#621: The Causes and Cures of Childhood Anxiety
Everyone feels under greater psychic pressure these days, but we adults hope that children, who have always been seen as naturally resilient, have been spared the stress. Unfortunately, kids are increasingly experiencing mental health problems like anxiety at younger and younger ages, and this trend has been going on for years. My guest today wrote a cover article for The Atlantic on the causes and cures of this phenomenon. Her name is Kate Julian and we begin our conversation today by describing the extent to which problems like depression, anxiety, and even suicide have been on the rise among children, and how these issues correlate with continued problems later in life. We then talk about the possible causes behind the increase in childhood anxiety, and whether technology and social media are to blame. We then delve into the idea of how parents are perpetuating their children's anxiety through their own anxiety and their willingness to make accommodations to keep their kids calm and happy. We get into the idea that getting your children comfortable with being uncomfortable can inoculate them against anxiety, and end our conversation with a discussion of whether more exposure to the news of a tumultuous world might actually make kids more resilient. Get the show notes at aom.is/childhoodanxiety.
22 Jun 2020
#479: Becoming a Digital Minimalist
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.
4 Feb 2019
#527: Father Wounds, Male Spirituality, and the Journey to the Second Half of Life
How does the way men experience spirituality differ from the way women engage it? What obstacles particularly keep men from experiencing greater meaning in their lives, and what paradigm shifts help them find it?My guest today has been thinking about those questions over the six decades he's served as a Franciscan friar. His name is Richard Rohr, and he's authored numerous books and devoted a significant part of his vocation to working with men -- both ministering to those who are incarcerated, and in leading male initiation rituals and retreats.If you enjoyed my discussion last month with David Brooks about life's first and second mountain, you'll want to listen to this one. Father Rohr has long taught the same concept, arguing that life is divided into a first and second half. We begin our discussion by exploring the difference between these two halves, and what it takes to move to the second half of life, including embracing non-dualistic thinking. We also talk about what prevents men from maturing into the second half of life, including having "father wounds." We then discuss how male spirituality differs from female spirituality, why church doesn't appeal to men, the male need for initiation, and what it means to do shadow work. We end our conversation with what fathers can do to help their sons embrace the spiritual side of life.Get the show notes at aom.is/rohr.
22 Jul 2019
#649: Thinking for Yourself in an Age of Outsourced Expertise
In an age where endless streams of data, options, and information are available, it can feel like every choice -- from what TV show to watch to how to invest our money -- ought to be optimized, and yet making any choice, much less an ideal one, can seem completely overwhelming. How do we figure out what to do? Much of the time, we don't. Instead, we outsource our thinking to technology, experts, and set protocols. This, my guest today says, is where some real problems start.His name is Dr. Vikram Mansharamani and he's a Harvard lecturer who studies future trends and risks, as well as the author of Think for Yourself: Restoring Common Sense in an Age of Experts and Artificial Intelligence. Today on the show, Vikram explains how our increasingly complex lives have led us to increasingly rely on algorithms, specialists, and checklists to make decisions, even though experts are best suited to untangling complications rather than complexities. We then discuss the issues that can therefore arise in relying on expert advice, including the siloing of information and the application of misdirected focus. Once we diagnose the problem (and how the problem can, for one thing, muddy medical diagnoses), we turn to the solution, and how we can harness the good that technology and experts can provide, without undermining our ability to still think for ourselves, by doing things like asking experts about their incentives, knowing our own goals, triangulating opinions, and crossing silos. We end our conversation with how the serendipitous discovery of perspectives that can come from flipping through a magazine and browsing a bookstore can be part of restoring self-reliant thinking in the 21st century. Get the show notes at aom.is/thinkforyourself.
5 Oct 2020
Most Popular Podcasts
#413: Make Today Matter
We all want to feel like our lives matter. To find this kind of significance, we often think in macro terms about our overarching purpose and values. Such reflection is certainly useful, but what are the smaller building blocks that will get us to those goals? What are things we can do to live more purposefully on a day-to-day basis?My guest lays out ten such habits in his latest book, Make Today Matter. His name is Chris Lowney. He started his vocational life studying to become a priest before discovering it wasn’t for him and shifting his ambitions to the corporate world, working first as a managing director at JP Morgan and now as consultant and keynote speaker. Today on the show Chris and I discuss tactics gleaned from both his experience as a Jesuit seminarian and as a business leader that can help you live each day with more meaning. Chris explains how to keep your most important values at the forefront of your mind, how to approach each day with bravery and heart, and how looking for little ways to do good deeds, express gratitude, and lead others in a positive way will all add up to a life that matters. Get the show notes at aom.is/maketodaymatter.
