[BOOK REVIEW] UNPLUG: DISCONNECT TO RECONNECT (CARL PHILLIPS)

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UNPLUG: DISCONNECT TO RECONNECT

Carl Phillips, www.frictionlessliving.net

Amazon Link: Click Here

I Think Carl Wrote This Book for Me

At least that’s the way if feels. Let me explain…

I was surfing Twitter at work (yes, I know…) on my MacBook Pro and saw Carl Phillips’ (@frictionlessliv) tweet about his latest book is free online for another day. I quickly surfed over to Carl’s blog, frictionlessliving.net, and then clicked on the Amazon link for the book and a few seconds later I downloaded it to my Kindle reader on my MacBook - that means it’s also on my iPhone X, my iPad Pro, and on my Kindle.

It’s safe to assume that I am plugged in nearly all the time, just like everyone else I know. We might participate in digital sabbaticals once in a while, but for the most part, we are plugged in every waking hour on at least one device.

If anyone needs to read this book, it’s me. Before I’d read the introduction completely, and I knew I was reading a book with timely messages that I needed to hear and seriously consider.

If You Don’t Know Carl Phillips

I’ve been aware of Carl’s work on FrictionlessLiving.net for a few years. He’s the author of seven other “brief books with big ideas,” including Slow: Seeking Stillness in Fast-Paced Times, A Short Guide to Living Well, and The Frictionless Lifestyle: Reset Your Compass and Live More on Your Own Terms, among others.

I’ve appreciated his take on several issues that are close to my own core values, specifically living with less, intentional living via mindfulness and the embrace of the present moment. Carl is also known for his pragmatic approach to living a life with less friction: a practice that embraces both simplicity and minimalism. His brief books are direct and to the point without much fluff and I recommend them to you.

Disconnect and Reconnect

Phillips’ latest book, Unplug: Disconnect to Reconnect, is neatly and concisely packaged in two sections: Disconnect~ whereby he explores some of the factors that contribute to our hyper-connectivity, and Reconnect ~ with suggestions for rectifying this via mini-sabbaticals and a system of resets.

A few of the topics that I found particularly interesting were Have We Lost the ‘Social’ in Social Media?, and Reconnecting with Deep (Focus). I’ll summarize them both here.

Social Media - Is It Social Anymore?

I’m on Instagram and Twitter. I used to be on Facebook and Tumblr as well, but recognizing that I was spread too thin across these platforms, I took a step back. Just this week I left Facebook and now I’m only the two platforms I enjoy the most. Carl suggests that this intentional presence on social media should be that, intentional.

Instead of suggesting that we abandon social media altogether, Carl urges us to be more intentional, even mindful when we choose to scroll through Twitter, taking the time to read, understand, and respond with clarity. In this section, this quote stood out:

“Thought Leaders Think: We borrow and steal the clever insights of others, passing them off as our own. In some strange and vapid game, we project ourselves as ‘thought’ leaders. We hashtag our messages, we hit repeat. Oh, we’re so very clever. Passing off ideas that were never ours, to begin with, as our own masterful insights.”

How true this has become. When I was more active on Facebook and wanted to reshape something I liked, I’d click on ‘share’ and open each one with “via Karen…or via Frank,” being careful to give the credit where it was due and to purposely not mislead readers into thinking the ideas originated with me. Sadly, not many of my Facebook network would do the same.

Carl makes the point that is too often forgotten, that thought leaders actually think. They don’t steal ideas from others. If they use the ideas of someone else, they give credit and add their own.

A good way to summarize this topic and set an intention for using social media more effectively comes from the Outro section, of the book, while quoting Bruce Lee, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless, and add what is uniquely your own.” The operative work in that quote is uniquely…as in your own ideas instead of those belonging to others.

The final point I’ll highlight that Carl writes about in this section of the book is the lack of ’social’ in our social media. Most of us use it to share our accomplishments, our vacation adventures, our triumphs and sometimes our crushing defeats. For example, one of the series of Instagram posts that received the most attention for me was the black and white photos I posted over a year’s time when I was my father’s caretaker during his last two years of life. They were poignant, and often heartbreaking as they chronicled to effects of Alzheimer’s Dementia and how it ravaged the brain of a once brilliant aerospace engineer who operated on of the consoles at Houston’s Mission Control during the Gemini years and the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission.

But they weren’t all that social. For that matter, I contend that only those Facebook users whom I’d call lurkers are truly using the platform to keep up with friends and family as we all claim. Instead, we (read “I”) use it to voice our disgust with the political antics of the day. However we choose to use social media, we should all just be honest about our intentions.

I have no problem with bashing Brexit or trouncing Trump, just own up to it and don’t call it social media.

Rediscovering Deep (Focus)

We all know by now that multitasking is a myth. We really can’t do two things that require focus at the same time. If we do, all of the outcomes will suffer in arms of quality. Instead, those who engage in the mindful skill of mono-tasking are the ones who enjoy more meaning, more fulfillment, and greater reward, however you define that term.

The reward for those who choose focused investigation over scattered attention is the depth of knowledge and insight. Ask yourself, who would you rather be: someone with a little knowledge about many things but unable to make a lasting impact or one who is deeply knowledgeable about a few areas and armed with the insight that can actually help others?

By reengaging with focus and reflection, Carl suggests that we are better able to discern the signal from the noise. All-day long we are confronted by noise, both audible and silent; Voices on the train force us to wear AirPods or headphones; endless scrolling through social media deadens our senses, and for those of us are forced to occupy an ‘open office’ and are subject to the loud-talkers and jokesters who think everyone needs to hear about their weekend, we become what Pink Floyd termed ‘comfortably numb.’

Carl makes the point that were we to engage in deeper focus and reflection, we would focus instead on the signal; that we would break from of our comfortable numbness. For those us who write for a living, he also urges us to take an inventory of how we are engaging in the silent noise of our blogs and websites. Are we using pop-ups or videos that automatically play when a page opens? Are we inundating our readers with a flood of emails that contain only shallow pools of information?

Stillness - This is the Key to both Disconnecting and Reconnecting with Intention

When we disconnect from the Internet, from email, from social media and spend time with our own thoughts -and ultimately finding stillness in the present moment- only then will we find contentment and peace.

Please read any of Carl’s book for a fresh take on how to engage in frictionless living.