Patrick McAndrew dives deep into the concept of focus, exploring its crucial role in our modern lives filled with distractions. Sharing his personal journey from struggling with reading to becoming a speed-reading trainer, Patrick delves into how fractured attention spans are affecting personal and professional aspects of life.
The Myth of Fixed Skills: Patrick’s experience with a speed-reading course shattered his belief that reading skills are fixed, leading to the realization that focus can also be trained.
Continuous Partial Attention: Our day-to-day lives are governed more by a state of 'continuous partial attention' rather than actual multitasking, making us highly susceptible to distractions.
The Loop of Distraction: Heavy media multitasking changes our brain's orientation to constantly anticipate distractions, negatively affecting performance unless under high-stress conditions.
Patrick McAndrew (High Performance Coach)
Patrick McAndrew is the Founder & CEO of HARA, an organization that trains leaders to optimize performance. He has coached over 300 executives on managing attention, energy, and focus in the modern workplace. Patrick is passionate about equipping people with science-based skills to thrive amidst technology-driven distraction. His customized training helps organizations and individuals reach peak productivity.
⚡️ In each episode, Paddy Dhanda deep dives into a new human Superpower and gives practical advice on how you can apply it immediately.
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[00:01:01] Paddy Dhanda: Dear friend, thank you for joining me for another episode of the Superpower School podcast. I'm your host, Paddy Danda, and today I have somebody who is the founder and CEO of Hara, where they help organizations and people focus. Amidst a world full of distraction and those of you that know me will know this is a topic close to my heart So welcome to the show Patrick McAndrew.
How you doing Patrick? I'm very
[00:01:32] Patrick McAndrew: good. It's good to be here with you Paddy we're almost namesakes.
[00:01:36] Paddy Dhanda: Oh, yes. I'm gonna tell you a funny story now Patrick I used to work in Dublin for a short while and I remember Going to the bar and I was about to order a drink and the man next to me said, Hey, where are you from and what's your name?
And I was like, I bet my name is more Irish than your name. And he said, well, I'm John. And I said, I'm Paddy. And then the look on his face was just shock horror seeing an Indian guy with the name Paddy. He didn't let me buy another drink that night, it was such a nice moment. And so, yeah, when I meet another Irishman or woman it's always interesting to see the look on, on their faces.
[00:02:12] Patrick McAndrew: Oh, I'd say so. Suddenly they feel like you're one of them just by hearing that, just with the name Paddy. I can imagine you slotted right into that environment in Dublin that night.
[00:02:19] Paddy Dhanda: Oh, yeah. And now I normally say to people I'm half Irish and half Indian because I feel that, I feel the love.
[00:02:26] Patrick McAndrew: So, yeah. Just like our prime minister, actually. He's half Irish, half Indian.
[00:02:30] Paddy Dhanda: Well, before we get onto the topic of alcohol, let's talk about the subject of this episode. So Patrick, what superpower would you like to talk about today?
[00:02:40] Patrick McAndrew: Let's talk about the superpower of focus. I think that's an interesting one to explore. I think it's one that people long for in today's world in the kind of environment we live in and the way that we use technology. So that's the path that I'd like to go down and the path I'd like to explore.
[00:02:57] Paddy Dhanda: Those of us that don't know you so well, as you were growing up, tell us a little bit about your life and some of the experiences you went through and some of the dilemmas as you were growing up.
[00:03:10] Patrick McAndrew: I can maybe bring things in from my youth, but I think maybe to a point that's more connected to this theme of what we're talking about, the path maybe was started to emerge about five years ago.
I took a speed reading course in the Upper East Side of New York, and from doing that I realized that this was one of the most transformational four hours that I ever had. I studied corporate law in university, and the reading part of school was actually somewhat challenging, being able to extract all the information, being able to Memorize a lot of these different cases, the details of the cases.
I found that part challenging because you really have to read and synthesize a lot of information from a lot of different eras when you would arrive to your exams or discussions. So, I had this sense of myself that I was a poor reader. And I carried that with me for many years until I took this four hour course in the Upper East Side.