12 Jun 2018
#642: Finding Money and Meaning in the Blue Collar Trades
When it comes to living their best life and building substantial wealth, many young men's first thoughts turn to developing a new app or starting a popular YouTube channel. They don't think about digging ditches. But that's how my guest today became a millionaire, and he thinks more folks should consider seeking not only financial success, but true comfort, peace, and freedom, by rejecting society's standardized white collar career path, and looking into alternative routes through the skilled trades. His name is Ken Rusk, he's a construction business entrepreneur who's also been a life coach and mentor to hundreds of his employees, and he's the author of Blue Collar Cash: Love Your Work, Secure Your Future, and Find Happiness for Life. Ken and I begin our conversation with how a guy who got a job digging ditches in high school and skipped college went on to create a multi-million dollar construction business. We then talk about how there aren't enough people pursuing blue collar work, and how this "skills gap" regarding the trades is driving up demand, and in turn, the potential income to be made in this field. Ken talks about the cost-benefit analysis of going to college versus learning a skilled trade, and the advantages to the latter. He then explains the often underappreciated reward of blue collar work, which he calls "the step back moment." From there, Ken shares some stories of folks who found fulfillment pursuing blue collar work, and even made that switch later in life. Along the way, Ken shares the life advice he gives employees and job seekers about how to manage their money, set goals, and pursue their own version of happiness and success. Get the show notes at aom.is/bluecollarcash.
9 Sep 2020
#629: Why We Swim
If you've been swimming since you were a child, you probably don't think too much about it anymore. But when you take a step back, the human act of swimming is a pretty interesting thing. You weren't born knowing how to swim; it's not instinctual. So why are people so naturally drawn to water? And what do we get out of paddling around in it?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.
22 Jul 2020
#512: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World
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.
29 May 2019
#632: How the Internet Makes Our Minds Shallow
Have you found it harder and harder to sit with a good book for long periods of time without getting that itch to check your phone? Well, you're not alone. My guest today makes the case that the internet has changed our brains in ways that make deep, focused thinking harder and harder. His name is Nicholas Carr, and he documented what was then a newly-emerging phenomenon ten years ago in his book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. The Shallows has now been re-released with a new afterword, and Nick and I begin our conversation with how he thinks the effect of digital technology on our minds has or hasn't changed over the last decade. We then discuss the idea of the medium being the message when it comes to the internet, and how this particular medium changes our brains and the ways we think and approach knowledge and the world. Nick then explains how we read texts on screens differently than texts in books, why hyperlinks mess with our ability for comprehension, why it's still important to develop our own memory bank of knowledge even in a time when we can access facts from an outsourced digital brain, and how social media amplifies our craving for the fast and easy-to-digest over the slow and contemplative. We end our conversation with how Nick himself has tried to strike a balance in keeping the advantages of the internet while mitigating its downsides. Get the show notes at aom.is/shallows.
3 Aug 2020
#519: How to Start Your Own Farm
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.
24 Jun 2019
The Two Halves of the Warrior's Life
The Roman army hires a former legionnaire to hunt down a courier and intercept a letter he is carrying from the apostle Paul. But when this mercenary overtakes the courier, something happens that neither he nor the empire could have predicted. This is the plot of the latest novel from writer Steven Pressfield, entitled A Man at Arms. Pressfield is the author of numerous works of both fiction, including Gates of Fire and Tides of War, and non-fiction, including The War of Art and The Warrior Ethos. On today's show, Steven explains why he decided to return to writing a novel set in the ancient world after a 13-year hiatus from doing so, and why he chose to center it around one of Paul's epistles and the threat the Roman empire perceived in the growing movement of Christianity. We discuss how the protagonist of A Man at Arms, Telamon, embodies the archetype of the warrior and a philosophy of "dust and strife," and yet has exhausted the archetype and is ready to integrate something else into it -- a philosophy of love. Steven explains how the journey Telamon is on applies to all artists, entrepreneurs, and individuals, and the transition we all must make from the first half of life in which we're discovering our gifts and honing our skills, to the second half of life, in which we figure out what those gifts and skills are for. Get the show notes at aom.is/manatarms.
