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Aug 29, 2021
my main draw to the show is the stuff that's conducive to self-reflection and self-improvement. Those episodes are interspersed with informative stories that keep things fresh and interesting.
May 23, 2021
May 13, 2021
Apr 22, 2021
I find myself sharing episodes of AOM with friends more than any other podcast I listen to. Fascinating, intelligent and relevant content. Brett is a great interviewer. I am a woman 😬 but I often listen with my husband.
Apr 22, 2021
A wide ranging and philosophical discourse. Engaging conversions with an experienced host and interesting guests. Whatever your preconception about "The Art of Manliness" podcast, the stereotype is not borne out.
Let the Children Play!
In Finland, children don't start formal schooling until age seven, aren't subject to standardized testing, and always get at least one hour of physical activity a day, broken into 15-minute free-play breaks every hour, which take place outside no matter the weather. Finnish parents and teachers espouse mantras like, "Let children be children," "The children must play," and "The work of a child is to play." Yet despite this emphasis on play, Finnish students still achieve enviable academic outcomes, and grow up to become some of the happiest adults on earth.
My guest today says that the Finnish model of education and parenting, with its heavy emphasis on play, is worth replicating in other countries. His name is Pasi Sahlberg and he's a Finnish educator and researcher currently living in Australia, as well as the co-author, along with William Doyle, of the book Let the Children Play: How More Play Will Save Our Schools and Help Children Thrive. Pasi begins our conversation by sharing what the data says as to how much less kids are playing today than they did in the past, and the factors that have led to this decrease both at school and at home. We discuss the fact that even the play kids do now engage in is more structured and adult-directed, even sometimes involving something called a "recess coach," and how this has led to the sad phenomenon of children who no longer know how to play on their own. We then discuss what is lost when kids don't play enough, from a decline in physical and mental confidence to a decrease in creativity. We end our conversation with the elements of healthy play that educators and parents who want to revive it can look to incorporate in their children's lives.
Resources Related to the Podcast
Connect with Pasi
|Oct 20, 2021|
Time Management for Mortals
A lot of ink has been spilled on time management and productivity hacking; you can find endless tips on how to master your workflow, tame your inbox, slay your to-do list. Far less examined, however, is the philosophy that underlies these strategies. My guest says that when you do examine that philosophy, you find it doesn't actually align with lived experience.
His name is Oliver Burkeman, and in his book, 4,000 Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, he forwards a philosophy of time management that is more realistic and humane. Today on the show, Oliver makes the case for a kind of contrarian way to make the most of the 4,000 weeks of the average human lifespan, beginning with why he reached a point in his own life where he realized that standard methods of productivity hacking were futile and just made him feel busier and less happy. We then get into the fact that we'd like to do an infinite number of things, but are finite beings, and how this contrast creates an anxiety that we attempt to soothe and deny through productivity techniques. We then discuss the problem of treating time as a thing, a resource that's separate from the self, and how one antidote to this mindset is to do things for pure enjoyment alone. Oliver explains why engaging in efficiency for its own sake only creates more stuff to do, and why recognizing you can never "clear the decks" of your daily tasks, nor get everything done, can actually help you focus on the things that matter most. We end our conversation with why really digging into a deep philosophy of time by facing up to its stakes and engaging in what Oliver calls "cosmic insignificance therapy," can allow you to live a bolder, more meaningful life.
Resources Related to the Podcast
Connect With Oliver
|Oct 18, 2021|
Do You want to Be Rich or Wealthy? (And Why the Difference Matters)
Note: This is a rebroadcast. It originally aired in November 2020.
When we think about finance, we typically think about numbers and math. My guest today, however, argues that doing well with money is less about what you can put on a spreadsheet and more about what goes on in your mind, and that if you want to master personal finance, you've got to understand how things like your own history, unique view of the world, and fear and pride influence how you think.
His name is Morgan Housel, and he's an investor, a financial journalist, and the author of The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness. Morgan kicks off our conversation by explaining how doing well with money is less about what you know and more about how you behave, and illustrates this point by comparing the true stories of a janitor who saved millions and a prominent Wall Streeter who went bankrupt. He then explains how the seemingly crazy decisions people make around money actually make a kind of sense. From there we get into why you need to know the financial game you’re playing and not play someone else's. We then turn to why it's hard to be satisfied with your position in life when your expectations keep rising and why not continually moving your goalposts is the most important skill in personal finance. We discuss how getting off the never-ending treadmill of wanting more requires seeing money not just as a way to buy stuff but to gain greater autonomy, keeping the "man in the car paradox" in mind, and understanding the distinction between being rich and being wealthy. We then talk about the underappreciated, mind-boggling power of compound interest, using the example of Warren Buffet, who made 99% of his wealth after the age of 50. We then discuss why you should view volatility in the stock market as a fee rather than a fine, why pessimistic financial opinions are strangely more appealing than optimistic ones, and why it's best to split the difference and approach your money like a realistic optimist. We end our conversation with the two prongs of Morgan's iron law for building wealth.
If reading this in an email, click the title of the post to listen to the show.
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
|Oct 13, 2021|
Why We Get Sick
Cancer. Alzheimer's. Heart disease. Diabetes. Infertility. While these prevalent and dreaded diseases are caused by multiple factors, my guest says they also all share a common thread: a ubiquitous and too-little-understood condition called insulin resistance.
His name is Dr. Benjamin Bikman and he's a professor of biology and physiology, an expert in obesity and metabolic disorders, and the author of Why We Get Sick: The Hidden Epidemic at the Root of Most Chronic Disease — and How to Fight It. Ben begins our conversation by explaining insulin's role in the body, how it goes awry when it comes to Type I and II diabetes, and how giving Type II diabetics insulin to treat their disease actually makes them “fatter and sicker, and kills them faster.” We then turn to the fact that even if you don't have diabetes, you very likely still have insulin resistance (something helpful to keep in mind during this conversation is that "insulin resistance" is bad and "insulin sensitivity" is good), and the condition's three primary causes. Benjamin then unpacks how insulin resistance correlates with cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and reproductive health problems, including the fact that erectile dysfunction isn't a function of low testosterone, but insulin resistance. We then talk about the role of insulin resistance in someone's susceptibility to COVID-19. We end our conversation with the four pillars of reversing insulin resistance, including the role of diet and physical activity, and how these lifestyle changes can work to help relatively healthy people get healthier, all the way up to allowing diabetics to get off their medication.
I can't tell you how motivating this conversation was for me to start a habit of walking more during the day, as well as after dinner. I bet it will have the same effect on you.
Resources Related to the Podcast
Connect With Benjamin Bikman
|Oct 11, 2021|
The Confucian Gentleman
When you think about the word "gentleman," you probably think about the kind of well-mannered, well-educated, civil, virtuous, self-controlled fellows who lived in England and America during the 19th century.
But there was also a not-entirely-dissimilar conception of the gentleman that grew out of the East, though it arose quite a bit longer ago. This gentleman was described by the Chinese philosopher Confucius in a text called the Analects, which my guest says might be thought of as a 2,500-year-old set of advice columns for those who aspire to be exemplary individuals. His name is Robert LaFleur, and he's a professor of history and anthropology and the lecturer of the Great Courses course, Books That Matter: The Analects of Confucius. Today on the show Robert talks about how the Analects are all about learning to rule, and that Confucius believed that you couldn't lead a state, without being able to lead your family, and you couldn't lead a family, without being able to lead yourself. Robert argues that the Analects teach the reader how to integrate the kind of character traits and relational skills that are required to "get good at life," and how this aptitude centrally rests on living with a quality called "consummate conduct." Robert discusses the importance of what he calls "all-in" learning to the Confucian gentleman, the nuance to the idea of filial piety that Westerners typically miss, and the often overlooked check on this hierarchical dynamic called "remonstrance." We end our conversation with why Confucius so heavily emphasized the importance of ritual, and how rituals hold a transformative power that can allow you to become something bigger than yourself.
Resources Related to the Podcast
Connect With Robert LaFleur
|Oct 06, 2021|
Do You Need to Take a Dopamine Fast?
Her name is Anna Lembke and she's Chief of Stanford's Addiction Medicine Clinic and the author of the book Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in an Age of Indulgence. At the start of our conversation, Anna unpacks the definition of addiction, why she believes it applies equally well to substances like drugs as behaviors like using porn, and how it exists on a spectrum from the serious and severe to the mild and minor. Anna explains why life in our comfortable, pleasure-filled modern society is increasing the problem of addiction, and argues that the reason we're so miserable is that we're working so hard to avoid being miserable. She then digs into the science of why we become addicted to substances and behaviors and how it all comes down to our mind and body trying to seek balance between pleasure and pain. We discuss dopamine's role in this seesaw dynamic and how the substances and technologies of modernity can lead to a dopamine deficit.
We then walk through the process of getting a handle on your addiction, including the importance of doing a dopamine fast, and how long the fast needs to last to be effective. Anna shares tactics for sticking through this abstinence period, which include, counterintuitively, intentionally seeking out pain. She explains why a dopamine fast can help you rebalance your brain, what comes after it's over, and much more.
Check out the show notes at aom.is/dopaminenation
Resources Related to the Podcast
Connect with Anna Lembke
|Oct 04, 2021|
What the Labors of Hercules Can Teach You About Life and Masculinity
You're probably familiar with the mythological tale of Hercules (or "Heracles" as the hero was originally called) from books, comics, and movies. But while Hercules is often rendered as a kind of one-dimensional superhero in popular culture, my guest today argues that he's actually quite a complex character, and that the story of how he completed twelve epic labors has a lot to teach us about endurance, revenge, mental illness, violence, punishment, trauma, bereavement, friendship, love, and masculinity.
His name is Laurence Alison, and he's a forensic psychologist and an expert in interrogation, who's created a written and oral retelling of the classic myth. At the start of the show, Laurence shares how he's been using the story of the twelve labors of Hercules to facilitate reflection and discussion amongst military personnel and first responders, and how the labors can provide life insights for everyone. We then dig into the details of many of the labors of Hercules, from slaying a lion to cleaning out stables, and discuss what they can teach us about grappling with life's highs and lows, and what it means to be a man.
Resources Related to the Podcast
Find Laurence Alison's Hercules Retellings
|Sep 29, 2021|
How to Get Time, Priorities, and Energy Working in Your Favor
When you think of your assets, you probably think of your money. But you also have three other hugely important assets at your disposal too: your time, energy, and priorities. When you manage these assets poorly, you can feel overwhelmed and scattered and yet unproductive and unfulfilled. When you manage them well, things in your personal and professional life click, and you experience traction and satisfaction.
How do you avoid the first situation and achieve the second? My guest today, Carey Nieuwhof, provides answers in his book At Your Best: How to Get Time, Priorities, and Energy Working in Your Favor. We begin our conversation with Carey's story of achieving success, only to suffer burnout, and how burnout has become less of a job problem these days than a general life problem. We then talk about how to leave what Carey calls the "stress spiral" and get into the "thrive cycle." We discuss the two mental shifts you need to make to better manage your time, how to keep other people (and yourself) from hijacking your priorities, the power of categorical decision-making in separating the good from the best, and why you need to put even your personal commitments on your calendar. We also talk about scheduling your daily tasks into what Carey calls your green, yellow, and red energy zones, and how to spend your time more strategically.
|Sep 27, 2021|
The Power of Talking to Strangers
Look around a grocery store, airport lobby, or subway car, and you'll see a bunch of people who are physically together but distinctly separate, each off in their own world, often looking at their phones. In public environments like these, we rarely think to talk to others, and hope no one talks to us.
But my guest today says that initiating these kinds of interactions will not only be more edifying and enjoyable than we think, but holds a key to the sustaining of civilization. His name is Joe Keohane, and he's the author of The Power of Strangers: The Benefits of Connecting in a Suspicious World. Joe and I spend the first part of our conversation taking a high-level look at how talking with strangers makes individuals happier and society more connected, and why we so strenuously avoid these interactions, even though they almost invariably go better than we anticipate. We discuss how interacting with strangers helped expand human civilization, the codes that ancient cultures developed on how to treat strangers, and a theory as to why people are more social in places like Brazil than in Nordic countries. From there we turn to the more practical side of things and discuss how to develop or redevelop your ability to talk to strangers. Joe shares how to ask people how they’re doing in a way that will get a real response and a better question to ask people than what they do for a living. We also talk about how to change your perspective on small talk, and move it as quickly as possible into meatier territory. We end our conversation with how talking to strangers can overcome division and polarization in society, and how it's changed Joe's own life.
Check out the show notes at aom.is/strangers/
|Sep 22, 2021|
The Exercise Prescription for Depression and Anxiety
If you went to the doctor about treating your depression or anxiety, you might expect to be written a prescription for Zoloft or Xanax. But if you went in to see Dr. Jasper Smits, he might write you a different kind of prescription, one that instructed you to take a jog around the block.
Check out the show notes at aom.is/exerciseformood
|Sep 20, 2021|
Life's 10 Biggest Decisions
How many of your life’s ten biggest decisions have you already made?
|Sep 15, 2021|
Rewild Your Life
If you have one, take a look at your pet cat or dog. These animals descended from wildcats and wolves, but today live pretty sedate lives, walking around your house and yard, waiting for you to deliver some kibbles to their bowl.
Check out the show notes at aom.is/rewilding
|Sep 13, 2021|
The Character Traits That Drive Optimal Performance
Why do some people who look can't-miss high-achievers on paper end up floundering in life, while those who can seem like underdogs end up flourishing?
When my guest noticed this phenomenon while being involved in the selection process of veteran SEALs for a specialized command, it led him to the discovery that beneath more obvious skills are hidden drivers of performance, which he calls attributes. His name is Rich Diviney, and he's a retired Navy SEAL commander and the author of The Attributes: 25 Hidden Drivers of Optimal Performance. Today on the show, Rich discusses the difference between skills and attributes and how the latter can’t be taught, but can be developed. We then talk about the difference between peak and optimal performance, before turning to the attributes which drive the latter. We get into a discussion of the components of grit, the difference between discipline and self-discipline, why you should become something of a humble narcissist, and much more. We end our conversation with how to figure out the attributes you are and aren't strong in, and which you need for getting where you want to go.
Check out our show notes at aom.is/attributes
|Sep 08, 2021|
Being a Man in the Lousy Modern World
Note: This is a rebroadcast. It originally aired March 2020.
Emerson famously said “society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.”
My guest today says things have gotten a lot worse since Emerson uttered those words over a century and a half ago. His name is Robert Twigger. We last had him on the show to discuss his book Micromastery. Today we discuss a book he wrote 20 years ago called Being a Man in the Lousy Modern World. We begin our conversation discussing how the modern world infantilizes men so they’re easier to control, and whether Robert thinks things have changed since he initially published the book. We then dig into the four factors Robert says need to be in place for a man to feel like a man, and why experiencing these qualities has become harder to do in the present age. We then discuss what Robert did to counter the currents of modern malaise like hiking the Pyrenees mountains and learning a martial art, and whether doing those things actually made him feel manlier. We end our conversation with what men can do to start fighting back against the conspiracy against their manhood.
|Sep 06, 2021|
College — What It Was, Is, and Should Be
Modern students are apt to see going to college as the way to earn a credential that will help them get a good job. But as Andrew Delbanco, Professor of American Studies at Columbia University, argues in his book College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be, higher education was developed for a different purpose — one it should fight to maintain.
|Sep 01, 2021|
Could Sleeping in Separate Beds Improve Your Relationship?
When it comes to advice around getting better sleep, nearly all of it is directed at the individual sleeper who feels they've got room to improve: Here's what you might be doing wrong; here's how to straighten out your sleep hygiene. Yet for the millions of people who are sleeping with someone else in their bed, this advice leaves out a huge elephant in the room — the other person sharing your sheets.
As my guest today argues, a shared bed means shared sleep issues that need to be tackled with shared solutions. Her name is Dr. Wendy Troxel, she's a clinical psychologist, a sleep specialist, and the author of Sharing the Covers: Every Couple's Guide to Better Sleep. We begin our conversation by discussing how sleep not only affects people's relationships, but people's relationships affect their sleep, and how this bidirectional dynamic can become either a vicious or virtuous cycle, depending on the quality of sleep that a couple gets. We then talk about the various issues couples deal with in sharing a bed, from snoring to a mismatch in temperature preferences. We also get into the complications that come with bringing kids into the picture, and Wendy gives her take on the issue of family co-sleeping. From there we turn to solutions for shared sleep problems, and dig into the idea of sleeping in separate beds. Wendy unpacks the way the taboo around separate sleeping has waxed and waned throughout history, why it works for some couples, and the options for implementing it, from sleeping in separate bedrooms to a more moderate approach called the "Scandinavian Method." Wendy also gives advice to couples who want to continue to share the same bed, but struggle with the fact that one person is a morning bird and the other is a night owl.
|Aug 30, 2021|
The Conquering Father Who Made an Empire-Building Son
If asked to think about the greatest generals of the ancient world, one name is likely to come to mind first: Alexander the Great — the incomparable military commander who amassed the world's largest empire by the time he was but thirty years old. A name that probably won't come to mind, however, is that of Philip the II, Alexander's father.
|Aug 25, 2021|
How Moral Grandstanding Is Ruining Our Public Discourse
It's hard not to notice how heated and divided our public discourse has gotten, especially online. People insult and vilify each other, take unnuanced positions, and seem to be competing as to who can seem the most committed to a cause or the most outraged about an issue.
|Aug 23, 2021|
What a Man With 60,000 Books Can Teach You About Lifelong Learning and Building Your Home Library
Gary Hoover loves books. Among the nine companies he founded was the bookstore chain Bookstop, which was acquired by Barnes & Noble. He has a personal collection of 60,000 books, which he had to purchase an abandoned medical center to house. And he's the author of his own book, which is about books, called The Lifetime Learner's Guide to Reading and Learning.
Check out the show notes at aom.is/hoover
|Aug 18, 2021|
Tips From a Top TED Talker on How to Be Heard
Julian Treasure knows a thing or two about how to speak well. He's given five TED talks which have been watched over 125 million times, including one on, well, how to speak well, which resides in the top ten TED talks of all time.
But as a former audio branding strategist, Julian got his start in the world of hearing, and as the title of his book — How to Be Heard: Secrets for Powerful Speaking and Listening — implies, he believes that if you really want to be a good communicator, you've got to learn how to be a good listener. So that's where we begin our conversation today. Julian shares why becoming a skilled listener is so important, and the practices you can use to do so. We then segue into the vocal part of communication, and Julian shares the four foundations for powerful speaking that apply whether you're talking in a casual conversation or on the TED stage. He discusses what separates the best TED talks from the just so-so, the breathing practice and posture cue that will improve the effectiveness of your vocal toolbox, and how to make your voice more resonant. We also discuss the physical gestures to generally avoid when speaking, including "the placater," and a highly effective tip for refining your body language.
Show notes at aom.is/howtobeheard
|Aug 16, 2021|
A Futurist's Guide to Building the Life You Want
When people hear that Brian David Johnson is a futurist, they typically want him to offer up some predictions for what the world will look like 10, 20, 50 years from now. But Brian will explain to them that being a futurist is less about predicting the future than envisioning possibilities for it, choosing the one you want to build, and figuring out how to get there from the present.
|Aug 11, 2021|
The Hell-Raising Leader of WWII's Filthy Thirteen
If you have any interest in World War II, then you've surely seen one of the most arresting photographs to come out of that conflict. In it, members of the 101st Airborne Division can be seen sporting mohawks and applying war paint to each other's faces right before they're set to parachute into Normandy. The idea for that pre-battle ritual came from Jake McNiece, part Choctaw Indian and the section sergeant of the Army's notorious "Filthy Thirteen" demolition unit, who had already proved himself a highly unorthodox leader long before the countdown to D-Day.
Today on the show, Richard Killblane shares the story of Jake McNiece and the Filthy Thirteen with us. Richard is the author of two books about the unit — The Filthy Thirteen and War Paint — and is himself a veteran of the Army's Special Forces who served at every level in the military from private soldier to company commander, and ended his career as the Command Historian for the U.S. Army Transportation Corps. Richard describes how you could already see the kind of hell-raising-but-effective leader McNiece would become during his youth in Oklahoma, and why McNiece chose to become a paratrooper. Richard then talks about all the trouble McNiece got into during boot camp, how he ended up leading a section of fellow renegades, and why his superior officers kept him around despite his pattern of engaging in deliberate disobedience. Richard then explains what was going on with the Filthy Thirteen's pre-Normandy Invasion mohawks and war paint, and what McNiece and his men did on D-Day and during the rest of the war. Richard explains why it was that McNiece got promoted, despite never changing his rebellious ways, and we end our conversation with his surprising transformation after the war.
|Aug 09, 2021|
How to Fight Internet-Induced Numbness
The ironic thing about our digital devices, is that they promise constant stimulation . . . and yet we find they end up making us feel numb. Numb in terms of struggling to be present. Numb in feeling overloaded with information and choices. Numb in feeling like we often view even our own experiences from a third-party perspective.
My guest today, Dr. Charles Chaffin, has written a book called Numb: How the Information Age Dulls Our Senses and How We Can Get Them Back, which explores the various ways internet-induced numbness manifests itself, from FOMO to choice overload on dating apps. On the show today we focus in particular on how the news media and social media can negatively alter the way we experience life and what to do about it. We first discuss how recovering our sense of engagement with life begins with thinking about the fact that our attention is a finite resource, and being intentional about how we direct that resource. We then discuss how to deal with what Charles calls the "attention panhandlers" who vie for our engagement online. Charles talks about the phenomenon of compassion fatigue, where there are so many worthy causes you could take up, that you end up doing nothing at all. We then discuss how Instagram can change the way you experience life in an age where we can all feel like content creators. We end our conversation with how to wrest back control of your attention, and use it towards action rather than distraction.
After the show is over, check out the show notes at aom.is/numb
|Aug 04, 2021|
Improve Your Productivity With the Power of Deadlines
Everyone has experienced the way deadlines can act as a double-edged sword: on the one hand, they force us to get stuff done; but on the other, they often push us to wait until the last minute to get to work, so that we do that work in a poorly executed, slapdash rush. Scientists call that latter dynamic "the deadline effect," and my guest today has taken a field-tested dive into how to manage it, so that you can get the advantages of deadlines, without suffering from their downsides.
|Aug 02, 2021|
How Doing a Life Review Can Help Your Understand Your Past, Present, and Future
Who and where do you want to be in the future? It's a question we typically answer by looking ahead. But, my guest would say, you can actually best find the answer by looking back.
His name is William Damon, and he's a Stanford psychologist who studies adult development and purpose, and the author of A Round of Golf With My Father: The New Psychology of Exploring Your Past to Make Peace With Your Present. On the show today, Bill explains why you should consider doing something called a "life review," a process you can initiate at any age in order to get greater clarity on what is now probably a blur of memories around how you ended up who and where you are today. Bill explains the steps of doing a life review, and how doing one can do two things for you: 1) help you think more positively and gratefully about your life story — even its regrets — and understand why you made certain choices and developed as you did, and 2) help you refine your life's purpose, recognize that you can change and grow no matter where you are in the life cycle, and chart a course for further development in the future. Bill does this through the lens of the fascinating story around how he came to do his own life review, in order to better get to know himself, by getting to know his father, who he was told growing up was killed in World War II, but, Bill would discover, in fact survived the war and led a more complex life than Bill could have imagined.
|Jul 28, 2021|
What's Causing the Male Friendship Recession?
According to a recent survey, the percentage of men with at least six close friends has fallen by half since 1990, and men today are 5X more likely to say they don't even have a single close friend than they were thirty years ago.
|Jul 26, 2021|
The Curse of the Self
What a gift the human self is. It enables you to sense and reflect upon your own existence; examine the past and plan for the future; check certain impulses in order to reach for other aims; and conceptualize how others see you, allowing you to better connect with them.
But, my guest says, the blessing of the self also comes with a curse, one we need to get a handle on if we're to live flourishing lives. His name is Mark Leary, and he's a professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience and the author of The Curse of the Self: Self-Awareness, Egotism, and the Quality of Human Life. Today on the show, Mark unpacks exactly what the self is and its vital benefits, before delving into the downsides that also come with having a self. Mark then shares how people can make the most of the advantages of the self, while mitigating its disadvantages, including the practice he most recommends for quieting the kinds of self-related thoughts and ego-driven behaviors that can make us miserable.
|Jul 21, 2021|
The Strange Science of Sweat
Start jogging around the block, or simply sitting outside on a hot summer day, and you begin to feel moisture develop all over your body. Maybe a drop of sweat will roll down your face. Your clothes get sticky. You start feeling in greater intensity a process that's actually going on all the time: sweating.
You may never have thought too much about your sweat, or perhaps been a little embarrassed by it when your sweat became noticeable in a socially delicate situation. But my guest today says that human sweat is in fact incredibly fascinating, and something you should embrace with real appreciation and enthusiasm. Her name is Sarah Everts and she's a science journalist and the author of The Joy of Sweat: The Strange Science of Perspiration. Sarah and I begin our conversation with what sweat is, the two kinds your body produces, and how human sweating is unique and what Sarah calls our species' superpower. We then get into the surprising quickness with which the things we drink start coming out of our pores, why we sweat when we're anxious or nervous, whether how much you personally sweat comes down to genetics or environment, and why the fitter you are, the more you sweat. Sarah unpacks whether there are differences between how men and women sweat and smell, whether our dislike for body odor is innate or culturally conditioned, why some people are smellier than others, and the role that smell and pheromones play in attraction. Sarah also explains whether antiperspirants are bad for you and if you should switch to natural deodorant. We end our conversation with why it feels so good to make ourselves intentionally sweat through things like sauna-ing, and whether hitting the sauna can detox your body.
|Jul 19, 2021|
Men Without Chests
“We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”
While this quote from C.S. Lewis is often cited, few completely understand what Lewis meant by it, nor understand the book from which it was taken, The Abolition of Man, which, unlike Lewis's more popular works of fiction and Christian apologetics, is a broad philosophical treatise aimed at everyone, and perhaps the most admired and yet least accessible of Lewis's writings.
My guest today has written a guide, called After Humanity, that is designed to make The Abolition of Man more understandable to the average reader. His name is Dr. Michael Ward and he's both a Catholic priest and a Senior Research Fellow at Oxford. Michael kicks off our conversation by offering a big picture overview of what The Abolition of Man was about, which centers on Lewis's argument against subjectivism, and for the idea that there exists objective moral values, the denial of which brings destructive consequences. We unpack the case Lewis makes for the existence of a natural order which underlies all religions and cultures, and why he called this universal, objective reality the "Tao." We then get into what Lewis meant by the idea of making "men without chests," the function of a man's chest, and why chests aren't being developed. We end our conversation with why moral debates can seem so shrill and fruitless in a world without agreement upon objective values, and if anything can be done to build the chests of modern men.
|Jul 14, 2021|
Think More Strategically
A lot of organizations and individuals will set some aim for themselves, and then, when they reach the point where they should be seeing progress, but don't, seem surprised that things haven't worked out the way they hoped. They shouldn't be surprised, my guest would say, if they never had a strategy in place for reaching their goals.
|Jul 12, 2021|
The Psychology of Effective Weight Loss
When most people think about losing weight, they think about the details of a diet plan — what food to eat, how much of it to eat, and when to eat it. What they don’t spend enough time working on, are the mental and emotional habits that can sabotage their efforts, regardless of the diet plan they adopt.
That’s why my guest today, despite being a biochemist, has made mindset the foundation of his approach to losing weight. His name is Dr. Trevor Kashey and he’s the founder of Trevor Kashey Nutrition (TKN). We begin our conversation with a thumbnail of Trevor’s unique background, which includes earning his first university degree in biochemistry at the age of 17, setting national records in powerlifting, and coaching an Olympic fight team, as well as how he went from coaching elite athletes to helping average folks lose weight. We then talk about why Trevor focuses on bridging the gap between knowledge and action, and the erroneous assumptions people make that keep them from following through on their intentions. From there we turn to the phases TKN takes its clients through, which begins with getting what Trevor calls “food clarity.” We discuss how simply tracking what you eat can get you to naturally change your diet because of something called “the Hawthorne effect,” and can almost be all you need to do to start losing weight. We then get into how to deal with your hunger when you’re cutting calories, and why it’s crucial to be decisive about it. We also discuss how you can eventually eat more once you work on eating less, how to manage the expectation of consistent weight loss, and why you really need to weigh yourself every week.
|Jul 07, 2021|
A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling
Editor's Note: This is a rebroadcast. It originally aired June 2020.
One of the most burning questions in life is what it is you’re called to do with it. What is your life’s purpose? What great work are you meant to do?