And from that I realized, Oh my God, this is not a fixed skill. It's not something that I'm born with. We are not born good nor bad readers. It's a spectrum. It's about how exposed we are to different skills and how much we develop the skill that allows us to become a better reader.
And I then became very curious and passionate about this and really took the lessons from that four hour workshop into my life. I started trying to read books faster, trying to read harder books slower, trying to test my memory. And I also ended up working for the organization that I learned from.
And I traveled around the United States, going to high schools, to universities and to businesses, teaching, teaching people how to improve their reading skills, how to process information faster and how to store more of what they read. And everywhere I went, I saw that people have what I could see as fractured minds.
They knew what they wanted. There wasn't a lack of motivation. There wasn't a lack of intention. What there seemed to be was a lack of attention. They really seemed to struggle with that capacity to have a sense of ownership over their mind. To be honest with you, I was feeling the same thing at that time.
I had my own business, which I was running, which was my full time gig. The speed reading was just something on the side and I struggled day in, day out. I would arrive with a huge amount of desire and motivation for the business I was trying to build. But as I would arrive to my desk, I would go through the typical kind of start of day activities.
I would go through Instagram. I would check my Facebook. I would check Sky Sports, The Guardian. And that might take me 20, 25 minutes, and then I would begin into my day. And then as I said, I tried to start the work that I needed to do. Suddenly I'd feel that I needed a coffee and I'd go down and get a coffee after getting a coffee, I'd go back and almost do the same loop of checking again.
Then I try and work, then I'd feel like I needed something else, or maybe I'd go and check my emails. And this dance of constantly moving away from the thing that I wanted to focus on or work on would take me up till 3 or 4 p. m. in the afternoon. And then at that point I would realize, okay, I really have to start working now.
And I'd be in the office until 8 or 9 p. m. And I tell myself tomorrow, I'm really going to do it. Tomorrow is going to be a day where I get everything done, but yet the same pattern would emerge. And I realized that I was dealing with the same thing that so many were that I saw. And if I could have made a change in how I was able to expand my reading skills, I thought the same must be true for focus, because we learned how to read when we're three or four or five, but the complexity of the material grows.
But we never learn how to focus. Nobody ever comes along and teaches us that. So, that's what began this journey of exploring the concept of what is focus and what is making me so distracted. Oh,
[00:07:03] Paddy Dhanda: nice. I can totally relate to a lot of what you've just said there. There's been times when I've been at home with the kids and the family and my mind's been.
Wavering in lots of different directions and I've completely ignored what they've been telling me or what they've been asking me and it just It feels awful afterwards when you then realize what you've just done And I think for me actually Patrick I remember there was a pivotal moment when a good friend of mine at work was actually giving me some really bad news.
He was telling me about how he hadn't been to work for a few days because he had lost someone really close to him. And I had half an eye on him and half an eye on my phone. I just zoned out. And afterwards I said something ridiculous like, Oh, okay and there was no empathy. There was no kind of emotional connection to what he just said.
And that's when he said, Dude, did you just hear what I was telling you? And for me, that's when I realized. What I was doing. I could totally relate to what you were saying there and I'm sure there's lots of science behind this as well, Patrick, how big a problem is this for the world?
[00:08:13] Patrick McAndrew: Yeah. So it's a huge problem. And I think there's many strings that we can pull out of. If we take a step back and if we look at the design and the organization of our lives today. We have multiple virtual personas, so we have at least one virtual persona on our email, maybe we have a few if we have different email addresses for the vast majority of people they have these multiple personas on their social profiles, so that's.
TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or X as it is now. There is your instant messaging channels, Telegram, WhatsApp, Slack, Teams. And the list goes on. There's many other things. Then if you're into sports, if you are interested in certain types of news. So what this creates is that in the moment of waking up, Our first gesture is often to go and check in on those virtual selves, those virtual personas.
I kind of liken it to the Tamagotchi. If anybody can remember the Tamagotchi of how it lasted for about 12 days, it was this kind of digital virtual pet which had a life cycle of about 12 or 14 days, but it needed constant nourishment, it needed constant checking. Just on this small little digital piece, but if you didn't check it every, I don't know, 45 minutes, 60 minutes, it would die.
