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Happiness is the joy you feel while striving towards your potential. Welcome to the Knowledge Project, a long phone conversation hosted by Shane Harris. Our goal is simple to learn something new in every conversation that makes us a little bit smarter than yesterday. You can learn more about the show and find past episodes at F-stop Blogs podcast. The knowledge project is a part of Farnam Street, a website dedicated to mastering the best of what other people have already figured out, Farnam Street puts together a weekly newsletter called Brain Food that comes out every Sunday, much like this podcast.
It's high signal, timeless and mind-expanding you can read what you've been missing at F-stop Blogs newsletter. Today I'm speaking with Neil Pasricha. Neil is The New York Times best selling author of the book of awesome series, Harvard MBA and a ridiculously popular TED Speaker. If the conversation seems more familiar and personal than normal, it's because Neal is a friend of mine. We go deep on a few things and gloss over some others, but we talk about life, business and everything in between, including building, resilience, parenting, what he learned at Harvard, why we all need an untouchable day and so much more.
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We spent a lot of time together so we'll probably be more familiar with each other than most of the guests that come on the show.
But one of the questions I meant to ask you last time we had dinner in Toronto was what were the big lessons you learned from your parents?
Oh, my gosh. So many, first of all. So my mom's from Nairobi, Kenya, and she emigrated and the sort of Idi Amin kind of dictatorship crisis of the early 1970s. She's from a wealthy family, but they lost all their wealth in the India Pakistan partition. So suddenly, poor family, the youngest of eight kids fleeing East Africa. OK, my dad from northern India, Amritsar, is from a very poor family, scraped and saved, got his master's in nuclear physics and came to Canada as one of the first high school physics teachers.
He went back to England one summer that my mom had an arranged marriage like wham bam, like one date. My dad gave my mom one test on the first date, which was the hamburger test, seeing if she eats a hamburger because he's told me later, I didn't want to marry a vegetarian. That was this.
One of the test was whether you eat the hamburger or not, how you eat it. And then there's also like people that butcher eating hamburgers, right?
Like the bun and the the media just falls all over the place. I will not marry a sloppy either, except for second.
And this one was just like he ordered a couple of hamburgers. I was like, will she eat the hamburger? She did. So two weeks later. I'm not joking. They got married two weeks later.
The second time my mom saw my dad was at their wedding. That OK, pause right there for one second. That's amazing. I know so many couples that are still together that within like a month of knowing each other just knew right away.
Like one of my best friend's parents were engaged twenty four hours after meeting, not an arranged marriage.
They just met and yet still happy. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. It's not crazy.
Twenty four hours. Twenty four hours after they met. It's not insane. I mean, it is partly insane.
OK, back to your parents arranged marriage. Yeah. So they come to Canada.
Kind of. My dad gets here in the late sixties. My mom gets here and there in the early seventies. And they did all the hard work. They did. They did.
They came to a new country, but they didn't know anybody had no friends here, no family here. Settle in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, which for those that may know it is an hour east of Toronto Superway community, especially that day and age saying you were a vegetarian or didn't eat me like my mum didn't eat much meat would be akin to like going home hungry, you know, no Hindu temples, no brown people. Like like it was like you're on your own.
And what I learned from that, ultimately, Jane, was really the model of resilience. The idea that you can add a yet to any sentence you you can't do in your life and you can learn to do it later. Meaning when my when I talk to my mom growing up, she'd be like, well, dad would take me to the German club. And I tell myself, I don't I don't know how to ballroom dance yet or I don't I don't have any experience working in a Canadian company yet.
And the idea in her head was always one of I can or I will or I might later. And that sense of mental strength and mental resilience, I think has hopefully stuck with me. And it's when I'm paranoid of how do I teach my kids that? Because, you know, when you don't go through hardships, how do you make sure you can handle them? What's deep dive on resilience? A little bit here. How would you define resilience?
It's the capacity to get back up or to return to your current state after a blow of some kind. Whether that is a relationship blow, you know, you get fired from your job, you go through a traumatic experience. You have a death in your very close family. You lose a close friend, whatever. It's how what what musculature are you using on the inside of yourself to return to your baseline? How quickly do you do it? How well do you do it?
How how do you do it? And all of that musculature I referred to as resilience, that inner strength and use has learned? I think so. How do we learn it? Well, a lot of people. You have to just go through all these things, you have to go through these blows, you have to go through a divorce and lose a friend and suffer from some tragedy. And then you you develop the treasury going. But part of the problem that I believe is that right now in the world, we got it fairly easy.
