He is the author of two bestselling books, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.
Indistractable received critical acclaim, winning the Outstanding Works of Literature (OWL) Award as well as being named one of the Best Business and Leadership Books of the Year by Amazon and one of the Best Personal Development Books of the Year by Audible. In addition to blogging at NirAndFar.com, Nir’s writing has been featured in The New York Times, The Harvard Business Review, Time Magazine, and Psychology Today.
Rounding the Bases with Joel Goldberg Podcast was created to share the stories of men and women in business and entrepreneurship that are both well knowing and or hidden gems. Joel believes that everyone has a story and their story matters which is why Joel is eager to connect with individuals that are bringing value to their community through innovation, leadership, entrepreneurial journeys, and developing company culture. If you would like to be a guest on Joel’s podcast please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joel Goldberg: Nir thanks so much for joining the podcast and, you know, and with your blog near and far on your nearandfar.com. I feel like you are far right now. Now I don’t just feel it, I know it.
Joel Goldberg: So this is the
Joel Goldberg: The true beauty of technology as I record this
Joel Goldberg: Fairly early in the morning in Kansas City, and you are. I assume somewhere. Later in the day in Singapore. Is that accurate.
Nir Eyal: Right. I think about 13 hours ahead of you. I’m living in the future
Joel Goldberg: You are living in the future. And we’ll get into a bit of of moving over there because I forgot. And I thought that you were in New York.
Joel Goldberg: And then you reminded me that you have moved over to Singapore. There aren’t a lot of people that could do this. But tell me about the the move over to Singapore is somewhat temporarily, I guess. Back in March.
Nir Eyal: Yeah yeah so I you know when when when people are now on lockdown. I feel like they’re just kind of joining me and my
Nir Eyal: hermit lifestyle like I’ve been a an author. Now for the past decade. And I tend to work from home. My daughter is homeschool then she has been for the past six years and
Nir Eyal: When we could, you know, I remember the exact date it was I think it was March 11 when the NBA season got canceled and Tom Hanks got Corona and Trump gave the
Nir Eyal: His national address about Corona, and we were in midtown Manhattan. And we thought, you know what, now might not be a bad time to
Nir Eyal: To leave midtown Manhattan. And so I literally typed into Google safest place to be. During a pandemic and it was the search results were Singapore Taiwan or New Zealand and
Nir Eyal: We had some friends here in Singapore. So we decided to take a little vacation and we figured, well if it’s a vacation, so be it. If it’s
Nir Eyal: If it’s, you know, if things go bad, then we’ll be happy. We’re here and and so far it’s been really interesting because there’s been such a different response here in Singapore to covid. But yeah, so we’re here now and
Nir Eyal: We’ll be here for the foreseeable future.
Joel Goldberg: Well, it’s nice one to be able to, of course, have the means to be able to pick up I think anybody could pick up and go somewhere. It’s not that easy, obviously. But when you’re talking about the career that you have a homeschooling your daughter.
Joel Goldberg: I’m going to strongly guess a wife. That’s very flexible and willing to to pick up and move with you. There has to be a
Joel Goldberg: Sort of a beautiful, beautiful freedom to be able to go and do that and experience new things. I know you’ve traveled around and all that and to be able to pick up and and continue being productive in the way that you felt comfortable
Nir Eyal: Well, to be clear, we haven’t left the house much
Nir Eyal: So,
Nir Eyal: Up until very recently, nothing has really changed, we just happened to be in a different box.
Nir Eyal: You know 10,000 miles away from home. But other than that, you know, just recently Singapore started opening up. So now the restaurants are back open and we can go outside and things, but
Nir Eyal: Yeah, my wife and I, you know, we work together. This is our second company to get that we built together. Sorry I third company or third company that we we built together. And so yeah, so we do have thankfully, a lot of flexibility in terms, our geography.
Joel Goldberg: Our before we get into your most recent book, which which I’m reading right now and I told you before we started has been really helpful for me. There’s, there’s so much in there.
Joel Goldberg: That I want to talk about, because I think that they’re
Joel Goldberg: They’re all elements that can help people lead better lives more productive lives certainly during a pandemic, but I think before and after a pandemic and we all have a different perspective right now. But let’s talk about your background. Some of those businesses and
Joel Goldberg: Kind of how you got to where you did right now, along with writing all those books. Tell me about your background.
Nir Eyal: Sure. So I am what you call a behavioral designers, so I help companies.
Nir Eyal: Build the kind of products and services that people use because they want to not because they have to. So I specialize in the psychology of
Nir Eyal: habit formation. So how do you build the kind of product that builds good habits and people’s lives and
Nir Eyal: My background was that I taught at the Stanford Graduate School of Business for many years and then I moved over to the design.
Nir Eyal: School there that has to planner Institute of Design and Stanford and I taught a class that became my book hooked, how to build habit forming products.
Nir Eyal: And my first book was really about how can we use the deeper psychology of what makes products like Facebook and Instagram and WhatsApp and slack and Snapchat and
Nir Eyal: Tech Talk. What makes these products so sticky. How can we use that very same psychology to build good habits and people’s lives.
Nir Eyal: And that’s exactly what’s happened. So in pretty much every conceivable industry. I’ve worked with companies like cahoot the world’s largest educational software.
Nir Eyal: They use the hook model to get kids hooked to learning. I’ve worked with companies like Fitbit
Nir Eyal: Uses the hook model to get people hooked to exercise. I’ve worked with media companies to get people hooked to their local news so that they can participate in in local
Nir Eyal: Politics and with their communities. So there’s all kinds of ways that we can use this very same technology to help people live healthier, happier, more connected more productive lives.
Nir Eyal: But of course the flip side is that sometimes when products are made to be so engaging when they are so habit forming. Sometimes we find that we overuse them.
Nir Eyal: And so shortly after hooked was published. I had a seminal moment in my own life where I really had to reconsider my own relationship with distraction.
