How can we learn to use technology as a tool rather becoming a tool used by technology? On today’s show best-selling author Nir Eyal teaches us how to increase our focus in the age of exponentially increasing distraction.
Bestselling author, Nir Eyal teaches how to put technology in its place. Throughout Nir’s career he has taught courses at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and he’s been a frequent speaker at both industry conferences and a Fortune 500 companies. Throughout his career, his writing has been featured in The Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, TechCrunch, Inc, the Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Psychology Today and other leading publications
Pronounced – NEAR – I-ELL
FUN FACT – Nir Eyal is now not obese. People can change.
DEFINITION – Progressive Extremism: Find one small thing that you eat often and is unhealthy, eliminate it from your life forever and write down “I will never eat ______ again”.
Step 1: Manage Internal Triggers.
Step 2: Schedule your day to avoid distractions.
Step 3: Hack back the Internal Triggers.
NOTABLE QUOTABLE – “You can’t call something a distraction unless you know what it is distracting you from” – Nir Eyal
NOTABLE QUOTABLE – “The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.” – John Maxwell
NOTABLE QUOTABLE – “Only about 10% of people have a calendar” – Nir Eyal
Welcome back to another edition of the thrive time show, and on today’s show we’re going to be interviewing, interviewing a Wall Street Journal bestselling author by the name of Nir Eyal, nir spent years of his life, the video gaming and advertising industry where he learned and apply these techniques described in his bestselling book which you have to buy if you have a soul called hooked. He’s taught courses on applied consumer psychology at the Stanford Graduate School of business, and he’s been a frequent speaker at industry conferences and fortune 500 companies, thrive nation. Check this out. Throughout his career, his work, his writing has been featured in the Harvard Business Review, the Atlantic tech crunch, the Huffington Post, the Entrepreneur magazine, Forbes, psychology today, and we’ve tracked due to being on the podcast today. Myhre, how are you sir?
Wait, is this a podcast? I guess it’s too late to back out now. I guess I have just. Awesome. Thank you so much for having me. It’s a real pleasure to be here. Thank you also for reading my book. I really appreciate all the positive feedback. Thank you.
I don’t know if you’ve ever come to the Tulsa, Oklahoma area, but the sod farm tours are amazing this time of year. But um, to my right, there’s a bookshelf in what we call the man cave, so I broadcast from a 17 acre facility here. I caught Camp Clark and chicken palace. There’s a big bookshelf and I’m at book. There are books that I have read consumed dogeared. And your book hooked was a book that absolutely blew my mind. Can you explain to the listeners out there what inspired you to write this book and at its core what it’s really all about?
Yeah, so the, the, the two reasons I wrote this book are first and foremost that I have built a product in the past. I’ve helped start to tech companies, both of which were acquired and I remember when I was at my former companies how hard it was to understand the simple question around how do we get our customers to do what we want them to do, particularly when we know that our products and services would greatly benefit our customers if they would only use the damn product. And so when I wanted to try and figure out is what is it about these world changing companies like facebook and twitter and instagram and whatsapp and slack and snapchat. How do these companies seem to have such an easy time and changing people’s behavior? Because I thought, you know, wouldn’t it be great if we could apply these same psychological tricks and tactics that these companies use to keep us hooked to their products?
What if the rest of us could use those same techniques to build the kind of products and services that people want to use, not because they have to use them, but because they genuinely want to use them just as much as they enjoy and want to use these other products and services. And the other reason I wrote this book, frankly, was because I found that at times these technologies were changing my behavior in ways that I didn’t always like and I wanted to get to the bottom of why these products were so darn engaging. How are they built to sometimes be distractions? Let’s face it. And so those are the two reasons I wrote the book, number one, to help the entrepreneurs out there who want to build your world changing products that can really improve people’s lives by forming these healthy habits. And the second reason was because I wanted to kind of raise awareness around these techniques so that we can make sure that we put distractions and uh, uh, these, these, these unhealthy habits at times in their place.
For all the thrivers out there who listened to the show each and every day over the years, they, they know that I have the cognitive processing power of a, of a sea turtle probably. Um, so I really struggled. It’s like you got to get through my heart hardened shell to kind of understand something. So these are excerpts in your book and your book that I highlighted and then I read and I reread it and I thought you don’t have to do it. I now understand these concepts, but it took me a while to get them. So I’m going to just read some excerpts, some passages from your book and I’d like to have you to break them down for us. So here’s the first one. Seventy nine percent of smartphone owners check their device within 15 minutes of waking up every morning, perhaps more startling, fully. One third of Americans say they would rather give up sex sex then lose their cell phone. A 2011 university studies suggested people check their phone 34 times per day. However, industry insiders believed that number is actually closer to an astounding one. Hundred and 50 daily sessions face it, we’re hooked that the d technologies we use have turned into compulsion’s, if not full fledged addictions. There’s so much to unpack there near break it down.
Well, you know, it’s, I think a lot of your listeners are probably nodding their heads in agreement and that, uh, you know, we can see that these devices have had such a profound impact on our day to day lives. Uh, and you know, in some respects I admire these companies. So I want to figure out how to crack the code so that we can use the same tactics that these companies have made, these products that these companies have used to make their products. So habit forming and so engaging so that the rest of us building businesses can improve. There are products as well. You know, I think the real problem these days is not that a few companies have built these products to suck us in. The real problem is that far too many products out there just plain old suck. And so what I was hoping to do with, with writing hooked is to uncover these techniques so that we can all, you know, all of us in business, all of us who are building up a product experience that we want to make, the kind of pride that people really enjoy using, that they build healthy habits around can, can use those tactics for good, uh, you know, the kind of folks that I work with and who have benefited from the book and one of the kind of folks who are building, you know, health apps or apps to help people save money or eat more healthfully or get more done at work.
