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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Have you come to a point in your life where the pursuits of your younger years no longer seem meaningful or satisfying? Maybe it's time for you to transition from the first half of your life to the second.
My guest today has spent decades helping people, particularly men, make this passage. His name is James Hollis and he's a Jungian analyst and the author of over a dozen books, including Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life. We begin our conversation with a brief overview of what makes Jungian or depth psychology unique, and how it helps individuals find meaning and deal with life's existential questions. Our discussion then explores the differences between the first and second halves of life, and how the main question of the first is "What is the world asking of me?" while the primary question of the second is "What is my soul asking of me?" Jim explains why you need to sort through the influences of your family and culture on who you've become and how the second half of life is about finding personal authority and sovereignty. We also discuss why the first half of life is always "a gigantic, unavoidable mistake," and why that's okay.
Jim explains what triggers the impetus to move from the first to the second half of life, how it can happen at any age, how to make the transition from one phase to the other, and why the journey to the second can be terrifying because it lacks the structure of the first. Jim describes the internal systems you can use for guidance in moving forward in the absence of this external structure. He then gets into the importance of continuing to grow in your profession or marriage throughout your life. We discuss the particular reasons men can get stuck in the first half of life, and how men are more free to tend to the needs of their souls these days, but can still feel adrift. We end our conversation with how you can know if you're on the right track in pursuing the tasks of the second half of life.
Get the show notes at aom.is/secondhalf.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced tens of millions of people to stay home due to shelter-in-place orders and even lockdowns. While supplies of food, water, and other essentials have largely continued undisrupted, if one or more of these services were cut off, what would be the best way to prepare for that kind of emergency?
To answer this question, I talk to friend of AoM and survival expert, Creek Stewart. Creek has dedicated his life to mastering all things survival, spending thousands of hours in the field, authoring numerous articles and books, teaching courses to others, and hosting television shows for the Weather Channel like SOS: How to Survive.
Today, Creek and I talk about what we can learn from the current pandemic about how to shelter-in-place or bug-in, and how to be prepared if this crisis worsens in severity, or we're one day hit with a more dire disaster. We dive into the different bug-in categories you need to consider, beginning with how much food and water you need for a long-term bug-in situation, and how to properly store it. Creek then talks about what you need to consider in terms of first aid and home defense in a bug-in scenario, and why you also need to think about how to keep yourself entertained.
Get the show notes at aom.is/bugin.
Have you ever had a period in your athletic or professional career where you kind of felt like you were on fire? Maybe you made a whole streak of consecutive shots in a game, or executed one good idea after another at work.
In his book, The Hot Hand: The Mystery and Science of Streaks, my guest today explores why success sometimes seems to arrive in clusters like this. His name is Ben Cohen and he's a sports writer for The Wall Street Journal. Ben and I begin our conversation with an explanation of what it means to have a hot hand, and how this phenomenon has often been studied in basketball, but can be seen in a wide range of areas, including the film career of Rob Reiner. We then discuss what may cause winning streaks, whether or not they can be induced, and what Stephen Curry does when he starts feeling hot in a game. We also talk about what the video game NBA Jam can tell us about the psychology of the hot hand. We then dig into what the academic research has found on whether the hot hand truly exists or is really just a cognitive illusion. We end our conversation with what you can start doing today to take advantage of having a hot hand.
Get the show notes at aom.is/hothand.
In a time when the world is dealing with a pandemic, and many commercial gyms have shut down, interest in creating a gym at home has swelled. Whether working out at home is something you've been mulling over for a long time, or that you've just started to think about, this show will help you decide if and how to move forward on the idea.
My guest today is Cooper Mitchell, the founder of garagegymreviews.com, a website and social media communitydedicated to reviewing personal gym equipment and inspiring people to work out at home.
Coop and I begin our conversation unpacking the many benefits of having a home gym, and also talk about one of its potential downsides. He then explains why it's generally a big mistake to go all-in, all at once on a home gym, and how he recommends making the transition instead. We then get into exactly what the start-up costs for a home gym are, and how it's likely less than you think. Coop shares specifics on what he thinks are the essential pieces of equipment to get, the cost breakdown on each, and the companies that manufacture solid equipment at an affordable price. We then turn to the issue of space, and Coop shares the minimum size footprint you'll need for your gym, as well as solutions if you're working with a very small area or live in an apartment. We end our conversation with suggestions for exercising even if you have no equipment at all.
Get the show notes at aom.is/garagegym.
A few months after Winston Churchill took office as prime minister, the German military began an eight month-long bombing campaign on the United Kingdom which became known as the Blitz. The bombing, which lasted for 57 consecutive days and nights, killed 45,000 Britons. What was life like for the people who experienced the Blitz? My guest today zoomed in on this question by looking at the lives of Winston Churchill and his inner circle during this precarious year of the war.
His name is Erik Larson, and in his latest book The Splendid and the Vile, he shows readers how the Blitz could be absolutely terrifying, unexpectedly normal, and strangely beautiful at the same time, and does so by profiling how Churchill, as well as his family members and advisers, handled both the unexpected horrors of war and the predictable pickles of interpersonal drama. We begin our conversation discussing the extent of the Blitz, and then spend the rest of our conversation discussing key members in what Churchill called his "sacred circle." We learn how Churchill's wife Clementine supported her husband during the Blitz, how his son Randolph created trouble with his gambling and affairs, how his teenage daughter Mary managed to keep doing typically adolescent activities even while bombs fell on England, and how his advisors contributed to his leadership. These characters offer a great lesson in how life goes on even in the midst of a crisis, and how one can be fearless even in the face of a threat.
Get the show notes at aom.is/larson.
Are you feeling overwhelmed at work? Trying to find a job, but can't seem to get your foot in the door? Have you been knocking your head against a problem over and over again, but haven't made any headway on it?
My guest today says you can solve most of these issues by simply asking for help.
His name is Wayne Baker, he's a sociologist, consultant, and the author of the book All You Have to Do Is Ask: How to Master the Most Important Skill for Success.
We begin our conversation discussing what the research says are the benefits of asking for help and why people are nevertheless so reluctant to do it. Wayne then provides insights on how to overcome those obstacles in asking for help, the best way to formulate an ask so that it actually gets a response, and how to handle rejection. We then turn to Wayne's research on how organizations can benefit from creating a culture of help-seeking and what you can do within the organizations you belong to to foster such a culture.
Get the show notes at aom.is/ask.
Emerson famously said "society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members."
My guest today says things have gotten a lot worse since Emerson uttered those words over a century and a half ago. His name is Robert Twigger. We last had him on the show to discuss his book Micromastery. Today we discuss a book he wrote 20 years ago called Being a Man in the Lousy Modern World. We begin our conversation discussing how the modern world infantilizes men so they're easier to control, and whether Robert thinks things have changed since he initially published the book. We then dig into the four factors Robert says need to be in place for a man to feel like a man, and why experiencing these qualities has become harder to do in the present age. We then discuss what Robert did to counter the currents of modern malaise like hiking the Pyrenees mountains and learning a martial art, and whether doing those things actually made him feel manlier. We end our conversation with what men can do to start fighting back against the conspiracy against their manhood.
Get the show notes at aom.is/twigger.
So often in life, we get stuck in a cycle of reaction. We tackle the most urgent tasks. We deal with emergencies. We put out fires.
We intuitively know we'd be better off if we figured out a way to be more proactive rather than reactive, thereby preventing fires from starting in the first place, but we can't seem to switch our approach.
My guest today explores why that is and what we can do to start solving the problems of business, life, and society before they become problems.
His name is Dan Heath and today we talk about his latest book, Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen. We begin our conversation discussing the issues that keep us from nipping problems in the bud, including problem blindness, lack of ownership, and "tunneling." Along the way Dan shares insights into how to overcome those roadblocks. We then shift gears and explore how to find the best upstream solutions to problems, which requires getting as close as possible to the problem, while also being able to survey the system it's embedded in from a bird's eye view. Dan explains the principles at play with plenty of real-life examples of how these tactics were used to effectively tackle big, seemingly intractable social problems.
Lots of great insights that you can apply to solving problems in your personal life, business, and community.
Get the show notes at aom.is/upstream.
Sherlock Holmes is one of the most widely recognized figures of literature and pop culture. But how did the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, come up with a character who has become the universal archetype of the independent detective?
In his book, Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes, my guest today explores the biography of the fictional detective by looking at the life of the real-world author. His name is Michael Sims and we begin our conversation with the early life of Conan Doyle and his experience in medical school studying under a renowned diagnostician who helped inspire the character of Sherlock Holmes. Michael then walks us through the cultural world of Victorian England and how it was the perfect environment for a character like Holmes to be birthed. He shows how writers like Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe laid the groundwork for detective fiction, how the Sherlock stories differed from theirs, and how they were initially received. We then delve into the characterization of Holmes and his crime solving methodology, before ending our conversation discussing Conan Doyle's intense interest in spiritualism and why Holmes is such a captivating figure even in the 21st century.
Get the show notes at aom.is/sherlock.
You know how good moving your body is for your physical health. You probably have a vague sense that it's good for your mental health too. But you likely don't realize just how powerful movement truly is for your mind, and that it even affects your sense of hope, courage, connection, and identity. My guest today explores these lesser-appreciated impacts of physical activity in her new book, The Joy of Movement. Her name is Kelly McGonigal and she's a research psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University. Kelly and I begin our discussion with the idea of the runner's high, and whether you can get it from doing forms of exercise other than running. We then discuss how exercise can become powerfully addictive, and yet be a uniquely healthy form of addiction that improves instead of destroys mental health. We then discuss the way that moving our bodies with others can generate collective joy, as well as a muscular bonding that makes a group feel bigger and stronger. We also get into what elements go into an ideal pump-up song, how physical movement helps create your sense of self, and why exercising in nature seems to amplify all its beneficial effects. We end our conversation with what you can start doing today to get more of the potent benefits of physical movement.
Get the show notes at aom.is/joyofmovement.
Alexander the Great became king of Macedonia at age 19. By age 30 he controlled an empire that spanned from Greece to India. In the two thousand years after his early death, his influence has persisted. Military leaders from Caesar to Napoleon studied his campaigns and imitated his strategies and tactics, and without Alexander, the influence of Greek culture on the world wouldn't have been the same.
My guest today has written a very readable, yet academically authoritative biography of this legendary king, commander, and conqueror. His name is Philip Freeman, and he's a classics professor and the author of Alexander the Great. Today on the show, Philip takes us on an engaging tour of Alexander's life, beginning with the myths surrounding his birth, and his education under the great philosopher Aristotle. Philip then explains the cloak and dagger intrigue of Macedonian politics and why Alexander's father was assassinated. We then dig into Alexander's political reign and military command and highlight the most famous battles during his decade-long campaign to conquer the ancient world. Along the way, Philip shares the leadership lessons we can learn from Alexander.
Get the show notes at aom.is/alexanderthegreat.
Do you have a goal of reading more, but any time you start working on that goal, it feels like a chore? The equivalent of eating your broccoli?
My guest today argues that the problem is likely due to the fact that you're trying to read what you think you should be reading, instead of reading what you actually enjoy.
His name is Alan Jacobs. He's a professor of literature and the author of The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. At the start of our conversation Alan offers a critique of a certain approach to reading the so-called "Great Books," and makes an argument for choosing what you read based on Whim, with a capital W, rather than following any kind of list. He then makes the case for following that Whim into reading not only the books of your favorite authors, but the books your favorite authors read, which can actually lead you back to the Great Books, but in a way that will allow you to enjoy and appreciate them more. Alan makes the case as well for the value of re-reading books. Alan and I then discuss tactics to get more out of reading in our age of distraction, including his opinion on reading ebooks versus paper copies. We also get into his take on speed reading and whether it's okay to not finish books you're not digging. We end our conversation with what parents can do to raise eager readers.
Get the show notes at aom.is/pleasuresofreading.
In the winter of 1940, a group of civilian skiers was sitting by a fire in a ski lodge in Vermont shooting the breeze about how the US Army needed an alpine division like the militaries in Europe had. That conversation transformed into a concerted effort to turn their idea into a reality, and the creation of the Army's 10th Mountain Division -- a unit which would play a vital role fighting in the mountains of Italy during World War II.
My guest today has written a book on these skiing, snow-born soldiers. His name is Maurice Isserman, and he's a professor of history and the author of The Winter Army: The World War II Odyssey of the 10th Mountain Division, America's Elite Alpine Warriors. We begin our conversation discussing why the US Army didn't have an alpine division before WWII and how a group of civilian skiers led by a man named Minnie Dole spearheaded the movement to create one. Maurice then shares why the 10th Mountain Division heavily recruited from top tier colleges, and how the unusual make-up of the division influenced its unique culture. We then discuss how the military figured out what new equipment this new mountain division needed and the vigorous training its members undertook high in the mountains of Colorado. Maurice then digs into the 10th's involvement in the war and whether they actually got to use the skills they trained for years to hone. We end our conversation discussing the legacy of the 10th Mountain Division, including their role in America's post-war boom in recreational skiing.
Get the show notes at aom.is/mountaindivision.
I've dealt with depression in my life. My body temperature also seems to run hot; in fact my wife Kate has nicknamed me "the baked potato."
My guest today says that there may be a connection between those two things. His name is Charles Raison, he's a psychiatrist, professor of psychiatry, and the co-author of The New Mind-Body Science of Depression. We begin our conversation with why Charles thinks it's important to ask the question, "Does Major Depression even exist?" and what we do and don't know about what causes depression. We then turn to the emerging theory that physical inflammation may play a role in depression; Charles describes what inflammation is, and why the body may become inflamed and physically hotter not only in response to physical illness, but psychological stress as well. We then discuss the paradoxical finding that short-term exposure to inflammation in the form of exercise or sitting in a sauna can reduce long-term inflammation, and how hot you probably have to get in a sauna for it to have antidepressant effects. We also talk about how intermittent fasting may have a beneficial effect on inflammation, before turning to whether taking anti-inflammatory drugs could also help, and why you might want to get a blood test to see if your body's inflamed. We end our conversation with Charles' thoughts on how to figure out the right treatment for depression for each individual.
Get the show notes at aom.is/inflammationdepression.
Why do people sometimes fall in love with someone who is all kinds of wrong for them? Their friends and family see lots of red flags about their partner, but they themselves miss these warnings entirely, sometimes to catastrophic consequences.
My guest today argues that these kinds of errors in relational decision-making happen when someone lets his heart rule without also heeding his head. His name is John Van Epp, and he's a therapist and the author of the book How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk. We begin our conversation discussing what society's default template for creating a successful relationship looks like, and how it leads people astray. John then defines what makes a jerk, a jerk, and the signs that you're dating a jerk. He then explains why it is that people so often miss these signs, by using a model of how attachment develops in a relationship; I think this model is super useful in understanding relational dynamics and you don't want to miss it. We then discuss why men need to do a better job in helping to pace relationships, instead of only letting women set the tempo. We end our conversation discussing the things you need to know about a person that you're forming a relationship with, including their relationship skills, family life, and values, before you escalate your commitment to them.
Get the show notes at aom.is/lovethinks.
Everyone gets old.
But not everyone experiences old age the same way. Some folks spend the last few decades of their life sick, sad, and stagnating, while others stay sharp and find great satisfaction in the twilight years of life.
My guest today is a neuroscientist who has dug into the research on what individuals can do to increase their chances of achieving the latter outcome instead of the former.
His name Daniel Levitin and today we discuss his latest book Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives. We begin our conversation discussing the societal narratives we have about old age that don't always hold true. We then dig into the fact that while the brain slows in some ways with age, it gets sharper in other ways. Daniel shares the personality trait that's the biggest predictor of a successful elderhood, and the recognizable-yet-surprising reason the idea that memory declines with age is overblown. We also talk about what really works for preserving your memory and keeping your mind agile and keen, and no, it's not doing puzzles and brain games We end our show discussing the question of whether people get happier or sadder as they age.
Get the show notes at aom.is/successfulaging.
War puts leadership to the ultimate test. During a war, a leader must make life or death decisions and be held accountable for those decisions while grappling not only with military strategy, but also political, economic, and domestic dynamics.
