Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport
New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2016. 304 pp. $28 (hardcover).
In a discussion of the nature of reason, Ayn Rand observed that, with regard to the choice to think, man has two fundamental alternatives:
Man can focus his mind to a full, active, purposefully directed awareness of reality—or he can unfocus it and drift in a semiconscious daze, merely reacting to any chance stimulus of the immediate moment, at the mercy of his undirected sensory-perceptual mechanism and of any random, associational connections it might happen to make.1
While reading this passage of hers recently, I was taken aback. That unfocused state of consciousness sounded very much like my own brain online—going off in one direction in response to a tweet, then in another in response to a Facebook photo, perhaps in many others as I check my email, and on and on, until after a tornado of such activity I finally click the red “x” that closes my browser.
This kind of state is all too easy to fall into, and many people I know never extricate themselves from the frantic blur of online activity that surrounds their souls.
Thankfully, there is hope for us all.
It comes in the form of a yellow book whose title is written in black letters so large that, presumably, people taking a quick scan of where they are in a bookstore might notice it before returning to their phones. The title is Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. The author is Cal Newport.
Newport defines “deep work” as “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that . . .