Digital Minimalism - Cal Newport

Digital Minimalism - Cal Newport

Video Book Summary

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Book Summary Notes

Digital Minimalism

“Our current relationship with the technologies of our hyper-connected world is unsustainable and is leading us closer to the quiet desperation that Thoreau observed so many years ago. But as Thoreau reminds us, ‘the sun rose clear’ and we still have the ability to change this state of affairs."

"To do so, however, we cannot passively allow the wild tangle of tools, entertainments, and distractions provided by the internet age to dictate how we spend our time or how we feel. We must indeed take steps to extract the good from these technologies while sidestepping what’s bad." 

"We require a philosophy that puts our aspirations and values once again in charge of our daily experience, all the while dethroning primal whims and the business models of Silicon Valley from their current dominance of this role; a philosophy that accepts new technologies, but not if the price is the dehumanization Andrew Sullivan warned us about; a philosophy that prioritizes long-term meaning over short-term satisfaction."

"A philosophy, in other words, like digital minimalism.”

The Philosophy

More and more we find ourselves connected to technology..  Sometimes it's a helpful tool for business or work!

More often it's a needless and mindless tool sucking out our attention like a vacuum. Unfortunately we can't as many of us think passively let these tools into our lives without consequences

We need to have a philosophy to guide us when it comes to what we give our attention too.. Something that's going to make sure we're using that precious resources for our own good!

What follows is Digital Minimalism a Philosophy to help guide us in this new world of technology.  

Wait..  It's likely not what you think!  Cal doesn't want us to shun all tech and become a hermit..  

But rather use the tech we do have in a more mindful way..  

The book is awesome and much more in depth..

Plus it has a 30 day Digital Detox program that I think you would really like..  

I highly recommend you go and pick it up!

Chariot Driver

“The fact that our humanity was routed by these tools over the past decade should come as no surprise."

"As I just detailed, we’ve been engaging in a lopsided arms race in which the technologies encroaching on our autonomy were preying with increasing precision on deep- seated vulnerabilities in our brains, while we still naively believed that we were just fiddling with fun gifts handed down from the nerd gods."

"When Bill Maher joked that the App Store was coming for our souls, he was actually onto something." 

"As Socrates explained to Phaedrus in Plato’s famous chariot metaphor, our soul can be understood as a chariot driver struggling to rein two horses, one representing our better nature and the other our baser impulses."

"When we increasingly cede autonomy to the digital, we energize the latter horse and make the chariot driver’s struggle to steer increasingly difficult—a diminishing of our soul’s authority."

"When seen from this perspective, it becomes clear that this is a battle we must fight. But to do so, we need a more serious strategy, something custom built to swat aside the forces manipulating us toward behavioral addictions and that offers a concrete plan about how to put new technologies to use for our best aspirations not against them."

"Digital minimalism is one such strategy. It’s toward its details that we now turn our attention.”

Driving The Chariot

I love that quote from Socrates but I actually hadn't heard it before..  

  • But this parable has been told many times before! 
  • The elder telling the young boy about the two wolves inside him is probably my favorite version..  

Innately we all know that we have two sides to us..  

  • When we look in the mirror we not only see ourselves as we are..  
  • But also as our best possible self!
  • And our worst possible self..  

Everything in our lives.. From how they play out to the impact we end up making on this physical world depends on which horse we let lead!

Fight For Our Souls

As Bill Maher says here in the book the tech companies don't just want our clicks they want our souls..

  • While that seems like an absurd thing to say and I don't think they set out for it to happen it's really true.. 
  • Because after all..  What really drives the chariot if it isn't our soul?  Aren't these tech companies really driving the chariot through what we pay attention too?

It's not a fair fight..  For we're just one person!  With limited control over ourselves as is..

  • But these tech giants have hundreds if not thousands of engineers steering our attention for us.. 
  • They have science that most of us don't even know exists and Trillions of dollars of capital..  How can we compete?

The easiest way to not fight  

  • Be intentional with your use..
  • What technology do you not need? 
  • How can you block it out of your life?


“Digital Minimalism - A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else."

"The so-called digital minimalists who follow this philosophy constantly perform implicit cost-benefit analyses. If a new technology offers little more than a minor diversion or trivial convenience, the minimalist will ignore it." 

"Even when a new technology promises to support something the minimalist values, it must still pass a stricter test: is this the best way to use technology to support this value? If the answer is no, the minimalist will set to work trying to optimize the tech, or search out a better option."

"By working backward from their deep values to their technology choices, digital minimalists transform these innovations from a source of distraction into tools to support a life well lived. By doing so, they break the spell that has made so many people feel like they’re losing control to their screens.”

Deep Values

Technology is everywhere..  It's not likely (or necessary) that we'll give it up completely! 

  • So how then do we use it intentionally and make sure we're at the 'reins' so to speak?
  • First we need to get in touch with our deep values and learn to live from them..

Most of us just adopt a 'more is better' mindset when it comes to technology..

  • But is it really?  How is that workin for yeah?
  • Obviously it can be helpful but we've all felt the mindlessness that can come along with excessive technology use.. 

Values Based Tech Use:

What do you really value?

What's important to you?

What do you want to achieve?

Take some time to meditate on this. Remember that it might change! Will this new piece of technology help you achieve something you value?

If it doesn't just let it go..  If it does put it through a strict test..  Is this the best way to use technology to support this value?

Simply by going through this pathway when it comes to adopting new technology use you'll be better equipped to fight for your soul!


