Ask an adult, especially if they're struggling in life, what caused them to end up the way they did, and they might cite certain factors from their childhood, like having a mother that was too cold. The problem here, of course, is that memories change over time, and narratives about the past develop to fit one's current situation. My guests today work on the kind of research that corrects this problem to figure out how aspects of childhood truly affect adulthood, by studying humans from the time they're babies through middle age and beyond. Their names are Jay Belsky and Terrie Moffitt, and they're professors of human development, and two of the four contributors to The Origins of You: How Childhood Shapes Later Life. To begin our conversation, Jay and Terrie discuss the longitudinal studies they and their colleagues have used to track people over decades of their lives, and how aggressiveness and shyness in childhood end up impacting adulthood. We then discuss the limitations of the famous marshmallow experiment, and what these more expansive longitudinal studies have shown about the importance of self-control in achieving a successful adulthood. We unpack whether the negative outcomes associated with being bullied in childhood are inevitable, who's most likely to become a bully, and who's most likely to be bullied (which as it turns out, isn't a matter of being fat or wearing glasses). We discuss how children who act out in childhood, but avoid making certain mistakes in adolescence, can still turn out okay, and why you probably shouldn't worry about children who were good kids, but get into a little trouble in their teen years. We also dig into the impact that childcare has on kids, and the role that genes play in development. We end our conversation with some allowance-related ideas for cultivating greater self-control in your kids. Get the show notes at aom.is/childhood. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Looked at from the heat of combat, war can seem disorganized and chaotic. But overarching the conflict is typically some kind of thoughtful, well-ordered, even scientific strategy that is influencing when, where, how, and why dueling forces have met. My guest today will introduce us to a few of the military philosophers and tacticians who made the most significant contributions to the art of strategy over the last couple millenia. His name is Andrew Wilson, and he's a professor at the Naval War College, as well as the lecturer of the Great Courses course, Masters of War: History's Greatest Strategic Thinkers. We begin our conversation with a brief overview of what martial strategy is, why civilians should study it, and how the contrast between generals Eisenhower and Patton delineate the difference between strategy and operations. We then survey several of history's most influential war strategists, and the contexts in which their theories and doctrines were born. This tour includes a discussion of how Sun Tzu used The Art of War to argue that a new type of war in a new type of society required a new type of general who could process conflicts like a supercomputer, and a dive into how Carl von Clausewitz emphasized the importance of understanding how complexity, irrational passions, and creative genius underlay contemporary warfare. We end our conversation with how military strategy has or hasn’t changed in the 21st century. Get the show notes at aom.is/mastersofwar. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
This is a re-broadcast. The episode originally ran in October 2018. Do you have a teenage boy who struggles in school? Or do you have a younger son who you can imagine struggling in school as he gets older? He may be an otherwise capable young man, but seems apathetic and unmotivated, to the point you think he’s not excelling simply because he’s lazy. My guest today says that’s the wrong conclusion to draw, and one that leads to the wrong parenting approach to addressing it. His name is Adam Price and he’s a child psychologist and the author of He’s Not Lazy: Empowering Your Son to Believe in Himself. Today on the show, Dr. Price argues that the real reason many young men are unmotivated is not that they don’t care about succeeding, but that they feel too much pressure to do so, and are scared of failing. We discuss why nagging and over-parenting simply exacerbates this issue, and how stepping back and giving boys more autonomy can help them become more self-directed and find their footing. Get the show notes at aom.is/notlazy. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Most men want to wake up in the morning knowing their body is ready to handle whatever opportunities and challenges come their way that day, from a real emergency to simply roughhousing with their kids. They want to be able to move without pain and explore the world with confidence. My guest today would say that what this desire is pointing to is the achievement of physical autonomy. His name is Ryan Hurst and he's the head coach at GMB Fitness, which uses bodyweight exercises and skill-based practices to help people get stronger, move better, and never have to doubt themselves physically. Our conversation begins with Ryan's unique background; we discuss how he did gymnastics growing up and then moved to Japan, where he still resides, to learn martial arts, including aikido, kendo, judo, and jiu-jitsu, and how these experiences influenced his fitness journey and philosophy. Ryan then shares how he defines physical autonomy and the three elements that are required to achieve it. From there we discuss the four animal-inspired movements that create the foundation for balanced athleticism, the basic physical skills people should aim to master, and how to train those skills in ways that don't require an onerous amount of time. Get the show notes at aom.is/physicalautonomy. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
