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Dear <<First Name>>,

I hope this email finds you well.  I've taken a hiatus from regular updates over the last few years as both my business and personal life have seen great growth, including getting married to my wife Mila in 2018 and welcoming our first child, Sid, to the world in September 2019. 

With 2020 off to a rocky start here in Hong Kong, one of the goals I'm committing to this year is providing more value to my clients by sharing ideas through the creation of this channel.  I'm so excited to present to you this first newsletter, which discusses creating a healthy relationship between ourselves and our technology.  I hope that you will find value in the reading and in the exercises I've included in the "Something to do" section.  

There's a lot to digest here, and I recommend going through this when you have some downtime to both read the content and do the accompanying exercises.  If there are specific topical areas that you'd like to gain some new perspective on, please drop me a note and I'll make it a priority to create content around that for you in future newsletters.   

Lastly, if you think someone would benefit from receiving this newsletter or would be interested in a free 60-minute introductory coaching session, please feel free to forward this email to them.  

Onwards,

Mac

PURPOSE & INTENTIONALITY
How can smartphones, social media, and new technology help us reach our goals, rather than distract us from them?
“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” - Henry David Thoreau
TECHNOLOGY: To Use and Not Be Used
In his non-fiction bestselleDigital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, Cal Newport argues in favor of a philosophy called “digital minimalism,” defined as follows:
 
"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."
 
This philosophy sounds beautiful—unequivocal, even—for who would disagree? After all, nobody wants their life to be controlled by the attention economy upon which Silicon Valley (and its accoutrements) are built.
 
But how are we to translate this idyllic-sounding quote into something concrete—how can we do more than carry it as a comforting mantra in our minds, an anodyne satisfying us with the assurance that at least we are aware of our control slowly slipping away, as though we have somehow made a conscious exchange…
 
Newport disavows the solutions put forth by the new technology skeptics, most of whom advocate “modest hacks and tips” to navigate a life of diminished technology; these minor adjustments, this book argues, are difficult to maintain and are subtractive rather than additive. They remove a clinging nuisance from your life, but the sum total amounts to just this: a removal, an empty space. You will have been returned your TIME and FOCUS—but to what end?
 
First, Newport argues, we must define what “life” and “value” mean to us as individuals—is it time spent with your spouse, practicing a new language, learning what the sport “curling” entails? Once we define our missions without external interference, we can respond differently to new technology that attempts to ply our attention:  We might ask ourselves, does this TEDTalk help me achieve my goal, or does it detract? Can I specifically define how and when to use this technology to buttress my values—to maximize life in the face of minimizing cost?
 
I hope that you will approach even this newsletter with this mindset of usefulness—not as something to kill time, but as a curriculum to read when you have time to absorb it, when you have time to interact with it: to let it enrich you in a way that the things you truly value will be enriched because of it.
 
YOUR TASK FOR THIS MONTH
(...should you choose to accept it)
I invite you to try this 30-day transformative experiment, adapted from the prescriptions in Newport's Digital Minimalism:
 
STEP 1
 
Define 3 values/goals in your life.

What is important to you? What do you want your life to be filled with? For example, you might hope to visit Paris with a loved one, build a company, re-design your living room, learn to fly a plane, make your own dinner every day, teach your child how to read, etc.
 
STEP 2
 
For each goal, define 3 strategies of completion.

These are concrete actions that you can take IN THE NEXT 30 DAYS to make progress on your goals from Step 1. If your goal is to learn a language, for example, your first step might be to practice for at least 10 minutes per day. 
 
STEP 3
 
Define where/when/how you are allowed to use new technology in relation to your goals. 
 
Which aspects of new technology (smartphones, social media, internet, etc.) are involved in the strategies you laid out in Step 2? You may have to scour Pinterest boards to re-design your living room, for example, which is fine—this does NOT, however, mean that you need to extend that freedom to browsing Pinterest images of modern dance.
 
STEP 4
 
Define low-tech rules for this detox month. 