I mean, that’s really the potential of using this psychology of a behavioral design to help people live better lives.
Nir Eyal, I want to ask you this here. This is not necessarily an excerpt from your book, but just something I’m curious about. Um, I feel like there are people that I have. We have a business coaching program, so we have thousands of people from all over the world who attend our workshops. And then a few brands we coach individually. And then my partner and I, we’ve grown 13 multibillion dollar companies between the two of us. There’s an auto auction, there’s a bank, there’s a haircut chain, a lot of different, you know, brick and mortar kind of companies. And people said, well clay, how do you do it? And I’m like, well I focus exclusively on that task at hand and I really don’t engage a lot with my smartphone during the day, you know, I just, I just don’t do it. But I’ve noticed that a lot of people telling me I have a hard time putting that thing down. So I want to ask you, as you’ve studied this and you become aware of the hooked nature of a lot of these programs and Apps, how do you personally manage the distractions during your day? How do you find time to focus and to write a thoughtful book like hooked or to do the research that you do?
Yeah, you know, it’s such a good question that I, in fact, a devoted the past five years since I wrote hooked to answering this next question, which is exactly the one you raised here. How do we make sure that we do the things we say we’re going to do? I think it’s such a fascinating question, right? We, we know we’re not supposed to eat the junk food and yet we do. We know we’re supposed to go to the gym, but we don’t go. We know we’re supposed to work on that big project or that big presentation and yet we’re stuck checking email or scrolling slack channels. Why? Why do we do that? We know are supposed to do. You know so many book authors and Gurus out there, they tell you some killer technique. Well, you know what, there’s no killer technique. It’s common sense.
We all know what to do. The problem is we don’t do it. Right? Right. So that’s, that’s why I. I wrote this next book that’s coming next year in 2019 we’ll have this book called in distractible and becoming indestructable is all about this question of how do we do the things we say we’re going to do and a lot of the book has to do with technology distraction, but that’s kind of the flavor of the day. You know, the, the, the book is really about all sorts of distraction and there’s a lot of techniques that we can use that, you know, I was surprised as I did the five years of research that went into this book. You know, I came to it originally thinking that the distraction itself was the problem and so I did a lot of gurus recommend. I did a digital detox. I got rid of all my gadgets.
I got a feature phone and I sat down. I thought, okay, well now I’m going to be super duper focused and it didn’t work at all. You know, I, I looked at my bookshelf at, Oh, there’s that book I’ve been meaning to read and you know, that that laundry probably needs folding, you know, I probably should take out the trash and reorganize my desk. And I kept finding distractions. And so what I realized after writing this book was that distraction starts from within that. Guess what? If you can’t sit with your family for an hour without looking at your cell phone, I got newsflash for you. It ain’t a cell phone. That’s the problem. So this just exactly, there’s something else going on here. And so the first step when you ask, how do I deal with distraction, when I find myself distracted, the first thing that I have to ask is, what’s the internal trigger?
The internal trigger is, is a, is a, is a fascinating concept. The internal trigger is, goes back to this idea that all human behavior is prompted by some kind of uncomfortable sensation. You know, we used to believe in psychology that humans are motivated through the pleasure principle. This came from Freud, that all human behavior is motivated by seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, but it turns out that’s not exactly right. It’s actually all pain. All human behavior is motivated by the desire to escape discomfort. Now this is called the homeostatic response. We see this everyday. You know, if you walk into a room and it’s cold, you put on your jacket. If it gets hot, you take it off. If you feel hunger pangs, you eat and when your stuff that doesn’t feel good, you take, you stop eating. And so those are physiological pain points as a discomfort on a physiological level that affects our behavior.
Same thing happens when it comes to psychological states. So when we’re feeling bored or lonesome or lost or indecisive or fatigued, when we feel these negative sensations, we look for relief. We look for something to satiate that discomfort. Now many times we look, we satiate that discomfort through some kind of distraction, right? We look at our phone and we watched the television, we do something that we laid a regret, but it doesn’t have to be that way. So the first step to dealing with distraction is understanding your internal triggers. So for example, when I, you know, I write everyday writing is not easy for me, which sucks because I’m an author. So I wish it was easier. I can relate, it’s not so, so you know, when I get bored or frustrated or I find my work hard, you know, my habit used to be to go google something or checking email or some other kind of pseudo worth.
It felt like work, but I knew that it really wasn’t work. Instead, today what I do is I think about those internal triggers. I asked myself, you know, what is it that I’m experiencing right now, and I literally will jot it down, I’ll write it down on a piece of paper and then I’ll do what psychologists called surfing the urge. I’ll give myself just a few minutes to be present with that sensation as opposed to just instantaneously, you know, doing something to satiate that Itch, which is what the tech companies frankly wants you to do, right? Facebook wants you to use the product whenever you’re feeling lonely. A Google wants you to use google when you’re feeling uncertain or espn or, or the news or stock prices or sports or any of these, reddit or youtube, all of these products, I want you to check them when you’re feeling bored, right?