My guest explores the lives of nine wartime leaders and what we can learn from them in his latest book: Leadership in War: Essential Lessons From Those Who Made History. His name is Andrew Roberts, and we last had him on the show to talk about his biography of Winston Churchill. We begin today's conversation discussing how Andrew decided on the leaders to highlight in his book, how he defines a "great" leader, and how that definition includes nefarious dictators like Hitler and Stalin. We then take a look at the leadership style of Napoleon, as well as that of World War II leaders like Churchill, Eisenhower, and Marshall. We also unpack how Hitler and Stalin gained power, despite having serious character defects. We end our conversation with the qualities this varied set of leaders held in common.
Get the show notes at aom.is/leadersinwar.
We're a month into the new year now. How are you doing on your resolutions? Have you already fallen off the wagon? Maybe the goal you set for yourself was just too big to successfully tackle. You need to think smaller. Tiny, even.
That's the argument my guest makes. His name is Dr. BJ Fogg, and he's the founder and director of Stanford's Behavior Design Lab, as well as the author of the new book Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything. Today on the show, BJ walks us through the three components that drive our behavior, including the simple yet overlooked relationship between motivation and ability. He then explains how to build habits that feel easier and require lower levels of motivation by picking behaviors that are good matches for you and breaking them down into smaller parts. We also talk about the need to tie your habits to turnkey prompts, the importance of celebrating your successes, no matter how small, and the way tiny habits can lead to bigger changes. We end our conversation with why you should think about the process of getting rid of your bad habits as untangling them rather than breaking them.
Get the show notes at aom.is/tinyhabits.
Some cultural observers have posited that we're moving from an information economy to a reputation economy. There's so much information to sort through, that figuring out which bits to pay attention to has come to increasingly rely on what we think of the person delivering them. We privilege the messenger over the message.
But how exactly do we decide which messengers to listen to or not? What draws us to particular messengers and causes us to tune out others?
My guest has spent his career researching, lecturing, and writing about the answers to these questions and he shares his insights in a new book. His name is Steve Martin and he's the author of Messengers: Who We Listen To, Who We Don't, and Why. In the first half of our conversation, we unpack why it is that the messenger matters so much, and how people can manipulate these factors in unethical ways to peddle messages and influence that may not be credible. We then shift into how you can also leverage these neutral tools in ethical ways to make yourself more persuasive and ensure your ideas get heard. Steve explains that there are two types of persuasive messengers -- hard and soft -- and walks us through the qualities embodied by each. We discuss the different ways a person can become an effective hard messenger, including competence, dominance, and attractiveness, and what makes a soft messenger persuasive, including warmth, vulnerability, and charisma -- the latter of which incorporates a trait you may not have previously associated with being charismatic. We end our conversation discussing when you should use a hard vs. soft approach as you seek to lead and share your message.
Get the show notes at aom.is/messengers.
The literature of Jack London has long been given the short shrift by scholars. They say he wrote some good dog stories for boys, but beyond that didn't showcase any literary genius or high-level craftsmanship. Well, my guest today begs to differ with this assessment.
His name is Earle Labor. He's the preeminent Jack London scholar and 91 years young. I've had Earle on the podcast two previous times: the first to discuss his landmark Jack London biography, and the second to discuss his own memoir, The Far Music. For this episode, I drove down to Earle's home in Shreveport, Louisiana to talk to Earle about the overlooked literary genius of Jack London and the big themes that London wrote about in his novels and short stories. We begin our discussion with Earle's story of how he became a Jack London scholar and why London's work was historically neglected by academics. We then dig into London's literary themes by first discussing how he used the Klondike as a symbolic proving ground for men and how success in this wilderness depended on one's ability to mold oneself to Jack's "Northland Code." Earle uses excerpts from my favorite London story, "In A Far Country," as well as "To Build a Fire" and The Call of the Wild, to showcase the tenets of this code, and well as London's literary artistry.
Earle then explains how London shifted his themes later in his career with his agrarian writing, how his wife Charmian changed his perception of real women and his female characters, and the influence that psychiatrist Carl Jung had on London's last works.
Consider this episode a masterclass on the literature of Jack London.
Get the show notes at aom.is/london.
Have you been feeling doubts about your career recently, or perhaps for quite some time? Maybe you're not sure if you're in the right job, or even in the right field, and you can't figure out if you should try to keep making your current position work, or jump ship to something else.
Then you'll likely recognize yourself in the stages of career transition my guest will describe. His name is Joseph Liu. He's a consultant, coach, and speaker who helps people navigate the challenges of switching careers. In his work, he's seen that there's a recurring pattern individuals follow when thinking about and making this weighty decision, which he calls the "7 Stages of Career Change." Today on the show, Joseph walks us through these stages, which begin with Doubt and Dismay and end with Reflection and Relaunch. With each stage, Joseph explains what typically goes through people's minds, common mistakes that are made, and the best actions to take, which sometimes involves transitioning out of your current career, and sometimes does not. We end our conversation with the considerations to keep in mind if you do decide to make a change.
Get the show notes at aom.is/careerchange.
Every day, we have to make choices on whether we can trust someone or not. If we make the wrong choice, it could mean a failed relationship or business partnership and all the emotional and financial costs that follow.
My guest today has spent his career sizing people up in high stakes situations. His name is Robin Dreeke, he spent two decades working as a behavioral analyst for the FBI, and in his new book, Sizing People Up: A Veteran FBI Agent's User Manual for Behavior Prediction, he shares the tips everyone can use in determining whether or not someone is trustworthy.
We begin our conversation discussing how Robin's latest book builds off the work he did in The Code of Trust and the consequences of sizing people up incorrectly. Robin then shares the overarching framework he recommends using when you want to figure out if you can trust someone or not. We spend the rest of our conversation digging into the six specific signs you should look for when you're figuring out if you want to enter into a personal or professional relationship with someone, and you're trying to predict their future behavior.
Get the show notes at aom.is/sizingpeopleup.
When you think of philosophy, you probably think of ancient Greece or 18th century France. You probably don't think of America. But this country also birthed its own set of philosophical luminaries, and my guest today had a unique encounter with them.
When modern day professor of philosophy John Kaag was a graduate student at Harvard, he was dispirited and struggling personally and professionally. But thanks to a chance encounter with an elderly New Englander, he discovered an abandoned library in New Hampshire full of rare first edition books of the great works of Western philosophy, many of which were owned by quintessentially American thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and William James.
Kaag began cataloging the books, and in the process, uncovered the intellectual history of American philosophy and its responses to big existential questions like, "Is life worth living?"
Today on the show I talk to John about his experience with this abandoned library in the woods of New Hampshire, and with the authors of the books which were contained therein. We start off talking about how American philosophy is often overlooked, and its big ideas, which include transcendentalism and pragmatism. We then dig into how the works of European and Asian thinkers influenced American philosophers like Emerson and Thoreau, while they yet tried to make something completely new. John and I then discuss how American pragmatism was developed in response to the philosophical issues Darwinism created around free will and what it means to live a moral life.
We end our conversation discussing how the pragmatist William James answered the question of whether life is worth living and how his answer might be said to hinge on one essential word: if.
Get the show notes at aom.is/americanphilosophy.
It's a new year and like many people, you may have set a goal to exercise more regularly. But like most people, you've set this goal before only to give up on it after only a few weeks.
Why is it so hard to make exercise a habit? And what can you do to make it stick?
My guest today argues that more willpower and discipline isn't the answer. Instead, you need to completely change the way you think about exercise.
Her name is Michelle Segar, and she's a behavioral scientist and the author of No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness. We begin our conversation discussing Michelle's counterintuitive finding that common reasons for exercising like losing weight or even getting healthier aren't effective motivations. And she shares research on how our ideas of what exercise should look like, as well as the propensity towards an all-or-nothing mindset, also set us up for failure. We then discuss why sheer discipline isn't very effective for staying on track either, and why exercise needs to have an immediately positive impact on our lives if we want to stick with it. Michelle and I spend the rest of our conversation discussing the research-backed framework she's developed to help people make exercise a sustainable habit, which includes less emphasis on willpower and more on changing the meaning you lend to physical activity and its priority in your life.
Get the show notes at aom.is/nosweat.
Have you ever been heaped with praise, only to ignore it in favor of focusing on the lone piece of criticism you received?
That's the power that bad things wield, and it's a power that humans need to learn how to both harness and mitigate.
My guest today lays out both sides of that coin in a book he co-authored with psychologist Roy Baumeister. His name is John Tierney and the book is The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It. We begin our conversation discussing how much stronger bad is than good, and how many good things it takes to offset a single bad one. We then dig into the implications of the fact that bad things have a much stronger impact than good ones, including how you really only need to be a good enough parent to your kids, the best way to deliver criticism to others, and why religions that emphasize Hell have historically won more adherents than those that focus on Heaven. We also talk about how negativity is contagious and why it's true that one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. We end our conversation with a look at whether or not social media is a negative force in our lives, and John's advice on how to not let those he calls "the merchants of bad" in the media make us think that things in the world are worse than they really are.
Lots of insights in this show on how both to use the power of bad to your advantage, and overcome its negative effects.
Get the show notes at aom.is/powerofbad.
How well did you do in completing projects last year? Not just work projects, but also personal projects surrounding family, fitness, or hobbies. If you didn't accomplish as much as you'd like, then maybe you need to change up your mindset and tactics in the new year.
My guest today has written a guide to making those changes. His name is Charlie Gilkey and he's a former Army officer with a PhD in philosophy who's spent over a decade studying productivity, writing about it on his website Productive Flourishing, and coaching clients in what he's learned. He now has a book out as well: Start Finishing: How to Go From Idea to Done. Charlie and I begin our conversation going through the most common roadblocks that prevent people from completing their projects, including following other people's priorities and dealing with what he calls "head trash." We then discuss how we waste a lot of time doing what Charlie calls "thrashing' and what we can do to overcome it. We then dig into why you sometimes have to quit things to move forward, how to create effective goals, and why it's crucial to know which of three levels of success you're aiming for. We also talk about how to do what Charlie calls "momentum planning" and the importance of creating focus blocks in your schedule.
Get the show notes at aom.is/startfinishing.
There's an unspoken timeline that people supposedly need to follow to have a successful life: be a good student in high school, get into a good college, and then get a good job right after you graduate.
But you've probably met successful people whose lives didn't follow this kind of linear arc and neat timeline, and maybe yours didn't either. Their young adult years weren't very auspicious, and they didn't come into their own and find their bearings until after college, or even much later. My guest today explores the upsides of this kind of trajectory in his book: Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement. His name is Rich Karlgaard and we begin our conversation discussing how he defines a late bloomer and a few examples of some famous late bloomers in history. We then dig into how late bloomers got a bad rap and how society became increasingly obsessed with finding success at a young age. Rich then walks us through the disadvantages of being an early bloomer and the advantages of being a late bloomer, including resilience, self-awareness, and a healthy, motivating sense of self-doubt.
Get the show notes at aom.is/latebloomer.
Good character is hard to define in the abstract, but easy to identify when it's embodied in the lives of great individuals. In order to illuminate what worthy character looks like, my guest today has written a book which consists of profiles of 10 of history's most notable admirals, marking out both their inspiring and flawed qualities, as well as how these qualities intersected with their ability to lead. His name is Admiral James Stavridis, he served as the commander of US Southern Command, US European Command, and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and is now the dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. On today's show, the admiral talks about many of the figures in his latest book, Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character, including Themistocles, Sir Francis Drake, Horatio Nelson, and Chester Nimitz. We take a look at what these individuals did well, what they did poorly, and how their characteristics, decisions, qualities, and overall moral compass impacted their leadership and influence.
Get the show notes at aom.is/truenorth.
Do you feel restless? Have you ever lied in bed at night looking up at the ceiling wondering "Is this all there is to life?" Or have you ever achieved a big goal in life only to feel let down?
Over 1500 years ago, Catholic bishop, philosopher and theologian Augustine of Hippo had those same feelings of angst and wrote down some insights on how to deal with them and they're just as relevant today as they were then.
My guest today has written a book about Augustine's ancient insights on the anxiety of modern life and how this famous Catholic theologian has had a profound impact on Western philosophy, including among 20th-century existential philosophers. His name is James K. A. Smith and his book is On the Road with Saint Augustine. We begin our show discussing Augustine's biography and his oft-overlooked influence on atheistic existential philosophers like Heidegger, Sartre, and Camus.
We then dig into the big ideas that Augustine hit on his famous book Confessions including how to deal with existential angst, how to find your true self, what it means to be truly free in life, and how to deal with our restless ambition. Along the way, James shows how 20th-century existential philosophers dealt with these questions, why he thinks existentialism falls shorts to answering them, and why Augustine's solutions might be better.
Lots of great insights about big life questions in this episode.
Get the snow notes at aom.is/augustine.
When Don Greene was a springboard diver in high school and college, his performances were erratic -- sometimes they'd be amazing and sometimes embarrassing. None of his coaches could explain why that happened to him, so Don set out to find the answers himself.
After serving as an Army Ranger and Green Beret, and getting his PhD in sports psychology, Don has spent decades coaching Olympic divers, professional athletes, race car drivers, opera singers, classical musicians, and Wall Street traders in how not to choke under pressure. He shares the principles he uses as a stress coach in Fight Your Fear and Win: Seven Skills for Performing Your Best Under Pressure. Today we talk about those skills, beginning with why people choke in the first place, and what's going on in your mind when that happens. We then talk about the fundamentals of managing performance anxiety and staying in right brain flow, including making adrenaline work for instead of against you, getting your mind centered, ignoring distractions, and becoming mentally tough. We also discuss how to thwart negative self-talk through a practice Don calls "thought monitoring," and his 5-step strategy for recovering when you do make a mistake.
Get the show notes at aom.is/dontchoke.
In the summer of 1954, two groups of 8- to 11-year-old boys were taken to a summer camp in Oklahoma and pitted against each other in competitions for prizes. What started out as typical games of baseball and tug-of-war turned into violent night raids and fistfights, proving that humans in groups form tribal identities that create conflict.
This is the basic outline of a research study many are still familiar with today: the Robbers Cave experiment. But it's only one part of the story.
My guest dug into the archival notes of this famous and controversial social experiment to find unknown and unreported details behind what really happened and why. Her name is Gina Perry and her book is The Lost Boys: Inside Muzafer Sherif's Robbers Cave Experiment. We begin our conversation by discussing what the Robbers Cave experiment purported to show and the influence the experiment has had on social psychology since. We then discuss the similarities between head researcher Muzafer Sherif's ideas about the behavior of boys in groups with those of William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies, and how both men's ideas were influenced by their personal experiences in war. We also dig into the general connection between children's summer camps and psychological studies in the 19th century. Then turning to the Robbers Cave experiment itself, Gina shares how that experiment wasn't Sherif's first attempt at this kind of field study, and how it had been preceded by another experiment in which the boys turned on the researchers. She describes how Sherif and his assistants attempted to get different results at Robbers Cave by goading the boys into greater conflict and how they got the boys to reconcile after whipping them up into a competitive frenzy. At the end of our conversation, Gina talks about finding the boys who were in the experiment and what these now grown men thought of the experience, and we discuss whether or not there's anything to be learned from Robbers Cave on the nature of group conflict.
Get the show notes at aom.is/robberscave.
Friendship is arguably the most unique type of relationship in our lives. Friendships aren't driven by sexual attraction or by a sense of duty, as in romantic and familial relationships, but instead are entirely freely chosen.
My guest today says that's part of why friendship is both uniquely wonderful and uniquely challenging. His name is Bill Rawlins, he's a professor of interpersonal communication, and he's spent his career studying the dynamics of friendship and authored several books on the subject, including Friendship Matters. Bill and I begin our conversation discussing why friendship is often taken for granted, and what makes friendships unique from other types of relationships. We then explore the four particular tensions that arise in friendship: the tension between independence and dependence, affection and instrumentality, judgement and acceptance, and expressiveness and protectiveness. We also talk about how these tensions manifest in male friendships versus female friendships, and whether it's true as is commonly said that modern men don't have good friendships. We then shift into talking about how friendships change across the life cycle, starting with how kids think about friendship differently than adults. We unpack why it is we often think of the friends we made in adolescence as the best friends we ever had, and why many men stop having good friends in adulthood. We end our conversation with Bill's advice for making friends as a grown-up.