Guidance on this question can come from many sources, and my guest today says that one of the best is the Bhagavad Gita, a text of Hindu scripture thousands of years old. He’s a psychotherapist, yoga teacher, and author of The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling. Stephen Cope and I begin our conversation with an introduction to the Bhagavad Gita, the significant influence it’s had on philosophers and leaders for ages, and what it can teach us about making difficult decisions. We then discuss the insights the Gita offers on the four pillars of right living, beginning with discerning your true calling or sacred duty. We unpack the three areas in your life to examine for clues to your life’s purpose, and why that purpose may be small and quiet rather than big and splashy. Stephen then explains the doctrine of unified action, why you have to pursue your calling full out, and why that pursuit should include the habit of deliberate practice. We also discuss why it’s central to let go of the outcome of actions to focus on the work itself, and the need to turn your efforts over to something bigger than yourself. All along the way, Stephen offers examples of how these pillars were embodied in the lives of eminent individuals who lived out their purpose.
|Jul 05, 2021|
The Secrets to Making the Perfect Burger
When Chris Kronner took his first head chef position at an upscale restaurant, he inherited a menu which featured a popular burger. At first he resented having to hold onto it. But then he began to wonder, and be captured by, how he might experiment with and elevate this sandwich standby. Thus began a decade-long obsession with creating the perfect, mouth-wateringly tasty burger.
Get the show notes at aom.is/burger.
|Jun 30, 2021|
The Surprising Pessimism of America's Founding Fathers
When Americans think about their country's Founding Fathers, they tend to think of them as cool and competent figures, who were supremely confident in the superiority and longevity of the republican government they had created.
But my guest says that nearly all the founders experienced great internal and external conflict in conjunction with the new government, and came to be greatly pessimistic about the future of the democratic experiment they had helped birth. His name is Dennis C. Rasmussen and he's a professor of political theory and the author of Fears of a Setting Sun: The Disillusionment of America's Founders. Today on the show, Dennis unpacks how four of the founders — George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson — ultimately came to worry that the American republic wouldn't last past their own generation, based on concerns that ranged from the rise of partisanship to a lack of virtue amongst the American citizenry. Dennis also discusses why it was that one founder, James Madison, remained optimistic about the future of the country. We end our conversation with why the disillusionment of the founders actually carries a message of hope for us.
Get the show notes at aom.is/settingsun.
|Jun 28, 2021|
How to Use Digital Body Language to Build Trust and Connection
Three-quarters of our face-to-face communication with other people is given through nonverbal cues — the way we smile, hold our arms, raise or lower our voice, and so on. This body language is what helps us make a good impression, build rapport, and collaborate and create with others.
Get the show notes at aom.is/digitalbodylanguage.
|Jun 23, 2021|
The Stranger in the Woods — The Story of the Last True Hermit
Editor's Note: This is a rebroadcast. The episode originally aired in November 2017.
Have you ever just wanted to get in your car, drive off into the middle of nowhere, leave behind the hustle and bustle of civilization, and just be by yourself?
Well, in 1986 a man named Christopher Knight did just that and lived alone in the Maine woods without any, any human contact for 27 years until he was discovered in 2013.
My guest today wrote a biography — The Stranger in the Woods — about this man who locals called “the Hermit of the North Pond.” His name is Michael Finkel and today on the show we discuss how Chris survived alone in the Maine woods by himself, but more importantly, why Chris wanted to be by himself for so long. By looking at the life of one of the modern world's last true hermits, Michael and I explore the idea of hermitage, solitude, and why being an individual requires you to be alone.
Get the show notes at aom.is/hermit.
|Jun 21, 2021|
The Fraught, Relatable Relationship Between Winston Churchill and His Son
Winston Churchill once said of his only son: "I love Randolph, but I don't like him." It's a sentiment many a parent with a tumultuous relationship with one of their children can relate to, and well describes both how Winston felt about Randolph, and how Randolph felt about his father.
Get the show notes at aom.is/churchillandson.
|Jun 16, 2021|
How to Make Your Life More Effortless
When we're failing to do the things that are most important in our lives, the typical diagnosis of the problem is to believe we're simply not working hard enough, and the typical solution to the problem is to put in more effort, apply more discipline, and grind it out.
My guest would say that we're thinking about both the root and the remedy of the issue in the wrong way. His name is Greg McKeown, and he's the author of the bestseller Essentialism, as well as his latest book, Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most. Today on the show, Greg shares how he came to realize that life isn't just about focusing on the essentials, but making those essential things the easy things. We discuss why it is that we commonly make things harder than they need to be, and how while the right thing can be hard, just because something is hard, doesn't make it the right thing. We then discuss the role that emotions like gratitude play in making things feel more effortless, why you need to have a clear vision of what being done looks like (including having a Done for the Day list), how to overcome the difficulty of getting started with things through microbursts of action, and how to keep going with them using a sustainable pace marked by upper and lower bounds. We end our conversation with how seeking an effortless state applies to one's spiritual life. Along the way, Greg shares stories from history and his own life as to what it means to get to your goals using a more effortless path.
Get the show notes at aom.is/effortless.
|Jun 14, 2021|
What's the Most Sustainable Diet?
If you're someone who wants to lose weight, you've probably spent some time thinking about and experimenting with different diets. Browse the literal shelves of a bookstore or the metaphorical ones of the internet, and you can find thousands of options to choose from, each with their ardent fans and supposedly decisive rationales. But which diet really works best, and, most importantly, given that 95% of people who lose weight on one gain it back, is a plan that an average human can stick with for the long haul?
My guest today is in a distinctly well-informed position to comment on this question, having personally test-driven over a dozen diets in three years. His name is Barry Estabrook, and he's an investigative journalist and the author of Just Eat: One Reporter's Quest for a Weight-Loss Regimen That Works. We begin our conversation with what set Barry on his quest to find the best, most sustainable diet. We then get into the fact that the ideas behind modern diets aren't new, and the sometimes weird history of their predecessors. From there we turn to Barry's experiments with contemporary diets, including what happened when he tried eating both low-carb and low-fat, joining Weight Watchers, and figuring out what he could learn from the eating habits of the Greeks and French. We end our conversation with what Barry ultimately changed about his own diet to successfully drop the pounds, and what he discovered as to what really works best for sustainable weight loss.
Get the show notes at aom.is/rightdiet.
|Jun 09, 2021|
Why Do We Want What We Want?
Why do we want the things we want? While we'll offer up plenty of reasons to explain our choices, my guest today says the real reason we want what we want is this: other people in our lives want those same things.
Get the show notes at aom.is/wanting.
|Jun 07, 2021|
How to Predict the Weather (No Apps Required)
When you're deciding what to wear in the morning, or on the viability of some activity for the weekend, you'll likely turn to a weather app to see what the forecast holds. My guest today would suggest supplementing that habit with another: actually going outside, looking at the sky and feeling the air in order to engage in an ancient and satisfying practice and build a more intimate relationship with the weather and the world around you.
His name is Tristan Gooley and he's a master outdoorsman, expert natural navigator, and global adventurer, as well as the author of The Secret World of Weather: How to Read Signs in Every Cloud, Breeze, Hill, Street, Plant, Animal, and Dewdrop. Tristan and I begin our conversation with how modern meteorological science is incredibly useful, but has also disconnected us from the weather signs right in front of our faces, as well as the different microclimates that can exist even on two different sides of a tree. We then do a quick review of some of the basic scientific/meteorological principles that underlie understanding the weather, before turning to the concrete, research-backed, field-tested, signs you can observe in your environment to predict the weather, like the shape and height of clouds, and why you should check those clouds from lunchtime onward. We discuss whether there's truth to the old saying, "red sky at night, sailors' delight; red sky in morning, sailors take warning," and what changes in plants and the behavior of animals can tell you about the coming forecast, We end our conversation with how to get started today with predicting the weather using natural signs.
Get the show notes at aom.is/weather.
|Jun 02, 2021|
What Plato’s Republic Has to Say About Being a Man
Editor’s Note: This is a re-broadcast. This episode originally aired in April 2019.
Plato’s Republic is a seminal treatise in Western political philosophy and thought. It hits on ideas that we’re still grappling with in our own time, including the nature of justice and what the ideal political system looks like. But my guest today argues that The Republic also has a lot to say about manliness, character development, and education in our current climate of safe spaces and trigger warnings.
His name is Jacob Howland. He’s a professor of philosophy at the University of Tulsa and the author of the recent book Glaucon’s Fate: History, Myth, and Character in Plato’s Republic. We begin our conversation with an outline of Plato’s Republic and how it combines literature and philosophy. Jacob then makes the case that in The Republic, Socrates was attempting to save the soul of Plato’s politically ambitious brother, Glaucon, and why he thinks Socrates failed. Along the way we discuss what Socrates’ attempt to save Glaucon can teach us about andreia or manliness and what it means to seek the Good in life. We end our conversation discussing the way The Republic teaches us of the need to possess not only physical courage, but the courage to think for oneself and stand up for one’s beliefs — a courage that is tested in a time like our own, where it can feel difficult to ask hard questions and wrestle with thorny issues.
Get the show notes at aom.is/republic.
|Jun 01, 2021|
The Men and Mission of WWII's Unsinkable U.S.S. Plunkett
Seventy-six years years after the end of World War II, that singular event continues to capture our interest and fascination. There's a reason for that; the war combined two greatly compelling things — the epic, historic sweep of large-scale battles and the personal stories of the individual young men who fought in them with determined resolve and humble heroism.
My guest has written a book that deftly combines both of these elements into a thoroughly memorable tale. His name is James Sullivan and he's the author of Unsinkable: Five Men and the Indomitable Run of the U.S.S. Plunkett. Today on the show, Jim shares the story of the Plunkett — the only Navy ship to participate in every Allied invasion in the European theatre — as well as the stories of a group of men who served on this destroyer. We begin with the personal connection Jim has to the Plunkett, and how he got interested in learning more about the ship. Jim then explains the role the Navy's destroyers played during WWII, before getting into the backstories of some of the men who served aboard the Plunkett. From there we delve into the escorting and landing operations the Plunkett was involved in leading up to its arrival along the Italian coast at Anzio, where a dozen German bombers bore down on the ship in one of the most savage attacks of the war, and how the ship yet lived to fight another day. We end our conversation with what happened to the men Jim profiled, how the war affected their lives, and how their lives affected Jim.
Get the show notes at aom.is/unsinkable.
|May 26, 2021|
How to Plan the Ultimate Road Trip
After more than a year of being cooped up due to pandemic restrictions, lots of people are itching to hit the open road and get the heck out of dodge. If that's you, my guests have some great tips for planning and executing an awesome road trip. Their names are Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi and they're the proprietors of the RV Atlas blog and podcast, the authors of several books on camping and road tripping, and veteran road trippers themselves, having, together with their three boys, spent over a thousand nights at hundreds of campgrounds from coast to coast.
We start off our conversation with how the Puglisis began road tripping with a pop-up camper, and the benefits of driving places rather than flying. We then get into how to dip your toes into RVing without a big commitment, and whether there’s an ideal age to start taking RV trips with your kids. From there we get into best practices for planning and executing a road trip, whether you're going by RV or car, including the biggest mistakes people make, the art of road trip snacks, and when it's better to fly versus drive. We also talk about how to keep kids entertained on the road, including how to handle the issue of screen time. We end our conversation with the benefits of staying at campsites rather than hotels, why you might want to look into private KOA campgrounds, and why planning a great road trip always starts with picking a great destination.
Get the show notes at aom.is/roadtrip.
|May 24, 2021|
The Spartans at Thermopylae
So wrote the Greek historian Herodotus, our main source as to what happened at the Battle of Thermopylae, clearly impressed by the bravery the Spartans showed in making a stand against multitudes of invading Persian warriors.
Even down to the present time, this legendary battle continues to capture our imagination, and my guest today will go beyond pop culture depictions of it, to describe what really led up to Thermopylae, how the epic clash that happened in a narrow coastal pass in Greece unfolded, and why it matters. His name is Paul Cartledge, and he's an ancient historian, professor of Greek culture, and the author of several books on Sparta, including Thermopylae: The Battle That Changed the World. At the start of the show, Paul describes Sparta's martial training system which allowed it to become a dominant power in Greece, the Spartans relationship with other city-states, and how they ended up partnering with their sometimes enemy, Athens, in repelling a second Persian invasion. We discuss who made up the famous 300 Spartan warriors who would defend the Grecian pass to the death, how they armed and prepared for combat, and what happened over three days of battle. We end our conversation with the importance of the Spartans' courageous stand at Thermopylae not only in the outcome of the Greco-Persian Wars, but the course of world history.
Get the show notes at aom.is/thermopylae.
|May 19, 2021|
The Art of Conversation — A Guided Tour of a Neglected Pleasure
How do you form a meaningful connection with another person? Well, it starts with simply opening your mouth. From there, my guest says, you want to progress through a conversation, or perhaps a series of conversations, in a particular sequence of stages that will form an effective on-ramp towards a stronger relationship.
Her name is Judy Apps, she's a speaking and voice coach and the author of several books on communication, including The Art of Conversation. Today Judy and I discuss that art, beginning with why it's so important to learn. We then get into the different levels a conversation should progress through in order to build intimacy and smoothly segue into discussing the things that matter most. Judy explains how to bring the kind of energy to a conversation that creates connection, and two exercises you can use to overcome the self-consciousness that can thwart that energy. Along the way, we discuss how conversation is both a game that you can have fun practicing, and a dance that can flow into some of life's most magical moments.
Get the show notes at aom.is/artofconversation.
|May 17, 2021|
Overcoming the Comfort Crisis
Our world has never been more convenient and comfortable. With just a few taps of our fingers, we can order food to our door, access endless entertainment options, and keep our climate at a steady 72 degrees. We don't have to put in much effort, much less face any risk or challenge, in order to sustain our daily lives.
Get the show notes at aom.is/comfortcrisis.
|May 12, 2021|
Did You Pick the Right Partner?
Whether you've been dating someone for a short time or been married for years, there's one question that can remain perennially interesting — did I choose the right partner?
Get the show notes at aom.is/love.
|May 10, 2021|
The (Non-Cliche) Life Lessons of Fly Fishing
Fishing has long lent itself to imparting philosophical parallels and metaphorical life lessons. But these homespun platitudes can, to be honest, tend to get a little timeworn and cliche.
My guest today breathes new life into what fishing, specifically fly fishing, has to teach anglers and non-anglers alike, while also giving us a look inside the skill, fun, and sensibilities of this sport. His name is David Coggins, and he's a travel and style writer, as well as the author of The Optimist: A Case for the Fly Fishing Life. David and I discuss the different types of fly fishing that exist, and what they say about your personality, stage in life, and how we all choose the way we're going to do something. We then discuss the way that pursuits like fly fishing are not just about their mechanics, but the experience as a whole, which includes things like eating hash browns at a diner in Montana. We talk about the importance of mentors, and David's experience with two old guys who showed him the fly fishing ropes. We then get into why men love getting ready for something as much as actually doing it, before delving into the tension between wanting to nab a fish, and being okay when you don't, and how part of growing up is learning how to care, but not care. We end our conversation with the best route for getting into the fly fishing life, and how you can get started in a way that's both affordable and close to home.
Get the show notes at aom.is/flyfish.
|May 05, 2021|
The Best Tools for Personal Change
There's no shortage of information out there on how to change — how to lose weight, exercise more, curb your anger, quit smoking, and every other kind of habit someone might want to pick up or drop.
But despite this avalanche of information, you're probably struggling to change just as much as you ever did.
What you need is an actual strategy — to identify what particular barrier is keeping you from a particular goal, and a specific solution to that specific roadblock.
My guest is well-positioned to help you cut through the voluminous noise around personal change and hone in on both sides of this equation. Her name is Katy Milkman, and she's a Wharton professor who's spent her career studying behavioral economics and the author of How to Change: The Science of Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. On the show today, Katy and I walk through common reasons people aren't successful in changing, and the best, research-backed tools for turning uphill battles into downhill ones. We discuss the ideal times to begin a new habit and the power of fresh starts, how to get motivated to tackle something when there are more pleasurable things you'd rather be doing, how to use commitment devices to stay the course, why giving advice to someone else can help you take that advice yourself, and the crucial importance of surrounding yourself with peers who are better — but not too much better — than you are.
Get the show notes at aom.is/toolsforchange.
|May 03, 2021|
How to Keep Your Edge as You Get Older
It's a common life trajectory for men: graduate college, get married, get a 9 to 5 job, have some kids, settle down in the suburbs. And somewhere along that way, they start to get a little soft and stagnant. They let themselves go, becoming less active, and more sedentary. They have more material possessions but fewer hobbies and interests. They lose their edge.
Get the show notes at aom.is/edge.
|Apr 28, 2021|
The Hidden Qualities of Genius
We tend to throw the word "genius" around pretty casually, saying so-and-so has a genius for a particular skill, or sarcastically pointing out someone's failure by saying, "Nice work, genius!"
But what makes an actual genius, a genius?
My guest today has spent over two decades exploring that question by studying the world's most iconic and original thinkers and creators, both past and present. His name is Craig Wright, he's a professor emeritus of music at Yale who continues to teach a course there called "Exploring the Nature of Genius," and he's the author of The Hidden Habits of Genius: Beyond Talent, IQ, and Grit—Unlocking the Secrets of Greatness. Today on the show Craig reveals the characteristics and patterns of behavior of true geniuses, and begins by answering the questions of whether there's a connection between genius and intelligence, and whether genius is hereditary. We talk about several drivers of genius, including situational advantages, a childlike ability to play with possibilities, a keen curiosity, a strong memory, broad interests and vision, the ability to toggle between intense concentration and loose relaxation, and keeping a daily routine. We then discuss whether there's a connection between genius and mental health issues, and what effect being a genius tends to have on someone's personal life. Along the way, Craig illustrates his points with examples from the lives of Mozart, da Vinci, Steve Jobs, and more.
Get the show notes at aom.is/genius.
|Apr 26, 2021|
One Man's Impossible Quest — To Make Friends in Adulthood
Several years ago, there was a tweet that went viral which said that of Jesus' many miracles, perhaps his greatest, was having 12 close friends in his 30s.
As people say, it's funny, because it's true.
When my guest today came face-to-face with the anemic state of his own friendships, he set out to try to do the miraculous himself, and make friends in middle-age. His name is Billy Baker and he's a journalist and the author of We Need to Hang Out: A Memoir of Making Friends. Billy and I begin our conversation with the problem of male loneliness in the modern age, and how it befell him in his own life. We then discuss how men and women do friendships differently, the way men do theirs shoulder to shoulder, what this means for what male friendships need to be built around, and why they require what he calls “velvet hooks.” Billy shares how he started his project, which experimented with different ways to recover and create connections, by rekindling his old friendships, but why that ultimately didn't scratch the friendship itch for him. Billy then describes what did: a kind of casual fraternity for middle-aged men he started, and how it was inspired by something called the "men’s shed" movement in Australia and its philosophy that men need "somewhere to go, something to do, and someone to talk to." We end our conversation with Billy's takeaways for making friends in adulthood, including the need for embracing intentionality and social risk.
Get the show notes at aom.is/makefriends.
|Apr 21, 2021|
Why Are We Restless?
Most everyone has experienced restlessness from time to time. A feeling of wanting more, but being unsure of how to find it; of struggling with distraction, but being unsure of what to focus on; of striking out in various directions, but not feeling any more fulfilled.
Get the show notes at aom.is/restlessness.
|Apr 19, 2021|
The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini
Quick, think of a famous magician.
Dimes to donuts, you just thought of Harry Houdini.
Though it's been almost a century since his death, Houdini still occupies a prime place in the cultural imagination, and my guest explains why in his book, The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini, and for us today on the show. His name is Joe Posnanski, and we begin our conversation with Houdini's childhood -- how he mythologized it and carved a path out for himself from his desire to not be like his father. We then discuss Houdini's early days as a magician, the trick he honed that helped make his name, and the outsized importance of that name in his fame and legacy. We then explore how escape artistry became Houdini's calling card and why it resonated so much with the public. We get into the way Houdini brought an athlete's physicality and mindset to his performances, and how the difference between magic and escape artistry can be described as the difference between the impossible and the amazing. From there we turn to the fact that Houdini was, and wasn't, interested in money, his insatiable ambition and drive for fame, and how even the turn he took later in life towards debunking spiritualism kept him in the public eye. We end our conversation with why some modern magicians downplay Houdini's talents, while he yet remains an enduring cultural icon amongst the public.
Get the show notes at aom.is/houdini.
|Apr 14, 2021|
The No-Nonsense Guide to Simplifying Every Aspect of Your Life
Before Gary Collins left a bureaucratic government job to pursue a more independent existence off the grid, he had to work on downsizing and decluttering his life. The lessons he learned in ultimately achieving that aim apply to everyone — even those with no plans to leave civilization — who would like to lead a simpler life.
Gary shares those lessons in his book The Simple Life Guide to Decluttering Your Life, and with us today on the show. We begin with why it's so easy to get caught up in the consumerism-driven "cult of clutter," how the clutter it generates extends far past a person's tangible stuff, and the cost it exacts from our lives in both financial and psychological terms. Gary then explains how to simplify and declutter every aspect of your life — the material, of course, but also the technological, informational, and even social. Along the way, this self-described "redneck hippie" offers no-nonsense advice that refreshingly departs from the kind of soft glow, artfully arranged, white background pictures of minimalism you might find on Instagram. Because Gary's not on Instagram. That would be clutter.
Get the show notes at aom.is/simplelife.
|Apr 12, 2021|
The Secrets of Public Speaking From History's Greatest Orators
Despite the fact that public speaking remains an important and relevant skill in our modern age -- you never know when you'll need to give a toast at a wedding, pitch an idea at work, or champion a proposal at a city council meeting -- most of us get very little instruction these days in how to do it effectively.
Fortunately, my guest says, we can look to the great orators of the past to get the public speaking education we never received. His name is John Hale, and he's professor of archeology as well the lecturer of The Great Courses course Art of Public Speaking: Lessons from the Greatest Speeches in History. Today on the show, John shares what we can learn about the physicality of public speaking from Demontheses of Athens, the importance of empathetic body language from Patrick Henry, the effective use of humor from Will Rogers, the power of three from the apostle Paul, and the potency of brevity and well-executed organization from Abraham Lincoln.
Get the show notes at aom.is/publicspeak.
|Apr 07, 2021|
Social Psychology Won't Save Us
When it comes to proposed solutions to life's problems, whether on an individual or societal scale, the four most commonly used words these days are "According to a study . . . " This phrase is used by journalists and media outlets; we certainly use it a lot in AoM articles. And it's used in the rationales that are forwarded for implementing some new program in a school or other institution.
My guest, however, questions whether we really should be lending the research of social psychologists and behavioral scientists so much weight.
His name is Jesse Singal and he's the author of The Quick Fix: Why Fad Psychology Can't Cure Our Social Ills. Today on the show, Jesse explains how social psychology has come to such prominence in our culture, the role things like TED talks have played in its rise, and yet how the replication crisis calls into question the legitimacy of the field's growing influence. We discuss why the solutions sometimes offered by behavioral science are both seductive and flawed, and how this dynamic played out in the self-esteem movement of the 1990s. We then discuss if another fad of social science, power posing, actually works, before turning to how the problems of positive psychology are exemplified in a program the military adopted to help soldiers with PTSD. We end our conversation with whether the idea of grit is all it's cracked up to be, and how ultimately, there are no quick fixes to life's big problems.
Get the show notes at aom.is/quickfix.
|Apr 05, 2021|
Forging Mental Strength Through Physical Strength
Editor’s Note: This is a re-broadcast. This episode originally aired in June 2018.
When you start a fitness program, you tend to spend most of your time thinking about the physical part — what movements you’re going to do, how much weight you’re going to lift, or how far you’re going to run. But my guest today argues we ignore the mental aspect of our training at our peril. His name is Bobby Maximus. He’s a world-renowned trainer known for his brutal circuit workouts and the author of the new book Maximus Body.
Today on the show Bobby and I dig into the psychology of fitness. We begin by discussing what holds people back from getting started or going further with their goals and how sticking little green dots all over your house can help you surmount those barriers. He then shares why it’s important to manage expectations when beginning a training program and why there are no shortcuts to any goal. We then shift gears and get into Bobby’s training philosophy. He shares how to train to be “ready for everything,” why you need to do strength training before your endurance work, and why recovery is so important in reaching your fitness goals.
We end our conversation with some examples of the “Sunday Sermons” Bobby shares on his website and a discussion of why perspective is important whenever you’re going through a hard time in life.
After the show is over, check out the show notes at aom.is/maximus.
|Mar 31, 2021|
Theodore Roosevelt, The Last Romantic
Romanticism, not in terms of courtship and bouquets of roses, but as a philosophical approach to life which blossomed in the 19th century, embodies many tenets, including a nostalgia for the past, a heroic view of the world, a firm sense of right and wrong, and the idea that an individual can shape his own destiny, as well as have an outsized impact on the world.
It is through this lens of Romanticism, my guest says, that we can best understand one of the most memorable, influential, and legendary figures in American history: Theodore Roosevelt. His name is H. W. Brands, and he's a professor of history and the author of numerous books and biographies, including T.R.: The Last Romantic. Today on the show, Bill explains how Teddy Roosevelt was one of the last bearers of the Romantic spirit, where his Romanticism came from, how that spirit motivated him to push and challenge himself from boyhood 'til death, led him both to egoistic excesses and worthy, epic deeds, and influenced everything from his familial relationships to his time as president to his second and third acts in life.
Get the show notes at aom.is/rooseveltromantic.
|Mar 29, 2021|
Sisu, the Finnish Art of Strength
In Finland, "sisu" is a concept that, while it can't be strictly translated into English, roughly corresponds to a combination of bravery, resilience, grit, and determination. My guest today will help us unpack it further, and offers advice on how everyone can live life with more sisu.
Her name is Joanna Nylund and she's the author of Sisu: The Finnish Art of Courage. Joanna explains what sisu is and how it was exemplified in the David and Goliath story of the Finns facing down the Russians during the Winter War. We then talk about what it is about Finland that birthed the quality of sisu and ways to develop it even if you're not Finnish, including embracing discomfort, getting out despite the weather, and seeking silence and solitude as a way to develop inner strength. We also talk about the Finnish practice of retreating to a rustic cabin in the summer to reacquaint oneself with simplicity, manual labor, and nature. We end our conversation with the sisu way of communication, and how to foster sisu in children.
Get the show notes aom.is/sisu.
|Mar 24, 2021|
The Fascinating Secrets of Your Voice
Unless you're a complete recluse, you probably use your voice many times a day, whether talking to your spouse, chatting with co-workers, or singing along to music in the car. Yet, you've probably never thought all that much about something that's literally happening right under your nose.
My guest today says that once you do start thinking about your voice, it reveals fascinating secrets to who you are. His name is John Colapinto and he's the author of This Is the Voice. John and I begin our conversation with what exactly the voice is, how the voice develops in babies, why men and women speak in lower and higher voices, and what each sex finds attractive in the voice of the other. We then discuss why people develop accents, and how these accents set boundaries as to who is in and who is out of a group. We dig into the modern phenomena of vocal fry and uptalk, and how, when you end everything in a question, it can sound like you're a submissive supplicant. We get into how singing makes us feel super vulnerable, and why modern pop music can sound soulless when its inherent imperfections are stripped out. We end our conversation with the way our voices degrade as we age, and John's call to own and use your voice.
Get the show notes at aom.is/thisisthevoice.
|Mar 22, 2021|
Why Is It So Hard to Admit You Were Wrong?
Personal responsibility, the ability to own up to one's mistakes, is a foundational element of character. It's also the only way we can grow and get better. But as anyone with any experience being human well understands, dang, it sure can be hard to do.
My guest today explains why, and how you can yet rise to meet this important challenge. His name is Elliot Aronson, and he's a social psychologist and the co-author of Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. Elliot first explains how and why we engage in self-justification to avoid facing our mistakes, and how this process is driven by the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance. We then discuss how once you make a decision in a certain direction, good or bad, you become more entrenched in your attitude about it and more likely to continue down that same path, and how this phenomenon represents what Elliot calls "the pyramid of choice." We end our conversation with how we can learn to approach the mistakes of others with more generosity, and our own mistakes with more honesty.
Get the show notes at aom.is/mistakes.
|Mar 17, 2021|
The Two Halves of the Warrior's Life
The Roman army hires a former legionnaire to hunt down a courier and intercept a letter he is carrying from the apostle Paul. But when this mercenary overtakes the courier, something happens that neither he nor the empire could have predicted.
This is the plot of the latest novel from writer Steven Pressfield, entitled A Man at Arms. Pressfield is the author of numerous works of both fiction, including Gates of Fire and Tides of War, and non-fiction, including The War of Art and The Warrior Ethos. On today's show, Steven explains why he decided to return to writing a novel set in the ancient world after a 13-year hiatus from doing so, and why he chose to center it around one of Paul's epistles and the threat the Roman empire perceived in the growing movement of Christianity. We discuss how the protagonist of A Man at Arms, Telamon, embodies the archetype of the warrior and a philosophy of "dust and strife," and yet has exhausted the archetype and is ready to integrate something else into it -- a philosophy of love. Steven explains how the journey Telamon is on applies to all artists, entrepreneurs, and individuals, and the transition we all must make from the first half of life in which we're discovering our gifts and honing our skills, to the second half of life, in which we figure out what those gifts and skills are for.