It needed to be fed. It needed to be watered. It needed attention. And in the same way, this is what's occurring with our virtual selves. So we want to check in and make sure that. Everything is okay in these different arenas, these different spaces, because if not, we feel in our own real selves, like, there's a threat, we're missing out on something or somebody needs us.
And that creates a certain pattern in our minds, where we often speak about focus and its opposing force being multitasking. So focus is where you have one single objective that you're moving towards, and in being aware of that single objective, you're also Able to block out all of the things which arise on the path there.
So like the example of what you spoke about, your friend was telling you something to be present in that would be to really sit there and feel what he's saying to hear what he's saying. Yet your mind was drawing you astray somewhere else. It was making you think about something you needed to check or to see.
So that in that framing that's maybe multitasking in that sense or another essence of it is to be on a video call yet to be typing an email on a completely different subject matter. But really, that's not where the issue is and where we are today the issue is more along the lines of continuous partial attention, so it would be one thing if we were spending a lot of our time focusing and then sometimes multitasking.
But the truth is that we spend the vast majority of our time in this constant kind of malaise of continuous partial attention where we're just checking. The day is spent checking to see if anything new has come in, checking to see if anything is there that I need to be aware of. And that's across all of these many virtual selves.
And this has come because we've tried to make ourselves as available as possible to incoming information. And in the end, we become unavailable to ourselves because there's no space for ourselves because anytime we get a moment, there's something to check, something to see. And of course, it has the boomerang effect because the more that you respond and send things out across these platforms, the more they will come back to you.
So this then starts to create this mindset of what we can call and has been coined multitasking as a frame of mind heavy media multitasking and a study that was done, it was a meta study at Stanford university that was looking at how heavy levels of media multitasking and low levels of media multitasking affect the brain.
And for those who are heavy media multitaskers, which means that they're constantly switching, constantly moving. So it's different if you're writing a paper and you're writing an email, and there's something that you need to Google to find out about a little bit more information. And then you come back to the email.
That's what we could call light media multitasking. Heavy media multitasking is where you're writing an email, but then you switch and you look at a notification you got, or you send a text message or you check Instagram. You're constantly switching the contexts completely. This starts to change the orientation of our brain, where we anticipate a distraction whenever we try to attend to something.
So it means that it creates a loop of distraction. So almost by association, whenever we try to focus on one thing, we've created the pattern that by focusing on one thing, we are also drawn automatically to do something else. And the only way to come out of that is to be placed in environments of extreme high stress with extreme high levels of pressure.
And people who are not in those levels of extremely high stress, they underperform because their mind is so fragmented. So in ways it causes people to almost create and want these very high stress states because it's the only way that they can narrow their focus. And this then leads into the pattern of what we've seen with a lot of burnout that for a lot of people I've seen that they create the patterns of this themselves.
[00:13:16] Paddy Dhanda: I can definitely see how with all of the social media out there. We get drawn into it and it's almost this addiction that oh my god I've got some likes here or how many more can I get or how many followers can I get here?
And the more of these platforms that evolve and Come about the more we spread ourselves thinly Don't we it's there's only so much we can do. And it just becomes impossible and so patrick I'm hoping you've got some solutions for us, because I think this is a problem that is very common.
Lots of people are facing this at the moment. So how can we help people if they're feeling this way?
[00:13:57] Patrick McAndrew: I think it requires your own introspection to yourself. Do you need this?
Do you need to have? access to all of this information. So the challenge that we're dealing with is that we're suffering the consequences of abundance. We have overexposed ourselves to too much stimulation and that's having a huge impact on ourselves. So there's this sense that I must know about this.
I must be aware of this. There is a trading of. Gathering lots of information, but not really doing much personal inquiry for yourself. A great place to start is to stop sleeping with your phone in the bedroom, to get into a practice of leaving your phone somewhere, maybe in some sort of a drawer or a cupboard at some point in the evening, and it's not with you, and it doesn't come into the bedroom with you.
And for the vast majority of people that I speak to, their phone or a screen is their pacifier. So they use the screen to lull themselves into a state of rest. But it's also the stimulant in the morning where it's the first thing that they wake up and look at. And when you wake up and start your day like that, you have lost yourself in a sense, because you completely get hooked by the rhythm and the demands of the messages, the incoming needs coming at you.