Lots of insights in this show on a relationship that isn't typically examined or well understood.
Get the show notes at aom.is/friendship.
The holiday season is upon us. It's a time for getting cozy, making memories, and looking forward to the new year ahead.
My guest today has plenty of research-backed insights on how to take each of those things to the next level. His name is Meik Wiking, and he's the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute and the author of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, as well as The Art of Making Memories: How to Create and Remember Happy Moments. We begin our discussion exploring the Danish concept of hygge, which is the art of getting cozy, and how it helps Danes survive their long, harsh winters. Mike also discusses his research on how to create lasting memories. We then combine these ideas to explore how lighting, food, scent, and more can help you inject more hygge into the holiday season, and make Christmas and the coming year your most memorable yet.
You'll want to grab a hot cocoa and wrap yourself in a blanket before cozying up to this show.
Get the show notes at aom.is/cozy.
According to my guest today, many of the world's most eminent leaders, thinkers, athletes, and artists have one thing in common: they cultivate stillness in their lives.
His name is Ryan Holiday and in his latest book, Stillness Is the Key, he highlights how great individuals have used stillness to do great things. We begin our discussion with how Ryan describes stillness, what it means to find stillness in mind, body, and soul, and how an individual can have stillness in one of these areas, but chaos in another. Ryan shares what we can learn about stillness of mind from JFK's handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis and how journaling and limiting media inputs can help us foster our own mental stillness. We then discuss the myth that relationships hold you back in life, and how they can in fact help you find both greater achievement, and stillness of soul. We also discuss what we can learn from Winston Churchill on how to find physical stillness, and why having hobbies is so important to finding balance in life.
Get the show notes at aom.is/stillness.
We live in an age of disruption. Companies that were once stalwarts are overtaken by small, plucky upstarts. Our personal lives can also be disrupted. We lose a job or a business fails.
My guest today says that instead of waiting to be disrupted by outside forces, you're better off using techniques developed by intelligence agencies and the military to disrupt yourself first. His name is Bryce Hoffman and he's the author of the book Red Teaming: How Your Business Can Conquer the Competition by Challenging Everything. We begin our show discussing what red teaming is and the history of its development, from wargaming by 19th century Prussians to more sophisticated techniques developed by the US military during the war on terrorism. Bryce and I discuss the hidden biases that red teaming is designed to counter, and then get into the specific red teaming techniques you can start using today to challenge your assumptions, stress-test your strategies, identify unseen threats, and make better decisions in both your personal life and your business.
Get the show notes at aom.is/redteaming.
Our ancestors were able to navigate long distances, find water, and even predict the weather simply by looking at their environment. My guest today says we still have this nature instinct inside of us and with a little practice, we can revive it.
His name is Tristan Gooley, he's an outdoorsman and author, and his latest book is The Nature Instinct: Learn to Find Direction, Sense Danger, and Even Guess Nature’s Next Move—Faster Than Thought. Today on the show we discuss how humans have the ability to simply look at something in nature and immediately see direction, time, or weather conditions. While modern humans have lost this ability, Tristan makes the case that with some practice, anyone can re-learn it. We then discuss how learning how to read nature intuitively makes us more engaged with our surroundings and able to see more significance in our environment. Tristan then shares signs to look for in nature to anticipate animal behavior, find water, and predict the weather. After listening to this show, you'll never look at squirrels the same way.
Get the show notes at aom.is/natureinstinct.
If boxing and Parkinson's disease are thought of together, it's usually in terms of the former causing the latter.
But my guest today makes the case that boxing workouts can actually be used to fight Parkinson's disease. His name is Aaron Sloan, he's a registered nurse, the owner of Engine Room Boxing gym here in Tulsa, OK, and the founder of Ready to Fight, a boxing fitness program catered specifically to those suffering from Parkinson's disease. We begin our conversation with an overview of what Parkinson's is, as well as the fact that men are significantly more likely to get it than women. Aaron then shares what the research says about the best treatments for Parkinson's, why vigorous, high-intensity exercise is one of the most potent remedies for it, and why he argues that boxing is the gold standard when it comes to the type of exercise that's most effective in slowing down the disorder. Aaron shares how he started Ready to Fight based on this premise, and a few stories of how the lives of Parkinson's patients and their families are being changed by the program. We then discuss whether boxing also causes Parkinson's and how Aaron answers the criticism that he trains people in a sport that also creates the disorder he's trying to alleviate. We end our conversation discussing what individuals with Parkinson's can do to learn more about incorporating boxing workouts into its treatment.
Get the show notes at aom.is/readytofight.
All of us are a part of teams at work and in our community. Even our families are teams. And most of us serve as both members and leaders of these teams. How then can we be our best in both roles?
My guest today has spent his career gaining on-the-ground answers to this question through his experiences as a Marine and special operator in the military and a leadership trainer of corporate and athletic teams as a civilian. His name is Eric Kapitulik, and he's the founder of the team and leadership development company The Program and the co-author of a book with the same name.
Today on the show Eric and I take a deep yet punchy dive into the keys of team and leadership development, and how these principles can be applied whether you're leading a family, a sports team, or a business. We begin our conversation discussing the biggest problems Eric sees in the teams he works with, why resolving most of these issues begins with the definition of core values, and how someone can figure out what their core values are. Eric then explains the difference between goals and standards and why teams should focus more on instilling standards and holding team members accountable to them. We then discuss the difference between being kind and being nice, why leading by example is insufficient, how Eric defines hard work, and the two excuses you need to eliminate from your life.
Get the show notes at aom.is/theprogram.
Walking. It can seem, well, rather pedestrian.
But my guest today makes the case that walking can act as a gateway to explore memory, meaning, and what it means to be human. His name is Erling Kagge, he’s an adventurer and philosopher, and we had him on the show last year to discuss his book Silence (that's episode 433). Erling’s latest book is called Walking, and we begin our conversation discussing the connection between bipedal locomotion and silence and how walking instead of driving can help slow down time and deepen our memories. Erling makes the case that embracing voluntary hardship can enrich your life and how walking can be a step towards that. He then shares why going for a walk can help you solve problems, why most great philosophers were also committed walkers, what the Adam and Eve story can teach us about the need for exploration, and how walking can be one of the most radical things you can do in the modern age.
You'll want to take a walk after listening to this show, or maybe you'll walk while you're listening.
Get the show notes at aom.is/walking.
Asking for a raise. Disagreeing with your boss. Telling your neighbor that their dog's barking is bothering you. Talking about money with your spouse. Debating politics with a friend. These are all difficult conversations fraught with anxiety, anger, and awkwardness. Many people just avoid them, but my guest says that with the right framework, you can handle even the most pitfall-laden exchanges. Her name is Sheila Heen, she's spent twenty years developing negotiation theory and practice as part of the Harvard Negotiation Project, and she's one of the co-authors of the book Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. Sheila starts things off by sharing the most common difficult conversations people encounter professionally and personally and the most common unhelpful ways people deal with them. She then explains how every difficult conversation actually has three hidden conversations going on, how people confuse the impact of what others say and do with their intentions, how you can acknowledge your contribution to a problem without assuming the blame, how to share your emotions without being emotional, and how to generally move a conversation from being about combative confrontation, to being about exploring each other's stories.
Get the show notes at aom.is/difficultconversations.
In the first year of his presidency, the press used Theodore Roosvelt's name in connection with the word "strenuous" over 10,000 times. He was known as "the strenuous president," and with good reason: from his youth, TR had lived and preached a life of vigorous engagement and plenty of physical activity.
Today on the show Ryan Swanson, professor of sports history and author of The Strenuous Life: Theodore Roosevelt and the Making of the American Athlete, discusses not only how TR was shaped by what was called "the strenuous age," but how he shaped it in turn by promoting sports, and participating in athletics himself. We begin our discussion with what was going on during the late 19th century that got people interested in what was then called "physical culture." We then turn to the beginning of Roosevelt's introduction to vigorous exercise as a boy, and how he famously decided to make his body. We discuss TR's fitness routine when he went to Harvard, and how his becoming a fan of football there led to him supporting the preservation of the game as president. We then discuss how TR lived the strenuous life while in the White House, and thereby inspired the American public to live vigorously too. We take a fun look at what TR thought of the game of baseball, how he went to a health farm at age 58 to get back in fighting shape, and what kind of exercise and athletics TR would be into if he were alive today.
Get the show notes at aom.is/strenuouspresident.
Many of us want to learn a new skill or master a new area of expertise, either to further or change our career or simply for the sake of personal fulfillment. But going deep in a subject seems like it would take a long time, and even require going back to school, something most of us don't have the time, money, and desire to do.
My guest today says there's another way. His name is Scott Young and he's the author of Ultralearning: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career. We begin our conversation with Scott's successful experiment of doing all the course work for a computer science degree from MIT in less than a year and for free and how this opened Scott up to the idea of "ultralearning." We then discuss the economic benefits of learning how to learn, as well as the personal benefits that come from mastering new skills as adults. In the second half of our conversation, we get into the practical techniques of the ultralearning method, including creating a plan for your learning project, choosing active over passive learning, and drilling effectively. Scott and I end our discussion with how to figure out what feedback to listen to and what to ignore as you're learning a new project.
Get the show notes at aom.is/ultralearning.
Nearly everyone has experienced the sense of being nudged and prompted to take certain actions. These intuitive hints can spur us to do big things like change jobs, or smaller things like text a friend.
My guest today says that these are callings, and that if we don't answer them, they'll continue to rememerge and can haunt us til the day we die. His name is Gregg Levoy and he's the author of Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life. We begin our conversation discussing what exactly a calling is and why it's not necessarily the same thing as a vocation. Gregg then shares how callings come to people, why they're sometimes unpleasant and challenging, and what you can do to attune yourself to their signals. Gregg then shares different ways people go about figuring out their calling, including rites of passage, traveling, art, and community. We get into how you figure out if something you think is a calling is actually a calling or not, and the idea that while every calling demands a response, that response can be negotiated. We end our conversation discussing what happens when your calling ends in what looks like failure.
Get the show notes at aom.is/callings.
You've probably observed families in which one of the kids is super resilient and easy-going while the other is super sensitive and anxious. Same family, same parents, but two extremely different children. What gives?
My guest today says that some kids are like robust dandelions, while others are like fragile orchids. And while the fragility of orchid children might seem like a liability, in the right circumstances, these kids can actually thrive to an even greater extent than their dandelion peers. His name is W. Thomas Boyce, and he's a developmental pediatrician and professor of pediatrics, as well as the author of the book The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive. We begin our conversation discussing the respective attributes of dandelion and orchid children and how the increased reactivity of the latter influences their health, emotional well-being, and development. Tom then explains how orchid children can be both the healthiest and sickest of children, depending on the environment in which they're raised. We then discuss the theories as to what causes orchid children to be orchid children, including genetics and environmental factors. We end our conversation with tips for parents of sensitive children on how to help them thrive and succeed.
Get the show notes at aom.is/orchid.
The Sultan of Swat. The Colossus of Clout. The King of Crash. The Great Bambino.
Babe Ruth died over 70 years ago, but his legend still lives on in big league stadiums and little league fields across America. While we know a lot about Ruth's baseball career, little was known about his early life and how it shaped him to become America's first superstar athlete and celebrity. My guest today sought to remedy that in her recently published biography: The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created. Her name is Jane Leavy, and she's a former sports journalist and the author of two other biographies of baseball greats. We begin our conversation discussing Ruth's sad and difficult childhood in a Baltimore boarding school and how he learned to play baseball from the Xaverian brothers who ran it. We then shift to how Ruth's hunger for affirmation helped him become the country's first real celebrity, and how his baseball career coincided with the burgeoning fields of public relations and technology, ushering in a new era in sports writing, endorsements, and entertainment. We end our conversation discussing Ruth's legacy in the world, and business, of professional sports.
Get the show notes at aom.is/ruth.
If you struggle with feeling distracted, you likely think that modern technology is to blame, and that if your phone wasn't so infuriatingly desirable to check, you'd be a lot more focused and productive.
But my guest today argues that the problem of distraction doesn't lie with technology, but with you. His name is Nir Eyal, and he's a behavioral design expert and the author of Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. Today on the show we first discuss Nir's work in helping companies create apps that hook people into using them, and why he thinks these methods of attraction can be positive as long as you put tech in its place. We then dig into how to do that, beginning with the idea that you can't complain about being distracted, if you don't know what you're distracted from, how the first step in getting control of your attention is understanding what you'd like to be doing with it by planning out your time, and why the opposite of distraction isn't focus. We discuss why time management is pain management, and why we need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable internal triggers that prompt us to use our devices for emotional pacification. Nir then walks us through how to deal with the external triggers of distraction, including managing your email inbox, making pre-commitments, and turning indistractability into part of your identity.
Get the show notes at aom.is/indistractable.
If you struggle to lose weight, you may blame an inherently slow metabolism. But is your metabolism really to blame, and can you increase it in order to burn more fat?
Today we tackle these questions and more with Dr. John Berardi, who earned a PhD in exercise physiology and nutrient biochemistry, and is a writer, athlete, coach, and professor, as well as the co-founder of Precision Nutrition and the founder of the Change Maker Academy. John and I begin our discussion with what metabolism is, the components that make it up, how much each element contributes to your body's energy expenditures, and which can be controlled. We then get into whether or not it's true that some people have an inherently slow or fast metabolism, and how diet and exercise influences your metabolism, including whether or not dieting itself can slow your metabolism down, and why you might want to consider wearing a weight vest around once you lose body fat. We then discuss how intermittent fasting can increase your metabolic flexibility, whether there are certain foods that boost your metabolic rate, and the best exercise routine for optimizing your metabolism. We also also talk about how stress and sleep effect your metabolic health. We end our conversation with John's best tips for maintaining optimal metabolic health and losing weight in general.
Get the show notes at aom.is/metabolism.
Lou Ferrantewas a mobster who worked for the Gambino crime family and made a trade out of hijacking trucks loaded with expensive goods. Eventually, the law caught up with him and he ended up in prison. There, he discovered a love for reading and writing which set off a personal transformation that led to him leaving the mafia. After his stint in jail, Lou went on to become an author and the host of a Discovery Channel documentary series called Inside the Gangsters' Code.
Today on the show, I first talk to Lou about his early life of crime and the autodidactic education he gave himself in prison. Lou shares the books that had the biggest impact on him, including works of history, philosophy, and fiction. We then shift gears to discuss Lou's work on Inside the Gangsters' Code, the idea of honor that the mafia and other gangs share, and what it means to practice omertà. We end our conversation discussing why young men join gangs and the human needs they fill.
Get the show notes at aom.is/gangsterscode.
While the divorce rate has fallen over the last several decades, plenty of couples still don't pass the test of time. Fortunately, the odds as to whether or not you divorce are not a matter of pure chance, but something you can improve with intentionality.
My guest has some research-backed advice on how. His name is Scott Stanley, he's a professor of psychology at the University of Denver and the co-author of the book Fighting for Your Marriage. We last had Scott on the show to talk about the problem with ambiguity in relationships. Today we begin our conversation discussing how marriage issues have changed since he originally published Fighting for Your Marriage in 1994 and the state of American marriage in the 21st century. Scott then shares the biggest issues he sees pop up in marriages over and over again, such as escalating arguments and avoiding conflict. We then discuss communication skills you can use to defuse these common marital conflicts, including uncovering hidden issues and establishing ground rules for arguments. Scott then makes the case that in addition to mitigating conflict, happy couples need to focus on creating positive encounters with one another. We end our conversation discussing how to grow in your commitment to your marriage.
Get the show notes at aom.is/fightingformarriage.
Why do some NFL teams dominate year after year? Some would chalk it up to talent, but my guest today says it all comes down to the culture the head coach intentionally develops for the entire organization.