Get the show notes at aom.is/manatarms.
|Mar 15, 2021|
What You Can (Really) Learn About Exercise from Your Human Ancestors
We all know how indisputably good exercise is for you. Yet a lot of folks still find it a struggle to engage in much physical activity. To understand the reason that this conflict and tension exists and how to overcome it, it helps to understand the lives of our human ancestors. Though, not the way the popular culture understands them, but the way someone who's actually studied them understands them.
My guest is such an expert guide. His name is Daniel Lieberman, and he's a Harvard professor of human evolutionary biology and the author of Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding. Today on the show, Daniel shares what we can really learn from our ancestors as to our modern relationship with exercise, while debunking some of the popular myths about our hunter-gatherer history. We begin by talking about how very recent, and actually quite weird, the whole concept of exercise is. We then discuss the fact that our ancestors were not the natural super athletes we typically imagine, what their state of physicality was really like, and how understanding their lifestyle can help us understand the competing interests going on in our own minds and bodies that can leave us feeling ambivalent about getting up and moving around. We then discuss if, as it's been said, "sitting is the new smoking," and the less and more healthy ways to sit. Daniel unpacks whether we're evolved for running, how our ancestors' strength compares to our own, and whether or not exercise helps us lose weight. We end our conversation with how this background on the past can help us in the present, by showing us the two factors that are critical in helping us moderns make exercise a habit.
Get the show notes aom.is/exercised.
|Mar 10, 2021|
The Life Philosophy of Bruce Lee
Many people know Bruce Lee as a martial artist and film star. But he was also a philosopher, who articulated principles that apply beyond engaging in artful combat, to grappling with life itself.
Get the show notes at aom.is/leephilosophy.
|Mar 08, 2021|
Email Is Making Us Miserable — Here's What to Do About It
Each day you begin work with high hopes for productivity and creativity. But each day you instead find yourself bogged down in checking and answering emails and responding to messages on Slack. As frustrating as this is, it just seems like the inevitable, unalterable dynamic of modern jobs.
Get the show notes at aom.is/noemail.
|Mar 03, 2021|
Protection for and from Humanity
When celebrities, dignitaries, and executives go out and about and travel around the world, they're often surrounded by bodyguards whose job it is to protect them and their loved ones.
My guest today offers a look at what's involved in offering these professional protective services for VIPs, and how average citizens can apply the same principles to protect themselves and their families. His name is Todd Fox, he has an extensive military and law enforcement background, and he's the founder of Close Protection Corps and the author of Protection for & from Humanity. Todd and I discuss why the soft skills around mindset constitute the foundation of personal protection, and the prep work that's necessary to keep both VIPs and normal folks safe, including the process of "advancing" and a system from the Vietnam era you can use to make yourself a "hard target." We then discuss what you can learn from the Marine Combat Hunter program, the Cooper Color Code, and the OODA Loop to develop better situational awareness. We end our conversation with the hard skills you should learn to protect yourself, and the order you should learn them in.
Get the show notes at aom.is/protection.
|Mar 01, 2021|
How to Get a Handle on the Voice in Your Head
We all talk to ourselves all the time. This kind of inner dialogue can be a good thing, helping us focus and work through problems, but it can also go off the rails, turning into worry and negative rumination.
My guest today calls this negative self-talk "chatter," and in a book of the same name he outlines how to get a handle on it. His name is Ethan Kross, he's a psychologist and the director of the Emotion & Self Control Lab, and we begin our conversation with the way introspection can be both good and bad, and the function of the voice in our heads. We discuss why negative emotions make us want to reach out to other people, and how this impulse can be harnessed in either a positive or detrimental way. We then unpack how managing the way we talk to ourselves really comes down to zooming out and getting distance from the self, and how this can be accomplished with a variety of tools, from engaging in a kind of time travel to going out into nature.
Get the show notes at aom.is/chatter.
|Feb 24, 2021|
The Psychology of Boredom
When we experience boredom, we tend to experience it as uncomfortable and agitating, and seek to banish it with some ready distraction. Or, we try to look at boredom sort of piously, as something we should learn to sit with, because it builds character.
Get the show notes at aom.is/boredom.
|Feb 22, 2021|
How to Decide
We all make many decisions every single day. From little ones like what to eat for breakfast, to big ones like whether to take a new job. Given how regularly we're deciding, we certainly have a vested interest in getting better at this skill. But how do we do so? How can we get better at making big choices, and spend less time dithering over the insignificant minutiae that often overwhelms our mental bandwidth? And why didn't anyone teach us how to do this stuff to begin with?
Get the show notes at aom.is/howtodecide.
|Feb 17, 2021|
Help for Those Stuck Between Boyhood and Manhood
You probably know a young man, or several, who's struggled to transition from adolescence to adulthood. He's in his twenties or even thirties, and seems lost and in limbo, unsure of how to create an independent, flourishing life. Maybe you're this man yourself.
Get the show notes at aom.is/emergingmen.
|Feb 15, 2021|
How to Think Like a Renaissance Man
When we think about the Renaissance, we think of a great flowering in artistic creativity and intellectual innovation; we think about the beautiful paintings and sculptures of Michelangelo, the astute discoveries of Copernicus, the timeless plays of Shakespeare.
Ironically though, this great creative flowering was spurred by men who were educated under a system that, by our modern lights, can seem rather rigid and rote.
My guest today unpacks this seeming paradox. His name is Scott Newstok, and he's a professor of English and the author of How to Think Like Shakespeare: Lessons From a Renaissance Education, in which he uses the Bard as a jumping off point to explore broader insights into matters of the mind. We begin our conversation with the ways Scott thinks our modern educational system is lacking, and how students' approach to learning has changed over the years. We then discuss how the Renaissance model of education, with its emphasis on language and verbal fluency, provides possibilities for strengthening our reading, writing, speaking, and thinking skills and making their refinement a lifelong habit. We delve into how artists and thinkers in the Renaissance thought about originality differently than we do, and how they believed that imitating and even copying the work of others can actually help you find your own voice. And we discuss how Shakepeare's sonnets demonstrate the way in which constraints can counterintuitively enable creativity. We end our conversation with how you can incorporate Renaissance thinking into your day to day life.
Get the show notes at aom.is/renaissancethinking.
|Feb 10, 2021|
Rucking, that is, walking with a weighted backpack, started as something that soldiers did to carry the gear and equipment needed for combat. In recent times, rucking has become an increasingly popular form of exercise, and if you've wanted to try it, or have already started but would like to improve your practice, my guest today has some advice.
His name is Josh Bryant and he's a strength coach and the author of multiple books on fitness, including Rucking Gains. Josh explains how rucking got its start in ancient armies, the kind of loads modern soldiers carry today, and why civilians should consider adopting this military-born modality. After unpacking the benefits of rucking, we get into how to walk with proper form, at the right pace, and choose what terrain to traverse. We discuss how to program your rucking workouts, how to make them progressively more challenging, and how to integrate them into your fitness routine without having it interfere with the strength gains you're developing in the gym. We end our conversation with exercises you can do with your rucksack besides humping it.
Get the show notes at aom.is/rucking.
|Feb 08, 2021|
The Epic Exploits of Kit Carson
Within the space for just three decades, monumental episodes of exploration and expedition, politics and violence, including the mapping the Oregon Trail, the acquisition of California, and the Mexican-American and Civil wars, forever changed the history of the United States and the shape of the American West. And one man, an illiterate trapper, scout, and soldier, was there for it all: Kit Carson.
In his book Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West, author and historian Hampton Sides follows Carson as a through-line in this extraordinary period. Today on the show, Hampton and I discuss how Kit Carson became a living legend through embellished accounts of his heroics, and yet undertook real-life exploits that were nearly as unbelievable as the tall tales told about him. We explore how Carson joined the grizzled fraternity of mountain men in his youth, and the wide array of skills that helped him excel as a trapper. We discuss how Carson then parlayed those skills into becoming a scout on expeditions that took him from St. Louis to California, over the Rocky and Sierra mountains, and all throughout the wild, rugged West. Hampton shares how these expeditions turned Carson into a national celebrity and what this frontiersman thought of his fame. Hampton also unpacks Carson's complex relationship with American Indians, and how he respected and adopted the ways of some tribes, but fought against others. We end our conversation with why he decided to become an officer in the Union Army during the Civil War, his initially reluctant and then brutal campaigns against the Navajos, and his legacy.
Get the show notes at aom.is/carson.
|Feb 03, 2021|
Influence and Persuade Through Human Hacking
When we think of hacking, we think of a tech-savvy dude breaking into computer systems to steal data. But hackers can also take the form of "social engineers" who get what they want by building rapport and penetrating psychological defenses.
My guest is an expert and pioneer in the area of human hacking, and shows individuals and companies the weaknesses of their security systems by breaking into their offices and computers, not by bypassing pass codes and firewalls, but simply by walking in the front door, and knowing how to ask for and receive access from the humans who run the show
His name is Chris Hadnagy, and he's the author of Human Hacking: Win Friends, Influence People, and Leave Them Better Off for Having Met You, which takes the social engineering principles con men and malicious social hackers use to breach security systems and steal data, and shows the average person how to use them for positive ends in their personal and professional relationships. Today on the show, Chris shares how assessing which of four styles of communication someone prefers can help you better connect with them, why you should approach every interaction knowing your pretext, the keys for building rapport, and the difference between manipulation and influence. We end our conversation with tips on the art of elicitation -- how to get information from someone without directly asking for it.
|Feb 01, 2021|
The History of Fame, From Alexander the Great to Social Media Influencers
When choosing among options like becoming a leader, helping others, and becoming more spiritual, half of millennials say that their generation's first or second most important goal is being famous. When teenagers in the UK were asked what they'd like to do for their career, over half said they wanted to be a celebrity. And amongst kids polled in the US and UK, 3X more said they'd like to become a YouTube star than an astronaut.
How did fame, and modernity's particular flavor of fame, rise to such prominence? Has fame always been attractive, and how has its meaning changed over time?
My guest answers these questions in his book, The Frenzy of Renown: Fame and Its History. His name is Leo Braudy, and he's a professor of English literature, film history and criticism, and American culture at USC. Today on the show, Leo takes us on a wide-ranging tour through the history of fame, which he describes as an emotion, an ambition to be somebody, to be known, the shape of which changes depending on the audience to which people look in order to gain the desired attention. We begin, and Leo will explain why, with Alexander the Great, before turning to what fame meant for the Romans, whose audience was not just the public, but their posterity. We then turn to how Christianity changed the idea of fame to something based on private, inward virtue, where one's only true audience was God. We then dig into how the Renaissance gave birth to the idea of the artist, who, regardless of social class, could gain fame through his talent and creativity. We discuss how the rise of mass media created a new kind of ever more democratized fame, and a dynamic which would come to rest on a reciprocal relationship between the famous and their fans. Leo argues that fame in the 20th century became more about being rather than doing, a trend which has only accelerated in the age of social media. At the end of our conversation, Leo makes the case for a return to a positive, ennobling conception of fame, in which recognition must be earned and connected to actual greatness.
|Jan 27, 2021|
Physical Benchmarks Every Man Should Meet, At Every Age
As men, we all want to be physically capable. We want to be able to save our own life in two ways: in the more metaphorical sense of wanting to preserve it in healthy, fit form for as long as possible, and in the more literal sense of being able to make it through an emergency unscathed. How do you know if you do possess that kind of lifesaving physical capability?
It's time to do more than wonder, and really check in with yourself. My guest today has some helpful benchmarks that guys from age 8 to 80 can use to see if they've got an operative level of strength, mobility, and conditioning. His name is Dan John, and he's a strength coach and the author of numerous books and articles on health and fitness. Dan walks us through the fitness standards the average male should be able to meet from childhood to old age, beginning with the assessments he gives to those who are 55 years old and older, which includes carrying their body weight, a long jump, and something called "the toilet test." We then reach back to childhood, and Dan discusses the physical skills kids should become adept in, which were inspired by a turn-of-the-20th-century physical culturist who thought every individual ought to be able to save his own life, and which can be broken down into the categories of pursuit, escape, and attack. We end our conversation with the physical standards those in the 18-55 range should be able to meet, including how much a man should be able to bench press, squat, and deadlift, and the walking test that's an excellent assessment of your cardiovascular conditioning.
Get the show notes at aom.is/benchmarks.
|Jan 25, 2021|
The Value of Learning New Skills in Adulthood
When you were a kid, you not only went to school, where you did academics, art, and PE, but you probably also took extracurricular lessons in music or sports, and likely even taught yourself things like how to do magic tricks.
Now that you're an adult, can you think of the last new skill you learned?
My guest today explains why there's a good chance that you'll struggle to answer that question, and how that's a tragedy you ought to do something about. His name is Tom Vanderbilt, and he's the author of several books, including his latest, Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning. Tom and I discuss why his daughter's desire to learn chess inspired him to spend a year learning the game himself, as well as to take on a project of learning other new skills. Tom explains the reasons adults give up learning, and why, while it is harder for adults to learn new things than it is for children, it's still worth becoming a novice all over again. We then explore how to harness the beginner's mind, using Tom's experiences in learning how to sing, surf, juggle, and draw as examples. We end our conversation with Tom's takeaways from his experiment, and how becoming a lifelong learner is really all about pushing through the mental barriers that hold us back from the many possibilities for growth that remain in adulthood.
Get the show notes at aom.is/lifelonglearning.
|Jan 20, 2021|
Stop Living on Autopilot and Take Responsibility for Your Life
Do you ever have moments of terrible realization where you recognize that you're living on autopilot? Instead of feeling like you're in the driver's seat, you feel like life is happening to you. You're just going through the motions, you've lost your spark, and the months and years slide by in an indistinct blur.
My guest today has been there himself, and has an action plan for how to find your way out. His name is Antonio Neves, and he's a writer, speaker, and success coach, as well as the author of Stop Living on Autopilot: Take Responsibility for Your Life and Rediscover a Bolder, Happier You. At the start of our conversation, Antonio shares his own experience with outwardly having a life that seemed happy and successful, while inwardly feeling totally lost and stuck. We then turn to some really great, incisive questions to ask yourself to assess if you’re coasting in life and to become more accountable to the changes you need to make to start intentionally steering again. We talk about what you're really missing when you say you miss the good old days, how to ensure the best of your life is ahead of you instead of behind you, and why you need to make a list of all your current complaints. We then discuss the importance of who you surround yourself with, why you need allies instead of thieves in your circle, and the difference something called "Man Mornings" has made in Antonio's life. We end our conversation with concrete steps you can start taking today to shift out of autopilot, including Antonio's personal checklist of five things he does every day to ensure it's a good one.
Get the show notes aom.is/autopilot.
|Jan 18, 2021|
The Humble, Narcissistic Leader
Research, not to mention anecdotal observation, shows that a lot of narcissists end up in leadership positions. That's because the qualities narcissism enlarges into extremes —confidence, assertiveness, a sense of destiny — help people rise to the top.
Unfortunately, the same qualities of narcissism that help an individual obtain a leadership position, can prevent them from being effective in that position, and from holding onto it.
My guest's research has uncovered what can be a solution to this dilemma: the timeless virtue of humility. His name is Brad Owens, he's a professor of business ethics, and we begin our discussion today by digging into the fact that studies done on the effect of narcissism on leadership have been inconsistent, with some showing it to have a positive effect, and others a negative one. Brad explains that the reason these studies may have been inconclusive, is that while narcissism can get someone into a leadership role, it then gets in the way of them succeeding in that role. We then turn to the idea that cultivating humility can temper the negative effects of narcissism, and the three aspects of humility every leader, whether narcissistic or not, should cultivate. We discuss whether there are situations where you do want to be more narcissistic than humble, what a humble, narcissistic leader looks like, and how Steve Jobs and George Washington serve as examples of this combination of qualities.
Get the show notes at aom.is/humblenarcissist.
|Jan 13, 2021|
How to Land Your Dream job
Chances are, you've got a job right now. Chances are even good that you have a pretty decent job. But there's also a good chance that you often desire something more from your work life. Not just a better job, but the kind of job you've always wanted. A dream job.
Whether you're currently employed or not, my guest today has concrete advice on how to turn your longing for a dream job into a reality. His name is Ramit Sethi and he's a personal finance expert, the owner of I Will Teach You to Be Rich, and the creator of the Find Your Dream Job program. Today on the show, Ramit explains why finding your dream job, even in our current economic environment, is entirely viable, as long as you understand that this pursuit is a skill like any other. He then walks listeners through what the average job seeker does wrong, and what the skill of landing your dream job actually involves, beginning with knowing which of three career seasons you’re currently in. We get into why you shouldn't just look for an opening with the same job title that you have now, but should figure out what your dream company and dream role look like instead. Ramit shares the 10-second test you should do to determine if you've got a winning resume, and what you should put in and take out of your resume as well as your cover letter. We also get into how to prepare for and ace a job interview, including how to answer the infamous "Tell me about yourself" question, as well as other sticky questions like why you've been out of work for a long time or were fired from your last job. We end our conversation with considerations to think about if you're contemplating changing careers to a completely different field.
Get the show notes at aom.is/dreamjob.
|Jan 11, 2021|
The Complex Coolness of Steve McQueen
Performances by the actor Steve McQueen in classic films like The Great Escape and Bullitt earned him the nickname "The King of Cool." But behind the scenes, McQueen's character was complex in nature: he could be both difficult and demanding and kind and generous; someone who could act aloof, but care about things deeply.
My guest has traced both sides of the coin of McQueen's coolness for decades. His name is Marshall Terrill, and he's the author of multiple biographies on McQueen, including his latest, Steve McQueen: In His Own Words. Today on the show Marshall and I discuss McQueen's enduring influence on popular culture in terms of everything from style to motorcycles, the code he lived both on and off screen, and whether after years of studying McQueen's life Marshall has figured out what it was that made him so cool. We then talk about McQueen's deprived childhood, which left him ever craving affirmation, and his youthful stints in a reform school and the Marines. We get into how he found his way into acting and then to superstardom, despite the fact he could be difficult to work with. Marshall explains McQueen's relationships with women, and the role race car driving played in his life. We also discuss why McQueen had a hermit phase, and how, in a lesser-known aspect of his life, he had a literal come to Jesus moment in which he became a born-again Christian. We end our conversation with McQueen's untimely, tabloid-exploited death at age 50.
Get the show notes at aom.is/mcqueen.
|Jan 06, 2021|
How to Do the Impossible This Year
There are goals in life that seem very attainable. And then there are those which seem practically impossible — rising out of poverty and/or a traumatic childhood, becoming a bestselling writer, deadlifting 500 pounds. With impossible goals the odds seem long, and it isn't clear how to get from point A to point B.
Get the show notes at aom.is/artofimpossible.
|Jan 04, 2021|
How to Lose Weight, and Keep It Off Forever
This is a rebroadcast. This episode originally aired January 2019.
If you’re like a lot of men listening to this podcast, you’ve likely made it a goal to lose some weight this year. But if you’re also like a lot of men listening to this podcast, you’ve made that goal before, maybe even succeeded with it, but have had to make it again because you gained all the weight back. My guest today argues that losing weight is actually pretty easy. The real trick is keeping it off.
His name is Layne Norton. He’s a professional bodybuilder, powerlifter, and doctor of nutritional science, and today on the show we discuss all things fat loss. We begin our conversation discussing why losing weight is easier than keeping it off, the mechanisms that kick into gear once we shed body fat that cause us to gain all of it, and even more back, and why yo-yo dieting is so terrible for you.
We then dig into whether there’s one diet that’s the most effective in helping you lose fat, the tactics you need to use to keep the weight off in the long run, and the real reason exercise plays a role in helping you do so, which isn’t what you think.
|Dec 30, 2020|
Begin the New Year by Reflecting on These 3 Life-Changing Questions
As one year ends and another begins, it's natural to reflect on both the past and the future -- who we were, who we are, and who we want to become.
My guest today offers three questions that can help make that self-reflection truly fruitful, insightful, and possibly even life-changing. His name is Gregg Krech, he's executive director of the ToDo Institute, which promotes principles of psychology based on Eastern traditions, and the author of Naikan: Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection. Gregg and I begin our conversation with what Naikan is, and how this structured method of self-reflection can hold up a mirror to your life, helping you gain greater self-awareness, and see reality, and the way people perceive you, more clearly. Gregg then walks us through Naikan's three rich, incisive questions and how to use them to help you discover how you really show up and operate in the world. We end our conversation with how to incorporate these reflections into your daily routine, and even make it a special ritual with which to ring in the new year.
Get the show notes at aom.is/reflect.
|Dec 28, 2020|
How to Tell Better Stories
This is a re-broadcast. The episode originally ran in November 2018.
Humans are storytelling and story-listening creatures. We use stories to teach, persuade, and to make sense of the complexities of existence. Being able to craft and deliver a good story is thus a real advantage in all areas of life, giving you a foot up when doing job interviews, going on dates, interacting with friends, or making a sales pitch.
Fortunately, good storytelling is a skill that can learned by anyone. Here to teach us the art of storytelling is Matthew Dicks, a writer, five-time Moth GrandSlam storytelling winner, and the author of the book Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life through the Power of Storytelling.
Today on the show, Matthew walks us through the nuts and bolts of how to craft a compelling story. We begin our conversation discussing ways to generate story ideas, why good stories don’t have to be about big moments, and why he recommends a practice called "Homework for Life." Matthew then tells us what we can learn from movies about making a story so engaging that people are waiting to hear what you say next. We also discuss the don'ts of storytelling, including how to never begin a story. And we end our conversation with a five-minute story from Matthew that showcases all the principles we discussed during the show.
Get the show notes at aom.is/storyworthy.
|Dec 23, 2020|
The Hidden Tragedy of Male Loneliness
Many men prioritize the pursuit of status, power, and autonomy, which can have its advantages in moving them towards financial security and up society's ladder. But as my guest lays out in his book, Lonely at the Top: The High Cost of Men's Success, a focus on work over relationships can also come with significant, even tragic costs.
Get the show notes at aom.is/lonely.
|Dec 21, 2020|
A Change IS a Rest
One of my favorite sayings is that "a change is as good as a rest." It captures an idea I've found true in my own life, that doing something different, even if it takes effort, is just as rejuvenating, and in fact more so, than doing nothing.
Well, my guest today would tweak this maxim slightly to say that a change IS a rest. His name is Alex Soojung Kim-Pang, and he's a writer, consultant, and academic, as well as the author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less. We begin our conversation with why many people feel overworked in the modern age, how quality rest is an antidote, and how Alex defines rest as something that can be active rather than passive, and even thought of as a skill. We discuss why rest is valuable even with seemingly unstrenuous knowledge work, and how apparently unproductive mind-wandering can in fact make you more productive and creative. Alex shares how many hours of focused cognitive work you’re really capable of putting in each day and how successful people tend to set up their daily routine, including why it's effective to stop work each day in the middle of a task. We also discuss why you want to layer periods of rest and work in your schedule, how hobbies offer a sense of autonomy that's crucial in making rest refreshing, and how exercise plays a key role in recovery from work, even amongst brainy intellectuals. Along the way, Alex shares insights from the lives of eminent men like Eisenhower, Hemingway, and Viktor Frankl on how to get better rest, become better at your craft, and lengthen the longevity of your career.
Get the show notes at aom.is/rest.
|Dec 16, 2020|
Outdoor Competence With an Expert Backcountry Hunter
You may know Steven Rinella as an expert hunter and the host of the MeatEater television show and podcast. He's also an author, and his latest book is The MeatEater Guide to Wilderness Skills and Survival. Today on the show, we'll talk about the subjects behind both of these projects, beginning with how Steve found his way into hunting and conservation advocacy, how he explains and makes the case for hunting to those unfamiliar with it, and the benefits that hunting has brought into his life. We then discuss how the barrier for beginners to get into hunting is perceived as being higher than it really is, and the more accessible way Steve recommends getting started.
Get the show notes at aom.is/outdoors.
|Dec 14, 2020|
Bringing More Soul (and Poetry) Into Your Work
When you think of areas of life that speak to the soul, and elicit poetry, you likely think of things like romantic relationships and natural landscapes. You probably don't think of office work and cubicles.
But my guest today says that the soul is involved in every kind of work, and poetry is an essential vehicle for examining what your work is doing to your soul, and for learning to bring more soul into what you do. His name is David Whyte and he's a poet, a philosopher, and the author of multiple books of both poetry and prose, as well as a corporate consultant who uses poetry to help companies with their organizational leadership. We begin our conversation with David's background in marine zoology and how his experience being a naturalist guide in the Galapagos Islands influenced his ideas on the conversational nature of reality. We discuss how the amount of time you spend at your job is greatly shaping who you are, the way we lose youthful idealism for our work, and the importance of inviting the right kind of danger into your life. David then unpacks what the ancient tale of Beowulf can teach men about having hard conversations both personally and professionally, and bridging one's outer and inner lives. We talk as well about the importance of men having good friendships outside the office. Along the way, David reads a few short, stirring poems that speak to these themes.
Get the show notes at aom.is/whyte.
|Dec 09, 2020|
The Power of Brevity in a Noisy World
Going all the way back to the laconic Spartans, the ability to be succinct in one's communications has been to others a sign of strength and a well-appreciated gesture. But it's a skill that's never been more important than it is today, when people are bombarded with information and don't have the bandwidth to digest long and convoluted messages.
Get the show notes at aom.is/brief.
|Dec 07, 2020|
#665: How Childhood Shapes Adulthood
Ask an adult, especially if they're struggling in life, what caused them to end up the way they did, and they might cite certain factors from their childhood, like having a mother that was too cold.
The problem here, of course, is that memories change over time, and narratives about the past develop to fit one's current situation.
My guests today work on the kind of research that corrects this problem to figure out how aspects of childhood truly affect adulthood, by studying humans from the time they're babies through middle age and beyond. Their names are Jay Belsky and Terrie Moffitt, and they're professors of human development, and two of the four contributors to The Origins of You: How Childhood Shapes Later Life. To begin our conversation, Jay and Terrie discuss the longitudinal studies they and their colleagues have used to track people over decades of their lives, and how aggressiveness and shyness in childhood end up impacting adulthood. We then discuss the limitations of the famous marshmallow experiment, and what these more expansive longitudinal studies have shown about the importance of self-control in achieving a successful adulthood. We unpack whether the negative outcomes associated with being bullied in childhood are inevitable, who's most likely to become a bully, and who's most likely to be bullied (which as it turns out, isn't a matter of being fat or wearing glasses). We discuss how children who act out in childhood, but avoid making certain mistakes in adolescence, can still turn out okay, and why you probably shouldn't worry about children who were good kids, but get into a little trouble in their teen years. We also dig into the impact that childcare has on kids, and the role that genes play in development. We end our conversation with some allowance-related ideas for cultivating greater self-control in your kids.
Get the show notes at aom.is/childhood.
|Dec 02, 2020|
#664: The Masters of the Art of War
Looked at from the heat of combat, war can seem disorganized and chaotic. But overarching the conflict is typically some kind of thoughtful, well-ordered, even scientific strategy that is influencing when, where, how, and why dueling forces have met.
My guest today will introduce us to a few of the military philosophers and tacticians who made the most significant contributions to the art of strategy over the last couple millenia. His name is Andrew Wilson, and he's a professor at the Naval War College, as well as the lecturer of the Great Courses course, Masters of War: History's Greatest Strategic Thinkers. We begin our conversation with a brief overview of what martial strategy is, why civilians should study it, and how the contrast between generals Eisenhower and Patton delineate the difference between strategy and operations. We then survey several of history's most influential war strategists, and the contexts in which their theories and doctrines were born. This tour includes a discussion of how Sun Tzu used The Art of War to argue that a new type of war in a new type of society required a new type of general who could process conflicts like a supercomputer, and a dive into how Carl von Clausewitz emphasized the importance of understanding how complexity, irrational passions, and creative genius underlay contemporary warfare. We end our conversation with how military strategy has or hasn’t changed in the 21st century.
Get the show notes at aom.is/mastersofwar.
|Nov 30, 2020|
#448: Your Son Isn’t Lazy — How to Empower Boys to Succeed [RE-BROADCAST]
This is a re-broadcast. The episode originally ran in October 2018.
Do you have a teenage boy who struggles in school? Or do you have a younger son who you can imagine struggling in school as he gets older? He may be an otherwise capable young man, but seems apathetic and unmotivated, to the point you think he’s not excelling simply because he’s lazy. My guest today says that’s the wrong conclusion to draw, and one that leads to the wrong parenting approach to addressing it.
His name is Adam Price and he’s a child psychologist and the author of He’s Not Lazy: Empowering Your Son to Believe in Himself. Today on the show, Dr. Price argues that the real reason many young men are unmotivated is not that they don’t care about succeeding, but that they feel too much pressure to do so, and are scared of failing. We discuss why nagging and over-parenting simply exacerbates this issue, and how stepping back and giving boys more autonomy can help them become more self-directed and find their footing.
