The Art of Manliness

By The Art of Manliness

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Subscribers: 10083
Reviews: 59

Sony
 May 4, 2022
just began listening to it and gotta say, pretty good

Andy
 May 3, 2022
I have been a supporter of AOM for many years and told many people about it. I was recently listening to an episode and a sponsor was a pro transgender app.This is a massive disappointment, I will return when ties cut with these sponsors.

Beau
 Apr 27, 2022
I love Brett McKay and everything Art of Manliness. Incredible interviews with the smartest leaders across various disciplines.

Chris
 Mar 30, 2022
a great podcast with all sorts of topics lessons guests etc. there's something for everyone. the host is also very knowledgeable informed and gray that bringing the best out of the guest.


 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.

Description

Podcast by The Art of Manliness

Episode Date
How Your Expectations Can Change Your Life
00:50:26

During World War II, Henry Beecher, an anesthesiologist serving in the U.S. Army, noticed that 32% of the soldiers he treated for horrific battle wounds felt no pain. A further 44% experienced only slight or mild discomfort, despite the fact they had shrapnel embedded in their bodies. Beecher hypothesized that the euphoria of surviving battle resulted in the release of a natural painkiller. When morphine was running low in Europe, Beecher thought he could harness the mind’s seeming ability to produce natural painkillers in a different way by injecting soldiers who were about to undergo surgery with a simple saline solution, while telling the soldiers they were receiving morphine. About 90% of these patients underwent the surgery with little or no pain.

Beecher’s field-expedient placebo treatments would go on to open up decades of research into the power of our expectations. On today’s show, my guest will walk us through that fascinating research, and how the connection between the body and the mind is a lot stronger and wilder than we know.

His name is David Robson and he’s an award-winning science writer and the author of The Expectation Effect: How Your Mindset Can Change Your World. David and I begin our conversation with how and why the brain operates as a prediction machine, and how the expectations it generates can shape the reality we experience. We then discuss how even when someone’s pain or condition is very real, the placebo effect can have an equally real effect on their physiology — even when people know they’re taking a placebo. We also get into the “nocebo effect,” where your expectation that a drug will have negative side effects, in fact produces those side effects. From there we turn to how the expectation effect has powerful results beyond the medical world, and shows up in the areas of sleep, diet, and fitness, including how thinking of doing chores as exercise actually increases the health benefits of that activity, how reframing your anxiety can turn it into a performance-enhancing boost, and how your perception of getting older hugely affects how you will actually physically and mentally age.

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Connect With David Robson

May 18, 2022
An Old-School Boxing Trainer on What It Means to Be a Man
00:55:44

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 it means to be a man.

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

May 16, 2022
Stress-Free Small Talk
00:41:16

If making small talk makes someone anxious, it may just be because they have a fear of such interactions, and my guest today, Rich Gallagher, can help them overcome it through his practice as a therapist. Or, someone’s anxiety around small talk can be based in part on simply not knowing how to do it, and in that case, Rich helps them by teaching them the mechanics of conversation, which he shares in his book Stress-Free Small Talk, as well as on today’s show.

Rich and I begin our conversation with how small talk is important as an on-ramp to bigger things, how it’s a skill that can be developed like any other, and how learning its mechanics can dampen the anxiety you feel about taking part in it. We then turn to these mechanics of making comfortable and effective small talk, including doing prep work, embracing tried-and-true openers, and avoiding talking too much yourself. We also discuss how to join conversations that are already underway, manage committing a faux pas, acknowledge others to build connection, and end a conversation gracefully. We end our conversation with small talk strategies for first dates and job interviews, and what to do when you go to a party where you only know the host.

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May 11, 2022
The Cold Water Swim Cure
00:44:51

Have you ever driven along the coastline, or walked by a local pond or lake and thought about taking a dip, but felt hesitant about swimming in what you know is cold water? My guest today, who argues that cold water swimming is one of the very best things you can do for your mental and physical health, will inspire you to finally take the plunge.

His name is Dr. Mark Harper and he’s an anesthesiologist and the author of Chill: The Cold Water Swim Cure. We begin our conversation with how Mark’s research into the prevention of hypothermia during surgery led him to investigate the benefits of cold water exposure in managing the body’s overall stress response. We discuss the effect cold water has on the body, and the potential mental and physical benefits this effect can have, from reducing inflammation, to reducing depression caused by inflammation, to improving conditions from diabetes to migraines. We get into how long you need to be in the water to get these benefits, and the temperature the water needs to be, which may not be as cold as you think, and potentially makes, depending on where you live, cold water swimming viable as a year-round practice. Mark also explains how to get started with cold water swimming, and do it safely and effectively, including why you should start in the summer, and how best to prepare your body before you get in the water and recover after you get out of it. We end our conversation with whether or not you can get the same benefits of cold water swimming from taking an ice bath or cold shower.

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May 09, 2022
The 5 Allies Every Man Needs
00:45:51

When it comes to improving our lives and reaching our goals, we often think of changing our personal habits and routines. We think about ourselves, but don’t look outside ourselves. But my guest would say that if we really want to change and make progress, we also need to surround ourselves with positive, strengthening people, and in particular, five types of “allies of glory” who can truly help us be our best.

His name is Antonio Neves and he’s an author, speaker, podcaster, and success coach. Today on the show, Antonio and I discuss the importance of relationships in moving us forward in our personal and career goals, the difference between allies who facilitate that progress and the thieves who hinder it, and how to minimize the influence that the latter have on us. We then get into the five kinds of allies Antonio says we need in our lives, and he unpacks what each of these allies offers. We end our conversation with Antonio’s advice for how to find these allies and expand your social and professional networks.

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Connect With Antonio Neves

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May 04, 2022
Getting Along Is Overrated
00:42:41

A lot of people really dislike conflict and have a low opinion of it. They're uncomfortable with disagreements at the office, think there's no room for contention at church, worry that fighting with their partner means their relationship is destined to dissolve, and generally feel that heated arguments tear communities apart.

My guest today, Ian Leslie, used to be one of these conflict-averse people. But as he discovered in researching his new book, Conflicted: How Productive Disagreements Lead to Better Outcomes, conflict not only brings us together, the lack of it, he says, just plain makes us stupider. Today on the show, Ian and I discuss why people get the idea that conflict is unproductive from watching online arguments and why these flame wars aren't actually indicative of the value of arguing offline. We then delve into this surprising value, from the way conflict makes us smarter, to how couples who have heated arguments are actually happier. Ian unpacks some of the myths around difficult conversations, such as the idea that they have to be done in a strictly rational and unemotional way to be fruitful, and he offers ways to approach conflict that will make it more productive, especially remembering to always prioritize the relationship above all.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect with Kevin Maurer

May 02, 2022
The Harrowing Life of a World War II B-17 Pilot
00:40:49

“We were young citizen-soldiers, terribly naive and gullible about what we would be confronted with in the air war over Europe and the profound effect it would have upon every fiber of our being for the rest of our lives. We were all afraid, but it was beyond our power to quit. We volunteered for the service and, once trained and overseas, felt we had no choice but to fulfill the mission assigned. My hope is that this book honors the men with whom I served by telling the truth about what it took to climb into the cold blue and fight for our lives over and over again.”

So writes the 100-year-old World War II veteran John “Lucky” Luckadoo in the new book he co-authored with Kevin Maurer: Damn Lucky: One Man’s Courage During the Bloodiest Military Campaign in Aviation History. Kevin is my guest today, and will share Lucky’s story, and with it, the story of WWII’s famous B-17 bomber.

During the war, airmen in the 100th Bomb Group could finish their combat service and return home after flying 25 missions. Yet with a 1 in 10 chance of becoming a casualty, few were able to reach this milestone. Lucky was one of the, well, lucky few who did, and Kevin traces how he got there, from trying to join the Royal Canadian Air Force as a teenager, to learning to fly the B-17 on the job, to his harrowing daylight bombing missions over Germany, to the life he made for himself after the war. Along the way, Kevin describes the brutal conditions inside a B-17 and the bomber’s role in winning the war.

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Connect with Kevin Maurer

Apr 27, 2022
Overcome the Decision Traps Around Diet and Exercise
00:43:48

When it comes to making behavior change around diet and exercise, it's no secret that many people fail in their efforts. My guest would say that's because too often we only concentrate on the things that drive us towards that change — whether willpower, or motivation, or the rewards that turn behaviors into habits — and that we need to think more about the obstacles keeping us from making the decisions we desire.

Her name is Michelle Segar and she's a behavioral science researcher and health coach, as well as the author of The Joy Choice: How to Finally Achieve Lasting Changes in Eating and Exercise. Today on the show, Michelle explains why exercise and eating aren't conducive to becoming habits — at least of the automatic variety — and why it's more helpful to think of these behaviors in terms of "life space" and "choice points." She makes the case for why we shouldn't just focus on what drives behaviors, but also understand what disrupts them, and unpacks four of these disruptors: temptation, rebellion, accommodation, and perfection. Michelle then offers a three-step decision tool for dealing with these disruptors, and explains how to develop the flexibility to choose the perfect imperfect option that keeps you consistent and even celebrate and enjoy the decision to do something instead of nothing.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With Michelle Segar

Apr 25, 2022
The Life We’re Looking For
00:56:01

In the quiet moments of our lives, we can all sense that our hearts long for something, though we often don’t know what that something is. We seek an answer in our phones, and while they can provide some sense of extension and fulfillment — a feeling of magic — the use of technology also comes with significant costs in individual development and interpersonal connection that we typically don’t fully understand and consider.

My guest today will unpack what it is we really yearn for, how technology, when misused, can direct us away from the path to fulfilling those yearnings, and how we can find true human flourishing in a world in which so much works against it. His name is Andy Crouch and he’s the author of The Life We’re Looking For: Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological World. Today on the show we talk about the tradeoffs you make when you seek magic without mastery, and how we can understand our desires better once we understand ourselves as heart, soul, mind, and strength complexes who want to be loved and known. We discuss the difference between interactions that are personal versus personalized, as well as the difference between devices and instruments, and how to use your phone as the latter instead of the former. We end our conversation with why Andy thinks we need to redesign the architecture of our relational lives and create something he calls “households.”

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Connect With Andy Crouch

Apr 20, 2022
The U-Shaped Curve of Happiness
00:32:21

If you're someone who's a decade or two out from your high school graduation, do you ever find yourself thinking that you're just not as happy as you were back then? Of course all the positive-thinking self-talk then kicks in and you think, "Well, maybe I actually wasn't that happy before. I do like my life better now. I like the independence I have. Yeah, yeah, I really like being an adult." Yet, no matter the glass-half-full glow you try to put on things, you can't shake the feeling that your happiness has declined over the years, that at 30, you weren't as happy as you were at 20, and that at 40, you weren't as happy as you were when you were 30.

Well, that feeling is more than a nostalgic hunch, and it's not unique to you. It's actually been born out by hundreds of research papers and studies and shown to be a near-universal experience. My guest today has authored many of those papers. His name is Dr. David Branchflower and he's a labor economist who not only studies the data around money and jobs, but also around human happiness. Today on the show David explains how happiness follows a U-shaped curve, and starts declining around age 18, and continues to fall into midlife, before picking back up again, and David shares the average age at which happiness hits its very lowest point. While it's not entirely clear why the U-shape of happiness occurs, we talk about some possible reasons behind it. And while the U-shape is consistent across the world, it can be lower or higher, and so we discuss how factors like gender, socio-economic and martial status, and having children affect happiness, and whether it's possible to mitigate the dip.

While the fact that it won't be until your mid-60s that you feel as happy as you were at age 18 might seem depressing, David argues that it's comforting to know that the feelings of declining happiness you experience at you approach midlife are normal, and will not only pass one day, but start moving in the other direction.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With David Branchflower

Apr 18, 2022
The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of Johnny Cash
00:40:05

Johnny Cash, “The Man in Black,” said he wore all black on behalf of the poor and hungry, the old who were neglected, “the “prisoner who has long paid for his crime,” and those betrayed by drugs. As a man who had grown up dirt poor, struggled his whole life with addiction, was thrown in jail seven times, and found himself in the proverbial wilderness during a long stretch of his career, Cash had a real heart for these kinds of folks; he was a man who had lived numerous ups and downs himself.

Marshall Terrill, co-author of Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon, will take us through these biographical peaks and valleys today. We talk about Cash’s hardscrabble upbringing on a cotton farm, his unfulfilled desire to please his father, and how his rise into stardom was accompanied by the arrival of a set of personal demons. We also discuss how, after becoming the top entertainer in the world, Cash’s career slid into two decades of music industry irrelevance, the big comeback he made near the end of his life, and the faith that sustained him through all his struggles and triumphs.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With Marshall Terrill

Apr 13, 2022
The New Science of Metabolism and Weight Loss
00:49:24

You hear a lot about metabolism. You probably know it has something to do with weight loss. And even if you don't go in for those supposed hacks around speeding up your metabolism, you likely figure you can at least increase it by exercising more.

This isn't actually the case, and my guest will sort through this and other misconceptions around metabolism on today's show. His name is Dr. Herman Pontzer and he's a professor of evolutionary anthropology and the author of Burn: New Research Blows the Lid Off How We Really Burn Calories, Lose Weight, and Stay Healthy. We begin our conversation with an overview of how metabolism powers everything your body does from thinking to moving to simply existing, and how it uses the food you eat as the energy needed to fuel these processes. We then get into Herman's field research which shows that increasing your physical activity doesn't actually increase the number of calories you burn, but why it's still hugely important to exercise anyway. He also unpacks whether certain kinds of foods are better for your metabolism, offers his recommendations on how to use diet to lose weight, and answers the common question as to whether it's true that your metabolism goes down as you age.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With Herman Pontzer

Apr 11, 2022
How Power Corrupts
00:52:55

Why do corrupt people end up in power?

By way of an answer, you probably think of that famous quote from Lord Acton, "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." But my guest today, Brian Klaas, would say that's only one part of what leads to corrupt individuals and cultures, the other being that people who are already corrupt are more likely to seek power in the first place. Brian argues that if we ever hope to develop better systems, from our national governments to our office hierarchies, we have to work on both prongs of this dynamic, not only preventing people who gain power from going bad, but encouraging good people to seek power as well.

Brian is the author of Corruptible: Who Gets Power and How It Changes Us, and today on the show, he and I discuss how people who possess the so-called "dark triad" of traits are more attracted to positions of power, how the framing around those positions can either amplify or alter this self-selection effect, and what a tyrannical homeowners' association president and a psychopathic school janitor show us about these dynamics. We also discuss why power does indeed corrupt people and can in fact change their very brain chemistry. Brian explains the importance of accountability in keeping a system clean, and how you can serve in positions of power without becoming corrupted yourself.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With Brian Klass

Apr 06, 2022
Set Your Kids Up for a Lifetime of Healthy Sleep
00:53:21

When neurologist and sleep specialist Dr. Chris Winter sees adult patients in his sleep clinic, they often come to him because of a struggle with insomnia, which, as he described in a previous appearance on the AoM podcast, is caused by stressing too much about sleep, so that going to bed becomes an anxious and fear-inducing routine that sabotages the natural needs and rhythms of the sleep cycle.