His name is Michael Lombardi and he's the author of Gridiron Genius: A Master Class in Building Teams and Winning at the Highest Level. For over three decades, Lombardi has worked as a general manager or coach for various NFL teams and alongside some of the greatest coaches of the game, including Bill Walsh, Al Davis, and Bill Belichick. Today on the show, Michael walks us through what these coaches did to develop high performing teams and how those lessons can apply to leaders in other kinds of organizations as well. We begin our conversation discussing how legendary 49ers coach Bill Walsh created standards of performance and a culture of excellence that turned the worst team in the league into Super Bowl champions within two years.
Michael then shares the qualities top coaches and players possess, and how recruiters of every kind can really figure out whether or not someone will be successful at the next level. Michael then shares what leaders can learn from Walsh's innovating West Coast offense, why Belichick obsesses about special teams, how he and Nick Saban came up with a new approach to defense, and how Belichick prepares for games and fights complacency. We also get into the importance of how a QB carries himself, and why it's important to begin a drive down the field with an energizing play. We end our conversation with Michael's predictions for the future of football, including how we're starting to see a return to the game's rugby roots.
Get the show notes at aom.is/gridiron.
Whether sitting next to someone on the subway, mingling at a wedding, or chatting around the water cooler, chances to make conversation and new friends abound in our lives. But how do you meet and talk to people without being awkward about it?
My guest today has spent over three decades teaching people from all walks of life how to make small talk and socialize. His name is Don Gabor, and he's the author of several books, including the one we're talking about today, How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends.
We begin our conversation discussing where Don sees people have the most problems with starting and sustaining conversations, as well as whether these issues have or haven't changed over the last thirty years. Don then walks us through how you can make yourself more approachable for small talk, why body language is so key in this area, and the best way to give a handshake. We then discuss how to break the ice with someone you've just made contact with, how to handle rejection, and how to remember people's names after you meet them. Don then shares how to keep the conversation going by offering up and homing in on certain keywords. We end our conversation, with how to end a conversation.
Get the show notes at aom.is/conversation.
The standard route to success in modern life goes as follows: work hard in high school, score high on your SAT, get into a good college, do well in your classes, get a good job.
For some people, that path works, but for a lot of people, it leaves them disengaged and frustrated because it doesn't actually lead to a life of fulfillment.
My guest today has spent his academic career studying individuals who have bucked the standard formula for achievement and found success on their own terms. His name is Todd Rose. He's a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the co-author of the book Dark Horse: Achieving Success Through the Pursuit of Fulfillment. We begin our conversation discussing what Todd calls the "Standardization Covenant," including how it developed to serve institutions rather than individuals and why following the standard path often leads to frustration. Todd then explains his idea of an alternative "Dark Horse Covenant" and what it looks like theoretically and in the lives of those who've followed it. He then walks us through the steps that dark horses follow to find success and fulfillment on their own terms, including focusing on "micromotives" to figure out where you fit, making decisive choices, creating your own options, and trying new strategies until you find something that works. We end our conversation with how Todd would like to see the Dark Horse dynamic incorporated into our educational system.
Get the show notes at aom.is/darkhorse.
Have you ever walked into a room to get something, only to forget why you walked into that room in the first place? Do you constantly forget where you parked your car in a parking garage? Or have trouble remembering people's names?
After today's episode, you'll be well on your way to never forgetting these things again because my guest is champion memory athlete Nelson Dellis and he's got plenty of advice on how to improve your own memory, even if you think yours stinks. Nelson is the author of the book Remember It!, and we begin our show discussing the world of memory competitions, how Nelson got involved with them, and what records he's notched so far. Nelson then corrects a couple common myths people have about memory and makes the case for why you ought to care about improving your own. He shares the overarching system he recommends to improve your ability to retain information, and how to use it to remember where you parked, people's names, and the items on your to-do list. Nelson also explains the reason we forget what we walked into a certain room to get, and what to do if that happens to you. He then walks us through how walking through a "memory palace" can help you remember lists, speeches, and more.
Plenty of action-ready, easy-to-remember tips in this show.
Get the show notes at aom.is/rememberit.
When you think about people getting scammed, you probably think of the elderly getting conned out of money over the phone.
But my guest today says that Millennials are actually more likely to get scammed than senior citizens, and in fact, anybody of any age can get conned. He should know: he's a former con man himself. His name is Frank Abagnale and his early life in which he forged checks and assumed various identities, including that of an airline pilot and doctor, was made famous by the movie Catch Me If You Can. After he served time for his crimes, he dedicated the next 50 years of his life to helping the government and businesses fight fraud. His most recent book, Scam Me If You Can: Simple Strategies to Outsmart Today's Rip-off Artists, aims to educate regular citizens about the most common scams out there and how to avoid them. Today on the show Frank gives us the inside dirt on a bunch of different modern cons, from romance scams to investment fraud to scams involving rental properties. He reveals the insidious ways that scammers have gotten more sophisticated with their cons, the red flags to look for when you're approached with one, and how to avoid getting duped. And he explains why he's never used a debit card.
Get the show notes at aom.is/scam.
When we seek an example of great leadership, one man who often comes to mind is Winston Churchill -- the iconic, visionary prime minister, who guided his country through war and stood firmly for his beliefs and impervious to his critics. But how did Winston become the legendary British Bulldog?
My guest today seeks to answer that question in his biography, Churchill: Walking with Destiny. His name is Andrew Roberts, he's a journalist and historian, and we begin our conversation discussing why he thought another Churchill biography was needed. We then shift to the life of Churchill, beginning with a childhood in which young Winston often felt neglected. Andrew then discusses Churchill's military career, why Winston was so eager to see action on the frontlines, and how he parlayed those experiences into becoming the world's highest paid journalist by his mid-twenties. Andrew then explains how Churchill also became one of the 20th century's great historians and how his appreciation of history and sentimental outlook colored his worldview and shaped his leadership. We also discuss why Churchill was one of the few leaders to foresee the threat that Hitler posed. We end our conversation discussing whether some of the current criticisms of Churchill, such as the allegation that he masterminded genocide in India, really hold weight.
Get the show notes at aom.is/churchill.
Over ten years ago, I read the book Getting Things Done by David Allen. I've been using the tactics and strategies that he laid out in the book in managing tasks and, well, getting things done, ever since. David's out with a new workbook to accompany his classic bestseller, and I have the pleasure to speak with him today about his philosophy and system for managing life. We begin our conversation discussing how David came up with the GTD system in the first place and how it differs from other time management systems out there. David then explains what the "mind like water" mantra is about and how the GTD system helps you clear your head. We then dig into the specific steps of getting things done, including capturing ideas, clarifying tasks into action, organizing those actions, reflecting on your action list, and, of course, taking action!
This is a time management system I can personally endorse, so if you're not familiar with it or have fallen off the GTD wagon, I recommend giving this show a listen.
Get the show notes at aom.is/gtd.
When Paul Kalanathi was 36 years old, he was on the cusp of finishing a decade's worth of training to become a neurosurgeon -- a profession he felt called to. But then he learned he had terminal stage four lung cancer. In a single moment, everything changed in his life. For the next twenty two months, Paul and his wife Lucy grappled with how to live life even when you know you have limited time left. In his last few months, Paul wrote a memoir about this search for meaning in life and death, as well as his experience as a medical student, neurosurgeon, and cancer patient. Entitled When Breath Becomes Air, the book was published shortly after he died.
Today, I talk to Paul's widow, Dr. Lucy Kalanathi, about Paul's journey to uncover insights about meaning and significance during his time as both doctor and patient. Along the way, Lucy shares insights about the human side of healthcare, delivering and receiving bad news, and how your identity and sense of self changes when you're diagnosed with a terminal disease. She also shares her experience of being a widow and of the grieving process, as well as what to say and not say to someone who's grappling with a tragedy.
Get the show notes at aom.is/breathbecomesair.
Quick, name the president who's on the dime. Or think about the letters and numbers on your license plate. Were you stumped for a moment? That's the strange thing about our powers of observation: we can look at something a thousand times, and never really notice it.
Our struggle to notice what's around us is even worse in our Smartphone Age, where we often have tunnel vision that limits itself to a little handheld screen.
My guest today wrote a book that aims to help us recapture the keen use of our senses. His name is Rob Walker, he's the author of The Art of Noticing, and he argues that tuning into things normally overlooked not only provides fodder for art and business, but can make life seem more vibrant and engaging. Rob and I begin our conversation discussing what it means to notice and the benefits that come from noticing. We then spend the rest of the conversation walking through several exercises you can start doing today to strengthen your noticing muscles, including creating observational scavenger hunts and collections. Rob also suggests several ways to notice overlooked things at museums and why looking at the world like there's a dramatic heist about to go down causes you to notice more in your environment.
Get the show notes at aom.is/noticing.
We all know people who have a certain magnetism and charisma. What is it exactly that makes them so compelling?
My guest today explores that question in his book Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities That Make People Influential, and primarily locates the answer in two such hidden qualities: strength and warmth. His name is Matthew Kohut and today on the show he explains why it is we find the combination of strength and warmth so attractive in others, and how we can cultivate these traits ourselves, including in the way we dress, carry ourselves, and talk. Matt then gives advice on how to display strength and warmth in different situations we might find ourselves in, from acing a job interview to managing a crisis at work. We end our conversation with that most perennial question of body language: what to do with your hands when you speak.
Get the show notes at aom.is/compellingpeople.
In an effort to get more done and be our best selves, many of us have turned to "life hacks" that we find in blogs, books, and podcasts. I've personally experimented with several life hacks in the past decade, and we've even written about some on AoM. But are there downsides to trying to hack your way through life?
My guest took a look at both the positives and negatives of life hacking in his book, Hacking Life: Systemized Living and Its Discontents. His name is Joseph Reagle, and he's a professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University. We begin our conversation with a history of the life hacking movement and how blogging in the early 2000s made this obscure cultural movement amongst computer programmers go mainstream. Joseph then discusses how he distinguishes between "nominal life hacking" and "optimal life hacking" and between "geeks" and "gurus." We then discuss some of the beneficial productivity and motivation hacks out there, but also how there are ways they can go astray -- including only working for a certain class of people and becoming too much of a focus in life. We also discuss how the minimalism movement can sometimes lead to contradictory impulses, and end our conversation talking about how using spiritual practices like meditation or Stoicism as hacks can strip them of their deeper contexts.
Get the show notes at aom.is/hackinglife.
Which should you do first when you work out -- cardio or weights? How long does it take to get in shape? How long does it take to get out of shape? How important is your form when you run? Does exercise really contribute to fat loss? Does music help or hurt your athletic performance?
These are the kinds of questions folks have about exercise, and have trouble finding good answers to. The advice out there on blogs and magazines is often confusing and contradictory. My guest today set out to cut through the noise by finding the best research-backed answers to these questions and more in his book Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? Fitness Myths, Training Truths, and Other Surprising Discoveries from the Science of Exercise. His name is Alex Hutchinson, and he started out as a Cambridge-trained physicist and a long-distance runner on the Canadian national team, and is now a journalist and author. Today on the show, Alex walks us through what the scientific literature says about some of the most common fitness and health questions out there. This is a fun and interesting conversation packed with lots of useful insights. Will your own theories and practices be confirmed or challenged? Listen in to find out!
Get the show notes at aom.is/fitnessfaq.
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was one of the last Stoic philosophers and today is arguably the best known. Thanks to his personal writings that eventually became Meditations, Marcus left us with concrete exercises to put Stoicism into action.
My guest today explores this Stoic tradition and connects it with modern psychotherapy in his book How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius. His name is Donald Robertson, and he's a Scottish philosopher and cognitive psychotherapist. We begin our conversation discussing the history of Stoicism and the overlooked beliefs the Stoics had. We then discuss the end goal of Stoicism and how it differed from other ancient philosophies like Aristotelian virtue ethics. Donald then explains the Stoic approach to emotions and the common misconceptions people have about Stoicism in that regard. We then dig into Stoic practices taken from Marcus Aurelius and discuss how modern cognitive psychology backs them up. Donald shares how the Stoics used language and daily meditations to manage their emotional life, and how they went about the psychology of goal-setting and dealing with success and failure.
Get the show notes at aom.is/marcus.
If you've read a lot of personal finance advice, you know that it usually concentrates on what you can't do -- what you shouldn't buy and how you shouldn't spend your money. What it doesn't often offer is a vision of what all that scrimping and saving is for.
My guest today argues that while knowing how to save money is hugely important, it's important to know how to spend it too. His name is Ramit Sethi and he's the author of the book I Will Teach You to Be Rich. It's now out as a revised second edition, ten years after of the publication of the original. We begin our discussion going over what has and hasn't changed over the past decade when it comes to personal finance. Ramit then makes the case that living what he calls a "rich life," involves not just knowing where to cut back on spending, but where to increase it in places he calls "money dials." We then get into some practical ways to better manage your money to ensure you spend less in areas you don't care about, and more in those you do, including how to manage and pay off credit card debt, the bank accounts you need and how to set them up so that your finances are automated, and why you need to start investing today. We end our discussion on the idea that the big money decisions that many people ignore are more important than the small ones that get a lot of attention.
Get the show notes at aom.is/richlife.
Self-help gurus, life coaches, and business consultants love to tell us that we must strive for constant self-improvement to realize our full potential and become truly happy. But it doesn't seem to work -- for many of us, life still seems hollow and meaningless. So focused are we on personal development and material possessions that we've overlooked the things that make life truly fulfilling and worthwhile.
But what are those things?
My guest today explores the answer to that question in his book Standpoints: 10 Old Ideas in a New World. His name is Svend Brinkmann, and he's a Danish philosopher and psychologist. We begin our conversation discussing why modern life can feel like liquid, and how the typical approach to personal development and self-help doesn't rescue us from drowning in it. Svend then contrasts the common approach to treating choices and people like instruments and means to an end with the idea of doing what's good simply because it is good. Svend argues that we can do that by standing firm on certain philosophic principles, and we spend the rest of our conversation discussing a few of what these are, including the importance of endowing others with dignity, making and keeping promises, and embracing responsibility.
Get the show notes at aom.is/standpoints.
If you're like most people these days, you probably rely on the turn-by-turn directions given by a smartphone app to navigate to where you want to go. While Google Maps has certainly made getting around a lot more convenient, my guest today makes the case that by relying on GPS to navigate, we're turning our backs on a skill that makes us uniquely human.
Her name is Maura O'Connor, and she's a journalist and the author of Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate. We begin our conversation discussing what goes on in our brain when we navigate and how we use the same part of the brain that we use for memory when we're getting around town. We then discuss how human navigation differs from animal navigation and the cultural tools that humans have developed over millennia to help them find their way, including storytelling and songs. Maura then shares research that suggests our language influences our sense of location and space and how our ancient ancestors sowed the seeds of the scientific method when they were tracking animals while hunting. We also discuss recent research that suggests relying too heavily on GPS may increase your risk for dementia and be linked to other mental health problems. We end our conversation by musing on how it is that using GPS can shrink your sense of autonomy, while navigating on your own feels existentially empowering.
Get the show notes at aom.is/wayfinding.
If you struggle with procrastination, goal-setting, and generally moving ahead in life, the heart of your struggles may be your view of time. More specifically, that you look at it too linearly.
That's the argument my guest today makes. His name is Steve Chandler, he's a success and business coach, and the author of many books, including the focus of our discussion today -- Time Warrior: How to Defeat Procrastination, People-Pleasing, Self-Doubt, Over-Commitment, Broken Promises and Chaos. At the beginning of our conversation, Steve shares how he personally overcame years of failure and addiction to find a fulfilling life and career. He then explains why looking at time too linearly can lead to putting things off to the future, overwhelm and over-thinking, and perpetually trying to find more information before moving on an idea. He argues that we're better served by adopting a concept of non-linear time management, which pushes us to approach life with a bias towards action, privilege the energy of "want to" over "know-how," and act in the now. We then discuss other tactics and mindsets you can adopt to become a "time warrior," including being creative rather than reactive, seeing life as a game, and serving people rather than pleasing them. We end our conversation with what to do when you feel like you don't know what to do with your life.