Nir Eyal: I was sitting with my daughter one afternoon and we had this beautiful day plan. We just had some daddy daughter time together.
Nir Eyal: And I remember we had this activity book of different things that daddies and daughters could do together. And one of the activities in the book.
Nir Eyal: I’ll never forget was a question that asked you both daddy and daughter had to ask each other this question. If you could have any superpower, what superpower would you want
Nir Eyal: And I remember the question verbatim, but I can’t tell you what my daughter said because in that moment.
Nir Eyal: I, for some reason, decided it was a good time to look at my phone and I don’t remember what was on my phone, but I do remember once I looked up from it.
Nir Eyal: My daughter had left the room, she was gone, she decided that, you know, the message I was sending was that whatever was on my screen was more important than she was.
Nir Eyal: And so she went to play with some toy outside. And that’s when I realized that I had blown it. I had messed up this perfect daddy daughter moment. And if I’m honest with you, Joel.
Nir Eyal: It wasn’t just with my daughter and it didn’t just happen once it would happen multiple times and it would happen. You know what I was
Nir Eyal: Making a promise to myself, not just to my daughter. I would say to myself, oh, you know what this year I’m definitely going to exercise. Okay. This year I’m definitely going to eat right
Nir Eyal: But I wouldn’t or I would sit down at my desk and I’d say, Okay, you know what, now I’m going to work on that big project that thing that I’ve been procrastinating on the thing that I’ve been delaying
Nir Eyal: No more. Okay, I’m going to get started on it here I go. But you know, I do a little bit of checking of the news and, you know, little email or Slack channel 30, 45 minutes later, I’m still not doing the thing I said I was going to do.
Nir Eyal: And I got sick of it. Frankly, I said you know how what why is this why why is it that when I say I’m going to do one thing I don’t do it right.
Nir Eyal: And I think that this is this is a prominent logical face today because the the the excuse is no longer relevant to say, Well, I don’t know what to do.
Nir Eyal: You know, because who frankly doesn’t know what to do. You know, if you You want to have a good relationship with your daughter. You got to be fully present with her right I knew that.
Nir Eyal: If I wanted to lose weight and get in shape. I had to eat right and exercise. Do you need a, you know,
Nir Eyal: We need a diet book to tell us that no, we know that who doesn’t know that if you want to be good at your job, you got to do the work, especially the hard stuff that other people don’t want to do
Nir Eyal: We don’t need gurus and experts to tell us what we what to do. We know what to do. What we don’t know how to do is, how do we get out of our own way.
Nir Eyal: How do we stop getting distracted. And so that’s why today if you asked me what superpower. I would most want I would tell you with the power to be indistractible and so that’s why over the past five years.
Nir Eyal: I dedicated myself to learning the psychology of why we get distracted. Why do we not do what we say we’re going to do and I’m proud to report that my life.
Nir Eyal: Is 180 degrees different I have a better relationship with my daughter than ever before. I’m in the best shape of my life I’m 42 years old and I’ve never
Nir Eyal: Been this fit I exercise consistently. Now I eat healthy. I spend more quality time with my wife than ever before. I’m more productive at work than ever before.
Nir Eyal: And it’s it’s it’s not that I do things that are so you know some secret magic bullet is that whatever it is I say, I’m going to do. I just do it.
Nir Eyal: Right. It’s just that simple. But that really is a superpower. And I think it is the skill of the century, because I think the world is becoming an increasingly distracted place and so
Nir Eyal: I think the world is bifurcating into two types of people, people who will let their life, their time, their attention be manipulated and controlled by others and people who stand up and say no I decide how I control my attention I control how I decide my life. I am in distractible
Joel Goldberg: It’s to me so fascinating because I think everyone can relate to this and we obviously all have different levels of distraction and some out there have mastered the ability to push those distractions aside.
Joel Goldberg: Most of us have not I was laughing at myself because I was listening to your book on on Audible.
Joel Goldberg: And which I got to actually hear you. That was, that was fun. I’m glad you know you recorded all the audio for that. So, so that was cool. And I’m taking a couple of walks last week, you know, clear the head
Joel Goldberg: You know, let’s let’s let’s just decompress a little bit so very, you know, mentally very healthy and I’m listening to the book and it’s really resonating with me.
Joel Goldberg: And then as you’re talking about one thing or another. I suddenly pulled my phone out of my pocket and I started looking something up and I’m like, wait. What, wait a minute, I’m doing
Joel Goldberg: Like
Joel Goldberg: Put it away.
Joel Goldberg: You know, these, these phones and I’m I know this is an audio podcast. I’ve got my video podcast, too, but I’m holding up my phone and you could see me on on a zoom. But these things.
Joel Goldberg: Walking around with these little computers in our pocket are the biggest distracter, in my opinion, out there. And so I do want to get into the different aspects of the book. But, but how does one discipline themselves to push aside, what could be at any moment. Thousands of distractions.
Joel Goldberg: When you’re sitting with your daughter, like you did.
Joel Goldberg: When you’re in the middle of doing whatever it might be, and you have all these temptations at your fingertips, whether it be
Joel Goldberg: Checking out a menu or reading on Twitter or an article or texting a friend or not. I can come up with a million things. So how do you, how do you build that discipline which I’m guessing is a bit of muscle memory.
Nir Eyal: Well, I got really good news for you. It doesn’t require any discipline.
Nir Eyal: And that in fact the reason I wrote this book is that I’ve always struggled with willpower and self control even, you know, I gotta tell you, Joe, even you saying that word discipline.
Nir Eyal: sends shivers down my spine, because I used to be clinically obese.
Nir Eyal: And I always heard from people just have some self control right just have some discipline, just eat healthy, you know, what’s wrong with you. Why, why can’t you control your, you know, have some willpower.