So as opposed to this instantaneous sensation. Uh, sorry, sorry. Instantaneous relief from a sensation I give myself just a few seconds to be present with that sensation, experience it and think about, okay, do I really want to give in or is there something healthier I can do with that time? But fundamentally, look, I mean if it’s sometimes for some folks it is a deeper dilemma. There are other circumstances or other problems. I mean specifically with the workplace. I did a lot of research on a workplace culture, but there’s a lot of people will blame a technological distraction on the fact that they always have to be connected at work. Well, it turns out that the research that I uncovered found that it’s not actually the technology that’s the problem at a workplace where people overuse tech. It actually is a symptom of a larger problem than what we find is that tech overuse is just the canary in the coal mine. Just like if you can’t talk about tech over usage with your family, if you can’t talk about tech overuse at your company, let me tell you, there are tons of other skeletons in the closet that you’re not addressing. It turns out that these companies that have an open environment where people can talk about these problems, they can solve this problem just like any other business problem.
You’re seems like you’re your book number one. Uh, you know, again, the book hooked is kind of explaining, okay, this is how you make products that can hook consumers and I believe your ethics behind it from what I could read in the book is that you want to help develop apps and programs that can truly help people do the right behavior. But book number two or this next book you’re working on is kind of like a book about if you are addicted to, you know, maybe just a mindless video game that it no, but you’re, you’re as poor as can be, but you’re just, you’re the highest score and some video game and you just cannot get off of the wagon. You know, you can’t, you can’t stop updating your facebook status, you can’t stop updating twitter. It seems like that’s what, that’s what, that’s what this newest book is about. Is that correct?
It’s a big part of it. I think, you know, we haven’t yet as a society a what’s called social antibodies. We haven’t figured out how to put these new tools in their place and, and that’s nothing new or surprising. Whenever there is a technological revolution, there’s always this period where we adjust and we adapt our behaviors. Uh, you know, as Paul Brillo said, when you invent the ship, you also invent the ship wreck. And so there’s no way that a technological revolution of this magnitude is not going to have some, some downsides. And so we’re just now coming to grips with how do we manage distraction. But it’s important to realize that the tactics in this book, you know, I didn’t write this book because of the latest distraction I wrote in distractible because distraction is something that humans have been struggling with forever. Uh, s a socrates and Plato talked about 2,500 years ago, they talked about distraction and how distracted people were back then. So this is not a new problem. And, and uh, I wrote the book to, to Conquer all distraction, whether it’s television or radio or too much news or whatever it is that we use as distraction for a lot of people. Work is a distraction right now. You don’t want to face your family life. Maybe somebody not going on so great at home. So what do you do? You escape into your work.
That’s right. You work. You do what Brianna said, you got to work, work, work, work, work. That’s what you got to do. A lot of people, I work with entrepreneurs, so that’s what they do or not happy, right? Wife,
to some to you know. So it’s not a judgment on the behavior while people say, oh, you know, technology’s rotting your brain and it’s hijacking your decisions and it’s addictive and blah, blah, blah. I don’t buy it. If it’s a behavior you want to do, if you have intent behind that behavior, there’s nothing wrong with it, right? Use facebook, use twitter, use social media. They’re great tools. The question is whether you’re doing something because you, you wanted to do it because it’s something that you’re in control of versus something that’s controlling you.
Is Technology a tool or are you becoming a tool of technology? Are you, are you. Are you a tool or a technology or tool? That’s really the question here near and your book a hooked you right? Instead of relying on expensive marketing habit forming companies linked their services to the users daily routines, andy motions they have habit is at work. When users feel a tad board and instantly open twitter, they feel a pain of loneliness and before rational thought occurs, they are scrolling through their facebook feeds. A question comes to mind and before searching their brains, they query google. The first to mind. Solution wins near from your experience in research. I would love for you to share what you to believe, what you believe to be the most addictive technology related activities that are not healthy.
Well, first of all, I just want to clarify that that term addiction, because it’s, it’s it, it bears some clarification, so I didn’t. I didn’t write how to build addictive products. The book is titled how to build habit forming products because addictions are these persistent compulsive dependencies on a behavior or substance that harms the user. So that’s the definition of addiction. On the other hand are simply an impulse to do a behavior with little or no conscious thought. So in writing hooked, I want to help people design and healthy habits. You know, as I mentioned, that there’s no reason we can’t use the same psychology behind facebook and youtube and twitter and these apps that people can sometimes overuse. We can use those same tactics for good, no matter what business you’re in. Um, so, so that, that’s, that’s the first point. Um, and so, you know, but some people, very small percentage of people do get addicted, uh, just as people get addicted to all sorts of things, looking at the vast majority of people out there can have a glass of wine with dinner and they’re not alcoholics.
But do some people get addicted to alcohol? Absolutely. Uh, but there’s always, always other factors involved. So what I want to present with this next book is I think there’s been an almost a pendulum swinging in the other direction, is that people find it really convenient to say, oh, you know what? I can’t control my behavior because I’m addicted to this. Technology is designed to be addictive. And I, and I know, I hear Ya. I, I feel the pain. Uh, I’ve struggled with distraction myself as a big reason why I do what I do. But the thing is, you know, the more I researched this topic, the more I realized that we have way more power and way more control than we think. And that’s really the message that I want to in part with my next book and distractable is that we can, we can separate the good features, we can build habit forming products to improve our lives, right. That the vast majority of tech out there is awful. The vast majority of the products we use day to day, you know, are not usable, they’re not user friendly. So we need these techniques to make these products more engaging and more enjoyable to use. But then we also need to be aware of these techniques for how we can put distraction in its place.