And that's where we lose that sense of resilience. Because we don't have that inner stability to have our own way. We don't set our own rhythm. There's a lot to explore in that. A lot of this is about your own exploration. Everybody needs to understand, what am I distracting myself from?
Am I unable to spend time with myself? If I am unable to spend time with myself, then I need to explore that I need to actually put emphasis and intention on spending time with myself without the screen. So, not going for walks with your AirPods in or listening to podcasts, not working out with your AirPods or listening to podcasts or music, spending less time with your phone in the evening, not bringing it into the bed, giving yourself at least the first 30 minutes in the morning without it.
Reducing a lot of these time wasting apps on your phone, which offer you the promise of incoming information, but also kind of fool you into thinking that you need to be aware of everything constantly, because that's what stretches your time and fragments your attention. So I think it's right there.
It's right beneath our nose. It's just that we're not really observing it.
[00:16:19] Paddy Dhanda: often hear in lots of productivity books. People do talk about the gadgets and social media. I guess what's your opinion on this is social media and the gadgets, are they solely to blame here or is there some ownership for us as individuals, and I know you've alluded to that as well, but we need to reflect on our own usage of these things, because
many new inventions and innovation are normally created with the intention of them being good, but then often they have these indirect disadvantages. So I'd love to get your thoughts on that.
[00:16:57] Patrick McAndrew: I think it's about the quality of what you want to get. So let's take a step back and let's look at the.
How we've had to evolve as human beings in dealing with processed foods. So if you go and you fill up your car at the petrol station or you're in the airport, you're just surrounded by candies. There's M& M's, there's Mars bars, there's all the processed sweets everywhere. It's underneath your nose constantly.
Now if you allow yourself to fall into the impulse every time you're in that space, and you pick up a bar, you pick up some M& M's and you eat them, this becomes a habitual pattern of your life. That when I go there, I get something. If I feel tired, I get it. If I crave something sweet, I go for that.
Now there's a natural inbuilt desire in us to crave sugar. It's something that we long for. It's something that we need. It's something we derive energy from, but there are higher quality levels of sugar that actually feed us and give us energy. So if we turn to fruit, if we have maybe a date, something like that, those are really good and healthy forms of sugar, which will give us energy.
So the issue is not the sugar. It's quality of the sugar that we get. The same is true with information. There's incredible information out there. For example, I don't really read news anymore, but I have a lot of substacks which I'm signed up to. I think there's incredible writers on substack.
Because they think deeply. They have time. They have a week or a month. to publish their pieces, to share it with their audience. There's an accountability there. They focus on specific themes and it gives you the opportunity to go deep and to explore many things. For example, a lot of the news outlets, they don't have that privilege because they're in this news cycle, which is instantaneous.
And it's all about the headline and the first three lines that you got. So you're being fed this. This drive of this novelty of information and for most people when they go to a new site like I did when I would go to the Guardian, it was just the skimming of the homepage and looking at the headlines and dropping in to see something.
So then when you speak to people about a topic, you're just quoting verbatim what you read in the newspaper or on the website but you don't know anything in any great depth. The same is true I've seen for people who think that they're learning through YouTube Shorts. They tell me that they get to learn a lot through YouTube Shorts, but you don't.
You just end up echoing the words that you got from this person and then you think that it's your own, but you never even crafted those thoughts for yourself. So all of these candies... These processed forms of information which come through TikTok, which come through Instagram, which come through YouTube Shorts, they are processed to feed us in a more bite sized way, just like we get the candies at the store, at the airport.
But they're made of fructose corn syrup, a lot of processed ingredients. There's no fiber and they pass right through us and spike our blood sugar. The same is true when we engage in learning. And because just like I spoke about sugar, we also have that deep longing for information and awareness.
So this is not something to be deprived of, but it's what is the quality of what we're getting? So this is why we are losing the capacity to actually read books that are challenging. Read books with depth. Once again, I'm not somebody who really tries to put out here's four things to do, because it's not as simple as that.