When you think about serendipity, you likely think of strokes of good luck that happen entirely by chance. But my guest today says that we can play a role in harnessing more lightning strikes of fortune, and create the conditions to both experience a greater number of meaningful accidents, and make accidents more meaningful. His name is Christian Busch and he's a professor of economics and entrepreneurship and the author of The Serendipity Mindset: The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck. We begin our conversation with what serendipity is, and how it's different than simple chance, and is instead a kind of smart luck, which requires acting on the unexpected and connecting the dots of seemingly random events. We then discuss the three types of serendipity, the obstacles to experiencing this force, and how the amount of serendipity you experience depends on how you frame the world. Christian explains how to develop a serendipity-seeking mindset, including how to intentionally seed triggers for it. We end our conversation with how organizations and not just individuals can take steps to strategically leverage the power of serendipity. Get the show notes at aom.is/serendipity. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Over the past decade, there's been an emerging focus on the importance of sleep. Thousands of books and articles have been put out which drive home just how central sleep is in our mental and physical health. This emphasis on sleep has had the positive effect of motivating people to better prioritize it. But, there's been a downside to all this sleep talk as well: people are getting more stressed out if they're not getting the kind of sleep they think they're supposed to. My guest today says that ironically, stressing about sleep may be exactly what's hurting your sleep. His name is Dr. Chris Winter, and he's a neurologist, a sleep specialist, and the author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It. Chris and I begin our conversation with why we get sleepy, and how people sometimes confuse fatigue with sleepiness. We then get into the real dangers of sleep deprivation, but how you probably shouldn't worry about them if you have common problems with falling and staying asleep. We then talk about how many hours of sleep you actually need, how you may be stressing yourself out trying to get more than is necessary, and why it's best to compare your varying hunger for sleep to your varying hunger for food. Chris unpacks what insomnia is, and how it's not just an inability to sleep, but your response to that inability, and the extent to which insomnia is rooted in fear. From there we turn to the disparity that often exists between the perception and the reality of how much sleep you're getting, and the fact that there's a good chance you're actually getting more sleep than you think. We then discuss creating a plan for what to do when you can't sleep, which may involve spending less time in bed, or in fact relishing the time you spend lying in it awake. We end our conversation with when you should and shouldn't nap, and when you should see a sleep doctor about your sleep problems. Get the show notes at aom.is/sleep. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
When you think about ancient Greek tragedies, you probably think about people in togas spouting stilted, archaic language -- stories written by stuffy playwrights to be watched by snooty audiences. My guest today argues that this common conception of Greek tragedies misses the power of plays that were in fact created by warriors for warriors, and which represent a technology of healing that's just as relevant today as it was two millennia ago. His name is Bryan Doerries and he's the author of the book The Theater of War, as well as the artistic director of an organization of the same name that performs dramatic readings of ancient tragedies for the military and other communities. Bryan and I begin our conversation with what tragedies are, what this civic, religious, and artistic form of storytelling was supposed to do, how it was created by war veterans for war veterans, and how a civilian classicist ended up putting on these plays for current and former members of our modern military. We discuss how the ancient Greek tragedies depicted the depth and spectrum of human suffering, the intersection of fate and personal responsibility, characters who belatedly discover their mistakes, and the fleeting chance of changing behavior in the light of such realizations. Bryan also explains how the tragedies may have been a form of training for young people on how to grapple with the moral ambiguities that mark adulthood. And throughout the show, we dig into how tragedies, by showing people they're not alone, getting them to confront uncomfortable realities together, and bridging divides, can serve as a transformative technology for collective healing, not only for military veterans, but anyone who's dealt with trauma, loss, and the general confusions and hardships of the human experience. Get the show notes at aom.is/theaterofwar. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