I mean, we live in the most abundant time ever in human civilization. Right? You can press a button, a car picks you up, your phone, entertains you on the way home. And by the time you get to your front door, you got takeout waiting on the porch. I mean, we we live in an era of infinite abundance. And I believe because of that, that's partly why we're seeing spiking anxiety rates, loneliness rates, depression rates and suicide rates, because we no longer have that musculature.
But I've used the word musculature three times in the last minute, and I have used it in two years. Like I'm just trying a new word today, but I like but therefore it's so life is so relatively easy that we have lost our capacity to handle failure or even and this is even more important, perceived failure so that when you get to likes on your Instagram photo and now feels like I have no friends, you know, the traumatic feeling of loneliness or anxiety or depression, these things are coming to us sharper and harsher because we have lost the internal systems to handle them.
We're more focused on the external sort of validation of social media versus the internal intrinsic ness of it.
That and we don't have any famines. No one's getting shipped off to war. We do. You know anyone that is suffering from the plague lately, like the jet? If you look if you zoom out to like human civilization over our two hundred thousand year evolutionary history, it's like pretty much always we had gigantic kind of thunks, like thunk like you can't we were going through wars, economic depressions, huge, like like gigantic traumatic societal things. And now we live like kings lived a hundred years ago.
And I'm talking about the average person. I'm not talking about the upper class. I'm talking clean water in your taps, feeling safe at the front door, marrying who you want used to be used to be thrown in jail for being gay or straight or beaten or being trans. These we've gone past a lot of that stuff. So we got we are living in a relatively we are living in relative ease. People listening might say, oh, this guy's out to lunch.
He doesn't know what my life is like. You don't understand. Like, why do you think I'm going to protest? My name is perfect. I'm just saying that's relatively a lot more abundant and a lot of more easy lifestyle than we had even fifty hundred, two hundred years ago. Why are we so unhappy? The ultimate question, right.
Professor David Myers at University of Michigan has mapped over the last 50 plus years our increases in abundance relative to our happiness levels. And to your point, Jane, everything has gone up. Wealth, longevity, education rates, literacy rates. But our happiness has been pretty flat lined. Siula Mirsky, a Stanford University, has posited a model that I really love from the book, The How of Happiness. And she says happiness is 50 percent genetic. Let's just start there, because if 50 percent of your happiness is like a genetic disorder, like predisposed somewhere on this continuum to be happier, you got kids, you probably feel like one of them might be have a higher or lower disposition.
The other one and I have multiple children and I kind of see that to my parents would say that about me and my sister. Then she says 10 percent is circumstantial, which means what happens to you? OK, there's a really famous substory. I can talk about it, but the lottery winners versus the paraplegics you may have heard of, you know, a year later, whether you win the lottery or you suffer a traumatic accident where you become a paraplegic a year later, you've relatively returned to your baseline.
In fact, lottery winners may even have gone lower because they have taken on all kinds of new stresses and expenses, et cetera. Now, what is the remaining 40 percent of that pie chart? 50 percent is genetics. At point, 10 percent is your circumstances. So the remaining 40 percent, according to the Scientific American model, is your intentional activities. OK, now you just asked me why are we so unhappy? Can we zoom in to that?
Forty percent? Keep in mind, she is the only part we can control on the pie chart. And it's huge, gigantic. From reviewing a ton of positive psychology studies. I can tell you very quickly what some of the specific things you, me, all of us should be doing and that 40 percent, they are things like nature walks, they are things like a journaling practice. There are things like a meditation practice. They are things like reading fiction from a real book right there, things like a gratitude practice, et cetera.
You you know, listeners may have heard some of these kind of general totems in life that will help you be happier. But then compare that to how we are actually spending our time today. Look around the bus station or the airport and what is every. A single person doing heads down, staring at a bright screen, totally addicted to it, and the dopamine hits we are getting from the cell phones are endless and we are swimming, sinking into a sea of.
Huge pain and problem ultimately rooted in our cell phone addiction. We are totally addicted to them en masse. So when you look around, it doesn't look like an addiction because it looks like everyone's got it.
Everybody's doing it. Everybody's doing it. And a few people are starting to really ring the alarm. People like it believes. Tristan Harris for the Center of Human Technology. People like Adam Alter, who wrote a great book called Irresistable about the seductive properties of cell phones. People like I think Robert Ludwick, who wrote a book called The Hacking of the American Mind. It's starting to look around. Cell phones have three types of problems. No. One is a productivity problem.
When you're on your phone, you don't do anything else, McKinsey says. Thirty one percent of our days are now spent bookmarking, prioritizing and switching between tasks and people listening and keep using mean. I feel like it's more than that. Like we're not doing anything. You're deciding what to do. So the first part is productivity. The second is a huge one, which is physical. When you expose your eyes to bright screens an hour before bed, you don't produce as much melatonin, so you don't sleep as restfully.
