Travel to any major city and you see the same ruse: three identical shells placed face-down on a surface. A small ball is placed beneath one of the shells so that it cannot be seen. A dealer shuffles the shells in plain view. An unsuspecting player is invited to bet on which shell holds the ball. He can double the stakes if he’s confident he can find it. But he won’t. The fix is in: with sleight of hand, the ball is taken away. He’s mesmerized by the shells. He doesn’t find the ball.

You wouldn’t play this game, would you?

But you do.

We are in the middle of the shuffle. One shell is the shell of distraction. These are bright, shiny technologies that use our psychological tendencies to get us addicted. Technological hijacks such as bottomless bowls, social approval, and instant notifications are used to get us addicted. These are carefully designed distractions.

The other shell is the shell of productivity. This seems like the antidote to distraction, but it’s not. “Complete more tasks”, “reach more milestones”, “check off more lists”, “use more hacks”; our current cultural norm celebrates productivity. We’re checking off more, producing more, and starting more businesses. And yet, our entrepreneurial generation is experiencing more and more depression.

We’re mesmerized by the shells. We’ve lost the ball of fulfillment.

With sleight of hand, the interplay between “look over here” (distraction) and “combat the guilt of getting distracted by producing more” (productivity) cloaks the scheme: highly educated dealers are designing a game where it’s easy for us forget the ball and for the dealer to take the ball away.

The stakes of this game are too great for it to continue.

It’s time for us to take the ball back. The ball of fulfillment is yours and it is shaped by your intentions. With intention, you see the shells for what they are. Distractions detract you from who you want to be. And being more productive is irrelevant until you understand what you’re being more productive towards in the first place.

“The most exciting breakthroughs of the twenty-first century will not occur because of technology, but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.” John Naisbitt, futurist

We know that doing more things and running away from ourselves is killing us. It’s time for a paradigm shift in what we’re doing and what we’re going towards. That starts with intention. We built Intently on this ethos and our hope is that other companies and platforms will take this stand as well.

Take back the ball. It was always yours anyway.

Originally published at