Chris would see fewer adult patients like this if, when they were kids, their parents set them up to have a healthy relationship with sleep.

How to establish that kind of healthy relationship is something Chris writes about in his latest book, The Rested Child, and is the topic of our conversation today. Chris will take us through what parents should know about their kids' sleep from the womb through young adulthood, with tips on both how to improve your children's sleep, and how to avoid messing it up, including his take on co-sleeping, why he let his kids go to bed whenever they wanted, and why he discourages giving children melatonin to help them sleep.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With Dr. Chris Winter

Apr 04, 2022
Kierkegaard on the Present (Passionless) Age
00:59:59

Do you ever feel like the time we live in feels flat, complacent, timid, conformist, populated by people who are focused on playing it safe and are inwardly empty?

A century and a half ago, the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard felt the same way about the period in which he lived, and posited that there are two kinds of ages: the revolutionary, decisive, and passionate, and the sensible, rational, and reflective.

Here to unpack Kierkegaard’s ideas on these two kinds of ages is Jacob Howland, retired professor of philosophy and author of Kierkegaard and Socrates. Today on the show, Jacob and I first discuss some background on Kierkegaard and his existential philosophy. We then get into the differences between an age of passion and an age of reflection. We discuss how in a passionate age, an individual stands as an individual, possesses an energy which focuses on truth and ideals, and has the courage to take bold leaps of faith, while in a reflective age, the individual is subsumed by the crowd, is afraid of public opinion, and gets so lost in analysis and abstraction that he never makes a decisive move. All along the way, we delve into how Kierkegaard’s description of his age parallels our own, and Kierkegaard’s evergreen call to be an individual, embrace risk, and own your opinions and actions.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With Jacob Howland

Mar 30, 2022
Become a Backyard Adventurer
00:42:18

A lot of people feel like they've seen and done everything there is to see and do in their local area. They're bored of their daily routine, and contemplate going off on some grand adventure in a exotic locale.

My guest would say that you don't actually have to wait until your next big trip nor go far afield to mix things up, and that adventure can be found right where you are, in your ordinary routines, the everyday landscape of your life, and even DIY projects, if you decide to approach them in a different way.

His name is Beau Miles and he's an Australian filmmaker who documents his own small-scale adventures on YouTube, as well as the author of The Backyard Adventurer. Today on the show, Beau shares his experiments in proving anything can be infused with the challenge, intrigue, and fun which mark adventure, if you add in some intentional risk, difficulty, and simple what-the-heck quirkiness. He tells us about some of the close-to-home adventures he's executed, including walking and kayaking his 90-kilometer commute to work, reconnecting an old, long closed-down rail line by running its often hidden, overgrown path with a shovel in his hand, and making a paddle with scavenged wood. We then talk about how he created a gastronomical adventure for himself by eating his body weight in beans, and even turned tackling his to-do list into an adventure by pairing the crossing off of its entries with running a marathon in 24 hours. Along the way, Beau shares how backyard adventures help you better get to know your local area, how he deals with the police who sometimes check in on what he's up to, and how the next time you get some odd idea, you ought to just go for it, mate.

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Connect With Beau Miles

Mar 28, 2022
The Dangers of "Concept Creep"
00:39:39

Trauma. Violence. Bullying. Addiction. The range of things that these words encompass has expanded over time, and while my guest today would say that changes in how language is used are natural and inevitable, he also argues that the way we use words matters and has consequences, and that we need to better grapple with what those consequences are.

His name is Dr. Nick Haslam and he's a professor of psychology at the University of Melbourne who has studied a phenomenon he calls "concept creep," which refers to the tendency of concepts having to do with harm — from trauma to depression — to broaden their meaning over time. Nick describes how concept creep happens in two ways — vertical and horizontal — and occurs both amongst clinicians and the general public. He explains what he thinks is behind concept creep, and how the way we talk about harm-related concepts changes how people experience themselves and life, bringing new kinds of identities and new kinds of people into existence. Nick argues that while there are upsides to concept creep, it also carries potential dangers that can negatively impact our lives.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With Nick Haslam

Mar 23, 2022
Run Like a Pro (Even If You're Slow)
00:47:55

Running is a gloriously democratic and accessible sport. All you need is a pair of shoes and the will to start moving your legs. It's so seemingly simple, that you may never think to figure out how you might get better at it — you just follow what your peers may be doing (who may not know anything more than you do), or pick up tips that percolate through social media (which may not be accurate), or 100% wing it, just vaguely trying to get a little faster each time you run.

My guest says that, rather than taking a willy-nilly approach to your recreational running, you can greatly improve your performance by learning from the professionals who actually run for a living.

His name is Matt Fitzgerald and he's a sports writer, a running coach, and the co-author of Run Like a Pro (Even If You're Slow): Elite Tools and Tips for Runners at Every Level. Today on the show Matt translates the best practices of elite runners into tactics the amateur can incorporate into their training, beginning with why you need to follow a well-programmed running plan, how to find the sweet spot for your running volume — including why you actually should concentrate more on the amount of time you run rather than the miles — and the number of hours Matt recommends trying to work up to running each week if you'd like to really see what you can do as a runner. We then discuss the ratio of low intensity to high intensity workouts you should be doing, the surprisingly small emphasis pros put on running form, what the pros know about what works best for recovery, and the edge you can get through cross-training. We end our conversation with the difference in mindset that marks elite runners, including how they're probably better quitters than you are.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With Matt Fitzgerald

Mar 21, 2022
The Writing Life of Ernest Hemingway
00:50:10

How did one of history's greatest writers — Ernest Hemingway — get going with his craft, develop his indelible style, and infuse his narratives with memorable life and compelling tension?

Today we delve into the answers to those questions with Hemingway scholar Mark Cirino, who is a professor of English, the editor and author of half a dozen books on Hemingway — including Ernest Hemingway: Thought in Action — and the host of the One True Podcast which covers all things related to Papa. Mark and I our begin our conversation with how Hemingway cut his teeth with writing as a journalist, how the "iceberg theory" underlay his approach to writing as a novelist, and how his years in Paris — and the books, people, and art he encountered there — influenced his work and the trajectory of his career. We then discuss how his travel and recreational pastimes allowed him to write with a vivid firsthand understanding of certain places and pursuits, what his writing routine was like, and how the characters in his novels explore the tension between thought and action. We end our conversation with Mark's recommendation for where to start reading Hemingway if you've never read him or haven't read him in a long time, and what Mark thinks was Hemingway's "one true sentence."

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Connect With Mark Cirino

Mar 17, 2022
The Dreams That Precede Death
00:38:55

As the dying approach their death, up to 88% of them experience certain vivid, moving dreams — though "dreams" isn't even the best word for these experiences, as they can happen to people when they're both awake and asleep, and are described by them as being "more real than real."

My guest today has studied these visions and dreams for many years and thinks they have important insights into the nature of life and death. His name is Dr. Chrisopther Kerr, and he's a hospice physician and end-of-life researcher, as well as the author of Death Is But a Dream: Finding Hope and Meaning at Life's End. We begin our conversation with Dr. Kerr's efforts to study end-of-life experiences on an objective, scientific basis, and how his research into these visions and dreams doesn't attempt to find their spiritual or paranormal origin, but simply seeks to catalog the phenomenon from a clinical perspective. We then discuss how long before death people begin having these dreams, the content of the dreams, and who shows up in them. Dr. Kerr describes how pre-death visions and dreams are typically positive and comforting, and how even the rarer, disturbing variety can end up being transformative. And he shares what these dreams do not only for the dying, but for their caregivers as well.

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Connect With Dr. Kerr

Mar 14, 2022
The Secrets to Making the Perfect Pizza
00:39:16

Pizza. It's ubiquitous. It's a fixture at parties and office break rooms, and there's a good chance you order it from your favorite place for dinner every single week.

But there's one setting where pizza doesn't show up very often, and that's in your own oven, having been made in your own kitchen. But my guest today, who's spent decades pursuing the perfect pizza, says you ought to be making your own pies more often and will teach you the secrets to getting restaurant-quality pizza at home. His name is Dan Richer, and he's the owner and chef of Razza in New Jersey, as well as the author of The Joy of Pizza: Everything You Need to Know.

We begin our conversation with what makes pizza such an awesome, go-to, inexhaustibly delicious dish and how to overcome the obstacles that typically prevent people from creating pizzeria-level pizza at home. Dan then gives us his recommendations on sauce, cheese, and toppings in order to create the perfect pizza pie, including his take on that most burning of questions: does pineapple belong on a pizza?

Connect With Dan Richer

 

Mar 09, 2022
How Eisenhower Led — A Conversation with Ike's Granddaughter
01:02:49

Editor's Note: This is a rebroadcast. It originally aired in September 2020.

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.

My guest today possesses insights into how he made the many choices he was faced with in his military and political careers that are gleaned not only from studying Ike's life, but from personally knowing the man beneath the mantle. Her name is Susan Eisenhower and she's a writer, consultant, and policy strategist, one of Dwight's four grandchildren, and the author of the new book How Ike Led: The Principles Behind Eisenhower's Biggest Decisions. Susan and I begin our conversation with her relationship with Ike as both historic leader and ordinary grandfather, and why she decided to write a book about his leadership style. We then dive into the principles of his leadership, beginning with his decision to greenlight the D-Day invasion, what it reveals about his iron-clad commitment to taking responsibility, and how that commitment allowed him to be such an effective delegator. From there Susan explains how a love of studying history born in Ike's boyhood allowed him to take a big picture approach to strategy, how he used a desk drawer to deal with his lifelong struggle with anger, and how his belief in morale as an input rather than an output inspired him to always stay optimistic for the benefit of those he led. We then turn to how Eisenhower dealt with the discovery of concentration camps at the end of WWII and making peace with Germany after it. We then talk about his nonpartisan governing style as president which he called the "Middle Way" and which involved emphasizing cooperation, compromise, and unity, including members of both political parties in his cabinet, limiting his use of the "bully pulpit" to sway public opinion, and striving not to turn policy issues into personality confrontations. We then discuss how this style influenced how he dealt with Joseph McCarthy and enforced the Brown v. Board of Education decision. At the end of our conversation, Susan explains that while she doesn't expect everyone to agree with the difficult decisions her grandfather made, she thinks there's something to be learned from how he managed to make them, and to make them without becoming hard and cynical in the process.

Mar 07, 2022
Developing Your Personal Uniform
00:51:33

The personal uniform is a look that you've settled on as your regular get-up. Today on the show I talk to two style writers, David Coggins and Michael Williams, about all things concerning this stylish-yet-bandwidth-saving approach to dressing. We discuss what a personal uniform is, how to develop one and why that development comes with age, and how to find inspiration for yours. We also talk about establishing the base pieces of your personal uniform, buying multiples of its fundamental components, and refining your look over time.

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Mar 02, 2022
Anxiety Is a Habit — Here's How to Break It
00:37:45

You may think of anxiety as a reaction, a feeling, or a disorder. My guest today says that perhaps the best way to think about anxiety, especially if you want to treat it effectively, is as a habit.

His name is Dr. Judson Brewer, and he's a psychiatrist and neuroscientist, and the author of Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind. Dr. Jud and I begin our conversation with what anxiety is, and how it gets connected into a habit loop that can lead to other maladaptive behaviors like drinking, overeating, and worrying. Dr. Jud then explains how to hack the anxiety habit loop by mapping it out, disenchanting your anxiety-driven behaviors, and giving your brain "a bigger, better offer" by getting curious about your anxiety. We also talk about why asking why you're anxious is not part of this process, and end our conversation with how this habit-based approach to behavior change can also work for things like depression and anger.

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Feb 28, 2022
Beyond OODA — Developing the Orientation for Conflict and Violence
01:03:08

The OODA Loop — the OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act — is a strategic tool designed to help people make better decisions when facing any kind of competitor or opponent.

My guest today says that when that opponent is a seasoned criminal, the Orient component of OODA — a person's mindset — is the most underestimated and critical part of the model to understand.

His name is Varg Freeborn and he's the author of Violence of Mind: Training and Preparation for Extreme Violence, and Beyond OODA: Developing the Orientation for Deception, Conflict, and Violence. We begin with how Varg's life story has uniquely positioned him to understand the dynamics of violence from the perspectives of both the perpetrators of crime, and the would-be preventers of that crime. Varg shares how he went from being a convicted felon to a self-defense and firearms instructor who's worked with both civilians and law enforcement.

We then turn to why it's so important to understand the difference between the orientation of an average person and the orientation of a violent criminal, and why, when the two collide, the latter has a real advantage over the former. We end our conversation with what you can do in terms of mindset and training to close that gap, and be better prepared to handle a violent encounter.

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Feb 23, 2022
Declutter, Downsize, and Move Forward with Your Life
00:59:16

You want to declutter. You want to downsize. You want to live more simply. So what's been holding you back from getting closer to those ideals?

My guest today sorts through both the psychological and practical roadblocks that can get in the way of living more minimally, and more in the present. His name is Matt Paxton, and he's a downsizing and decluttering expert, a featured cleaner on the television show Hoarders, the host of the Emmy-nominated show Legacy List With Matt Paxton which showcases people's heirlooms and treasures, and the author of Keep the Memories, Lose the Stuff: Declutter, Downsize, and Move Forward with Your Life.

We begin our conversation with how Matt got into cleaning out houses and working with hoarders, and some of the worst cases of hoarding Matt's seen. We then get into both the mindset and brass tacks tips he's learned from the most extreme cases of clutter that can be used by regular people who just want to pare down their stuff. We talk about why we can feel so attached to our possessions, and how to let them go, while still preserving your and your family's memories. Matt recommends how and where to get started with your decluttering, and offers tools, including creating a "maybe pile" and a "legacy list," for deciding what to keep and what to chuck, whether you're dealing with big items like furniture or small stuff like documents and pictures. Matt explains what to do with your stuff whether trashing, donating, upcycling, or selling, and how much you can reasonably expect to get when you do the latter (spoiler alert: it's a lot less than you think). We end our conversation with how, after you've decluttered your place, to keep it from getting clogged up again.

Oh, and we also discuss where to find hidden stashes of money when you're cleaning out the house of an older person who's died.

This is a really fun and interesting conversation that definitely motivated me to clean out our house.

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Feb 21, 2022
The World of the Transcendentalists and the Rise of Modern Individualism
00:58:18

The town of Concord, Massachusetts has been famous twice in history. First as the location of the "shot heard round the world" which kickstarted the American Revolution in the 18th century, and second, as the home of several famous writers and thinkers, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, in the 19th.