When we think about finance, we typically think about numbers and math. My guest today, however, argues that doing well with money is less about what you can put on a spreadsheet and more about what goes on in your mind, and that if you want to master personal finance, you've got to understand how things like your own history, unique view of the world, and fear and pride influence how you think. His name is Morgan Housel, and he's an investor, a financial journalist, and the author of The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness. Morgan kicks off our conversation by explaining how doing well with money is less about what you know and more about how you behave, and illustrates this point by comparing the true stories of a janitor who saved millions and a prominent Wall Streeter who went bankrupt. He then explains how the seemingly crazy decisions people make around money actually make a kind of sense. From there we get into why you need to know the financial game you’re playing and not play someone else's. We then turn to why it's hard to be satisfied with your position in life when your expectations keep rising and why not continually moving your goalposts is the most important skill in personal finance. We discuss how getting off the never-ending treadmill of wanting more requires seeing money not just as a way to buy stuff but to gain greater autonomy, keeping the "man in the car paradox" in mind, and understanding the distinction between being rich and being wealthy. We then talk about the underappreciated, mind-boggling power of compound interest, using the example of Warren Buffet, who made 99% of his wealth after the age of 50. We then discuss why you should view volatility in the stock market as a fee rather than a fine, why pessimistic financial opinions are strangely more appealing than optimistic ones, and why it's best to split the difference and approach your money like a realistic optimist. We end our conversation with the two prongs of Morgan's iron law for building wealth. Get the show notes at aom.is/moneymindset. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Humans like starting new things much more than taking care of older things. This is true on both an institutional and individual level: it's more exciting to build a new road than to maintain it; more exciting to lose weight than to keep it off. There's plenty of short-term pleasure and intrinsic motivation when it comes to pursuing something novel, but the effort to keep up unsexy maintenance on what we've already got takes real intent. My guest today says we've lost that intent and need to revive it. His name is Lee Vinsel and he's a professor of science, technology, and society, the co-founder of The Maintainers, a research network dedicated to the study of maintenance, repair, upkeep, and ordinary work, and the co-author of The Innovation Delusion: How Our Obsession With the New Has Disrupted the Work That Matters Most. Lee and I begin our conversation with how our cultural focus on innovation has come at the expense of attention paid to maintenance and repair, and yet how talking more about innovation hasn't really led to greater progress. We then get into the way the necessity of maintenance, repair, and caretaking has been neglected in business and government, creating a situation where we keep on building new things without investing in the upkeep of our current infrastructure. From there we turn to the way our all too common neglect of maintenance applies not only to big institutions, but also our personal lives, as in the areas of home ownership and health. We discuss how there's less incentive these days to repair things in our disposable society where everything is cheap, and stuff is harder to fix, even when we want to. We end our conversation with how we can revive a maintenance mindset in our culture and individual lives. Get the show notes at aom.is/maintenance. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Anyone who's ever tried to lose weight, curb their temper, quit smoking, or alter any other habit in their lives knows that personal change is hard. Really hard. Most self-help books out there treat people like machines, blitzing past this difficulty and offering mechanical 5-step formulas for changing your life. My guest today says such simplified solutions hugely miss the mark. He argues that if you ever want to change, it's more fruitful to understand why you don't, than figure why you do, and to understand that, you've got to go deeper, existential even. His name is Dr. Ross Ellenhorn, and he's spent his career facilitating the recovery of individuals diagnosed with psychiatric and substance abuse issues. In his latest book, How We Change (And Ten Reasons Why We Don't), he's taken what he's learned in his work and applied it to anyone trying to change their lives. Ross and I begin our conversation with some of those reasons we don't change, including the existential pressure of feeling like you're solely in charge of making change happen, a dizzying amount of freedom and number of options for what to do with your life, and day-to-day factors which influence our level of motivation. From there we turn to the role of hope and faith in psychology, and how these forces can both boost and restrain your ability to change. We discuss the way a fear of hope can constrain your life, why you sometimes need to embrace staying the same in order to ever change, and the difference between good faith and bad faith. We then discuss the idea that you don't develop hope, but can develop faith, and how you build your faith in yourself through embracing humility and taking small steps. Ross then explains why he doesn't really give advice on how to change, beyond finding the good in a bad habit, but how patience and your social environment can also help. This show's got some counterintuitive advice that will help you see your struggles differently. Get the show notes at aom.is/change. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.