Get the show notes at aom.is/timewarrior.
Listen as you drive through most neighborhoods in America these days and you might notice something missing: the shrieks and laughter of kids playing outside.
When my guest today had kids, he decided he wasn't going to let them grow up in another quiet, morgue-like neighborhood. Instead, he was going to figure out why kids weren't playing outside anymore, and how to fix the problem. His name is Mike Lanza, and in his book Playborhood: Turn Your Neighborhood Into a Place for Play, he shares how he did just that. At the start of our conversation, Mike explains how he became an advocate for kids playing outside by themselves with minimal adult supervision. He shares his theories on why outdoor play has decreased, and why simply limiting screen time and participation in organized extracurriculars doesn't solve the problem. Mike then explains why you need a critical mass of kids to be playing outside before outdoor play becomes a norm, and what parents can do to create this critical mass by changing the environment in their yard and the social dynamics in their neighborhood.
Get the show notes at aom.is/playborhood.
Many of our goals in life -- from losing weight to saving more money -- require willpower. But what is willpower anyway, why does it feel like it fails us so often, and what can we do to make better use of it
My guest today explores the answers to these questions in her book: The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. Her name is Kelly McGonigal, and she's a psychology professor at Stanford. We begin our discussion discussing what exactly willpower is, how it can be described as an instinct, and what goes on in your brain when you utilize it. We also unpack the idea that there are really three different types of willpower: I won't power, I will power, and I want power, and how these powers can be increased.
We then spend the rest of our discussion digging into the limitations of willpower, so we can avoid putting ourselves in situations where it's likely to fail us. We talk about how shame, the people who surround us, and even, ironically, making progress with our goals, can all lead to the sapping or loosening of our willpower. We end our conversation with Kelly's best tips for getting the most out your willpower.
Get the show notes at aom.is/willpower.
You've probably experienced a few aha moments in your life. Moments where an idea for a new business or piece of art, or a solution to a sticky technical, relational, or philosophical problem, suddenly popped into your mind.
What causes these proverbial light bulbs to go off over our heads? What's going on in your brain when you experience an insight? And can you do anything to encourage more "aha" moments?
My guest has spent his career researching the answers to these questions. His name is John Kounios, and he's a professor of psychology and the author of the book The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain. We begin our conversation discussing how researchers define what an insight is, and examples of how scientists and musicians have experienced them. John then walks us through the stages that lead up to getting an insight and explains what is going on in our brains right before and at the moment we experience one. We end our conversation discussing ways you can increase your chances of receiving insights, including the kind of environment and even color that encourages them most.
Get the show notes at aom.is/eureka.
If you struggle with getting your financial house in order, you may feel that what you need is more information on how things like stocks or IRAs or budgets work. However, my guest today would say that what you actually need most of all, is a better understanding of the relationship that your parents' and even your grandparents' had with money, and how the "money scripts" they've passed down to you have affected your own thinking about finances.
His name is Brad Klontz; he's a psychologist who specializes in money issues and the author of Mind Over Money: Overcoming the Money Disorders That Threaten Our Financial Health. We begin our conversation discussing what Brad calls the Big Lie in personal finance. Brad then explains how money scripts form in your childhood, and can keep you from making progress with your finances in your adulthood. We dig into why you can feel shame over being both poor and rich, why it's hard to move ahead from the socio-economic status you came from and easy to get dragged back into a financial comfort zone, and how you can break out of old ingrained patterns. We end our conversation with how to be more intentional about the money scripts you're passing down to your own kids, including why you shouldn't tell them, "We can't afford that."
Get the show notes at aom.is/moneyscripts.
The author Robert Heinlein famously said: “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
Compelling as that sounds, why do so many of us fall short of that kind of ideal, and cease to learn new and different skills in our adulthood? My guest would say it's because we approach learning the wrong way. His name is Robert Twigger, and he's the author of Micromastery: Learn Small, Learn Fast, and Unlock Your Potential to Achieve Anything.
Today on the show, Robert makes the case that we often fail to learn new things because we feel we have to learn the whole field of a subject, which is overwhelming, tedious, and de-motivating. A better approach, he says, is to first master just one distinct skill that's part of said subject, or what he calls a micromastery. We discuss what micromasteries are, why they keep you motivated to continue learning in that field and in general, the benefits of lifelong learning, and why specialization is indeed for insects. We also discuss what the punk rock scene of decades ago can teach you about tackling new skills. We end our conversation with Robert's use of omelette making as a case study in micromastery.
Get the show notes at aom.is/micromastery.
How does the way men experience spirituality differ from the way women engage it? What obstacles particularly keep men from experiencing greater meaning in their lives, and what paradigm shifts help them find it?
My guest today has been thinking about those questions over the six decades he's served as a Franciscan friar. His name is Richard Rohr, and he's authored numerous books and devoted a significant part of his vocation to working with men -- both ministering to those who are incarcerated, and in leading male initiation rituals and retreats.
If you enjoyed my discussion last month with David Brooks about life's first and second mountain, you'll want to listen to this one. Father Rohr has long taught the same concept, arguing that life is divided into a first and second half. We begin our discussion by exploring the difference between these two halves, and what it takes to move to the second half of life, including embracing non-dualistic thinking. We also talk about what prevents men from maturing into the second half of life, including having "father wounds." We then discuss how male spirituality differs from female spirituality, why church doesn't appeal to men, the male need for initiation, and what it means to do shadow work. We end our conversation with what fathers can do to help their sons embrace the spiritual side of life.
Get the show notes at aom.is/rohr.
For nearly 400 years, the Comanche tribe controlled the southern plains of America. Even as Europeans arrived on the scene with guns and metal armor, the Comanches held them off with nothing but horses, arrows, lances, and buffalo hide shields. In the 18th century, the Comanches stopped the Spanish from driving north from Mexico and halted French expansion westward from Louisiana. In the 19th century, they stymied the development of the new country by engaging in a 40-year war with the Texas Rangers and the U.S. military. It wasn't until the latter part of that century that the Comanches finally laid down their arms.
How did they create a resistance so fierce and long lasting?
My guest today explores that question in his book Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History. His name is Sam Gwynne, and we begin our discussion by explaining where the Comanches were from originally and how their introduction to the horse radically changed their culture and kickstarted their precipitous rise to power. Sam then explains how the Comanches shifted from a hunting culture to a warrior culture and how their warrior culture was very similar to that of the ancient Spartans. We then discuss the event that began the decline of the Comanches: the kidnapping of a Texan girl named Cynthia Ann Parker. Sam explains how she went on to become the mother of the last great war chief of the Comanches, Quanah, why Quanah ultimately decided to surrender to the military, and the interesting path his life took afterward.
This is a fascinating story about an oft-overlooked part of American history. Get the show notes at aom.is/comanches.
Oftentimes, our ancient brains don't seem well equipped to deal with the speed and complexities of modernity. The landscape bombards us with perceived threats and problems, and we have trouble not ruminating on them. To navigate this environment, while maintaining our composure and sanity, we need to strengthen our resistance to stress.
My guest today has written a guidebook to how that's done. Her name is Dr. Mithu Storoni, and she's a medical doctor who also holds a PhD in Neuro-ophthalmology, as well as the author of Stress-Proof: The Scientific Solution to Protect Your Brain and Body — and Be More Resilient Every Day. Today on the show we discuss the difference between acute stress and chronic stress and why acute stress can actually be good for you, while chronic stress can change your brain so that you get more stressed out when you experience stress. We discuss how both cortisol and inflammation can actually be beneficial in the right amounts, and how to get them in the right doses -- including the particular type of exercise that will best help you recover from stress, and the role diet and even Tetris can play in managing it. We end our conversation discussing how making time for hobbies can prevent you from falling into the stress trap.
Get the show notes at aom.is/stressproof.
Teddy Atlas was born to a well-respected doctor in a wealthy part of Staten Island. Most kids like him end up going to an Ivy League school to become some sort of white collar professional. Teddy? Teddy dropped out of high school, went to jail, and ended up becoming a trainer to 18 world champion boxers, including heavyweight champion Michael Moore, who defeated Evander Holyfield for the title in 1994.
Today on the show I talk to Teddy about how and why he took the path he did in life. Teddy explains how he ended up boxing under legendary trainer Cus D'Amato, and how Cus guided Teddy towards becoming a trainer himself. Teddy then shares stories of training kids in the Catskills, taking them to unsanctioned amateur fights in the Bronx, and the lessons he learned from boxing and his father about personal responsibility, managing fear, overcoming resistance, and what is means to be a man.
Get the show notes at aom.is/atlas.
Most marriage and relationship advice books focus on solving problems.
But my guests today argue that we shouldn't wait until problems arise in our relationship to work on strengthening it. Instead, they say, when times are good, we should think about how to keep that good, and act to make it even better.
Their names are James Pawelski and Suzann Pileggi Pawelski, and they're husband and wife. James has a background in philosophy, and they both have backgrounds in psychology. They combined insights from both fields to write the book Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts. We begin our conversation discussing how most relationship advice falls short, the biggest myths people have about relationships, and the contrast between Plato's and Aristotle's approach to relationships. We then dig into the role emotions play in a relationship, particularly passion, and what we can do to continue to cultivate and experience positive emotions in a marriage even after being together for years. We then dig into how our character influences our relationships and how our relationships influence our character. James and Suzann share insights on how and why to focus on our strengths, help our partners develop their strengths, and even go on a "strengths date" together. We end our conversation talking about the power of appreciation in relationships.
Get the show notes at aom.is/happytogether.
When you think about wit, what comes to mind? Someone who's quick with a funny remark?
My guest today says that while humor is one part of wit, it's really better thought of in a broader way, as a kind of "improvisational intelligence." His name is James Geary, and he's the author of Wit's End: What Wit Is, How It Works, and Why We Need It. Today on the show, we discuss all things witty. We begin our conversation describing the nature of wit, and how it's linked to one's all-around sense of resourcefulness. James then makes the case that instead of getting our contempt, puns should actually be praised as a sophisticated form of wit. We then dig into what fencing and jazz can teach us about the role of improvisation in wit, why we need wit more than ever these days, and what you can do to start being a bit more witty.
Get the show notes at aom.is/wit.
We're told that talent and hard work pays off. But we've all seen instances where people who were equally or even less talented and hard working than we are, still got the raise, the buzz, the promotion, or the recognition that we so keenly wanted for ourselves.
It can make a man downright cynical.
My guest today says that instead of getting jaded, you need to understand that hard work and talent, while necessary, aren't sufficient for success. His name is Albert-László Barabási, and he's a professor of network science and the author of the book The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success. We begin our conversation discussing how László's work in network science helped him uncover the hidden connections that lead to success. László then explains the difference between performance and success, and how it's possible to be a high performer, but not be successful. We then dig into the five universal laws that László and his researchers found cut across the achievement of success in every field, along with practical takeaways you can start implementing in your life to experience more success yourself.
Get the show notes at aom.is/formula.
We typically associate body image issues with women. But my guest today says that a quarter of people with eating disorders are male and that there are millions of men in America silently struggling with and obsessing over how they look -- even to the detriment of their health, careers, and relationships. His name is Dr. Roberto Olivardia. He's a professor of clinical psychology at Harvard and the co-author of the book The Adonis Complex: How to Identify, Treat, and Prevent Body Obsession in Men and Boys. We begin our conversation discussing how the "Adonis Complex" manifests itself in men and why male body image disorders are a fairly recent phenomenon. Roberto and I then dig into how the ideal male body has changed over the past few decades and how we've seen these inflated standards of male attractiveness show up in advertising, movies, and even action figures. Roberto then shares possible causes of male body image issues, which include, interestingly enough, increasing gender egalitarianism in the West.
We then dig into specific ways body image issues appear in men, including "bigorexia" or muscle dysmorphia, in which super jacked dudes think they're still too scrawny. Roberto then explains how eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia manifest themselves differently in men compared to women.
We end our conversation discussing the line between caring about how you look in a healthy way, and having a disorder, what to do if you're having problems with body image issues, and what parents can do to inoculate their sons from the Adonis Complex.
Get the show notes at aom.is/adoniscomplex.
Have you ever been sitting at your office desk and found yourself daydreaming about becoming a farmer?
My guest today has written a practical, all-encompassing handbook to help you turn that dream into a reality. His name is Forrest Pritchard. He's a farmer and the co-author of the book Start Your Own Farm: The Authoritative Guide to Becoming a Sustainable 21st Century Farmer. We begin our conversation discussing the state of the farming profession and the social and economic forces that have made it harder and harder to pursue. Despite the headwinds facing would-be farmers, Forrest makes the case for why farming can still be a fulfilling and financially sustainable profession. He then delves into the nitty gritty of starting and running a farm, including start-up costs, land acquisition, deciding on what to farm, creating multiple revenue streams, pricing product, and figuring out where to sell your goods. We then discuss the mental and emotional toll of farming and how to manage burnout.
If you've ever dreamed about becoming a farmer, this episode will provide a lot of useful information. Even if you don't want to become a farmer, you'll find this to be a surprisingly interesting look at a lesser known lifestyle, and gain insights that are applicable to any business and to life in general.
Get the show notes at aom.is/startyourfarm.
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.
Get the show notes at aom.is/secondmountain.
Whenever a financial or technological disaster takes place, people wonder if it could have possibly been averted.
My guests today say that the answer is often yes, and that the lessons around why big disasters happen can teach us something about preventing catastrophes in our businesses and personal lives. Their names are Chris Clearfield and Andras Tilcsik, and they're the authors of Meltdown: Why Our Systems Fail and What We Can Do About It.
We begin our discussion getting into how they got interested in exploring how everything from plane crashes to nuclear meltdowns to flash stock market crashes actually share common causes. We then discuss the difference between complicated and complex systems, why complex systems have weaknesses that make them vulnerable to failure, and how such complexity is on the rise in our modern, technological era. Along the way, Chris and Andras provide examples of complex systems that have crashed and burned, from the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor meltdown to a Starbucks social media campaign gone awry. We end our conversation digging into specific tactics engineers and organizations use to create stronger, more catastrophe-proof systems, and how regular folks can use these insights to help make their own lives run a bit more smoothly.
Get the show notes at aom.is/meltdown.
All of us will take on leadership roles at some point in our lives. What can you do to ensure your team performs at its highest level?
My guest today argues that it's all about caring about the people you lead.
His name is Alden Mills. He’s a former Navy SEAL platoon commander and the founder of Perfect Fitness -- the company that makes the Perfect Push-up. He's also written a couple books, including his latest: Unstoppable Teams. Today on the show, Alden and I discuss why caring about your team is the most important thing you can do as a leader. He walks us through what he calls his CARE loop which involves connecting with your team members on an emotional level, giving them autonomy to make decisions, and helping them progress as individuals. Along the way, Alden shares stories from his experience as a SEAL leader and business owner of how to put these principles into action.
Get the show notes at aom.is/unstoppableteams.
What does it mean to live a good life? How can we achieve that good life?
These are questions a Greek philosopher explored over 2,000 years ago in his Nicomachean Ethics. My guest today argues that the insights Aristotle uncovered millennia ago are still pertinent to us in the 21st century. Her name is Edith Hall, and she’s a classicist and the author of Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life. Today on the show we discuss what Aristotle thought the good life was and how it’s different from our modern conception of happiness. We then dig into how Aristotle believed the cultivation of virtue was a key part of living a flourishing life and why understanding your unique potential and purpose is also important. Edith then shares insights from Aristotle on how to handle misfortune and become a better decision maker, as well as the importance of relationships to human happiness.
Get the show notes at aom.is/aristotle.
This week marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings at Normandy. This amphibious Allied effort comprised a joint effort between British, Canadian, and American troops. Operation Overlord was massive in scope, and required effectively launching 12,000 planes and 7,000 vessels, landing 24,000 paratroopers into enemy territory, and transporting 160,000 troops across the English Channel and onto and over 50 miles of beaches.