My guest today, professor of history Robert A. Gross, has written landmark books on both of these periods in Concord's history. The first, called The Minutemen and Their World, was published in 1976. Now, nearly 50 years later, he's published a new volume called The Transcendentalists and Their World.

In both books, Bob delves into the details of everyday life in Concord in order to illuminate broader trends and forces in American culture. In the case of his second book, he does so to explore how the communal, hierarchical nature of life in America during the Revolutionary period shifted to a more autonomous and bottom-up ethos during the time of transcendentalism — a movement which prized individuality over conformity and intuition over logic, believed divinity existed in each person and throughout nature, and celebrated the authority of the individual over the authority of institutions.

In today's episode, Bob and I discuss how changing forces in commerce and religion, as well as a fervent, emerging interest in self-improvement, led to this shift, and how thinkers like Emerson and Thoreau set a new course for what it means to live a life of integrity. We end our conversation with what the world of the transcendentalists has to tell us in our own time period, which, like theirs, is marked by the widespread rejection of top-down gatekeepers.

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Feb 16, 2022
A Playbook for Modern Dating
00:51:07

Dating is a relatively recent phenomenon in human history. Given that, it shouldn't come as a surprise that many people aren't sure of the best way to go about it, especially since the rise of modern technology and dating apps has made an already murky landscape even more confusing.

If you feel like you could use some expert, research-backed guidance to navigating this world, enter today's guest, Logan Ury. Logan is a behavioral scientist turned dating coach, the Director of Relationship Science for the Hinge dating app, and the author of How to Not Die Alone: The Surprising Science That Will Help You Find Love. Today on the show, Logan explains the three dating tendencies and the three types of attachment styles that can influence, and potentially sabotage, your ability to get into a healthy relationship. She shares the easiest thing you can do to be more successful in making connections on the dating apps, and the criteria to use for figuring out how to best meet people in person. Logan then gets into how to design a good first date, and what to tell the other person if the date doesn't go well, rather than ghosting them. She also makes the case for why you shouldn't be over reliant on feeling the proverbial spark when deciding whether to see someone again. We end our conversation with tips on breaking up with someone you've been dating for awhile.

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Feb 14, 2022
Becoming a Hybrid Athlete
00:48:06

When it comes to fitness, people tend to either focus on endurance or strength; they're runners or powerlifters. But wouldn't it be pretty cool to be able to deadlift 500 pounds and run a marathon? My guest says that combining real strength with true endurance to become a "hybrid athlete" isn't only possible, it also makes for a wonderfully adventurous and fulfilling path to pursue.

His name is Fergus Crawley and he's the co-founder of Omnia Performance, which offers coaching to hybrid athletes. Today on the show, Fergus shares how he found his way into hybrid training, what a struggle with depression had to do with that journey, and why he decided to take on some incredible challenges that combine strength and endurance, including deadlifting 500 lbs, running a sub-5-minute mile and doing a marathon in a single day, and powerlifting 1200 kilos and doing a sub-12-hour Ironman Triathlon in a single day. We then turn to the technical side of programming hybrid training, and how you incorporate both endurance and strength workouts in a single week. We end our conversation with Fergus' case for the benefits of hybrid training to body, mind, and spirit, which made me want to go out for a run — something I don't say every day.

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Feb 09, 2022
How to Shift Out of the Midlife Malaise
00:52:02

When you think about someone having a midlife crisis, you probably think of a man getting divorced, stepping out with a younger woman, and buying a sports car. But my guest today says the often jokey, mockable trope of the midlife crisis we have in our popular culture discounts the fact that the sense of dissatisfaction people can feel in their middle years is quite real, and that the questions it raises are profond, philosophical, and worth earnestly grappling with.

His name is Kieran Setiya, and he's a professor of philosophy and the author of Midlife: A Philosophical Guide. Kieran and I first discuss what researchers have uncovered about whether the midlife crisis really exists, how it might be better described as a kind of midlife malaise, and how Kieran's own sense of life dissatisfaction began when he was only in his mid-thirties. We then explore the philosophical reframing that can help in dealing with the existential issues that the journey into midlife often raises, including feeling like you've missed out on certain possibilities and feeling regret over your mistakes and misfortunes. We also talk about how to shift out of one primary cause of the midlife malaise — the sense that your life is merely about putting out fires and checking off boxes.

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Feb 07, 2022
We Need a P.E. Revolution
00:48:51

When it comes to physical education in our country’s schools, parents, teachers, and administrators alike typically place it at the bottom of their list of priorities — something to fit in if budget, time, and academic standards allow. My guest, however, says that P.E. should be thought of as the most important component in education, and as critical not only in ensuring the lifetime health of our kids, but even attaining those vaunted academic standards too.

His name is Dr. Daniel O’Neill and he’s an orthopedic surgeon, a sports psychologist, and the author of Survival of the Fit. Today on the show, Dr. Dan lays out how a lack of physical activity is creating problems in kids from obesity to anxiety, and preventing the development of what he calls a “physical identity.” He explains the way the huge number of kids who don’t see themselves as athletes end up not pursuing physical activity at all, and why he thinks school-sponsored sports are only contributing to this problem. Dan takes us back to a time in our history when physical education was prioritized, and we discuss what’s wrong with modern P.E. and how it can be improved. Dan makes an argument for why P.E. should be the main, foundational thing focused on in schools today, and what people can do to push to make that happen.

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Feb 02, 2022
How to Make Life’s Big Decisions
00:48:52

There are little decisions to make in life like what to wear to work and what to eat for lunch. Then there are potentially life-changing decisions like whether to move, take a new job, break up with someone, or get married. With these big decisions, you may never have faced that choice before, have to sacrifice one path to choose another, and have a hard time figuring out the right way to go. As a result of the high stakes and high uncertainty, we often flounder in this kind of decision-making, sometimes failing to make any decision at all.

My guests have studied those who have to make these kinds of critical choices more often — first responders and members of the military — to figure out how civilians can make better decisions in their everyday lives. Their names are Laurence Alison and Neil Shortland, and they’re the authors of Decision Time: How to Make the Choices Your Life Depends On. Today on the show, Laurence and Neil explain the mistakes people commonly fall into when making big decisions, including getting stuck in a cycle of redundant deliberation, where you forever circle around your options without ever pulling the trigger on one. They then unpack their model for more effective decision-making, including why it should follow a foxtrot pattern, and how to know when it’s time to stop ruminating and finally make a choice. Along the way, we discuss the importance of self-awareness in this process, and what it is you need to know about yourself to make better decisions.

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Jan 31, 2022
Get on Top of Collaboration Overload
00:36:51

There is seemingly more collaboration going on in the workplace than ever before. People are working and talking across teams, and within teams, using a wide array of communication channels. As a result, employees, managers, and CEOs alike can feel pulled in a ton of different directions, by a ton of different asks, and find their actual productivity shot to pieces as a result.

My guest figured there had to be a better way for folks to work together, and interviewed the most efficient collaborators to find out what they did differently to get back up to a quarter of their collaborative time. His name is Rob Cross, and he's a professor of leadership, a business consultant, and the author of Collaboration Overload. Rob and I begin our conversation with a big picture overview of the organizational and individual factors that are driving the problem of collaboration overload. We then shift to talking about the concrete tactics he learned from efficient collaborators that can help others avoid getting pulled into every conversation and project. We discuss how to limit the productivity-sapping power of meetings by scheduling reflective time, and ways to put more buffer between you and those who ask you to collaborate, including creating a transparent clearinghouse of priorities. We then discuss how to reduce collaboration overload in communication, manage people's expectations for response times, and identify the microstressors that may be contributing to your burnout.

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Jan 26, 2022
How Long Does It Take to Make Friends (And How Does That Process Work, Anyway)?
00:45:09

How long does it take to make friends — for someone you meet who's a potential friend, to turn into an actual friend? If you're out of college and not a young adult anymore, you know that it sure feels like it's a process that takes an awfully long time.

Well my guest has actually crunched the numbers on this question and has the numerical figures to answer it. As well as a whole lot of insight into the dynamics of friendship that are harder to quantify. His name is Jeffrey Hall and he's a professor of communication studies who counts friendship among the topics of his research. Today on the show, Jeff explains the three levels of friends that make up the sort of friendship hierarchy, how many hours it takes for someone to move from one level to the next, and why it's hard to accumulate these needed hours as an adult. We also talk about how sheer time isn't the only factor that's needed to transform an acquaintance into a close or best friend, and the other factors that need to be in play as well. We then shift into discussing another element that influences the friendship-making process: the expectations each friend has for friendship. We discuss how expectations for friendship differ according to sex and personality, and what happens when two people have differing expectations for what it means to be friends.

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Jan 24, 2022
The Rise and Fall of Athens
00:58:49

In a period of only about 100 years, Athens went from relative obscurity, to becoming an influential empire, to collapsing into ruin.

My guest today will guide us through the dramatic arc of this city-state and the larger-than-life characters that contributed to it. His name is David Stuttard, and he's a classicist and the author of Phoenix: A Father, a Son, and the Rise of Athens, and Nemesis: Alcibiades and the Fall of Athens.

We begin our conversation with the rise of Athens and why its aristocratic families decided to institute a radically democratic form of government. David then walks us through how the Persian invasion catapulted Athens to power in Greece. Along the way, David explains how a father and son named Miltiades and Cimon led Athens to power. We then shift our attention to the fall of Athens and how it was precipitated by the Peloppensian War with their one-time ally, Sparta. David introduces us to the made-for-Hollywood character that would play a pivotal role in Athens' fall — the handsome and charismatic aristocrat and serial traitor, Alcibiades. We end our conversation with the lessons we moderns can take from the rise and fall of Athens.

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Jan 19, 2022
Philosophical Tools for Living the Good Life
01:01:57

Most everyone wants to live a good, meaningful life, though we don't always know what that means and how to do it. Plenty of modern self-improvement programs claim to point people in the right direction, but many of the best answers were already offered more than two thousand years ago.

My guests have gleaned the cream of this orienting, ancient-yet-evergreen advice from history's philosophers and shared it in their new book, The Good Life Method: Reasoning Through the Big Questions of Happiness, Faith, and Meaning. Their names are Meghan Sullivan and Paul Blaschko, and they're professors of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. Today on the show Meghan and Paul introduce us to the world of virtue ethics — an approach to philosophy that examines the nature of the good life, the values and habits that lead to excellence, and how to find and fulfill your purpose as a human being. We discuss how to seek truth with other people by asking them three levels of what they call "strong questions" and engaging in civil and fruitful dialogue. We then delve into why your intentions matter and why you should use "morally thick" language. We also examine the role that work and love has to play in pursuing the good life, and how the latter is very much about attention. We end our conversation with how a life of eudaimonia — full human flourishing — requires balancing action with contemplation.

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Jan 17, 2022
The New Science of Narcissism
00:50:04

Narcissism is something that looms large in our cultural consciousness. We accuse friends and family of being narcissistic, think we observe the quality in politicians and celebrities, and wonder if society is becoming more self-absorbed over time.

But what is narcissism, really, once you get beyond the pop cultural conception and colloquial buzzword? My guest will unpack that for us today. His name is W. Keith Campbell, and he’s a professor of psychology and the author of The New Science of Narcissism. Keith explains that narcissism centers on an antagonistic sense of entitlement and self-importance, that there are actually two types of it — grandiose and vulnerable — and how the latter can actually underlie seeming cases of anxiety and depression. We then discuss what causes someone to become a narcissist, whether narcissism has increased in younger generations, and when narcissism tips over into an outright personality disorder. Keith explains how narcissists are attractive early on in a relationship, but lose their shine over time, and how, in a similar manner, narcissists readily emerge as leaders, but then often struggle to hold onto their position and power. We then get into the relationship between narcissism and social media, and how to get the benefits of narcissism — which isn’t entirely a bad thing — while mitigating its downsides.

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Jan 12, 2022
The Code of the Warrior
00:59:23

Editor's Note: This is a rebroadcast. It originally aired July 2020.

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.

My guest today explored these various codes in a book she wrote during the decade she spent teaching at the United States Naval Academy. Her name is Shannon French, she's a professor of ethics and philosophy, and her book is The Code of the Warrior: Exploring Warrior Values Past and Present. Shannon and I begin our conversation with the pointed questions she used to pose to the cadets she taught as to how being a warrior was different than being a killer or murderer, and when killing is and isn't ethical. She then explains how the warrior codes which developed all around the world arose organically from warriors themselves for their own protection, and how these codes are more about identity than rules. Shannon and I then take a tour of warrior codes across time and culture, starting with the code in Homer's Iliad, and then moving into the strengths and weaknesses of the Stoic philosophy which undergirded the code of the Romans. From there we unpack the code of the medieval knights of Arthurian legend, what American Indians can teach soldiers about the need to make clear transitions between the homefront and the warfront, and how the Bushido code of the samurais sought to balance the influence of four different religions. We end our conversation with the role warrior codes play today in an age of increasingly technologized combat. 

If reading this in an email, click the title of the post to listen to the show.

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Shannon on Twitter

 

Jan 10, 2022
Become a Focused Monotasker
00:47:58

Writing an email while on a Zoom call. Talking on the phone while walking. Scrolling through social media while watching a movie.

In both our work and our play, we're all doing more and more multitasking. Doing two things at once makes us feel as if we're more efficient and getting more done.

But my guest would say that all this task juggling actually makes us less productive, while diminishing the quality of our work and stressing our minds, and that we'd be better off curbing our multitasking in favor of monotasking. His name is Thatcher Wine and he's the author of The Twelve Monotasks: Do One Thing at a Time to Do Everything Better. Today on the show, Thatcher explains the illusions around multitasking and the benefits of monotasking — that is, bringing our full focus to a single task at a time. We discuss why reading is a foundational part of becoming a monotasker, and then get into some of the other activities Thatcher recommends monotasking, including walking, listening, traveling/commuting, and thinking. Thatcher argues that doing things like listening to a podcast while cleaning your house isn't necessarily a bad thing, but that you may want to try stripping everything away from your daily tasks except the primary tasks themselves to observe the resulting effect and to strengthen your "monotasking muscles" and rebuild your attention span. Once you've experimented with doing a task alone, you can then decide to layer back in the second activity, or, maybe decide you actually liked giving it your all.

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Jan 05, 2022
Fat Loss Made Simple
00:58:45

When it comes to losing weight, you can find plenty of complicated programs that involve long, intense workouts and strict calorie-counting diet plans. But my guest today takes an approach to fat loss that's awesomely simple, and even more effective because of that fact.

His name is Dan John and he's a strength coach, a competitive thrower and weightlifter, and the author of many books about health and fitness, including Fat Loss Starts on Monday. Today on the show, Dan talks about the importance of not only picking a specific number where you want your weight to be, but enriching that goal so that it lights up multiple parts of your brain. We then discuss how and how often to measure your weight, how to deal with setbacks as you shed the pounds, and Dan's uncomplicated approach to eating. Dan also explains why he recommends drinking hot water with lemon, practicing intermittent fasting, and working out in a fasted state. We go over the "Easy Strength" exercise program he suggests for fat loss, and why these short weightlifting sessions are always followed by a walk. We end our conversation with how to break through a weight loss plateau by doing something called "reverse rucking."