15 Mar 2021
#569: How to Perform Your Best Under Pressure
When Don Greene was a springboard diver in high school and college, his performances were erratic -- sometimes they'd be amazing and sometimes embarrassing. None of his coaches could explain why that happened to him, so Don set out to find the answers himself. After serving as an Army Ranger and Green Beret, and getting his PhD in sports psychology, Don has spent decades coaching Olympic divers, professional athletes, race car drivers, opera singers, classical musicians, and Wall Street traders in how not to choke under pressure. He shares the principles he uses as a stress coach in Fight Your Fear and Win: Seven Skills for Performing Your Best Under Pressure. Today we talk about those skills, beginning with why people choke in the first place, and what's going on in your mind when that happens. We then talk about the fundamentals of managing performance anxiety and staying in right brain flow, including making adrenaline work for instead of against you, getting your mind centered, ignoring distractions, and becoming mentally tough. We also discuss how to thwart negative self-talk through a practice Don calls "thought monitoring," and his 5-step strategy for recovering when you do make a mistake. Get the show notes at aom.is/dontchoke.
16 Dec 2019
#559: How to Handle Difficult Conversations
Asking for a raise. Disagreeing with your boss. Telling your neighbor that their dog's barking is bothering you. Talking about money with your spouse. Debating politics with a friend. These are all difficult conversations fraught with anxiety, anger, and awkwardness. Many people just avoid them, but my guest says that with the right framework, you can handle even the most pitfall-laden exchanges. Her name is Sheila Heen, she's spent twenty years developing negotiation theory and practice as part of the Harvard Negotiation Project, and she's one of the co-authors of the book Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. Sheila starts things off by sharing the most common difficult conversations people encounter professionally and personally and the most common unhelpful ways people deal with them. She then explains how every difficult conversation actually has three hidden conversations going on, how people confuse the impact of what others say and do with their intentions, how you can acknowledge your contribution to a problem without assuming the blame, how to share your emotions without being emotional, and how to generally move a conversation from being about combative confrontation, to being about exploring each other's stories. Get the show notes at aom.is/difficultconversations.
11 Nov 2019
#387: Think Like a Poker Player to Make Better Decisions
It’s been said that life is a series of decisions. But life is complex and filled with randomness and uncertainty. How do you make decisions when 1) you don’t know everything you need to know to make the optimal decision, and 2) the factors influencing your decision are constantly changing? My guest today suggests thinking like a poker player.Her name is Annie Duke. She’s a former World Series of Poker champion turned business consultant. In her book "Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts," she shares insights from her career as a professional poker player on how to make smart decisions in the face of uncertainty. We begin our conversation discussing why life is more like poker than chess and why you should never judge the quality of a decision by the results. She then shares insights on why you need to factor in luck, both good and bad, when you’re making decisions and how thinking of your decisions as bets can make you feel more comfortable with uncertainty. Annie and I then discuss some of the biases that prevent humans from thinking probabilistically, and why probabilistic thinking can make you more compassionate and humble. She then makes the case that thinking of your political opinions as bets is one way to moderate our increasingly polarized society. We end our conversation discussing how leaders can use the ideas from her book to help the groups they lead make better decisions.This is a fascinating show filled with actionable insights that you can use right away.Get the complete show notes at aom.is/thinkinginbets.
13 Mar 2018
#184: Using Behavioral Psychology for a Rich Life With Ramit Sethi
You know the old song and dance.You set a goal for yourself- lose weight, pay off your debt, ask that woman out-- but something holds you back from taking action. Or if you do take action, you flame out in a week. So you do more research on your goal, hoping that you'll find the one piece of information that will guarantee success. But you fail again.What if instead of more thinking, achieving your goal requires more feeling?That's what my guest today on the podcast argues. His name is Ramit Sethi and he's the owner of the website I Will Teach You to Be Rich. Today on the show, Ramit and I discuss what we can learn from behavioral psychology to help us achieve our goals, whether it's losing weight or asking for a raise.We talk about why you should focus on big wins in life and Ramit gives us an exact script to follow when asking for a raise. Lots of actionable steps in this podcast. You'll want to take notes.
