Cal Newport has a concept of highly focused effort he calls Deep Work. My big takeaway from this book is that the ability to gig in and work is rapidly becoming a superpower in an increasingly distracted workplace and world. There is a modern assumption that distraction is a contemporary problem, but the human mind wanders naturally and surely always has.
Even a creative genius like Leonardo da Vinci had this tendency. Walter Isaacson knows this better than most, after spending several years studying da Vinci’s notebooks, whose 7,000 pages reveal a mind often battling distraction. He clearly produced great work in spite of this, and Isaacson says it was his ability topause, “put things aside, and look at very ordinary things and marvel at them” that made all the difference.
It’s this active decision to focus deeply that produces real work. Newport puts it perfectly in his conclusion:
Technologies like the internet provide everyone the raw material to become a renaissance person, but to take advantage of this reality it helps to cultivate da Vinci’s ability to pause when something catches your attention, and to then give it the intense, deep concentration needed to transform a fleeting spark into something more substantial.