Nir Eyal: And it didn’t work. And in fact, the, the research shows us that willpower is probably a myth.
Nir Eyal: That it actually doesn’t work. And that’s what I learned in my five years of research is that the people who are in distractible
Nir Eyal: The people who live with personal integrity and do what they say they’re going to do. Unlike the rest of us, including what I used to do.
Nir Eyal: Which is lie to myself every day and say, I’m going to do one thing, and I do something else. Whether that’s you know I say I’m going to read a book and I
Nir Eyal: I’m on Twitter. I say I’m going to exercise but I skipped by simply to eat healthy, and I don’t that’s lying right we lie to ourselves every day.
Nir Eyal: And it turns out, the people who don’t do that the people who live with personal integrity and are in distractible. They don’t have superhero willpower. They don’t have a lot of self control and not more than anyone else. What they have is a system.
Nir Eyal: They have a plan in place. That’s the difference. They know what to do when distraction rears its ugly head and so you know that that’s a very important revelation for me at least.
Nir Eyal: As someone who doesn’t have a lot of willpower and self control and another another I think really important aspect is that I think you touched on is that
Nir Eyal: We tend to blame the latest distraction. Right. We tend to blame our cell phones and the internet and you know 24 hour cable news and whatever.
Nir Eyal: But it turns out that distraction is not a new problem. One of the things that I was most
Nir Eyal: Surprised by, you know, when I would type in the term distraction into Google and I started digging through, like, well, who was the first person to describe this problem, you know, couldn’t have been me.
Nir Eyal: Turns out it’s a 2500 year old problem that 2500 years ago before the iPhone, before the Internet before ESPN before I need this stuff.
Nir Eyal: Plato, the Greek philosopher had a word for this. He called it a Casio. The tendency to do things against our better interest.
Nir Eyal: And so if 2500 years ago, Plato was complaining that people were so distracted BACK THEN THE PROBLEM. CAN’T BE OUR technology, it’s much, much deeper than that. And so that the first place to start.
Nir Eyal: To understand why we do things against our better interests, you know, Plato’s question of why don’t we do what we know we should do, why don’t we act according to our better judgment.
Nir Eyal: The way to understand this is to understand what really is distraction. So, the best place to understand what distraction is is to understand what distraction is not
Nir Eyal: So if you ask most people, what is the opposite of distraction. They’ll tell you its focus, but that’s actually not true. The opposite of distraction is not focus. If you look at the origin of the word.
Nir Eyal: The opposite of distraction is not focus it is traction that the origin of both worlds traction and distraction is through how Ray, which means to pull in Latin And you’ll notice that both words end in the same six letters ACTA when that spells action.
Nir Eyal: So traction, by definition, is any action that pulls you towards what you say you’re going to do things that you do with intent things that pull you towards your values and help you become the kind of person you want to be.
Nir Eyal: Now the opposite of traction is dis traction any action that pulls you away from what you plan to do anything that is pulling you away from your values and the person you want to become
Nir Eyal: Okay, so this is really important for two reasons. Number one, anything can become a distraction. So this was my daily routine for years. I would sit down at my desk.
Nir Eyal: And I would say, Okay, I’ve got that big project, I have to work on. I’m not going to get distracted. I’m not gonna I’m not gonna procrastinate. I’m going to work on that presentation, I’m going to finish that RFP. I’m gonna make those sales calls, whatever the case might be. I’m going to work on it. Nothing’s going to get in my way here I go. Right now, I’m going to get started.
Nir Eyal: But first, let me check some email. Right. Let me just text an email, real quick because
Nir Eyal: That’s a worki task. Right. That’s something I gotta do anyway. My job requires it. So I’m being productive by checking email or I know let me do that one thing on my to do list. That’s kind of easy just to get some momentum going, right, that feels good. Right, I’m productive.
Nir Eyal: And when I didn’t realize is that that is the most pernicious and dangerous form of distraction, the distraction that tricks you Into prioritizing the easy and the urgent at the expense of the important right, if you start checking ESPN at your desk when you’re supposed to be at work. Well, your work is checking ESPN, but you don’t. I mean, for most of us.
Nir Eyal: That’s a clear distraction, right, if you’re playing Candy Crush when you’re supposed to be doing your work. Well, that’s obvious. But if you’re doing something that
Nir Eyal: You think is productive, but it’s not what you said you were going to do it is just as much of a distraction is playing a video game now.
Nir Eyal: Just as anything can be a distraction. Anything can be traction. So I am not one of these Chicken Little tech critics that says, well, video games are melting your brain TV melting your brain. Facebook is addicting. You know,
Nir Eyal: It’s all terrible. No, that’s ridiculous. These are technologies. These are tools and they are wonderful. As long as you use them on your schedule.
Nir Eyal: Not the media companies. Okay, so if you want to watch a game on TV or you want to go on Facebook or you want to play a video game do it. There’s nothing wrong with any of that stuff. As long as you do it on your schedule but time you plan to waste is not wasted time. So if you plan ahead.
Nir Eyal: You turn distraction into traction so I don’t want people to live, you know, a life devoid of fun. Quite the opposite, that in fact, people who are in distractible have more time for leisure. What most people do most people keep to do lists.
Nir Eyal: I hate to do lists to do lists are destroying more people’s productivity than they could ever imagine. Because when you live your life according to a to do list.
Nir Eyal: You never finish everything on your to do list. I used to keep to do list for years and I would run my life, you know, I’d wake up in the morning. What do I need to do or do the to do list. So what do I do first of all you do the easy stuff, not the important stuff, you know, this is
Nir Eyal: The truth. And also, even when you’re not working, even when you’re supposed to be enjoying leisure time
Nir Eyal: You’re thinking about all the stuff you’ve left undone on your to do list. So you can’t even enjoy the time with your kids, the time watching a movie, the time just hanging out because you’re thinking about the stuff you didn’t do
Nir Eyal: Whereas when you do these techniques I talked about it in distractible
Nir Eyal: You know very few people have enjoyed what real leisure feels like without the stress without the burden of thinking, you should be doing something else. Because when you decide that this is what I want to do that becomes traction and everything else is a distraction.
