How ‘human beings’ can prevent themselves from devolving into ‘human doings’.
The world’s widest used innovation, the smartphone, may have us evolving in reverse. Devolution, or backward evolution, is the notion that a species can revert to a more primitive form over time. Considering how we’ve delegated our brain’s key functions to a smartphone, are we not devolving? I believe that delegating your brain’s natural functions to a smartphone has consequences. Specifically, how it negatively affects young, pre-developed, minds.
To prove this, let me tell you about the time I ditched my smartphone for 1 year.
Rewind the tape back to 2017. Three years after the sunrise of my company, Creative Outfit, I was still operating the entire business from my iPhone. In a world where smartphones give you every tool in one place, it was easy not to delegate responsibility and do everything from the palms of my hands.
Philly started catching on. A short film I made led me to music video production. Music videos to interviews. Interviews to commercials. Commercials to TV shows. As the snowball grew, my happiness began melting away. What’s wrong with me? Where did the spark go? I have the privilege to wake up every day and do what I love.
As a young entrepreneur, sweat equity was a part of my growth strategy. If you’re willing (and privileged enough) to offer your talents for free, you can carve a path to your dreams. I sell an invisible product where the client’s expectation is often set by their wildest imagination: video. “Here’s $5,000 – all we need is for you to recreate the opening D-Day scene of Saving Private Ryan.”
I started this game playing offense: channeling my visions into films I wrote, directed, edited, and scored. Over time, I ended up being crushed on defense, even with the 5 full-time employees we had shooting and editing. The smartphone clock struck 2 am on August 31st, 2017, and there were 100 running backs against 5 defenders. Each running their own ball down the field expecting to score a game-changing touchdown.
My mental health teapot was boiling. I was a yes-man with a phone making it impossible to say no. I devolved from ‘human being’ to ‘human doing’.
Growing up, my sport of choice was wrestling. The key to winning is wrist control. My art was playing guitar. The key to bar cords is grip strength. What’s the point? Both make bending an iPhone in half easy. Don’t ever do this. If you’re privileged enough to ditch the phone, donate it to someone less fortunate or recycle it.
I woke up the next day with a ringing in my ears. The device that had been running my life didn’t have much to say. The sane might suggest, “Maybe you need a vacation or break from work?”. No. I’m a hungry, broke, 25-year-old-entrepreneur, on a mission to prove I can run this ship without modern sails.
If ditching the phone wasn’t enough, I also deleted my personal email and social media accounts. Time to get back to the basics. Let’s dive in:
My Relationships Evolved
“PJ, you ghosted your clients?!” Absolutely not. They no longer had direct contact with me. There was a business phone number and email open from 9 am to 5 pm where my production crew could be reached. Time to build infrastructure, processes, standardizations, and rails on which a business can run smoothly.
After cutting out the phone, we became lean and mean. We discovered through spending time on QuickBooks (instead of Instagram) that 20% of our clients were generating 80% of our revenue. We fired 80% of our clients by discontinuing the odd jobs they requested & put our focus on the big sellers. We had been saying yes to everything: Web design, t-shirts, and photo prints– all of which distracted us from servicing the core customer through video production.
After cutting out social media, I could focus on developing deep relationships instead of a high volume of digital ones. One relationship can change your entire life. Contact your dream client. Even with all your time, you can only follow up with so many. Talk to strangers. Be curious. Ask questions. The people around you are a part of your community and will likely know you through a degree of separation. The ‘stranger’ in line for a coffee might work at the place you’re trying to get a job. It’s a small world after all. It doesn’t take ditching your phone to notice that we’re all looking down at them. A great time to break from your phone is when you’re getting coffee or grocery shopping. Leave it at home. You never know who you will meet, what you will learn, or how your life will change.
My Memory Evolved
What would happen only exercised one-half of your body at the gym? Doing curls with your left arm, but not the right. This is your brain depending on a smartphone when delegating basic functions of memory.
