Episodes

  • Who and where do you want to be in the future? It's a question we typically answer by looking ahead. But, my guest would say, you can actually best find the answer by looking back.

    His name is William Damon, and he's a Stanford psychologist who studies adult development and purpose, and the author of A Round of Golf With My Father: The New Psychology of Exploring Your Past to Make Peace With Your Present. On the show today, Bill explains why you should consider doing something called a "life review," a process you can initiate at any age in order to get greater clarity on what is now probably a blur of memories around how you ended up who and where you are today. Bill explains the steps of doing a life review, and how doing one can do two things for you: 1) help you think more positively and gratefully about your life story — even its regrets — and understand why you made certain choices and developed as you did, and 2) help you refine your life's purpose, recognize that you can change and grow no matter where you are in the life cycle, and chart a course for further development in the future. Bill does this through the lens of the fascinating story around how he came to do his own life review, in order to better get to know himself, by getting to know his father, who he was told growing up was killed in World War II, but, Bill would discover, in fact survived the war and led a more complex life than Bill could have imagined.

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  • According to a recent survey, the percentage of men with at least six close friends has fallen by half since 1990, and men today are 5X more likely to say they don't even have a single close friend than they were thirty years ago.


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

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  • What a gift the human self is. It enables you to sense and reflect upon your own existence; examine the past and plan for the future; check certain impulses in order to reach for other aims; and conceptualize how others see you, allowing you to better connect with them.

    But, my guest says, the blessing of the self also comes with a curse, one we need to get a handle on if we're to live flourishing lives. His name is Mark Leary, and he's a professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience and the author of The Curse of the Self: Self-Awareness, Egotism, and the Quality of Human Life. Today on the show, Mark unpacks exactly what the self is and its vital benefits, before delving into the downsides that also come with having a self. Mark then shares how people can make the most of the advantages of the self, while mitigating its disadvantages, including the practice he most recommends for quieting the kinds of self-related thoughts and ego-driven behaviors that can make us miserable.

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  • Start jogging around the block, or simply sitting outside on a hot summer day, and you begin to feel moisture develop all over your body. Maybe a drop of sweat will roll down your face. Your clothes get sticky. You start feeling in greater intensity a process that's actually going on all the time: sweating.

    You may never have thought too much about your sweat, or perhaps been a little embarrassed by it when your sweat became noticeable in a socially delicate situation. But my guest today says that human sweat is in fact incredibly fascinating, and something you should embrace with real appreciation and enthusiasm. Her name is Sarah Everts and she's a science journalist and the author of The Joy of Sweat: The Strange Science of Perspiration. Sarah and I begin our conversation with what sweat is, the two kinds your body produces, and how human sweating is unique and what Sarah calls our species' superpower. We then get into the surprising quickness with which the things we drink start coming out of our pores, why we sweat when we're anxious or nervous, whether how much you personally sweat comes down to genetics or environment, and why the fitter you are, the more you sweat. Sarah unpacks whether there are differences between how men and women sweat and smell, whether our dislike for body odor is innate or culturally conditioned, why some people are smellier than others, and the role that smell and pheromones play in attraction. Sarah also explains whether antiperspirants are bad for you and if you should switch to natural deodorant. We end our conversation with why it feels so good to make ourselves intentionally sweat through things like sauna-ing, and whether hitting the sauna can detox your body.

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  • “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”

    While this quote from C.S. Lewis is often cited, few completely understand what Lewis meant by it, nor understand the book from which it was taken, The Abolition of Man, which, unlike Lewis's more popular works of fiction and Christian apologetics, is a broad philosophical treatise aimed at everyone, and perhaps the most admired and yet least accessible of Lewis's writings.

    My guest today has written a guide, called After Humanity, that is designed to make The Abolition of Man more understandable to the average reader. His name is Dr. Michael Ward and he's both a Catholic priest and a Senior Research Fellow at Oxford. Michael kicks off our conversation by offering a big picture overview of what The Abolition of Man was about, which centers on Lewis's argument against subjectivism, and for the idea that there exists objective moral values, the denial of which brings destructive consequences. We unpack the case Lewis makes for the existence of a natural order which underlies all religions and cultures, and why he called this universal, objective reality the "Tao." We then get into what Lewis meant by the idea of making "men without chests," the function of a man's chest, and why chests aren't being developed. We end our conversation with why moral debates can seem so shrill and fruitless in a world without agreement upon objective values, and if anything can be done to build the chests of modern men.