Get the show notes at aom.is/notlazy.
|Nov 25, 2020|
#663: How to Achieve Physical Autonomy
Most men want to wake up in the morning knowing their body is ready to handle whatever opportunities and challenges come their way that day, from a real emergency to simply roughhousing with their kids. They want to be able to move without pain and explore the world with confidence.
My guest today would say that what this desire is pointing to is the achievement of physical autonomy. His name is Ryan Hurst and he's the head coach at GMB Fitness, which uses bodyweight exercises and skill-based practices to help people get stronger, move better, and never have to doubt themselves physically. Our conversation begins with Ryan's unique background; we discuss how he did gymnastics growing up and then moved to Japan, where he still resides, to learn martial arts, including aikido, kendo, judo, and jiu-jitsu, and how these experiences influenced his fitness journey and philosophy. Ryan then shares how he defines physical autonomy and the three elements that are required to achieve it. From there we discuss the four animal-inspired movements that create the foundation for balanced athleticism, the basic physical skills people should aim to master, and how to train those skills in ways that don't require an onerous amount of time.
Get the show notes at aom.is/physicalautonomy.
|Nov 23, 2020|
#662: The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck
When you think about serendipity, you likely think of strokes of good luck that happen entirely by chance.
But my guest today says that we can play a role in harnessing more lightning strikes of fortune, and create the conditions to both experience a greater number of meaningful accidents, and make accidents more meaningful. His name is Christian Busch and he's a professor of economics and entrepreneurship and the author of The Serendipity Mindset: The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck. We begin our conversation with what serendipity is, and how it's different than simple chance, and is instead a kind of smart luck, which requires acting on the unexpected and connecting the dots of seemingly random events. We then discuss the three types of serendipity, the obstacles to experiencing this force, and how the amount of serendipity you experience depends on how you frame the world. Christian explains how to develop a serendipity-seeking mindset, including how to intentionally seed triggers for it. We end our conversation with how organizations and not just individuals can take steps to strategically leverage the power of serendipity.
Get the show notes at aom.is/serendipity.
|Nov 18, 2020|
#661: Get Better Sleep by Stressing About It Less
Over the past decade, there's been an emerging focus on the importance of sleep. Thousands of books and articles have been put out which drive home just how central sleep is in our mental and physical health. This emphasis on sleep has had the positive effect of motivating people to better prioritize it. But, there's been a downside to all this sleep talk as well: people are getting more stressed out if they're not getting the kind of sleep they think they're supposed to.
Get the show notes at aom.is/sleep.
|Nov 16, 2020|
#660: How Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Heal the Soul
When you think about ancient Greek tragedies, you probably think about people in togas spouting stilted, archaic language -- stories written by stuffy playwrights to be watched by snooty audiences.
My guest today argues that this common conception of Greek tragedies misses the power of plays that were in fact created by warriors for warriors, and which represent a technology of healing that's just as relevant today as it was two millennia ago. His name is Bryan Doerries and he's the author of the book The Theater of War, as well as the artistic director of an organization of the same name that performs dramatic readings of ancient tragedies for the military and other communities. Bryan and I begin our conversation with what tragedies are, what this civic, religious, and artistic form of storytelling was supposed to do, how it was created by war veterans for war veterans, and how a civilian classicist ended up putting on these plays for current and former members of our modern military. We discuss how the ancient Greek tragedies depicted the depth and spectrum of human suffering, the intersection of fate and personal responsibility, characters who belatedly discover their mistakes, and the fleeting chance of changing behavior in the light of such realizations. Bryan also explains how the tragedies may have been a form of training for young people on how to grapple with the moral ambiguities that mark adulthood. And throughout the show, we dig into how tragedies, by showing people they're not alone, getting them to confront uncomfortable realities together, and bridging divides, can serve as a transformative technology for collective healing, not only for military veterans, but anyone who's dealt with trauma, loss, and the general confusions and hardships of the human experience.
Get the show notes at aom.is/theaterofwar.
|Nov 11, 2020|
#659: Do You Want to Be Rich or Wealthy? (And Why the Difference Matters)
When we think about finance, we typically think about numbers and math. My guest today, however, argues that doing well with money is less about what you can put on a spreadsheet and more about what goes on in your mind, and that if you want to master personal finance, you've got to understand how things like your own history, unique view of the world, and fear and pride influence how you think.
Get the show notes at aom.is/moneymindset.
|Nov 09, 2020|
#658: In Praise of Maintenance in a World Obsessed With Innovation
Humans like starting new things much more than taking care of older things. This is true on both an institutional and individual level: it's more exciting to build a new road than to maintain it; more exciting to lose weight than to keep it off. There's plenty of short-term pleasure and intrinsic motivation when it comes to pursuing something novel, but the effort to keep up unsexy maintenance on what we've already got takes real intent.
Get the show notes at aom.is/maintenance.
|Nov 04, 2020|
#657: Why You Don't Change (But How You Still Can)
Anyone who's ever tried to lose weight, curb their temper, quit smoking, or alter any other habit in their lives knows that personal change is hard. Really hard.
Most self-help books out there treat people like machines, blitzing past this difficulty and offering mechanical 5-step formulas for changing your life.
My guest today says such simplified solutions hugely miss the mark. He argues that if you ever want to change, it's more fruitful to understand why you don't, than figure why you do, and to understand that, you've got to go deeper, existential even.
His name is Dr. Ross Ellenhorn, and he's spent his career facilitating the recovery of individuals diagnosed with psychiatric and substance abuse issues. In his latest book, How We Change (And Ten Reasons Why We Don't), he's taken what he's learned in his work and applied it to anyone trying to change their lives.
Ross and I begin our conversation with some of those reasons we don't change, including the existential pressure of feeling like you're solely in charge of making change happen, a dizzying amount of freedom and number of options for what to do with your life, and day-to-day factors which influence our level of motivation. From there we turn to the role of hope and faith in psychology, and how these forces can both boost and restrain your ability to change. We discuss the way a fear of hope can constrain your life, why you sometimes need to embrace staying the same in order to ever change, and the difference between good faith and bad faith. We then discuss the idea that you don't develop hope, but can develop faith, and how you build your faith in yourself through embracing humility and taking small steps. Ross then explains why he doesn't really give advice on how to change, beyond finding the good in a bad habit, but how patience and your social environment can also help.
This show's got some counterintuitive advice that will help you see your struggles differently. Get the show notes at aom.is/change.
|Nov 02, 2020|
#656: The Hidden Pleasures of Learning for Its Own Sake
When we typically think about learning, we tend to think about being in a structured school, and doing it for some reason -- to get a grade, to get a degree, to get a certain job. But my guest today says that if we want to live a truly flourishing life, we ought to make time for study and thought long after we leave formal education behind, and embrace learning as something wonderfully useless.
Her name is Zena Hitz and she's the author of Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life. We begin our conversation with how the unique Great Books curriculum at St. John's College works, and how Zena got her undergraduate degree there and then went on to pursue a more traditional academic path, only to discover the downsides of the modern university system and be drawn back to St. John's, where she now teaches. From there we turn to what Zena argues are the hidden pleasures of the intellectual life, which include learning for its own sake as opposed to doing it to advance some goal, developing a rich inner life, and embracing the idea of true leisure. We then discuss how thinking and studying for its own sake is different from watching TV or playing video games, and how it can create a resilience-building, inner-directed refuge from an externally-driven world. We end our conversation with how you can carve out space for contemplation amidst the overload and noise of modern life, the importance of finding a community that wants the same thing, and how to get started with deeper study and reflection by reading the Great Books.
Get the show notes at aom.is/lostinthought.
|Oct 28, 2020|
#655: Simple, Excuse-Busting Advice for Getting in Shape
When it comes to getting in shape, there are always a bunch of excuses to use as to why you can't get yourself in gear: you don't know what program to start, you don't have time, you don't have any equipment, etc., etc.
My guest today cuts through those excuses and the unnecessary complications people often bring to health and fitness to show us how you can lose weight and get strong in ways that are wonderfully simple, but powerfully effective. His name is Dan John, he's a strength and throwing sports coach, a writer of many books and articles on health and fitness, and a college lecturer. We begin our conversation with Dan's two foundational approaches to simplifying your life called "shark habits" and "pirate maps," which will help you organize and streamline all your decisions, in turn helping you focus on and stay consistent with your diet and workouts. We talk about the way being part of an intentional community can keep you on track with your fitness goals as well. From there we get into Dan's quadrants for eating and exercise -- Reasonable Workouts/Tough Diet; Reasonable Workouts/Reasonable Diet; Tough Workouts/Reasonable Diet; Tough Workouts/Tough Diet -- and when you should be in one quadrant or another. We then talk about a very simple way to get started lifting called the "One-Two-Three" method, Dan's highly effective 10,000 Swing Kettlebell challenge, and how you can still work out even if all you have is a single dumbbell. We also talk about one of the most effective bodyweight exercises, the pull-up, and the overlooked key to working your way into them if you can't do even a single rep right now. We then talk about why Dan thinks you should exercise outside more often and the difference between health and fitness. We end our conversation with Dan's prescription for losing weight.
Get the show notes at aom.is/simplestrength.
|Oct 26, 2020|
#654: How to Astronaut
If you grew up in the ‘80s like me, there's a good chance you really wanted to go to space camp and you really wanted to be an astronaut. You probably had a lot of questions about what it was like to live in space, and if those questions were never answered (or you've forgotten the answers), my guest today can tell you everything you ever wanted to know. His name is Colonel Terry Virts and he's been to space twice, the second time serving as commander of the International Space Station for 200 days. Terry also helped film the IMAX movie A Beautiful Planet, and is the author of How to Astronaut: An Insider's Guide to Leaving Planet Earth. Terry and I begin our conversation with the plan he set in childhood to become an astronaut via going to the Air Force Academy and becoming a pilot. We talk about how long it took him to make it to space once he joined NASA, the training he underwent for years which required being a skill-acquiring polymath, and how aspects of that training, which included flying jets and wilderness survival courses, didn't always directly correlate to his job as an astronaut, but were still essential in being adept at it. We also discuss the physical training Terry did both before his missions and after leaving the earth, and whether he suffered any long-term health issues from being in space. From there we get into what a typical day is like when you're floating through sixteen sunsets, including what space food looks like these days and whether they’re really eating "astronaut ice cream" up there, what it's like to sleep while weightless, and of course, that most burning of questions, "How do you go the bathroom in space?" We then discuss the importance of emotional and mental skills when you're living for months at a time in a space station, and what it was like to leave that station to take a spacewalk and see the earth from above. We end our conversation with how Terry physically and psychologically adjusted to returning to earth, whether he yearns to go back up again, and what he thinks the future of space exploration holds. Consider this show the stint at space camp your parents never signed off on.
Get the show notes at aom.is/astronaut.
|Oct 21, 2020|
#653: The Dirtbag's Guide to Life
If you call someone a dirtbag, you might be insulting them for being dishonest. Or, you might be describing their lifestyle -- their pursuit of an outdoor passion at the expense of more mainstream options and commitments.
Get the show notes at aom.is/dirtbag.
|Oct 19, 2020|
#652: Chefs' Secrets for Organizing Your Life
The kitchen of a busy restaurant can be a chaotic, frenetic environment. But the best chefs create a kind of personal eye in this storm, from which they can efficiently craft meal after meal without ever moving their feet. The system they use to do this is called mise-en-place -- a French word that means "to put in place," and signifies an entire lifestyle of readiness and engagement.
Get the show notes at aom.is/workclean.
|Oct 14, 2020|
#651: How to Turn Fear Into Fuel
We typically think of fear as a negative emotion. Something that feels terrible, and not only keeps us away from true danger, but also inhibits us from going after our life's goals and passions.
Fear can indeed be an unwelcome hindrance, but, my guest today argues, it can also be a powerful propellant and a signpost towards success. His name is Patrick Sweeney, he's a tech entrepreneur, a university lecturer, a coach and consultant to CEOs, professional athletes, and Navy SEALs, and the author of Fear Is Fuel: The Surprising Power to Help You Find Purpose, Passion, and Performance. We begin our conversation with how a diagnosis of leukemia forced Patrick to confront the fact that he had led a life dominated and shrunken by fear, and inspired him to face those fears and to spend six years talking to leading neuroscientists about how to live more courageously. He explains how fear should be thought of not only as an early warning system for danger, but as an early warning system for opportunity. We then unpack the three kinds of fears which exist, and how you can be fearful in one area but courageous in another. Patrick then explains how it's possible to train the brain's courage center to control and reprogram its fear center, so you can get the best from fear, rather than letting it get the best of you. We discuss how uncertainty creates something called "free energy," how free energy creates fear, and how to reduce both forces by exposing yourself to a wide range of experiences. We end our conversation with how to find the motivation to take the first step into a fear, and three things you can do to gain the confidence to take action in the face of uncertainty.
Get the show notes at aom.is/fearisfuel.
|Oct 12, 2020|
#650: Why People Are Building Bunkers for the Apocalypse
When you think about bunkers, you might be apt to think of the 1950s and people building basement and backyard fallout shelters during the Cold War. But there's a second "Doom Boom" going on right now, and people aren't just burrowing into the earth to protect themselves from a nuclear bomb.
My guest today traveled across four continents to explore what's driving this phenomenon and how it's manifesting itself in the modern age. His name is Bradley Garrett and he's a professor of cultural geography and the author of Bunker: Building for the End Times. We begin our conversation with the immersive dive Bradley took into urban exploration for his PhD, and how it led to his fascination with the building of underground bunkers. From there we dip into the history of bunkers, from the ancient subterranean cities built in Turkey to the governmental decisions made during the Cold War that led Americans to build blast shelters in their backyards. From there we dig into why a multi-billion dollar private bunker-building industry has emerged in the present day, and how it's not being driven by a specific threat, but instead a diffuse sense of dread. We discuss how bunker building breaks down into individual and communal approaches, and why the latter is currently ascendant. Bradley takes us on a tour of two underground communities: one a complex of over 500 subterranean cement rooms in South Dakota, and the other a former nuclear missile silo in Kansas which has been turned into a luxe, 15-story inverted skyscraper of survival condos, complete with swimming pool, dog park, movie theater, and grocery store. We then turn to the modern movement of backyard bunker building, and how it often represents an act of resistance against the surveillance state. We also look at the culture of prepping in different countries, including the building of bug-out vehicles and fire bunkers in Australia. We end our conversation with whether or not Bradley ultimately concluded that bunker building and survival prepping is a rational response to the state of the world, and whether he became a prepper himself.
Get the show notes at aom.is/bunker.
|Oct 07, 2020|
#649: Thinking for Yourself in an Age of Outsourced Expertise
In an age where endless streams of data, options, and information are available, it can feel like every choice -- from what TV show to watch to how to invest our money -- ought to be optimized, and yet making any choice, much less an ideal one, can seem completely overwhelming. How do we figure out what to do? Much of the time, we don't. Instead, we outsource our thinking to technology, experts, and set protocols. This, my guest today says, is where some real problems start.
Get the show notes at aom.is/thinkforyourself.
|Oct 05, 2020|
#648: Lessons in Building Rapport from Experts in Terrorist Interrogation
What do you imagine when you imagine a terrorist being interrogated by an intelligence officer? The former getting roughed up? The latter yelling, banging his fists on the table, and demanding that the detainee talk?
My guests today argue that using force in this way to get what you want isn't effective when you're dealing with a terrorist, or, for that matter, a teenager. Their names are Laurence and Emily Alison, and they're a married pair of forensic psychologists, as well as the authors of Rapport: The Four Ways to Read People. We begin our conversation with how through their extensive experience in training police, military, and security agencies like the FBI and CIA on how to conduct interrogations of criminals and terrorists, the Alisons discovered that literal and metaphorical browbeating was ineffective in inducing communication and cooperation, and that methods which built rapport were much more successful. We then discuss why building rapport in order to handle conflict, avoid arguments, and create connections is important not only in interrogation rooms but at work and at home. From there we dive into the four elements that make up this model of interpersonal communication, the last of which we demonstrate with some role play. We end our conversation with the idea of the "animal wheel," in which different personality styles are represented by a mouse, lion, T-Rex, and monkey, and the importance of understanding your own interpersonal style and that of the person you're engaging with, so you can predict how they'll react, and adapt accordingly.
Get the show notes at aom.is/rapport.
|Sep 30, 2020|
#647: What Happened When Two Friends Left Their Jobs to Build a Cabin Together
It's a thought that's crossed many a desk jockey's mind: "Man, I'd love to flee this office, get out from under this fluorescent-lighting, and do something more concrete with my hands. Like, maybe, build a cabin in the woods."
My guests had these thoughts, and unlike most, actually pulled the trigger on their long-standing daydream. Their names are Bryan Schatz and Patrick Hutchison, and in today's episode they share the experience they had as a result and which they wrote about in a recent article for Outside magazine. We begin our conversation with how the idea of quitting their respective jobs as a reporter and copywriter to build a cabin together in the Cascades began as a joke between these two then burned-out 30-something friends, and how it slowly became a real, if still sketchy, plan to make it happen. Bryan and Pat share the idyllic way they thought the project would go, and when the reality of how much harder it would be than they thought set in. We discuss the unexpected challenges that arose, how the tensions of constantly working together affected their relationship, and how they kept an income coming in while on hiatus from full-time employment. We get into how long the cabin, which they originally thought would take two months to build, actually took to finish, the extent to which it went over budget, how they finally felt when it was done, and what they ultimately decided to do with it. We end our conversation with what, despite everything that went wrong, Bryan and Pat gained from the experience, and what they plan to do next.
Get the show notes at aom.is/cabinbuild.
|Sep 28, 2020|
#646: How to Win at Losing
Losing stinks. Nobody wants to suffer defeat in a game, flunk a test, or get passed over for a promotion. Losses can feel like stinging humiliations, insurmountable setbacks, like the end of the world; they can even push us to quit pursuing something we love. And yet losses can be the most instructive and meaningful parts of our lives, and be central to our ultimate success.
My guest set out to study and explain these underappreciated upsides of getting bested. His name is Sam Weinman, he's a sportswriter, and he shares what he learned in his book, Win at Losing: How Our Greatest Setbacks Can Lead to Our Greatest Gains, as well as in today's episode. Sam and I begin our conversation with how losing is typically a lot more interesting than winning, the difference between losing and failing, and how you can lose without failing, as well as fail without losing. Sam then illustrates the lessons in humility, growth, personal responsibility, and resilience that can come from losing by sharing the stories of famous people who dealt with famously big losses, including golfer Greg Norman, soap star Susan Lucci, presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, and speed skater Dan Jansen. We end our conversation with how Sam's study of how to turn loss into gain has influenced his own children and the way they deal with setbacks.
Good insights here both on how to deal with your own losses as well as how to help your kids deal with theirs.
Get the show notes at aom.is/winatlosing.
|Sep 23, 2020|
#645: The Forgotten Story of the Lumberjack Commandos of WWII
Today, it's hard to go very long without hearing about special operations forces like the Army's Green Berets and the Navy's SEALs. But before special operators became an ingrained part of the military's strategy and established a prominent presence in the public eye, they existed as experimental, now largely forgotten units that were launched during the Second World War.
One of the primary predecessors of today's commandos was the 1st Special Service Force, which was known simply as the Force, and is described in a book of the same name by military historian Saul David. Today on the show, Saul explains how he came across the little known story of the Force and traces its origins to an idea formulated by a British civilian scientist and championed by Winston Churchill which envisioned a unit that could accompany a fleet of snow tanks into enemy territory. Saul details how the Force was composed of men from both America and Canada, how members were recruited from the rough-and-ready ranks of explorers, miners, lumberjacks, and hunters who were physically strong and used to cold temperatures and rugged terrain, and the rigorous training that turned these recruits into what was arguably the military's fittest and best disciplined fighting force -- a unit which would become known as the "Devil's Brigade." We then turn to the action these elite commandos saw during the war, which included scaling the sheer cliffs of a mountain to secure a Nazi stronghold. We end our conversation with why the unit was disbanded before the war was even over and how its legacy continues to live on in the special forces of today.
Get the show notes at aom.is/theforce.
|Sep 21, 2020|
#644: How to Develop Greater Self-Awareness
95% of people say that they're self-aware. But only 10-15% of people actually are. As my guest today says, that means "on a good day, 80% of us are lying to ourselves about how much we're lying to ourselves" and this blind spot can have big repercussions for our success and happiness.
Her name is Tasha Eurich, and she's an organizational psychologist and the author of Insight: Why We're Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life. Tasha kicks off our conversation by arguing that our level of self-awareness sets the upper limit of our individual effectiveness and that self-awareness can be developed and is truly the meta skill of the 21st century. She then unpacks what it is you know about yourself when you possess self-awareness, how there are two types of this knowledge, internal and external, and how you can have one without the other. Tasha then outlines the seven pillars of self-awareness, the barriers to getting insights into them -- including falling into the cult of self -- and how these barriers can be overcome, including asking yourself a daily check-in question. We then discuss how two of the most common methods for gaining self-knowledge -- introspection and journaling -- can in fact backfire and how to do them more effectively by asking yourself what instead of why, and actually journaling less instead of more. We also get into why you should be an in-former, rather than a me-former on social media, how to become more mindful without meditation, and how to solicit and handle feedback from other people, including holding something called the "Dinner of Truth."
Get the show notes at aom.is/selfawareness.
|Sep 16, 2020|
#643: Life Lessons From Dead Philosophers
Studying philosophy can be a metaphorical journey into wisdom. My guest today experienced it as not only that, but as a very literal journey as well.
Get the show notes at aom.is/socratesexpress.
|Sep 14, 2020|
#642: Finding Money and Meaning in the Blue Collar Trades
When it comes to living their best life and building substantial wealth, many young men's first thoughts turn to developing a new app or starting a popular YouTube channel. They don't think about digging ditches. But that's how my guest today became a millionaire, and he thinks more folks should consider seeking not only financial success, but true comfort, peace, and freedom, by rejecting society's standardized white collar career path, and looking into alternative routes through the skilled trades. His name is Ken Rusk, he's a construction business entrepreneur who's also been a life coach and mentor to hundreds of his employees, and he's the author of Blue Collar Cash: Love Your Work, Secure Your Future, and Find Happiness for Life. Ken and I begin our conversation with how a guy who got a job digging ditches in high school and skipped college went on to create a multi-million dollar construction business. We then talk about how there aren't enough people pursuing blue collar work, and how this "skills gap" regarding the trades is driving up demand, and in turn, the potential income to be made in this field. Ken talks about the cost-benefit analysis of going to college versus learning a skilled trade, and the advantages to the latter. He then explains the often underappreciated reward of blue collar work, which he calls "the step back moment." From there, Ken shares some stories of folks who found fulfillment pursuing blue collar work, and even made that switch later in life. Along the way, Ken shares the life advice he gives employees and job seekers about how to manage their money, set goals, and pursue their own version of happiness and success.
Get the show notes at aom.is/bluecollarcash.
|Sep 09, 2020|
#450: How to Make Time For What Really Matters Every Day [RE-BROADCAST]
This is a re-broadcast. The episode originally ran in October 2018.
Do your days seem like a continuous blur of busyness, and yet you don’t seem to get much done, nor remember much about how you spent your time?
As a former employee of Google, my guest today worked on the very apps and technology that can often suck away our time. Today, he’s dedicated to figuring out how to push back against these forces to help people take control of their time and attention.
His name is John Zeratsky and he’s the co-author of the book Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day. Today on the show, John shares how the experience of feeling like he was missing months of his life led him to spending years experimenting with his habits and routines, looking for the best ways to to optimize energy, focus, and time. He then shares the simple 4-step daily framework that developed from this research and walks us through that system. John talks about choosing one “highlight” each day to ensure your most important work gets done and that your life is full of memorable moments. He also shares how to reduce the time you spend wading in what he calls “infinity pools,” why energy management is just as important as time management, and how reflection is essential in figuring out if what you’re doing is working.
Lots of valuable direction in this show for how to get your life on track and find more hours and meaning in the day.
|Sep 07, 2020|
#641: How Eisenhower Led — A Conversation with Ike's Granddaughter
From guiding the Allies to victory in World War II as supreme commander, to steering the ship of state for eight years as one of the country's least partisan and most popular presidents, few leaders in history have had to make as varied and consequential decisions as Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Get the show notes at aom.is/howikeled.
|Sep 02, 2020|
#640: Weird and Wonderful Ways to Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
When people start on a self-development journey, they'll sometimes create a bucket list -- all the things, all the typically exciting and pleasurable things, they hope to do before they die. My guest started his own self-improvement journey very differently, by creating an anti-bucket list consisting of things he didn't want to do, and embarking on a "year of adversity."
Get the show notes at aom.is/getuncomfortable.
|Aug 31, 2020|
#639: Why You Should Learn the Lost Art of Rhetoric
For thousands of years, the study of rhetoric was a fundamental part of a man's education. Though it ceased to be commonly taught in the 19th century, my guest today argues that it's an art well worth reviving in the modern day.
His name is Jay Heinrichs, and he's an expert in language and persuasion and the author of Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion. Jay and I begin our conversation with a description of what rhetoric is, why after being taught around the world for centuries it fell out of favor as a component of education, and why it's still essential for everyone, especially leaders, to learn. We then unpack the difference between fighting and arguing, and how it’s the latter that’s a lost art, especially in our digital age. From there we discuss each of Aristotle’s three tools of rhetoric -- ethos, pathos, and logos -- including a dive into how the way your audience sees your character is so important, and how you can even do an ethos analysis of your resume. We then delve into Cicero's five canons of rhetoric, and Jay shares a smart technique for memorizing a presentation, and thus delivering it more persuasively. We end our conversation with a fun game you can play to sharpen your rhetorical skills.
Get the show notes at aom.is/rhetoric.
|Aug 26, 2020|
#638: How Changing Your Breathing Can Change Your Life
When we think about improving our health, we typically think about altering our diet, trying to exercise more, and taking vitamins and supplements. But my guest today argues that none of that stuff really matters if we haven't improved something even more foundational: our breathing.
Get the show notes at aom.is/breath.
|Aug 24, 2020|
#637: What Poker Can Teach You About Luck, Skill, and Mastering Yourself
Maria Konnikova, who has her Ph.D in psychology and studies human behavior, had never played poker when she approached Eric Seidel, a renowned player of the game, asking him to show her the ropes. Eric agreed to be her coach and Maria spent a year working towards the World Series of Poker, playing in numerous tournaments and winning a major title and hundreds of thousands of dollars along the way. But the real prize she was after in this experimental endeavor wasn't money, but insight into the intersection between skill and luck, and how much control we humans have over our fate.
She got those insights in spades, and shares them in her latest book: The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win. Today on the show Maria explains why the poker table may be the best place to learn about the balance between chance and skill, and why we have such trouble untangling those two forces. We then get into how gambling has long been an interest of philosophers and led to advancements in probability theory, as well as why understanding the dynamics of betting allows us to improve ourselves. Maria then shares how she learned to detach herself from the outcomes of hands and concentrate only on what she could control, and how liberating it is to separate process from results. She describes the connection between poker and Sherlock Holmes, and how the game helped her not just see things but observe them. We then delve into the biases that get you off track with your goals, and the simple technique you can use to overcome them. We end our conversation with Maria's conclusions on the respective roles luck and skill play in our lives.
Get the show notes at aom.is/poker.
|Aug 19, 2020|
#636: Why You Overeat and What to Do About It
We all know the basics of losing weight: don't consume more calories than your body needs. And yet many of us still overeat anyway, sometimes continually, sometimes to the point where it leads to obesity, diabetes, and a significantly lower quality of life. Why does our behavior betray our intentions to be lean and healthy?
Get the show notes at aom.is/hungrybrain.
|Aug 17, 2020|
#635: The Existentialist's Survival Guide
Life isn't an easy road to navigate. We're moody creatures, susceptible to an array of psychological setbacks, emotional ups and downs, fruitless searches for meaning, and trials posed by anxiety, depression, and despair. It's the kind of journey one needs a survival guide for, and my guest today says one of the best can be found in the writings of existential philosophers.
His name is Gordon Marino and he's a football and boxing coach, a professor of philosophy, and the author of The Existentialist's Survival Guide: How to Live Authentically in an Inauthentic Age. Gordon and I begin our conversation with how he personally found existentialism, and how his coaching intersects with his teaching. We then get into what existential philosophy is all about, and the thinkers and authors who are considered to be existentialists. Gordon shares what he thinks is the greatest existential novel, and which of Soren Kierkegaard’s books he most recommends reading. From there we delve into what Kierkegaard has to say about anxiety, how he thought existential angst was the ultimate teacher, the distinction he drew between depression and despair, and why he argues that procrastination is one of our greatest moral dangers. We then unpack the different models of living an authentic life that the existentialists espoused, and what Nietzsche meant with his injunction to "live dangerously." We then get into the existentialists’ take on love, why love is actually hard to accept, and why you should presuppose love in others. We end our conversation with what boxing can teach about existential philosophy.
Get the show notes at aom.is/existential.
|Aug 12, 2020|
#634: How to Design Conversations That Matter
We typically don't think much about how we structure a conversation. We just sort of wing it and hope for the best. But my guest today argues that all conversations -- even the small and mundane -- can impact our ability to lead, influence, and connect, and ought to be approached with thoughtfulness and intention.