Joel Goldberg: There’s a lot to unpack there. And every bit of it resonates with me.
Joel Goldberg: I’ll go with the easier hard one first. Here it’s not it’s neither. Actually, it just popped into my head and and I want to call myself out on something, but you mentioned Candy Crush.
Joel Goldberg: So I actually that was sort of like the one guilty pleasure on my phone. When I was bored to this, do that, which I’m embarrassed, but willing to admit
Joel Goldberg: And as I was listening to your book. The first thing that popped into my head, or one of the first things was, Why the hell is that
Joel Goldberg: app on my phone. It provides nothing to my life other than distraction, it, it truly is the distractors to keep me from doing anything else. I don’t want to do, including sitting down and watching a show or whatever it is to relax and what am I doing, I’m not even paying attention to that.
Joel Goldberg: So I deleted that app last week.
Joel Goldberg: I bring that up because as embarrassing as it might be. I think there are probably many others out there. I’m not trying to
Joel Goldberg: Start like a candy crush support group or anything like that. But how meaningless. I mean, what a waste of time. And I know we all need to be entertained.
Joel Goldberg: I also bring that up. So I just wanted to ask you studied so much of this. What is it about fill in the blank. But we can use Candy Crush that triggers something in the brain that makes you so mindlessly commit to something that really gives you a little value.
Nir Eyal: Well, you know. Okay, so this is a good place to talk about why we get distracted. So we talked about the difference between traction and distraction.
Nir Eyal: Now, what prompts us to take these actions. What prompts us to play Candy Crush and we didn’t really intend to what prompts us to watch the game as opposed to wanting to spend time with our kids what prompts us to, you know,
Nir Eyal: Take that that extra shot or have an extra drink when we know we’ve had enough. There are two types of triggers.
Nir Eyal: Triggers come in the form of external triggers external triggers are kind of the usual suspects the ping the dings the rings anything in your outside environment that leads you towards traction or distraction.
Nir Eyal: That’s what most people blame okay we tend to blame the stuff in our outside environment. But what I found in my five years of research is that that is not the leading cause of distraction.
Nir Eyal: The leading cause the number one reason we get distracted is not because of what is happening outside of us.
Nir Eyal: But rather what is happening inside of us. It’s called the internal triggers internal triggers are uncomfortable emotional states that we seek to escape from
Nir Eyal: You see the answer to Plato’s 2500 year old question of why do we do things against our better judgment is the same reason as to why we do everything.
Nir Eyal: That the conventional wisdom. If you ask most people, what is the nature of motivation. Why do we do what we do.
Nir Eyal: Most people will tell you it’s about carrots and sticks. Right. It’s about the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Jeremy Bentham said this Sigmund Freud said this, but it’s wrong.
Nir Eyal: It’s not true that we do things for the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain carrots and sticks is not actually neurologically accurate.
Nir Eyal: Rather, what is happening in the brain is that everything we do, we do for just one reason and that is the desire to escape discomfort.
Nir Eyal: Even the pursuit of pleasurable sensations is itself psychologically destabilizing wanting craving lusting desire. There’s a reason we say Love hurts.
Nir Eyal: Everything you do is about the desire to escape discomfort. Now, physiologically, this is pretty obvious, right, if you go outside and it’s cold. The brain says oh this doesn’t feel good. You better put on a coat
Nir Eyal: If you go back inside. Now it’s too hot. The brain says, This doesn’t feel good. You better take it off if you feel hunger pains you eat, and if you eat too much all your stuff you stop eating.
Nir Eyal: So, physiologically, this is pretty obvious, right. This is called the homeostatic response. The same principle holds true psychologically. Let me ask you, right. So when we’re lonely.
Nir Eyal: Where do we go Facebook or maybe Tinder. When we are uncertain. What do we do, we, Google, what about when we’re
Nir Eyal: Bored. Oh my gosh, lots of solutions to boredom right we check Facebook. We check the news so that we can worry about somebody else’s problems halfway around the world as opposed to having to think about our own issues.
Nir Eyal: We check sports scores, we check stock prices we anything to get our brain off of these uncomfortable feelings. We don’t want to have to feel
Nir Eyal: And so here is a cardinal truth that we have to understand when it comes to time management.
Nir Eyal: That procrastination and distraction is not a character flaw. There’s nothing wrong with you don’t dare tell yourself that you have A short attention span or, you know, you’re the kind of person that’s easily distracted. I used to tell myself that nonsense. It’s nothing but
Nir Eyal: self defeating myth. Okay, don’t tell yourself that crap. There’s nothing wrong with you, it’s simply that you don’t have the skills and when I say you I’m talking to me as well as everyone else who might struggle with this.
Nir Eyal: It’s that we don’t have the skills, the habit of dealing with discomfort in a healthy way that leads us towards traction, rather than an unhealthy way that leads us towards distraction, because
Nir Eyal: Time management is pain management, let me say this again. Time management is pain management. I’ve spent the past decade studying behavioral design.
Nir Eyal: And I’ve read, pretty much every bit of research out there, read all the books on this topic of time management and productivity and distraction and procrastination.
Nir Eyal: None of the techniques work. None of them work, none of the life hacks. None of the Guru’s techniques work unless we start with this fact. That if we don’t deal with discomfort, we will never be able to control our time.
Nir Eyal: Because whether it’s too much news too much booze too much football too much Facebook, it doesn’t matter whatever we are looking to escape from if we don’t understand
Nir Eyal: The discomfort. We are looking to escape. We will always be distracted by one thing or another. So the first step to becoming distracted before you do anything else is learn to master the internal triggers that is step one.