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Jan 03, 2022
The Tiny Habits That Change Everything
00:44:27

Editor's Note: This is a re-broadcast. It originally aired in February 2020. 

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.  

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

Book cover of Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg.
Dec 29, 2021
Begin the New Year by Reflecting on These 3 Life-Changing Questions [Rebroadcast]
00:51:38

Editor's Note: This is a re-broadcast. It was originally published in December 2020. 

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.

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

naikan by Gregg Krech book cover.

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ToDo Institute

Dec 27, 2021
The Real (Decidedly-Less-Sentimental-Yet-Still-Wonderful) Story of WWI's Christmas Truce
00:38:37

One of the most famous stories to come out of World War I is that of the "Christmas Truce" of 1914, in which German and British forces engaged in a spontaneous and unofficial ceasefire and spent the holiday fraternizing with each other. In the popular imagination, the Christmas Truce was a time in which enemies put aside their differences to sing carols, exchange gifts, and even play soccer, and represented a sentimental flowering of peace and goodwill.

How much of the popular legend around the Christmas Truce is true, and how much is myth? My guest will unpack that for us. His name is Peter Hart and he served as Oral Historian of the Imperial War Museum for 40 years and is the author of several books on military history, including The Great War: A Combat History of the First World War. Today on the show, Peter gives us some background on the start of WWI, what led up to the Christmas Truce, and what life was like for soldiers in the trenches. We then discuss how the Christmas Truce began, and what happened during it (including whether the soldiers really played soccer together), what the leaders of the participating militaries thought of this unofficial ceasefire, how long the truce lasted, and how it ended. Peter explains that while the truce was certainly motivated partly by sentiment, it was primarily done for more practical and even strategic reasons. We end our conversation with why, even though the real Christmas Truce is a less romantic event than commonly conceived, it's still a wonderful story about our shared humanity.

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Dec 22, 2021
C.S. Lewis on Building Men With Chests
00:42:33

Like Plato, C.S. Lewis believed that the human soul was made up of three parts — the head (the rational, reason-driven part of you), the belly (your appetites and base instincts), and the chest (the seat of virtue-seeking sentiments and well-tuned emotions). In order for your head to make your decisions, particularly the decision to live a virtuous life, rather than your decisions being driven by your belly, the head needs the aid of the chest, of right feeling.

A few months ago, we had Michael Ward on the show to talk about why C.S. Lewis felt that modern life was making “men without chests.” Today, I talk to a guest who can shed light on what Lewis thought was needed to build that chest back up. His name is Louis Markos and he’s a professor of English, as well as the lecturer of the Great Courses course: The Life and Writings of C.S. Lewis. At the start of our conversation, Lou gives us some background on Lewis’ life, including his conversion to Christianity, and how the nature of that conversion influenced his thinking on how to pursue virtue more broadly. We then talk about Lewis’ philosophical argument for there being a universal moral order, and why the chest is so vital for staying grounded in it. We spend the rest of our discussion unpacking the three ways Lewis believed the chest could be “educated”: reading stories and myths, rejecting “chronological snobbery” to learn from the past, and developing friendships that inspire excellence.

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Dec 20, 2021
Prototype Your Way to a Better Life
00:43:51

I used to wake up early, around 5:15, and do my workout right after getting out of bed. But I noticed I was tired all day, and just felt kind of stiff and not very strong during my workouts. So I decided to try waking up a couple hours later, and doing my workouts in the late afternoon instead. I found that setting up my schedule this way gave me greater energy, both overall, and during my workouts.

My guest says that this tinkering I did with my routine is an example of life prototyping, a process that can be used for anything and everything in order to improve both your personal and professional life.

His name is Dave Evans, and as a lecturer in Stanford’s Design Program, he teaches the popular Designing Your Life course, which, as the name implies, takes the principles of design thinking, and applies them to crafting a happy and fulfilling life. He’s also the co-author, along with Bill Burnett, of Designing Your Life and Designing Your New Work Life. Today on the show, Dave explains how one of the central steps to design thinking — prototyping — can help you make both big and small changes that move you closer to the life you want to lead. He explains what prototyping is, how prototyping a life is different from prototyping a product, the two approaches involved with the former, and embracing the design thinking mindset of being immune to failure.

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Dec 15, 2021
The Perils and Powers of Cowardice
00:48:50

There have been many books written about courage. About cowardice, however, there has only been one. The author of this lone book onb cowardice joins me today to talk about why cowardice, though much ignored, is at least equally important to understand as courage, and how the fear of the former may actually serve as a stronger motivator towards doing daring deeds.

His name is Chris Walsh, and his book is Cowardice: A Brief History. Today on the show, Chris explains how a coward can be defined as "someone who, because of excessive fear, fails to do what he is supposed to do," and yet how the assumptions behind this definition can be hard to pin down. We discuss why cowardice has been so condemned through time, so much so that in the military it was long considered a crime worthy of execution. We also discuss why the fear of being a coward is so tied into manliness, and why that label constitutes the worst insult you can level at a man. Chris delves into the way external checks on cowardice, the depersonalization and technologization of war, and the rise of the therapeutic lens on life have diminished the moral heft of cowardice. He then argues that despite this fact, and the way that cultural contempt for cowardice and a personal fear of it can lead to negative effects, it remains an important prod towards doing one's duty and a foundation of moral judgment. We end our conversation with how we can use the fear of cowardice as a positive motivator in our lives.

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Dec 13, 2021
Prepare Now to Have Your Best Year Ever
00:50:25

How did your 2021 go? Did you accomplish less than you wanted to? Are you hoping to have a more successful run at your goals in 2022?

Well my guest today has got your plan for making the coming twelve months your best year ever. His name is Michael Hyatt, and he's the CEO of the leadership consulting firm Michael Hyatt and Company and the author/creator of the Your Best Year Ever book and course. Today on the show, Michael takes us through the five-part process he believes is key for successfully making and keeping goals, starting with the importance of adopting the right mindset and doing an after-action review of how the previous year went. We then discuss how Michael has modified the standard SMART goal model to make it smarter, why your goals should feel risky, and the number of goals you should set per year. We then discuss how to stay motivated in working on your goals, whether or not you should share your goals with others, and why you should tackle your goals by doing the easy stuff first. We end our conversation with the importance of reviewing your goals on the regular.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Dec 08, 2021
How Testosterone Makes Men, Men
01:04:00

What creates the differences between the sexes? Many would point to culture, and my guest today would agree that culture certainly shapes us. But she'd also argue that at the core of the divergence of the sexes, and in particular, of how men think and behave, is one powerful hormone: testosterone.

Her name is Dr. Carole Hooven, and she's a Harvard biologist and the author of T: The Story of Testosterone, the Hormone That Dominates and Divides Us. Today on the show, Carole explains the arguments that are made against testosterone's influence on shaping men into men, and why she doesn't think they hold water. She then unpacks the argument for how testosterone does function as the driving force in sex differences, and how it fundamentally shapes the bodies and minds of males. We delve into where T is made, how much of it men have compared to women, and what historical cases of castration tell us about the centrality of testosterone in male development. We then discuss how T shapes males, starting in the womb, and going into puberty and beyond, before turning to its influence in athletic performance. We end our conversation with Carole's impassioned plea for celebrating what's great about men.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With Carole Hooven

Dec 06, 2021
Cormac McCarthy, The Road, and Carrying the Fire
00:52:08

Once a year, I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It's a cathartic annual ritual for me. What is it about this novel that has such an impact on my soul and those of other readers? Who is the man who wrote it, and what was he trying to do with this story of a father and son struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic landscape?

For answers to these questions, I decided to talk to a foremost expert on McCarthy's work, as well as the literature of the American West in general. His name is Steven Frye and he's a professor of English, a novelist in his own right, and the author and editor of several books about the reclusive, philosophical author, including Understanding Cormac McCarthy. We begin our conversation with some background on McCarthy and a discussion of his distinctive style and themes, and why he avoids the limelight and prefers to hang out with scientists over fellow artists. We then dive into The Road, and Steve unpacks what inspired it, as well as the authors and books that influenced it. We then dig into the big themes of The Road, and how it can be read as a biblical allegory that wrestles with the existence of God. We delve into the tension which exists between the father and son in the book, and what it means to "carry the fire." We end our conversation with why reading The Road makes you feel both depressed and hopeful at the same time.

A spoiler alert here: If you haven't read The Road yet, we do reveal some of the plot points in this discussion. Also, why haven't you read The Road yet?

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With Steven Frye

Dec 01, 2021
To Drink or Not to Drink
00:47:37

As the title of his book — Drink? — suggests, world-renowned professor of neuropsychopharmacology David Nutt thinks the cost/benefit analysis around consuming alcohol is an open question. He's not anti-alcohol — he regularly drinks himself — but he also thinks most people (more than 2/3 of folks around the world have had a drink in the past year) need to understand a lot more about drinking than they typically do in order to make an informed choice as to whether, and how much, to partake.

To that end, today on the show Dr. Nutt shares the ins and outs of something he calls both a fantastic, and a horrible, drug. We discuss how people acquire a taste for something that initially registers as a toxic poison and how alcohol affects the body and mind. We then delve into alcohol's long-term health consequences, including its link to cancer, the fact that it kills more people via stroke than by cirrhosis, the way it has a feminizing effect on men, and what it does to your sleep. We discuss what influences someone’s chances of becoming alcoholic, and signs that you’ve got a drinking problem. David also argues that drinking has some benefits, and offers suggestions on how to imbibe alcohol in a way that helps manage its risks. We end our conversation with why more people are curbing their drinking, and the synthetic alcohol David is developing that mimics the relaxing effects of alcohol, without its negative downsides.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With David Nutt

Nov 29, 2021
The Quest for a Moral Life
00:48:57

Note: This is a rebroadcast. This episode originally aired June 2019.

Do you ever feel like you’re spinning your existential wheels in life? That outwardly, you seem to be doing ok, but inwardly, you feel kind of empty? 

My guest today would say that you’ve got to move on from trekking up life’s first mountain, to begin a journey up its second. His name is David Brooks and he’s the author of The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life. In that book, David makes the case that there are two mountains that we climb in life: The first is about the self — getting a college degree, starting a career, buying a home, and making your mark on the world. But at some point, that mountain starts to feel unfulfilling. That’s when we discover there’s a second mountain to ascend — a path of selflessness, relationships, and greater meaning. 

Today on the show, David tells us what he got wrong in his previous book, The Road to Character, and how The Second Mountain expands the vision of the good life. We then discuss why the first mountain of life gets more attention in the West and how the hyper individualism it encourages has led to an increase in loneliness, anxiety, and existential angst. David then walks us through how we shift courses from the first mountain of achievement to the second mountain of meaning by making commitments to things outside of ourselves. We then discuss the four commitments he thinks bring us real meaning and significance, and how we can seek and find them.

Show Highlights

  • How this new book serves as a correction to The Road to Character
  • Lies that culture tells us about becoming moral (and happy)
  • The social history of our country’s individualism
  • The downsides of this individualism
  • The rise of tribalism
  • Why David is optimistic about how people are using social media
  • The wrong ways that people look for meaning and significance
  • The first mountain vs. the second mountain of life
  • How do commitments give life meaning and bring us joy?
  • How you really go about “finding” yourself
  • Career vs. vocation
  • The next generation’s great responsibility
  • Committing ourselves to “maximum marriage”
  • The importance of intellectual challenge
  • Making the case for faith/religion
  • What does an ideal community look like?
  • The interplay of these various commitments

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

Second Mountain by David Brooks book cover.

Connect With David

We Are Weavers

 

David’s NY Times column

David on Twitter

Nov 24, 2021
The Epic Story of the Making of The Godfather
00:46:39

When it comes to lists of men’s favorite movies, The Godfather is a perennial inclusion. And as hard as this may be to believe, the critically acclaimed and popularly beloved film is coming up on the 50th anniversary of its release.

Journalist Mark Seal wrote an in-depth piece on the making of The Godfather for Vanity Fair magazine back in 2009, and after doing even more interviews with director Francis Ford Coppola, the actors of the film, and other behind-the-scenes players, wrote a new book on the subject called Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli: The Epic Story of the Making of The Godfather. It’s easy to forget that the film was based on a novel by Mario Puzo, and we spend the first part of our conversation there, with Mark unpacking how an indebted gambler became a bestselling novelist. From there we turn to how Puzo’s novel was adapted for the screen — a story as dramatic and entertaining as the film itself. Mark explains why Coppola took the job of directing the film and his genius for casting. He delves into the unexpected selection of Marlon Brando to play Don Corleone, and how James Caan inhabited the role of Sonny, despite not being Italian-American. We get into how a real-life character named Joseph Colombo temporarily shut down production of the film in opposition to the stereotyping of Italian-Americans as mafia, despite the fact Colombo was a mob boss himself. Mark explains why Coppola considered making The Godfather the most miserable experience of his life and the X-factor that ultimately made the film so good. We end our conversation with whether a movie like The Godfather could be made today.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With Mark Seal

Nov 22, 2021
How to Achieve Cognitive Dominance
00:41:45

When it comes to high-stakes endeavors, few are as fraught as brain surgery. One false move and you can forever alter someone's life. 

That's why my guest has spent his life studying how to master fear and enhance performance, and gained insights that can help anyone do likewise in every area of their life. His name is Dr. Mark McLaughlin, and he's a wrestling coach, a lecturer at West Point, and a practicing neurosurgeon, as well as the author of Cognitive Dominance: A Brain Surgeon's Quest to Out-Think Fear. Today on the show, Mark and I discuss how fear manifests itself in a range from mild discomfort to full-blown paralysis, and how you can get a handle on it by developing cognitive dominance. Mark then unpacks what cognitive dominance is, and how it involves being able to overcome our visceral reaction to unexpected events, and respond to elements outside our control with poise and composure. We then talk about how to gain that kind of composure by breaking things down into objects (things that exist independently of us, with features everyone can agree on) and subjects (things that are specific to you, and encompass the sphere within which you can personally act). Mark walks us through how the objective and subjective can form an x- and y-axis, and how you can map the things that happen to you into the four quadrants they form in order to figure out how to respond. We end our conversation with how to deal with known unknowns by making a two-column list of who you do and don’t want to be, and focusing on the former.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With Mark McLaughlin

Nov 17, 2021
How the Desire for Status Explains (Pretty Much) Everything
00:50:10

Being famous. Knowing someone famous. Getting a laugh after telling a joke. Getting a good grade. Getting likes on a social media post. Winning a video game. Cooking a tasty meal. Being good looking. Having inside knowledge. Sharing a good recommendation.

