Confessions of a Data Scientist: Why I quit social media and still cut my own grass

I hate to have to read a long blog post before I get to the payoff.  So here is mine:

  • Social media fosters a short attention span by triggering a dopamine (reward) response in our brains.  Innovation in Data Science (and many other technical fields) requires deep thought.  Mindless tasks like mowing the grass allows you enter into deep thought and tap the purely creative center of your brain.  Revolutionary Data Science is as much about creativity as it is about having an analytical mind.

Over a year ago, I realized I had greatly reduced the number of technical books I was reading.  I usually read 1-2 books a month and truly enjoyed learning new analytical techniques with the driving purpose of creating something unique… something no one else had ever thought of (even if it was derivative of other work).  It’s how I’m wired I guess.

Instead of learning, I was spending 2-3 hours a day mindlessly scrolling through Facebook looking at cat videos and political hate speech.  I was also posting family pictures of our adventures and eagerly awaiting the dopamine reward of getting likes from friends and family.  My attention span was getting shorter and shorter by the day.  I was also fundamentally unhappy because I always felt that others were having more adventures than me.  I guess I wasn’t alone in this feeling.

Now I’ve been fortunate enough to have tremendous success in Data Science.  I’ve built analytical solutions for Fortune 500 companies that have driven $100M’s of incremental revenue.  I’m not bragging, I’m incredibly grateful to be one of the seemingly few data scientist that had leadership that would listen to my ideas and give me a long rope to implement them.  I’m thinking specifically of you Kevin Freeland (LinkedIn profile).

As I thought of those times, when I was happiest I realized that I spent a lot of time thinking… especially during my leisure time.  I took books on Data Mining, Oracle, etc. to the beach.  I spent hours on long drives thinking of new ways to solve business problems with analytics.  Specifically, I thought about the exact moment I came up with a new way to assort products in retail stores.  I was mowing my grass.  I had a big yard.  The mindless repetition of mowing allowed my mind to access the creative center of my brain.  Apparently it did for Joe Walsh also.  Ironically, I live not far from where he crashed a riding mower when he thought up “Rocky Mountain Way”!

Everyone is different and you should take this advice with a huge bag of rock salt but here goes:

  • Try leaving social media for 1 month
  • Take long drives
  • Mow your own grass
  • Block 2-3 hours a day to do nothing… no work, no TV, no social media, no phone.

 

Make time to

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Author: scottmutchler

Scott Mutchler is the Chief Data Scientist at QueBIT Consulting. Scott has a long track record of delivering enterprise class Advanced Analytics solutions that drive massive customer value. Scott is equally proficient at building high-performing teams, where ever team member focuses on their individual strengths. This approach has resulted in a team this is passionate about Advanced Analytics. That passion for Advanced Analytics is reflected in every client engagement. Scott spent the first 17 years of his career building enterprise solutions as a DBA, software developer, and enterprise architect. When Scott discovered his true passion was for Advanced Analytics, he moved into Advanced Analytics leadership roles where he was able to drive 100′s of millions of dollars in incremental revenues and cost savings through the application of Advanced Analytics to most challenging business problems. His strong IT background turned out to be a huge asset in building integrated Advanced Analytics solutions. Recently Scott was the Predictive Analytics WW Industrial/Retail Sector Lead for IBM. In this role, he worked with IBM SPSS clients world-wide. He architected Advanced Analytic solutions for client in some of the world’s largest retailers and manufacturers. Scott received his Masters from Virginia Tech in Geochemistry. He lives in Colorado and enjoys an outdoors lifestyle, playing guitar and travelling.

7 thoughts on “Confessions of a Data Scientist: Why I quit social media and still cut my own grass”

  1. I agree. Deleted my account weeks ago. aplease do check my blog at zahirjunejo.wordpress.com. I post blogs on data science related topics. As I am currently a student, you may notice some inconsistency in posting dates. But rest assured you will not regret it.

    Cheers.

    Like

  2. The “mindless grass mowing” is essentially getting “in the flow” which is what I do when painting at my easel ;). It is incredibly important for the brain. I totally agree about social media. Sure glad I had a few years to work with you Scott. As I knew then you are brilliant!! Great blog post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I always liked raking leaves. There is a certain Zen to it.

    Scott you have a great ability to take your ideas and convey them to upper management so that they understand the potential positive impact on the bottom line. Not every Data Scientist is wired this way.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Creative thought requires time that hasn’t been pre-allocated. It also requires time to evolve. These are things we deny to our children when we allocate all their time into camps, team sports and homework. Not that those are all bad, but kids need blank time, too.

    Liked by 1 person

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