This is part of my series on mastering technology.
How do you really make technology work for you instead of being a slave to it?
I’ve been experimenting.
This article will go into detail about my findings regarding swapping a smartphone for a flip phone during most of my daily endeavors. I’ve been experimenting in this way on and off for a little over a year as of this writing.
Hopefully, this will inspire you to break out of your enslavement to devices.
We learn very slowly often maiming ourselves over and over again (a process that goes on for too long) until finally realizing that something needs to change or it will be too late. A process similar to that of the smoker who ignores little signs and signals until he gets news of cancer.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to learn this lesson.
The best hitman: Availability bias
The goal of Resistance* is not to hurt or maim you, it’s to kill you according to Steven Pressfield.
One of the deadliest ways we let ourselves get flanked by Resistance is through improper use of availability bias.
Availability bias is a cognitive bias that can be explained as the human propensity to gravitate towards what’s easily available. This aspect of human nature kills many and is wielded by the strong. Amazon wielded this human propensity for a massive profit with their one-click buy button.
One of the main reasons why devices are so dangerous is because we have very few cultural protocols for dealing with their downsides. Technology is still very new and is being developed at a rate faster than human nature and cultural heuristics can counter.
Insane amounts of porn and endless entertainment are the two most common weapons that Resistance uses to inflict massive wounds on its enemy (you). Another problem is being too easily accessible by people and getting into the habit of exchanging too much useless information (a more clever tactic Resistance sends it’s stealth fighters for).
Recently, it striked me that it was easier to watch pornography in your bed than it was to get up and get a glass of water. The latter requires more effort provided you already have your phone in your hand! However, the former provides a super-stimulus that blasts your reward circuitry and causes powerful cravings.
Be careful with sex and protect your reward circuitry from over-stimulation. Remember that the Trojan war was fought over a woman! If you too easily grant yourself the reward of sexual pleasure, it will crush your motivation! This has tremendous implications.
The reabsorption of semen by the blood is the strongest nourishment and, perhaps more than any other factor, it prompts the stimulus of power, the unrest of all forces toward the overcoming of resistances.” – Nietzsche
*Resistance is the term for the combination of negative forces that hold you back from achieving your creative endeavors.
Negotiating with Hitmen
Devices are exceedingly clever at negotiation.
If your mindset isn’t tight, any nook in your defense will be used against you.
In theory, you should just be able to keep your devices on you at all times and simply discipline your use. However, this is implying that knowledge and will are sufficient for the task (a point I tend to disagree with).
Using knowledge and will alone often isn’t enough for changing behavior and requires too much vigilance which isn’t realistic. Most can’t follow this type of practice for more than a few hours, some a few days/weeks, and the rare few that succeed aren’t even worth mentioning as they are exceptions.
What ends up happening is that you avoid checking your devices for a while but then you grow weary and start negotiating with your impulses. That negotiation eventually opens the door to a full-scale invasion. Remember, the one aim of Resistance is murder (of your creative aims and annihilation of your standards/values).
Countless times, I had prepared a new “standard” and try to align myself to it. For instance, I would allow myself to carry my phone around as long as I only check it 3 times. The ratio of success with that approach was extremely low. The results were too shaky. Don’t believe me? Try something similar and be honest about your results.
The Spartans were known for having a devastating phalanx that secured every vulnerability possible. This formation was the key to their strategy for a long time. If your internal/external variables aren’t stacked for victory, you will perish. Keep it tight to keep it right! This doesn’t mean that you don’t use will but that you use it in combination with other factors such as terrain modifications. For instance, I use will to make myself leave the smartphone at home before I go to work. It’s a short burst of will but then the terrain (distance from device and decreased availability bias) takes care of the rest.
The simple rule is to not have the device on you in as many settings as possible. Take this as far as you’re willing to go. The fewer settings the better.