It requires your own introspection, but look at the quality of the information that you're exposing yourself to and question if you really need this bite sized, fast paced information, or is it just another form of a distraction and a stimulation that is Much like anything else.
[00:20:15] Paddy Dhanda: Yeah. Oh, I love that. I think the way you've put it there by using that metaphor really does put it into context.
And Patrick, you do this for a living. You work with lots of organizations out there. Could you give us some examples without obviously naming names and any sensitive information, but just to understand the sort of work that you've managed to do and what have been some of the results when you've helped individuals?
[00:20:42] Patrick McAndrew: So for a lot of the teams that we worked with, of course, we're helping them in the work environment, but really what they're longing for and what they need is more structure in their daily lives and that will bring more structure into the way that they work. So we have the momentum mind program and we've run this with many sales and leadership teams and where we begin, and this is also available for individuals now.
So for the last three years, we didn't make it available for individuals, but now it is. So the place that we begin is on their evening and the quality of their rest because for a lot of people, their level of rest is either inconsistent or diminished on this impacts than their cognitive performance.
Like I've been traveling quite a bit this week, there was one night there where I didn't get very good sleep. And I could tell myself the next day, I craved coffees, I craved sugar, I craved distractions, it just comes it's a natural thing that arises when we're sleep deprived.
It's very hard for us to sustain some focused involvement. So we keep looking for a more shallow level of engagement. So that's okay. It's good to be aware of that. You know? So when I saw it that day, I was like, okay, this is what's here. And these cravings are going to arise. But do I lean into them or not?
Or do I do just focus on what's really essential? And I reduced the tasks that I have to do on that day. So it gives you the sense of creating order amongst the chaos that arises or the disorder that arises. So that's just the place that we begin with. We begin with their evening. And from there we dedicated quite a few weeks to that so that they can get more sleep, but also better rest, better quality rest.
So we give them different practices and techniques to wind down in the evenings. And then from there, we move in towards their morning and the way that they start their day. So I mentioned that for a lot of people, they just roll over, pick up their phone, and this puts them into a state of immediate stress and immediately fragments their attention.
Because they've just initiated their day in a very reactive way. they've kind of forgot actually of what the most important thing is that they need to do because they're just responding to the demands of the moment. And exercise important getting some sunlight, getting some movement.
There's some elements of diet that we suggest, but we don't focus too much on diet. And what that does is that creates a very stable foundation with the way that your day has ended and the way that your day has started. And it puts your body in a good state of balance and it puts your mental state into a state of balance.
And it also gives you a more cognitive sharpness. And then from there we move towards the work. So the work when you actually have to focus and we train people on how to sharpen that skill because really the capacity to focus is also about. Becoming more comfortable and aware of how you feel inside.
So when we are seeking out these distractions, it's to move away from the agitation that we feel as we try and focus on something. And the beauty and the challenge of today is that we have so many easy access things to reach to whenever we feel agitation. So as soon as you're trying to work on something that's difficult, It creates this agitation inside, because you don't know the next step.
You have to figure something out. So that creates this unknown, it creates this blank space. And you need to sit there and stay with it. Maybe you need to get up and go for a walk, or you need to stay at the desk, or you need to write things down, but you need to stay on that path. But for a lot of people, what they do is they will switch and look at their email, or they'll go and look at the news, or they'll go and look at their phone.
And that brings the context of their attention to another place. And research has proven that it takes on average 23 minutes and 15 seconds to come back to the original point of focus. Yet for most people, they switch contacts every three minutes. So there's never an opportunity to even build up to, to get to a point of focus.
But if you don't have the stability of rest and a balanced and calm and healthy and energized interstate kind of fine tuning, the work stuff will be redundant. So we begin there and then we fine tune the work elements. And then from there we, we segment the day. So we segment the day. And for a lot of people, they start their day off with meetings.
For most, that's unfortunately a poor choice of their early attention. Of course, for some people in leadership roles, it's valuable, but for people who actually have to get stuff done, the morning is the best time to actually get it done. So, on certain days we delay the start of meetings. We have maker days where things get done.