Did you grow up wanting to create video games? What, what was your background growing up as a, as a, as a young whipper snapper?
Yeah, I definitely, I played on a lot of video games. I used to have the Sega genesis clean it up. I spent way too much time playing video games. Let me tell you, half of Silicon Valley, you know, the people who are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year as engineers and programmers a you’d be, you’d be hard pressed to find anybody out there who didn’t play too many video games growing up.
What a Sega Genesis Games were your favorite. Do you have a game or did you, were you a big, big fan of street fighter two? Did you have a big thing for sonic the hedgehog and did you play nhl? Ninety four. What was your, what was your favorite game? I played a lot of sonic. That’s funny. Okay, so sonic was your move now. Now can you cut up for the listeners out there, just to get kind of a look into your background, can you tell the listeners where you went to school and, and kind of your path that led up to you getting into the video game world?
Yeah, sure. So, so let’s see. So I started a solar energy business, uh, out of, uh, well, let’s see. This was 2003. Uh, this was back way before solar became as big as it is today. It was kind of like a mini solar city, if you will. That’s now part of Tesla. And that was my first company. I had a job as a consultant at Boston consulting group first. And then I, uh, I, I helped start this solar energy business that business was acquired. I went to Stanford Graduate School of business for my Mba. And then after, uh, after my Mba, I started another company in the gaming and advertising space. Uh, that company was acquired by a company that was then acquired by Yahoo. And that’s when I started writing and doing research. I had this hypothesis that the technology companies of the future would be the ones that master habits.
And I had this hypothesis that as the interface shrinks, right as we went from desktop to laptop to mobile phones to wearable devices and now to audible devices like the Amazon Alexa and Siri and Cortana, you know, now that the interface, it doesn’t even exist. The screen isn’t even there. I knew that habits will become increasingly important because there’s just less space to trigger people with these external triggers, these external triggers as opposed to internal triggers that we talked about earlier, the external triggers, all these paintings, these things, these rings, these notifications in our environment that tell us what to do next. And so if you think about it, if you’re building an APP for the iphone, uh, or skill for the Amazon Alexa, if the user doesn’t remember that you exist, right? If you’re not on the first page of their home screen or if you’re not top of mind on the, on the, uh, Alexa scale, if they don’t know to look for you, you might as well not even exist.
Right? And so I, I kind of realized that that business people have kind of bought into this lie that if I just make the best product that it’ll win. It’ll be in the market. And that’s not true. You know, I spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley and let me tell you, silicon valley graveyards are full of companies that had the best technology. The fact is, it’s not the best technology, the technology that captures the monopoly of the mind, the thing that we turn to first with little or no conscious thought. Those are the companies that captured the market. So, uh, when I, when I did this research and I, I put together, I started blogging at first about the research that I was doing. I was spending a lot of time with the Stanford Library and talking to people who at the time were building these technologies. I was, I had good timing and being in the valley back when these companies were nascent. And so I, I blogged about it and I, uh, eventually that became a class at Stanford, at the Graduate School of business. Then I taught for a few years at the design school days, so plattner institute of design at Stanford. And then that class became my book hooked.
You are a fascinating creature. You are a guy who I really do believe this. Your everybody I’ve interviewed on the show, whether it be the former head of Walt Disney world resorts, Lee Cockerel or Michael Levine, he’s the PR consultant for Michael Jackson. Prince, the Clintons, and the bushes, I mean people who are obsessed with, let’s say pr or someone who is obsessed with management. You guys all have a magnificent obsession about one thing that seems to care. It’s almost like the design of a decade to quote Janet Jackson, the wise philosopher. It seems like there’s like this magnificent obsession. What motivated you? What’s motivating you to first write hooked and now your newest book? What, what, what’s, what’s, what, where does that motivation that, that maniacal obsession for this topic come from?
Uh, so we’re going to have to go way back, you know, if, if, if, if I really think hard, I think this probably all started for me when I was, uh, uh, when I was a, a kid, I was obese and I’m like literally clinic clinically obese. My, my, I remember my mom taking me to the doctor and uh, you know, the doctor showing them the chart, okay, this is normal, this is overweight, is obese, this is you, uh, you know, fat camp, the whole nine yards. So I remember really struggling with my weight for a very, very long time. And I still have to watch, I mean, I now I’m a normal weight, I’m not obese anymore, but it’s always something that I, that I have to watch. And I remember when I was a kid feeling like food controlled me and I was, I was fascinated by that, right?
I was fascinated by how these food companies, uh, could, could seem to manipulate my tastes and preferences and make me want what they sold. And then I think it was, it was a pivotal time in my life when I, I conquered that problem when I got control over food and I could manage it. Uh, and I think that’s kind of driven me until now. That’s why I’m so fascinated by the deeper psychology of marketing of consumers, consumer behavior. And then so when I saw these devices, uh, you know, I got started in the tech business in, in 2007, 2008. This was before, you know, just, just as the apple APP store was launching a. and so I got this front row seat in, in Silicon Valley to see that this tool that arguably has had a greater effect on changing human behavior and human habits than any other device in history. And if we learn how to use it properly, I think we can do a heck of a lot of good with it. And so that, that’s where I became a, where I took my interest and fascination and found a creative outlet and application.