This step refers to technology that is necessary in functioning life but does not directly serve the goals outlined above. You obviously cannot—and likely should not!—stop checking work emails, for example, or answering your children’s text messages. Still, remember not to confuse “convenient” with “critical.” Your low-tech rules should include OPERATING PROCEDURES: When and how will you use your technology? (2 hours of Netflix only from 7-9pm, for example; 1 podcast per day; 1 hour of Facebook time). Also keep in mind that these are not forever rules; these rules should help you break down bad habits this month before you decide to let more tech back into your life later.


CONCLUSION

The hope is that in these 30 days, you will gain an understanding of where technology is enriching your life and where it is detracting—you may even find that, in your free moments, you don't crave your smartphone as much as you crave 10 minutes of piano practice! Armed with this re-entrenchment of your intentional values into your daily routine, after 30 days you can integrate new technology back into your life, ensuring that it will not seep into all the empty spaces and take over. 
ACCOUNTABILITY: SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE
 
Accountability helps! You might decide to do this 30-day transformative journey with a group of friends; I would love to hear how you did!
 
Share comments about your experience here.*
 
 *Your responses will not be posted without your consent.
HOW NEW TECHNOLOGY MANIPULATES OUR BASEST INSTINCTS
 
“Addiction is a condition in which a person engages in use of a substance or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behavior despite detrimental consequences.”
 
This is one common psychological model for addiction, as quoted by Newport. New media and platforms such as Facebook, Netflix, Instagram, and Twitter persist in a quiet mental knocking, soliciting entry into the most primal parts our minds. The original purpose of the iPhone, as stated by Apple, was purportedly minimalistic: to integrate multiple functions (music and phone calls) into one device.  Welcoming this very reasonable solution, we once blithely admitted these technologies into our lives for the sake of a minor convenience; what we are left with now is an ever-expanding quagmire of addiction.
 
Newport reports that one of the most commonly expressed fears of technological abstinence is “What if I miss something [by turning off Facebook]?” Indeed—but what about the things you will necessarily miss if you DON’T? Once elucidated, this fear feels irrational. And it should. It transcends logic and enters a realm of the brain that is far more fraught with survival-based neurochemistry.
 
The important thing to note is that the same instincts that underpin this fear of missing out were not meant to harm us—they were MEANT to help us survive. Kinship-based altruism and social cognizance was key to evolutionary group success. In a series of experiments, scientist Matthew Lieberman found that even the infant brain’s default network (a network of neurons that fire even when the individual is engaged in no particular task) is social cognition; in other words, even when humans are not consciously focusing on anything else, their brains are processing social information.

In fact, several studies have found that social pain often mimics physical pain; over-the-counter painkillers can dull heartbreak for this reason. THIS is the power of the neural network that is exploited when we are not engaged in a particular task—it is why we are wired to allow our leisure to be susceptible to socially addictive new media (technology which, it bears being mentioned, does not in fact fulfill the social function that face-to-face interaction actually would).
 
Newport cites Michael Zeiler’s pecking pigeon experiments from the 1970s, which concluded that rewards delivered unpredictably are far more enticing than those delivered with a known pattern; they initiate more dopamine, create more intense cravings. Features of new media are designed purposefully, not accidentally, to stoke this neurochemical addiction.
Recommended TED Talks
 
Alter laments the new attention economy, explaining how technology was once built with natural stopping cues (at the end of the newspaper, you would have to stop reading; at the end of one TV episode, you would have to wait a full week).

 
 
Harris discusses a value-based plan for technology use.
 
Harris discusses the attention economy, specifying how companies like Facebook and Netflix target specific psychological tendencies to elicit unflinching attention.
If you're ready to take that first step towards creating a shift in your life, send me a note by replying to this email and learn more about receiving a free 60-minute session! 
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MAC LING, founder of Coaching Collective, is a transformational life coach and a facilitator for creating, accepting, and living a more fulfilling life. He combines an action-oriented focus with deep listening and empathy skills to help his clients process and overcome their obstacles. He challenges his clients to dream big dreams and then works with them to define the first steps towards making those dreams a reality. His own journey has led him down many paths, including working in companies and launching commercial and social ventures in Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, and the United States.  Mac has received coaching certifications from the Center for Advanced Coaching and Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching.
Copyright © 2020 Mac Ling, All rights reserved.

www.mac-ling.com



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