Upgrading the Other Way

Posted: May 24, 2011 in articles

Last week I sent out a BBM broadcast to my loyal Blackberry friends notifying them I would be leaving the community. It was time for an upgrade and Blackberry was not part of my next move! 90% of the responses assumed I now had an Iphone. Either they would be joining me soon or expressed their satisfaction in my choice.

But I am not getting an IPHONE… or any other smart phone for that matter.

But is that a smart move?

I recently wrote a blog on my experience of spending a few days without my Blackberry after it had crashed – My Blackberry crashed this morning. It was a liberating experience where I enjoyed a slower pace and more space. I realised in that short amount of time that turning my phone on was almost the same as turning on the world. In an instant I was connected to clients, friends, news, information, tweets… As much as I love everything about technology it had invaded my world and had the potential to rob me of being present and enjoying what I love the most. I had to think about what really counted and then make a decision about how to make it count!

So I got a plain and simple Nokia C5.

So far the response has been interesting. Most have given me a few months before I get over it! Some have told me its embarrassing!  Even the vodacom salesmen couldn’t believe it!  Now when everyone puts their phones down on the table, mine will rest alongside its bigger more sophisticated brothers! An eye opener has been how often I reach for my new phone and search for something to do on it – a habitual pattern! With no attractive offerings the phone seems to slowly only find my hands to make a call or read a text.

So why did I do it?

To make a statement – No.

To lead a revolution and try and get everyone else to do the same – No.

The answer is simple. I know myself. I know what is most NB to me. And I know what I need to do in order to put myself squarely in the middle of what is most NB to me.

If it means letting go of ‘stuff’ that I enjoy then so be it. As long as I do what I need to do to remain focussed on what really counts.

So thats my challenge (and it may not involve your phone!)

What clutter can you strip away in order to remain present & focussed on what really counts on a daily basis?

  1. Rory Smith-Belton says:


    A friend of mine has also instituted a type of disconnect week where he doesn’t view Facebook, Twitter or any kind of social network.

    Its amazing to see people sitting by themselves in a public space. Most of them will reach for their handset to ease their discomfort with being either alone or bored.

  2. Oleg Kondratieff says:

    I agree with you. I have thought about disconnecting more and be available only during work hours. If someone has important thing to say to me, then call me please.

    People using social media on public, taking photos and noticing things, it is like smart grid of the Earth! Is it really what people are meant to be, just independent and self sustaining probes for Interent?

  3. Grant Gavin says:

    Great post Trav, and makes absolute sense. A reality of our world right now is that info finds us rather than us going off to look for it. I suppose the question is whether or not you want it to take over your life? I don’t think you can let social media consume your life however, I don’t think you can do without it completely either. Let us know how it goes for you with another post later on. Good luck!

  4. Bryce Bartmann says:

    Having thought about this for a while, I am going to have to disagree with the above, and here’s why. Apologies that it is so long.

    The core idea of Technology is to make our lives easier. In the 60’s, the computer lay at the forefront of technology, seen as an ideal of the future. It would provide a future of a 4 day week where we no longer had to do any chores, or menial tasks – these could all be passed on to the robots and computers that worked in our houses, automatically completing these tasks without us even having to make the effort of asking it to do it. Today is that future, and we know that it is completely different to that ideal. We work harder and longer, we do more but ultimately, and here is my point, we can achieve more. Just think of medicine, science, sport, education – all advancing because of technology. When we make technology work for us, it is immensely useful.

