Study Hacks Blog Posts from February, 2019 - Study Hacks - Cal Newport

On Sam Harris and Stephen Fry’s Meditation Debate

February 19th, 2019 · 66 comments
Photo by Sam Harris.

A few weeks ago, on his podcast, Sam Harris interviewed the actor and comedian Stephen Fry. Early in the episode, the conversation took a long detour into the topic of mindfulness meditation.

Harris, of course, is a longtime proponent of this practice. He discusses it at length in his book, Waking Up, and now offers an app to help new adherents train the skill (I’ve heard it’s good).

What sparked the diversion in the first place is when, early in the conversation, Fry expressed skepticism about meditation. Roughly speaking, his argument was the following:

  • Typically when we find ourselves in a chronic state of ill health it’s because we’ve moved away from something natural that our bodies have evolved to expect.
  • Paleolithic man didn’t need gyms and diets because he naturally exercised and didn’t have access to an overabundance of bad food.
  • Mindfulness mediation, by contrast, doesn’t seem to be replicating something natural that we’ve lost, but is instead itself a relatively contrived and complicated activity.

Harris’s response was to compare meditation to reading. They’re both complicated (read: unnatural) activities, to be sure, but they’re both really important in helping our species thrive.

Fry, who is currently using and enjoying Harris’s meditation app, conceded, and the discussion shifted toward a new direction.

I wonder, however, whether Fry should have persisted. Rousseauian romanticism aside, there’s an important application of evolutionary psychology undergirding his instinctual concern.

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Minimalism Grows…

February 8th, 2019 · 33 comments
Me speaking about Digital Minimalism at Company HQ in New York City on Monday Night.

I only rarely write administrative posts, but because this is the launch week for my new book, I figured I’m due a break on this rule. With this in mind, I want to share a few more interesting pieces of news coverage on Digital Minimalism.

Before I do, two quick notes:

  • First, if you live in the Washington, DC area, come see me at Politics & Prose at 3:30 on Saturday. I’ll be taking questions and signing books.
  • Second, if you’re pretty sure you’re going to buy the book, but haven’t yet, I want to nudge you to do so soon. (For various technical reasons, sales made before Saturday night are very useful from a bestseller list perspective. Okay, last time I’ll mention that…)

On to the publicity updates:

Many of you have been asking me to create a running list of all of my podcast appearances, interviews, and articles. We’re working on it, stay tuned…

The Beginning of a Digital Revolution?

February 1st, 2019 · 37 comments

It’s hard for me to believe that we’re finally here, but my new book, Digital Minimalism, comes out on Tuesday.

The early buzz about the book has exceeded my expectations, which helps validate a trend that I’ve been noticing over the past year or so: people seem like they’re finally ready to consider serious changes to their relationship with digital tools.

To help get you as excited as I am, I’ve included below a sampling of some of the early press on the book.

(Also remember, as I detailed last week, if you pre-order a copy by Tuesday, you get some immediate bonuses, and if you pre-order a second copy, you get access to a private Q&A group. More details here…)

Digital Minimalism Buzz

The above is just the pre-publication coverage, with a lot more on the way. Stay tuned…