So that means that you might not start taking meetings until 11 or 1130. And then other days you have manager days where maybe you start taking meetings earlier in the day, but that means that it allows people to switch between the days when they're actually producing and when they're managing.
Because for a lot of people, they try to squeeze in the important work into between 1 and 3 p. m. in the afternoon and they're cognitively spent at that stage. So that's kind of like a high level overview of what we do and the outcomes of that is that people teams find that they're a lot more effective.
Even though their capacity is restricted, they get to produce and bring a lot more in that restricted capacity because a lot of teams are feeling that resources are being tightened yet the expectations are growing of them. So we're helping them to reach that. That level of expectation that is of them, and there is a lot less burnout, a lot less unhealthy tactics and how people are living.
And then for business owners who have taken it, they find that they are getting out of their own way that they realized that they were the bottleneck to the growth of their business because their mind was so fragmented and they were so reactive, but now they can just be more diligent.
And intentional about the really important priorities and they can organize their attention and remove a lot of the waste because when you're in that highly reactive state, you're so busy that it's very hard to identify what's necessary and what isn't. And really, that's what we're trying to help people do to really see what drives value and to act on it.
But there's many elements that comes into it.
[00:26:41] Paddy Dhanda: That's fascinating because I was originally thinking when I saw the program that you're offering, I thought, Oh, maybe it's going to be a bunch of techniques that you practice to get more focused on things. And you're building some kind of muscle memory around that, but it's actually sounds like there's a lot of additional constraints.
That we're surrounded by that we need to remove or change for us to then be able to thrive in that environment.
[00:27:10] Patrick McAndrew: Yeah, we have to start from the ground up. And look this came from my own observations of myself. I read so many books and spoke to so many psychologists and neuroscientists on this topic.
And eventually I got to the point where I felt like I was a mechanic that knew how the car worked, but I didn't know how to drive the car. So I stopped engaging in reading about neuroscience and psychology for a long stretch. And I went to meditate and I went to practice silent retreats.
Practice yoga and I wanted to go into my mind to see what was going on there. And that's when I really started to see new things, and I really started to see that. A lot of what's out there, a lot of what people are sharing with us, yes it's really valuable literature really valuable research, but it also needs to be combined with the pragmatic elements of what's going on within us.
And it's not a cut and dry cold cognitive dimension, it's very much interwoven with our emotional state, and it's very much interwoven with how we feel within our bodies. So how we feel drives often as a core driver of our behavior, we are moving towards the pleasure that we seek or moving away from this discomfort that we feel inside.
And if we are unable to sit with those pleasures, those cravings that we feel, but we're not going to act on, or those discomforts that we feel, but we're not going to run away from, then we find massive strength to actually stay on the path that we want to commit to. But if you are fleeting and you're constantly being pulled towards your cravings, or you're constantly running away from your discomforts, that's at the heart of the issue here.
And this has been an issue that has. been alive for as long as we have any written context or mythologies on the human experience. It's just that today we have so many easy access points. And it's not just that they're easy, but they have been fed to us that they're useful and necessary. So we end up creating these Environments of chaos in the name of being productive or in the name of getting stuff done, but it really is diminishing the quality of our craft, the quality of the work that we can really do, because I think a lot of people are starting to question is this what my life is about?
Is this all I'm here for? To sit in front of the screen for 12 hours? Moving communication streams back and forth with one another, but I'm not really able to actually hone my craft and do hard work to get better. And when I say do hard work, I mean, engage in a skill to get better at it. I think people are longing for that.
And when you do it, that's when you truly feel fulfilled. But if your day is spent moving streams of communication around an organization. That's exhausting. And the saddest part is that I'm seeing some people who are actually relinquishing their own ownership over their time and their attention. And when you start to do that, then that is a sad thing to see.
But if you can believe that you can have your own time and your own attention, then you can start strengthening your own focus and you can start doing great work and feeling extremely fulfilled from what you're able to produce. And that's what I want to help people move towards so that they can match the intention and the drive that they have with the attention that's available to them.
[00:30:30] Paddy Dhanda: Oh, as you were talking there, Patrick, you reminded me of a moment when my son, who's a few years ago said to me at the dinner table, he said, Dad, what did you do today at work? And you mentioned there about communication streams and facilitating communication going back and forth.
