Focus Makes Perfect

black metal

This past week I’ve been reading  Deep Work by Cal Newport. The author makes a strong case that the key skill to have in the emerging economy is the ability to concentrate on complex work for long periods of time. The cultivation of attention allows you to produce better art as well as learn new skills quickly.

The sharing economy does not require this attention. In fact, it often punishes it. Many people today hold down several shitty jobs, that added together, do not equal a satisfying career. When you’re running around in a car the bank really owns to deliver food to people or deliver people to food, you don’t have the ability to work on your attention.

A few years ago I was invited as an alumni to UC Berkeley to talk to students about something they were calling “partition careers.” The idea was that in order to survive, you might need to stitch a few different jobs together to make ends meet, but it was ok because one or more of your jobs were supposed to be a “passion job.” So maybe you’re a public defender, but on the weekends you teach yoga. At the time I was still bartending and I was in the first year of my copywriting career. Copywriting was definitely my main gig, but bartending was never a passion. It was a hell that I was born into and it took everything I had to escape it.

That said, there are many nights I go to sleep wondering if I made the right move leaving nightlife. Where else can you show up to work on drugs, fight customers, and behave like an unholy pirate and be rewarded with cash and the attention of loose women?

black metal

Anyway in case you’re wondering, partition careers are bullshit. So I told the kids in the room, “this used to be called having two shitty jobs, but your college guidance counsellors are trying to make you feel better about your student debt. Don’t fall for it.” I wasn’t invited back.



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