I don’t lack ambition or vision. I lack in organization and structure. Being creative, I always have the urge to be free and let my mind loose and wander. Even though I know how much better I do with structure, I’ve always fought it. I’ve finally reached a point where I no longer want to reinvent the wheel. When it comes to certain areas of my life, I just want an expert to tell me what to do and leave me to it. Nothing to it but to do it.
So, today marks the completion of the first section of Cal Newport’s 4-month reinvention system, and I thought this was an excellent place to start with discussing what I’m learning from applying his techniques thus far.
Who is Cal Newport, and Why Should I Listen to Him?
Cal Newport, holding a Bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and a Ph.D. from MIT, is a respected computer science faculty member at Georgetown University. Beyond academia, he’s a best-selling author renowned for books like “Deep Work” and “Digital Minimalism,” which explore the nexus of technology, productivity, and work culture. Additionally, Newport runs the “Study Hacks” blog, addressing modern challenges of work and productivity.
Newport gives you a timeline to focus on and develop four individual assets that he calls ‘The Deep Life Stack’. The goal is to help you reinvent yourself into someone living a deeper life in 4 months. And instead of waiting for the new year to make resolutions alongside everyone else, he says, why not start right now so that you can spend the last 4 months of this year diving deep into who you indeed are and what life you want to live so that you can have a clearer vision for yourself and your life for next year. He also recommends repeating this process annually after each birthday.
The Deep Life Stack: Discipline, Values, Control, and Vision.
Reinventing Yourself: One Step at a Time
Something I’ve already learned from him that I never would’ve thought about if I tried to develop a system myself is that although all of these assets are of equal value, they don’t have to happen all at once. That might sound elementary to you, but for someone like me who is impatient and wants total transformation to happen as quickly as possible, I can get stuck on the final result or big picture without realizing that although all of these steps need to take place to achieve my desired outcome, they don’t have to happen all at once. And if you’re like me and tend to overwhelm yourself, having timelines and working these steps in phases makes things feel much more doable. When learning this, I think my aha moment (as Oprah would say) was that taking massive action (as Tony Robbins would say) doesn’t necessarily mean taking on everything at once. Massive action can mean going deeper in one direction vs. going wide and trying to make an enormous impact in several areas of my life. As someone with shiny object syndrome who is highly curious and interested in many different things, learning how to go deep vs. wide is a skill and discipline that I know I need to develop if I’m going to level up.
Taking massive action doesn’t necessarily mean taking on everything at once.Wanetah
Discipline Before Vision
So, I’m just going to cover the first section, Discipline, because that’s what I’ve completed, and I’ll keep you posted on my experience with the following focus on Values once I’m finished with that. I will say that I find it very interesting that Cal ends with vision instead of starting with it because that’s the opposite of what most people would suggest when you’re reinventing yourself. It seems counterintuitive to create daily disciplines without having your vision of what you want to achieve intact. Still, I also trust that he is the productivity expert, far more structured than I am. I’m staying open to see how my vision for my life evolves after focusing on these prior principles and developing these assets.
The 3 Keystone Habits
Cal recommends 2 weeks to establish the Discipline phase. He suggests that you create three keystone habits to become a part of your daily routine. One professional, one personal, and one recreational. So, I chose writing for my professional goal, working out for my personal goal, and music for my recreational goal. I, of course, wrote down other daily disciplines that I do already or would like to do, but just having three succinct goals to commit to really has helped me drown out the noise because I hear so much about everyone’s morning routine or their daily rituals that I have to continuously remind myself that giving myself more to do isn’t necessarily going to move the needle for me. I really have to think about the big domino in my life for my specific goals because although meditating for 3 hours might raise my vibration, it’s not going to directly raise my income.
The Discipline is in the Details
What I’ve noticed in my execution of performing these three keystone habits is that although I’m serving them daily, they’re not achieved the same way every day. Writing Monday through Friday means writing content, but it might just mean journaling on the weekends. Right now, I’m doing Nimai Delgado’s 90-day Vegan Fitness program, and it only requires that I do 4 workouts a week, but on my rest days, I’m still being active, whether it just means my morning walk, swimming, or going to a class at the gym. (Look out for my reviews on the Vegan Fitness program and Lifetime Fitness gym). And, of course, music could be anything from writing a new song to having a guitar or piano lesson or recording vocals. So, just being able to simplify my goals and seeing the words “write, workout, and music” on my daily calendar is a beneficial reminder. Also, when I do the weekly planning, I fill in the specifics of my work.
Covering one principle for a set period has helped me slow down and do even more to explore the concept and focus on the principle. Hence, going deeper. For instance, I recently went to Ryan Holiday’s bookstore, ‘The Painted Porch Book Shop,’ and even though I want to read all of his books, instead of just choosing to read his most famous book, I decided to buy ‘Discipline is Destiny’ because it really jumped out at me. After all, that’s where my head and heart are right now. Reading that has kept me focused and reiterated the importance of discipline and how it can change my life, keeping me on track with Cal’s system. Besides, there’s nothing like reading the right book at the right time. I’m sure I’ll talk about that book also, as it is such a great, easy read.
Here is a list of self-help books that continue to change my life!
Is Newport’s 4-Month Reinvention System Helping?
So far, I haven’t been perfect with doing any of this, be it writing it all down and tracking it every day or ensuring my daily habits get done on the weekends. In fact, I’m questioning whether I’d like to free myself of these things on the weekends. Nonetheless, it’s helping me ask the right questions about what I want my daily routine to be and how deep I want to go with these habits. And I will say that my weekday routines have become more automatic and definite because I know my commitments.
As I carry these disciplines into the next phase of determining and developing my values, I will continue practicing and improving my weekly planning rituals, which will help me get the most out of my focus on my values, control, and vision.
OK, I’ll keep you posted!