RENO, Nev. — In 2008, Chris Dancy took a hard look in the mirror — or, more accurately, the monitor.
A then-40-year-old computer software engineer and entrepreneur, Dancy ran on a steady diet of Diet Cokes, Marlboro Lights and McDonald's. In poor physical and mental health, Dancy, weighing over 300 pounds, took two different blood pressure medicines, a thyroid medication and antidepressants.
On top of that, he was broke.
“I was really struggling coming to terms with how much time I was spending in front of computers,” Dancy said in a phone interview with the NNBV. “I spent a majority of my time yelling at people … strangers and friends alike. I was perpetually broke; I had no concept of how to even think about money.
“There wasn’t an area of my life that wasn’t bad.”
Motivated to make a change, Dancy turned to technology — starting with self-tracking and recording his activities and behaviors — to help turn his life around.
“I just made a conscious decision that I need to use the only thing that I knew, which was my understanding of technology, to better understand myself,” said Dancy, who in the mid-90s led technical development for WebMD, and helped launch a number of successful tech startups centered on healthcare.
In the process, Dancy began using up to 700 sensors, devices, applications and services to track, analyze and optimize his life — from his calorie intake to his spiritual well-being, according to his website.
This earned him the moniker as “the most connected human on earth.” (Seriously, Google it.)
A decade later, Dancy has come a long way on his journey to self-discovery via tech.
“Today, I’m a non-smoking vegan Buddhist who weighs 190 pounds,” he told the NNBV.
A health and wellness pioneer, and healthcare technology leader, Dancy will be the keynote speaker at the Western Industrial Nevada (WIN) breakfast meeting on Aug. 24 at the Atlantis Casino Resort in Reno.
Dancy will spread a message of investigating how one connects with technology and how they can use that information to ground themselves and connect to a deeper sense of purpose.
“I think the two biggest problems that people face today are feeling constantly pulled with time and then constantly distracted by demands,” Dancy said. “So I’m going to really challenge them with … can we take the needs to be pulled by time and upend it so you actually start to control that feeling?”
Dancy will offer the audience tools and tips, such as simply removing the battery percentage off of one’s phone — “it’s very anxiety-provoking,” he said. He will also encourage attendees to set up smartphone reminders that tell them things that they need to know, not want know.
“I teach people to set up location-based reminders for mindfulness,” said Dancy, offering an example using virtual assistant technology. “Like, ‘Hey, Siri, remind me when I get to work to be kind to everyone … Hey, Siri, when I get home, remind me that my family loves me.’"
Quite simply, Dancy feels we can take distractions and start to use them for good.
“It’s really about teaching people the power of their devices and the distraction mode … to use them for what they value," he said. "And using them to start actually looking at their times as a way to quantify what they value. Because I lived out of my calendar. And it really became an exercise of … how do I stop valuing my schedule and start scheduling my values? And that’s a very, very profound shift in how you look at your time.”
Author of “Don’t Unplug,” out in September, Dancy will also discuss how companies can design software and services to support a gentler, kinder world. Moreover, he’ll help business leaders discover the five ways they can filter information and the three keys that will help them return that as wisdom to consumers.