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  • A lot of organizations and individuals will set some aim for themselves, and then, when they reach the point where they should be seeing progress, but don't, seem surprised that things haven't worked out the way they hoped. They shouldn't be surprised, my guest would say, if they never had a strategy in place for reaching their goals. 


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

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  • When most people think about losing weight, they think about the details of a diet plan — what food to eat, how much of it to eat, and when to eat it. What they don’t spend enough time working on, are the mental and emotional habits that can sabotage their efforts, regardless of the diet plan they adopt. 

    That’s why my guest today, despite being a biochemist, has made mindset the foundation of his approach to losing weight. His name is Dr. Trevor Kashey and he’s the founder of Trevor Kashey Nutrition (TKN). We begin our conversation with a thumbnail of Trevor’s unique background, which includes earning his first university degree in biochemistry at the age of 17, setting national records in powerlifting, and coaching an Olympic fight team, as well as how he went from coaching elite athletes to helping average folks lose weight. We then talk about why Trevor focuses on bridging the gap between knowledge and action, and the erroneous assumptions people make that keep them from following through on their intentions. From there we turn to the phases TKN takes its clients through, which begins with getting what Trevor calls “food clarity.” We discuss how simply tracking what you eat can get you to naturally change your diet because of something called “the Hawthorne effect,” and can almost be all you need to do to start losing weight. We then get into how to deal with your hunger when you’re cutting calories, and why it’s crucial to be decisive about it. We also discuss how you can eventually eat more once you work on eating less, how to manage the expectation of consistent weight loss, and why you really need to weigh yourself every week.

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

    One of the most burning questions in life is what it is you’re called to do with it. What is your life’s purpose? What great work are you meant to do?

    Guidance on this question can come from many sources, and my guest today says that one of the best is the Bhagavad Gita, a text of Hindu scripture thousands of years old. He’s a psychotherapist, yoga teacher, and author of The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling. Stephen Cope and I begin our conversation with an introduction to the Bhagavad Gita, the significant influence it’s had on philosophers and leaders for ages, and what it can teach us about making difficult decisions. We then discuss the insights the Gita offers on the four pillars of right living, beginning with discerning your true calling or sacred duty. We unpack the three areas in your life to examine for clues to your life’s purpose, and why that purpose may be small and quiet rather than big and splashy. Stephen then explains the doctrine of unified action, why you have to pursue your calling full out, and why that pursuit should include the habit of deliberate practice. We also discuss why it’s central to let go of the outcome of actions to focus on the work itself, and the need to turn your efforts over to something bigger than yourself. All along the way, Stephen offers examples of how these pillars were embodied in the lives of eminent individuals who lived out their purpose. 

     

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  • When Chris Kronner took his first head chef position at an upscale restaurant, he inherited a menu which featured a popular burger. At first he resented having to hold onto it. But then he began to wonder, and be captured by, how he might experiment with and elevate this sandwich standby. Thus began a decade-long obsession with creating the perfect, mouth-wateringly tasty burger. 

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

    Get the show notes at aom.is/burger. 

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  • When Americans think about their country's Founding Fathers, they tend to think of them as cool and competent figures, who were supremely confident in the superiority and longevity of the republican government they had created.

    But my guest says that nearly all the founders experienced great internal and external conflict in conjunction with the new government, and came to be greatly pessimistic about the future of the democratic experiment they had helped birth. His name is Dennis C. Rasmussen and he's a professor of political theory and the author of Fears of a Setting Sun: The Disillusionment of America's Founders. Today on the show, Dennis unpacks how four of the founders — George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson — ultimately came to worry that the American republic wouldn't last past their own generation, based on concerns that ranged from the rise of partisanship to a lack of virtue amongst the American citizenry. Dennis also discusses why it was that one founder, James Madison, remained optimistic about the future of the country. We end our conversation with why the disillusionment of the founders actually carries a message of hope for us.

    Get the show notes at aom.is/settingsun.

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  • Three-quarters of our face-to-face communication with other people is given through nonverbal cues — the way we smile, hold our arms, raise or lower our voice, and so on. This body language is what helps us make a good impression, build rapport, and collaborate and create with others.  

