Dive into our exclusive interview with Brian Solis, an expert with the title of “one of the greatest digital analysts of our time.”
Brian Solis is one of the world’s leading digital anthropologists and futurists as well as a world-renowned keynote speaker and an award-winning author of seven best-selling books. Brian is about to release his latest book, “Lifescale, how to live a more creative, productive and happy life”. Indeed, through his personal experience with digital technologies, Brian found that there is a massive productivity gap and this is due to not only lack of moral but also digital distraction. He decided to write a book to get people back on track, offering his advice on how to escape from the dark side of distractions to live a better life.
How did you come up with the idea of writing your latest book, “Lifescale”?
I lived this digital life which I helped the world create, and never once thought I would be affected by it. Yet in the three years since writing my previous book, I realized that my whole way of thinking, creating, working and communicating had changed without me realizing it. In my frustration, I started Googling potential solutions, but they were all pretty superficial and were more interested in treating symptoms than getting to the root of the problem. I came up with the idea when I realized my ‘center of reference,’ or core values was off base and needed correcting. The most beautiful part of the story is that it changed my life because I used it to fix my life.
In your opinion, do you see digital more as an opportunity or as a threat?
Definitely an opportunity. This journey isn’t necessarily about taking control of technology because that’s going to be an ongoing struggle, but about the chance to embrace a fresh approach to managing your day to day life and how you may use that technology to enhance, rather than detract from living productive, creative and happy digital lifestyle. The first step is coming to terms with why we’ve become so addicted to distraction.
Could you give us an insight into the book by sharing your top piece of advice to break free from distractions and spark your creativity?
In the “Refocus” chapter, I explain that to revitalizing focus as you move through the day is taking strategically timed breaks. Whether you work for 25 minutes and take a five minute break or you push through one-hour intervals and take a 15-minute break, try using breaks to do something you wouldn’t normally do. Instead of opening emails checking notifications or surfing the web, do something personally rewarding. For instance, stand up, close your eyes and stretch. Bend over and try to touch your toes and hold the position for 20 seconds. Go for a quick walk. Call someone special and tell them you love them. Recall a joyful event and smile.
Could everyone be potentially turned into a digital addict? What are the first signs before “fallen into the trap?
Yes, and I believe that is because I thought I, as a guy who has spent his life objectively studying the effect of disruptive technology on business and society, would be immune. One day when I was struggling to complete an article called “How to Focus While Being Distracted,” the irony hit me, hard. I was totally distracted, being drawn to notification after notification. I realized that my attention span, creativity, clarity and drive were all misfiring. I was afraid that I was losing touch with my ability to feel happiness, and I was constantly postponing pursuit of my most significant dreams and aspirations. I felt like I was actually losing the idea of who I really was and want to be. This may not hit you suddenly, but if you’ve started feeling anxious, can’t focus and miserable deep down despite all the posts you “like,” you’ve fallen into the trap.
With Lifescale you claim that you can help individuals struggling with focus, procrastination, anxiety, self-esteem and creativity. Are these a direct results of the relationship we have with our devices?
I believe they are. Each time we waste time by falling into the rabbit hole of digital distraction, we’re paying an opportunity cost. And we’re not just losing time we could invest better elsewhere, we are teaching ourselves that it’s okay to waste time. Meanwhile, not only is our distraction eroding our productivity, it’s undermining our mental health and well-being, increasing stress, anxiety, mental loneliness, low self-esteem and depression. What’s sadly ironic is that while all this is happening, we’re sharing on social media the upbeat slices of our lives that give everyone the impression that we’re happy and thriving, seamlessly balancing work and family, ambitious goals and adventurous leisure.
Do you think that happiness and success are linked? Why?
Yes. Success and happiness are mutually exclusive if they’re not fundamentally entwined. If we elect to sacrifice happiness for the sake of achieving success, thinking we can focus on being happy later, and that our material success will make us happy, we’ll be dearly disappointed. I learned the hard way that success doesn’t intrinsically beget happiness. But I also learned that with mindful attention to what we truly value, our pursuit of happiness can lead to success – which can, in turn, kindle further happiness. They can be powerfully reinforcing, as long as you’re defining success on your own terms. So the question to ask yourself is, “How do I define success?”
As a futurist, how do you see the relationship between humans and new technologies evolving?
We are experiencing a shift from a world of inanimate objects and reactive devices to a world where data, intelligence, and computing are distributed, ubiquitous, and networked. It’s the idea that inanimate objects gain the ability to perceive things, perform tasks, adapt, or help you adapt over time. This is an era of which I refer to as the Human API, the idea that who we are, who we know, what we experience and do are important layers in the Internet of Things. The Human API opens up tremendous opportunities to develop devices, apps, and experiences that connect information, people, and aspirations to change behavior. This form of human interface design introduces the potential to create harmony in a world of digital chaos, making sense of noise and information overload to accomplish tangible goals or help people see or do things they didn’t or couldn’t before. In the process, we strengthen on our connections around common goals and interests.
What is your favorite quote?
I will share a couple that are in the book. The first is mine: “If ignorance is bliss, awareness is awakening.”
Another is by Sophia Loren: “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life, and the lives of the people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”
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