    Bringing the discussion back to the phone, we need to look at how the phone is used. For those of us with smartphones, we will all agree that email, news and social media take up most of our time when using the phone. Arguably, we could add games to that list, but that probably applies to a different audience than the one I would expect here. I would like to go through each one. Email – an email that requires a reply, will require your time to reply to it, whether that be on your phone, tablet or computer. So no matter how you reply, you will still need to spend the exact same amount of your time replying. So in fact, having no email on your phone could work out to be an inconvenience as you have removed a tool that could provide a method of sending an email at a time that works for you. News – this is open to debate, and purely depends on each individuals desire to stay in touch with what is happening in the world. However, you do not need to read the news every hour. It doesn’t change that quickly, as much as you would like it to. Social Media – how many times a day do you get in touch with your friends to go for a meal, a surf, a drink? Maybe a couple of times a week? Well then, why do you need to check your facebook news feed to find out what your friends are up to every 30 mins? Twitter doesn’t need to know that you have just drunk a cup of coffee. Only post something if it’s going to add value to those that will read it(like this blog). Or in it’s most powerful form – to keep people informed during a terrorist attack, or to bring down dictators and corrupt governments. Don’t waste everyone’s time(and yours) telling people on Twitter that you are on the toilet.

    The beauty of technology is that we can switch it on or off. We have the choice of involving it in our lives when need be. Your phone doesn’t crawl out your pocket, up your arm and then strap itself to your ear(although some iPhone users would argue that there’s an app for that). An Xbox doesn’t walk to your bedroom door and drag you to the couch to use it for 12 hours straight. So then, when your phone rings, why do you have to answer it immediately? Or if it vibrates, why do you have to get it out and read what it has to say right there and then? If it’s not convenient for you to be using your phone, don’t use it. Call back when you have the time. Reply to an email or text message when are ready to reply.

    Here’s an uber cheesy saying to make the point :
    “Ask not what you can do for technology, ask what technology can do for you”

    Smartphones place unbelievably useful tools at our disposal. But that is all they do. Because it provides a number of methods for us to interact with the world does not mean it takes up more of our time. The person taking the phone out of their pocket and using it to consume all their free time is the only one to blame.

    • Jade Wilson says:

      I would have to agree with Bryce Bartmann. Maybe its more of a question as to what owns you and why you purchased the device in the first place? My smart phone has been exactly that, Smart ! Predominantly because that is all I let it be in my life. I give it the same meaning as I would any other tool or utility that has ever been at my disposal. My surfboard provides much adrenaline for me when I surf. Does that mean it now has a right to sit opposite me at a coffee shop? No. The thing is, if I cannot prioritize something as small as a smartphone now, what am I going to do with future technological developments? I have caught myself out on many occasions throwing my hands in the air and choosing to disengage from such mediums. The result, a soon to experience situation whereby I am completely frustrated purely because, metaphorically speaking, there are only so many doves in this world that can distribute hand written letters.

  5. Liam says:

    Well said Jade.

    Anyone heard of burnout?

    Smartphones and Blackberry’s can save you time and if you are running your own business can be an integral tool in keeping you connected and keeping you competitive.

    I think there is a very big danger though that technology can take over your life. Jade reckons if you can’t prioritise a smartphone what are you going to do in 20 years when who not what has been invented? Too right!

    Work hard, and if smartphone is going to help you – use it. But people need to learn to switch off (literally). Reading emails when you are holiday or spending time with your family is not healthy. Burnout becomes a real possibility. And leaving it on and promising yourself you wont read the emails wont work either…just that little noise mine makes when an email comes in gets my blood pressure up. So switch it to ‘manual’ for off peak hours and forget about it…emails will be there in the morning

  6. Trav dont you have an iPad? I think “What really counts” is why do you need a smartphone if you have an iPad? As you get older you need a bigger screen….

  7. Travis Gale says:

    Just to say thank you for all the comments! Out of all the blog posts I have written this one got the most hits and generated the most conversation – both online and offline! A few things I have learned through the process:

    Whilst technology is something which we can master and turn off the dialogues I have had seem to extend beyond the smart phone onto whether or not, despite our phone being off, our minds are disconnected. One person’s wife commented – ‘you are simply not present’. Rory & Oleg’s comments cause us to ask the deeper question of ‘why’ people are connected – whats the purpose.

    Many commented on how it is not just about disconnecting from the phone but about how present we can be whilst not connected to technology. This really is a broad topic! One of those I spoke to reminded me of the following article and commented on how many of the points reflected on either the use of technology or being able to focus in on one task without distraction.