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

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

    Get the show notes at aom.is/digitalbodylanguage.

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  • Editor's Note: This is a rebroadcast. The episode originally aired in November 2017. 

    Have you ever just wanted to get in your car, drive off into the middle of nowhere, leave behind the hustle and bustle of civilization, and just be by yourself? 

    Well, in 1986 a man named Christopher Knight did just that and lived alone in the Maine woods without any, any human contact for 27 years until he was discovered in 2013.

    My guest today wrote a biography — The Stranger in the Woods — about this man who locals called “the Hermit of the North Pond.” His name is Michael Finkel and today on the show we discuss how Chris survived alone in the Maine woods by himself, but more importantly, why Chris wanted to be by himself for so long. By looking at the life of one of the modern world's last true hermits, Michael and I explore the idea of hermitage, solitude, and why being an individual requires you to be alone. 

    Get the show notes at aom.is/hermit.

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  • Winston Churchill once said of his only son: "I love Randolph, but I don't like him." It's a sentiment many a parent with a tumultuous relationship with one of their children can relate to, and well describes both how Winston felt about Randolph, and how Randolph felt about his father.

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

    Get the show notes at aom.is/churchillandson.

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  • When we're failing to do the things that are most important in our lives, the typical diagnosis of the problem is to believe we're simply not working hard enough, and the typical solution to the problem is to put in more effort, apply more discipline, and grind it out.

    My guest would say that we're thinking about both the root and the remedy of the issue in the wrong way. His name is Greg McKeown, and he's the author of the bestseller Essentialism, as well as his latest book, Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most. Today on the show, Greg shares how he came to realize that life isn't just about focusing on the essentials, but making those essential things the easy things. We discuss why it is that we commonly make things harder than they need to be, and how while the right thing can be hard, just because something is hard, doesn't make it the right thing. We then discuss the role that emotions like gratitude play in making things feel more effortless, why you need to have a clear vision of what being done looks like (including having a Done for the Day list), how to overcome the difficulty of getting started with things through microbursts of action, and how to keep going with them using a sustainable pace marked by upper and lower bounds. We end our conversation with how seeking an effortless state applies to one's spiritual life. Along the way, Greg shares stories from history and his own life as to what it means to get to your goals using a more effortless path.

    Get the show notes at aom.is/effortless.

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  • If you're someone who wants to lose weight, you've probably spent some time thinking about and experimenting with different diets. Browse the literal shelves of a bookstore or the metaphorical ones of the internet, and you can find thousands of options to choose from, each with their ardent fans and supposedly decisive rationales. But which diet really works best, and, most importantly, given that 95% of people who lose weight on one gain it back, is a plan that an average human can stick with for the long haul?

    My guest today is in a distinctly well-informed position to comment on this question, having personally test-driven over a dozen diets in three years. His name is Barry Estabrook, and he's an investigative journalist and the author of Just Eat: One Reporter's Quest for a Weight-Loss Regimen That Works. We begin our conversation with what set Barry on his quest to find the best, most sustainable diet. We then get into the fact that the ideas behind modern diets aren't new, and the sometimes weird history of their predecessors. From there we turn to Barry's experiments with contemporary diets, including what happened when he tried eating both low-carb and low-fat, joining Weight Watchers, and figuring out what he could learn from the eating habits of the Greeks and French. We end our conversation with what Barry ultimately changed about his own diet to successfully drop the pounds, and what he discovered as to what really works best for sustainable weight loss.

    Get the show notes at aom.is/rightdiet.

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  • Why do we want the things we want? While we'll offer up plenty of reasons to explain our choices, my guest today says the real reason we want what we want is this: other people  in our lives want those same things.

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

    Get the show notes at aom.is/wanting.

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  • When you're deciding what to wear in the morning, or on the viability of some activity for the weekend, you'll likely turn to a weather app to see what the forecast holds. My guest today would suggest supplementing that habit with another: actually going outside, looking at the sky and feeling the air in order to engage in an ancient and satisfying practice and build a more intimate relationship with the weather and the world around you.