We have a lot of thrivers who are very focused to work and they’ll email us and tell us they struggle with their weight. How did you beat obesity? What, what did you do?
Well, that’s, I mean, talking about changing habits. There’s a, there’s a lot there as well. You know, again, it’s, it’s, uh, there’s no, there’s no magic answer. You know, it’s, I think it, it, it illustrates this point around why it’s so important to become indestructible. We all know what to do, right? We all know that, uh, a salad is healthier than a piece of chocolate cake. You don’t need to buy a book to tell you that, oh no. Uh, these kinds of things, I think the difficulty is, is in doing it right. The difficulty is in consistently changing your habits. And so there’s, there’s a, there’s a lot of psychology to unpack, um, uh, how to, how to change your daily routines in your daily habits. I mean, one technique that I can share with you is a technique that I call progressive extremism, progressive extremism and, and the way progressive extremism works is like this, that, you know, diets we know don’t work, they don’t do anything but train your brain to have a scarcity mentality because when you tell yourself I’m going to go on this rigid diet temporarily, and then once I reached my given weight, things will be great.
I mean, is there anything more ridiculous than that? What makes people think that when you go on a diet and you reach that way, let’s say that you’re not going to just balloon right back up. If you eat in a way that an overweight person eats, you’re going to be overweight. Right? And, and you know, I gotta give a big asterix here. Not everyone who’s overweight necessarily, you know, it’s all about the food. There’s other conditions. Of course, you know, insulin plays a big role, there’s other conditions, but by and large, you know, there is still this relationship with, with the type of food we eat and how much we are. So progressive extremism is this technique that I use. It’s pretty simple. Basically, the way it works is this. You figure out one thing that you know is unhealthy and I don’t have to tell you what’s unhealthy.
We all know what’s unhealthy. You pick that one thing and you eliminated from your life forever, so don’t take the. When you do this, don’t take on big categories, okay? Don’t say I’m never going to eat sugar over again. That’s, that’s a bad idea. That’s too much to soda. Again, never going to do it. Just going to cut it all out. It’s probably not realistic. Don’t get, that’s not realistic, but do something that’s so simple, that’s so easy to take out that you could do it forever. So for example, Halloween is coming up, which, which is apropos because when I started with progressive extremism several years ago now, the first thing I cut out was candy, corn. Candy. Corn is gross, right? I know some. My wife loves candy corn. I think it’s awful, but it was something that I would eat when it was around October time, you know, it’s around around Halloween.
It would just be around and I eat it and it’s awful. I don’t even like it. So I remember writing down, I will never for the rest of my life, eat candy, ever, never. And you. Here’s why this technique works because I noticed if you think about there are certain groups that when they identify as a particular type of person, their self identity changes their habits because long term behavior change, his identity change. So just as a religious Jew is not, you know, thinking to themselves, oh my gosh, I wonder if I should have some bacon today. No, it’s not kosher. They don’t eat it. A devout Muslim is not wondering whether they should, you know, imbibe alcohol every day because it’s something they just don’t do. A vegetarian doesn’t ask themselves, should I eat a hamburger? No, it’s out of the question because it’s part of their identity and they don’t have to struggle with themselves, becomes a much easier decision to make because it’s part of who they are.
So if you can use this progressive extremism technique in small steps. So the next thing I did after candy corn was I made a rule for myself, no sugary soda in the House. Okay? If I want to sugary soda, I can get it somewhere else outside the house, but not inside my house. Then I went to only diet soda. Okay. Then I went to only diet soda but only outside the House. So these small steps, whenever you’re ready in small increments in write these down so you can review them every, every few months. And this is how through progressive small steps we can actually make these very big changes. But again, it has to be something permanent. Don’t start a diet that isn’t, doesn’t become a lifelong change. I cannot
see how much I enjoy interviewing you. You’re a wealth of knowledge and A. I want to talk about your hooked model. The trigger, the action, the variable reward, the investment, the trigger, the action, the variable, the variable reward, the investment. Let’s go with the. The explain the hooked model for all the listeners out there.
Sure. Yeah, absolutely. So, so this hook model is a design pattern. Whose goal is to connect the user’s problem with a company’s product, with enough frequency to form a habit. That’s the definition of a hook, and these folks have these four basic steps, trigger, action, reward, and investment. So a trigger is something in our environment that tells us what to do next. That would be an external trigger that we talked about a little bit. These pings, these things, these rings, that notifications, these things that tell us what to do next. Got It. So let’s. Let’s do a little case study here. Let’s take facebook for example. The external trigger for facebook is a notification or an email. Okay. The next step of the hook is the action phase. The action is defined as the simplest behavior done in anticipation of a reward. Now, the emphasis here being on the word simplest action, right, so it’s a squirrel on pinterest or a search on Google or something as simple as pushing the play button on youtube is incredibly simple behavior done in anticipation of an immediate reward.