What amazes me is how so many people seem okay with the amount of time they waste on devices. I’ve obviously engaged in my fair share of such behavior but I was always internally conflicted about it. It felt like I was engaging in a pleasant diversion but being robbed at the same time. I could never fully enjoy and relax because a part of me was conflicted. A dark cloud of regret would float above my head immediately following an overly stimulating and useless session of tech consumption. I would have to engage in rituals to purge myself, a type of karmic cleansing if you will.
The Education/Navigation Excuse
A huge clever rationalization of keeping devices on us is access to educational content. Don’t let this clever rationalization be the cause of your downfall!
Besides, if you absolutely feel the need to carry educational content on you at all times (like me), either bring physical books or an e-reader device. These devices do not allow you to engage in anything but reading (which is an excellent terrain modification).
Another big rationale most people have for carrying their smartphones is GPS navigation. I eventually purchased a Garmin to counter this excuse. It is true that it’s harder to spontaneously lookup certain locations on a Garmin as the interface tends to be more basic but this is a worthwhile price to pay and something that you eventually learn to mitigate (when I have access to a device, I’ll jot down a couple of addresses in advance). There are also more expensive versions that are much more precise but being on a budget, I got what I could.
Would you rather get to Target a few minutes faster or be in a state of mental stillness/deep contemplation? In the latter scenario, you may have to ask someone for directions or plan your course in advance. Once again, have you done the cost/benefit analysis?
Imagine Leonardo Da Vinci Had a Smartphone
Here’s a sobering thought…
Imagine Leonardo Da Vinci was born in today’s era—would he have become a famous polymath? What if his potential was slowly sucked dry by Resistance as he mindlessly stared at another plane turbulence compilation instead.
Mark my words—a lot of would-be Da Vinci’s are doing the same thing today. A lot of men, you included, are likely functioning at less than your full potential because of how much technology has fragmented your attention.
Driving Deeper into Myself
For a while, I had a gig as a delivery driver. This was a job that allowed me to go for long stretches without smart devices. This wasn’t the first time (my father didn’t let me use tech for 3 years as a teenager but I’ll get into that some other time).
Devices keep us in a superficial mental state because they provide an endless supply of stimulation that you can prompt at the slightest sense of discomfort. In order to transition into a deeper state of stillness and/or reflection, you have to go deeper into the cave so to speak. Have you ever explored a deep cave? After a few yards, things get dark, scary, and unfamiliar. It’s not a very comforting experience at all, especially if you’re doing it by yourself (one of the hard truths is that this journey can be quite solitary but that is no excuse, a warrior must learn to walk alone, go forth mighty Ronin! Arm yourself with the precepts in the Musashi’s Dokoddo if necessary. If you are not willing to take this path on, you might as well slice open your belly right now because that’s what you will be doing in small ways anyway as you slowly dissolve into mediocrity!).
On many occasions, I remember impatiently waiting for it to be Monday again after the plebish activities I would inevitably get sucked into during the weekend. The stillness, depth, and quality of my thinking was so enjoyable and pertinent during these long undistracted drives that it far exceeded any superficial pleasures I may have experienced during the weekend.
I knew that after an hour or so of driving, my mind would enter that deeper state. From there, I could see things from that higher perspective. This is where I liked to dwell. This is where I also experienced the healing quality of stillness.
If you’re looking for a gig or even a side gig, try one where you could spend long stretches of time by yourself. Maybe be a trucker for a year or two or a park ranger. These could be some very fruitful times for reflection.
Chicks and Journals
Whenever you stop an old unwanted behavior, it usually creates a void. Oftentimes, it helps to simultaneously be conditioning a new response that you want instead.
These days, I carry a journal with me everywhere I go. In fact, I carry other tools such as a binder (I’ve since then developed multiple tools to help me with my reflections). I would recommend taking notes all throughout the day (something Da Vinci did). Observations, ideas, thoughts, diagrams, poems, sketches, etc. This is a skill akin to gardening. What looks like random patch of dirt and weeds can eventually be refined into a private garden in Versailles that King Louis XV would have been eager to show off to visiting ambassadors. Eventually, the mind will be trained to secrete very refined and interesting material for all of your endeavors whether enlightenment or world domination.