So your resilience is lower the next morning. So you instinctively reached for your cell phone, which unfortunately for most people is beside their bed. So you're looking at what Trump tweeted at seven a.m. before you've had a time to think about your day. Never mind the I'm looking down, of course, people can't see me that the what they call their hunchbacks are all developing and the texting thumbs and all that stuff. And then the third piece, which is the biggest one, is psychological.
So we are comparing everybody else's greatest hits, life with our director's cut. You know, no matter how good the lunch you and I have today, after we record, somebody will be at a lobster buffet in the Maldives on Instagram. So I will feel like our lunch sucks, like I will feel like my life sucks. So the three piece of problems, our our productivity, physical and psychological, that's ruined cell phone addiction that's rooted in the 40 percent of how we should be spending our time or spending it the wrong way.
I think that's a big reason why we're not happy today. I think as people are listening, they're probably thinking, but I'm too busy to go walk in nature. I'm too busy to like my life is so frantic. I feel like I'm barely keeping up with everything as it is. How would you respond to that? I think those people are lying to themselves. And I think that I and I'm guilty of that statement as well. So, for example, I often say this one line.
When I give speeches, I say everybody should be reading 20 pages of fiction from a real book to open or close your day. There's research in 2011 and the annual review of psychology that shows that that's what opens up your mirror neurons, parts of your brain, response for empathy, compassion, understanding. You know, there's a famous game of throne quotes called A Reader Lives a Thousand Lives Before He Dies. The man who never reads lives only one, you know.
And so we know the power of reading. They've done MRI scans at Emory University. They show that your language centers open up, but how no one starts and finishes the day with reading Jane. And when they when I asked them why, they say I don't got the time and then I tell them straight to their face, you're lying, ma'am or sir, because according to the University of California, the average person reads a hundred thousand words per day.
Today, it's called Instagram comments, Twitter feeds, blog roles, news headlines, text alerts and notifications. And the average knowledge worker receives one hundred forty seven emails today. So I'm not saying add 20 pages of fiction to your to do list. I'm saying subtract excise 20 pages of the garbage that you're currently reading. And to respond to the question of time, that would be my counterargument. Look at how you're spending your day. What are you spending in a non thoughtful way that you can eliminate or reduce?
And for a lot of people and I'm pointing the finger at myself, too, I'm not saying I know this and you don't. Neil, does this problem, too. If you look at my my schedule, I'm like, oh, my gosh, I was I was sucked into my phone for for half an hour, you know, instead of doing some deep work. And that happens repeatedly. It's a muscle that we have to learn how to build.
I remember the last week, speaking of phone and getting lost in your phone, I was in California and I took a 90 minute car ride and I get in the car at the airport and I left the car at the hotel. And I don't think I noticed anything over those 90 minutes. I was just like trying to catch up on email and work and actually trying to do or not just sort of like go in the comments and stuff. But like, I looked up and all of a sudden right at the hotel and I was like, oh, my God.
Like, I felt rude because I was like, I didn't talk to this guy at all. It was like driving me.
And you just get lost like a connection there. There's a zero connection.
And you're so focused on your phone, like I'm oblivious to I don't know why, but the phone is like, it's great for this intense focus because, like, anything could almost be happening in your life. That's why I don't use my phone when I'm around my kids anymore, because I realized at some point, maybe three or four years ago that, like, I was just trying to, like, sneak in an email here.
They're there, you know, trying to manage things.
And then I just realized, like, I'm all consumed by this and then I'm not consumed by what's important to me. There's even early study starting to come out saying that babies are having a harder time connecting with parents because of lack of eye contact. Or while women are breastfeeding, they're not looking at the baby that's cooing at them anymore. They're looking at their cell phone and they're starting to be some early studies on like that sort of disconnection that might be causing with children.
So I admire your you're putting your cell phone away when you're with your kids. I need to do that more. I'm the only thing I've come up with, Shane, is I give Leslie my wife my phone on Friday night and I say, do not give this back to me till Monday and don't tell me where you put it. Now, that takes a lot of willpower to even say that. And then it takes her willpower to when I'm begging for on Saturday night to check my fantasy football.
Zengerle She's like she's like, well, you told me I have to give it to you. Like, I got to log in to CBS on, like, my laptop, you know, but that that little pause creates a greater connection with my children, I'm sure of it.
The little bit of friction. Goes a long way, but how would you actually let's pull this back to resilience. Again, what stories stand out in your mind from your parents that you say your parents taught you resilience? Like, what are the the moments that you remember where that happened? You might not have recognized in the moment, but thinking back now, you're like, OK, so my mom I mentioned it earlier. She's the youngest of eight children.