So in the case of facebook, just to keep an example by the way we could substitute email or slack or tons of other habit forming products, but just for the sake of something that a lot of people are familiar with, the action for facebook, so just open the APP. Next comes the reward and what’s important about the reward phase is that it tends to be a variable reward. So this comes out of the work of bf skinner, the father of operant conditioning skinner back in the 19 fifties. He had these pigeons, he put them in a little box and he allowed these pigeons to peck at the disk to receive a reward to receive a little food pellet. What skinner observed was, is that he could train these pigeons to peck at the disk whenever they were hungry. By the way, the experiment didn’t work if they weren’t hungry, but as long as this tree, as the, uh, the pigeons were hungry, he could, you could pick the pigeons, would peck at the disk and receive a reward.
The reason, by the way, it didn’t work when they weren’t hungry because there was no internal trigger. We talked a little bit about those internal triggers earlier. You have to have that, that need inside you in order to have the behavior. So skinner did this experiment, terrific opera conditioning. He trained his pigeons, but then he had a little problem. You see, he started to run out of these food pellets one day and he decided that he could no longer afford to keep giving these food pellets and the pigeons every time they pecked at the disk. And so we wanted to see what happened. If he gave the, the, the food pellets, just every once in a while. So sometimes the pigeon would peck at the disk, nothing would happen. The next time he would peck at the disk, they would receive a reward. And what skinner observed was that the rate of response, the number of times these pigeons pecked at the disk, increased when the reward was given on a variable schedule of reinforcement.
So these variable rewards are baked into all sorts of products that we find most engaging, most habit forming the things that capture your attention and won’t let go. You’ll always find these variable rewards. So when you think about, of course, social media, we’ve talked about facebook, scrolling the feed, right? Searching and searching for that next interesting content. Uh, what have people post? What do they comment on? How many likes does something get high degree of variability is what makes slot machines so engaging into some potentially addictive. What makes the news interesting, right? It’s all about newness. What happens? What’s the uncertainty? The mystery. It’s what makes spectator sports fun, right? To see what’s going to happen in the game, who’s going to win? What’s the next play going to be? All of these things are driven by variable rewards and then finally the last step of the hook is the investment phase.
The investment phase is probably the most overlooked of the four steps of the hook. The investment phase is where the user puts something into the product to improve it with use, so it can be data, content, followers, reputation, any of these things that make the product better and better with use by doing what’s called storing value. Now, stored value is a really big deal because if you think about it, it’s pretty amazing. You know, if you think about physical products when you buy, I don’t know, your chair at your table, at your clothing, anything that in the physical world depreciates with wear and tear, right? The more you use it, the less valuable it becomes. What’s so amazing about these habit forming products, if you build them right, they appreciate and value, they get better and better the more we use them because of the investment.
We put it in the form of data content followers, these different forms of investment that makes the product better with use so that through successive cycles, through these hooks, eventually we don’t even need those external triggers anymore. Now it’s not the notification from facebook that gets us to use the APP. Now with this internal trigger, if this emotional need, when I’m feeling lonely, boredom. Then when we talked about these earlier, that the ultimate goal of a habit forming product is to attach itself to one of these internal triggers. Now, of course we’ve talked about facebook and youtube and twitter and these, these, these, you know, potentially time wasters, but there’s lots of ways that we can use these same exact internal triggers to help people save money or exercise more, eat healthier, and be more productive at work as well. We just have to find the right internal trigger and make sure that we fought. We fought, we build the correct four steps of the trigger, the action, the reward, and finally the investment.
What I want to do now is I’m going to get into the old call. This the weird part of the show and then I’ll know if you a sick the question is a little too intense when you, when you, when you hang up, so that’ll be my, my subtle cue is like, um, there’s a lot of people that are, are well known within the world of Silicon Valley that have some pretty strong opinions about technology. So I’m going to go with the first one written by novel Ravikant. For those who don’t know, he’s the guy behind angel list. Many other successful companies. He’s a very well known investor in the Silicon Valley area. He writes, I don’t think modern science has really good answers here. I think that the modern world is actually really bad. The modern world is full of distractions. Things like twitter and facebook are not making you happy. There are making you unhappy. You are essentially playing a game that’s created by the creators whose systems, all those systems and yes, it can be a useful game once in a blue moon, but you’re engaging in the dispute. Resentment and comparison, jealousy, anger about things that frankly just don’t matter. That’s devolves strong opinion. What are your thoughts about his quote there?
No, I think we get into dangerous territory when we, uh, lay claim to moral judgment around why one person’s pastime is, uh, is somehow morally inferior to somebody else’s. You know, I think you could say the same thing about all sorts of different potential distractions. I don’t think it’s the distraction itself per se. It’s how we use these tools. I think for a lot of people, they satisfy a lot of core human needs, the need for connectedness and relatedness. Uh, you know, the, the, they can be used appropriately like any technology tool. Now if you find that you are overusing, I’ll be the first one to teach you how to break that bad habit. I mean, I think that that’s really, that’s why I wrote hooked in the first place was that I wanted to people to see how these techniques are used so that they can break the bad habits in their own life. But to have a blanket statement that, you know, the whole modern world is going to hell in a hand basket. It’s, I think it’s a little extreme.