We often think of status exclusively in terms of wealth, but it's actually at play everywhere, in every situation where we get the feeling of being of value, where we feel ever so slightly elevated in our relative social position. The universal human desire for status greatly influences our culture, as well as our own behavior and the ups and downs of our mood. We would all do well then to understand status better, and my guest today can help you do that. His name is Will Storr and he's the author of The Status Game: On Social Position and How We Use It. Today on the show, Will walks us through why status in its infinite forms is so important to people, the ways it can be gained through dominance, virtue, and success, and how status games take place both within groups and between them. We talk about the good of status — how it can give us a psychological high and motivate the pursuit of skill, competence, and achievement — as well as its dark sides, including the way that a loss in status, and the resulting feeling of humiliation, leads to depression and violence. Will explains how status can be gained by enforcing the rules of a group and punishing those who seem to be lowering the overall status of the tribe, and how this punitive dynamic plays out online. We also discuss how when you try to eliminate certain status games by making things equal, people just find other status games to play, and that when one hierarchy is destroyed, another simply rises to take its place. We end our conversation with what we can do, if the status game is inescapable, to play it in a healthy way.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With Will Storr

Will on Twitter
Will's Website

Nov 15, 2021
Why Do the Navy’s Frogmen Fight on Land?
00:47:26

When you think of the Navy SEALs, you think of elite special operators who have been tasked with commando-type missions in conflict zones from Central Africa to Afghanistan. Which raises a question you may never have thought about, but seems quite obvious and interesting once you do: "Wait, why are members of the Navy, a waterborne military force, operating hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean?"

This question spurred my guest, a former Navy SEAL himself, to explore the answer in his book By Water Beneath the Walls: The Rise of the Navy SEALs. His name is Benjamin Milligan and today we discuss the history that explains why the Navy became the branch of the military that supplied this famous go-anywhere force, and how men who started out as sailors became involved in land-based operations. Ben details the predecessors of the SEALs which took the form of various commando-type units that the Army and Marines experimented with and scuttled, and how the Navy, which had played a supporting role in these units, ended up being the one to continue to develop them. We discuss how the naval combat demolition units (NCDUs) and underwater demolition teams (UDTs) birthed during WWII would ultimately lead to the creation of the Navy's frogmen as we know them today. Along the way, Ben shares details of the unique characters who shaped the unit's trajectory, including the surprisingly bookish commander who created the most legendary part of the SEALs' training: Hell Week.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With Benjamin Milligan

Nov 10, 2021
A Surprising Theory on Why We Get Fat
01:09:04

There are two dominant theories as to why Westerners have gotten increasingly obese in the last fifty years. One is that we're eating too many carbs and carbs make us fat. Another is that our primitive appetite — which is wired to gorge on calorically dense foods as a survival mechanism — is misaligned with a modern landscape in which food is available in an overabundance.

My guest today says that there's too much evidence which contradicts these theories for them to completely explain the problem of weight gain, and forwards a different and quite surprising theory as to what may be going on instead. His name is Mark Schatzker and he's the author of The End of Craving: Recovering the Lost Wisdom of Eating Well. In order to arrive at Mark's theory on the rise in obesity, we first unpack several pieces of the puzzle, each fascinating in its own right. We discuss how the body, rather than having a natural propensity to gain weight, actually typically wants to stay at a healthy set point, the difference between wanting and liking and how obese people crave food more but enjoy it less, and why it is that humans take pleasure in eating. We then get to how food additives, like artificial sweeteners, and, strangely enough, even certain vitamins, may be shifting the body's set point, increasing people's craving for food, and triggering weight gain. We end our conversation with Mark's counterintuitive call to fight obesity by thoroughly enjoying truly delicious food.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With Mark Schatzker

Nov 08, 2021
Take Back the Weekend
00:43:45

Do you ever get to feeling kind of down, dejected, and anxious come Sunday evening? People refer to this phenomenon as the "Sunday Night Blues," and it's a common experience. You may have chalked it up to rueing the fact that your fun and restful weekend is over, and that you have yet another workweek ahead.

But my guest would say that your Sunday night sadness may also be rooted in the feeling of regret — the regret that you didn't put your weekend to good use, that it wasn't restful and fun, and that it was instead busy, draining, and, once again, a big letdown. Her name is Katrina Onstad, and she's the author of The Weekend Effect. Today Katrina shares how the idea of the weekend, of having two back-to-back days off from work, came about, and how it's been challenged and subsequently eroded in the modern day. We then talk about how to take back your weekends, so that your invaluable Saturdays and Sundays feel more the way they did when you were a kid — filled with a sense of possibility.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With Katrina Onstad

Nov 03, 2021
The Metaphysical Club
00:50:47

In 1872, a group of men that included future Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., father of modern psychology William James, and eccentric polymath Charles Sanders Peirce, formed a philosophical society, called the "Metaphysical Club," to exchange and discuss ideas. While very little is known about how this conversational club was conducted over its nine months of life, we do know that each of its individual members made significant contributions to a uniquely American philosophy called pragmatism, and that pragmatism would in turn greatly influence everything from legal theory to education.

My guest today profiles the lives and thinking of each of these interesting men in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book: The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America. His name is Louis Menand, he's a Professor of English at Harvard, and today we have a conversation about what the philosophy of pragmatism is about, why Holmes, James, and Peirce, as well as the intellectual John Dewey, arrived at, embraced, and forwarded its principles, and how pragmatism shaped American life between the Civil War and WWI. We end our conversation with why pragmatism fell out of favor, and whether it remains salient today.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With Louis Menand

Nov 01, 2021
The Rise of the Religious "Nones" (And What It Means for Society)
00:50:10

In 1972, the number of Americans who described themselves as religiously unaffiliated was 5%. In 2018, it was almost 24%. Why has the number of people answering "none of the above" to the question of their religious affiliation jumped so dramatically in recent years, and what effect will the growth of these so-called "nones" have on society in general?

 

My guest explores these questions in his book The Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are, and Where They Are Going. His name is Ryan Burge and he's both a pastor and a professor of political science. In our conversation today, Ryan shares the data on which religions have risen and fallen, and explains why mainline Protestantism has taken a huge dive and why the number of people who have disaffiliated altogether from religion has grown to rival the number of evangelicals and Catholics in this country. We talk about the role that politics has played in these shifts, and the fact that while people once chose their politics based on their religion, they now choose their religion based on their politics. Ryan unpacks the demographic profile of the average none, breaking it down into the category's three subgroups: atheists, agnostics, and those who label themselves as "nothing in particular." We end our conversation with what the future growth of the nones may look like, the possible societal effects of an overall decline in religiosity, and whether younger generations may swing back to being more religious.

 

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With Ryan Burge

Oct 27, 2021
The Surprising Benefits of Forgetting
00:43:22

Whenever Dr. Scott Small is at a social event and tells people what he does for a living — that he's a memory scientist — they inevitably tell him how much they bemoan their own lapses in memory and frequent forgetfulness.

But in his new book, Forgetting: The Benefits of Not Remembering, Scott makes the case that what we think is a problem is actually an advantage, and that if memory wasn't balanced with forgetfulness, life would be a nightmare. Scott is the director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Columbia University, and he begins our conversation by making the distinction between pathological forgetting like dementia, and normal, garden variety forgetting which we all experience, and which is the beneficial type. We then talk about how memories are made, and what happens when they fail to solidify and we forget things. From there we discuss the surprising benefits of forgetting, from giving us the ability to generalize, to allowing us to move on from traumatic events, to enabling us to be more magnanimous in relationships. We also talk about the role of sleep in forgetting, and forgetting in creativity, and how being forgetful might actually make you a better decision maker. We end our conversation with how to know if your forgetting is normal, or something you should be concerned about.

Resources Related to the Podcast

Connect With Scott Small

 

Oct 25, 2021
Let the Children Play!
00:45:15

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
00:47:40

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

There Is No Indispensable Man

Connect With Oliver

Oct 18, 2021
Do You want to Be Rich or Wealthy? (And Why the Difference Matters)
00:51:38

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.

Show Highlights

  • Why personal finance success isn't about knowledge, but psychology
  • Understanding that nobody is actually crazy when it comes to money decisions (even though those decisions might be crazy)
  • Why context is crucial to understanding people's financial choices
  • Who buys lottery tickets? Why do they do it?
  • Why personal finance is more "personal" than "finance"
  • Are there overarching principles to follow, despite the personal nature of finance and wealth?
  • The underappreciated role of luck in our finances
  • How to be more content with what you have
  • Keeping your expectations from rising in lock step with your income/net worth
  • The difference between being rich and being wealthy
  • The mind-boggling power of compound interest
  • Balancing optimism and pessimism
  • Morgan's golden rule of financial success

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

Oct 13, 2021
Why We Get Sick
01:00:50

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
00:52:19

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?
00:51:57

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
00:51:02

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
00:51:56

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
00:47:05

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
00:42:53

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.


Dr. Smits is a professor and clinical psychologist, as well as the co-author of Exercise for Mood and Anxiety: Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-Being. Today on the show we talk about why he likes using exercise as an option for patients who struggle with mood disorders, anxiety, and even general stress and anger, but don't want to do talk therapy or take a medication. We discuss how exercise has been found to be as effective for depression and anxiety as medication (and of course has a much better side effect profile), why it works, and whether a particular type of exercise is better for particular disorders. We then spend the rest of the conversation digging into the catch-22 that surrounds depression and exercise: if exercise is good for depression, but when you're depressed you don't feel like exercising, how do you find the motivation to get going with it? We discuss strategies for starting and sticking with exercise that can help not only those who struggle with mood disorders and anxiety, but anyone who is looking to make physical activity a habit.

Check out the show notes at aom.is/exerciseformood

Sep 20, 2021
Life's 10 Biggest Decisions
00:43:27

How many of your life’s ten biggest decisions have you already made?


My guest today, psychologist Dr. Adrian Camilleri, would often ask this question to friends and family, and found that it generated a lot of interesting conversation. It also generated a lot of his own thoughts, which made him want to dive more deeply into it and empirically study it and other related questions as well.


The result was the Biggest Life Decisions Project, which we'll be talking about on the show today. Adrian first explains the criteria that define a big life decision, the most common ones people make, and which of these decisions people rank as being the most important. We then talk about the numbers and types of big life decisions people typically make in each decade of their lives, and how these decisions tend to be front-loaded in your twenties, but you'll still have a surprising number to make in your later years, too. Adrian shares which decisions people tend to look back on positively and are correlated with higher life satisfaction, and which tend to lead to poor outcomes and regret. We also get into the way people can both underestimate and overestimate the importance of some decisions, before ending with what Adrian has learned by working on this project about how to make good life decisions.


After the show is over, check out the show notes at aom.is/tendecisions

Sep 15, 2021
Rewild Your Life
00:50:13

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.


My guest today says that modern humans are, in a similar way, domesticated versions of our former, wilder ancestors, and that living a flourishing life requires reconnecting with the primal energy within that now lies dormant. His name is Micah Mortali and he's the founder of the Kripalu School of Mindful Outdoor Leadership and the author of Rewilding: Meditations, Practices, and Skills for Awakening in Nature. Micah first shares how he came to combine his passion for yoga and mindfulness with a love of the outdoors and bushcraft skills to create his unique philosophy of rewilding. We then dig into what rewilding means, and why it's vital to body, mind, and spirit to throw off the malaise of modern domestication and restore your sensory connection to nature. From there we turn to the practices that can help you do that, from walking barefoot in the woods to staring into a campfire to meditate. We also talk about how practicing hands-on ancestral skills like making fire with a bow drill, building a wilderness shelter, and tracking animals can heighten your confidence and awareness. We end our conversation with small things that everyone, even if you live in the suburbs or city, can start doing today to begin rewilding your life.

Check out the show notes at aom.is/rewilding

Sep 13, 2021
The Character Traits That Drive Optimal Performance
00:46:34

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
00:42:29

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
00:46:35

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.


Today on the show, Andrew shares how he decided to write his book to understand more about the history, nature, and value of an institution which has come under increasing pressure in the modern age. Andrew describes how America's earliest colleges were founded as places where students could learn from both their teachers and from each other, and thereby develop the capacity to grow in character, serve others, live a good life, and even face death. Andrew explains why colleges have largely abandoned this mission, and makes the case for why a broad, not-entirely-specialized, liberal arts education remains relevant in an age in which the ability to grapple with life's big questions is as crucial as ever. We also talk about the difference between colleges and universities (no, they're not synonyms), why a prospective student might choose the former over the latter, and what other things those contemplating where to go to school should consider when making their decision.


After the show is over, check out the show notes at aom.is/college

Sep 01, 2021
Could Sleeping in Separate Beds Improve Your Relationship?
00:45:59

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
00:52:30

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.


But my guest today argues that if Philip hadn't done all that he did, Alexander wouldn't have been able to do all that he did. His name is Adrian Goldsworthy, and he's a classical historian and the author of numerous books on antiquity, including Philip and Alexander: Kings and Conquerors. Adrian first surveys the state of the Macedonians before Philip assumed the throne, sharing how they differed from other Greeks, who actually weren’t sure Macedonians even counted as fellow Greeks, and how Macedon was burdened with political instability, a deficient army, and a palace full of deadly intrigue. Adrian then explains how Philip, despite having little political or military experience, was able to take control and turn his army and kingdom around, including the innovations in weaponry and tactics that allowed him to achieve domination in Greece. We then talk about the relationship between Philip and his son Alexander, and how Alexander inherited many things from his father that set him up for his own success, including the plan to invade the Persian Empire. We end our conversation exploring the question of whether Philip, if he had lived longer, could have achieved what Alexander did.


After the show is over, check out the show notes at aom.is/philipandalexander

Aug 25, 2021
How Moral Grandstanding Is Ruining Our Public Discourse
00:55:22

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.


You may have called some of this behavior "virtue signaling," but my guest today says that it's better described as "moral grandstanding," and he's studied the phenomenon not in terms of eye-roll-inducing anecdotes, but through the lens of both philosophy and empirical research. His name is Brandon Warmke, and he's a professor of philosophy and the co-author of the book Grandstanding: The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk. Brandon begins by defining moral grandstanding as the act of engaging in moral talk for self-promotion and status, and explains why he thinks moral grandstanding is a better term for this behavior than virtue signaling. We get into the difference between prestige and dominance status and how moral grandstanding can be used to obtain both types. We then discuss why it's tricky to know if you or someone else is engaging in moral grandstanding, before turning to whether there’s a personality type or a side of the political spectrum that's more likely to grandstand. Brandon then delves into why moral grandstanding isn't just an annoyance on social media, but comes with real costs to society. We end our conversation with what we can do about moral grandstanding.

Aug 23, 2021
What a Man With 60,000 Books Can Teach You About Lifelong Learning and Building Your Home Library
00:50:38

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.