Joel Goldberg: And then so much with that time management to that’s, that’s one of my biggest takeaways from the book was sitting there and saying, Okay, I’ve got these chunks of my day. And this is where I fail so often, and I’m sure many do
Joel Goldberg: My day. Okay, I’ve got this podcast with near that we’re recording at 730 and I’ve got my video podcast at nine. And I’ve got a zoom meeting at 10
Joel Goldberg: And then I’ve got one more at 11 or whatever it is. But what about all those points, either in the middle or later in the day. Oh there there’s I’ll just get to what I get to
Joel Goldberg: And so there’s no structure to it. And that’s where I end up all over the place. So I have found myself.
Joel Goldberg: He talked about time boxing or right. I don’t know what the proper way to say this. Cuz, cuz to me talk about it because I heard you on Audible. And so many of us are listening to books nowadays versus reading them but
Joel Goldberg: I I’ve never done anything with time boxing and now suddenly I understand that there is a way to structure my day. And by the way, everybody is wired a little bit differently or you can tell me otherwise. So
Joel Goldberg: Some people need that minute by minute that would stress me out. But I need the structure to say for this half hour, you’re just going to return emails.
Joel Goldberg: Or for this half hour you’re going to work out or this hour, you’re going to work on the book that you’re writing and this half hour that type of stuff.
Joel Goldberg: So tell me about
Joel Goldberg: That aspect of being indestructible and managing your own
Nir Eyal: So that’s step two. So step number one is mastering the internal triggers. I don’t want to gloss over that because that is a really, really important step that frankly If you’re in enough discomfort, you will always find something to distract you, right, whether it’s flipping on the TV for escape, whether it’s
Nir Eyal: Taking a drink to get out of your head, whether it’s, you know, Candy Crush, whatever. There’s a million different things.
Nir Eyal: To take our mind off our discomfort. So that has to be. Step one. But after we learn. And by the way, you don’t have to go to a psychologist to do this right, anybody can learn these simple tactics to
Nir Eyal: Use that discomfort, not the to escape it. But to actually use it as rocket fuel to help us become better because there’s nothing wrong with
Nir Eyal: With discomfort right this kind of takes people by surprise. I think the self help industry and maybe it’s our greater culture.
Nir Eyal: tells people that feeling bad is bad.
Nir Eyal: And it’s not feeling bad is not bad feeling bad as a signal. It tells you wake up. Okay. You gotta, you have to feel this. This is something that can move you forward.
Nir Eyal: So if you find yourself constantly looking for escape unable to just sit with yourself. It’s telling you something. So we have to deal with that discomfort first. The second step is to make time for traction and get this gets to your question.
Nir Eyal: One of the, the truths that that kind of hit me like a ton of bricks. When I did my research. Is that you cannot call something a distraction, unless you know what it distracted you from
Nir Eyal: I talked to so many people who struggle with distraction, who don’t finish what they say they’re going to do, who don’t live the kind of life they they aspire to. They called us. They say, oh I they make up every excuse in the book, I have this dysfunction or I have this
Nir Eyal: I have this personality type or whether every excuse but when it comes to asking them, what did you plan to do today.
Nir Eyal: Oh, look at my to do list. I have 100 things on my to do list. No, what did you plan to do with your time. Let me see your calendar. Oh, it’s blank.
Nir Eyal: I have a dentist appointment on it. That’s about it. Well, you can’t say you got distracted. If you don’t know what you got distracted from
Nir Eyal: Now you don’t have to account for every single minute but I want you to time box. It can be in half hour, an hour three hour for hour chunks. But I want you to decide in advance how you want to spend your time because look in the year 2020
Nir Eyal: Where we have so much access to technology and technology companies have so much access to us if you don’t plan your time, somebody’s going to plan it for you.
Nir Eyal: Your boss, your kids, whatever rubbish is happening on Twitter, somebody’s going to take that time and attention because their business model depends on it. They make money on your eyeballs.
Nir Eyal: And they’re more than happy to take your attention and give you nothing in return. Because, look, we call it paying attention for a reason. Right, we pay attention. We don’t give attention we pay attention, just like we pay with money.
Nir Eyal: Right, you don’t stand in the corner, giving people dollar bills to whoever wants them know you are judicious about what you pay for. Right.
Nir Eyal: And yet, our time we give to whoever wants it, because we don’t plan our day. And that’s ridiculous. Right. Think about how much
Nir Eyal: effort we put into keeping our stuff safe right we put our art we have we have storage units for our stuff we have alarms on our cars we have security systems on our homes. To keep our stuff safe, but when it comes to our time.
Nir Eyal: The one thing that everybody has exactly the same amount of whether you’re a Bill Gates or Warren Buffett or Jeff Bezos. It doesn’t matter how many billions of dollars you have in the bank, you still get 24 hours in the day.
Nir Eyal: We’ll just give it away. We don’t plan it. And so that’s why we have got to start using this technique time boxing, which is
Nir Eyal: A million times better than keeping it to do list running your day based on a plan that helps you turn your values. Into time. Okay, you want to turn your values into time what our values. Values or attributes of the person you want to become
Nir Eyal: So what are you going to do is you’re going to ask yourself, how would the person I want to become spend their time.
Nir Eyal: And so there’s three life domains. There’s you are at the center of these three life domains. Then there’s your relationships. And finally, your work.
Nir Eyal: Now we start with each of these three life domains and we simply put time for those things on our calendar.
Nir Eyal: Okay, so that we know the difference between traction and distraction for every minute of our day. Now, does that mean we never get distracted. No, of course, we get distracted from time to time. The difference is that a distractible person.
Nir Eyal: gets distracted by the same things again and again and again and doesn’t do anything about it. There’s a wonderful quote by Paulo Coelho, he says a mistake repeated more than once, is a decision.