Okay. Me? Okay. Now you had a video that you posted I watched on this incredible website by the way called near and far. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with it, but it’s nir and far.com near and far.com. For the listeners out there, you should check it out near and far.com. Reminds me a lot of you in fact, but this is on the site. You had a video that was called how to be in distractible and I put a link to it on today’s show notes so our listeners can check it out and can you explain
kind of a summation of what this video’s about and maybe why the listener should go check it out. How to be industry and this. This is kind of the outline of my next book and distractible and so in that talk you saw I, I gave kind of the the four steps, just like I have four steps of the hook model. I have four steps for the industrial model and it’s pretty simple really. It’s about step number one is managing these internal triggers. Figuring out you know what’s going on inside. That’s driving you to this to distraction. If you don’t deal with that first, well then everything’s going to be a potential distraction. So that’s the first step. The second step is to schedule time for traction. Now, traction is the opposite of distraction. So you what I did there, traction, distraction, so tracks you know, distraction or things that you don’t want to do.
Things that you regret. Traction, however, are things that you do want to do, but the problem with distraction is that in the moment distraction convinces us that we’re doing what we really want, right? You’re watching that sports game as opposed to being with your family or you’re checking email as opposed to working on a big presentation of feels like that’s what you’re supposed to be doing, but later on you regret regretted. So the only way to tell the difference between Traction and distraction is to plan ahead. So the second step after we learned to manage these internal triggers, the second step is to schedule our day. It uses a technique that psychologists call setting an implementation intention, which is just a fancy way of saying, planning out what you’re gonna do and when you’re going to do it. You know, I hear from so many people who say, oh my God, the world is so distracting and this and that and the news.
How can I get anything done? All this drama, and then I say, I’m really sorry about that. Let me see if I can help. Let me see your calendar. What did you plan to do today? And they take out their calendar and they kind of sheepishly hand me their phone and guess what? It’s blank. There’s nothing on it. And so here’s the thing. You cannot call something a distraction unless you know what it distracted you from. And in this day and age, if you don’t plan your day, somebody else will, your boss, your spouse, your kids, facebook, the news, something is going to take up that time if you don’t schedule your day. So the second step here is to make time for traction and I think we should make time for traction by literally planning out every minute of our day. Now we’re going to fall off track. That’s healthy.
That’s that happens. But you need a template for every day of your life or else. Don’t complain about distraction because how do you know what’s the distraction? Unless you identify what is traction for you, I’m not going to tell you what to do. There are too many gurus out there that tell you exactly what to do. I’m going to tell you how to get done. Whatever it is that you yourself want to do with intent. And I’m going, I wanted to cut out there for a second. I want to pile on with one with one comment here. John Maxwell, the best selling author of the 21 irrefutable laws of leadership. I don’t think youtube colluded on this idea. He actually has
a notable quotable that he wrote that I’ve written down here I am in my office, but he says, the secret to success is determined by your daily agenda. And that is such a knowledge bomb for somebody out there. Could you repeat just one more time? I think you think you said you can’t call something a distraction unless you know what has taken you.
It is distracting you from. Right. So you can’t call something a distraction unless you know what it is distracting you from.
It’s so good. Continue my friend. That was just so good.
Yeah. No, I, I it, it’s, you know, it’s so simple. But you know, I, I’ve, I’ve spoken to a lot of experts in the industry and it turns out that only about 10 percent of people keep a calendar. And I wanted to pull my hair out when I heard that. Really? I mean, how can you call somebody a distraction if you don’t know what you want to do? Everything is a distraction. If you don’t plan your day,
man, that’s huge. Only 10 percent of people approximately have a calendar.
Yeah. Now, now I don’t want to be a killjoy here. I say, well, I want spontaneity, right? I. How am I going to have any fun? Right. Well that’s fine. You can plan for that stuff too, you know, for my Saturdays, for example, I’ve got a big old chunk of time in my day for doing nothing. That’s fine. Uh, but if you don’t play in that time, you know, to be with your kids, to be with your loved ones, to get focused, work done, whatever it might be. If you don’t plan that time, of course it’s going to be consumed by the television or the news or twitter or facebook. So the first step is managing internal triggers. Second step is scheduled time for traction. Third step is to hack back those external triggers. About two thirds of people with a smartphone never changed their notification settings.
That’s crazy, right? Take 15 minutes and change those notifications settings and make sure that you’re only getting interrupted throughout your day from these pins. These dings, these rings from products and services that actually deserve to interrupt you. The rest of them, turn them off. Install on the file of the fourth step is to prevent distraction with pact. Now we can do. There’s all kinds of techniques that I’ll describe you as a lot more. In the book about different techniques, but one thing we can do is to make these packed with ourselves to make sure that we don’t get distracted and the good news is that you know, for as to potentially distracting us, technology is we can use technology against itself. There are thousands of free apps out there and the apple app store or on Google as well and android that we can use to block out distractions.
So one app I use every single day, it’s called forest and forces. These app where you open it up, it has this little virtual tree that you see and you type in how much time you want to to do focused work for. And as soon as you put the phone down, a little virtual tree is planted and if you pick the phone back up, the little virtual tree dies. Right? So it’s just a stupid little virtual tree, but it’s just a, it’s a pack that I’m making with myself to remind me that this is what I want to do. I want to have focused work time. For example, lots of tools. I use selfcontrol on my desktop. I use an APP called time guard on my phone that blocks out these potentially distracting things. So again, so manage the internal triggers, scheduled time for attraction, hack back, external triggers, and make packs to to prevent distraction.