Today on the show, Gary shares how his fascination with books was born in his youth, why the collection he amassed over the decades is almost entirely non-fiction, why he prefers physical books over ebooks, and why getting your hands on old books can be particularly beneficial in enhancing your knowledge of the world. From there we turn to Gary's method for digesting a book, which allows him to glean its most valuable nuggets in just thirty minutes, without having to read it cover to cover. We also talk about whether Gary takes notes on the books he reads, and how to incorporate more serendipity into the way you do your own reading and build your home library.

Check out the show notes at aom.is/hoover

Aug 18, 2021
Tips From a Top TED Talker on How to Be Heard
00:49:33

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
00:45:02

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.


Brian works through this process of futurecasting for Fortune 500 companies and the military, and in his book, The Future You, he shows individuals how they can apply it to their personal lives. He shares what that looks like with us today on the show, beginning with the importance of envisioning the future not as something set that you're helplessly hurtling towards, but as something you can actively change and shape. We then talk about how to do your own futurecasting by figuring out what you want the life of the future you to look like, and identifying the tools and people that can get you there. Brian then explains how to get going towards your desired future and why that future is local. We end our conversation with what all this has to do with a quote from General Dwight D. Eisenhower: "Plans are useless, but planning is everything."


After the show is over, check out the show notes at aom.is/futureyou

Aug 11, 2021
The Hell-Raising Leader of WWII's Filthy Thirteen
00:43:25

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
00:40:38

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
00:43:46

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.


His name is Chrisopther Cox, and he's the author of The Deadline Effect: How to Work Like It's the Last Minute—Before the Last Minute. We begin our conversation with how Chris's experience as a magazine editor got him interested in deadlines and what studies have shown as to both their benefits and their pitfalls. Chris then unpacks ways to harness the former towards greater productivity in both your personal and professional life, including creating interim checkpoints, knowing how to set reasonable due dates, planning left to right rather than right to left, and using what he calls "soft opens with teeth." Along the way, Chris explains these principles using a bunch of real world case studies, from the system a chef uses to open multiple Michelin 3-star restaurants to how the Telluride ski resort gets ready to open for the season. We end our conversation with what you can start doing today to take advantage of the power of deadlines in your own life.


After the show is over, check out the show notes at aom.is/deadline

Aug 02, 2021
How Doing a Life Review Can Help Your Understand Your Past, Present, and Future
00:45:10

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?
00:41:51

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.


What are the reasons for this seeming friendship recession among men? Today I talk to the man who conducted that survey to try to find out. His name is Daniel Cox and he's the director of the Survey Center on American Life. Today on the show Daniel takes us on a tour of the state of friendship among modern men, beginning with the fact that men today have fewer friends and feel less emotionally connected to the ones they do have. We explore the irony that while people have long said that traditional norms of masculinity are what's holding men back from having fulfilling relationships, it's younger men, who are more progressive on those norms, who are struggling the most to make friends. Daniel talks about the fact that the male friendship recession isn't pandemic related, but rather seems to be linked to the weakening of ties to community institutions like church, the changing nature of work, and the fact that Americans are spending more and more time with their families. From there we go down a bunch of interesting avenues, including the fact that husbands rely more on their wives for emotional support than vice versa, why Daniel finds it concerning that young men today are more likely to first talk about their problems with their parents rather than their friends than was true 30 years ago, and the irony that single men are struggling the most to make friends even though they need them the most.

Jul 26, 2021
The Curse of the Self
00:42:48

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
00:48:36

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
00:47:08

“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
00:52:15

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.


His name is Stanley K. Ridgley, he's a former military intelligence officer, a professor of business, and the lecturer of The Great Courses course, Strategic Thinking Skills. Today on the show, Stanley explains why strategy, whether implemented in business, the military, or your personal life, is so important when it comes to dealing with uncertainty, making decisions, winning competitions, and getting to where you want to go. He first explains why following "best practices" is not the same thing as following a strategy, and how real strategy is a cycle of mission-setting, analysis, and execution that never ends. He unpacks what strategic intent is, and why it's so important to be clear on yours. We then discuss two main approaches to strategy — cost leadership and differentiation, and why you need to adopt the latter in your own life, and stop treating yourself like a commodity. We also get into why indirect attacks on competitors can be more effective than frontal assaults, where people go wrong when it comes to the execution of their strategy, and the role that intuition plays for the master strategist. We end our conversation with what you can start doing today for five minutes in the morning to get closer to your goals. Along the way, Stanley gives examples from both war and business on how the art of strategy works in the field.

Jul 12, 2021
The Psychology of Effective Weight Loss
00:47:40

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
00:53:17

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
00:30:24

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.

In his new book, A Burger to Believe In: Recipes and Fundamentals, Chris shares how he turned what he learned in his quixotic quest into the Bay Area's famous Kronnerburger, as well as accessible tips that can be used by the average backyard chef to level up their burger game. Chris shares some of those tips today on the show, beginning with the best kind of beef chuck to use in your burgers and why the method you use to cook your burgers should vary depending on their fat content. We then get into why Chris likes to use dry aged beef in his burgers, and how you can make your own in the kind of mini fridge you’d keep in a dorm room. From there we delve into the optimal size and shape of the patty, Chris' surprising pick for buns, the ideal proportionality of toppings, and Chris' take on the desirability of putting ketchup on your burger. We also get into our mutually conflicted feelings about pairing one’s burger with French fries, and, if you need to get your burger fix on the run, what fast food chain Chris thinks has the best burgers.

Get the show notes at aom.is/burger.

Jun 30, 2021
The Surprising Pessimism of America's Founding Fathers
00:44:57

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
00:38:00

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.

It's no wonder then, that in an age where so much of our communication has moved to the digital realm, which is largely devoid of this body language, misunderstandings and miscommunications are so common.

My guest would say that the key to improving our digital communication is to translate the body language of the physical world into our texts, emails, and calls. Her name is Erica Dhawan, and she's a leadership consultant and speaker, as well as the author of Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust and Connection No Matter the Distance. Today on the show, Erica explains the way things like how long it takes you to respond to a text, what punctuation you use in your messages, and how you sign off your emails can all affect the impression you make in your personal and professional relationships. We discuss the significance of exclamation points in our digital communication, using the example of how putting one after the word "sure" can convey a different meaning than using an ellipsis or nothing at all. Erica then gives her take on if and when to use emojis. From there we turn to how to avoid putting passive aggression into your messages, and how to deal with receiving messages that feel laden with such. We then unpack the best way to sign off on your emails. Erica explains how to choose the right communication channel — text, email, or video/phone — for your communication and the expectations as to how quickly you should respond to messages that are received on each respective medium. We end our conversation with what to do when someone's digital communication style leaves you frustrated or confused.

Get the show notes at aom.is/digitalbodylanguage.

Jun 23, 2021
The Stranger in the Woods — The Story of the Last True Hermit
00:47:06

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
00:51:02

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.

My guest today details Winston and Randolph's incredibly close and yet terribly complex and combustible relationship in his book, Churchill & Son. His name is Josh Ireland, and we begin our discussion with how Winston's own harsh and neglectful father influenced his decision to be a much more involved and ultimately indulgent family man, and the way he spoiled a son who was already inclined towards appalling behavior. Josh describes the manner in which Winston and Randolph both bonded and fought, and the effect the trouble Randolph caused had on the relationship between Winston and his wife. We then get into how World War II, and the way Winston may have encouraged Randolph's wife to cheat on him with an American diplomat, affected Randolph's relationship with his father for the worse. Josh explains the outsized expectations Winston had for Randolph, the points at which father and son respectively realized they'd never be fulfilled, and the lesson to be taken from their story about the cost of parents imposing their own dreams on their children. We end our conversation by discussing why it is that the children of great leaders rarely turn out well themselves, for, as Randolph himself observed, "Nothing grows in the shadow of a great oak tree."

Get the show notes at aom.is/churchillandson.

Jun 16, 2021
How to Make Your Life More Effortless
00:51:40

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?
00:49:52

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?
00:45:09

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.

His name is Luke Burgis and he's studied philosophy, theology, and classical literature, works as a business entrepreneur, investor, and educator, and is the author of Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life. Luke and I discuss how our desires are strongly mimetic, that is, imitative, and how there are two groups of people that act as models of desire for us: celebrities and public figures who are distant from us, and friends, family, and colleagues who are close to us. Luke explains why it's actually that latter group where we experience the most rivalry and conflict, because the more similar we are, the more we end up competing for the same things, the more envy we experience, and the more we want to differentiate ourselves from the crowd, even though the areas in which to do so can be increasingly small. In fact, someone can be a model of desire, not only in influencing us to imitate them, but in motivating us to act in the opposite way. Luke shares how mimetic desire can be both a negative and destructive or a positive and productive force, and offers advice on how to harness it for the latter purpose by humbly recognizing the way other people are influencing our wants, and using that knowledge to opt out of games we don't want to play, utilize the healthy aspects of competition without allowing it to get us off track, and intentionally choose worthy, even transcendent, models of desire to emulate.

Get the show notes at aom.is/wanting.

Jun 07, 2021
How to Predict the Weather (No Apps Required)
00:46:46

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
01:13:43

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
00:58:01

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
00:50:52

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
00:46:50

for knowing the death which was about to come upon them by reason of those who were going round the mountain, they displayed upon the barbarians all the strength which they had, to its greatest extent, disregarding danger and acting as if possessed by a spirit of recklessness.

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
00:41:18

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
00:58:53

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.

In some ways, this quantum leap in humanity's comfort level is a great boon. But in other ways, it's absolutely killing our minds, bodies, and spirit.

My guest says it's time to reclaim the currently-hard-to-come-by but truly essential benefits of discomfort. His name is Michael Easter, and he's a writer, editor, and professor, and the author of The Comfort Crisis: Embrace Discomfort to Reclaim Your Wild, Happy, Healthy Self. Michael first shares how his experience with getting sober helped him discover the life-changing potential of doing hard things, before digging into what fleeing from discomfort is doing to our mental and physical health. We then discuss the Japanese idea of misogis, which involves taking on an epic outdoor challenge, and why Michael decided to do a misogi in which he participated in a month-long caribou hunt in the backcountry of Alaska. Michael shares what he learned from the various challenges he encountered during his misogi — including intense hunger, boredom, solitude, and physical exertion —as well as what research can teach all of us about why we need to incorporate these same kinds of discomforts into our everyday lives.

Get the show notes at aom.is/comfortcrisis.

May 12, 2021
Did You Pick the Right Partner?
00:49:44

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?

My guest today has some answers to that question that aren't based on crowd-sourced anecdotes or biased personal hunches, but reams of scientific research. His name is Ty Tashiro and he's a professor of psychology, a relationship expert, and the author of The Science of Happily Ever After: What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love. We begin our discussion with the difference between loving someone and being in love with them, and how the latter comes down to a combination of like and lust. Ty shares the three elements that go into liking, and how this liking piece is really the foundation of long-lasting relational happiness, even though it tends to get underemphasized. Ty then reveals the surprisingly low ROI of factors like looks and income in relationship happiness, before unpacking the factors that do have an outsized impact in contributing to enduring love. We discuss which personality traits are predictive of relationship stability and satisfaction, which have the opposite effect, and why you need to ask your friends for their assessment of your significant other's personality, rather than only assessing it yourself. We also get into the importance of your partner's attachment style, which they learned in childhood, and two red flags to look for in your relationship.

These insights will prove super useful for those in the dating scene, but will also be of interest to those already in long-term relationships, in either affirming the wisdom of your choice of partner, or helping you identify issues that may be sabotaging your relationship and can still be addressed.

Get the show notes at aom.is/love.

May 10, 2021
The (Non-Cliche) Life Lessons of Fly Fishing
00:47:46

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
00:46:24

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
00:43:21

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.

My guest has spent his life battling against this loss. In his more than five decades on earth, he's served in the French navy, trained soldiers in close quarter combat, skydiving, long-range weapon shooting, first aid, and explosives, set a deep water scuba diving record, and studied multiple martial arts, and he currently owns a gym, teaches as a MovNat Master Instructor, and coaches men over forty in how to live better, stronger, and more vibrant lives. His name is Vic Verdier and today on the show he shares his advice on how a man can stay fit and engaged with life as he gets older. We first discuss Vic's background before getting into why it's important for men to seek physical achievement and become physical polymaths, and the role strength training, cardio, and working on your balance plays in that pursuit. Vic then shares his advice on keeping the pounds down and your testosterone up as you age, and why he thinks training in combatives is important on both a practical and psychological level. We talk about the importance of maintaining a connection to nature and keeping your possessions minimal, before ending our conversation with why it's important to stay comfortable with being uncomfortable, and how men can continue to seek adventure and exploration, even when they live in the suburbs.

Get the show notes at aom.is/edge.

Apr 28, 2021
The Hidden Qualities of Genius
00:40:31

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
00:37:37

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?
00:48:09

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.

While we tend to think of restlessness as a very modern phenomenon, a French diplomat and philosopher, Alexis de Tocqueville, observed the very same problems in America two centuries ago. And the roots of our restlessness go back even further still.

My guests today will trace some of these genealogical branches for us. Their names are Benjamin and Jenna Storey, they're a married couple, professors of political philosophy, and the authors of the book Why We Are Restless: On the Modern Quest for Contentment.

We begin our conversation with how the Storeys' inquiry into restlessness began from observing existential meltdowns in their students and a constant but unfulfilling busyness in their friends. The Storeys then explain how Tocqueville observed a similar phenomenon at the start of the 19th century, before digging into two of the philosophers Tocqueville's observations were shaped by: Michel de Montaigne and Blaise Pascal. They first unpack Montaigne's ideal of living a life of cool, nonchalant, existential indifference, which sought contentment in the here and now, and then discuss Pascal's critique of that philosophy, in which he argued that seeking diversion and distraction for its own sake only makes us miserable, and that humans must engage in an anguished search for something beyond ourselves. We then explore what happened in the West when Montaigne's approach to life was adopted by the masses, and how it's led to feelings of existential failure, an impossible search for constant happiness, envy, loneliness, and acrimonious political debates. At the end of our conversation, the Storeys argue that while restlessness can never be entirely extinguished, it can be tamed, and suggest a few ways on how.

Get the show notes at aom.is/restlessness.

Apr 19, 2021
The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini
00:53:59

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
00:50:05

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
00:39:53

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
00:40:42

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
00:40:02

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
00:56:38

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
00:35:06

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
00:57:39

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?
00:43:56

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
00:40:05

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
00:39:42

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
00:55:14

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.

Shannon Lee, daughter of Bruce Lee, caretaker of his legacy, and author of Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee, unpacks those principles on today's show. We begin our conversation with what Shannon remembers of her late father, and how she discovered the power of his philosophy after sinking into a depression following the death of her brother, Brandon Lee. We then dive into some of the sources of Bruce Lee's philosophy, his reading habits, and what books he kept in his extensive library. Shannon shares the story behind how her father first started formulating his ideas around becoming like water, how he engaged in forms of moving meditation, and what you can learn from his journaling practice. We end our conversation with the resilient, proactive way Bruce Lee responded to a potentially crippling back injury.

