Daniel Levitin on Why Being Organized Is More Important Than Ever Before
© Arsenio Corôa Daniel Levitin's at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix this week.
Daniel Levitin was in his 30s when he went back to college and got a degree in cognitive psychology, launching the career that has made him a best-selling author. His first book, This Is Your Brain on Music: Understanding a Human Obsession (2006), spent more than a year on The New York Times Bestseller List.
Not that Levitin was a slacker before that. He'd racked up more than a dozen gold and platinum records as a music producer and consultant, working with Steely Dan, Blue Oyster Cult, and Stevie Wonder. He also did pretty well as a stand-up comedian and joke writer, performing at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco with Robin Williams and at comedy clubs in California. And he played bass in a San Francisco punk band that opened for Bad Religion.
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But when he figured out there was a profession that would allow him to spend his time looking at how the human brain works, whether it's processing music or humor or something else, everything clicked.
"I was always interested in our mental life," Levitin says. "I was interested in why we remember the things we do, how we use language sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively. I found out that cognitive neuroscience is the field in which one can ask these questions and get paid for it."
His new book, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, out this month, looks at what happens to our brains when we consume the kind of random informational crack that most of us do every day, thanks to the miracle of the Internets.
According to Levitin, this information overload means that "being organized is a far more important trait than ever before." Unfortunately, it's also much more difficult to be organized -- because we're busy drowning in the information we don't know how to arrange.
Levitin's book is a well organized life raft that aims to help the overwhelmed feel less alone and more prepared. As he makes clear, we're all up against a formidable onslaught.
Levitin has been trying to help the organizationally challenged since childhood. He remembers staying after school one day in third grade and being asked by his teacher to go back to the supply closet to get some tape.
"While I was back there, I noticed that everything was higgledypiggledy, and I offered to stay after school and rearrange the closet."
The teacher gratefully accepted, and that, says Levitin, is when he realized that "I really liked doing that, and that people appreciate that."