And. I pretty much read out a list of tasks that I had done, like I'd sent a few emails, I had organized some meetings. But at the end of the conversation, I was questioning my own value, thinking, what on earth did I actually do? Because telling a seven year old, I sent a bunch of emails. He just looked confused as to what the hell do you do for a living and I couldn't explain it in a meaningful, purposeful way and I think there's probably a lot of us that are in that boat.
[00:31:21] Patrick McAndrew: Yeah, I agree. I agree. And I think the sense of meaning and purpose there's many ways to look at this and to peel it apart. But if we just look at it from one frame of reference, it comes from the evidence of our efforts being the proof in what we have created and built, and that can be something that can be material, or that can be something that's felt because we've built a team, or we've built a cohesion amongst group of people, or we've built a certain quality of experience with our customers, and we feel that.
Or we've built products or we've created objects. And if you work really hard, but you can see and feel that evidence of something that has been created, it makes it all worthwhile. It suddenly feeds everything back to you. But if you are putting in all of this work, but it lacks meaning at the end of the day.
It's very hard to sustain them. It really starts making you question things and within a lot of organizations, they're not helping themselves and they're not helping their teams because you see there's two opposing forces here. There is the necessity to be able to communicate conveniently and efficiently, but then there's also the need to focus on to do proper work.
So that requires. having space to attend to things, having space to think about things, and that hasn't been considered. There's only the consideration for Efficient communication, which is why if it's a large organization and they have an it team, of course, they're going to get a sales rep, who's going to come in and they're going to pitch them on the benefits of Slack and how messages can be sent very quickly on teams can create their own boards and their own channels.
And this was really helpful. And all of that on the basis of the speed and the transmission of communication looks very positive. But the thing which isn't considered is the bottleneck, which can't be overcome, which is their people's attention. We need to hold to opposing forces of what are we channeling our attention towards and what we're working on and what are we building and how can we build it quickly, how can we build it well, but how can we also give time to go in with depth into things.
So that we can do good work and that's the real challenge and that's, I think the new step that we need to arrive to just like we spoke about where as we had to evolve to be able to walk in to the stores and these shops where there are all these temptations, all these candies and ultimately to live a healthy life, you have to be able to see them, but recognize that they're not for you.
They're not something that I want, because you have an awareness of the quality of the life that you want to live, so you're not going to be sucked into the kind of really easy access temptations, and sometimes you will, and that's fine, and occasionally it's okay. But if it's done on a consistent daily basis, then a lot of problems will arise.
The same is true with our attention. So we've, we're in a very nascent time in our human experience in the way that this is all playing out. And organizations and individuals are going to have to see that, okay. Everybody is communicating, watching this show on Netflix or talking about this or communicating with each other on this group chat or they're seeing this new video on Instagram.
But is that for me? Is that the life that I want to live? Is that the kind of health that I want to have? Because health is not just a state of being, it's a relationship to your way of living your experience of life. And that is what I think about when I think of the health of the individual and the health of the organization.
The, their people's attention is going to have to be considered and we're going to keep coming up against the boundaries of our attention and eventually people will start to make some shifts and we're seeing that I see a lot of people who are making adjustments in their life because they're recognizing how the existing way of rapid fire communication and information Is fracturing and fragmenting their attention, which is degrading the quality of their life and they want a better quality lived experience.
So they're starting to put boundaries and limitations around where they allow their attention to go, which is just like we had to do when processed food came around for a while. Everybody engaged in it. Then we started to see the problems, the health problems that came. Then we started to put boundary lines around it.
The same is going to have to happen with our attention and you can wait until those boundary lines become enforced upon you. Or you can start to establish them for yourself now. And that's what I'm trying to help people do. Oh,
[00:35:37] Paddy Dhanda: Patrick. I have one final question, but it's a big one. We were talking about candies and probably the biggest candy at the moment is AI.
Do you think AI is going to help us with this challenge or do you think it's going to make things even worse? What's your opinion?
[00:35:57] Patrick McAndrew: I don't know, Paddy. That's the honest truth. I was at a conference during the week and the conversation of AI came up, it was small in a sense that it was like 70 of us there, so we were all able to engage in a shared conversation.