Great inspiration in this show on what should be every man's ideal: the combination of contemplation and action.

Get the show notes at aom.is/leephilosophy.

Mar 08, 2021
Email Is Making Us Miserable — Here's What to Do About It
00:59:10

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.

But my guest today says that another way of working is possible, and it could unleash a tidal way of new productivity. His name is Cal Newport, and he's a professor of computer science and the author of several books, including his latest, A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Information Overload. Cal describes how email and chat channels have created what he calls "the hyperactive hive mind," and the costs to productivity, well-being, and focus that this hive mind incurs. He then explains why we feel the need to quickly respond to messages, even if rationally we know they’re not urgent. Cal then lays out practical ways to replace the hive mind with a more effective way of working, and why it involves concentrating on processes over messaging, increasing intellectual specialization, a return to hiring support staff, and, counterintuitively, more friction and less convenience. Cal also offers advice on how to make these changes at your office, even if you're not in a position of authority.

Get the show notes at aom.is/noemail.

Mar 03, 2021
Protection for and from Humanity
00:56:50

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
00:36:26

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
00:41:17

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.

My guest today would argue that it's best to see boredom more neutrally -- as simply an important signal that we need to change up what we're doing, and become more effective and engaged in the world.

His name is James Danckert, and he's a cognitive neuroscientist and professor of psychology, as well as the co-author of Out of My Skull: The Psychology of Boredom. We begin our conversation with how boredom has been thought about in history and philosophy, and yet largely ignored by psychologists. We then discuss what it really means to be bored and what types of people are most prone to boredom. James explains how boredom is related to our sense of agency and the role constraints play in increasing it. We then get into how people's propensity towards boredom changes across the lifespan, and at what ages you're more and less likely to experience it. We end our conversation with the negative effects of being boredom prone, including the way boredom may increase political extremism, and the more positive and adaptive ways to deal with being bored.

Get the show notes at aom.is/boredom.

Feb 22, 2021
How to Decide
00:59:48

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?

My guest today has written a book that offers an education in a subject matter many of us missed out on. Her name is Annie Duke, she's a former professional poker player and decision-making expert and strategist, and her latest book is How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices. Today on the show, Annie shares many of those practical tools, beginning with how to overcome hindsight bias and "resulting" -- our tendency to judge decisions based on their outcomes -- by doing something called "knowledge tracking." We discuss how to figure out the probabilities for things that seem difficult to predict and the importance of embracing an "archer's mindset." When then get into when you should make decisions slowly, when you can speed up, how to employ the "only option" test when making a choice, and why when a decision is hard, it’s actually easy.

Get the show notes at aom.is/howtodecide.

Feb 17, 2021
Help for Those Stuck Between Boyhood and Manhood
00:46:02

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.

My guest today has some ideas on what has gone wrong in these cases and how to break out of the debilitating cycles many young men, whom he calls "emerging men," find themselves stuck in. His name is Gregory Koufacos and he's a therapist, addiction counselor, and the author of The Primal Method: A Book for Emerging Men. Greg and I begin our discussion with why men are getting stuck in their transition from boyhood to manhood, Greg's own story of arrested and frustrated development, and how working as a 26-year-old under a 16-year-old manager was part of what he needed to do to move on from his dream of playing professional football. We then discuss why traditional therapy methods typically don't work for men, how Greg developed his own form of counseling that emphasizes getting outside the therapist's office to move, take action, and participate in real life -- what Greg calls "entering the agora" -- and why this approach is so effective. We also discuss the things that help young men move forward, which include Greg's concepts of "empathetic challenge" and "holding the line," as well as finding good mentors and friends. We end our conversation with what men can do to start nurturing their small, latent spark into a more powerful and purposeful fire.

Get the show notes at aom.is/emergingmen.

Feb 15, 2021
How to Think Like a Renaissance Man
00:52:18

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
Get Rucking
00:31:21

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
00:43:29

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
00:46:49

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
00:50:37

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
00:33:14

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
00:48:23

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
00:43:54

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
00:35:33

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
00:51:56

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
00:51:15

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
00:59:08

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.

My guest today has spent decades figuring out the roadmap for making that journey. His name is Steven Kotler, he's a peak performance expert, the Executive Director of the Flow Research Collective, and the author of numerous books, including his latest: The Art of Impossible: A Peak Performance Primer. Today on the show, Steven talks about how he defines an impossible goal and then unpacks the formula for making the impossible, possible. That formula begins with harnessing the five big intrinsic motivators that will give you focus for free and which you need to activate in a certain sequence, and then moves through the six levels of grit which should be trained in a particular order as well. We discuss the importance of creativity and continual learning, and how to assess the ROI of your reading. Steven also explains how flow amplifies the process of achieving peak performance, and why you need to rediscover the primary flow activity from your childhood. At the end of our conversation, Steven shares some things you can begin doing today to start tackling your impossible goals.

Get the show notes at aom.is/artofimpossible.

Jan 04, 2021
How to Lose Weight, and Keep It Off Forever
00:54:50

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
00:51:22

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
00:40:18

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
00:48:25

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.

His name is Thomas Joiner and he's a clinical psychologist, a professor of psychology, and an investigator with the Military Suicide Research Consortium. Thomas and I begin our conversation with his work around suicide, why men commit suicide at a rate 4X higher than women, and how loneliness is a primary factor in what drives men to take their own lives. From there we talk about the problem of male loneliness in general and how it can begin in a man's thirties and get worse as he advances through middle age. We unpack the difference between subjective and objective loneliness and how you can feel alone in a crowd, as well as be something Thomas calls "alone but oblivious." We discuss how everyone is "spoiled" by relationships in their youth, and why men struggle more than women to learn to take the initiative in this regard later in life. We end our discussion with why therapy isn’t the right solution for many men who struggle with depression and loneliness, and how equally effective solutions can be found in simply making more of an effort to balance a focus on work and family with socializing and reaching out to others, and particularly, Thomas argues, in reconnecting with your friends from high school and college.

Get the show notes at aom.is/lonely.

Dec 21, 2020
A Change IS a Rest
00:40:21

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
00:50:02

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.

From there we turn to the kind of know-how you should possess for undertaking any kind of outdoor pursuit, whether that's hunting or camping or hiking. Steve shares why he recommends creating an outdoors kit that you can grab for any expedition, and what to pack in it. He then offers suggestions on outdoor clothing and sleeping pads, as well as the pros and cons of carrying one's water in a Camelbak-style bladder versus a Nalgene bottle, and why he favors the latter. We also get into Steve's recommendation for a better alternative to GPS and the importance of regular practice for first aid, and all wilderness skills. We end our conversation with Steve's approach to getting his kids into the outdoors.

Get the show notes at aom.is/outdoors.

Dec 14, 2020
Bringing More Soul (and Poetry) Into Your Work
00:56:21

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
00:47:16

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.

My guest today is an expert in helping people get to the point, the founder of the BRIEF Lab, and the author of Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less. His name is Joseph McCormack, and we begin our conversation with how his work grew out of his development of a communications curriculum for the military's special operators. We then discuss how being brief is not just about conciseness but first about achieving clarity, and the high costs of not shaping our communications with these qualities -- especially in a world where attention is a scarce resource. Joe explains why it's actually harder to exercise verbal discipline than it is to use lots of words, and four techniques to make your messaging clear and concise. We then discuss how to apply these techniques to shortening meetings, condensing emails, and distilling how you describe your role when people ask what you do. We end our conversation with how to create more meaningful interactions during fluid conversations by actually preparing for these encounters, rather than simply trying to wing it.

Get the show notes at aom.is/brief.

Dec 07, 2020
#665: How Childhood Shapes Adulthood
00:54:53

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
00:50:01

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]
00:47:41

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
00:49:07

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
00:43:46

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
00:52:32

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.

My guest today says that ironically, stressing about sleep may be exactly what's hurting your sleep. His name is Dr. Chris Winter, and he's a neurologist, a sleep specialist, and the author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It. Chris and I begin our conversation with why we get sleepy, and how people sometimes confuse fatigue with sleepiness. We then get into the real dangers of sleep deprivation, but how you probably shouldn't worry about them if you have common problems with falling and staying asleep. We then talk about how many hours of sleep you actually need, how you may be stressing yourself out trying to get more than is necessary, and why it's best to compare your varying hunger for sleep to your varying hunger for food. Chris unpacks what insomnia is, and how it's not just an inability to sleep, but your response to that inability, and the extent to which insomnia is rooted in fear. From there we turn to the disparity that often exists between the perception and the reality of how much sleep you're getting, and the fact that there's a good chance you're actually getting more sleep than you think. We then discuss creating a plan for what to do when you can't sleep, which may involve spending less time in bed, or in fact relishing the time you spend lying in it awake. We end our conversation with when you should and shouldn't nap, and when you should see a sleep doctor about your sleep problems.

Get the show notes at aom.is/sleep.

Nov 16, 2020
#660: How Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Heal the Soul
00:54:59

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)
00:51:23

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.

Get the show notes at aom.is/moneymindset.

Nov 09, 2020
#658: In Praise of Maintenance in a World Obsessed With Innovation
00:38:14

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.

My guest today says we've lost that intent and need to revive it. His name is Lee Vinsel and he's a professor of science, technology, and society, the co-founder of The Maintainers, a research network dedicated to the study of maintenance, repair, upkeep, and ordinary work, and the co-author of The Innovation Delusion: How Our Obsession With the New Has Disrupted the Work That Matters Most. Lee and I begin our conversation with how our cultural focus on innovation has come at the expense of attention paid to maintenance and repair, and yet how talking more about innovation hasn't really led to greater progress. We then get into the way the necessity of maintenance, repair, and caretaking has been neglected in business and government, creating a situation where we keep on building new things without investing in the upkeep of our current infrastructure. From there we turn to the way our all too common neglect of maintenance applies not only to big institutions, but also our personal lives, as in the areas of home ownership and health. We discuss how there's less incentive these days to repair things in our disposable society where everything is cheap, and stuff is harder to fix, even when we want to. We end our conversation with how we can revive a maintenance mindset in our culture and individual lives.

Get the show notes at aom.is/maintenance.

Nov 04, 2020
#657: Why You Don't Change (But How You Still Can)
00:47:06

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
00:42:04

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
00:56:39

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
00:46:40

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
00:54:00

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.

If you've ever dreamed of being a rock climber living in a van or becoming a rafting guide, thru-hiker, world traveler, or some other kind of nature-loving, adventure-seeking wanderer, my guest has written a handbook for making it happen. His name is Tim Mathis and he's the author of The Dirtbag's Guide to Life: Eternal Truth for Hiker Trash, Ski Bums, and Vagabonds. Tim and I begin our conversation with what it means to be a dirtbag, the origin of the term amongst the early rock climbers who explored Yosemite in the 50s and 60s, and why Tim thinks the lifestyle embodies a countercultural philosophy. Tim then offers a window into why others might adopt this approach to life, by sharing his story of how he personally became committed to dirtbagging. From there we turn to the brass tacks of embracing a life centered on outdoor adventure and exploration, beginning with how much money you need to make it happen, and the kinds of jobs and careers that are conducive to it, including, perhaps surprisingly, the field of nursing. Tim also shares how he responds to criticism that being a dirtbag isn't a responsible way to live. We then discuss the effect dirtbagging can have on someone's relationships, and whether this lifestyle is viable if you have a spouse and kids. At the end of our conversation, we discuss how, even if you're living a more freewheeling lifestyle, it's important to have a sense of meaning beyond traveling around and doing cool stuff, and the three elements that go into finding that kind of meaning, which apply to dirtbags and non-dirtbags alike.

Get the show notes at aom.is/dirtbag.

Oct 19, 2020
#652: Chefs' Secrets for Organizing Your Life
00:49:38

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.

My guest today spent years interviewing over a hundred chefs and other culinary professionals about the mise-en-place philosophy and then translated it into a system that can be used outside the kitchen in a book called Everything in Its Place: The Power of Mise-En-Place to Organize Your Life, Work, and Mind. His name is Dan Charnas and we begin our conversation with how Dan, a writer, realized that mise-en-place was something that could be used by everyone, and the system's three general principles and ten tools. We then unpack some of those tools, both in how they're used by cooks in the kitchen, and how they can be applied by regular folks at home and the office. We begin with the importance of squaring your checklists with your calendar and the one organizing process Dan most recommends: something called the 30-minute "meeze." We then discuss how to arrange your physical working space for greater efficiency and the importance of working clean. From there, Dan explains what he thinks Stephen Covey's famous idea of putting first things first doesn't take into consideration, and why it's important to understand the difference between what Dan calls "process time" and "immersive time." At the end of our conversation, we discuss the tension between perfection and delivery, the way the "call and call back" communication system used in kitchens creates teamwork and respect, and the fact that the success of any organizational system rests on daily commitment.

Get the show notes at aom.is/workclean.

Oct 14, 2020
#651: How to Turn Fear Into Fuel
00:45:57

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
00:53:48

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
00:43:11

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.

His name is Dr. Vikram Mansharamani and he's a Harvard lecturer who studies future trends and risks, as well as the author of Think for Yourself: Restoring Common Sense in an Age of Experts and Artificial Intelligence. Today on the show, Vikram explains how our increasingly complex lives have led us to increasingly rely on algorithms, specialists, and checklists to make decisions, even though experts are best suited to untangling complications rather than complexities. We then discuss the issues that can therefore arise in relying on expert advice, including the siloing of information and the application of misdirected focus. Once we diagnose the problem (and how the problem can, for one thing, muddy medical diagnoses), we turn to the solution, and how we can harness the good that technology and experts can provide, without undermining our ability to still think for ourselves, by doing things like asking experts about their incentives, knowing our own goals, triangulating opinions, and crossing silos. We end our conversation with how the serendipitous discovery of perspectives that can come from flipping through a magazine and browsing a bookstore can be part of restoring self-reliant thinking in the 21st century.

Get the show notes at aom.is/thinkforyourself.

Oct 05, 2020
#648: Lessons in Building Rapport from Experts in Terrorist Interrogation
00:57:56

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
00:46:51

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
00:49:54

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
00:46:16

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
00:50:43

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
00:48:58

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.

His name is Eric Weiner and he traveled thousands of miles around the world to visit the haunts of numerous philosophers as he sought to better understand their insights and how he might apply them to his own life. He wrote about this philosophic pilgrimage in The Socrates Express: In Search of Life Lessons From Dead Philosophers. Eric and I begin our conversation with why he chose to take all his trips by train, and why rail travel is particularly conducive to thoughtful reflection. We then turn to the physical and philosophical stops he made on his journey, including why Marcus Aurelius wrote so much about getting out of bed and what ultimately motivated the emperor to start each day; what Thoreau can teach us about seeing; why Gandhi was very interested in the idea of manliness; how Nietzsche's idea of eternal recurrence can change the way we live our daily lives; and the lesson Simone de Beauvoir offers us on aging well. We end our conversation with Montaigne's insight on how to get comfortable with death.