“Returning to our canary-in-the-coal-mine analogy, the plight of iGen provides a strong warning about the danger of solitude deprivation." 

"When an entire cohort unintentionally eliminated time alone with their thoughts from their lives, their mental health suffered dramatically. On reflection, this makes sense. These teenagers have lost the ability to process and make sense of their emotions, or to reflect on who they are and what really matters, or to build strong relationships, or even to just allow their brains time to power down their critical social circuits, which are not meant to be used constantly, and to redirect that energy to other important cognitive housekeeping tasks. We shouldn’t be surprised that these absences lead to malfunctions."

"Most adults stop short of the constant connectivity practiced by members of iGen, but if you extrapolate these effects to the somewhat milder forms of solitude deprivation that have become common among many different age groups, the results are still worrisome."

"As I’ve learned by interacting with my readers, many have come to accept a background hum of low-grade anxiety that permeates their daily lives. When looking for explanations, they might turn to the latest crises—be it the recession of 2009 or the contentious election of 2016—or chalk it up to a normal reaction to the stresses of adulthood."

"But once you begin studying the positive benefits of spending time alone with your thoughts, and encounter the distressing effects that appear in populations that eliminate this altogether, a simple explanation emerges: we need solitude to thrive as human beings, and in recent years, without even realizing it, we’ve been systematically reducing this crucial ingredient from our lives."

"Simply put, humans are not wired to be constantly wired.”

Quiet Time

This is a concept that I was introduced to at a time in my life when I needed it the most..  

  • I just wasn't feeling like 'myself' and it had been going on for multiple months..  I couldn't figure it out!
  • Normally I'm an upbeat and energetic person..  Someone who's passionate and on fire almost by default!
  • But I felt apathetic and lethargic.. 

Then a great teacher of mine taught me about quite time..  And how important it is! 

  • I was listening to podcasts, videos and music all the time!  
  • There was never a time when I was 'alone with my thoughts' like literally never a time..  
  • Once I realized this I immediately sought to remedy it..  So I started taking quite time and it was hard!

How silly is it that being alone with my own thoughts was hard?  

  • Well it makes sense..  Human beings aren't wired to be constantly wired..  
  • But when I went to take it all away it was like I was losing a constantly connected social circle.. 

But eventually I calmed my mind and started taking quite time every single day..

  • Happy to report I'm no longer apathetic, depressed and now feel like myself!
  • This simple technique led to some amazing changes in my life..
  • Maybe I'll make a video all about quite time some day if you are interested!


“The state I’m helping you escape is one in which passive interaction with your screens is your primary leisure. I want you to replace this with a state where your leisure time is now filled with better pursuits, many of which will exist primarily in the physical world." 

"In this new state, digital technology is still present, but now subordinated to a support role: helping you to set up or maintain your leisure activities, but not acting as the primary source of leisure themselves."

"Spending an hour browsing funny YouTube clips might sap your vitality, while—and I’m speaking from recent experience here—using YouTube to teach yourself how to replace a motor in a bathroom ventilation fan can provide the foundation for a satisfying afternoon of tinkering."

"A foundational theme in digital minimalism is that new technology, when used with care and intention, creates a better life than either Luddism or mindless adoption.”

Active Leisure 

People often think of leisure as 'relaxing' but what's really happening now?

  • Most of the time you're passively consuming information..  
  • Stuff that's likely not useful or fulfilling!

Active leisure is when you are doing something not for work or success but just for the joy of learning/doing

  • Hobbies, Sports or Housework seem to all be good options
  • Cal talked a lot about this in Deep Work how getting into 'flow' is actually easier at work than at home..  Home 'flow' takes a lot of planning!

What are your active leisure actives?  Do you have any go-to hobbies, sports or activities? 

The Movement

“The lopsidedness of this battle is a big part of the reason I never messed around with any of these services in the first place."

"To repeat a line from the New Yorker writer George Packer, ‘[Twitter] scares me, not because I’m morally superior to it, but because I don’t think I could handle it. I’m afraid I’d end up letting my own son go hungry.’ If you must use these services, however, and you hope to do so without ceding autonomy over your time and attention, it’s crucial to understand that this is not a casual decision."

"You’re instead waging a David and Goliath battle against institutions that are both impossibly rich and intent on using this wealth to stop you from winning."

"Put another way, to approach attention economy services with the intentionality proposed by Ginsberg and Burke is not a commonsense adjustment to your digital habits, but is instead better understood as a bold act of resistance."

"Fortunately, if you take this path, you’ll not be alone. My research on digital minimalism has revealed the existence of a loosely organized attention resistance movement, made up of individuals who combine high-tech tools with disciplined operating procedures to conduct surgical strikes on popular attention economy services—dropping in to extract value, and then slipping away before the attention traps set by these companies can spring shut.”

Join The Movement

I've noticed a lot of my friends already adopting this movement..  Taking time off of tech and social media!

  • They all intuitively know that it's not making them feel good!
  • But the more we can help other people notice that the better society might feel..  

This movement is of people just like you and me who are aiming to preserve our attention..  Our souls most valuable asset!

Final Quote:

“the key to sustained success with digital minimalism is accepting that it’s not really about technology, but is instead more about the quality of your life. The more you experiment with the ideas and practices on the preceding pages, the more you’ll come to realize that digital minimalism is much more than a set of rules, it’s about cultivating a life worth living in our current state of alluring devices.”

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