The word “eudaimonia” came to fruition when Greek philosophers like Aristotle, Socrates and Plato discussed the idea from the 4th Century B.C. Without giving you a long, boring history lesson, the premise is simple: the term “eudaimonia” is a Greek word meaning “happiness”. The literal meaning is “having a good guardian spirit”. Various philosophers talked about the idea of a “well-lived life”, “personal happiness” and “human flourishing”.
While I was reading about Cal Newport’s idea of “deep work”, I came across a related concept: The Eudaimonia Machine. David Dewane is an architecture professor and he talks about a building where the idea “is to create a setting where the users can get into a state of deep human flourishing — creating work that’s at the absolute extent of their personal abilities.” The structure is a one-story narrow rectangle made up of five rooms placed in a line, one after another. There is no shared hallway: you have to pass through one room to get to the next. Dewane adds, “the lack of circulation is critical because it doesn’t allow you to bypass any of the spaces as you get deeper into the machine.” Here are the rooms:
Room #1 — The Gallery
The first room you enter contains examples of deep work produced in the building. It’s meant to inspire users of the machine, creating a “culture of healthy stress and peer pressure.”
Room #2 — The Salon
Dewane imagines access to a high-quality coffee and perhaps even full bar. There are also couches and wi-fi. The salon is designed to create a mood that “hovers between intense curiosity and argumentation.” This is a place to debate and in general work through ideas that you’ll develop deeper in the machine.
Room #3 — The Library
This room stores a permanent record of all work produced in the machine as well as the books and other resources used in the previous work. There will be copiers and scanners for gathering and collecting the information you need for your project. Dewane describes the library as “the hard drive of the machine.”
Room #4 — The Office Space
This contains a standard conference room with a whiteboard and some cubicles with desks. The office is for low intensity activity. Dewane imagines an administrator with a desk in the office who could help its users improve their work habits to optimize their efficiency.
Room #5 — Deep Work Chambers
Each chamber is conceived to be 6×10 feet and protected by soundproof walls (18 inches of insulation will ensure this). “The purpose of the deep work chamber is to allow for total focus and uninterrupted work flow” Dewane explains. He imagines a process in which you spend 90 minutes inside, take a 90 minute break and repeat 2–3 times — at which point your brain will have achieved its limit of concentration for the day.
Dewane points out that the Eudamonia Machine is just an idea and collection of architectural drawings designed to help us extract as much value from our brains as possible. Unfortunately, this vision is far from our current reality. What we have in our current work environment is:
– endless meetings.
– employees who would rather be on Facebook than doing meaningful work.
– hundreds of emails to manage every day and people who want replies instantly.
– managers who interrupt our workflow incessantly just as we are trying to get into a rhythm.
– people constantly getting alerts on their phone distracting them from their genius.