18 Mar 2016
#168: The Value of Deep Work in the Age of Distraction
Have you ever spent an entire day at work feeling really busy, checking emails, reading your news feed -- and at the end of the day you realize, "Man, I really wasn't all that productive." You felt busy but your brain was fuzzy and didn't end up doing all that much.If that sounds familiar, today's show is for you. My guest, Cal Newport, has a new book out called Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. I'm not joking when I say this has been a life-changing book for me. We talk about the principles of deep work, plus the nuts and bolts of being more focused with your day.
12 Jan 2016
#354: Brains & Brawn — Tips and Inspiration on Being a Well-Rounded Man
Physical training has a lot of carry over to other domains of your life. It can help you become a better husband and father, a more productive worker, and a more disciplined student. My guest today is a living manifestation of the multiplier effect that physical training produces. His name is Dan John. He holds several records in discus and the highland games, and coaches and consults top athletes in the throwing sports and Olympic lifting. Dan also holds master's degrees in history and religious studies and was a Fulbright Scholar in religious education. He teaches religious studies for Columbia College of Missouri. Today on the show, Dan and I discuss how physical training can make you a better man in all domains of your life. We begin our discussion on how his training has made him a better scholar and how his scholarship has improved his training. Dan then explains what “shark habits” are, how they contribute to your long-term goals, and how to develop your own shark habits.We end our conversation getting into specifics of strength training. Dan shares the top 3 mistakes he sees people make with their training, why you need to start carrying heavy instead of just lifting heavy, and why you need to put a premium on recovery. This episode combines both brains and brawn for a compelling conversation on being a well-rounded man.
8 Nov 2017
#560: The Magic of Walking
Walking. It can seem, well, rather pedestrian. But my guest today makes the case that walking can act as a gateway to explore memory, meaning, and what it means to be human. His name is Erling Kagge, he’s an adventurer and philosopher, and we had him on the show last year to discuss his book Silence (that's episode 433). Erling’s latest book is called Walking, and we begin our conversation discussing the connection between bipedal locomotion and silence and how walking instead of driving can help slow down time and deepen our memories. Erling makes the case that embracing voluntary hardship can enrich your life and how walking can be a step towards that. He then shares why going for a walk can help you solve problems, why most great philosophers were also committed walkers, what the Adam and Eve story can teach us about the need for exploration, and how walking can be one of the most radical things you can do in the modern age.You'll want to take a walk after listening to this show, or maybe you'll walk while you're listening.Get the show notes at aom.is/walking.
13 Nov 2019
#455: How to Create the Perfect Morning Routine
How you start something is often how you finish it, and that couldn't be truer than for the trajectory of each of your days. When your mornings feel chaotic, rushed, and fragmented, the rest of your day often does too. But when you start off with a centering, invigorating morning routine, that feeling follows you the rest of the day.If you've been wanting to improve or simply start your own morning routine, then this episode is for you. My guest is Benjamin Spall and he’s the co-author of the book My Morning Routine, which shares insights taken from the morning routines of dozens of entrepreneurs, leaders, and creative folks.On today’s show, Benjamin walks us through how to craft the perfect morning routine, including how to make time for it in your schedule, what activities to include, and how a successful morning routine starts with what you do the night before. We also discuss how to adjust your morning routine while traveling and when you have kids. Along the way, Benjamin gives us a peek at the morning routines of several influential people to give us some inspiration for our own routines.Lots of actionable advice in this episode on creating a morning routine that works for you and sets you up for a productive day. After the show is over, get the notes at aom.is/morningroutine.
5 Nov 2018
#233: Diet and Nutrition Advice From the Doctor of Gains
Today on the show, we cut through all the confusion when it comes to nutrition and fitness by talking to an actual Doctor of Gains. His name is Jordan Feigenbaum. He’s a Starting Strength Coach, diet consultant for some of the best competitive powerlifters and CrossFit athletes in the world, and a medical doctor currently doing his residency at UCLA.Jordan I discuss why barbell training is the best medicine for overall fitness, the best way to approach diet for strength training, and why you can’t gain strength and muscle while simultaneously losing fat. We also discuss which supplements are the biggest waste of money and which ones are actually scientifically proven to work. This episode is jam-packed with actionable information, so be sure to take notes.
9 Sep 2016