To commemorate this epic operation, I talk to historian Alex Kershaw about his latest book, The First Wave: The D-Day Warriors Who Led the Way to Victory in World War II. We begin our conversation with the context of the invasion and how the plans for it began years before 1944. Alex then walks us through the pre-dawn missions that paved the way for the larger invasion in the morning and how perilously close these first missions came to failing. Along the way he tells the stories of individual men who took part in this sweeping operation, including Frank Lillyman, the first paratrooper to land in Normandy; Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., a 56-year-old general and son of President Theodore Roosevelt; and Lord Lovat, a Scottish commando who brought along his personal bagpiper to pipe the British commandos ashore on D-Day. Alex and I discuss why only four Medals of Honor and one Victoria Cross were awarded on D-Day, despite the high number of heroic acts performed that day by ordinary men placed in an extraordinary circumstances. We end our conversation discussing the legacy of D-Day three-fourths of a century later.
Get the show notes at aom.is/dday.
If you’ve ever been at an event with a prominent person like a politician, celebrity, or business executive, you’ve likely noticed the dudes wearing sunglasses and sporting an earpiece, trying to look as unassuming as possible while vigilantly keeping an eye out for their client, or “principal.”
These guys are part of a personal security detail, and their job is to protect VIPs from harassment and harm.
Most of us will likely never be able to afford our own bodyguard, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use the same mindset and skills these professionals use to protect their high-powered clients, to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
Today on the show, I talk to former executive bodyguard Nick Hughes about his book How to Be Your Own Bodyguard. We begin our conversation discussing Nick’s stint in the French Foreign Legion and how that transitioned to his work in executive protection. We then discuss how a bodyguard’s primary focus is to prevent violence or altercations from occurring in the first place and the tactics that can accomplish that goal. Nick walks us through how criminals pick out their victims, and how to avoid being targeted. We then discuss how to verbally defuse a situation before it turns to blows and the legal ramifications of self-defense. We end our conversation with tactics you can use to stay safe, whether you're vacationing abroad or driving the streets of your hometown.
Get the show notes at aom.is/bodyguard.
We often think that to become a success in today’s modern world, you have to specialize and specialize early. My guest today makes the case that, actually, the most creative, innovative, and successful people don’t specialize. They’re generalists.
His name is David Epstein and he’s the author of the book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. We begin our conversation discussing two different paths to success as embodied by Tiger Woods and Roger Federer, and why we’re naturally drawn to the former's specialized approach even though the latter's generalized approach is in fact the most common way to success. David then explains why our increasingly complex and abstract world requires not only having a depth but a breadth of knowledge, and how our education system hinders us from gaining such. David and I discuss why you shouldn't expect to know exactly what you're going to do for your career when you're young, why you should dabble in lots of different activities when you're first starting out in life and even when you're older, and why there's a correlation between having hobbies and winning the Nobel Prize. We also dig into why intrinsic motivation is often mistaken for grit, why you shouldn't be afraid to sometimes quit things, and the importance of finding pursuits that fit you if you want to achieve success. We end our conversation, with David's argument that our increasing specialization is not only stifling individual flourishing, but also getting in the way of scientific advances that would benefit society.
Get the show notes at aom.is/range.
When it comes to investing, your brain can be your best friend or your worst enemy. My guest today explains how, and what you can do to ensure your brain is a staunch ally in your quest for financial security. His name is Daniel Crosby, he’s a psychologist, behavioral finance expert, and the author of The Behavioral Investor. We begin our conversation discussing the surprising ways sociology and physiology influence our financial decisions. We then delve into the psychological factors that cause us to make bad investing decisions, including ego, conservatism, attention, and emotion. Daniel then walks us through ways you can mitigate those factors in your financial choices. We end our discussion outlining what an investing framework looks like based on principles of behavioral science.
While the principles discussed in this show relate to making sound choices in the area of financial investing, they're really relevant to making good decisions of every kind.
Get the show notes at aom.is/behavioralinvestor.
The Korean War is often overlooked by Americans. But this forgotten war played a big role in shaping the world order in the second half of the 20th century. What’s more, one of the most heroic and harrowing military operations in U.S. history took place deep in the snowy and bitterly cold mountains of North Korea, creating a legendary group of fighters who became known as the "Frozen Chosin."
My guest today has written a book that captures this event in military history. His name is Hampton Sides and his book is On Desperate Ground: The Marines at the Reservoir, the Korean War’s Greatest Battle. Hampton and I begin our discussion exploring why the Korean War is the forgotten war in American history and how the United States got involved in a conflict on the Korean peninsula in the first place. Hampton then talks about General Douglas MacArthur and how his unbridled ambition and hubris, as well as other glaring failures among military brass, led American troops into a frozen trap set by the Chinese. Hampton and I then discuss the epic Battle of the Chosin Reservoir and how 20,000 Marines fended off annihilation at the hands of over 300,000 Chinese soldiers in weather conditions that dropped to 20 degrees below zero. We end our conversation discussing the legacy of the Chosin Reservoir campaign.
Get the show notes at aom.is/koreanwar.
In the modern age, shame is often seen as an unmitigated bad. According to this popular view, all shame is negative and toxic and steps should be taken to avoid and rid oneself of it. My guest today, however, makes the contrarian case that some shame is actually necessary to develop a true sense of self.
His name is Joseph Burgo, he’s a clinical psychologist and the author of the book Shame: Free Yourself, Find Joy, and Build True Self-Esteem. Today on the show Joseph and I discuss what exactly shame is, what it feels like, and the difference between toxic shame and productive shame. Joseph then walks us through the sources of shame and how childhood shame can mark us for life. We then discuss tactics we use to mask or avoid feelings of shame, how these masking behaviors can sometimes get in the way of us making progress in our lives, and more productive ways to engage with shame. Joseph then digs into the culture of online shaming and the dangers we face as a society when we shame men by pathologizing healthy masculine attributes like assertiveness, risk taking, and competitiveness.
Get the show notes at aom.is/shame.
The human body is capable of doing a wide variety of movements, in a variety of environments. But my guest today argues that most modern people only do a few movements each day, commonly find themselves stuck in sterile surroundings, and that these confinements are sapping our physical and psychological health.
His name is Erwan Le Corre and he’s the founder of the MovNat physical fitness system and the author of the book The Practice of Natural Movement: Reclaim Power, Health, and Freedom. Today on the show Erwan explains what natural movement is, and our amazing human potential for walking, running, balancing, jumping, crawling, climbing, swimming, lifting, carrying, throwing, catching, and self-defense. We then discuss the cultural forces that have disconnected us and our children from our ability to perform these natural movements, and have turned us into "zoo humans." Erwan and I then dig into the benefits of engaging with natural movements, from improved mental and physical health to a greater sense of freedom. We end our conversation with Erwan's actionable advice on how you can easily incorporate more natural movement into your daily life.
Get the show notes at aom.is/naturalmovement.
Many people today are feeling stressed or overwhelmed by life. The typical approach to treating these issues is to learn how to manage one's symptoms through things like mindfulness or meditation. My guest today argues that mere management is insufficient. Instead, we need to tackle the root of what’s causing us to feel anxious, stuck, and generally lost—a decreasing sense of agency.
His name is Dr. Paul Napper and he’s a psychologist and the co-author of the book The Power of Agency: The 7 Principles to Conquer Obstacles, Make Effective Decisions, and Create a Life on Your Own Terms. Today on the show, Paul makes the case that the reason more and more people feel like they're floundering, is that they don't have a strong sense of personal agency. Paul explains what he means by agency, and why learning how to get better at thinking, acting, and making choices for yourself can be the real key to feeling less stuck in life. Paul and I then discuss the seven overarching principles of increasing your agency, as well tactics to put them into practice.
Get the show notes at aom.is/agency.
When it comes to your personal presentation, there’s one aspect that often gets overlooked: your voice.
Your voice is a big part of what makes you, you, and what makes you likable and influential. Yet you probably don't think too much about it.
Not to mention, my guest today argues, you’re likely not even using your true voice thanks to bad habits you’ve picked up throughout your life.
His name is Roger Love, he’s a voice coach who's worked with some of the world's most famous singers and speakers, and the author of Set Your Voice Free. Today on the show, Roger explains why having a clear, confident, pleasant speaking voice is important for success in your career and your life, the the biggest ways people sabotage their voice, including voice fry, uptalk, and being nasally, and how these issues can be addressed and eliminated. Roger also shares how to speak in a more masculine way, and why you're probably not speaking loudly enough.
Get the show notes at aom.is/voice.
For thousands of years, men's lives were structured by rituals -- rituals that helped them mark significant events, make sense of the world, and move from one phase of life to the next.
In our modern age, our lives are largely devoid of rituals, and my guest today says we're worse off for it. His name is William Ayot, and he’s a poet, men’s group facilitator, ritual leader, and the author of Re-Enchanting the Forest: Meaningful Ritual in a Secular World. We begin our conversation discussing William’s introduction to the power of ritual, why rituals have declined in Western culture, and what makes a ritual, a ritual. We then discuss the history of the mythopoetic men’s movement kickstarted by Robert Bly and his book Iron John. William then unpacks why it's important for men to undergo a rite of passage, why it's never too late to participate in one, and how men can have multiple rites of passage over their lifetime. We discuss how to give your son a rite of passage as well. William also provides some ideas for daily rituals you can incorporate in your life to provide more meaning and enchantment to existence. We end our conversation with William’s advice on how to get started with a men’s group.
Get the show notes at aom.is/ritual.
The marathon race is one of sport's most physically demanding events. To not just complete a marathon to but to compete in the race at its highest levels takes an incredible amount of dedication to training, recovery, diet, and mindset.
My guest today gives us a firsthand look at what that kind of dedication and strategy look like. His name is Jared Ward, and he placed 6th in the marathon at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and 8th in this year's Boston Marathon. But Jared is more than just a runner -- he's also a coach, a statistics professor at BYU, a husband, and a father of four.
Today I talk to Jared about he balances all those aspects of his life, even as he trains for the 2020 Olympics, and about exactly how he eats, recovers, and programs his workouts. We also discuss how he deals with nerves before big races and stays in a positive mindset while he runs them. We end our conversation with Jared's advice for amateur runners.
Get the show notes at aom.is/olympicmarathon.
We live in a world where it’s possible to work ourselves 24/7. Even when you’re away from the office, work still follows you on your smartphone. Being constantly connected can make us feel like we’re getting a lot done, but my guest today makes the case that we’d all be better off if we practiced the ancient tradition of the Sabbath. His name Aaron Edelheit and he’s the author of the book The Hard Break: The Case for a 24/6 Lifestyle.
We begin our show discussing the burnout Aaron experienced as an entrepreneur working non-stop, how he rediscovered the Jewish tradition of the Sabbath, and how it changed his life and even helped him sell his business for over 200 million dollars. Along the way, we explore America’s workaholism and how it’s making us miserable and less productive, and costing businesses money. Aaron then digs into how you can start implementing a Sabbath practice regardless of your beliefs, and the benefits that accrue to your life, your health, your creativity, and even your bottom line when you take a weekly reset.
Get the show notes at aom.is/hardbreak.
Talking to new people can lead to making new connections and learning interesting things, and simply makes both you and the person you talk with happier. Yet many of us have a very difficult time striking up a conversation with strangers. Why is this?
My guest today has done studies to find out. Her name is Gillian Sandstrom and she's a professor of social psychology at the University of Essex. Gillian's research has explored both why people have such a hard time talking to strangers, and why it's beneficial to do so. Today we dig into common barriers to talking to new people, including the "liking gap," where we believe people find us less interesting than they do. We then talk discuss the benefits of talking to strangers (which go for both introverts and extroverts), and Gillian's best tips for getting better at it.
Get the show notes at aom.is/talktostrangers.
As a boy, Allen J. Lynch was a severely bullied and aimless kid growing up in the industrial neighborhoods of Chicago's South Side. He went on to serve in the Army, receive the Medal of Honor for the valor he displayed when he rushed to save three fallen comrades during a deadly firefight in Vietnam, and dedicate his life to helping his fellow veterans.
Today I talk to Allen about his story, which he shares in his recently published memoir: Zero to Hero: From Bullied Kid to Warrior. We begin our conversation discussing his childhood, when the bullying started, and how it affected his youth. Allen then shares the aimlessness he had as a high school graduate and how he carried it with him after he signed up for the Army, and at first struggled to adapt to military life. We then discuss how Allen ended up in Vietnam, the best friend he lost there, and the harrowing scenario that earned him a Medal of Honor citation. Allen then shares how receiving the Medal of Honor put him on a path of service in helping fellow veterans heal from the wounds of war. We end our conversation with a poignant discussion of Allen’s own battle with PTSD and how his motto of “others not self” has helped him deal with it.
Get the show notes at aom.is/zerotohero.
When you invite people over for a dinner party, you likely think of some delightful conversation topics to bring up to keep your guests engaged. My guest today argues that one of those topics should be death.
His name is Michael Hebb and he’s the founder of Death Over Dinner, an organization that encourages folks to have dinner parties to talk about death -- from the philosophical aspects to practical matters like wills and funeral planning.
Today on the show we discuss why you should invite friends and family to your house to talk death over a plate of lasagna. We begin our conversation discussing the downsides of not talking about death and how ill-prepared Americans are for death both emotionally and financially. Michael then shares the best ways to invite people to a death over dinner party. We then dig into questions you can use to get people talking about death in terms of both the practical and the philosophical.
True story: after I recorded this episode, I had dinner with some friends and we discussed death and estate planning over pizza. It was a big success.
Get the show notes at aom.is/deathoverdinner.
The world of Norse mythology and legend is a thoroughly fascinating one, and my guest has captured it in all its compelling mystery in his book which retells those stories, called Tales of Valhalla. His name is Martyn Whittock and today he takes us on a gripping tour of Norse culture and myth.
We begin the show discussing who the Norse people were, and the misconceptions people commonly have about them, including associating them exclusively with Vikings. We also talk about misconceptions about the Vikings themselves, and what it really meant to be a Viking. We then get into why it's hard to completely recapture Norse myths and rituals as they were originally known. Martyn then unfolds the Norse creation story, offers interesting snapshots of the major Norse gods, including Odin, Thor, and Loki, and explains what Ragnarok was all about. We end our conversation discussing Norse sagas, and how Norse culture continues to influence our modern culture today.
Get the show notes at aom.is/norsemyths.
On El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, there was a wall that had never been climbed, and that some said would never be climbed. It’s called the Dawn Wall.
But in 2015, Tommy Caldwell along with Kevin Jorgeson became the first to free climb it. That journey was then made into an award-winning film called Dawn Wall.
Today I speak to Tommy about what led up to that historic climb, starting from how he got involved in rock climbing in his childhood. We begin our conversation discussing the different types of rock climbing and why people often misinterpret what "free climbing" means. We then dig into Tommy’s climbing career, including his early success in sport climbing and the harrowing experience of being held hostage by and escaping from rebels in Kyrgyzstan. We then discuss how Tommy responded to losing a finger and getting divorced, and why he decided to climb the Dawn Wall. We end our conversation discussing the years-long process of preparing for the climb and the virtue of what Tommy calls “elective suffering.”
There are a lot of little, potent lessons here in how to remain persistent and driven in the face of setbacks that apply beyond climbing to every aspect of life.
Get the show notes at aom.is/dawnwall.
According to recent statistics, the number of Americans dealing with anxiety disorders is over 40 million and that number is increasing. My guest today is one of those Americans who's suffered from bouts of anxiety all of his life. He’s also a successful journalist. So he decided to use his journalistic chops to explore the history of anxiety and how we treat it in the hopes he could gain more insight about the mental disorder that has plagued him since his youth.
His name is Scott Stossel. He’s an editor at The Atlantic and the author of My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind. We begin our conversation discussing Scott’s experience with anxiety that began as a child, what anxiety feels like, and how he’s treated it throughout his life. We then dig into the history of anxiety, looking at how it's been viewed differently through time, and at what point psychologists classified it as a mental disorder. Scott then walks us through the different theories about what causes anxiety and what the research says about the best ways to treat it. We end our conversation discussing the state of Scott’s anxiety today and whether he thinks he’ll ever be cured.
Get the show notes at aom.is/ageofanxiety.