Get the show notes at aom.is/socratesexpress.

Sep 14, 2020
#642: Finding Money and Meaning in the Blue Collar Trades
00:37:10

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]
00:52:17

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
01:02:29

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.

My guest today possesses insights into how he made the many choices he was faced with in his military and political careers that are gleaned not only from studying Ike's life, but from personally knowing the man beneath the mantle. Her name is Susan Eisenhower and she's a writer, consultant, and policy strategist, one of Dwight's four grandchildren, and the author of the new book How Ike Led: The Principles Behind Eisenhower's Biggest Decisions. Susan and I begin our conversation with her relationship with Ike as both historic leader and ordinary grandfather, and why she decided to write a book about his leadership style. We then dive into the principles of his leadership, beginning with his decision to greenlight the D-Day invasion, what it reveals about his iron-clad commitment to taking responsibility, and how that commitment allowed him to be such an effective delegator. From there Susan explains how a love of studying history born in Ike's boyhood allowed him to take a big picture approach to strategy, how he used a desk drawer to deal with his lifelong struggle with anger, and how his belief in morale as an input rather than an output inspired him to always stay optimistic for the benefit of those he led. We then turn to how Eisenhower dealt with the discovery of concentration camps at the end of WWII and making peace with Germany after it. We then talk about his nonpartisan governing style as president which he called the "Middle Way" and which involved emphasizing cooperation, compromise, and unity, including members of both political parties in his cabinet, limiting his use of the "bully pulpit" to sway public opinion, and striving not to turn policy issues into personality confrontations. We then discuss how this style influenced how he dealt with Joseph McCarthy and enforced the Brown v. Board of Education decision. At the end of our conversation, Susan explains that while she doesn't expect everyone to agree with the difficult decisions her grandfather made, she thinks there's something to be learned from how he managed to make them, and to make them without becoming hard and cynical in the process.

Get the show notes at aom.is/howikeled.

Sep 02, 2020
#640: Weird and Wonderful Ways to Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
00:45:02

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."

His name is Ben Aldridge and he's the author of How to Be Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable: 43 Weird & Wonderful Ways to Build a Strong, Resilient Mindset. Ben and I begin our conversation with how his struggle with debilitating panic attacks inspired him to study philosophical and psychological ideas on how to fight back against his anxiety, what he learned that can benefit anyone looking to be more resilient, and how he was particularly inspired by the Stoic idea of intentionally practicing adversity to prepare for adversity. We then talk about the project Ben set for himself of embarking on a year of mental, physical, and skill-based challenges designed to push himself outside his comfort zone, how he decided what kinds of challenges to do, and how doing hard things changed him. From there we get into the specific challenges Ben completed, from taking cold showers to learning Japanese, and what they taught him about self-discipline, facing your fears, and the human potential for growth. We end our conversation with the ways he's continued to push himself after the year of challenges was through, even in the midst of the pandemic lockdown, including climbing Mt. Everest from inside his house.

Get the show notes at aom.is/getuncomfortable.

Aug 31, 2020
#639: Why You Should Learn the Lost Art of Rhetoric
00:57:53

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
00:46:34

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.

His name is James Nestor and his latest book is Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art. At the beginning of our conversation, James explains why he paid thousands of dollars to have his nose plugged up, and what happened to his body when he could only breathe out of his mouth. We unpack the dangers of the common problem of being a habitual mouth breather, including the fact that it can even change the shape of our faces, and why modern humans started breathing through the mouth rather than the nose. James then reveals what happened when he switched his experiment around and breathed only through his nose, and explains why simply switching the passageway of your breathing from oral to nasal can have such significant health benefits. He also shares his weird trick to switch from mouth to nose breathing at night, which I've tried myself and found effective. We then discuss the importance of getting better at exhaling, and why you counterintuitively probably need to be thinking more about getting carbon dioxide into your body rather than oxygen. In the latter part of our conversation, we discuss more advanced breathing techniques, including hypoventilation training, where you double your exhales to inhales to acclimate yourself to higher levels of CO2, as well as other experimental breathing techniques that may allow people to take conscious control of the supposedly involuntary autonomic nervous system in order to boost immunity and heal diseases.

Get the show notes at aom.is/breath.

Aug 24, 2020
#637: What Poker Can Teach You About Luck, Skill, and Mastering Yourself
00:53:19

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
00:57:54

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?

My guest today argues that the answer lies in the ancient instincts of our brains that no longer fit the environment of the modern world. His name is Stephan Guyenet, and he's a neuroscientist, obesity researcher, and the author of The Hungry Brain: Outsmarting the Instincts That Make Us Overeat. We begin our conversation with what's changed in our country to turn obesity into an epidemic, and why Americans started gaining more weight in the 1970s. We then dive into exactly how the reward system in our brains leads us to eat more than we need to, how modern manufactured foods like Doritos hijack this reward system, and the factors that ramp up our cravings, including the buffet effect. We then explain how to push back on the desire to overeat, including reevaluating the assumption that all the food you consume needs to be delicious. From there we turn to the role that the hormone leptin plays in appetite regulation, how it can make it hard to keep the weight you lose from coming back, and the best techniques to manage this countervailing force. We end our conversation with the role stress and sleep play in weight gain.

Get the show notes at aom.is/hungrybrain.

Aug 17, 2020
#635: The Existentialist's Survival Guide
00:47:33

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
00:49:05

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
00:56:34

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
00:53:52

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
00:46:41

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
00:38:16

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
00:42:58

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?

My guest today explores these questions in her book Why We Swim. Her name is Bonnie Tsui, and we begin our conversation today with how humans are some of the few land animals that have to be taught how to swim, and when our ancestors first took to the water. We then discuss how peoples who have made swimming a primary part of their culture, have evolved adaptations that have made them better at it. We discuss how swimming can be both psychically and physically restorative and how it can also bring people together, using as an example a unique community of swimmers which developed during the Iraq War inside one of Saddam Hussein's palaces. We also talk about the competitive element of swimming, and how for thousands of years it was in fact a combat skill, and even took the form of a martial art, called samurai swimming, in Japan. We end our conversation with how swimming can facilitate flow, and some of the famous philosophers and thinkers who tuned the currents of their thoughts while gliding through currents of water.

Get the show notes at aom.is/whyweswim.

Jul 22, 2020
#628: The Rise of Secular Religion and the New Puritanism
01:14:33

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
00:38:51

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
00:41:44

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
00:59:00

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.

My guest today explored these various codes in a book she wrote during the decade she spent teaching at the United States Naval Academy. Her name is Shannon French, she's a professor of ethics and philosophy, and her book is The Code of the Warrior: Exploring Warrior Values Past and Present. Shannon and I begin our conversation with the pointed questions she used to pose to the cadets she taught as to how being a warrior was different than being a killer or murderer, and when killing is and isn't ethical. She then explains how the warrior codes which developed all around the world arose organically from warriors themselves for their own protection, and how these codes are more about identity than rules. Shannon and I then take a tour of warrior codes across time and culture, starting with the code in Homer's Iliad, and then moving into the strengths and weaknesses of the Stoic philosophy which undergirded the code of the Romans. From there we unpack the code of the medieval knights of Arthurian legend, what American Indians can teach soldiers about the need to make clear transitions between the homefront and the warfront, and how the Bushido code of the samurais sought to balance the influence of four different religions. We end our conversation with the role warrior codes play today in an age of increasingly technologized combat.

Get the show notes at aom.is/warriorcode.

Jul 08, 2020
#624: The Crazy, Forgotten Story of America's First Fitness Influencer
00:47:01

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.

My guest today is Mark Adams, who wrote a biography of this proto fitness guru called Mr. America: How Muscular Millionaire Bernarr Macfadden Transformed the Nation Through Sex, Salad, and the Ultimate Starvation Diet. Mark and I begin our conversation with how Macfadden discovered a passion for health and fitness as a young man and failed at his attempt to become a personal trainer, despite coining the motto "Weakness is a crime; don't be a criminal." We then discuss how Macfadden went on to start the highly successful magazine, Physical Culture, and then an entire publishing empire, which pioneered many of the confessional, first-person, personal branding techniques still used today. Mark shares the tenets of Macfadden's sometimes sound, sometimes wacky health philosophy, including his advocacy of fasting, and what happened when Mark tried out some of Macfadden's protocols on himself. Mark and I then delve into how Macfadden founded a utopian community in the New Jersey suburbs, was convicted of obscenity charges, trained fascist cadets for Mussolini, and ran for U.S. senator on a physical fitness platform. We end our conversation with why Macfadden was forgotten, and yet had a lasting effect on the world of health and fitness, as well as media as a whole.

Get the show notes at aom.is/macfadden.

Jul 06, 2020
#479: Becoming a Digital Minimalist [RE-BROADCAST]
01:04:34

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
00:50:34

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
00:54:28

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
00:44:35

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
00:49:08

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
00:57:14

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.

It may sound great on the face of it, but my guest today argues that shifting from being a driver to being a mere passenger represents an existential risk in and of itself, as well as a symbol for the potential loss of much broader human values. His name is Matthew Crawford and he's a philosopher, mechanic, and hot rodder, as well as the author of Shop Class as Soulcraft. In his latest book, Why We Drive: Towards a Philosophy of the Open Road, Matthew investigates the driver’s seat as one of the few remaining domains of skill, exploration, play, and freedom. Matthew and I begin our conversation discussing how freely moving around in our environment is a big part of what makes us human and then explore how shifting from being the drivers of our own cars to the passengers of self-driving cars could result in a loss of that humanity by eliminating agency, privacy, and proficiency. As our wide-ranging conversational road trip continues, Matthew and I take detours into what things like hot rodding and demolition derbies can tell us about mastery, play, and competition. We end our conversation on what driving ultimately has to do with the overarching idea of self-governance.

Get the show notes at aom.is/whywedrive.

Jun 15, 2020
#618: Finding Connection in a Lonely World
00:46:01

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
00:39:58

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
00:52:59

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.

Get the show notes at aom.is/gita.

Jun 03, 2020
#615: How to Develop Authentic Gravitas
00:49:54

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.

My guest today is an organizational psychologist and executive coach who explains how to cultivate this quality in her book Authentic Gravitas: Who Stands Out and Why. Her name is Rebecca Newton and we begin our conversation together by delving into the traits that go into embodying gravitas, as well as the myths we have about this quality. We discuss how gravitas doesn't necessarily include confidence and charisma, as well as its false manifestations. Rebecca then walks us through the steps to carrying yourself with gravitas in meetings and presentations, including why you should script the beginning and end of your speeches, and how to put more gravitas into your voice and words. We also discuss what to focus on when you're pulled into an impromptu conversation, how to get real feedback about how you can improve the way you carry yourself, and how to convey gravitas in online communication. We then discuss why practicing self-leadership is so important to developing gravitas, why Rebecca thinks everyone needs to create a "personal thought leadership window," and how you can use your drive to and from work to become more thoughtful and reflective. We end our conversation with the questions you should start asking yourself today to develop more gravitas.

Get the show notes at aom.is/gravitas.

Jun 01, 2020
#614: Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life
00:56:50

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
00:54:15

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
00:46:10

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
00:37:20

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
00:46:10

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.

His name is Laurence Gonzales and he's a pilot, a journalist, and the author of several books, including the focus of today's conversation: Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why. Today on the show, we discuss how the story of his father being shot out of the sky during WWII set Laurence on a journey to explore the mysterious underpinnings of survival. Laurence then explains what happens to us mentally and emotionally in a disaster situation that causes us to make poor decisions, how our mental models can get us in trouble, and why rule breakers are more likely to survive than rule followers. Laurence then walks us through complexity theory and how trying to make things safer can counterintuitively make them more dangerous. We then talk about why the frequency with which you yell at your kids correlates to your chances of surviving a life-threatening emergency, before ending our conversation with a discussion of the paradoxes would-be survivors must grapple with, including being both realistic and hopeful at the same time.

Get the show notes at aom.is/deepsurvival.

May 13, 2020
#609: The 3 Tasks of Moving From Adolescence to Adulthood
00:50:13

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
00:46:05

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
00:48:54

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
00:44:17

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.

My guest today says these oscillations are a result of nature's operating system and that you can learn to better manage these emotional peaks and valleys. Her name is Loretta Breuning and she's the author of several books on happiness and the human brain, including her latest, Tame Your Anxiety: Rewiring Your Brain for Happiness. We begin our conversation by discussing the similarities between human brains and the brains of other mammals, and how our brains release happiness-producing chemicals like dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin to spur us to seek rewards related to our survival needs. We also talk about the unhappy chemical of cortisol which is released in response to perceived threats, and the factors that have increased our stress and anxiety in the modern world. Loretta then explains that the boost we get whenever the brain's happy chemicals are activated doesn't last, and how we need to plan and execute healthy options for proactively stimulating these chemicals, including creating expectations for rewards and finding small, positive ways of increasing our status. We end our conversation with how to manage spikes of cortisol in yourself, as well as help other people manage their emotional troughs.

Get the show notes at aom.is/happychemicals.

Apr 29, 2020
#605: The Money Moves You Should Make Right Now
00:49:01

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
00:45:36

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
00:52:16

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.

We begin our conversation discussing how Scott's investigation into the breathing methods of Wim Hof, an extreme athlete, turned him from a skeptic into an intrigued believer who wanted to learn more about our ability to exercise control over our physiology. Scott then explains his idea of "the Wedge" as the ability to consciously put a gap between an external stimulus and the otherwise automatic physiological responses it elicits. Scott and I then discuss his trip around the world to talk to people who have found ways to create wedges in their lives in order to elevate their physical and mental states. We discuss how throwing kettlebells around can be used to overcome fear and experience flow, how lying in a float tank may recalibrate PTSD, how building up tolerance to CO2 can increase your physical performance, how saunas can boost resilience, and why the power of the placebo effect is greatly underrated.

Get the show notes at aom.is/wedge.

Apr 20, 2020
#602: The Case for Being Unproductive
00:42:27

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
00:44:54

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
00:40:20

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
00:17:46

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.

That's probably why a recent interview the Harvard Business Review did with David Kessler went viral when it named the issue point blank. Kessler said what we're all experiencing is grief. He's an expert on the subject who worked with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, creator of the famous five stages of grief, and also added his own sixth stage to the roadmap to loss.
That interview resonated so much with me and others, that I thought it would be useful to bring Kessler on the show to talk through his perspective in a short, special episode of the AoM podcast. Kessler walks us through how the five stages of grief explain how we're often feeling these days during the pandemic, and how we can also work through the sixth stage of grief, in order to find meaning in a dark time.

Get the show notes at aom.is/grief.

Apr 07, 2020
#599: The Physical Intelligence That Helps You Take Action
00:46:53

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
00:50:24

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