SXSW was packed with tech, long lines, inclusivity and patriarchy smashing. But one of the most life affirming takeaways, indeed one of the conference’s most surprisingly mindful experiences, came from an unlikely source.
Brian Solis made his name as a digital anthropologist and futurist; he’s widely credited with shaping many market trends from the rise of Web 2.0 to startup acceleration to experience design to digital transformation and corporate innovatoin. But recently his career has evolved into something still more insightful than the sum of his research.
From Business Tech to Humanity
In previous years at Southby, Solis has spoken about experience innovation, why Silicon Valley is such a mess and how we all got hooked like little lab rats on social media. This year, he zoomed in even further on the human condition to try to understand why our attention spans and concentration have fallen off the map, and what that means for those of us trying to reclaim a happy life in the social media age.
Before a book signing during his anticipated SXSW keynote, Solis celebrated the launch of a new book at an intimate venue, sponsored by Cobalt Robotics. He spoke with TechCrunch’s Editor-at-Large Josh Constine at the Eleanor in Austin’s Warehouse district. With more than 200 in attendance, Solis introduced his new book, Lifescale: How to Live a More Creative, Productive and Happy Life.
Ok Google, Why Can’t I Write This Book?
The book is his eighth, but Solis says it’s his first personal venture. And it came about because he was trying to write a different book — -but hit a wall of “perpetual distraction” so hard he couldn’t get the job done. Taking a step back, Solis wondered what was wrong, why he was having such a hard time concentrating, and how that was connected to our increasingly tech-dominated lives. Being a researcher, he dug up the data. And Lifescale is a deep dive into what he discovered.
Ostensibly, Lifescale touches upon many familiar touchpoints of wellness:
- Get plenty of quality sleep
- Start a mindfulness practice
- Refresh your personal core values, your purpose and use them to define a more timely and personal vision and mission
But what’s astounding about this presentation is the sheer volume and quality of data Solis offers as supporting evidence of our need to pull back from multitasking and Pavlovian responses to our devices and Facebook accounts. Solis juxtaposes effective short-term hacks (like the Pomodoro technique) with a deeper exploration of our distraction problem and how to fix it for good.
The Call to Action is Coming From Inside the House
Solis makes his case not from the point of view of a wellness guru, but rather a Silicon Valley veteran. He doesn’t give into the temptation to vilify technology with blanket judgments, instead using specific examples of how certain uses of technology are making us sick in certain ways, and what we can do to turn that around.
Along the way, Solis ventures from his usual business marketing territory into personal, even touching insights about what it means to be human and to live a life of fullness.
Lifescale also includes some revealing things about the strategies tech companies use to keep us hooked on their products. If Facebook’s approach to members and their data makes you uncomfortable, wait until you hear what Netflix’s CEO has to say about his viewers.
This is The Book You Can’t Get Out of Your Head
Solis’s points stuck with me. I kept thinking about them after all the SXSW dust had settled, and on the plane ride home it was my newly signed copy of Lifescale that I found myself devouring. As his previous talks indicated, there’s some kind of tension mounting between the Silicon Valley elite and people who are just trying to be people. With Lifescale, Solis has given us the knowledge to have power over our own awareness again. Put it on your spring reading list.
If you’re one of those people who started the new year by binge-watching Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up, consider this a spring cleaning for your consciousness. Yes, I say that with a straight face, Brian is the Marie Kondo of your mind, body, and spirit for a modern era.