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.
When you ask people about their schedules, they'll typically tell you they're very busy, and don't have enough time for sleep or for leisure activities. Yet when they're actually asked to track their time, it turns out that they work less and sleep more than they realize.
My guest today studied and dug into this disparity. Her name is Laura Vanderkam and she's the author of several books on the personal use of time, including the focus of our discussion: Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done.
Today on the show, Laura and I discuss why there's a gap between how busy people think they are vs. how busy they actually are. We then unpack what the people who don't feel oppressed by the phantom of busyness do differently than those who do, why time goes by faster when you're older than it did when you were young, and how you can still slow down time as an adult. We talk about how what you really want are more memories, not more time, and how to find more adventure in your ordinary life. We end our conversation discussing how tracking your time can create a more memorable life, why you need to create open spaces in your schedule, and the one tactic you can begin doing this week to start making more of your time.
Get the show notes at aom.is/offtheclock.
Recently, I participated in the AoM podcast's first live audience interview. It took place at Magic City Books here in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and joining me for the interview was two-time past guest Adam Makos. Makos, the author of A Higher Call and Devotion, was here in T-Town to discuss his most recent book, Spearhead: An American Tank Gunner, His Enemy, and a Collision of Lives in World War II.
Spearhead follows the story of Clarence Smoyer -- a quiet kid from Pennsylvania coal country who became one of the greatest tank gunners in World War II history -- and how his life crossed paths with an enemy tanker, Gustav Schaefer, during the Battle of Cologne. Adam shares how he became interested in WWII history as a kid and how he found Clarence's story. He then gives us an engaging rundown of tank warfare in WWII, and walks us through Clarence’s hero’s journey and the epic battles he faced with calm commitment and a love for his team of tankers. We end our conversation discussing what happened when Clarence and Gustav recently met up as old men, and the lessons Adam thinks members of the social media age can take from the veterans of the Big One.
Get the show notes at aom.is/spearhead.
There are over a hundred million books in existence. And the average person only has 8 decades in which to read them. So which books should you choose to read over others before you croak?
It's a question that's launched scores of lists and many an argument, and my guest today has fired his own missive in the debate.
His name is James Mustich, he’s been in the book business for over 30 years as a book seller, reviewer, and editor, and he's created the ultimate book list in his book 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die. Today on the show, James explains his guiding philosophy on the books he decided to include in his list, and how he designed the book to have the feel of browsing through an ideal bookshop. James then makes the case for why book lists are helpful, but should never be seen as strictly prescriptive. We then dig into the surprising genres of books that James includes in his list, including science fiction, detective novels, and children’s books, and one or two of his very top recommendations in each category. At the end of our conversation, James makes a list just for the AoM audience of books every man should read before he dies.
Get the show notes, including Jim's list of books for men, at aom.is/1000books.
Matthew Schrier was on his way home from Syria after spending months photographing the war going on there, when, just 45 minutes from the safety of the Turkish border, he was taken prisoner by the Al-Nusra Front — a branch of Al-Qaeda in Syria.
For the next seven months he was starved and tortured in six different prison camps. Yet he survived, becoming the first Westerner to escape Al-Qaeda. Today he teaches the military about what he learned through his experience.
Today on the show, I talk to Matt about his book, The Dawn Prayer, which details what he learned about how to survive a Syrian prison, as well the lessons he learned in what not to do from a fellow American with whom he was held captive.
Get the snow notes at aom.is/dawnprayer.
"Passion" is a word that's been thrown around a lot in the last few decades. People have a vague notion that passion is a very good thing, and that they want to find it in their work and lives. But beyond passion as a buzzword, its realities are actually very little discussed and seldomly well understood.
My guests today have set out to correct this deficit in their new book: The Passion Paradox: A Guide to Going All In, Finding Success, and Discovering the Benefits of an Unbalanced Life. Their names are Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness, and I had them on the show last year to discuss their book Peak Performance. Today, we talk about the parts of passion that rarely get talked about: that it has both a positive and a negative side, how the advice to “find your passion” isn’t very useful, and the 3 things you need to really grow your passion. We also discuss why going all-in on your passion too early can lead to long-term failure, how passion can lead individuals to cheat to get and stay ahead, and why embracing the 6 pillars of the "mastery mindset" can help negate the negative side of passion, and harness its positive powers. We end our conversation discussing how it's okay to have an unbalanced life, and what to do if you can no longer do the thing you’re passionate about or you simply stop being passionate about your work.
Get the show notes at aom.is/passionparadox.
There's no doubt that luck plays a role in how successful we are in life, but the more we believe in luck, the less motivated we feel to proactively go after our goals. How do we navigate this paradox around luck — acknowledging the influence of chance but not letting it demoralize us?
My guest today argues the answer lies in seeing life more like playing a game of poker than pulling the handle of a slot machine. Her name is Karla Starr and she's the author of Can You Learn to Be Lucky? Why Some People Seem to Win More Often Than Others.
Today on the show Karla argues that no matter what hand you're dealt in life, there are still many things you have control over that you can influence to make your own "luck." We talk about how the things that come down to chance, like the timing of a job interview, how physically attractive you are, and whether you have more or less resilient genes can be influenced or counteracted by our own proactive behaviors so that more opportunities in life fall our way.
Get the show notes at aom.is/lucky.
If you’ve been trying to get a handle on your anger, you’ve likely read tips for calming down like taking a deep breath and counting to ten.
My guest today argues while those tactics might serve as band-aid in the short term, truly getting control of your anger has to begin long before you have a blow up. His name is David Lieberman. He holds a Ph.D in psychology and is the author of several books, including his latest, Never Get Angry Again. We begin our discussion talking about what happens in our minds and body when we get angry, the ill effects anger can have on our health and relationships, and why common anger management advice isn't very effective. David then digs into the deeper root causes of most anger issues and walks us through what you can do to address and solve them.
Get the show notes at aom.is/anger.
The health benefits of fasting from food have gotten a lot of attention in the last several years. What's often forgotten in these discussions, however, is that fasting has been practiced for thousands of years not only for the sake of the body, but for the spirit as well.
My guest today has written a book, The Sacred Art of Fasting, that explores the different ways fasting is practiced by all of the world's major religions and how it can be practiced by individuals today. His name is Father Tom Ryan, he's a priest and author, and today on the show, we discuss the reasons for making fasting a spiritual discipline, how this discipline is practiced within several different religions and can still be practiced by someone who isn't religious, and how to get started with this universal, age-old discipline.
Get the show notes at aom.is/spiritualfasting.
Alexander the Great, Hannibal, and Julius Caesar. Three of the greatest generals of antiquity. But what made them great and what can we learn from them about leadership? My guest explores those questions in his book Masters of Command: Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, and the Genius of Leadership. His name is Barry Strauss and he’s a classicist and military historian at Cornell University. Today on the show we discuss the traits all three of these men possessed that made them such military geniuses, including audacity, ambition, and a little luck. Barry walks us through the five stages of war that each of these legendary commanders navigated and where each thrived and floundered.
Barry then makes the case that while Alexander, Hannibal, and Caesar each experienced success in the short-term, in the long run all of them failed to achieve their ultimate aims because they became victims of their own success. We end our conversation discussing what these commanders' shortcomings can teach modern leaders in any kind of field, and whether it’s possible to be both a bold visionary leader and a great manager.
Get the show notes at aom.is/mastersofcommand.
How do you make the biggest decisions you face, the ones that have significant consequences and can change your life? Choices like whether to get married, move, attend a certain college, take a particular job, and so on? If you're like a lot of people, you just kind of wing it, and maybe draw up a basic pros and cons list.
My guest today has studied the latest research in decision making theory and formulated a better approach. His name is Steven Johnson, his latest book is Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most, and today he walks us through how to move beyond listing pros and cons to using a more effective 3-step decision making process. We begin our conversation discussing how most people make decisions and how it hasn’t changed much in hundreds of years. Steven then walks us through the phases of a better decision-making methodology, including developing a more creative map of the possibilities before you, accurately predicting the outcomes of those options, and questioning the narratives you have about your choices. Steven then makes the case that reading novels and watching quality television shows can be a great way to train our brains in the skill of decision making. We end our conversation discussing what the raid on Osama bin Laden can teach us about making good decisions.
Get the show notes at aom.is/farsighted.
When you go on vacation, you probably travel to places that help you feel good, relax, and have fun. My guest today likes to visit places where great human suffering and tragedy has occurred.
His name is Thomas Cook. He's a writer of crime fiction, but in his latest book, Even Darkness Sings, he takes readers with him on the real family trips he's taken to see humanity’s darkest places, including Auschwitz, Verdun, and Hiroshima. We begin our conversation discussing how Thomas and his wife got the idea to visit dark places, how all dark places are different yet connected, and how darkness has a unique power to offer insight and even hope and optimism. Tom then takes us on a tour of some of the tragic places he’s visited and the lessons he’s learned from them. We end our conversation discussing the importance of treating dark places with somber reverence and how a personal dark place was created for Tom while he was writing this book.
Get the show notes at aom.is/darkness.
If you've never been in a fight before, have you ever wondered how you’d respond to getting punched in the face?
My guest today found the experience pretty delightful. Which is all the more surprising given that he'd lived more than three decades of his life as a self-described pacifist, who abhorred violence, thought fighting was barbaric, and feared he was a coward. His name is Josh Rosenblatt, and he’s the author of Why We Fight: One Man’s Search For Meaning Inside the Ring, which describes his decision to enter an actual MMA fight at the age of 40.
Today on the show, Josh talks about why after a lifetime of being a hedonistic, non-physically oriented, intellectual type of guy who thought mixed martial art fighting was dumb, he decided to climb into the cage as a MMA fighter himself. Josh describes how he first got interested in MMA fighting in his early 30s, started studying Muay Thai, Krav Maga, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and boxing, and discovered the joys of getting in touch with his long submerged aggression. We then discuss what it was like to train for an actual MMA fight as an older guy, how fighting has influenced his writing, and what getting into the cage taught him about sacrifice, asceticism, transcendence, and the potential for human transformation.
Get the show notes at aom.is/whywefight.
In the past few years, sports recovery has become a big business. Elite athletes and weekend warriors alike are spending lots of time and money on things like cryotherapy, float tanks, foam rolling, and supplements in order to feel better, push themselves harder, and gain an edge over the competition. But does any of this stuff actually do anything?
My guest today spent a year investigating the science of exercise recovery. Her name is Christie Aschwanden and she’s the author of Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn From the Strange Science of Recovery. We begin our show discussing what exactly athletic “recovery” is and why the recovery business has been booming recently. Christie and I then dig into several different recovery modalities from drinking Gatorade, to taking ice baths, to foam rolling, and the science, or the lack thereof, behind their effectiveness. We end our conversation discussing what actually works best for exercise recovery (hint: you do it every night and it’s free), whether you should spend your money on things like cryospas, and whether recovery methods can still be beneficial, even if they're largely based on the placebo effect.
Get the show notes at aom.is/recovery.
In the 21st century, most of our written communication is done through typing on a computer or tapping digital buttons on a smartphone screen. But my guest today argues that we can increase our sense of humanity and our connection to the physical world and to other people by rediscovering the lost art of putting a real pen to real paper.
His name is Michael Sull. He’s a master penman, penmanship instructor, and the author of several penmanship books. Today on the podcast, I talk to Michael about what it takes to become a master penman and what exactly a master penman does for a living. Michael then takes us on a tour of the history of cursive handwriting, including insights into how culture has influenced handwriting styles throughout the ages and why penmanship has declined in the modern day. Michael then makes a case for why people should start writing in cursive again, how to get started with improving your handwriting, and why there’s nothing like getting a handwritten note in the mail.
Get the show notes at aom.is/penmanship.
Financial independence is a goal for a lot of folks. But what does it take to get there? My guest today explores that question on his website, Financial Samurai. His name is Sam Dogen, and before writing about money online, he worked in finance. We begin our conversation discussing how his career in equities shaped his personal finance philosophy and made him leery of putting too much wealth in the stock market. Sam shares why he recommends putting a lower percentage of your money in stocks than is often recommended in mainstream finance advice, how that percentage should shift as you get older, and alternative ways to invest, build your wealth, and create multiple streams of income that will give you more control over your fortunes. Sam then shares what it means to be financially independent and some of the blindspots he thinks exist in the FIRE, or Financial Independence/Retire Early, movement. We end our conversation talking about how to plan your financial life for the future, especially concerning what the changing world will be like for your kids.
Get the show notes at aom.is/financialsamurai.
Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the most polarizing and misunderstood of modern philosophers. Dismissed by some and misinterpreted by others, the real philosophy of Nietzsche in fact holds some incredibly life-affirming truths for everyone, regardless of belief or age.
My guest today has spent much of both his personal and professional life tracking down those insights. At the age of 19 and then again at age 37, he traveled to the Swiss town where Nietzsche wrote his famous work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and learned something different on each trip from the mustachioed philosopher about living a life of meaning and significance. His name is John Kaag, and he’s a professor of philosophy and the author of Hiking With Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are.
In this compelling conversation, John discusses what he learned about life hiking the same mountain Nietzsche hiked, including the role that walking itself played in Nietzsche's approach to thinking. We begin with the biggest misconceptions about the philosopher, including what he really meant when he said “God is dead." John then walks us through Nietzsche's idea of the will to power, how this impulse should be balanced with amor fati -- the love of fate -- in order to achieve Nietzsche's ideal of becoming who you are, and the different things his philosophy can mean to a young man and to one approaching middle age.
Get the show notes at aom.is/kaag.
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.
Having a positive mindset comes with an unbelievable number of benefits, from better physical and mental health, to improved relationships and performance at work. If you've got a more negative bent, you're really missing out on a lot.
Fortunately, my guest says it's possible to shift into a more positive gear. Her name is Dr. Catherine Sanderson and she’s a professor of psychology at Amherst College. In her latest book, The Positive Shift, she highlights scores of studies that show how a positive mindset can make us healthier and happier, and how that mindset can be achieved. Today she shares those insights with us, beginning with debunking the idea that a positive outlook means being naively Pollyanna-ish in disposition. Catherine then walks us through what the research says about the surprisingly robust benefits of having a positive perspective which affect every area of your life. We then discuss specific tactics you can use to develop a more positive outlook, even if you have an inborn inclination towards being negative.
Get the show notes at aom.is/positiveshift.
When people talk about military special forces, the Navy SEALs are often the first to come to mind. But there are several special forces in the military that have a storied history and play a fundamental role in America’s military defense. My guest today is the only person to have been allowed to audit and write about the training programs of the respective special forces units of every branch of the military.
His name is Dick Couch. He’s a retired US Navy SEAL and the author of several books on America's special operations forces. Today on the show, we particularly discuss his book Sua Sponte: The Forging of a Modern American Ranger.
We begin our conversation discussing the history and varied purposes of the military's different special operations forces. Dick then explains how a soldier becomes an Army Ranger and why going to Ranger School isn’t the thing that makes you a Ranger. He walks us through the process of becoming a Ranger, including Ranger Assessment and Selection. We end our conversation discussing the role special operations forces will play in the future of America’s military.
Get the show notes at aom.is/armyranger.
People often complain about being tired and burnt out these days from work and family responsibilities. We think it’s because of the way technology has sped up the pace of life, and the way we’re always “on,” and figure we’re living in the most exhausting age in history. But are we really?
My guest today argues that, no, people have been complaining about being tired since at least antiquity. Her name is Anna Schaffner and she’s written a book called Exhaustion: A History, which traces the fascinating evolution of physical, psychological, and existential fatigue from the ancient Greeks to the modern day. Today she takes us on this tour, and as we move from age to age, we dig into how exhaustion has changed as to how its described, whether we blame external or internal factors as its source, and how much we believe personal agency can control it.
Get the show notes at aom.is/exhaustion.
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.
Get the show notes at aom.is/biolayne.
According to the popular, evolutionary theory of human attraction, people select romantic partners based on objective assessments of what's called their "mate value" -- the extent to which an individual possesses traits like good looks and status. But is that really all that's behind the way people pair up?
