At 23, I was able to afford my first iPhone.
And for the last nine years I have been programmed to rely on the device for everything.
And I mean, everything.
For directions, for health and fitness, for finances, for meeting babes, for checking email, for running a business, for shopping, for music, for podcasts, for news, for sports, for EVERYTHING.
There is even a saying that comes with using your smartphone for EVERYTHING, “there’s an app for that.”
Social media has done an even better job of creating addicts than smartphone creators.
They have created a closed system that rewards you for engaging in their platform.
They reward you with likes, hearts, friends, followers, private messages, mentions and more.
And the more rewards we get, the more we want to engage in the platform.
To keep getting rewarded.
To get more followers than the next person.
To get more likes on this post than the last.
To get more comments than ever.
It’s pure brilliance from a user engagement perspective.
And former Facebook executives are speaking out on it.
Do you think the average attention span has increased over the last 20 years or decreased?
Well, I can speak for myself.
My shrinking attention span was the main driver of why I created Blackout Club.
I enjoy writing, so I’ll share my attention span during writing.
I would write a paragraph or two and then reward myself by checking FB, Instagram and email.
And I would do that each and every time.
And it was subconscious.
And each time I would check my phone, it became harder and harder to get back into my writing flow.
What could have taken me two hours with pure focus and efficiency would take me two days.
That’s probably being conservative.
GaryVee talks about day trading attention.
You have an army of people out there vying for your attention through your phone.
And they are incredibly talented at getting your attention.
You get pulled in a million different directions.
Meanwhile, I write another paragraph and spend another ten minutes mindlessly checking social media again.
You know, it’s just time.
Time is an unlimited resource, right?
Meanwhile, my wife is talking to me at dinner and my phone keeps getting pinged.
I check my phone and zone out from what my wife is saying.
And I pride myself on not having a phone out when I’m one on one with anyone.
Especially my best friend.
And this is happening subconsciously.
I don’t even realize I’m doing it until it’s over.
That’s super scary.
Being constantly connected wasn’t outwardly destroying my life, but it was slowly destroying my soul.
That might sound dramatic, but for me, it was true.
I didn’t know who I was.
What I cared about.
What truly mattered to me.
And I never gave myself a chance to figure it out either.
Because I always had a distraction that I could rely on.
Being alone with myself and my thoughts for half an hour?
Or scrolling through social media and liking and commenting on posts?
And not only did I not know who I was, but my relationships suffered.
My productivity was at an all-time low.
I could drift through days, mindlessly on my phone, without any real progress.
It led to a lack of motivation.
Being constantly connected was the source of every “rut” I can remember myself being in over the last decade.
There were a few moments that truly mattered in my journey to becoming a tech-faster.
The first happened at a couples workshop hosted by Philip McKernan in Boulder.
He asks each attendee to place their phone at the back table for the day.
He then asked each person to individually take lunch by themselves and journal on a few questions he provided.
We had two hours.
I ate alone on a bench by Boulder Creek.
It was extremely strange at first.
After I finished eating, I answered each of the prompts Philip provided.
It took 12 minutes total. After I finished writing, I instinctively reached for my phone in my pocket.
But, it wasn’t there.
I look at my watch. One hour and 48 minutes to go.
What am I supposed to do here until then?
I felt so uncomfortable.
And that surprised me.
Why is this so hard?
So, I just sat there looking at the running water.
And the work from the morning started to open up some pathways in my brain.
And I began writing.
And when I next looked up, it was five minutes before having to return.
Time flew by. And I experienced the longest uninterrupted span of focus that I could remember.
It was an amazing feeling to have forced alone time with myself.
Although this experience opened up some possibility for me, it didn’t change the way I lived day-to-day.
I just chalked it up as an interesting experience and moved forward.
My next experience happened in Sedona, Arizona.
Unsurprisingly, it was at Philip McKernan’s mastermind.
We were staying at cabins along a creek that had zero tech.
No television, wifi, phones.
I arrived a full day early because I wanted to take some time to myself.
But, I arrived at the same exact time as my friend Shane Stott.
So, we went on a walk by the creek and began talking.
And even though we were talking about some serious issues, it still felt very surface level and distracted.
I don’t remember why, but we each committed to turning our phones off and fully disconnecting.
And as time passed fully disconnected, we connected at a level that I hadn’t felt since childhood.
A level of presence with myself and him that I forgot existed.
And over the next four days fully unplugged, I started to know myself again.
My true self started to come out.
I didn’t care what anyone thought about me.
I wasn’t worried about appearance or image.
I was just me.
I was a fun-loving, care-free, playful kid.
And man, I was happy.
I hadn’t connected with that side of myself since high school.
Being unplugged felt like an adventure.
Driving into town for dinner without a phone was even a micro-adventure.
No Yelp reviews, no directions. Let’s just drive around and see what looks good.
Three of us went on a night hike to Bell Rock with no technology (a very tame hike).
We were all more present than any of us had felt in years.
We were in this majestic valley between Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock.
It was a full moon. No flashlights needed.
And we stayed out there for hours just chatting.
When I’ve fully unplugged recently, magic has happened each and every time.
The Sedona trip was the true catalyst leading to my tech-fasting journey.
I had experienced the dream.
The dream of living a fully present life.
At least for a moment in time.
And I loved the person that I was during this moment.
I let people truly see me for me and they did the same.
And it was pure magic.