His name is Daniel Stillman, he's a consultant, author, and podcaster, and in his book Good Talk: How to Design Conversations That Matter, he draws on his background in design to show how we can use the principles of design thinking to improve the quality of our exchanges. Daniel and I kick off our discussion by unpacking the defaults of conversation people often fall back on. Daniel compares the structure of conversation to an operating system, and we turn to how we can improve this conversational OS, beginning with the way we invite people into a conversation with us, and why we shouldn't just ask, "Can we talk?" We then get into how we can improve the "interface" of our conversations, by recognizing the influence that space and place have on them, and choosing the right environment for a particular dialogue. We end our conversation with the options you have for responding when it's your turn to talk and how to deal with the gaffes we all make during conversations, and the feelings of regret that frequently follow.
Get the show notes at aom.is/conversationdesign.
|Aug 10, 2020|
#633: The World and Vision of Lakota Medicine Man Black Elk
When he was nine years old in 1872, Black Elk, a member of the Lakota tribe, had a near-death vision in which he was called to save not only his people but all of humanity. For the rest of his life, Black Elk's vision haunted and inspired him as he took part in many of the seminal confrontations between the Lakota and the U.S. government, including those at Little Bighorn and Wounded Knee.
My guest today is the author of a biography of this native holy man. His name is Joe Jackson and his book is Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary. We begin our conversation with a background of the Sioux or Lakota Indians, including how the introduction of the horse turned them into formidable hunters and warriors and how their spirituality influenced their warfare. Joe then introduces us to Black Elk and unfolds the vision that he had as a boy which would lead him to follow in his family's footsteps by becoming a medicine man and guide him for the rest of his life. We then take detours into the seminal battles between the U.S government and the Lakota that Black Elk witnessed firsthand, as well as the Sun Dance and Ghost Dance rituals which helped catalyze them. Joe then explains why Black Elk converted to Catholicism after the Indian Wars and how he fused Lakota spirituality with his newfound faith. We then discuss why Black Elk decided to tell his vision to a white poet named John Neihardt and the cultural influence the resulting book, Black Elk Speaks, had on the West in the 20th century. We end our conversation discussing whether Black Elk ever felt he fulfilled his vision.
Get the show notes at aom.is/blackelk.
|Aug 05, 2020|
#632: How the Internet Makes Our Minds Shallow
Have you found it harder and harder to sit with a good book for long periods of time without getting that itch to check your phone? Well, you're not alone. My guest today makes the case that the internet has changed our brains in ways that make deep, focused thinking harder and harder.
His name is Nicholas Carr, and he documented what was then a newly-emerging phenomenon ten years ago in his book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. The Shallows has now been re-released with a new afterword, and Nick and I begin our conversation with how he thinks the effect of digital technology on our minds has or hasn't changed over the last decade. We then discuss the idea of the medium being the message when it comes to the internet, and how this particular medium changes our brains and the ways we think and approach knowledge and the world. Nick then explains how we read texts on screens differently than texts in books, why hyperlinks mess with our ability for comprehension, why it's still important to develop our own memory bank of knowledge even in a time when we can access facts from an outsourced digital brain, and how social media amplifies our craving for the fast and easy-to-digest over the slow and contemplative. We end our conversation with how Nick himself has tried to strike a balance in keeping the advantages of the internet while mitigating its downsides.
Get the show notes at aom.is/shallows.
|Aug 03, 2020|
#631: How to Prevent and Survive a Home Invasion
You're lying in bed at night and hear a noise downstairs. Is there someone in your house, and if there is, do you know what to do?
While we'd like to think we'd rise to the occasion and readily dispatch with the bad guys, my guest today argues that without preparation and training, you're likely to flounder, and that you should have put more thought into how to keep the invader out of your house in the first place.
His name is Dave Young, and he's a security expert and the author of How to Defend Your Family and Home: Outsmart an Invader, Secure Your Home, Prevent a Burglary and Protect Your Loved Ones from Any Threat. We begin our conversation with how Dave got involved with security training, the intensive field research he did for his book, and the basic equation criminals use in deciding whether or not to make your house a target. We then delve into how to tweak that equation in your favor, beginning with casing your house like a criminal would; we go over the vulnerabilities to look for as you walk the perimeter of your property, and the actionable changes to make to deter would-be home invaders. Dave then walks us through what to do if someone does invade your home, including the criteria to use in picking a place to hide, choosing a weapon to fight back, and selecting an engagement point to confront the intruder. We also get into the importance of firearm training, if you decide to own a gun for self-defense. We end our conversation with an oft-overlooked part of surviving a home invasion: the months and years of psychological and judicial aftermath.
Get the show notes at aom.is/homeinvasion.
|Jul 29, 2020|
#630: The Strategy Paradox
To be a great success in business, you need to have a compelling vision, create a well-thought-out strategy to achieve that vision, and then fully commit to that strategy with action and resources.
That's also the recipe for being a great failure in business.
That's what my guest argues in his book The Strategy Paradox: Why Committing to Success Leads to Failure. His name is Michael Raynor and we begin our discussion by describing the strategy paradox: the fact that the same sound strategy can lead to both success and failure. We discuss how the outcome then depends less on the strategy itself, than on the idea you decide to bet on, using the example of the way Sony employed the right strategy in backing Betamax in the VCR wars, but still lost out to VHS. Raynor then explains the limitations of forecasting and adaption, the approaches companies typically use to navigate the tension between needing to commit to something, and being uncertain they've committed to the right thing. He then unpacks two more effective ways of developing strategic flexibility: separating the management of commitment from the management of uncertainty, and acquiring a portfolio of assets that will increase your optionality. We end our conversation with whether the strategy paradox can be applied not only to making decisions in business, but to making decisions in our personal lives as well.
Get the show notes at aom.is/strategyparadox.
|Jul 27, 2020|
#629: Why We Swim
If you've been swimming since you were a child, you probably don't think too much about it anymore. But when you take a step back, the human act of swimming is a pretty interesting thing. You weren't born knowing how to swim; it's not instinctual. So why are people so naturally drawn to water? And what do we get out of paddling around in it?
Get the show notes at aom.is/whyweswim.
|Jul 22, 2020|
#628: The Rise of Secular Religion and the New Puritanism
There has been a lot of civil and political upheaval lately, and what makes the atmosphere particularly disorienting, is that beyond the more obvious proximate and commonly-discussed causes for the turmoil, it feels like there are even deeper cultural currents and contexts at play, that are yet hard to put one's finger on and understand. There's a fervor in the debates and conflict that almost seems . . . religious.
My guest today would say that's exactly the right word to describe the tenor of things. His name is Jacob Howland, he's a recently retired professor of philosophy, and the currents at play in today's world are things he's spent his whole career studying -- from Plato and Aristotle to the Hebrew Bible and Kierkegaard, with a particular emphasis on the political philosophy of the ancient Greeks. Howland draws on all those areas to weave together a kind of philosophical roadmap to how we've arrived at our current cultural zeitgeist. In particular, Howland makes the case that what we're seeing today is the rise of a kind of secular religion, a new Puritanism, that worships at what he calls "the Church of Humanity." This new Puritanism bases the idea of moral purity around one's views on issues like race and gender, and seeks to purge anyone who doesn't adhere to the proscribed dogma.
Jacob walks us through the tenets of the dominant influence on this secular religion -- a strain of modern thought called "critical theory" -- and offers a kind of philosophical genealogy on what led up to it, which includes the ideas of Rousseau, Marx, and Hegel. We discuss how critical theory contrasts with classical liberalism, and approaches people as members of groups rather than as individuals, and as abstractions rather than particulars, and how this lens on the world leads to identity politics and cancel culture. We delve into Kierkegaard's prophecies on the leveling of society, and how the modern tendency to make man the measure of all things can leave us feeling spiritually and intellectually empty, and looking to politics to fill an existential void it can't ultimately satisfy. We end our conversation describing the sustenance which can.
Get the show notes at aom.is/howland.
|Jul 20, 2020|
#627: How to Deal With Jerks, Bullies, Tyrants, and Trolls
There are some people in life who are more than unpleasant, more than annoying. They're real, genuine a**holes.
My guest today has written the preeminent field guides to identifying, dealing with, and avoiding all of life's jerks, bullies, tyrants, and trolls: The No Asshole Rule and The Asshole Survival Guide. His name is Bob Sutton, he's a Stanford professor of organization and management, and we begin our conversation together with how Bob defines what makes an a-hole an a-hole, what causes their jerkiness, and the costs of having such disagreeable people as part of an organization. We then get into the circumstances of when being a jerk yourself can actually be advantageous. We then turn to how to deal with the jerks in your own life, including distancing yourself from them, deciding you're going to be better than them, and imagining you're a jerk collector encountering a new species of jerk. Bob explains smart ways to fight back against jerks, and gets into the wisdom of documenting their jerkiness, why it's occasionally helpful to take an aggressive stand, and how even Steve Jobs learned how to be less of an a-hole. We end our conversation with how to build a jerk-free workplace.
Get the show notes at aom.is/jerks.
|Jul 15, 2020|
#626: How to Declutter Every Aspect of Your Work Life
When you think about decluttering, you probably think about your home life, and cleaning out your junk drawer and closets. But there are also ways to declutter your work life and tidy up both its physical and digital aspects.
My guest today explains the art of practicing minimalism in your professional life in a book he co-authored with organizing expert Marie Kondo. His name is Scott Soneshein, he's a professor of business and management, and his book is Joy at Work. Scott and I begin our conversation by unpacking the benefits of keeping your work life neat and tidy, and then move into how to do this in regards to your physical workspace. Scott shares three questions to ask yourself when you declutter your office to help you decide which items to keep and which to throw away. We also take a useful aside into how to throw away your children's artwork with less guilt. We then move into how to declutter your digital life by cleaning up your email inbox and smartphone. We end our discussion with several areas you may not think of in terms of clutter, but probably need some tidying up: your activities, decisions, network, and meetings.
Get the show notes at aom.is/declutterwork.
|Jul 13, 2020|
#625: The Code of the Warrior
War is a violent and bloody business, but it's rarely a no-holds barred free-for-all. Instead, codes of conduct that determine what is and isn't honorable behavior on the battlefield have existed since ancient times.
Get the show notes at aom.is/warriorcode.
|Jul 08, 2020|
#624: The Crazy, Forgotten Story of America's First Fitness Influencer
The topic of health and fitness has long been a popular one for magazines, and in most recent times, for blogs and Instagram accounts. But what these modern publishers and influencers probably don't realize is that they're standing on the shoulders of an ambitious eccentric who laid the foundation for much of modern American media: Bernarr Macfadden.
Get the show notes at aom.is/macfadden.
|Jul 06, 2020|
#479: Becoming a Digital Minimalist [RE-BROADCAST]
This is a re-broadcast. The episode originally ran in February 2019.
Practicing minimalism with your possessions has been a trend for the past decade, and it can be a worthy practice, as long as you use it as a means to greater efficacy outside your personal domain, rather than just an end in itself.
But there's arguably a minimalism practice that's even more effective in achieving that greater efficacy: digital minimalism.
My guest has written the definitive guide to the philosophy and tactics behind digital minimalism. His name is Cal Newport and this is his third visit to the AoM Podcast. We’ve had him on the show previously to discuss his books So Good They Can’t Ignore You and Deep Work. Today, we discuss his latest book, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World.
We begin our conversation discussing why digital tech feels so addicting, why Steve Jobs didn’t originally intend for the iPhone to become something we check all the time, and why the common tips for reducing your smartphone use don't work and you need to implement more nuclear solutions instead. We then discuss the surprising lesson the Amish can teach you about being intentional about technology, how cleaning up your digital life is like decluttering your house, and why he recommends a 30-day tech fast to evaluate what tech you want to let back into your life. Cal then makes an argument for why you should see social media like training wheels for navigating the web, how to take those wheels off, and why you should own your own domain address. We end our conversation exploring what you should do in the free time you open up once your digital distractions are tamed, and the advanced techniques you can use to take the practice of digital minimalism to the next level.
I think you'll find this a tremendously interesting and important show.
Get the show notes at aom.is/digitalminimalism.
|Jul 01, 2020|
#623: How to Make Better Decisions by Thinking Like a Rocket Scientist
When someone is struggling with a seemingly easy problem, someone else might say, "Come on, it's not rocket science!" The inference being that rocket science represents the pinnacle of complexity.
But my guest today argues that the study of rocket science contains some simple, overarching principles that cannot only be universally understood, but universally applied to all kinds of problems and decisions. His name is Ozan Varol, he served on the operations team for the 2003 Mars Exploration Rovers project, and he's the author of the book Think Like a Rocket Scientist. We begin our conversation discussing why Ozan went from studying astrophysics to going to law school, and how his scientific background has influenced his legal career. We then dig into ways that the same thought processes that enable spacecraft to travel millions of miles can also be applied to moving forward in work and life. Ozan explains how scientists deal with uncertainty and why you have to constantly question the way things are done to get better results. We end our discussion by talking about how to use thought experiments to solve problems, how to test ideas, and how to actually learn from your failures.
Get the show notes at aom.is/rocketscientist.
|Jun 29, 2020|
#622: How to Simplify Your Life and Get Off the Grid
Many dream of leaving the city and all its tethers and obligations and creating a simpler, more independent life farther from the mainstream population and entirely off the grid. But how do you go from that daydream to making such a move a reality?
My guest walks us through the process today. His name is Gary Collins, he made the leap himself and now lives off the grid in Northeast Washington, and he's the author of several books on off grid living as well as simplifying your life. We begin our conversation today with why Gary decided to leave his conventional, urban, 9-5 existence to find a freer lifestyle, and how he defines being off the grid. We then get into why Gary thinks you should make the move to living off the grid in a series of steps, the first of which is to simplify your existing life in three main ways. Gary then makes the case for why living in a RV should be the next step in your journey, before discussing the process of finding land for your off grid home, and the factors to consider in picking a locale. From there we get into how those who live off the grid take care of water, sewage, power, and internet, how they construct the house itself, and what to know about the start-up costs involved. We end our conversation with a discussion of getting off the grid in a more metaphorical way by quitting social media, and why Gary thinks you should pull the plug on those platforms, even if you're an entrepreneur.
Get the show notes at aom.is/offgrid.
|Jun 24, 2020|
#621: The Causes and Cures of Childhood Anxiety
Everyone feels under greater psychic pressure these days, but we adults hope that children, who have always been seen as naturally resilient, have been spared the stress. Unfortunately, kids are increasingly experiencing mental health problems like anxiety at younger and younger ages, and this trend has been going on for years.
My guest today wrote a cover article for The Atlantic on the causes and cures of this phenomenon. Her name is Kate Julian and we begin our conversation today by describing the extent to which problems like depression, anxiety, and even suicide have been on the rise among children, and how these issues correlate with continued problems later in life. We then talk about the possible causes behind the increase in childhood anxiety, and whether technology and social media are to blame. We then delve into the idea of how parents are perpetuating their children's anxiety through their own anxiety and their willingness to make accommodations to keep their kids calm and happy. We get into the idea that getting your children comfortable with being uncomfortable can inoculate them against anxiety, and end our conversation with a discussion of whether more exposure to the news of a tumultuous world might actually make kids more resilient.
Get the show notes at aom.is/childhoodanxiety.
|Jun 22, 2020|
#620: How to Deal With Life's Regrets
We've all asked "what if" questions about our life: What if I had majored in art instead of business? What if I had let my best friend know I liked her as more than a friend? What if I had taken the job offer in Colorado? Sometimes contemplating the imagined possibilities of these alternative histories fills us with sharp pangs of regret.
My guest today says that's not necessarily a bad thing. His name is Neal Roese and he's a professor of psychology and marketing and the author of If Only: How to Turn Regret Into Opportunity. Neal and I begin our conversation by unpacking how asking "what if" is to engage in something called "counterfactual thinking," and how you can create a downward counterfactual, in which you imagine how a decision could have turned out worse, or an upward counterfactual, where you imagine how a decision could have turned out better. Neal then explains why living without regret isn't actually that healthy, and why even though regret is an unpleasant feeling, it can be an important spur towards greater improvement, action, and agency. We then do get into the circumstances in which regret can become a negative force, before turning to what Neal's research says are the most common regrets people have in life. At the end of our conversation, we pivot to talking about how imagining how your life could have turned out worse, can make you feel happier.
Get the show notes at aom.is/regret.
|Jun 17, 2020|
#619: What Driving Tells Us About Agency, Skill, and Freedom
According to Silicon Valley, self-driving cars are the future of transportation. Instead of owning and driving a car, you can just summon an AI-operated vehicle with your smartphone and have this superpowered computer taxi you to your destination. No more car maintenance, no more traffic, no more accidents.
Get the show notes at aom.is/whywedrive.
|Jun 15, 2020|
#618: Finding Connection in a Lonely World
We've all been there: you're sitting at home some evening and you don't have plans, you haven't heard from family or friends for awhile, and you've got things on your mind, but don't feel like there's anyone you can talk to about them. You feel down and adrift, and sense an almost physical ache in your heart. You're experiencing loneliness, and my guest today says we ought to interpret this feeling the way we would hunger or thirst -- as a signal that we have a need that we should take action to fulfill.
His name is Dr. Vivek Murthy, he served as the 19th Surgeon General of the United States, and he's the author of the book Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World. We begin our conversation discussing what loneliness is exactly and how we can feel interpersonally fulfilled in some areas of our lives, and yet lonely in others. Vivek then walks us through the very tangible harm loneliness can do to our mental health, before exploring why loneliness has been increasing in the western world. Vivek and I then discuss how loneliness affects men in particular. We end our conversation with things we can all do to battle the loneliness epidemic and feel more connected to those around us.
Get the show notes at aom.is/loneliness.
|Jun 10, 2020|
#617: What It's Like to Go to Army Ranger School
Which branch of the military has the toughest training course for its officers and special operators is a matter of animated debate, but there's no question that the Army's Ranger School is a viable candidate for carrying that designation. Over nine weeks, and three grueling phases, soldiers undergo physical, mental, and emotional challenges that test their endurance, resilience, and leadership.
My guest today went through Ranger School twice: first as an infantry officer in 2004, and then just last year as the first journalist to embed with a class all the way through the course. His name is Will Bardenwerper and he wrote an article about his experience for Outside Magazine called "Army Ranger School Is a Laboratory of Human Endurance." Will and I begin our conversation with why he wanted to observe Ranger School from a third-party perspective after participating in it firsthand as a soldier. Will then explains the difference between earning your tab by graduating from Ranger School and being an official Army Ranger who belongs to the Ranger Regiment special operations force. Will then gives us a big picture overview of the three phases of Ranger School: Benning Phase, Mountain Phase, and Swamp Phase. We then dive into what happens in each phase, taking side trips along the way into the controversy of allowing women into the course, whether or not it's gotten easier since Will went through, and the importance of doing well in the combat patrol exercises and peer reviews in which the students participate. We end our conversation discussing the lessons in endurance that civilians can take away from those who graduate from Ranger School and earn the tab.
Get the show notes at aom.is/rangerschool.
|Jun 08, 2020|
#616: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling
One of the most burning questions in life is what it is you're called to do with it. What is your life's purpose? What great work are you meant to do?
Get the show notes at aom.is/gita.
|Jun 03, 2020|
#615: How to Develop Authentic Gravitas
When it comes to how you're perceived in your professional life, it's likely you want to be taken seriously. You want your words to carry weight. You want to be influential and listened to, regardless of your position in a company. You want to carry yourself with gravitas.
Get the show notes at aom.is/gravitas.
|Jun 01, 2020|
#614: Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life
When most of us run into obstacles with how we think and approach the world -- whether in terms of dealing with mental health issues like depression and anxiety or simply making progress with our relationships and work, we typically try to focus in on solving the perceived problem, or we run away from it. In either case, instead of feeling better, we feel more stuck.
My guest today says we need to free ourselves from these instincts and our default mental programming and learn to just sit with our thoughts, and even turn towards those which hurt the most. His name is Steven Hayes and he's a professor of psychology, the founder of ACT -- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy -- and the author of over 40 books, including his latest A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Toward What Matters. Steven and I spend the first part of our conversation in a very interesting discussion as to why traditional interventions for depression and anxiety -- drugs and talk therapy -- aren't very effective in helping people get their minds right, and how ACT takes a different approach to achieving mental health. We then discuss the six skills of psychological flexibility that undergird ACT and how these skills can be used not only by those dealing with depression and anxiety but by anyone who wants to get out of their own way and show up and move forward in every area of their lives.
Get the show notes at aom.is/liberatedmind.
|May 27, 2020|
#613: How Soldiers Die in Battle
War is about many things: glory, violence, courage, destruction. But at its heart is death. Each side in a conflict tries to kill as many of the enemy as possible, while avoiding being killed themselves.
The way these deaths have played out over thousands of years of warfare has changed not simply based on the way martial technology has changed, but also on the way that the psychological and cultural pressures that have led societies and individual men to fight have changed.
My guest today, Michael Stephenson, is a military historian who explores these evolutions in his book The Last Full Measure: How Soldiers Die in Battle. Today Michael and I discuss the forces that led soldiers to their fate over the centuries, from advancements in weaponry to the expectations of social class. At the beginning of our conversation Michael discusses why he wanted to write this book, and the balance he had to walk in trying to describe the reality of death on the battlefield, without conveying those details in a sensationalistic or titillating manner. We then trace the history of death in war, beginning with its primitive beginnings and working our way to the modern day. Along the way we discuss how gunpowder changed the nature of warfare, the effect that distance has on how heroic a confrontation seems, why artillery is particularly terrifying, what motivates soldiers to fight, and much more.
This is a surprisingly enlightening and humane look at an oft glossed over aspect of the human experience.
Get the show notes at aom.is/lastfullmeasure.
|May 25, 2020|
#612: Grillmaster Secrets for Flame-Cooked Perfection
It's almost summer and you know what that means: grilling season is upon us. To help ensure that you have your best grilling season ever, today I talk to Matt Moore, AoM's resident food writer and the author of Serial Griller: Grillmaster Secrets for Flame-Cooked Perfection. We begin our conversation discussing Matt's trips around the country to glean the best stories and tips from our nation's foremost grillmasters. We first unpack why the Maillard reaction is so important to creating delicious browned food, and how to ensure you get that effect when you grill. From there we dive into more of the secrets of better grilling, including the pros and cons of different types of fuels and grill types and the essential tools to have on hand when making flame-cooked grub. Matt then offers his surprising take on the best way to grill a burger and explains how to grill the perfect steak, cook chicken so it doesn't dry out, and fire up fish without it falling apart. We end our discussion with Matt's grilled, mouth-watering alternative to a traditional peach cobbler.
You'll be ready to fire up the grill after listening to this show.
Get the show notes at aom.is/serialgriller.
|May 20, 2020|
#611: How a Weekly Marriage Meeting Can Strengthen Your Relationship
Several years ago, Kate and I implemented a practice that has helped strengthen our relationship. It's called a "marriage meeting," and we got the idea from my guest today. Her name is Marcia Naomi Berger, and she's a therapist and the author of Marriage Meetings: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You've Always Wanted. Marcia and I begin our discussion with how she developed the idea of marriage meetings and why couples can benefit from implementing this habit. We then unpack the four-part agenda of the marriage meeting, which includes showing appreciation, discussing household chores, planning for good times, and resolving big issues, and Marcia explains why you need to do the steps in that particular order. She then addresses the possible objection to meeting with one's spouse in a more structured way, and explains why the format of the marriage meeting is more effective than trying to discuss these things on the fly. She then provides tips and insights on how to execute each part of the marriage meeting, including the importance of being specific with your appreciation, following up on to-dos, and scheduling good times both as a couple and as individuals. Marcia then shares advice on what to do if you want to start the marriage meeting practice but your spouse doesn't, how your meetings can take as little as 15 minutes, and how best to communicate during the meeting so that each partner will feel good about keeping up this game-changing habit.
Get the show notes at aom.is/marriagemeeting.
|May 18, 2020|
#610: Who Lives in Survival Situations, Who Dies, and Why
In disasters or accidents, why do some people survive and others perish? In exploring this question, my guest has uncovered psychological and philosophical insights into not only dealing with life-threatening crises, but strategically navigating any situation that involves risk and decision-making.
Get the show notes at aom.is/deepsurvival.
|May 13, 2020|
#609: The 3 Tasks of Moving From Adolescence to Adulthood
A lot of ink has been spilled about how young people today are struggling to transition from adolescence to adulthood. But these think pieces are often heavy on blame and light on solutions. My guest today takes an understanding approach to the difficulties of growing up, as well as offers practical strategies for facilitating the process. His name is Mark McConville, and he's a family clinical psychologist who's spent decades working with young clients and written a book on what he's found does and doesn't work in getting them to become more independent called Failure to Launch: Why Your Twentysomething Hasn't Grown Up . . . and What to Do About It.
We begin our conversation with how Mark defines a failure to launch, when in his career he started to notice this issue in his young clients, and what factors are behind its prevalence. He then explains the idea of "emerging adulthood" and how it's normal for it to take some time for a twenty-something to start feeling like a grown-up. Mark and I then unpack the three tasks a young person must master to transition to adulthood, which includes discussions of what prevents twenty-somethings from taking on grown-up responsibilities, how parents need to shift from a supervisory role to a consultant role, the importance of getting going in the right direction, and why young adults should treat life like a climbing wall. We end our conversation with advice to parents on the best way to motivate their kids to tackle the tasks of growing up.
Plenty of insights for both young adults and their parents in this episode.
Get the show notes at aom.is/launch.
|May 11, 2020|
#608: How Caffeine Hooks, Hurts, and Helps Us
More than 80% of the world's population consumes the same psychostimulant every single day. Yet few of us know very much about our favorite daily drug . . . caffeine.
My guest today will shed some light on humanity's love affair with this pick-me-up substance. His name is Murray Carpenter and he's the author of Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts, and Hooks Us. We begin our discussion exploring what caffeine does to our mind and body, before delving into how caffeine consumption developed in different places all around the world and how the way we get our caffeine fix has evolved over the millennia. Murray and I then discuss the popularity of coffee in America and how our grandparents actually drank way more of it than we do today. Murray explains how caffeinated sodas became a stimulating competitor to coffee in the 19th century and how energy drinks became a huge business in the late 20th. Murray and I then discuss how you're probably ingesting more caffeine than you realize, and what the generally recommended maximum amount to consume per day is. We then get into whether caffeine can enhance athletic performance, and how much you need to take for it to make a difference. We then discuss the overlooked benefits of caffeine, as well as its downsides, and end our conversation with the question of whether caffeine is an addictive substance.
This episode will get you thinking about your morning joe differently.
Get the show notes at aom.is/caffeinated.
|May 06, 2020|
#607: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
It's been 30 years since the landmark self-management book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was published. It's been called the most influential business book of the 20th century and the principles it espouses have become embedded in our culture. The 7 Habits has had a big impact on my own life since the first time I read it over 20 years ago as a high schooler. A 30th anniversary edition of the book is out with new insights from the late Stephen Covey's children. Today, it's my pleasure to speak to one of them, Stephen M.R. Covey. Stephen is the oldest of the Covey children, played an instrumental role in the launch of the first edition of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, as well as in his father's company, Franklin Covey, and is himself the author of the book The Speed of Trust. Today on the show, Stephen and I discuss why The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has had such staying power and why it's just as relevant today as it was 30 years ago. We then walk through the seven habits, exploring how each is lived individually, as well as work together to create a flourishing life. If you've never read The 7 Habits, this episode is a great introduction. And if you've read it before, this is a succinct refresher on a set of principles worth building your life around.
Get the show notes at aom.is/sevenhabits.
|May 04, 2020|
#606: How to Activate Your Brain's Happy Chemicals
Everyone has experienced the way our feelings fluctuate day by day, and even hour by hour. Sometimes we're feeling up and sometimes we're feeling down.
Get the show notes at aom.is/happychemicals.
|Apr 29, 2020|
#605: The Money Moves You Should Make Right Now
The shutdowns that have accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic have wreaked havoc on the global economy. Millions of people are out of work, businesses are cratering, and the stock market has tanked. Whether you've been hard hit by these effects or are so far weathering the storm yet feel uncertain about your future, what financial moves should you be making right now? To get some insight, I brought back personal finance expert Ramit Sethi, author of the book I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Since the pandemic started, Ramit has been hosting "fireside chats" on his Instagram account where he covers a financial topic pertinent to the pandemic, as well as answers questions from his community of followers.
Today we discuss some of the ideas Ramit's been hitting on during these chats as well as the common financial questions he's been fielding. I begin our conversation by asking Ramit why he tells people they shouldn't panic, but should overreact. We then dig into Ramit's advice for people who fall into different categories as to how the pandemic has affected them, beginning with survival strategies for those who are out of a job altogether. Ramit then shares the money moves people who do still have income coming in should make and why he's changed his tune on how much of an emergency fund you should have. We then discuss why now is a good time to find ways to earn more money and what investing should look like during an economic slump. We end our conversation with Ramit's advice on how to look for a job during a pandemic and what small businesses can do to adapt to the current climate.
