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Home » NC Weekly 4: When the cat’s away… – On doing things when no one is watching

NC Weekly 4: When the cat’s away… – On doing things when no one is watching

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(Note: This post was initially published as part of my newsletter. )

A couple of weeks ago the Bundesliga, Germany’s soccer league took off. This time with obvious COVID-19 measures – the absence of an audience for one.

Researchers jumped on the opportunity to revisit some studies on how these conditions affect players’ psychology.

Turns out who’s really affected by this change is mostly referees, not players.

Mikel Priks, an economics professor at Stockholm University, studied the effects a lack of fans has on referees. He noticed one thing: they were making more impartial decisions (for example issuing an equal number of fouls to the two teams instead of favouring the home team).

Refs got some slack not having to deal with the pressures of a booing audience.

The landscape of fear

In a similar way, wild animals not having to deal with humans out in the open, decided to party hard around the world. Absence of people in urban areas, changed their “Landscape of fear” or the mental map they use to gauge whether a certain environment is safe and to avoid riskier, predator-filled areas.

Wild animals started perceiving risk differently and this sallowed them to venture outside their comfort zone. As the saying goes, when the cat’s away the mouse will play.

The landscape of “connection”

Lately all of us had to deal with the lack of real, in-person feedback from friends, family members or coworkers. But as the resourceful species we are, unlike wild animals we could still communicate and exchange information thanks to the Internet.

We can say that instead of scoping for predators and risk, as our ancestors did and as wild animals still do, we are constantly scanning for the “Landscape of connection”. Whether that connection is social or wi-fi.

I’ve never seen so many people share their home workouts or any other home-related activity on social media. It’s great, I’ve shared a couple myself. Lockdown is an excellent excuse to over-indulge in social media.

On the other hand, it made me wonder.

How much of it is inspiring, connecting with and motivating each other, and how much is fear of loneliness or need for approval?

Into the wild

I recently re-watched the movie “Into the wild”, the story of Chris McCandless, who after selling everything in his name, left for 2 years of hitchhiking and vagabonding between the US pacific coast and Alaska. While I wasn’t envying the bitter end he met, I found myself craving for a slice of his freedom. Not to explore the world (even though I miss traveling), but to experience his adventures unburdened by the unconscious pull to share it with the world.

How many people today would leave, on their own, no phone (nor identity), on a trip like that without sharing any of it on social media? Just to experience it… Not many.

What I’ve realized lately by deciding not to take my phone with me on my workouts and generally using it a lot less than before, is that the more I fight the pull of sharing every moment publicly, the freer I feel to explore and even move past my comfort zone in any area of my life.

It’s a bit like with meditation, the less reactive to thoughts and sensations you can be, the more space you create for your mind to roam free.

The freer your mind, the better you can work with your ideas and your intuition.

When I’m not sharing, I read more, I workout harder (700 pushups in one hour, check) and most importantly I keep myself to a higher standard. A standard that’s not dictated by how many likes I get, but by how closer I’m getting to the person I want to be.

This is not to say we should avoid posting on social media, but it’s a reminder about being mindful of the reason why we’re doing it. And if the reason is neediness, to try to redirect that energy towards a thousand pushups. Just kidding 500 are good too.


Here are this week’s top finds:


The 1 Percent Rule: Why a Few People Get Most of the Rewards

  • Great read to understand why some people excel at something and others get left in the dirt. Good reminder to use our time at home to learn and grow. Main takeaway: It’s not only what we do at the beginning that gives us the edge, it’s also how consistently we are able to keep doing it in the future.


The new science of aging

  • Very insightful podcast about new studies on aging. Main takeaway: mix things up and don’t give your body a chance to adapt and stagnate.


Luke Combs – Six feet apart

Gotta love a good melodic country song about lockdown:

  • First thing that I’m gonna do
    Is slide on in some corner booth
    And take the whole damn family out
    And buy my buddies all a round
    Pay some extra on the tab
    Catch a movie, catch a cab
    Watch a ballgame from the stands
    Probably over-wash my hands

Have an amazing week!


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