Nir Eyal: A mistake repeated more than once, is a decision. So if you keep getting distracted by the same thing again and again you don’t do something about it, you’ve made the decision to become industry it to become distractible
Nir Eyal: Whereas a indestructible person says, Okay, why did I get distracted and they do something about. And I show you exactly how to systematically look at your life and say, okay, when I got distracted wasn’t an internal trigger
Nir Eyal: An external trigger or a planning problem. It’s only one of those three things. I’m going to make small adjustments in my life so that I don’t keep getting distracted by the same things again and again. And so that I can follow through live with personal integrity and become
Joel Goldberg: Indestructible. Yeah. And the thing I like about it too is that this isn’t a fix all okay here’s the solution and you’re done. It’s
Joel Goldberg: It’s going to work in a good way. It’s not you know it’s it’s tweaking it’s and I love starting with okay here’s the time I’m going to spend on work. Here’s the time I spend on relationships. Here’s the time I’m going to, I’m going to spend on myself by just
Joel Goldberg: Sitting off and reading or
Joel Goldberg: Yes, met her.
Nir Eyal: Name, or whatever it is you want to do, as long as you plan that time that time you plan to waste is not wasted time
Joel Goldberg: Right and and then figuring out what what works best for you. It’s going to be different for every single person. So I love this as a guy like I said that that isn’t very structured and and as someone that
Joel Goldberg: That actually does do I learned over time that it’s not procrastinating. I do my best work with my back against the wall. I like deadlines. I do that but
Joel Goldberg: If I’m going to get there with my back against the wall, because I was doing all the, you know, allocating my time. Right, that’s fine. I function well
Joel Goldberg: Where I struggle is I’m trying to do 100 things at once because I have planned nothing and I’m easily distracted. So everything that you’ve written about very powerfully resonates with me.
Joel Goldberg: I want to move on to my baseball themed questions they all pertain to your career as a professional which could really go any different direction, I think, whether it be your studies, your book your books, your, you know, your company’s. What’s the biggest homerun that you have hit professionally.
Nir Eyal: So my biggest home run would be as an angel investor. So I have a very specific thesis about how, what kind of companies I invest in. So I invest only in companies that are building healthy habits in people’s lives.
Nir Eyal: And when I when I angel invest, I consider that money gone right like in my accounting, it’s zero.
Nir Eyal: Because I feel like, you know, if I find the kind of companies that are building healthy habits in people’s lives. Then that does a lot of good in the world. And they’re using my methodology and if I have some small part in helping
Nir Eyal: Have done the research to to have this model to help build habit forming products that build healthy habits in people’s lives. That’s, that’s good enough. But then every once in a while.
Nir Eyal: I get a check from one of these companies. And so the best home run. I ever made. I got a 45 X return actually just last month from a company I invested in about four years ago cahoot
Nir Eyal: They just went public and I got 45 times my money and I didn’t I you know I i was just so impressed with them, you know, I take it, I do office hours every week with anybody who wants to call me and so they
Nir Eyal: The founder, called me a few years ago today. I read your book hooked. Here’s how I’m using your work in building this company. It’s this little education company we’re going to build
Nir Eyal: This habit of helping kids learn more efficiently. And I thought, Wow, this is fantastic. Wouldn’t it be great if we affected millions of kids lives and help them.
Nir Eyal: You know, learn more, you know, I hated school growing up. And so I just love this idea of making education more interesting and engaging and habit forming
Nir Eyal: So I said, you take my money. I just want to be a part of it. And lo and behold, the company went public. So, you know, that would be a home run in my book.
Joel Goldberg: That’s a heck of a home run and and you hit it in baseball terms, without even swinging very hard so
Joel Goldberg: Yeah, that’s, that’s
Joel Goldberg: There actually is a lesson there too. You don’t need to swing hard and kill it every single time you know you need to make contact and sometimes the right circumstances.
Nir Eyal: Yeah, that’d be
Nir Eyal: There I didn’t put in that much money. So I didn’t make that much money.
Nir Eyal: It’s okay.
Joel Goldberg: I can’t retire, though.
Nir Eyal: Yeah.
Joel Goldberg: As I sometimes say to not every home run has to be the furthest hit so
Joel Goldberg: You did just fine with it. What’s the biggest swing and miss. You’ve taken. I love this question because it
Joel Goldberg: You know, we all make mistakes along the way. We all make mistakes, every single day. You mentioned the quote about it’s a decision when you make that same mistake twice. So, what, what’s a big swing and miss. You’ve taken and what did you learn from
Nir Eyal: You know, this is this is a tough question because I think many of the misses that I’ve had in life ended up being
Nir Eyal: A value. Later on, right, that that mistakes. It depends how you, how you a part of part of what I write about in in distractible is the power of self image.
Nir Eyal: That many people don’t realize is, I didn’t realize that the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and our experience have a direct impact on what we do in the future.
Nir Eyal: That behavior change necessitates identity change.
Nir Eyal: So when I think about, like, not everything I did worked out well I mean I there’s been many things that didn’t work out. But I think in in the passage of time, I would not be who I am today word, not for those quote unquote failures, right, that you can fail.
Joel Goldberg: Hold on one second. I heard some static there. I don’t know where it’s coming from.
Joel Goldberg: Oh, me.
Joel Goldberg: Um,
Joel Goldberg: Let’s continue because I could add it out if there was any static there on that and if for some reason there’s an issue. I’ll, I’ll see where it’s coming from, but
Joel Goldberg: Let me. I’m just going to wave like this. So I know I can cut that out, or have my editor cut that out. Okay, and
Joel Goldberg: Let me move on to the final baseball themed question if it’s simply what I call small ball.
Joel Goldberg: And little things.
Joel Goldberg: That add up to the big things which is so much of what you hardly talked about, but I’ll let you go wherever you want with this, of course,
Joel Goldberg: What is small ball in your world.