    Personally my productivity has increased since the removal of the smart phone & overall I have been happy with my decision. 1 – 2 email sessions a day has been effective (The book – 4 hour work week by Timothy Ferris – influenced this approach). Weirdly I have become far more streamlined in my approach to work. One thing I noticed for the first few weeks of having my new ‘unsmart’ phone was how often I would pull it out my pocket and press buttons looking for options – a habitual pattern I built with my old phone. The Nokia has NOTHING interesting to offer so that habit has slowly died down. Personally it has been liberating knowing that when I am out or away that the phone I carry has no connection to anything at all except phone / sms / whatsapp. I guess I just like the simplicity of it… and as the blog mentioned, my decision was not to make a statement but rather execute on a decision which was made because I know myself & what would suite me best.

    I agree, as did everyone else, with Bryce & Jades comments above of mastering technology versus letting it master you. As Grant also said we can’t do without it. That is everyone’s ultimate goal. Bryce especially is 100% correct in saying that technology is a useful tool when we make it work for us. None of us could not picture our lives without technology and as Bryce mentioned the potential that technology offers us is unbelievable. And as Bryce concluded – it comes down to the person using the phone just as Jade confirmed in his comment.

    Which I guess is what it comes down to! It is a choice. My experience was still of people who have the intent to master technology yet struggle with the execution of that intent. The choice was simply not enough… and the tension still exists for many who have not been able to get that discipline right. The mentality that Bryce and Jade shared seems rare in execution.

    One of the beauties of technology is that it continues to provide various other options and combinations to make use of. As Tim alluded to above, a great combination for me would be to have my MAC and an IPAD for JHB trips and daily quick easy access to needed technology and other tools… yet can still be packed away or left behind without losing my ability to contact people through my phone.

    All in all – as in leadership – our greatest strengths are also our greatest weakness depending on our awareness of them and how we choose to use them. I guess its the same with technology – it can contribute toward peoples lives both positively and negatively.

    It comes down to HOW we use it, WHY we use and WHAT we want to use it for. I think many dive into it without asking those questions which in turn yields results which don’t serve us…

  8. Jason says:

    What are your thoughts on TV?
    Do YOU have a TV?
    If so, How much time do YOU spend in front of it?
    Is it SMART to have a TV or not?

    • Travis Gale says:

      Hey Jason, sorry about delayed reply!!

      I don’t have a TV. I was kinda forced into this back when I moved into a digs which had no TV and I didn’t really have the means to purchase one at the time. At first I was shocked because a TV is such a ‘normal’ thing to have and I have grown up with one all my life…. but soon I began to really enjoy not having one. I found myself reading more or even getting out more when I would have usually been watching TV. Since then I have never really worried about owning one. The funny thing is that now whenever I am traveling and there happens to be a TV it is almost a novelty – I get to channel surf and spend a few hours in front of the box. I do, however, more often that not finish my surfing and viewing with the realisation yet again that I don’t really need one of these things nor do I miss not having one… except… when there is Sport!! Then again I just cruise down the road and watch it at the pub.

      I do watch the odd series on my laptop. I do enjoy watching the odd program on TV. I do also think that a great deal of people waste a great deal of time behind the telly. I think we would realise how much space we had if we didn’t watch TV and how much noise it can create. I do think it can rob a family of family time and that many get into habitual patterns of sitting in front of it from the time they get home till they go to sleep. Then I would motivate for the telly to go! It is not just a case of asking if there are more constructive things to do. Rather is it the most energising thing to do? What does TV time replace? Most people comment that it is their way to unwind after a long day… watch telly and chill. I find I get up from watching TV more lethargic so I prefer to go for a surf, get outdoors or read a book, cook with my wife etc.

      So to answer your questions – I don’t have one, those are my thoughts, I probably spend an couple hours a week watching TV or series and yes I think they have their benefits but are absolutely not necessary so if you are not going to be SMART with how you use your TV then maybe it is not so SMART to own one!

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