Chris's Reviews > Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Deep Work by Cal Newport
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This had a lot of valuable ideas about the importance of deep work and how to do it. Most people are going to buy into this concept easily enough, but Cal did a nice job further arguing it with some examples, various research, and so on...but this book also felt like a very good 100-page book that was stretched into a mediocre 260-page book. It's repetitive. And his research often relies on the "correlation = causation" mistake. For example, someone gives up social media, so instead of writing 4 papers in a year, they now can write 9 papers, so the clear reason is because they gave up social media (and other shallow things), right?

....Hmm, not exactly.

That probably does play a part, but someone naturally gets smarter as their career progresses (at least in the beginning), so the speed and quality of their work likely improves. Plus, researchers build off their previous research, which I assume makes it easier for them to publish more, more easily. As well, in the world of academic publishing, you might get asked to be a co-author on a paper (such as the 4th or 5th author), especially as your stature in the discipline grows, and when you're a 4th or 5th author, your contribution might be very little, thus taking very little of your time.

In this book, Cal implies that Bill Gates is as successful as he is, because of his commitment to deep work. Well...sure, but also a "right place at the right time" situation, right (see the Malcolm Gladwell essay about this in "Outliers"), as well as just natural intelligence and aptitude--things that Cal kind of ignores or shrugs off.

An author like Jonathan Franzen can more easily shrug off Twitter and other social media, and instead engage in mostly deep work, because anything he writes gets a lot of attention already, because he's a famous/popular author. A less well-known author does need to prioritize deep work, but also probably has to tweet and do some of these other "shallow tasks," as that's how people build up attention for their product/brand, when the world won't automatically pay attention to it. Yes, the actual work itself should be more important, but this other component is also (unfortunately) important to the success (money/attention) of their deep work. These are things Cal seems to mostly ignore (in between reminding you every five pages that he published 9 papers in a year).

So I found some of his conclusions slightly flawed (in their methods or their data to back it up), even if the point of the conclusions (that you will be more productive if you eliminate shallow tasks), I did buy.
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Reading Progress

February 15, 2016 – Started Reading
February 15, 2016 – Shelved
February 25, 2016 – Finished Reading

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Marjan "And his research often relies on the "correlation = causation" mistake."

It is exactly what bothers me. Plus over-hyped journalistic style of writing (where every person is introduced by his external titles and achievements... as if his/her deeds are not enough) and actually reliance on those authorities per se (again - as if first hand knowledge is not enough). I admire the message of this book, but it could be well summarised into 30 pages that would be actually worth my time.


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