Nir Eyal: Yeah, no, this is this is such a great point because, you know, one of my mantras since writing this book is consistency over intensity
Nir Eyal: That I used to be the the the weekend warrior. I used to be the guy who made a new year’s resolution this year I’m going to get in shape and then by January 31 I never hit the gym ever again.
Nir Eyal: For the entire rest of the year and that was me, year after year after year, because I thought that the way to get in shape was to sweat. Your guts out for like a month until I quit. And now my, my. The, the small ball. The, the small successes that lead to two big outcomes.
Nir Eyal: Is consistency. Right. And so this is where being in distractible is so important because you know you don’t you don’t get very far in any singular Workout right when you go to the gym, on any given day, you don’t get any great results like nothing happens. It’s only when you consistently.
Nir Eyal: exercise that you see results in your health and well being. It’s only when you you know if you spend a super intense weekend with your wife or your daughter or your family member or friend that
Nir Eyal: It’s fun, but doesn’t really mean anything. It’s about being there through thick and thin consistently fully present without being distracted by the TV or the phone, but that you’re fully present with the person you’re with.
Nir Eyal: You know, at work, I didn’t finish my book because I wrote a lot in a weekend. No, I worked every day for five frickin years right it was a consistent small ball gets big results over time. It’s consistency over intensity
Joel Goldberg: I love that it. It’s something that could apply to anyone in any situation. And yes, as much as we would all like to lose that weight or
Joel Goldberg: Change that diet overnight. It takes time with those habits. And so that leads me to my for final questions. You don’t know what these are. But my for rounding the bases questions. The first one I know in the book, you talked about having those in the past those late night dessert habits.
Joel Goldberg: I don’t know if it was late night or not.
Joel Goldberg: But you’ve obviously there are many of us that have said okay no more desserts.
Joel Goldberg: What is that one thing that you miss or do you not miss anything in terms of guilty pleasures like that.
Nir Eyal: Of course I do. Are you kidding me.
Nir Eyal: You know how much I love Oreo cookies. I like I said, I don’t have a lot of stuff controlling willpower. But what I do have is a system in place so so I
Nir Eyal: You know what the research shows is that the people who stay on track. They don’t have to struggle with temptation. So I freakin love Oreo cookies, which is exactly why I will never have them in the house.
Nir Eyal: Because if there is a pack of Oreo cookies. Here I will eat the entire pack. No problem. I used to rain. That’s how I became obese.
Nir Eyal: And so now I’ve learned about external triggers. I’ve learned you know not to have that temptation in the house, maybe, you know, if I go out, okay, I can have a cookie. If I’m out or something.
Nir Eyal: But I don’t put them in the house because I know about external triggers internal triggers right this is a big one that you know I’ll be honest with you. The reason I was obese.
Nir Eyal: Was not because food was delicious.
Nir Eyal: Right. It is delicious. Thank goodness it’s delicious. And what do we want these cup like
Nir Eyal: Hey, Nabisco stop making delicious food, no that’s stupid, right. Hey, Netflix stop making good shows that’s dumb. Like, that’s not going to happen. That’s not a problem that’s progress. We want good products.
Nir Eyal: The real reason I was overeating. The real reason I was over scrolling, the real reason I was watching too much TV instead of doing what I really said I was going to do.
Nir Eyal: Was because of the feelings like I would eat when I was bored I would eat when I was tired. I would eat when I was lonely, I would eat when I felt bad about how much it
Nir Eyal: And it was those internal triggers. If I had if I had to deal with the deeper reasons that the emotions. I know a lot of guys don’t like to talk about this stuff. The icky sticky truth of look this is why we escape, and I think it’s a real
Nir Eyal: Disservice that we don’t have the opportunity as men specifically
Nir Eyal: To talk about this kind of stuff. And to find new strategies to deal with that discomfort in a healthy way. Not in a self destructive manner.
Joel Goldberg: Great, great points. Great advice. So my second question then, as I think about needing to get rid of some of what we have in the house in the cabinets.
Joel Goldberg: Of course, the kids keep getting some of that back there. I need to work on that one. Because yes, like you that that
Joel Goldberg: Discipline that willpower is is so often challenged. My second question is totally unrelated.
Joel Goldberg: We talked at the top of the podcast about going over to Singapore. You haven’t been out a ton. But, but maybe starting to ease back into into life and society. What is Singapore, like when you do get outside of that box.
Nir Eyal: What’s the important like right now. Yeah.
Joel Goldberg: What, what is it like living there, at least when you’ve been able to venture out a little bit.
Nir Eyal: Yeah, it’s pretty it’s pretty amazing. I mean, they
Nir Eyal: Yes, Singapore is a
Nir Eyal: very technologically advanced
Nir Eyal: Very controlled country there is I there’s very, very low crime here there’s a very high degree of trust in the government.
Nir Eyal: And their, their leadership has been very consistent. So when we got here from from day one. You know, there was there was just very clear repeated messaging of everybody has to wear a mask. If you don’t wear a mask. It’s a $300 fine on the spot.
Nir Eyal: You know there’s nearly 100% of compliance with everybody, wearing a mask.
Nir Eyal: When you go to a building, you have to have a QR code on the building that you just take your phone you point the camera at the QR code.
Nir Eyal: And so that they know that you entered into a space that you know has higher risk of contamination. If somebody is there and and and they track that person is being there, then they’ll let you know.
Nir Eyal: That you should be under quarantine to if you have this app on your phone, it’s voluntary but if you have the app on your phone. You come in within 66 feet of another person, then it tracks who you kept you came in contact with
Nir Eyal: It doesn’t track your location but attracts if you were near somebody and so that if they then come down with Kobe that they would notify you as well. So it feels a little bit like living in the future in that in that it’s so well organized. It’s so
Nir Eyal: It’s so systemic systematic around the, the approach they take into to reducing the spread of the virus. And it’s really paid. I mean, the. This was one of the first countries to get it and will likely be one of the first countries to eradicate it
Joel Goldberg: Yeah. What a different world that you’re living in over there for sure. Third question, as we round the basis
Joel Goldberg: You wrote in the book and you referenced your daughter before
Joel Goldberg: About that that aha moment for you have not hearing her but you wrote a cool thing. And I don’t know how long ago this was now or how old she was about about putting things into a hat.
