Newport’s Craftsman Approach to Tool Selection Or Why I Might Be Quitting Social Media

TL;DR summary:

Only use tools that maximally determine your happiness and success. I actively don’t hustle IRL - why do I do it over social media? (reflection sharing etc.) Realization: My own hashtag hustle is rooted in not feeling good enough as is. End: What would you like to hear about that would add value to your life?


This is my fourth blog post on Deep Work by Cal Newport. I talked about what deep work is, how we enact it, and what I’m doing in my life.

Now we’ve come to one of my favorite points from the book, Newport’s Craftsman Approach to Tool Selection.

Newport argues that we have all fallen into an evaluation strategy in which we decide to adopt a network tool if it contributes *any* benefit.

Instead, he recommends the craftsman’s approach: “Identify the core factors that determine success and happiness in your professional and personal life. Adopt a tool only if its positive impacts on these factors substantially outweigh its negative impacts”. (p 191)

This articulation is bemusing because as I sweat to hustle and hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, working within an “any benefit” model for the tools of technology, this craftsman approach has long held in my personal life. For example, I am ruthless about kitchen appliances. The toaster, bagel cutter, small sauce pan, coffee pot, and handmade pottery all admittedly have unique benefits, but were given to Goodwill long ago because their benefit wasn’t worth the counter space or the drain on my attention and management-of-stuff.

I’m not sure how this craftsman approach will play out in my professional social media presence. In my personal life, I’m pretty quiet on social media, mainly because I find it more fulfilling and fruitful to reach out one on one to the people I love and want to connect with. I’m working hard to be better at reaching out and being open and vulnerable with people. I need practice in real life, not behind a screen.

Professionally, especially as I grow the blog and hope to bring value to more people’s lives, I have been wrapped up in “any benefit” mode, rationalizing the time and energy I spend crafting pictures and messages by adding up the tally of new Facebook likes and website visits.

And with Newport’s nudge I’ve begun to reflect on how different my social media stance is from my stance in the office. When I talk to a potential new client, I am actively *not selling.* My main goal is to find them the very best helper who fits their needs. If I can authentically say that to the best of my knowledge I’m in the top five professionals who could meet their needs within driving distance, then I say so. And that means I point a lot of people to therapists who I think would be just as good or better for that person in front of me.

Therapy is an extensive investment of time, money, and heart – I want the person in front of me to absolutely want to be there, without any hustle. But isn’t the investment of your time and attention right now reading this just as valuable? You have 24 hours each day. If your professional and personal responsibilities take 12 hours a day and you sleep for 8 hours that means you only have 4 hours or 240 minutes each day that could be dedicated to your own pleasure. Yes, we could spend time quibbling about these actual numbers, but my larger point is you have a fraction of your day to be doing things like reading blogs.

So why do I hustle and hashtag for blog hits when I would never do that for people who might hire me in real life? What if the way I can show respect for your time and attention is to spend my own precious hours developing high quality content? What if I spent more time creating products of value that are then given freely and less time coming up with witty two liners about my day #realtruth?

If I was offering advice to a friend, I would say that quality gets noticed, put out something good and useful and show up each day to get better and when you’ve earned it, you’ll get the rewards you seek (or different rewards you didn’t know you needed).


And frankly, I think for me part of the allure of this hashtag hustle begins and ends with a scared whisper that laying my heart bare and being my real self on this blog isn’t good enough, it’s not that interesting or useful or funny, so then I use a filter and a pithy quote to lipstick the pig. And it feels temporarily safer to count my likes and followers, to gather together my meager evidence, “See! See, people like me! I’m worthy.”

That is both the truest thing I’ve written today and fills me with tenderness for myself. Dear Kerry, dear one, the peace and worthiness you find on the mountain (or in the twitter feed) are only the peace and worthiness you brought there.

Just keep showing up, love. Show up and work hard, rest and repeat.

Alright dear readers, what a ride. Thank you to Cal Newport for writing this fabulous book and showing us a road less traveled toward our own deeper work. Thank you all for being here and supporting me in doing something I love.

And before I say goodbye – what would you like me to write about? If my goal is to create something useful, this is best informed by your direction. My best friend from college suggested I write about my own self-care lessons so that’s on the list. What else?