I try to check my smartphone once a day at most, usually in the evenings. I don’t spend endless time on the feed either. I just get back to people.
I rarely make same-day plans with chicks. This becomes a big excuse to be constantly checking your phone. I typically schedule dates several days out in advance and train girls to let me know a day beforehand if they’re going to cancel.
Don’t use girls as an excuse. Some guys I know have these marathon text exchanges throughout the entire day with girls (beta)—I don’t care if you’re dating her seriously or not. If you think that women require constant validation and upkeep throughout the day then you don’t understand women. This is the mark of a soy-boy being used as an emotional tampon high off of the validation showered onto him by a bored and/or insecure girl. You’re being conned by yet another clever tactic Resistance uses to turn Leonardos into Retardos.
Use your phone as a tool for setting up the next meet-up with the occasional playful text exchange anything more than that and you’re asking to be flanked by Resistance. Tell them why you operate the way you do if necessary. Usually, girls find my systems fascinating and respect my discipline which actually raises their attraction towards me even more (even though they usually resent it at first). If a girl doesn’t get it and starts demanding that you text her all throughout the day then I would recommend sacrificing her to the gods of Self-Mastery (don’t worry, the gods will be thankful and can use some entertainment). Females must be a compliment to a man’s life, not the focus of it.
So When the Fuck Do I Get to Use Devices?
I have many online projects I’m working on. However, I have developed habits that allow me to make tech my slave rather than the other way around.
Everyone is different and for me personally, I have found that not having my phone on me helps me avoid most distractions even if I carry my laptop. The phone has a tendency to place my mind in a more consumption-oriented trance for some reason. When I have my computer on me, I also usually have a strong sense of what I’m going to do with it that particular day (the result of a habit that I developed over time) so it’s easier to manage the distractions.
For instance, I usually strategize and plan action steps in advance, write them down (often on paper) and then execute once I have access to a computer.
Specific times and settings are key factors to keep in mind in order to mitigate tech usage, coupled with a sense of responsibility and strong intent when you execute. This is another skill that takes time to develop.
Spotify and other music apps are sometimes used when I’m with people. My equation dictates that if people are around and we’re having dinner or something, a bit of music is fine and I’m way less likely to get sucked into devices needlessly.
However, at night when it’s time to go low tech, I have developed a set of effective tricks to keep the computer/iPad/etc in check as well because these devices can turn against you if not careful (will save these for another article).
Everyone is going to have their personal equation on how to master tech use. It depends on several factors such as intensity of certain addictions, degree of pain/boredom in your life prompting escapism, genetic impulsivity, device requirements for work, current habits, strengths/weaknesses, schedule, etc. This is complex terrain and for me to sit here and give you exact instructions would be dangerous and may make certain individuals very neurotic. Do not try to fit the terrain to the map, observe your unique situation and apply the rules as necessary.
However, I would say that if your lifestyle has been set up for failure and tech slavery, seriously consider making some drastic changes. This path requires sacrifice no matter how you look at it.
If you just had to take away two simple things it would be this: Do not use devices to cope with pain. Use philosophy, religion, or some other more wholesome practice. Improve your consumption/creation ratio: Do not gravitate towards consumption when you’re bored, gravitate towards creation. If you’re going to consume, engage in disciplined high-quality consumption: higher wavelength versions of music, education, content, foods, sex, etc. Keep the really high-volatility/low-wavelength consumption to a strict minimum but engage in it wildly (and well) once in a blue moon. Dionysus (the god of wine and crazed ecstasy) must be honored but kept at bay, not extinguished (maybe get into a bar fight or down half a bottle of Bourbon – just don’t get in trouble).
P.s. If you would like to work with me personally (I like to combine strength training with men’s work), check this out.