Joel Goldberg: That you want to do and that she wants to do and and picking one and going doing in sometimes, it wouldn’t work going to the zoo and it was super cold or whatever it was.
Joel Goldberg: What’s the coolest thing of all those things was the most fun thing that sticks in your head that you pulled out of that hat or she pulled out that you got to do with her.
Nir Eyal: Oh, yeah. So this is the fun jar so
Nir Eyal: This is it sounds like an oxymoron. But we do what we call plan spontaneity. So, you know, you said Joel that you can’t plan every single minute of your day. I don’t either. But I know what I, what I will block to do so for example, on a weekend.
Nir Eyal: That’s my extended time with my daughter. So we have three on three hours on a Saturday, where we get to just hang out and be together.
Nir Eyal: And and so the reason I block out that time for her is I don’t know exactly what we’ll do. So we have this fun jar, where we have a bunch of different activities that both of us like because, by the way, one of the things that I discovered
Nir Eyal: Is that if we just did what she likes to do I get hella board right like I can only play uno about 100 times before. I’m just bored I need to do something else a grown man needs, you know, some variety
Nir Eyal: Right, so we sat down and we thought, okay, what are things that we both like to do
Nir Eyal: And so now, whenever we have time together, we just, you know, we don’t have an argument about it. We just look at the fun jar and we take something out the door and we do it.
Nir Eyal: One of the things we did that is was particularly memorable we we booked some of that time together. So I did the work I needed to do up front so that we can have a whole day together.
Nir Eyal: And one of the more memorable things that we did, we took an entire Saturday to do it. We went to do the Spartan Race.
Nir Eyal: In West Point in New York. And that was, that was awesome. That was a great time. She loved it.
Joel Goldberg: Yeah, and you’ll never forget it, she’ll never forget it. And that’s ultimately what you were trying to do with the with the fun jar. So, and I assume still trying to do.
Joel Goldberg: With the fun jar. Last question. It’s my walk off on the rounding the bases question, quite simply, or maybe complicated. What is next you strike me as a guy that is always working on something big or something long term, is there another book or project in the works.
Nir Eyal: I’m going to surprise you, actually, right now I’m just focused on helping people become indestructible. I think that this is
Nir Eyal: Still an undiscovered cheat code to life, right, that if people knew this cheat code their life would be so much better. And, and so, you know, I’m not looking to make millions of dollars on a book, you know, it’s very hard to get rich off of a book.
Nir Eyal: And so I just really want people to understand how much better their life can be
Nir Eyal: When they do what they say they’re going to do. And so for the foreseeable future, you know, I, I’ve been writing a book once every five years and so, Indestructible was just published in 2019 and September and so for the rest of 2020 especially now with coven
Nir Eyal: Given that so many people find the world is so much more distracting. They have to work from home. They’re trying to
Nir Eyal: homeschool their kids. They’re trying to work from home. I mean, there’s so many things that have changed it all this craziness and the news talk about internal triggers of fear and uncertainty and anxiety that are looking to escape from
Nir Eyal: So the world is suddenly becomes such a more distracting place. And so I really want to focus on for the rest of 2020 and probably even longer focusing on helping people become indestructible. That’s, that’s my primary mission right now.
Joel Goldberg: So the book is indestructible, how to control your attention and choose your life near also wrote, The Wall Street Journal best selling book.
Joel Goldberg: Hooked. And so there’s a lot there. It’s, it’s, it’s so beneficial. I know that it’s already helping me it’ll continue to help me, I’m just getting started with it.
Joel Goldberg: Also, if people want to read the blog and you’re writing on on a regular basis. I know near and far. Let’s make sure, since this is audio that people know although they’ll see it on the
Joel Goldberg: You know, on the on the list in the title for the podcast but near a, like a good Israeli name is spelled and I are. I grew up with plenty of kids from from Israel or with Israeli roots. So that was an easy one for me.
Joel Goldberg: near and far and i r a n d f r.com and so people can find you there value on LinkedIn, all that type of stuff. This is a lot of fun. And I think one near that will really
Joel Goldberg: Resonate With so many of my listeners and help some people map out their lives a little bit better if they’re like me, they’ll need it and be less distracted.
Nir Eyal: Awesome. Thank you so much. Joe was a real pleasure being with you.
Joel Goldberg: I appreciate it, best of health to your family. I don’t want you guys are coming back, but it feels to me like you made a pretty cool and awesome choice.
Nir Eyal: And We want to come back soon.
Joel Goldberg: I’m sure you miss home, but I’m glad you’ve got a great place to be and can still do what you do. So thanks again for spending the time
Joel Goldberg: And thanks to everyone for listening. If you want to reach me, you can do so at Joel Goldberg media.com or just look for me. I’m all over social media don’t spend too much time looking
Joel Goldberg: Because as near mentioned, you got to focus on some other things too, but I’d love to hear from you. If you have any suggestions feedback, you can certainly rate the podcast five stars is always preferred
Joel Goldberg: And you can send an email also to info at Joel Gilbert media.com thanks for listening to rounding the bases and hope to catch you next time.
Rounding the Bases with Joel Goldberg Podcast was created to share the stories of men and women in business and entrepreneurship that are both well knowing and or hidden gems. Joel believes that everyone has a story and their story matters which is why Joel is eager to connect with individuals that are bringing value to their community through innovation, leadership, entrepreneurial journeys, and developing company culture. If you would like to be a guest on Joel’s podcast please email us at email@example.com.