Get the show notes at aom.is/pandemicfinances.
|Apr 27, 2020|
#604: The Boring Decadence of Modern Society
On the surface, it can feel like we've made a lot of technological, economic, and cultural progress during the past 30 years. But if you look closer, you start to notice that in a lot of ways, we've been running on repeat for several decades now. My guest today argues that this is what typically happens to rich and powerful societies: A period of growth and dynamism, such as we experienced after WWII, is followed by a period of stagnation and malaise. His name is Ross Douthat and his latest book is The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success. We begin our conversation discussing Ross's idea of decadence and how it's particularly marked by the quality of boredom. We then explore how decadence manifests itself in different areas of our society: Ross and I discuss how even though the realms of the economy and technology might seem vibrant (or at least they did before the pandemic struck), Americans are actually starting fewer businesses, moving less for work, and making fewer life-altering innovations than in times past. We then discuss the fact that clothing styles haven't changed all that much from the 1990s, the repercussions of couples having fewer children, and the calcification of our political institutions. We end our conversation with how each of us as individuals can fight back against decadence.
Get the show notes at aom.is/decadence.
|Apr 22, 2020|
#603: The Physical Keys to Human Resilience
Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl said that "between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response." Frankl was talking about our ability to choose our mental responses to what we encounter in life. What if we could also choose how our physiology responds to our environment so that we can perform and thrive on a higher level? My guest today explores that question in his latest book. His name is Scott Carney and he's the author of The Wedge: Evolution, Consciousness, Stress, and the Key to Human Resilience.
Get the show notes at aom.is/wedge.
|Apr 20, 2020|
#602: The Case for Being Unproductive
Decades ago, economists thought that thanks to advances in technology, in the 21st century we'd only work a few hours a week and enjoy loads of leisure time. Yet here we are in the modern age, still working long hours and feeling like we're busier than ever. What happened?
My guest today argues that we've all been swept up into a cult of efficiency that started centuries ago and has only been strengthened by advances in technology. The remedy? Do nothing. At least nothing productive.
Her name is Celeste Headlee and she's the author of Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving. We begin our conversation taking a look at what work was like before industrialization and how we moderns work more than medieval serfs. Celeste then explains how industrialization moved us from task-based work to hour-based work and how that helped change our perception of time and usher in "the cult of efficiency." We discuss how we've taken this penchant towards over-optimization which prevails in work life, and applied it to our personal and family lives as well, adding stress and stripping us of hobbies and social connections. We then dig into how this current moment of being forced into doing less can be used as a time to reevaluate our relationship to work, and how we can reconnect with the idea of doing things for their own sake, especially cultivating relationships with others.
Get the show notes at aom.is/donothing.
|Apr 15, 2020|
#601: How to Get Jailhouse Strong
When you're in prison, you've got a lot of time on your hands, and a lot of inmates spend this time exercising. With little or no equipment and sometimes just the space available in their cells, prisoners are able to get incredibly big and strong. Learning how prisoners do these bodyweight workouts can be useful for those who aren't in jail, but want to get fit and don't have access to exercise equipment.
My guest today got the lowdown on the methods prisoners use to get strong by interviewing bodybuilders who also spent time in the slammer. His name is Josh Bryant, and he's a powerlifter and powerlifting coach and the co-author of the book Jailhouse Strong. We begin our conversation discussing the mindset with which Josh approaches fitness training, including what he means by being "gas station ready." We then discuss why being big and strong is oftentimes a matter of survival for prisoners and some of the famously fit former inmates Josh highlights in his book. We then dig into the specific bodyweight movements prisoners typically use, how they can be incorporated in your own workout routine, and the various ways you can modify and make the exercises harder. We discuss programs prisoners often use and how Josh has enhanced them with his powerlifting background. Josh then lays out a beginner's three-day-a-week bodyweight program, explains the way prisoners incorporate "deloading" or taking a break from their workouts, and talks about his all-time favorite conditioning exercise.
Get the show notes at aom.is/jailhousestrong.
|Apr 13, 2020|
#600: What Board Games Teach Us About Life
Board games have long been a source of social activity and family entertainment. But my guest today makes the case that board games can be more than just a way to while away the time, and can also offer insights about relationships, decision making, and the changing currents of culture. His name is Jonathan Kay and he's a co-author of the book Your Move: What Board Games Teach Us About Life. We begin our conversation discussing the board game renaissance that has taken place in the past twenty years and how today's board games are much more nuanced, complex, and arguably more fun than the classic games you probably played as a kid. Jonathan and I then discuss how the evolution of the board game Life can give us insights into our culture's changing ideas of virtue and how board games often reflect the attitudes of a given time. We then discuss what cooperative games like Pandemic tell us about how to handle overbearing people and how the game Dead of Winter highlights the way private interests often conflict with group interests. Jonathan then shares why Monopoly is such a divisive game and whether board games can teach resilience. At the end of the show, Jonathan gives his personal recommendations for board games to check out that are way better than the chutes and ladders type games you played growing up.
Get the show notes at aom.is/boardgames.
|Apr 08, 2020|
Bonus: How the Stages of Grief Explain What You're Feeling During This Pandemic
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of people have been feeling out of sorts: angry, sad, frustrated, and just plain bummed out. Part of the reason for these feelings is obvious, and part has been hard to articulate and understand.
Get the show notes at aom.is/grief.
|Apr 07, 2020|
#599: The Physical Intelligence That Helps You Take Action
Ever wonder why you don't walk into walls? How you know you have to step gingerly on ice? How you decide whether you can or can't scale a certain rock? My guest today says the answer lies in our special sense of bodily know-how. His name is Scott Grafton, and he's a neurologist and the author of Physical Intelligence: The Science of How the Body and the Mind Guide Each Other Through Life. We begin our conversation discussing how physical intelligence is the mutually responsive interaction between your body and your mind that allows you to interact effectively in the world. Scott then explains how our mind and body work together to build our conception of space and that without this ability we couldn't create an area of operations in which to take action. We then discuss how our mind and body communicate with various types of terrain, how we can lose that ability by limiting our movements to simple, safe environments, and how that may explain why old people fall down more. We then discuss how problem-solving can be a very physical activity and whether the feeling of fatigue is more a matter of the body or the mind. We end our conversation discussing ways you can keep your physical intelligence sharp as you age.
Get the show notes at aom.is/physicalintelligence.
|Apr 06, 2020|
#598: Journeying From the First to the Second Half of Life
Have you come to a point in your life where the pursuits of your younger years no longer seem meaningful or satisfying? Maybe it's time for you to transition from the first half of your life to the second.
My guest today has spent decades helping people, particularly men, make this passage. His name is James Hollis and he's a Jungian analyst and the author of over a dozen books, including Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life. We begin our conversation with a brief overview of what makes Jungian or depth psychology unique, and how it helps individuals find meaning and deal with life's existential questions. Our discussion then explores the differences between the first and second halves of life, and how the main question of the first is "What is the world asking of me?" while the primary question of the second is "What is my soul asking of me?" Jim explains why you need to sort through the influences of your family and culture on who you've become and how the second half of life is about finding personal authority and sovereignty. We also discuss why the first half of life is always "a gigantic, unavoidable mistake," and why that's okay.
Jim explains what triggers the impetus to move from the first to the second half of life, how it can happen at any age, how to make the transition from one phase to the other, and why the journey to the second can be terrifying because it lacks the structure of the first. Jim describes the internal systems you can use for guidance in moving forward in the absence of this external structure. He then gets into the importance of continuing to grow in your profession or marriage throughout your life. We discuss the particular reasons men can get stuck in the first half of life, and how men are more free to tend to the needs of their souls these days, but can still feel adrift. We end our conversation with how you can know if you're on the right track in pursuing the tasks of the second half of life.
Get the show notes at aom.is/secondhalf.
|Apr 01, 2020|
#597: A Survival Expert's Guide to Bugging-In
The coronavirus pandemic has forced tens of millions of people to stay home due to shelter-in-place orders and even lockdowns. While supplies of food, water, and other essentials have largely continued undisrupted, if one or more of these services were cut off, what would be the best way to prepare for that kind of emergency?
To answer this question, I talk to friend of AoM and survival expert, Creek Stewart. Creek has dedicated his life to mastering all things survival, spending thousands of hours in the field, authoring numerous articles and books, teaching courses to others, and hosting television shows for the Weather Channel like SOS: How to Survive.
Today, Creek and I talk about what we can learn from the current pandemic about how to shelter-in-place or bug-in, and how to be prepared if this crisis worsens in severity, or we're one day hit with a more dire disaster. We dive into the different bug-in categories you need to consider, beginning with how much food and water you need for a long-term bug-in situation, and how to properly store it. Creek then talks about what you need to consider in terms of first aid and home defense in a bug-in scenario, and why you also need to think about how to keep yourself entertained.
Get the show notes at aom.is/bugin.
|Mar 30, 2020|
#596: The Mystery, Science, and Life-Changing Power of the Hot Hand
Have you ever had a period in your athletic or professional career where you kind of felt like you were on fire? Maybe you made a whole streak of consecutive shots in a game, or executed one good idea after another at work.
In his book, The Hot Hand: The Mystery and Science of Streaks, my guest today explores why success sometimes seems to arrive in clusters like this. His name is Ben Cohen and he's a sports writer for The Wall Street Journal. Ben and I begin our conversation with an explanation of what it means to have a hot hand, and how this phenomenon has often been studied in basketball, but can be seen in a wide range of areas, including the film career of Rob Reiner. We then discuss what may cause winning streaks, whether or not they can be induced, and what Stephen Curry does when he starts feeling hot in a game. We also talk about what the video game NBA Jam can tell us about the psychology of the hot hand. We then dig into what the academic research has found on whether the hot hand truly exists or is really just a cognitive illusion. We end our conversation with what you can start doing today to take advantage of having a hot hand.
Get the show notes at aom.is/hothand.
|Mar 25, 2020|
#595: Everything You Need to Know About Creating a Home Gym
In a time when the world is dealing with a pandemic, and many commercial gyms have shut down, interest in creating a gym at home has swelled. Whether working out at home is something you've been mulling over for a long time, or that you've just started to think about, this show will help you decide if and how to move forward on the idea.
Coop and I begin our conversation unpacking the many benefits of having a home gym, and also talk about one of its potential downsides. He then explains why it's generally a big mistake to go all-in, all at once on a home gym, and how he recommends making the transition instead. We then get into exactly what the start-up costs for a home gym are, and how it's likely less than you think. Coop shares specifics on what he thinks are the essential pieces of equipment to get, the cost breakdown on each, and the companies that manufacture solid equipment at an affordable price. We then turn to the issue of space, and Coop shares the minimum size footprint you'll need for your gym, as well as solutions if you're working with a very small area or live in an apartment. We end our conversation with suggestions for exercising even if you have no equipment at all.
Get the show notes at aom.is/garagegym.
|Mar 23, 2020|
#594: How Churchill (and London) Survived the Blitz of 1940
A few months after Winston Churchill took office as prime minister, the German military began an eight month-long bombing campaign on the United Kingdom which became known as the Blitz. The bombing, which lasted for 57 consecutive days and nights, killed 45,000 Britons. What was life like for the people who experienced the Blitz? My guest today zoomed in on this question by looking at the lives of Winston Churchill and his inner circle during this precarious year of the war.
His name is Erik Larson, and in his latest book The Splendid and the Vile, he shows readers how the Blitz could be absolutely terrifying, unexpectedly normal, and strangely beautiful at the same time, and does so by profiling how Churchill, as well as his family members and advisers, handled both the unexpected horrors of war and the predictable pickles of interpersonal drama. We begin our conversation discussing the extent of the Blitz, and then spend the rest of our conversation discussing key members in what Churchill called his "sacred circle." We learn how Churchill's wife Clementine supported her husband during the Blitz, how his son Randolph created trouble with his gambling and affairs, how his teenage daughter Mary managed to keep doing typically adolescent activities even while bombs fell on England, and how his advisors contributed to his leadership. These characters offer a great lesson in how life goes on even in the midst of a crisis, and how one can be fearless even in the face of a threat.
Get the show notes at aom.is/larson.
|Mar 18, 2020|
#593: All You Have to Do Is Ask
Are you feeling overwhelmed at work? Trying to find a job, but can't seem to get your foot in the door? Have you been knocking your head against a problem over and over again, but haven't made any headway on it?
My guest today says you can solve most of these issues by simply asking for help.
His name is Wayne Baker, he's a sociologist, consultant, and the author of the book All You Have to Do Is Ask: How to Master the Most Important Skill for Success.
We begin our conversation discussing what the research says are the benefits of asking for help and why people are nevertheless so reluctant to do it. Wayne then provides insights on how to overcome those obstacles in asking for help, the best way to formulate an ask so that it actually gets a response, and how to handle rejection. We then turn to Wayne's research on how organizations can benefit from creating a culture of help-seeking and what you can do within the organizations you belong to to foster such a culture.
Get the show notes at aom.is/ask.
|Mar 16, 2020|
#592: Being a Man in the Lousy Modern World
Emerson famously said "society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members."
My guest today says things have gotten a lot worse since Emerson uttered those words over a century and a half ago. His name is Robert Twigger. We last had him on the show to discuss his book Micromastery. Today we discuss a book he wrote 20 years ago called Being a Man in the Lousy Modern World. We begin our conversation discussing how the modern world infantilizes men so they're easier to control, and whether Robert thinks things have changed since he initially published the book. We then dig into the four factors Robert says need to be in place for a man to feel like a man, and why experiencing these qualities has become harder to do in the present age. We then discuss what Robert did to counter the currents of modern malaise like hiking the Pyrenees mountains and learning a martial art, and whether doing those things actually made him feel manlier. We end our conversation with what men can do to start fighting back against the conspiracy against their manhood.
Get the show notes at aom.is/twigger.
|Mar 11, 2020|
#591: Solve Problems Before They Become Problems
So often in life, we get stuck in a cycle of reaction. We tackle the most urgent tasks. We deal with emergencies. We put out fires.
We intuitively know we'd be better off if we figured out a way to be more proactive rather than reactive, thereby preventing fires from starting in the first place, but we can't seem to switch our approach.
My guest today explores why that is and what we can do to start solving the problems of business, life, and society before they become problems.
His name is Dan Heath and today we talk about his latest book, Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen. We begin our conversation discussing the issues that keep us from nipping problems in the bud, including problem blindness, lack of ownership, and "tunneling." Along the way Dan shares insights into how to overcome those roadblocks. We then shift gears and explore how to find the best upstream solutions to problems, which requires getting as close as possible to the problem, while also being able to survey the system it's embedded in from a bird's eye view. Dan explains the principles at play with plenty of real-life examples of how these tactics were used to effectively tackle big, seemingly intractable social problems.
Lots of great insights that you can apply to solving problems in your personal life, business, and community.
Get the show notes at aom.is/upstream.
|Mar 09, 2020|
#590: The Creation of Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes is one of the most widely recognized figures of literature and pop culture. But how did the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, come up with a character who has become the universal archetype of the independent detective?
In his book, Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes, my guest today explores the biography of the fictional detective by looking at the life of the real-world author. His name is Michael Sims and we begin our conversation with the early life of Conan Doyle and his experience in medical school studying under a renowned diagnostician who helped inspire the character of Sherlock Holmes. Michael then walks us through the cultural world of Victorian England and how it was the perfect environment for a character like Holmes to be birthed. He shows how writers like Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe laid the groundwork for detective fiction, how the Sherlock stories differed from theirs, and how they were initially received. We then delve into the characterization of Holmes and his crime solving methodology, before ending our conversation discussing Conan Doyle's intense interest in spiritualism and why Holmes is such a captivating figure even in the 21st century.
Get the show notes at aom.is/sherlock.
|Mar 04, 2020|
#589: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage
You know how good moving your body is for your physical health. You probably have a vague sense that it's good for your mental health too. But you likely don't realize just how powerful movement truly is for your mind, and that it even affects your sense of hope, courage, connection, and identity. My guest today explores these lesser-appreciated impacts of physical activity in her new book, The Joy of Movement. Her name is Kelly McGonigal and she's a research psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University. Kelly and I begin our discussion with the idea of the runner's high, and whether you can get it from doing forms of exercise other than running. We then discuss how exercise can become powerfully addictive, and yet be a uniquely healthy form of addiction that improves instead of destroys mental health. We then discuss the way that moving our bodies with others can generate collective joy, as well as a muscular bonding that makes a group feel bigger and stronger. We also get into what elements go into an ideal pump-up song, how physical movement helps create your sense of self, and why exercising in nature seems to amplify all its beneficial effects. We end our conversation with what you can start doing today to get more of the potent benefits of physical movement.
Get the show notes at aom.is/joyofmovement.
|Mar 02, 2020|
#588: The Audacious Command of Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great became king of Macedonia at age 19. By age 30 he controlled an empire that spanned from Greece to India. In the two thousand years after his early death, his influence has persisted. Military leaders from Caesar to Napoleon studied his campaigns and imitated his strategies and tactics, and without Alexander, the influence of Greek culture on the world wouldn't have been the same.
My guest today has written a very readable, yet academically authoritative biography of this legendary king, commander, and conqueror. His name is Philip Freeman, and he's a classics professor and the author of Alexander the Great. Today on the show, Philip takes us on an engaging tour of Alexander's life, beginning with the myths surrounding his birth, and his education under the great philosopher Aristotle. Philip then explains the cloak and dagger intrigue of Macedonian politics and why Alexander's father was assassinated. We then dig into Alexander's political reign and military command and highlight the most famous battles during his decade-long campaign to conquer the ancient world. Along the way, Philip shares the leadership lessons we can learn from Alexander.
Get the show notes at aom.is/alexanderthegreat.
|Feb 26, 2020|
#587: How to Get More Pleasure and Fulfillment Out of Your Reading
Do you have a goal of reading more, but any time you start working on that goal, it feels like a chore? The equivalent of eating your broccoli?
My guest today argues that the problem is likely due to the fact that you're trying to read what you think you should be reading, instead of reading what you actually enjoy.
His name is Alan Jacobs. He's a professor of literature and the author of The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. At the start of our conversation Alan offers a critique of a certain approach to reading the so-called "Great Books," and makes an argument for choosing what you read based on Whim, with a capital W, rather than following any kind of list. He then makes the case for following that Whim into reading not only the books of your favorite authors, but the books your favorite authors read, which can actually lead you back to the Great Books, but in a way that will allow you to enjoy and appreciate them more. Alan makes the case as well for the value of re-reading books. Alan and I then discuss tactics to get more out of reading in our age of distraction, including his opinion on reading ebooks versus paper copies. We also get into his take on speed reading and whether it's okay to not finish books you're not digging. We end our conversation with what parents can do to raise eager readers.
Get the show notes at aom.is/pleasuresofreading.
|Feb 24, 2020|
#586: The Story of the Skiing Soldiers of WWII
In the winter of 1940, a group of civilian skiers was sitting by a fire in a ski lodge in Vermont shooting the breeze about how the US Army needed an alpine division like the militaries in Europe had. That conversation transformed into a concerted effort to turn their idea into a reality, and the creation of the Army's 10th Mountain Division -- a unit which would play a vital role fighting in the mountains of Italy during World War II.
My guest today has written a book on these skiing, snow-born soldiers. His name is Maurice Isserman, and he's a professor of history and the author of The Winter Army: The World War II Odyssey of the 10th Mountain Division, America's Elite Alpine Warriors. We begin our conversation discussing why the US Army didn't have an alpine division before WWII and how a group of civilian skiers led by a man named Minnie Dole spearheaded the movement to create one. Maurice then shares why the 10th Mountain Division heavily recruited from top tier colleges, and how the unusual make-up of the division influenced its unique culture. We then discuss how the military figured out what new equipment this new mountain division needed and the vigorous training its members undertook high in the mountains of Colorado. Maurice then digs into the 10th's involvement in the war and whether they actually got to use the skills they trained for years to hone. We end our conversation discussing the legacy of the 10th Mountain Division, including their role in America's post-war boom in recreational skiing.
Get the show notes at aom.is/mountaindivision.
|Feb 19, 2020|
#585: Inflammation, Saunas, and the New Science of Depression
I've dealt with depression in my life. My body temperature also seems to run hot; in fact my wife Kate has nicknamed me "the baked potato."
My guest today says that there may be a connection between those two things. His name is Charles Raison, he's a psychiatrist, professor of psychiatry, and the co-author of The New Mind-Body Science of Depression. We begin our conversation with why Charles thinks it's important to ask the question, "Does Major Depression even exist?" and what we do and don't know about what causes depression. We then turn to the emerging theory that physical inflammation may play a role in depression; Charles describes what inflammation is, and why the body may become inflamed and physically hotter not only in response to physical illness, but psychological stress as well. We then discuss the paradoxical finding that short-term exposure to inflammation in the form of exercise or sitting in a sauna can reduce long-term inflammation, and how hot you probably have to get in a sauna for it to have antidepressant effects. We also talk about how intermittent fasting may have a beneficial effect on inflammation, before turning to whether taking anti-inflammatory drugs could also help, and why you might want to get a blood test to see if your body's inflamed. We end our conversation with Charles' thoughts on how to figure out the right treatment for depression for each individual.
Get the show notes at aom.is/inflammationdepression.
|Feb 17, 2020|
#584: How to Avoid Falling in Love With the Wrong Person
Why do people sometimes fall in love with someone who is all kinds of wrong for them? Their friends and family see lots of red flags about their partner, but they themselves miss these warnings entirely, sometimes to catastrophic consequences.
My guest today argues that these kinds of errors in relational decision-making happen when someone lets his heart rule without also heeding his head. His name is John Van Epp, and he's a therapist and the author of the book How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk. We begin our conversation discussing what society's default template for creating a successful relationship looks like, and how it leads people astray. John then defines what makes a jerk, a jerk, and the signs that you're dating a jerk. He then explains why it is that people so often miss these signs, by using a model of how attachment develops in a relationship; I think this model is super useful in understanding relational dynamics and you don't want to miss it. We then discuss why men need to do a better job in helping to pace relationships, instead of only letting women set the tempo. We end our conversation discussing the things you need to know about a person that you're forming a relationship with, including their relationship skills, family life, and values, before you escalate your commitment to them.
Get the show notes at aom.is/lovethinks.
|Feb 12, 2020|
#583: How to Stay Mentally Sharp and Fulfilled as You Age
Everyone gets old.
But not everyone experiences old age the same way. Some folks spend the last few decades of their life sick, sad, and stagnating, while others stay sharp and find great satisfaction in the twilight years of life.
My guest today is a neuroscientist who has dug into the research on what individuals can do to increase their chances of achieving the latter outcome instead of the former.
His name Daniel Levitin and today we discuss his latest book Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives. We begin our conversation discussing the societal narratives we have about old age that don't always hold true. We then dig into the fact that while the brain slows in some ways with age, it gets sharper in other ways. Daniel shares the personality trait that's the biggest predictor of a successful elderhood, and the recognizable-yet-surprising reason the idea that memory declines with age is overblown. We also talk about what really works for preserving your memory and keeping your mind agile and keen, and no, it's not doing puzzles and brain games We end our show discussing the question of whether people get happier or sadder as they age.
Get the show notes at aom.is/successfulaging.
|Feb 10, 2020|
#582: Essential Lessons From Great Wartime Leaders
War puts leadership to the ultimate test. During a war, a leader must make life or death decisions and be held accountable for those decisions while grappling not only with military strategy, but also political, economic, and domestic dynamics.
My guest explores the lives of nine wartime leaders and what we can learn from them in his latest book: Leadership in War: Essential Lessons From Those Who Made History. His name is Andrew Roberts, and we last had him on the show to talk about his biography of Winston Churchill. We begin today's conversation discussing how Andrew decided on the leaders to highlight in his book, how he defines a "great" leader, and how that definition includes nefarious dictators like Hitler and Stalin. We then take a look at the leadership style of Napoleon, as well as that of World War II leaders like Churchill, Eisenhower, and Marshall. We also unpack how Hitler and Stalin gained power, despite having serious character defects. We end our conversation with the qualities this varied set of leaders held in common.
Get the show notes at aom.is/leadersinwar.
|Feb 05, 2020|
#581: The Tiny Habits That Change Everything
We're a month into the new year now. How are you doing on your resolutions? Have you already fallen off the wagon? Maybe the goal you set for yourself was just too big to successfully tackle. You need to think smaller. Tiny, even.
That's the argument my guest makes. His name is Dr. BJ Fogg, and he's the founder and director of Stanford's Behavior Design Lab, as well as the author of the new book Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything. Today on the show, BJ walks us through the three components that drive our behavior, including the simple yet overlooked relationship between motivation and ability. He then explains how to build habits that feel easier and require lower levels of motivation by picking behaviors that are good matches for you and breaking them down into smaller parts. We also talk about the need to tie your habits to turnkey prompts, the importance of celebrating your successes, no matter how small, and the way tiny habits can lead to bigger changes. We end our conversation with why you should think about the process of getting rid of your bad habits as untangling them rather than breaking them.
Get the show notes at aom.is/tinyhabits.
|Feb 03, 2020|
#580: Why People Do (Or Don't) Listen to You
Some cultural observers have posited that we're moving from an information economy to a reputation economy. There's so much information to sort through, that figuring out which bits to pay attention to has come to increasingly rely on what we think of the person delivering them. We privilege the messenger over the message.
But how exactly do we decide which messengers to listen to or not? What draws us to particular messengers and causes us to tune out others?
My guest has spent his career researching, lecturing, and writing about the answers to these questions and he shares his insights in a new book. His name is Steve Martin and he's the author of Messengers: Who We Listen To, Who We Don't, and Why. In the first half of our conversation, we unpack why it is that the messenger matters so much, and how people can manipulate these factors in unethical ways to peddle messages and influence that may not be credible. We then shift into how you can also leverage these neutral tools in ethical ways to make yourself more persuasive and ensure your ideas get heard. Steve explains that there are two types of persuasive messengers -- hard and soft -- and walks us through the qualities embodied by each. We discuss the different ways a person can become an effective hard messenger, including competence, dominance, and attractiveness, and what makes a soft messenger persuasive, including warmth, vulnerability, and charisma -- the latter of which incorporates a trait you may not have previously associated with being charismatic. We end our conversation discussing when you should use a hard vs. soft approach as you seek to lead and share your message.
Get the show notes at aom.is/messengers.
|Jan 29, 2020|
#579: Jack London's Literary Code
The literature of Jack London has long been given the short shrift by scholars. They say he wrote some good dog stories for boys, but beyond that didn't showcase any literary genius or high-level craftsmanship. Well, my guest today begs to differ with this assessment.
His name is Earle Labor. He's the preeminent Jack London scholar and 91 years young. I've had Earle on the podcast two previous times: the first to discuss his landmark Jack London biography, and the second to discuss his own memoir, The Far Music. For this episode, I drove down to Earle's home in Shreveport, Louisiana to talk to Earle about the overlooked literary genius of Jack London and the big themes that London wrote about in his novels and short stories. We begin our discussion with Earle's story of how he became a Jack London scholar and why London's work was historically neglected by academics. We then dig into London's literary themes by first discussing how he used the Klondike as a symbolic proving ground for men and how success in this wilderness depended on one's ability to mold oneself to Jack's "Northland Code." Earle uses excerpts from my favorite London story, "In A Far Country," as well as "To Build a Fire" and The Call of the Wild, to showcase the tenets of this code, and well as London's literary artistry.
Earle then explains how London shifted his themes later in his career with his agrarian writing, how his wife Charmian changed his perception of real women and his female characters, and the influence that psychiatrist Carl Jung had on London's last works.
Consider this episode a masterclass on the literature of Jack London.
Get the show notes at aom.is/london.
|Jan 27, 2020|
#578: Figuring Out If You Should Change Careers (And How to Do It)
Have you been feeling doubts about your career recently, or perhaps for quite some time? Maybe you're not sure if you're in the right job, or even in the right field, and you can't figure out if you should try to keep making your current position work, or jump ship to something else.
Then you'll likely recognize yourself in the stages of career transition my guest will describe. His name is Joseph Liu. He's a consultant, coach, and speaker who helps people navigate the challenges of switching careers. In his work, he's seen that there's a recurring pattern individuals follow when thinking about and making this weighty decision, which he calls the "7 Stages of Career Change." Today on the show, Joseph walks us through these stages, which begin with Doubt and Dismay and end with Reflection and Relaunch. With each stage, Joseph explains what typically goes through people's minds, common mistakes that are made, and the best actions to take, which sometimes involves transitioning out of your current career, and sometimes does not. We end our conversation with the considerations to keep in mind if you do decide to make a change.
Get the show notes at aom.is/careerchange.
|Jan 22, 2020|
#577: An FBI Agent's 6 Signs for Sizing People Up
Every day, we have to make choices on whether we can trust someone or not. If we make the wrong choice, it could mean a failed relationship or business partnership and all the emotional and financial costs that follow.
