted with a broad environment that fights you.
  • Stress shatters attention.
  • Our dictatorial government sycophants drove us in an accelerated fashion toward the future we fear...into the arms of the surveillance capitalists/marketers...and out of the path of focus and attention.
  • In the U.S., in April 2020, we were spending 13 hours looking at a screen, the number of children looking at screens for more than six hours a day increased 6x, and traffic to kids' apps tripled!
  • We jumped into this virtual immersion a decade faster than planned by the tech giants.
  • This is good for us...if we pay attention to the damage, it is doing to us. These sudden jolts make us pay attention vs. the frog, which is slowly boiled to death.
  • We saw our future as the "Screen New Deal" during the COVID lockdowns, and it, hopefully, scared us and woke us up.
  • We need to organize and fight back.
  • We need to nurture our attention and ourselves like we were taking care of a new houseplant.
  • We can't take this for granted any longer.
  • Fight back in three ways:
    1. Ban surveillance capitalism.
    2. Introduce a 4-day work week.
    3. Rebuild childhood around letting kids play freely.
  • Create a "site battle" like Rosa Parks on the bus in Montgomery, AL to tell the story about the wider problem."
  • Greenpeace leaders broke into a coal-fired power station and painted on the building so he'd go on trial and get more press.
  • They put coal on trial and won since they proved their actions were due to an emergency.
  • Get small groups motivated and raising awareness...
  • Create movements...
  • We are free citizens who own our own minds...we need an Attention Rebellion.
  • "You don't get what you don't fight for."
  • Since 1880, our world has been getting faster.
  • The idea of economic growth made this happen.
  • Companies grow by entering new markets or by getting existing consumers to buy more.
  • As companies grow, i.e., make more money, they have more influence, i.e., they can buy the attention and the votes of lawmakers.
  • Our economies need more and more of our attention. They need us to move faster. To switch between their show and their Instagram page so they can show us more ads. They need us exhausted and giving in.
  • Dr. Jason Hickel is a proponent of "steady-state economies."
  • We must redefine prosperity from the ability to buy things we don't need or make us happy to spending more time with children and family, to be in nature, to dream, to sleep, to have secure work.
  • Most of us don't want a fast life, we want a good life.
  • COVID-19 did help us slow down for a moment.
  • It may be impossible to rescue focus and attention...but we are being pushed to our limits...so we'll have to face this sooner rather than later.
  • "We must love one another, or die." ~W.H. Auden, English poet at the start of WWII.

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