And I think there's a blessing and a curse on both sides of this. But I don't know enough really to answer that. I don't know what's coming. From the reference point of reading, for example, if I just bring it back to that just to frame it maybe in this way I don't teach speed reading.
And when I say speed reading, okay, that's the framing of it, but really what I was teaching people was how to deepen their reading practice. If you imagine when you drive a car. Or if you drive a bicycle, it's a very different experience having a single speed bike than it is having multiple gears.
It helps you move through many different types of terrain when you have different gears. And that's what I was trying to give people when they would read, so that for a lot of people they just have one approach to reading, but I was trying to give them many different approaches so that they could use it in different types of information, different types of material that they engage with.
But a lot of people will come and say, why do I need that when I can just get the book summary? When I can't remember what the platforms were, there was like an app where you could pay and a book was digested into three pages. So people would say, I have the access to that, so I don't need it.
The thing is that the act of reading is an act of if you engage in it the right way, it is expanding your mind. If you are actively engaged in the process, if you are arguing and critiquing the author and connecting the points that they're making to previous things that you wrote and looking out for where the gaps are.
Your awareness and your models and your framing of the world is expanding hugely. And if you can read consistently in a layer of depth, it starts to feel like the books are speaking to one another. And now you're connecting. You're able to start synthesizing because you're connecting different elements, different topics, and you're bringing them together. Maybe you're reading about architecture, and then you're reading about biology, and then you're reading about neuroscience, and then you're reading about business. And suddenly they end up starting to connect in this melting pot. And you can see separate points, but shared points together.
And in the sense of AI, I'm just going to speak about it, like in what chat GPT and say, Claude is offering us, which is from Anthropic. These are amazing tools. And I think they can do amazing work to support us if we have been thinking with depth. And if we are already going and exposing ourselves to developing these cognitive capacities to think deeply, to read, to expand our mind.
But if you're trying to bypass that, and you're just trying to get a short circuit to it, and you're thinking that this is going to give you all of the knowledge that you need. You're being fooled because just like those people who were reading the cliff notes, nothing ever sunk in with great depth.
It was shallow learning. So I think that the more that we get these tools. The more that people are going to chase those candies and they're going to find themselves more and more engaging and very shallow learning. And those who choose to deepen their cognitive abilities in this era will surpass the vast majority of people.
Because they'll be able to think at a level that most others won't. Because for most people, they're just echoing what they've heard from podcasts. They're just echoing what they've seen in videos. They haven't done the deep work, they haven't done the deep observation themselves, so they haven't created their own original thought.
So use the tools, but recognize that they're only a supplementary factor that can help you if you do the deep work first. So that's from a very personal, subjective perspective. That's my view on AI and its relation to work and productivity and ideas and creativity. The deep work has to come first.
[00:39:37] Paddy Dhanda: Patrick, thank you so much for sharing that. And I love the way at the moment there's all these experts out there or so called experts are all predicting the future in so many different ways and yet we don't even know what the next version of CHAP GPT is gonna come up with, it's just such a black box at the moment.
So I feel you on that one. And Patrick before we finish, how do people get in touch with you? How can they find out more about the great work that you're doing?
[00:40:02] Patrick McAndrew: You can connect to me on LinkedIn. I put stuff up there occasionally, not too often. If you have things that you want to reach out with.
Patrick at Hara do co h ara.co is my email. hara.co is the company. And then my own personal website is Patrick mcandrew.co. Sometimes I go and I speak to companies but then primarily we have our programs that we help people go through. So, yeah, feel free to reach out and connect with me there.
[00:40:32] Paddy Dhanda: Oh, brilliant. And Patrick, thank you once again. It's been such an invigorating and insightful episode for me. I've learned so much and I'm sure the listeners have as well. Lots there for us to unpack. We couldn't possibly do this justice in the amount of time that we've got, but I'm sure people will go away and ponder and reflect just as I will.
So thank you so much.
[00:40:54] Patrick McAndrew: I hope so. Thank you, Paddy. It's been a pleasure. Thank you for hosting The Space.