My guest today has done a series of studies which add greater nuance to the mysteries of romantic attraction. His name is Paul Eastwick and he's a professor of psychology at USC Davis. We begin our conversation unpacking the fact that there's sometimes a gap between the sexual and romantic partners people say they prefer in the abstract, and the partners they actually choose in real life. We then turn to whether or not the popular idea that men value physical attractiveness more than women, and that women value status and resources more than men, is really true. We also talk about how people's consensus over who is and isn't attractive changes over time, and whether it's true that people of equal attractiveness generally end up together. We end our conversation discussing how these research-based insights can be applied to the real world of dating, and why less attractive people may have better luck meeting people offline than on.
Some interesting insights in this show that lend credence to the old adage that there's someone for everyone.
Get the show notes at aom.is/eastwick.
The Gila National Forest covers about 3.3 million acres in southwest New Mexico. During the dry summer season, wildfires pose a serious threat to the area. To spot wildfires in this vast landscape as soon as they start, the U.S. Forest Service relies on fire towers spread throughout the area that are each manned by a lone individual. My guest today wrote a memoir about the unique experience this job offers. His name is Philip Connors, he's a writer and one of the country's few remaining fire watchers. Today on the show we discuss what the life of a fire watcher is like and what it’s taught him about nature, solitude, and time. Along the way, Phillip describes the virtues of listening to baseball games by radio and the value of slowing down in an increasingly rushed world.
Get the show notes at aom.is/firewatch.
Like FDR or JFK, Ronald Reagan has become more of a symbol for many Americans than a flesh and blood person. For some he’s the embodiment of all that’s good in America, while for others he's the very opposite. But beyond the political divides, who was Reagan, the man?
My guest today spent five years researching and writing an epic, non-partisan biography that seeks to bring the abstraction of Reagan back down to earth. His name is Bob Spitz and his biography is Reagan: An American Journey.
We begin our conversation discussing how Reagan’s hardscrabble childhood in the Midwest and his family’s staunch progressive politics influenced his early political outlook. Bob then shares how a young Ronald Reagan showed signs of becoming "the Great Communicator" as a young man and how his charm and innate talent for speaking led to a successful career in radio and the movies.
We then discuss why Reagan went from being a true believing Democratic New Dealer to being a leader in the burgeoning conservative movement in the 1960s. Bob delves into Reagan’s leadership style as governor of California and President of the United States and the important role Nancy Reagan played throughout his political career.
We end our conversation discussing Reagan’s ultimate legacy.
Get the show notes at aom.is/ronaldreagan.
We live in a complex, fast-changing world. Thriving in this world requires one to make fast decisions with incomplete information. But how do you do that without making too many mistakes?
My guest today argues that one key is stockpiling your cognitive toolbox with lots of “mental models.”
His name is Shane Parrish. He’s a former Canadian intelligence officer and the owner of the website Farnam Street, which publishes articles about better thinking and decision making and is read by Wall Street investors, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, and leaders across domains. We begin our conversation discussing how Shane’s background as an intelligence officer got him thinking hard about hard thinking and why the musings of investors Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger have had a big influence on his approach to decision making.
Shane then shares his overarching decision making philosophy and explains what mental models are and why they’re a powerful tool to make better decisions. We then discuss why you should focus on being consistently not stupid instead of trying to be consistently brilliant and tactics you can use to make better decisions.
Get the show notes at aom.is/farnamstreet.
It’s a new year and if you’re like millions of people around the world, you’re likely making goals to create some new habits or to break some bad ones. But if you’re also like millions of people around the world, your attempts at making and breaking habits will usually fail after just a few weeks of flailing effort, and you'll probably think your lack of willpower is to blame.
My guest today argues that it isn’t truly a lack of willpower that’s holding you back from your habit goals, it’s the tactics you use for reaching them.
His name is James Clear, he’s the author of the book Atomic Habits, and today on the show, he walks us through how to make habit formation and habit breaking much easier by crafting optimal systems for behavior change. We begin our show discussing the misconceptions people have about habits and the 4-step process of habit formation that tracks the 4 laws of behavior change. James then suggests specific ways to make good habits more attractive and easier to obtain while making bad habits less attractive and easier to shake. We end our conversation discussing why you should take into account your unique personality when you craft your habits.
Get the show notes at aom.is/atomichabits.
Eighteen months after the Declaration of Independence was signed, the Continental Army was on the ropes and the American Revolution was on the verge of being snuffed out. Battered, demoralized, and half-naked, 12,000 American troops marched into a small, poorly supplied encampment in British-occupied Pennsylvania to hunker down for the winter. They called the encampment Valley Forge.
Despite the terrible conditions and circumstances there, something happened at Valley Forge that would change the tide of the Revolutionary War, and the entire course of history.
My guest today is a co-author of a new book, entitled Valley Forge, about this historic crucible. His name is Bob Drury, and I last had him on the show to discuss his stellar book Lucky 666. Today he explains the dire obstacles General George Washington and the Continental Army were up against at the time of Valley Forge, from coming off a string of strategic defeats to weathering political infighting. He then offers a vivid description of the squalor soldiers lived in at Valley Forge, as well as a rundown of the common myths people have about this historical episode. We end our conversation discussing how the situation at Valley Forge got turned around, and why the men who survived this crucible ended up stronger because of it.
This show will give you some fresh insights and new appreciation for this pivotal event in American history.
Get the show notes at aom.is/valleyforge.
Earlier this year, I did a show about the benefits of meditation. That’s episode #439 for those who want to check it out. Shortly after that interview, I came across a book called TheBuddha Pill, which takes a critical look at the research on meditation and exposes some of the weaknesses of the hype that currently surrounds it. As someone who loves to look at both sides of an issue, I was certainly intrigued and today talk to one of the co-authors of that book.
I begin my conversation with Miguel Farias, a psychologist and therapist trained at Oxford University, by discussing how the current mindfulness craze we’re experiencing in the 21st century isn’t entirely new, but is similar to a trend which emerged in the 1960s and 70s around the practice of Transcendental Meditation. Miguel explains how meditation research began with Transcendental Meditation, the limits of that research, and why Transcendental Meditation has now been eclipsed by mindfulness meditation. In the second half of the show, Miguel shares some problems with the Western approach to mindfulness meditation, including detaching it from a spiritual framework, making it a self-centered affair, and using it to take a more passive stance to life.
We also explore the often overlooked downsides of meditation, including the fact that it can sometimes have the very opposite of the calming, centering effect people are seeking. We end our conversation discussing whether meditation is truly effective in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, Miguel's conclusion on whether people should practice it, and if you should ultimately feel guilty if you don't.
Get the show notes at aom.is/buddhapill.
Does your family life feel frantic?
Does it seem like every week you and your wife are scrambling to manage all the stuff that’s going on like school and community activities, extracurriculars, social engagements, and home maintenance?
Perhaps what you need to do is apply some of the strategies that help businesses get organized to your family life. That’s the argument my guest makes in his book The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family. His name is Patrick Lencioni and he’s a business consultant for Fortune 500 companies. Today on the show, we discuss how the questions he asks his corporate clients to provide clarity and direction to their businesses can also provide clarity and direction at home.
Pat unpacks his 3 questions, and explores how vital it is to create a sense of context, mission, and purpose for your your family, why every family needs a rallying cry, and how to actually implement the principles we discuss in your family's life. If you want to start leading your family in living intentionally, instead of staying in reactive mode, this is the show for you.
Get the show notes at aom.is/franticfamilies.
What’s it like for a man to lose the person at the very center of his life — his wife? Maybe you know firsthand, because you’ve lost a spouse yourself. Or maybe you know a friend or family member who’s a widower, and have wondered what he’s going through and how to help him. Or maybe you’re just curious about what this journey is like, should you, heaven forbid, become a widower one day yourself.
No matter which group you fall into, we could all benefit from understanding more about the journey widower’s take through loss, grief, and the effort to establish a new life.
Here today to walk us through this process is Herb Knoll, who lost his wife himself and has dedicated his life to helping his fellow widowers. Herb is the founder of the Widower’s Support Network which provides free advice and resources to men who’ve lost their spouses, and the author of the book The Widower’s Journey. Today on the show, we discuss Herb’s own experience of becoming a widower, how and why he found that there were few resources available specifically focused on helping men deal with the loss of their wives, and how that catalyzed him into creating such resources himself. We then get into the different issues widowers face, including loneliness, isolation, depression, a decline in their own physical health, and poor decision making, and how and why these issues can manifest themselves differently in men than women. Herb also shares tips on what family and friends can do to support a widower in the months after his spouse dies. We then discuss what dating and marriage is like for a widower, including when the time is right to start dating again and how to handle a second marriage with kids, both financially and psychologically.
Get the show notes at aom.is/widowersjourney.
To move forward in life, we typically focus on finding answers. But my guest today argues we should spend more time asking questions. His name is Warren Berger, and he’s a self-described “questionologist” and the author of The Book of Beautiful Questions: The Powerful Questions That Will Help You Decide, Create, Connect, and Lead. We begin our conversation discussing why having an inquisitive mindset is more important than ever in this fast changing, uncertain world of ours, but why people are afraid to ask questions. Warren then argues that questions don’t necessarily need to have answers to be useful and explains what he thinks makes a question a "beautiful question." Warren then talks through the importance of asking questions when you're trying to make decisions, be creative, form relationships, and lead people, while providing concrete examples of questions to ask yourself and others to be more effective in each domain.
Get the show notes at aom.is/beautifulquestion.
Studies show that people, especially young people, are having less sex than past generations did. While many may celebrate this decline as a good thing, the reasons behind the drop in sex may not all be so positive. A decline in physical intimacy may potentially speak to a decline in emotional intimacy, and a struggle modern folks are having with connecting with each other.
My guest explores the decline in sexual frequency as a way into these larger cultural and relational questions in her longform cover story for this month's The Atlantic magazine. Her name is Kate Julian, and today we discuss her piece, entitled "The Sex Recession," on why people are counterintuitively having less sex in a time when sex is less taboo and more accessible than ever before. We begin our conversation highlighting the statistics that indicate young Americans are having less sex and whether this decline holds true for other countries and affects married people as well as singles. Kate then delves into the idea that the reasons for why young people are having less sex may suggest deeper issues in how people are relating, or not relating, to each other. These reasons include the way dating apps are shaping in-person interactions, the prevalence of porn, and an increase in anxiety and depression. We end our conversation by raising the question of why people continue to perpetuate relational patterns that don't seem to be making them happy.
This is a fascinating discussion. I know some of you listen to the podcast with your kids. Due to the mature nature of this show, I’d have them skip this one.
Get the show notes at aom.is/sexrecession.
Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley. Three great U.S generals that led the Allies to victory in Europe during WWII. But WWII wasn’t the first time these three men met. Decades before they forged friendships and rivalries with one another that would influence their path to leadership. My guest today has written a biography of the complex relationships between these three men and how they impacted the tide of WWII. His name is Jonathan Jordan and his book is Brothers, Rivals, Victors: Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley and the Partnership That Drove the Allied Conquest of Europe. We begin our conversation discussing how these three men met — Eisenhower and Bradley (who Ike called Brad) at West Point, Eisenhower and Patton (who Ike called Pat) at Camp Meade after WWI, and Bradley and Patton at a military base in Hawaii.
Jonathan then explains the tension that existed between these three officers as each balanced personal career ambitions with the need to work with others, how each man understood the limitations of his fellow leaders, and how their friendships made them a stronger team.
We end our conversation discussing both the leadership weaknesses and the leadership strengths of each individual general.
Get the show notes at aom.is/brothersvictorsrivals.
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.
For thousands of years, the Spartans have captured the imaginations of Westerners. In ancient Greece, the city-state was admired for its military prowess, civic unity, and dedication to leisurely athletic pursuits. Today, we make movies about Spartans and name sports teams after them. When we moderns think of Spartans, we typically think of them simply as fierce warriors.
But while the Spartans were indeed warriors par excellence, their culture was much more complex. Today on the show, I unpack some of these complexities with historian Paul Rahe. Paul is working on a series of books with Yale University Press which explore both the military and political strategy of the Spartans. We begin our conversation discussing why it’s hard for us moderns to truly understand Sparta. We then dig into the history and culture of Spartans, including where they came from, their economic set-up and relationship with the helot population, and the strenuous upbringing of boys that made them fit for battle. We then talk about the mixed government of the Spartans. We end our conversation discussing how the city-state faded into obscurity, and why the Spartans yet live on in modern culture.
Get the show notes at aom.is/sparta.
First responders and members of the military have physically and mentally demanding jobs. To tackle those jobs effectively, they need to be in shape physically and mentally. But most first responders have erratic schedules that make working out difficult, so that many don’t, and consequently suffer from injuries and poor health. My guest today is a former Navy SEAL on a mission to solve that problem. His name is Adam La Reau, and he's the founder of O2X, an organization dedicated to training tactical athletes.
Adam walks us through the unique challenges soldiers and first responders have when it comes to physical fitness and explains his philosophy on training “tactical athletes.” We then discuss insights civilians can take away from how first responders train, including making time for working out on an erratic schedule, managing stress, and making recovery a priority.
We end our conversation discussing the other organization Adam founded called One Summit, which pairs children who have cancer with a Navy SEAL mentor who helps the kids gain greater resilience through rock climbing.
Get the show notes and resources at aom.is/O2X.
This Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the United States. It’s a holiday dedicated to gratitude, and one in which we often trot out expressions of thankfulness.
But how much is gratitude a part of our lives the other 364 days of the year? And even when we do think about gratitude at other times, does it admittedly often take a fairly superficial and fleeting form?
On today’s show, we’re exploring the deeper, "harder" side of gratitude with my guest, Dr. Robert Emmons. Robert is a bona fide expert in his field -- a professor of psychology at the University of California Davis who pioneered much of the research on the science of gratitude. Robert explains what gratitude is, its benefits, and how to cultivate more of it in our lives. He also shares why much of the content out there about gratitude is what he calls “gratitude lite,” and he makes the case that we need to see gratitude as the ancients saw it—as a human virtue that requires a lifetime of intentional cultivation. We then explore the myths of gratitude out there, like the idea that counting your blessings can make you complacent. We end our show with some suggestions on how to nurture your gratitude daily, including some specific ideas to try on Thanksgiving.
Get the show notes at aom.is/gratitude.
Your time on earth is finite and once you use it up, it's gone forever. Thus on the AoM podcast, we talk a lot about how to maximize your time -- how to use it more effectively to be more productive. But is it possible to be too concerned about managing your time? Should you also make space for chucking out all the to-do lists and schedules and just being kind of idle?
My guest would say yes. His name is Alan Lightman, he’s a physicist and writer, and the author of the book In Praise of Wasting Time. Today on the show Alan forwards the sort of countercultural argument that intentionally wasting time isn't a vice but a virtue. We begin our conversation by discussing what Alan means by wasting time, and then get into how wasting time benefits our psyches, creativity, sense of mental self-reliance, and even, ironically enough, our productivity. We end our conversation discussing the difference between chronos time and kairos time, and how wasting time allows us to spend more time in the latter state.
Get the show notes at aom.is/wastingtime.
I grew up in Edmond, OK, a suburb of Oklahoma City. When I was teenager back in the 90s, I started hearing about some church being run out of a garage. Didn’t give it much thought then. Fast forward more than twenty years later, and Life.Church now has over 30 campuses across 10 states, and is often ranked as the largest church in America.
Today on the show I talk to the guy who started this thing in a garage, and has stood at the helm of its tremendous growth, to glean his insights on leadership and strategy. His name is Craig Groeschel, and he’s the founder and head pastor at Life.Church. We discuss Craig's philosophy on leadership and managing the growth of a large organization, how he balances innovation with stability, how an organization can stay nimble even as it gets bigger, how you have to relinquish control in order to get growth, and why leaders need to go out of their way to show people they’re noticed and needed.
We then discuss the personal side of leadership, including how to balance work and life, how to avoid letting administrative duties kill your creativity, and how to handle criticism.
Whether you're a leader in a business or a non-profit, you’re going to find lots of actionable advice in this show.
Get the show notes at aom.is/groeschel.