    His name is Tristan Gooley and he's a master outdoorsman, expert natural navigator, and global adventurer, as well as the author of The Secret World of Weather: How to Read Signs in Every Cloud, Breeze, Hill, Street, Plant, Animal, and Dewdrop. Tristan and I begin our conversation with how modern meteorological science is incredibly useful, but has also disconnected us from the weather signs right in front of our faces, as well as the different microclimates that can exist even on two different sides of a tree. We then do a quick review of some of the basic scientific/meteorological principles that underlie understanding the weather, before turning to the concrete, research-backed, field-tested, signs you can observe in your environment to predict the weather, like the shape and height of clouds, and why you should check those clouds from lunchtime onward. We discuss whether there's truth to the old saying, "red sky at night, sailors' delight; red sky in morning, sailors take warning," and what changes in plants and the behavior of animals can tell you about the coming forecast, We end our conversation with how to get started today with predicting the weather using natural signs.

    Get the show notes at aom.is/weather.

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  • Editor’s Note: This is a re-broadcast. This episode originally aired in April 2019. 

    Plato’s Republic is a seminal treatise in Western political philosophy and thought. It hits on ideas that we’re still grappling with in our own time, including the nature of justice and what the ideal political system looks like. But my guest today argues that The Republic also has a lot to say about manliness, character development, and education in our current climate of safe spaces and trigger warnings. 

    His name is Jacob Howland. He’s a professor of philosophy at the University of Tulsa and the author of the recent book Glaucon’s Fate: History, Myth, and Character in Plato’s Republic. We begin our conversation with an outline of Plato’s Republic and how it combines literature and philosophy. Jacob then makes the case that in The Republic, Socrates was attempting to save the soul of Plato’s politically ambitious brother, Glaucon, and why he thinks Socrates failed. Along the way we discuss what Socrates’ attempt to save Glaucon can teach us about andreia or manliness and what it means to seek the Good in life. We end our conversation discussing the way The Republic teaches us of the need to possess not only physical courage, but the courage to think for oneself and stand up for one’s beliefs — a courage that is tested in a time like our own, where it can feel difficult to ask hard questions and wrestle with thorny issues. 

    Get the show notes at aom.is/republic.

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  • Seventy-six years years after the end of World War II, that singular event continues to capture our interest and fascination. There's a reason for that; the war combined two greatly compelling things — the epic, historic sweep of large-scale battles and the personal stories of the individual young men who fought in them with determined resolve and humble heroism.

    My guest has written a book that deftly combines both of these elements into a thoroughly memorable tale. His name is James Sullivan and he's the author of Unsinkable: Five Men and the Indomitable Run of the U.S.S. Plunkett. Today on the show, Jim shares the story of the Plunkett — the only Navy ship to participate in every Allied invasion in the European theatre — as well as the stories of a group of men who served on this destroyer. We begin with the personal connection Jim has to the Plunkett, and how he got interested in learning more about the ship. Jim then explains the role the Navy's destroyers played during WWII, before getting into the backstories of some of the men who served aboard the Plunkett. From there we delve into the escorting and landing operations the Plunkett was involved in leading up to its arrival along the Italian coast at Anzio, where a dozen German bombers bore down on the ship in one of the most savage attacks of the war, and how the ship yet lived to fight another day. We end our conversation with what happened to the men Jim profiled, how the war affected their lives, and how their lives affected Jim.

    Get the show notes at aom.is/unsinkable.

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  • After more than a year of being cooped up due to pandemic restrictions, lots of people are itching to hit the open road and get the heck out of dodge. If that's you, my guests have some great tips for planning and executing an awesome road trip. Their names are Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi and they're the proprietors of the RV Atlas blog and podcast, the authors of several books on camping and road tripping, and veteran road trippers themselves, having, together with their three boys, spent over a thousand nights at hundreds of campgrounds from coast to coast. 

    We start off our conversation with how the Puglisis began road tripping with a pop-up camper, and the benefits of driving places rather than flying. We then get into how to dip your toes into RVing without a big commitment, and whether there’s an ideal age to start taking RV trips with your kids. From there we get into best practices for planning and executing a road trip, whether you're going by RV or car, including the biggest mistakes people make, the art of road trip snacks, and when it's better to fly versus drive. We also talk about how to keep kids entertained on the road, including how to handle the issue of screen time. We end our conversation with the benefits of staying at campsites rather than hotels, why you might want to look into private KOA campgrounds, and why planning a great road trip always starts with picking a great destination.

    Get the show notes at aom.is/roadtrip.

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