My guest today has spent his career sizing people up in high stakes situations. His name is Robin Dreeke, he spent two decades working as a behavioral analyst for the FBI, and in his new book, Sizing People Up: A Veteran FBI Agent's User Manual for Behavior Prediction, he shares the tips everyone can use in determining whether or not someone is trustworthy.
We begin our conversation discussing how Robin's latest book builds off the work he did in The Code of Trust and the consequences of sizing people up incorrectly. Robin then shares the overarching framework he recommends using when you want to figure out if you can trust someone or not. We spend the rest of our conversation digging into the six specific signs you should look for when you're figuring out if you want to enter into a personal or professional relationship with someone, and you're trying to predict their future behavior.
Get the show notes at aom.is/sizingpeopleup.
|Jan 20, 2020|
#576: A Treasure Trove of American Philosophy
When you think of philosophy, you probably think of ancient Greece or 18th century France. You probably don't think of America. But this country also birthed its own set of philosophical luminaries, and my guest today had a unique encounter with them.
When modern day professor of philosophy John Kaag was a graduate student at Harvard, he was dispirited and struggling personally and professionally. But thanks to a chance encounter with an elderly New Englander, he discovered an abandoned library in New Hampshire full of rare first edition books of the great works of Western philosophy, many of which were owned by quintessentially American thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and William James.
Kaag began cataloging the books, and in the process, uncovered the intellectual history of American philosophy and its responses to big existential questions like, "Is life worth living?"
Today on the show I talk to John about his experience with this abandoned library in the woods of New Hampshire, and with the authors of the books which were contained therein. We start off talking about how American philosophy is often overlooked, and its big ideas, which include transcendentalism and pragmatism. We then dig into how the works of European and Asian thinkers influenced American philosophers like Emerson and Thoreau, while they yet tried to make something completely new. John and I then discuss how American pragmatism was developed in response to the philosophical issues Darwinism created around free will and what it means to live a moral life.
We end our conversation discussing how the pragmatist William James answered the question of whether life is worth living and how his answer might be said to hinge on one essential word: if.
Get the show notes at aom.is/americanphilosophy.
|Jan 15, 2020|
#575: Counterintuitive Advice on Making Exercise a Sustainable Habit
It's a new year and like many people, you may have set a goal to exercise more regularly. But like most people, you've set this goal before only to give up on it after only a few weeks.
Why is it so hard to make exercise a habit? And what can you do to make it stick?
My guest today argues that more willpower and discipline isn't the answer. Instead, you need to completely change the way you think about exercise.
Her name is Michelle Segar, and she's a behavioral scientist and the author of No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness. We begin our conversation discussing Michelle's counterintuitive finding that common reasons for exercising like losing weight or even getting healthier aren't effective motivations. And she shares research on how our ideas of what exercise should look like, as well as the propensity towards an all-or-nothing mindset, also set us up for failure. We then discuss why sheer discipline isn't very effective for staying on track either, and why exercise needs to have an immediately positive impact on our lives if we want to stick with it. Michelle and I spend the rest of our conversation discussing the research-backed framework she's developed to help people make exercise a sustainable habit, which includes less emphasis on willpower and more on changing the meaning you lend to physical activity and its priority in your life.
Get the show notes at aom.is/nosweat.
|Jan 13, 2020|
#574: The Power of Bad — Overcoming the Negativity Effect
Have you ever been heaped with praise, only to ignore it in favor of focusing on the lone piece of criticism you received?
That's the power that bad things wield, and it's a power that humans need to learn how to both harness and mitigate.
My guest today lays out both sides of that coin in a book he co-authored with psychologist Roy Baumeister. His name is John Tierney and the book is The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It. We begin our conversation discussing how much stronger bad is than good, and how many good things it takes to offset a single bad one. We then dig into the implications of the fact that bad things have a much stronger impact than good ones, including how you really only need to be a good enough parent to your kids, the best way to deliver criticism to others, and why religions that emphasize Hell have historically won more adherents than those that focus on Heaven. We also talk about how negativity is contagious and why it's true that one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. We end our conversation with a look at whether or not social media is a negative force in our lives, and John's advice on how to not let those he calls "the merchants of bad" in the media make us think that things in the world are worse than they really are.
Lots of insights in this show on how both to use the power of bad to your advantage, and overcome its negative effects.
Get the show notes at aom.is/powerofbad.
|Jan 08, 2020|
#573: Why You Don't Finish What You Start (And What to Do About It)
How well did you do in completing projects last year? Not just work projects, but also personal projects surrounding family, fitness, or hobbies. If you didn't accomplish as much as you'd like, then maybe you need to change up your mindset and tactics in the new year.
My guest today has written a guide to making those changes. His name is Charlie Gilkey and he's a former Army officer with a PhD in philosophy who's spent over a decade studying productivity, writing about it on his website Productive Flourishing, and coaching clients in what he's learned. He now has a book out as well: Start Finishing: How to Go From Idea to Done. Charlie and I begin our conversation going through the most common roadblocks that prevent people from completing their projects, including following other people's priorities and dealing with what he calls "head trash." We then discuss how we waste a lot of time doing what Charlie calls "thrashing' and what we can do to overcome it. We then dig into why you sometimes have to quit things to move forward, how to create effective goals, and why it's crucial to know which of three levels of success you're aiming for. We also talk about how to do what Charlie calls "momentum planning" and the importance of creating focus blocks in your schedule.
Get the show notes at aom.is/startfinishing.
|Jan 06, 2020|
#572: The Unexpected Upsides of Being a Late Bloomer
There's an unspoken timeline that people supposedly need to follow to have a successful life: be a good student in high school, get into a good college, and then get a good job right after you graduate.
But you've probably met successful people whose lives didn't follow this kind of linear arc and neat timeline, and maybe yours didn't either. Their young adult years weren't very auspicious, and they didn't come into their own and find their bearings until after college, or even much later. My guest today explores the upsides of this kind of trajectory in his book: Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement. His name is Rich Karlgaard and we begin our conversation discussing how he defines a late bloomer and a few examples of some famous late bloomers in history. We then dig into how late bloomers got a bad rap and how society became increasingly obsessed with finding success at a young age. Rich then walks us through the disadvantages of being an early bloomer and the advantages of being a late bloomer, including resilience, self-awareness, and a healthy, motivating sense of self-doubt.
Get the show notes at aom.is/latebloomer.
|Dec 30, 2019|
#571: The Voyage of Character
Good character is hard to define in the abstract, but easy to identify when it's embodied in the lives of great individuals. In order to illuminate what worthy character looks like, my guest today has written a book which consists of profiles of 10 of history's most notable admirals, marking out both their inspiring and flawed qualities, as well as how these qualities intersected with their ability to lead. His name is Admiral James Stavridis, he served as the commander of US Southern Command, US European Command, and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and is now the dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. On today's show, the admiral talks about many of the figures in his latest book, Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character, including Themistocles, Sir Francis Drake, Horatio Nelson, and Chester Nimitz. We take a look at what these individuals did well, what they did poorly, and how their characteristics, decisions, qualities, and overall moral compass impacted their leadership and influence.
Get the show notes at aom.is/truenorth.
|Dec 23, 2019|
#570: St. Augustine's Real-World Spirituality for Restless Hearts
Do you feel restless? Have you ever lied in bed at night looking up at the ceiling wondering "Is this all there is to life?" Or have you ever achieved a big goal in life only to feel let down?
Over 1500 years ago, Catholic bishop, philosopher and theologian Augustine of Hippo had those same feelings of angst and wrote down some insights on how to deal with them and they're just as relevant today as they were then.
My guest today has written a book about Augustine's ancient insights on the anxiety of modern life and how this famous Catholic theologian has had a profound impact on Western philosophy, including among 20th-century existential philosophers. His name is James K. A. Smith and his book is On the Road with Saint Augustine. We begin our show discussing Augustine's biography and his oft-overlooked influence on atheistic existential philosophers like Heidegger, Sartre, and Camus.
We then dig into the big ideas that Augustine hit on his famous book Confessions including how to deal with existential angst, how to find your true self, what it means to be truly free in life, and how to deal with our restless ambition. Along the way, James shows how 20th-century existential philosophers dealt with these questions, why he thinks existentialism falls shorts to answering them, and why Augustine's solutions might be better.
Lots of great insights about big life questions in this episode.
Get the snow notes at aom.is/augustine.
|Dec 18, 2019|
#569: How to Perform Your Best Under Pressure
When Don Greene was a springboard diver in high school and college, his performances were erratic -- sometimes they'd be amazing and sometimes embarrassing. None of his coaches could explain why that happened to him, so Don set out to find the answers himself.
After serving as an Army Ranger and Green Beret, and getting his PhD in sports psychology, Don has spent decades coaching Olympic divers, professional athletes, race car drivers, opera singers, classical musicians, and Wall Street traders in how not to choke under pressure. He shares the principles he uses as a stress coach in Fight Your Fear and Win: Seven Skills for Performing Your Best Under Pressure. Today we talk about those skills, beginning with why people choke in the first place, and what's going on in your mind when that happens. We then talk about the fundamentals of managing performance anxiety and staying in right brain flow, including making adrenaline work for instead of against you, getting your mind centered, ignoring distractions, and becoming mentally tough. We also discuss how to thwart negative self-talk through a practice Don calls "thought monitoring," and his 5-step strategy for recovering when you do make a mistake.
Get the show notes at aom.is/dontchoke.
|Dec 16, 2019|
#568: The Untold Story Behind the Famous Robbers Cave Experiment
In the summer of 1954, two groups of 8- to 11-year-old boys were taken to a summer camp in Oklahoma and pitted against each other in competitions for prizes. What started out as typical games of baseball and tug-of-war turned into violent night raids and fistfights, proving that humans in groups form tribal identities that create conflict.
This is the basic outline of a research study many are still familiar with today: the Robbers Cave experiment. But it's only one part of the story.
My guest dug into the archival notes of this famous and controversial social experiment to find unknown and unreported details behind what really happened and why. Her name is Gina Perry and her book is The Lost Boys: Inside Muzafer Sherif's Robbers Cave Experiment. We begin our conversation by discussing what the Robbers Cave experiment purported to show and the influence the experiment has had on social psychology since. We then discuss the similarities between head researcher Muzafer Sherif's ideas about the behavior of boys in groups with those of William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies, and how both men's ideas were influenced by their personal experiences in war. We also dig into the general connection between children's summer camps and psychological studies in the 19th century. Then turning to the Robbers Cave experiment itself, Gina shares how that experiment wasn't Sherif's first attempt at this kind of field study, and how it had been preceded by another experiment in which the boys turned on the researchers. She describes how Sherif and his assistants attempted to get different results at Robbers Cave by goading the boys into greater conflict and how they got the boys to reconcile after whipping them up into a competitive frenzy. At the end of our conversation, Gina talks about finding the boys who were in the experiment and what these now grown men thought of the experience, and we discuss whether or not there's anything to be learned from Robbers Cave on the nature of group conflict.
Get the show notes at aom.is/robberscave.
|Dec 11, 2019|
#567: Understanding the Wonderful, Frustrating Dynamic of Friendship
Friendship is arguably the most unique type of relationship in our lives. Friendships aren't driven by sexual attraction or by a sense of duty, as in romantic and familial relationships, but instead are entirely freely chosen.
My guest today says that's part of why friendship is both uniquely wonderful and uniquely challenging. His name is Bill Rawlins, he's a professor of interpersonal communication, and he's spent his career studying the dynamics of friendship and authored several books on the subject, including Friendship Matters. Bill and I begin our conversation discussing why friendship is often taken for granted, and what makes friendships unique from other types of relationships. We then explore the four particular tensions that arise in friendship: the tension between independence and dependence, affection and instrumentality, judgement and acceptance, and expressiveness and protectiveness. We also talk about how these tensions manifest in male friendships versus female friendships, and whether it's true as is commonly said that modern men don't have good friendships. We then shift into talking about how friendships change across the life cycle, starting with how kids think about friendship differently than adults. We unpack why it is we often think of the friends we made in adolescence as the best friends we ever had, and why many men stop having good friends in adulthood. We end our conversation with Bill's advice for making friends as a grown-up.
Lots of insights in this show on a relationship that isn't typically examined or well understood.
Get the show notes at aom.is/friendship.
|Dec 09, 2019|
#566: How to Have a Hyggely Christmas and a More Memorable New Year
The holiday season is upon us. It's a time for getting cozy, making memories, and looking forward to the new year ahead.
My guest today has plenty of research-backed insights on how to take each of those things to the next level. His name is Meik Wiking, and he's the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute and the author of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, as well as The Art of Making Memories: How to Create and Remember Happy Moments. We begin our discussion exploring the Danish concept of hygge, which is the art of getting cozy, and how it helps Danes survive their long, harsh winters. Mike also discusses his research on how to create lasting memories. We then combine these ideas to explore how lighting, food, scent, and more can help you inject more hygge into the holiday season, and make Christmas and the coming year your most memorable yet.
You'll want to grab a hot cocoa and wrap yourself in a blanket before cozying up to this show.
Get the show notes at aom.is/cozy.
|Dec 04, 2019|
#565: Stillness Is the Key
According to my guest today, many of the world's most eminent leaders, thinkers, athletes, and artists have one thing in common: they cultivate stillness in their lives.
His name is Ryan Holiday and in his latest book, Stillness Is the Key, he highlights how great individuals have used stillness to do great things. We begin our discussion with how Ryan describes stillness, what it means to find stillness in mind, body, and soul, and how an individual can have stillness in one of these areas, but chaos in another. Ryan shares what we can learn about stillness of mind from JFK's handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis and how journaling and limiting media inputs can help us foster our own mental stillness. We then discuss the myth that relationships hold you back in life, and how they can in fact help you find both greater achievement, and stillness of soul. We also discuss what we can learn from Winston Churchill on how to find physical stillness, and why having hobbies is so important to finding balance in life.
Get the show notes at aom.is/stillness.
|Dec 02, 2019|
#564: Assault Your Assumptions Through Red Teaming
We live in an age of disruption. Companies that were once stalwarts are overtaken by small, plucky upstarts. Our personal lives can also be disrupted. We lose a job or a business fails.
My guest today says that instead of waiting to be disrupted by outside forces, you're better off using techniques developed by intelligence agencies and the military to disrupt yourself first. His name is Bryce Hoffman and he's the author of the book Red Teaming: How Your Business Can Conquer the Competition by Challenging Everything. We begin our show discussing what red teaming is and the history of its development, from wargaming by 19th century Prussians to more sophisticated techniques developed by the US military during the war on terrorism. Bryce and I discuss the hidden biases that red teaming is designed to counter, and then get into the specific red teaming techniques you can start using today to challenge your assumptions, stress-test your strategies, identify unseen threats, and make better decisions in both your personal life and your business.
Get the show notes at aom.is/redteaming.
|Nov 27, 2019|
#563: How to Develop Your Nature Instinct
Our ancestors were able to navigate long distances, find water, and even predict the weather simply by looking at their environment. My guest today says we still have this nature instinct inside of us and with a little practice, we can revive it.
His name is Tristan Gooley, he's an outdoorsman and author, and his latest book is The Nature Instinct: Learn to Find Direction, Sense Danger, and Even Guess Nature’s Next Move—Faster Than Thought. Today on the show we discuss how humans have the ability to simply look at something in nature and immediately see direction, time, or weather conditions. While modern humans have lost this ability, Tristan makes the case that with some practice, anyone can re-learn it. We then discuss how learning how to read nature intuitively makes us more engaged with our surroundings and able to see more significance in our environment. Tristan then shares signs to look for in nature to anticipate animal behavior, find water, and predict the weather. After listening to this show, you'll never look at squirrels the same way.
Get the show notes at aom.is/natureinstinct.
|Nov 25, 2019|
#562: How Boxing Can Fight Parkinson's Disease
If boxing and Parkinson's disease are thought of together, it's usually in terms of the former causing the latter.
But my guest today makes the case that boxing workouts can actually be used to fight Parkinson's disease. His name is Aaron Sloan, he's a registered nurse, the owner of Engine Room Boxing gym here in Tulsa, OK, and the founder of Ready to Fight, a boxing fitness program catered specifically to those suffering from Parkinson's disease. We begin our conversation with an overview of what Parkinson's is, as well as the fact that men are significantly more likely to get it than women. Aaron then shares what the research says about the best treatments for Parkinson's, why vigorous, high-intensity exercise is one of the most potent remedies for it, and why he argues that boxing is the gold standard when it comes to the type of exercise that's most effective in slowing down the disorder. Aaron shares how he started Ready to Fight based on this premise, and a few stories of how the lives of Parkinson's patients and their families are being changed by the program. We then discuss whether boxing also causes Parkinson's and how Aaron answers the criticism that he trains people in a sport that also creates the disorder he's trying to alleviate. We end our conversation discussing what individuals with Parkinson's can do to learn more about incorporating boxing workouts into its treatment.
Get the show notes at aom.is/readytofight.
|Nov 20, 2019|
#561: Get With the Program
All of us are a part of teams at work and in our community. Even our families are teams. And most of us serve as both members and leaders of these teams. How then can we be our best in both roles?
My guest today has spent his career gaining on-the-ground answers to this question through his experiences as a Marine and special operator in the military and a leadership trainer of corporate and athletic teams as a civilian. His name is Eric Kapitulik, and he's the founder of the team and leadership development company The Program and the co-author of a book with the same name.
Today on the show Eric and I take a deep yet punchy dive into the keys of team and leadership development, and how these principles can be applied whether you're leading a family, a sports team, or a business. We begin our conversation discussing the biggest problems Eric sees in the teams he works with, why resolving most of these issues begins with the definition of core values, and how someone can figure out what their core values are. Eric then explains the difference between goals and standards and why teams should focus more on instilling standards and holding team members accountable to them. We then discuss the difference between being kind and being nice, why leading by example is insufficient, how Eric defines hard work, and the two excuses you need to eliminate from your life.
Get the show notes at aom.is/theprogram.
|Nov 18, 2019|
#560: The Magic of Walking
Walking. It can seem, well, rather pedestrian.
But my guest today makes the case that walking can act as a gateway to explore memory, meaning, and what it means to be human. His name is Erling Kagge, he’s an adventurer and philosopher, and we had him on the show last year to discuss his book Silence (that's episode 433). Erling’s latest book is called Walking, and we begin our conversation discussing the connection between bipedal locomotion and silence and how walking instead of driving can help slow down time and deepen our memories. Erling makes the case that embracing voluntary hardship can enrich your life and how walking can be a step towards that. He then shares why going for a walk can help you solve problems, why most great philosophers were also committed walkers, what the Adam and Eve story can teach us about the need for exploration, and how walking can be one of the most radical things you can do in the modern age.
You'll want to take a walk after listening to this show, or maybe you'll walk while you're listening.
Get the show notes at aom.is/walking.
|Nov 13, 2019|
#559: How to Handle Difficult Conversations
Asking for a raise. Disagreeing with your boss. Telling your neighbor that their dog's barking is bothering you. Talking about money with your spouse. Debating politics with a friend. These are all difficult conversations fraught with anxiety, anger, and awkwardness. Many people just avoid them, but my guest says that with the right framework, you can handle even the most pitfall-laden exchanges. Her name is Sheila Heen, she's spent twenty years developing negotiation theory and practice as part of the Harvard Negotiation Project, and she's one of the co-authors of the book Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. Sheila starts things off by sharing the most common difficult conversations people encounter professionally and personally and the most common unhelpful ways people deal with them. She then explains how every difficult conversation actually has three hidden conversations going on, how people confuse the impact of what others say and do with their intentions, how you can acknowledge your contribution to a problem without assuming the blame, how to share your emotions without being emotional, and how to generally move a conversation from being about combative confrontation, to being about exploring each other's stories.
Get the show notes at aom.is/difficultconversations.
|Nov 11, 2019|
#558: The Strenuous President
In the first year of his presidency, the press used Theodore Roosvelt's name in connection with the word "strenuous" over 10,000 times. He was known as "the strenuous president," and with good reason: from his youth, TR had lived and preached a life of vigorous engagement and plenty of physical activity.
Today on the show Ryan Swanson, professor of sports history and author of The Strenuous Life: Theodore Roosevelt and the Making of the American Athlete, discusses not only how TR was shaped by what was called "the strenuous age," but how he shaped it in turn by promoting sports, and participating in athletics himself. We begin our discussion with what was going on during the late 19th century that got people interested in what was then called "physical culture." We then turn to the beginning of Roosevelt's introduction to vigorous exercise as a boy, and how he famously decided to make his body. We discuss TR's fitness routine when he went to Harvard, and how his becoming a fan of football there led to him supporting the preservation of the game as president. We then discuss how TR lived the strenuous life while in the White House, and thereby inspired the American public to live vigorously too. We take a fun look at what TR thought of the game of baseball, how he went to a health farm at age 58 to get back in fighting shape, and what kind of exercise and athletics TR would be into if he were alive today.
Get the show notes at aom.is/strenuouspresident.
|Nov 06, 2019|
#557: Grow, Adapt, and Reinvent Yourself Through Ultralearning
Many of us want to learn a new skill or master a new area of expertise, either to further or change our career or simply for the sake of personal fulfillment. But going deep in a subject seems like it would take a long time, and even require going back to school, something most of us don't have the time, money, and desire to do.
My guest today says there's another way. His name is Scott Young and he's the author of Ultralearning: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career. We begin our conversation with Scott's successful experiment of doing all the course work for a computer science degree from MIT in less than a year and for free and how this opened Scott up to the idea of "ultralearning." We then discuss the economic benefits of learning how to learn, as well as the personal benefits that come from mastering new skills as adults. In the second half of our conversation, we get into the practical techniques of the ultralearning method, including creating a plan for your learning project, choosing active over passive learning, and drilling effectively. Scott and I end our discussion with how to figure out what feedback to listen to and what to ignore as you're learning a new project.
Get the show notes at aom.is/ultralearning.
|Nov 04, 2019|
#556: How to Find Your Calling in Life
Nearly everyone has experienced the sense of being nudged and prompted to take certain actions. These intuitive hints can spur us to do big things like change jobs, or smaller things like text a friend.
My guest today says that these are callings, and that if we don't answer them, they'll continue to rememerge and can haunt us til the day we die. His name is Gregg Levoy and he's the author of Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life. We begin our conversation discussing what exactly a calling is and why it's not necessarily the same thing as a vocation. Gregg then shares how callings come to people, why they're sometimes unpleasant and challenging, and what you can do to attune yourself to their signals. Gregg then shares different ways people go about figuring out their calling, including rites of passage, traveling, art, and community. We get into how you figure out if something you think is a calling is actually a calling or not, and the idea that while every calling demands a response, that response can be negotiated. We end our conversation discussing what happens when your calling ends in what looks like failure.
Get the show notes at aom.is/callings.
|Oct 30, 2019|
#555: Dandelion Children vs. Orchid Children
You've probably observed families in which one of the kids is super resilient and easy-going while the other is super sensitive and anxious. Same family, same parents, but two extremely different children. What gives?
My guest today says that some kids are like robust dandelions, while others are like fragile orchids. And while the fragility of orchid children might seem like a liability, in the right circumstances, these kids can actually thrive to an even greater extent than their dandelion peers. His name is W. Thomas Boyce, and he's a developmental pediatrician and professor of pediatrics, as well as the author of the book The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive. We begin our conversation discussing the respective attributes of dandelion and orchid children and how the increased reactivity of the latter influences their health, emotional well-being, and development. Tom then explains how orchid children can be both the healthiest and sickest of children, depending on the environment in which they're raised. We then discuss the theories as to what causes orchid children to be orchid children, including genetics and environmental factors. We end our conversation with tips for parents of sensitive children on how to help them thrive and succeed.
Get the show notes at aom.is/orchid.
|Oct 28, 2019|
#554: Babe Ruth and the World He Made
The Sultan of Swat. The Colossus of Clout. The King of Crash. The Great Bambino.
Babe Ruth died over 70 years ago, but his legend still lives on in big league stadiums and little league fields across America. While we know a lot about Ruth's baseball career, little was known about his early life and how it shaped him to become America's first superstar athlete and celebrity. My guest today sought to remedy that in her recently published biography: The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created. Her name is Jane Leavy, and she's a former sports journalist and the author of two other biographies of baseball greats. We begin our conversation discussing Ruth's sad and difficult childhood in a Baltimore boarding school and how he learned to play baseball from the Xaverian brothers who ran it. We then shift to how Ruth's hunger for affirmation helped him become the country's first real celebrity, and how his baseball career coincided with the burgeoning fields of public relations and technology, ushering in a new era in sports writing, endorsements, and entertainment. We end our conversation discussing Ruth's legacy in the world, and business, of professional sports.
Get the show notes at aom.is/ruth.
|Oct 23, 2019|
#553: How to Become Indistractable
If you struggle with feeling distracted, you likely think that modern technology is to blame, and that if your phone wasn't so infuriatingly desirable to check, you'd be a lot more focused and productive.
But my guest today argues that the problem of distraction doesn't lie with technology, but with you. His name is Nir Eyal, and he's a behavioral design expert and the author of Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. Today on the show we first discuss Nir's work in helping companies create apps that hook people into using them, and why he thinks these methods of attraction can be positive as long as you put tech in its place. We then dig into how to do that, beginning with the idea that you can't complain about being distracted, if you don't know what you're distracted from, how the first step in getting control of your attention is understanding what you'd like to be doing with it by planning out your time, and why the opposite of distraction isn't focus. We discuss why time management is pain management, and why we need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable internal triggers that prompt us to use our devices for emotional pacification. Nir then walks us through how to deal with the external triggers of distraction, including managing your email inbox, making pre-commitments, and turning indistractability into part of your identity.
Get the show notes at aom.is/indistractable.
|Oct 21, 2019|
#552: How to Optimize Your Metabolism
If you struggle to lose weight, you may blame an inherently slow metabolism. But is your metabolism really to blame, and can you increase it in order to burn more fat?
Today we tackle these questions and more with Dr. John Berardi, who earned a PhD in exercise physiology and nutrient biochemistry, and is a writer, athlete, coach, and professor, as well as the co-founder of Precision Nutrition and the founder of the Change Maker Academy. John and I begin our discussion with what metabolism is, the components that make it up, how much each element contributes to your body's energy expenditures, and which can be controlled. We then get into whether or not it's true that some people have an inherently slow or fast metabolism, and how diet and exercise influences your metabolism, including whether or not dieting itself can slow your metabolism down, and why you might want to consider wearing a weight vest around once you lose body fat. We then discuss how intermittent fasting can increase your metabolic flexibility, whether there are certain foods that boost your metabolic rate, and the best exercise routine for optimizing your metabolism. We also also talk about how stress and sleep effect your metabolic health. We end our conversation with John's best tips for maintaining optimal metabolic health and losing weight in general.
Get the show notes at aom.is/metabolism.
|Oct 16, 2019|
#551: Inside the Gangsters' Code
Lou Ferrantewas a mobster who worked for the Gambino crime family and made a trade out of hijacking trucks loaded with expensive goods. Eventually, the law caught up with him and he ended up in prison. There, he discovered a love for reading and writing which set off a personal transformation that led to him leaving the mafia. After his stint in jail, Lou went on to become an author and the host of a Discovery Channel documentary series called Inside the Gangsters' Code.
Today on the show, I first talk to Lou about his early life of crime and the autodidactic education he gave himself in prison. Lou shares the books that had the biggest impact on him, including works of history, philosophy, and fiction. We then shift gears to discuss Lou's work on Inside the Gangsters' Code, the idea of honor that the mafia and other gangs share, and what it means to practice omertà. We end our conversation discussing why young men join gangs and the human needs they fill.
Get the show notes at aom.is/gangsterscode.
|Oct 14, 2019|
#550: How to Strengthen Your Marriage Against Divorce
While the divorce rate has fallen over the last several decades, plenty of couples still don't pass the test of time. Fortunately, the odds as to whether or not you divorce are not a matter of pure chance, but something you can improve with intentionality.
My guest has some research-backed advice on how. His name is Scott Stanley, he's a professor of psychology at the University of Denver and the co-author of the book Fighting for Your Marriage. We last had Scott on the show to talk about the problem with ambiguity in relationships. Today we begin our conversation discussing how marriage issues have changed since he originally published Fighting for Your Marriage in 1994 and the state of American marriage in the 21st century. Scott then shares the biggest issues he sees pop up in marriages over and over again, such as escalating arguments and avoiding conflict. We then discuss communication skills you can use to defuse these common marital conflicts, including uncovering hidden issues and establishing ground rules for arguments. Scott then makes the case that in addition to mitigating conflict, happy couples need to focus on creating positive encounters with one another. We end our conversation discussing how to grow in your commitment to your marriage.
Get the show notes at aom.is/fightingformarriage.
|Oct 09, 2019|
#549: Leadership Lessons from the Gridiron's Greatest Coaches
Why do some NFL teams dominate year after year? Some would chalk it up to talent, but my guest today says it all comes down to the culture the head coach intentionally develops for the entire organization.
