Martin Lindstrom: ‘The Smartphone Wave Kills Our Lives’

The author on boredom as 'the foundation for creativity.'

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Martin Lindstrom: Jump into the pool and swim for one hour. I call this my “water moment,” and I’ve literally written all my books while swimming. One notepad in each end — and a lot of dripping wet papers as a result — packed with ideas. I’ve come to realize that we all need “water moments” in our lives: in the shower, while driving, running, or, like me, swimming. It is a 100% uninterrupted time — allowing me to think, reflect, and create free-flying ideas. It is my creative zone and a time I simply cannot live without.

TG: What gives you energy?
ML: Meeting and observing people. Over the years, I’ve spent time in more than 2,000 different homes across some 77 countries. I tend to say that if you want to study animals, don’t go to the zoo—go to the Amazon. This is my source of creativity, a place where you see the reality uncut, unedited, uninterrupted, real, and fresh. Needless to say, no phones allowed — just me and an amazing human being in front of me.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
ML: To allow transformation to happen in my life. I always dress in black while working, and when off work you’ll find me in as many colors as the rainbow except black. I’ve come to realize that this helps me to transform — embodied cognition is the scientific term — proven to help us align and focus our different strengths when needed. Today, few allow transitions to happen — we’re always wired. Thanks to our phones, we are never altogether present and never completely alone.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
ML: Absolutely not — you must be crazy. Seven years ago, I made a very conscious decision not to jump onboard the smartphone wave — simply because I noticed how it kills our lives. We never get bored anymore — yet boredom is the foundation for creativity. So I bought an old analog Nokia — yes they’re hard to get hold of these days. Only option: eBay. But they’ve allowed me to be present. We’re never present these days — thus we never observe, never connect with people (in the physical world), and, yes, never get bored. In fact, now when we’re talking about it — I can’t even tell you where my phone is — perhaps because I only use it a couple of times a week.

TG: How do you deal with email?
ML: I have appointments with my emails twice a day. That’s it — it’s addictive, I know — so I try to control ensuring that I allow time for what really matters.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
ML: Sit down and reflect — think about life! I love it.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out?
ML: Never happened for me.

TG: Share a quote that gives you strength when times are tough.
ML: "9 out of 10 of all concerns are unnecessary."

Originally published at

Life Lessons, Morning, Thrive Questionnaire

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