I’m putting all of those four steps on the show notes that we all have. Our listeners can refresh this, go look at it, go to thrive time, show you, click on the podcast, what you can find the show notes there, and that way people can check it out. It just so many actionable piece of knowledge. So like knowledge bomb, buffet. I’m running through a landmine, the landmine of knowledge bombs. Now I had a three questions I wanted, I wanted to ask you because, uh, I think I’m just curious. Um, how do you personally organize the first four hours of your day?
Yeah, so I have a very rigid schedule. A meeting every minute of my day is planned out for us and I can. So I can tell you exactly what my, what my time looks like a. So in the morning I have my alarm clock goes off at seven. Uh, my daughter comes upstairs for breakfast at 7:30. I make breakfast for my wife and my daughter by 7:30. We eat together until eight at 8:00 I go to the gym. I come back around nine, nine, 15. I’m at my desk at 9:30 from 9:30 to 1130. I’m writing 1130 to 1230. I have lunch and then a three days a week I’m with my daughter in the afternoons and then two days a week I have various meetings in the afternoons.
That is great listeners out there. You’re gonna spend your guy. We interviewed the pastor of the largest church in America and your schedule and his schedule are pretty much the same. Anybody, anybody we interviewed who was a top performer, you’re all very intentional about how you organize your day and I think that is so key. Hopefully somebody took some notes on that. Final questions for you here. Do you have a favorite book you’d recommend? So I’m going to recommend all the listeners right now. Go buy her book. Hooked A. is there a book that you’d recommend as kind of like, if everyone’s going to go buy two books today for the holiday season, holidays are coming up here. Is there a certain book that really impacted your life or a couple of books you’d recommend for all the listeners out there?
Oh, that is a really, really tough question and here’s why. I have a lot of author friends.
Oh, okay. You’re going to get me in trouble. I’m so sorry. Are there. Are there authors, maybe plural, or you just want to say, I like all of them.
I do like many, many books out there. Let’s see. You know, I think in one book that inspired me was power of habit. I’m sure some of your listeners have already read that at the Church Charles Duhigg book, a friend of mine just published a book called atomic habits. James Clear, uh, which is, uh, is a terrific book as well. Uh, there is, uh, you know, I’m a fan of Charles, uh, of um, uh, Robert Cialdini wrote a great book on persuasion that, uh, was very good. Uh, let’s see. Dan Pink wrote a great book about self determination theory called drive, which I think was. It wasn’t fantastic book. Oh, there’s so many books. There’s actually a hole in the of hooks. There’s a, there’s an exhaustive like, so there’s more books than you could probably get to in a few years if you check out the back if you want more recommendations.
So probably go out there and buy the book hooked. That’s my recommendation. And then you get the recommendation list right there and then you’re, you’re off off to the races. Now my final question for you, um, Europe, very proactive guy. You’re designing your life. What does your life look like in the next 12 months? I mean, what’s the project you’re most excited about? Is that your newest book or just listeners are very curious to know what great guys like you are up to?
Well, thanks. Yeah, so let’s see. So the next 12 months is really going to be about getting distracted by. I finally finished the book and uh, you know, I call a book finished when I feel like it, it answered my question. I, I, you know, no offense to my readers, but I don’t write for them. I write for me. I write to answer questions that are on my mind and that’s why I wrote hooked. I wanted to get down to the secret of habit forming products. So I wrote in distractible because I wanted to manage my own distractions and so I’m really excited to see what other people think of this and hopefully it’ll be something that really improves their lives that helps them, you know, fundamentally conquer the things that they want to do with their lives. So that’d be my next year. So we’ll be getting getting a indestructible out into the world
near. I appreciate you so much for taking time to join me and hundreds of thousands of listeners who are much more intelligent than myself. And thank you for writing the book hooked. He was so readable. It was such a deep idea, but it was so readable. It really is a real page turner and if you’re out there and you’re, you’re looking for a great gift this holiday season for somebody or you’re looking for how to take your company to the next level. I think the book hooked has something in there for each and every one of our listeners and I hope you have an incredible day, my friend.
Thank you, brother. This was a lot of fun. Appreciate it.
If you want to learn more about near ill, check out his website. It’s near and far. That’s an I are and far in irr and far. If you wanna, learn more about marsupials. I don’t have a lot of information for you. My name is Clay Clark and this has been another exciting edition of the thrive time show on your radio and podcast. Download. What? I thought this was the Marsupial show. No, it’s the thrive time show on your podcast and radio and is always want to end the show with the three, two, one. And uh, what about the marsupials three? What? Boom
marsupials are any member of the chameleon infra class are super. Listen Piper down finger rule. I’m trying to talk about all the extent marsupials are. Listen Piper down. I’m trying to read this thing or extent. Marsupials are endemic to Australia and Asia and the Americas. A distinctive characteristic to these species is that most of the young are carried in a pouch. The Pouch Marsupial. Seriously, I’ve tried to read about. You guys are also known as the marsupials. Stop it serious. You’re distracting me. I’m trying to stay focused. Well, glute Kangaroos and wallabies. Koalas, possum, possum. I will get through by reading and Tasmanian devils. Don’t marsupials are the are the quota are God. I can’t work under these conditions.
Share this podcast, but at least one friend and I promise you’ll be entered into a drawing. To win a chance to win a Marsupial, you’re going to win a chance to win a marsupial sure with one friend. Oh, the drawing will happen sometime in the near future and we might or might not announced the winner.