Oh, how few places you’ll go without Apple Maps. Navigating Philadelphia without directions was a nightmare. Failure is essential. Failure sticks. Without directions, I failed to reach my destination again and again. Without these mistakes, I would never know the city as well as I do now. It’s sad that you can live somewhere for 25 years and not know which direction is north!
I was out one night with my cousin. Over the course of the night, we lost each other. I eventually found my way back to his place, but my backpack, laptop, and house keys were all in his apartment. I couldn’t get in touch with him until 9 am the next day. Spending a night in center city Philadelphia was a lesson of its own. If I only had the foresight to start memorizing phone numbers sooner.
Start memorizing the basics. Phone numbers, addresses, credit cards, license plates, bank accounts, and routing numbers. Exercising your memory increases your retention as a listener and will save you when technology fails. I have every family member, office employee, and key client’s phone number committed to memory. If I can do it, so can you.
If we’re dependent on a smartphone for directions, what direction is our life headed?
My Focus Evolved
Society is in a focus deficit, and I’m pointing fingers directly at the phones. If I flicked your ear every few minutes, after the first few, your brain would become paranoid, distracted, and worried as it anticipated the next flick. The centralized-distraction-center in everyone’s pockets flicks our focus right off course.
Smartphones do too much. Calls, texts, emails, calendars, social media, banking… take a second to understand the psychology behind how our brains process information:
Bottom-up processing starts with the intake of information from our external environment. We then build perceptions based on the current input of sensory information.
Top-down processing is the interpretation of incoming information based on prior expectations, knowledge, and experience.
The endless, high-frequency, minute-by-minute cadence of “Bottom-Up” stimulus from your phone diminishes your brain’s attention span. Your brain has become conditioned to involuntarily anticipate distraction before it happens, therefore you cannot focus. It’s ok, there is a remedy…
Meditation- it’s not something you do, but rather a state of being. Begin your practice with research and a proper mindset. I began to practice this a few weeks after ditching my phone. At first, I noticed how incredibly distracted my mind felt. I couldn’t focus on my breath for more than 5 seconds. After a few weeks of practice, the focus effects set in. Give it a chance. Don’t give up. You’ll thank me later.
My Business Evolved
The intent behind this 1-year-tech-hiatus was to design a system that my business could operate under. Societies, businesses, and individuals have reached astronomical heights without technology. The world’s tallest buildings, designed, and engineered without a computer. Even the world’s greatest medical innovations were discovered pre-electricity.
At first, we ran the entire business from our phones. In tandem, we took “made-for-everyone” software solutions and attempted to stitch things together. So much miscommunication manually transferring data from one platform to the other. The “CreativeOutfit.com” project was born the day I ditched my cell phone. I finally had the time to dictate and find solutions for the major issues that our company was facing. Developing a proprietary software operating system to run our business was the biggest game changer to date.
I knew I was ready for a phone again 13 months after ditching it. CreativeOutfit.com had launched. My team was servicing our clients with on-demand speeds I previously delivered from my phone. This time, I was a ghost in the machine.
Everyone should learn how to code. No matter your age, profession, or life goals. If I can do it, so can you. It’s like learning Italian, but with fewer hand gestures. It’s called a coding language for a reason. I’m not saying developing software is easy. Learning how to code teaches you how we think. Humans invented the computer and modeled them exactly after our brains. Interesting, right? The more we rely on computers to do our brain’s work, the less our brain works for us.
Can We Get a To-Go box? Takeaways:
RELATIONSHIPS – Less is more.
MEMORY – Committing to memorizing the small things will train your brain to have the capacity to retain other things as well.
FOCUS – Learn how to meditate. It’s not something you do. It’s a state of being.
BUSINESS – Invent something. Start a business. The small things change the world in the biggest ways. Do not be afraid to fold, put down your cards, stand up and go play at another table.
I believe we’re all of one mind to protect life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Protect the one mind you have by unplugging often. You deserve to enjoy the world around you.
To hear more of this story, listen to PJ on the TC After Dark Podcast & Spotify