His name is Michael Lombardi and he's the author of Gridiron Genius: A Master Class in Building Teams and Winning at the Highest Level. For over three decades, Lombardi has worked as a general manager or coach for various NFL teams and alongside some of the greatest coaches of the game, including Bill Walsh, Al Davis, and Bill Belichick. Today on the show, Michael walks us through what these coaches did to develop high performing teams and how those lessons can apply to leaders in other kinds of organizations as well. We begin our conversation discussing how legendary 49ers coach Bill Walsh created standards of performance and a culture of excellence that turned the worst team in the league into Super Bowl champions within two years.
Michael then shares the qualities top coaches and players possess, and how recruiters of every kind can really figure out whether or not someone will be successful at the next level. Michael then shares what leaders can learn from Walsh's innovating West Coast offense, why Belichick obsesses about special teams, how he and Nick Saban came up with a new approach to defense, and how Belichick prepares for games and fights complacency. We also get into the importance of how a QB carries himself, and why it's important to begin a drive down the field with an energizing play. We end our conversation with Michael's predictions for the future of football, including how we're starting to see a return to the game's rugby roots.
Get the show notes at aom.is/gridiron.
|Oct 07, 2019|
#548: How to Start and Sustain Conversations
Whether sitting next to someone on the subway, mingling at a wedding, or chatting around the water cooler, chances to make conversation and new friends abound in our lives. But how do you meet and talk to people without being awkward about it?
My guest today has spent over three decades teaching people from all walks of life how to make small talk and socialize. His name is Don Gabor, and he's the author of several books, including the one we're talking about today, How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends.
We begin our conversation discussing where Don sees people have the most problems with starting and sustaining conversations, as well as whether these issues have or haven't changed over the last thirty years. Don then walks us through how you can make yourself more approachable for small talk, why body language is so key in this area, and the best way to give a handshake. We then discuss how to break the ice with someone you've just made contact with, how to handle rejection, and how to remember people's names after you meet them. Don then shares how to keep the conversation going by offering up and homing in on certain keywords. We end our conversation, with how to end a conversation.
Get the show notes at aom.is/conversation.
|Oct 02, 2019|
#547: Achieving Success Through the Pursuit of Fulfillment
The standard route to success in modern life goes as follows: work hard in high school, score high on your SAT, get into a good college, do well in your classes, get a good job.
For some people, that path works, but for a lot of people, it leaves them disengaged and frustrated because it doesn't actually lead to a life of fulfillment.
My guest today has spent his academic career studying individuals who have bucked the standard formula for achievement and found success on their own terms. His name is Todd Rose. He's a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the co-author of the book Dark Horse: Achieving Success Through the Pursuit of Fulfillment. We begin our conversation discussing what Todd calls the "Standardization Covenant," including how it developed to serve institutions rather than individuals and why following the standard path often leads to frustration. Todd then explains his idea of an alternative "Dark Horse Covenant" and what it looks like theoretically and in the lives of those who've followed it. He then walks us through the steps that dark horses follow to find success and fulfillment on their own terms, including focusing on "micromotives" to figure out where you fit, making decisive choices, creating your own options, and trying new strategies until you find something that works. We end our conversation with how Todd would like to see the Dark Horse dynamic incorporated into our educational system.
Get the show notes at aom.is/darkhorse.
|Sep 30, 2019|
#546: How to Get a Memory Like a Steel Trap
Have you ever walked into a room to get something, only to forget why you walked into that room in the first place? Do you constantly forget where you parked your car in a parking garage? Or have trouble remembering people's names?
After today's episode, you'll be well on your way to never forgetting these things again because my guest is champion memory athlete Nelson Dellis and he's got plenty of advice on how to improve your own memory, even if you think yours stinks. Nelson is the author of the book Remember It!, and we begin our show discussing the world of memory competitions, how Nelson got involved with them, and what records he's notched so far. Nelson then corrects a couple common myths people have about memory and makes the case for why you ought to care about improving your own. He shares the overarching system he recommends to improve your ability to retain information, and how to use it to remember where you parked, people's names, and the items on your to-do list. Nelson also explains the reason we forget what we walked into a certain room to get, and what to do if that happens to you. He then walks us through how walking through a "memory palace" can help you remember lists, speeches, and more.
Plenty of action-ready, easy-to-remember tips in this show.
Get the show notes at aom.is/rememberit.
|Sep 25, 2019|
#545: How Not to Get Scammed, Conned, or Duped
When you think about people getting scammed, you probably think of the elderly getting conned out of money over the phone.
But my guest today says that Millennials are actually more likely to get scammed than senior citizens, and in fact, anybody of any age can get conned. He should know: he's a former con man himself. His name is Frank Abagnale and his early life in which he forged checks and assumed various identities, including that of an airline pilot and doctor, was made famous by the movie Catch Me If You Can. After he served time for his crimes, he dedicated the next 50 years of his life to helping the government and businesses fight fraud. His most recent book, Scam Me If You Can: Simple Strategies to Outsmart Today's Rip-off Artists, aims to educate regular citizens about the most common scams out there and how to avoid them. Today on the show Frank gives us the inside dirt on a bunch of different modern cons, from romance scams to investment fraud to scams involving rental properties. He reveals the insidious ways that scammers have gotten more sophisticated with their cons, the red flags to look for when you're approached with one, and how to avoid getting duped. And he explains why he's never used a debit card.
Get the show notes at aom.is/scam.
|Sep 23, 2019|
#544: The Audacious Life of Winston Churchill
When we seek an example of great leadership, one man who often comes to mind is Winston Churchill -- the iconic, visionary prime minister, who guided his country through war and stood firmly for his beliefs and impervious to his critics. But how did Winston become the legendary British Bulldog?
My guest today seeks to answer that question in his biography, Churchill: Walking with Destiny. His name is Andrew Roberts, he's a journalist and historian, and we begin our conversation discussing why he thought another Churchill biography was needed. We then shift to the life of Churchill, beginning with a childhood in which young Winston often felt neglected. Andrew then discusses Churchill's military career, why Winston was so eager to see action on the frontlines, and how he parlayed those experiences into becoming the world's highest paid journalist by his mid-twenties. Andrew then explains how Churchill also became one of the 20th century's great historians and how his appreciation of history and sentimental outlook colored his worldview and shaped his leadership. We also discuss why Churchill was one of the few leaders to foresee the threat that Hitler posed. We end our conversation discussing whether some of the current criticisms of Churchill, such as the allegation that he masterminded genocide in India, really hold weight.
Get the show notes at aom.is/churchill.
|Sep 18, 2019|
#543: Learn the System for Getting Things Done
Over ten years ago, I read the book Getting Things Done by David Allen. I've been using the tactics and strategies that he laid out in the book in managing tasks and, well, getting things done, ever since. David's out with a new workbook to accompany his classic bestseller, and I have the pleasure to speak with him today about his philosophy and system for managing life. We begin our conversation discussing how David came up with the GTD system in the first place and how it differs from other time management systems out there. David then explains what the "mind like water" mantra is about and how the GTD system helps you clear your head. We then dig into the specific steps of getting things done, including capturing ideas, clarifying tasks into action, organizing those actions, reflecting on your action list, and, of course, taking action!
This is a time management system I can personally endorse, so if you're not familiar with it or have fallen off the GTD wagon, I recommend giving this show a listen.
Get the show notes at aom.is/gtd.
|Sep 16, 2019|
#542: When Breath Becomes Air
When Paul Kalanathi was 36 years old, he was on the cusp of finishing a decade's worth of training to become a neurosurgeon -- a profession he felt called to. But then he learned he had terminal stage four lung cancer. In a single moment, everything changed in his life. For the next twenty two months, Paul and his wife Lucy grappled with how to live life even when you know you have limited time left. In his last few months, Paul wrote a memoir about this search for meaning in life and death, as well as his experience as a medical student, neurosurgeon, and cancer patient. Entitled When Breath Becomes Air, the book was published shortly after he died.
Today, I talk to Paul's widow, Dr. Lucy Kalanathi, about Paul's journey to uncover insights about meaning and significance during his time as both doctor and patient. Along the way, Lucy shares insights about the human side of healthcare, delivering and receiving bad news, and how your identity and sense of self changes when you're diagnosed with a terminal disease. She also shares her experience of being a widow and of the grieving process, as well as what to say and not say to someone who's grappling with a tragedy.
Get the show notes at aom.is/breathbecomesair.
|Sep 11, 2019|
#541: The Art of Noticing
Quick, name the president who's on the dime. Or think about the letters and numbers on your license plate. Were you stumped for a moment? That's the strange thing about our powers of observation: we can look at something a thousand times, and never really notice it.
Our struggle to notice what's around us is even worse in our Smartphone Age, where we often have tunnel vision that limits itself to a little handheld screen.
My guest today wrote a book that aims to help us recapture the keen use of our senses. His name is Rob Walker, he's the author of The Art of Noticing, and he argues that tuning into things normally overlooked not only provides fodder for art and business, but can make life seem more vibrant and engaging. Rob and I begin our conversation discussing what it means to notice and the benefits that come from noticing. We then spend the rest of the conversation walking through several exercises you can start doing today to strengthen your noticing muscles, including creating observational scavenger hunts and collections. Rob also suggests several ways to notice overlooked things at museums and why looking at the world like there's a dramatic heist about to go down causes you to notice more in your environment.
Get the show notes at aom.is/noticing.
|Sep 09, 2019|
#540: How to Be a More Compelling Person
We all know people who have a certain magnetism and charisma. What is it exactly that makes them so compelling?
My guest today explores that question in his book Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities That Make People Influential, and primarily locates the answer in two such hidden qualities: strength and warmth. His name is Matthew Kohut and today on the show he explains why it is we find the combination of strength and warmth so attractive in others, and how we can cultivate these traits ourselves, including in the way we dress, carry ourselves, and talk. Matt then gives advice on how to display strength and warmth in different situations we might find ourselves in, from acing a job interview to managing a crisis at work. We end our conversation with that most perennial question of body language: what to do with your hands when you speak.
Get the show notes at aom.is/compellingpeople.
|Sep 04, 2019|
#539: Life Hacking, A Reexamination
In an effort to get more done and be our best selves, many of us have turned to "life hacks" that we find in blogs, books, and podcasts. I've personally experimented with several life hacks in the past decade, and we've even written about some on AoM. But are there downsides to trying to hack your way through life?
My guest took a look at both the positives and negatives of life hacking in his book, Hacking Life: Systemized Living and Its Discontents. His name is Joseph Reagle, and he's a professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University. We begin our conversation with a history of the life hacking movement and how blogging in the early 2000s made this obscure cultural movement amongst computer programmers go mainstream. Joseph then discusses how he distinguishes between "nominal life hacking" and "optimal life hacking" and between "geeks" and "gurus." We then discuss some of the beneficial productivity and motivation hacks out there, but also how there are ways they can go astray -- including only working for a certain class of people and becoming too much of a focus in life. We also discuss how the minimalism movement can sometimes lead to contradictory impulses, and end our conversation talking about how using spiritual practices like meditation or Stoicism as hacks can strip them of their deeper contexts.
Get the show notes at aom.is/hackinglife.
|Sep 02, 2019|
#538: Research-Backed Answers to All Your Fitness FAQs
Which should you do first when you work out -- cardio or weights? How long does it take to get in shape? How long does it take to get out of shape? How important is your form when you run? Does exercise really contribute to fat loss? Does music help or hurt your athletic performance?
These are the kinds of questions folks have about exercise, and have trouble finding good answers to. The advice out there on blogs and magazines is often confusing and contradictory. My guest today set out to cut through the noise by finding the best research-backed answers to these questions and more in his book Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? Fitness Myths, Training Truths, and Other Surprising Discoveries from the Science of Exercise. His name is Alex Hutchinson, and he started out as a Cambridge-trained physicist and a long-distance runner on the Canadian national team, and is now a journalist and author. Today on the show, Alex walks us through what the scientific literature says about some of the most common fitness and health questions out there. This is a fun and interesting conversation packed with lots of useful insights. Will your own theories and practices be confirmed or challenged? Listen in to find out!
Get the show notes at aom.is/fitnessfaq.
|Aug 28, 2019|
#537: How to Think Like a Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was one of the last Stoic philosophers and today is arguably the best known. Thanks to his personal writings that eventually became Meditations, Marcus left us with concrete exercises to put Stoicism into action.
My guest today explores this Stoic tradition and connects it with modern psychotherapy in his book How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius. His name is Donald Robertson, and he's a Scottish philosopher and cognitive psychotherapist. We begin our conversation discussing the history of Stoicism and the overlooked beliefs the Stoics had. We then discuss the end goal of Stoicism and how it differed from other ancient philosophies like Aristotelian virtue ethics. Donald then explains the Stoic approach to emotions and the common misconceptions people have about Stoicism in that regard. We then dig into Stoic practices taken from Marcus Aurelius and discuss how modern cognitive psychology backs them up. Donald shares how the Stoics used language and daily meditations to manage their emotional life, and how they went about the psychology of goal-setting and dealing with success and failure.
Get the show notes at aom.is/marcus.
|Aug 26, 2019|
#536: How to Achieve a "Rich Life" With Your Finances
If you've read a lot of personal finance advice, you know that it usually concentrates on what you can't do -- what you shouldn't buy and how you shouldn't spend your money. What it doesn't often offer is a vision of what all that scrimping and saving is for.
My guest today argues that while knowing how to save money is hugely important, it's important to know how to spend it too. His name is Ramit Sethi and he's the author of the book I Will Teach You to Be Rich. It's now out as a revised second edition, ten years after of the publication of the original. We begin our discussion going over what has and hasn't changed over the past decade when it comes to personal finance. Ramit then makes the case that living what he calls a "rich life," involves not just knowing where to cut back on spending, but where to increase it in places he calls "money dials." We then get into some practical ways to better manage your money to ensure you spend less in areas you don't care about, and more in those you do, including how to manage and pay off credit card debt, the bank accounts you need and how to set them up so that your finances are automated, and why you need to start investing today. We end our discussion on the idea that the big money decisions that many people ignore are more important than the small ones that get a lot of attention.
Get the show notes at aom.is/richlife.
|Aug 21, 2019|
#535: The Problem of Self-Help in a Liquid Age
Self-help gurus, life coaches, and business consultants love to tell us that we must strive for constant self-improvement to realize our full potential and become truly happy. But it doesn't seem to work -- for many of us, life still seems hollow and meaningless. So focused are we on personal development and material possessions that we've overlooked the things that make life truly fulfilling and worthwhile.
But what are those things?
My guest today explores the answer to that question in his book Standpoints: 10 Old Ideas in a New World. His name is Svend Brinkmann, and he's a Danish philosopher and psychologist. We begin our conversation discussing why modern life can feel like liquid, and how the typical approach to personal development and self-help doesn't rescue us from drowning in it. Svend then contrasts the common approach to treating choices and people like instruments and means to an end with the idea of doing what's good simply because it is good. Svend argues that we can do that by standing firm on certain philosophic principles, and we spend the rest of our conversation discussing a few of what these are, including the importance of endowing others with dignity, making and keeping promises, and embracing responsibility.
Get the show notes at aom.is/standpoints.
|Aug 19, 2019|
#534: How Navigation Makes Us Human
If you're like most people these days, you probably rely on the turn-by-turn directions given by a smartphone app to navigate to where you want to go. While Google Maps has certainly made getting around a lot more convenient, my guest today makes the case that by relying on GPS to navigate, we're turning our backs on a skill that makes us uniquely human.
Her name is Maura O'Connor, and she's a journalist and the author of Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate. We begin our conversation discussing what goes on in our brain when we navigate and how we use the same part of the brain that we use for memory when we're getting around town. We then discuss how human navigation differs from animal navigation and the cultural tools that humans have developed over millennia to help them find their way, including storytelling and songs. Maura then shares research that suggests our language influences our sense of location and space and how our ancient ancestors sowed the seeds of the scientific method when they were tracking animals while hunting. We also discuss recent research that suggests relying too heavily on GPS may increase your risk for dementia and be linked to other mental health problems. We end our conversation by musing on how it is that using GPS can shrink your sense of autonomy, while navigating on your own feels existentially empowering.
Get the show notes at aom.is/wayfinding.
|Aug 14, 2019|
#533: How to Be a Time Warrior
If you struggle with procrastination, goal-setting, and generally moving ahead in life, the heart of your struggles may be your view of time. More specifically, that you look at it too linearly.
That's the argument my guest today makes. His name is Steve Chandler, he's a success and business coach, and the author of many books, including the focus of our discussion today -- Time Warrior: How to Defeat Procrastination, People-Pleasing, Self-Doubt, Over-Commitment, Broken Promises and Chaos. At the beginning of our conversation, Steve shares how he personally overcame years of failure and addiction to find a fulfilling life and career. He then explains why looking at time too linearly can lead to putting things off to the future, overwhelm and over-thinking, and perpetually trying to find more information before moving on an idea. He argues that we're better served by adopting a concept of non-linear time management, which pushes us to approach life with a bias towards action, privilege the energy of "want to" over "know-how," and act in the now. We then discuss other tactics and mindsets you can adopt to become a "time warrior," including being creative rather than reactive, seeing life as a game, and serving people rather than pleasing them. We end our conversation with what to do when you feel like you don't know what to do with your life.
Get the show notes at aom.is/timewarrior.
|Aug 12, 2019|
#532: How to Create a Neighborhood Where Kids Play Outside
Listen as you drive through most neighborhoods in America these days and you might notice something missing: the shrieks and laughter of kids playing outside.
When my guest today had kids, he decided he wasn't going to let them grow up in another quiet, morgue-like neighborhood. Instead, he was going to figure out why kids weren't playing outside anymore, and how to fix the problem. His name is Mike Lanza, and in his book Playborhood: Turn Your Neighborhood Into a Place for Play, he shares how he did just that. At the start of our conversation, Mike explains how he became an advocate for kids playing outside by themselves with minimal adult supervision. He shares his theories on why outdoor play has decreased, and why simply limiting screen time and participation in organized extracurriculars doesn't solve the problem. Mike then explains why you need a critical mass of kids to be playing outside before outdoor play becomes a norm, and what parents can do to create this critical mass by changing the environment in their yard and the social dynamics in their neighborhood.
Get the show notes at aom.is/playborhood.
|Aug 07, 2019|
#531: How to Best Harness Your Willpower
Many of our goals in life -- from losing weight to saving more money -- require willpower. But what is willpower anyway, why does it feel like it fails us so often, and what can we do to make better use of it
My guest today explores the answers to these questions in her book: The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. Her name is Kelly McGonigal, and she's a psychology professor at Stanford. We begin our discussion discussing what exactly willpower is, how it can be described as an instinct, and what goes on in your brain when you utilize it. We also unpack the idea that there are really three different types of willpower: I won't power, I will power, and I want power, and how these powers can be increased.
We then spend the rest of our discussion digging into the limitations of willpower, so we can avoid putting ourselves in situations where it's likely to fail us. We talk about how shame, the people who surround us, and even, ironically, making progress with our goals, can all lead to the sapping or loosening of our willpower. We end our conversation with Kelly's best tips for getting the most out your willpower.
Get the show notes at aom.is/willpower.
|Aug 05, 2019|
#530: How to Get More "Aha" Insights
You've probably experienced a few aha moments in your life. Moments where an idea for a new business or piece of art, or a solution to a sticky technical, relational, or philosophical problem, suddenly popped into your mind.
What causes these proverbial light bulbs to go off over our heads? What's going on in your brain when you experience an insight? And can you do anything to encourage more "aha" moments?
My guest has spent his career researching the answers to these questions. His name is John Kounios, and he's a professor of psychology and the author of the book The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain. We begin our conversation discussing how researchers define what an insight is, and examples of how scientists and musicians have experienced them. John then walks us through the stages that lead up to getting an insight and explains what is going on in our brains right before and at the moment we experience one. We end our conversation discussing ways you can increase your chances of receiving insights, including the kind of environment and even color that encourages them most.
Get the show notes at aom.is/eureka.
|Jul 31, 2019|
#529: The Money Scripts That Are Holding Back Your Financial Future
If you struggle with getting your financial house in order, you may feel that what you need is more information on how things like stocks or IRAs or budgets work. However, my guest today would say that what you actually need most of all, is a better understanding of the relationship that your parents' and even your grandparents' had with money, and how the "money scripts" they've passed down to you have affected your own thinking about finances.
His name is Brad Klontz; he's a psychologist who specializes in money issues and the author of Mind Over Money: Overcoming the Money Disorders That Threaten Our Financial Health. We begin our conversation discussing what Brad calls the Big Lie in personal finance. Brad then explains how money scripts form in your childhood, and can keep you from making progress with your finances in your adulthood. We dig into why you can feel shame over being both poor and rich, why it's hard to move ahead from the socio-economic status you came from and easy to get dragged back into a financial comfort zone, and how you can break out of old ingrained patterns. We end our conversation with how to be more intentional about the money scripts you're passing down to your own kids, including why you shouldn't tell them, "We can't afford that."
Get the show notes at aom.is/moneyscripts.
|Jul 29, 2019|
#528: Become a More Competent Human Through Micromastery
The author Robert Heinlein famously said: “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
Compelling as that sounds, why do so many of us fall short of that kind of ideal, and cease to learn new and different skills in our adulthood? My guest would say it's because we approach learning the wrong way. His name is Robert Twigger, and he's the author of Micromastery: Learn Small, Learn Fast, and Unlock Your Potential to Achieve Anything.
Today on the show, Robert makes the case that we often fail to learn new things because we feel we have to learn the whole field of a subject, which is overwhelming, tedious, and de-motivating. A better approach, he says, is to first master just one distinct skill that's part of said subject, or what he calls a micromastery. We discuss what micromasteries are, why they keep you motivated to continue learning in that field and in general, the benefits of lifelong learning, and why specialization is indeed for insects. We also discuss what the punk rock scene of decades ago can teach you about tackling new skills. We end our conversation with Robert's use of omelette making as a case study in micromastery.
Get the show notes at aom.is/micromastery.
|Jul 24, 2019|
#527: Father Wounds, Male Spirituality, and the Journey to the Second Half of Life
How does the way men experience spirituality differ from the way women engage it? What obstacles particularly keep men from experiencing greater meaning in their lives, and what paradigm shifts help them find it?
My guest today has been thinking about those questions over the six decades he's served as a Franciscan friar. His name is Richard Rohr, and he's authored numerous books and devoted a significant part of his vocation to working with men -- both ministering to those who are incarcerated, and in leading male initiation rituals and retreats.
If you enjoyed my discussion last month with David Brooks about life's first and second mountain, you'll want to listen to this one. Father Rohr has long taught the same concept, arguing that life is divided into a first and second half. We begin our discussion by exploring the difference between these two halves, and what it takes to move to the second half of life, including embracing non-dualistic thinking. We also talk about what prevents men from maturing into the second half of life, including having "father wounds." We then discuss how male spirituality differs from female spirituality, why church doesn't appeal to men, the male need for initiation, and what it means to do shadow work. We end our conversation with what fathers can do to help their sons embrace the spiritual side of life.
Get the show notes at aom.is/rohr.
|Jul 22, 2019|
#526: The Rise and Fall of the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History
For nearly 400 years, the Comanche tribe controlled the southern plains of America. Even as Europeans arrived on the scene with guns and metal armor, the Comanches held them off with nothing but horses, arrows, lances, and buffalo hide shields. In the 18th century, the Comanches stopped the Spanish from driving north from Mexico and halted French expansion westward from Louisiana. In the 19th century, they stymied the development of the new country by engaging in a 40-year war with the Texas Rangers and the U.S. military. It wasn't until the latter part of that century that the Comanches finally laid down their arms.
How did they create a resistance so fierce and long lasting?
My guest today explores that question in his book Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History. His name is Sam Gwynne, and we begin our discussion by explaining where the Comanches were from originally and how their introduction to the horse radically changed their culture and kickstarted their precipitous rise to power. Sam then explains how the Comanches shifted from a hunting culture to a warrior culture and how their warrior culture was very similar to that of the ancient Spartans. We then discuss the event that began the decline of the Comanches: the kidnapping of a Texan girl named Cynthia Ann Parker. Sam explains how she went on to become the mother of the last great war chief of the Comanches, Quanah, why Quanah ultimately decided to surrender to the military, and the interesting path his life took afterward.
This is a fascinating story about an oft-overlooked part of American history. Get the show notes at aom.is/comanches.
|Jul 17, 2019|
#525: How to Stress Proof Your Body and Brain
Oftentimes, our ancient brains don't seem well equipped to deal with the speed and complexities of modernity. The landscape bombards us with perceived threats and problems, and we have trouble not ruminating on them. To navigate this environment, while maintaining our composure and sanity, we need to strengthen our resistance to stress.
My guest today has written a guidebook to how that's done. Her name is Dr. Mithu Storoni, and she's a medical doctor who also holds a PhD in Neuro-ophthalmology, as well as the author of Stress-Proof: The Scientific Solution to Protect Your Brain and Body — and Be More Resilient Every Day. Today on the show we discuss the difference between acute stress and chronic stress and why acute stress can actually be good for you, while chronic stress can change your brain so that you get more stressed out when you experience stress. We discuss how both cortisol and inflammation can actually be beneficial in the right amounts, and how to get them in the right doses -- including the particular type of exercise that will best help you recover from stress, and the role diet and even Tetris can play in managing it. We end our conversation discussing how making time for hobbies can prevent you from falling into the stress trap.
Get the show notes at aom.is/stressproof.
|Jul 15, 2019|
#524: Boxing Trainer Teddy Atlas on What It Means to Be a Man
Teddy Atlas was born to a well-respected doctor in a wealthy part of Staten Island. Most kids like him end up going to an Ivy League school to become some sort of white collar professional. Teddy? Teddy dropped out of high school, went to jail, and ended up becoming a trainer to 18 world champion boxers, including heavyweight champion Michael Moore, who defeated Evander Holyfield for the title in 1994.
Today on the show I talk to Teddy about how and why he took the path he did in life. Teddy explains how he ended up boxing under legendary trainer Cus D'Amato, and how Cus guided Teddy towards becoming a trainer himself. Teddy then shares stories of training kids in the Catskills, taking them to unsanctioned amateur fights in the Bronx, and the lessons he learned from boxing and his father about personal responsibility, managing fear, overcoming resistance, and what is means to be a man.
Get the show notes at aom.is/atlas.
|Jul 10, 2019|
#523: How to Keep a Happy Relationship Happy
Most marriage and relationship advice books focus on solving problems.
But my guests today argue that we shouldn't wait until problems arise in our relationship to work on strengthening it. Instead, they say, when times are good, we should think about how to keep that good, and act to make it even better.
Their names are James Pawelski and Suzann Pileggi Pawelski, and they're husband and wife. James has a background in philosophy, and they both have backgrounds in psychology. They combined insights from both fields to write the book Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts. We begin our conversation discussing how most relationship advice falls short, the biggest myths people have about relationships, and the contrast between Plato's and Aristotle's approach to relationships. We then dig into the role emotions play in a relationship, particularly passion, and what we can do to continue to cultivate and experience positive emotions in a marriage even after being together for years. We then dig into how our character influences our relationships and how our relationships influence our character. James and Suzann share insights on how and why to focus on our strengths, help our partners develop their strengths, and even go on a "strengths date" together. We end our conversation talking about the power of appreciation in relationships.
Get the show notes at aom.is/happytogether.
|Jul 08, 2019|
#522: What Is Wit and Why Does the World Need It?
When you think about wit, what comes to mind? Someone who's quick with a funny remark?
My guest today says that while humor is one part of wit, it's really better thought of in a broader way, as a kind of "improvisational intelligence." His name is James Geary, and he's the author of Wit's End: What Wit Is, How It Works, and Why We Need It. Today on the show, we discuss all things witty. We begin our conversation describing the nature of wit, and how it's linked to one's all-around sense of resourcefulness. James then makes the case that instead of getting our contempt, puns should actually be praised as a sophisticated form of wit. We then dig into what fencing and jazz can teach us about the role of improvisation in wit, why we need wit more than ever these days, and what you can do to start being a bit more witty.
Get the show notes at aom.is/wit.
|Jul 03, 2019|
#521: The 5 Universal Laws of Success
We're told that talent and hard work pays off. But we've all seen instances where people who were equally or even less talented and hard working than we are, still got the raise, the buzz, the promotion, or the recognition that we so keenly wanted for ourselves.
It can make a man downright cynical.
My guest today says that instead of getting jaded, you need to understand that hard work and talent, while necessary, aren't sufficient for success. His name is Albert-László Barabási, and he's a professor of network science and the author of the book The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success. We begin our conversation discussing how László's work in network science helped him uncover the hidden connections that lead to success. László then explains the difference between performance and success, and how it's possible to be a high performer, but not be successful. We then dig into the five universal laws that László and his researchers found cut across the achievement of success in every field, along with practical takeaways you can start implementing in your life to experience more success yourself.
Get the show notes at aom.is/formula.
|Jul 01, 2019|
#520: The Surprising Origins and Prevalence of Bigorexia and Male Body Image Issues