“Like Roosevelt at Harvard, attack the task with every free neuron until it gives way under your unwavering barrage of concentration” – Cal Newport, Deep Work
For those looking for an at-home course to do amid these uncertain times, I’ve been going through Ryan Holiday’s Read To Lead course which is a fascinating look at how to go deeper and get more out of the books you read.
Part of it is taking notes from books you read and copying out quotes which is where the above passage comes from.
Deep Work is a book that changed my life and when I first read it I underlined all my favourite parts but it was great to come back to it 9 months later and take the gems and transcribe them on to note cards, but the above quote is by far my favourite.
It was taken out of a story about Theodore Roosevelt and his time at Harvard, talking about how he had such a wide variety of subjects he learned and wrote about, as well as hobbies he enjoyed before his course work got a look in. He got through Harvard with good grades, not top of the class but still excellent and he managed this with a relatively small amount of studying time.
His secret? His blistering focus with which he took to his studies, reading ferociously and attentively and doing only this task until it was time to move on.
I’m guilty of doing the opposite of this.
On a bad day I’ll sit with some hard business problem, then Gmail will open, then google analytics, then some other form of non-productive work appears and I eventually finish up no closer to a solution.
Not great. So my challenge is to hone and learn my focus, and what better way to learn focus than with a course about reading. I’m on day 10 and can’t recommend it enough.