She was the fifth girl, only had three boys, East Indian culture. Nineteen fifties and sixties. One hundred percent of the family's resources went to the boys education and development. Zero dollars went to the women. They were expected to cook and clean and take care of a husband later in life. So my mom, on her own of her own volition, sat outside their house in Nairobi, Kenya, memorizing license plates of cars drove driving by it.
She would see a car coming and she would try to guess the license plate if she saw like a green car or whatever, and she'd silently congratulate herself if she got it right. She ended up developing an incredible memory. And when they wrote the national exam at age 12, all Kenyan children had to write it. She got first and the whole country. So she was whisked away under a full scholarship to the English boarding school with the children of all the kind of colonialists children.
And she was given the only one of the five daughters an education, OK? She learned eight languages. She memorized Shakespeare. She soft boiled eggs in the corner of the school cafeteria. She prayed to a God she'd never heard of before, like it was the Lord's Prayer. She was like, Who's the Lord? Like she didn't have that upbringing. And that, I thought, was a great story. But then when she was whisked into the arranged marriage, my dad, they never would have gotten married.
I told you she was from an upper class family, but they lost all their wealth. That's from a poor family, like the caste system dictated that they wouldn't have met. But because she was the youngest of eight fleeing East Africa and the family had lost the resources, now she's married to this poor dude who takes her to a suburb in Canada, in a continent where she has no family, no friends at all. That is a boom. And you're in your twenties, by the way, when this happens.
So today I had dinner with my mom last night.
I saw her this morning before I flew up here and her ability to have. Navigated what I would call a huge traumatic experience of starting fresh and turning that into a soft, quiet, calm, loving demeanor. All she ever did for my sister and I was all of us, she slept like we were babies in the bed. She never sleep, trained us. She never any time I wanted to quit anything, she let us quit. She was just pure love.
And I think partly why my sister and I have ended up fairly confident and stuff like that is because all we got showered with was just endless love. She channeled all of it into just pure love for my kids, giving them everything I could give them, taking care of them as best as I can. And when I see how she got to that from where she came from, it's not something I talk about much, but it's pretty astounding to me.
It always feels like a wow. I would never be able to do that. And I think she just kept going. It's interesting that you said she let you quit things. Yeah, because I was thinking in my head, as you were saying, that I was like, wait, doesn't deserve enforcing your kids to fulfill their obligations and do all this build more resilience? I don't know. That's a good question. I started beavers and quit beavers.
I started Cubs', I quit cubs. I said I did soccer. I quit soccer. I was the smallest. I was the tiniest. I was the beauteous. That was the nerdiest. I broke my glasses like I just was like a terrible mess. And most of these sports. So she let me put them in and maybe Shane. That's partly why I have taken longer to develop a resilience muscle in myself. Maybe that's why when I got divorced in my late 20s and lost my friend through suicide in that same time period, I struggled for years to get back up and out of that thing.
I lost weight. I couldn't sleep. I lost 50 pounds. It wasn't like I rebounded. I'm not some exemplary model of like, look at me. I'm like, you know, Mr. Teflon. I just rebound it. No, I suffer. I was in therapy twice a week for years. Right. So maybe some of that softness was ingrained in me. And I took it took me heart. It was harder for me to get tough.
And I mean, I'm mentioning that because I also now worry about that for my own kids. You know, my wife, I put three pillows in their little beds and I'll be like three pillows. Like, you're making these kids too soft. They're thick. No kid should have more than one pillow. Like, I'm using that as an example. But it's more like how do we when we're giving our kids a lot, make sure that they also have the muscles to to rebound?
How how do we make sure they're not anxious? They're feeling awesome. D word I use a lot. Right. How do we make them failure proof instead of failure prone. How do we make sure that they are you know, that's what I'm antifragile. That's what I'm wondering about. And that's why I'm trying to explore with my thinking today.
I think it's really interesting because we're at this. This place in time, and maybe it's just me and maybe this has always existed, but I'm seeing my friends increasingly sort of like 30s and 40s go through some sort of life event, whether it's a divorce or they get fired or they're changing careers or something happens that life doesn't go their way.
And their capacity to handle that. When you talk to but sort of like this muscular development of resilience isn't really there. And I think part of the reason it's not there is because we had this generation of parents who loved us so much and everyone got a gold star, everybody gets a gold star, you get participation medals and you don't sort of get feedback.
And more so than that, you're sort of like prevented from failure and prevented from recovering. And I'll give you an example from, like, my kids school.
Right. Like they're so hawkish on the kids at this point that what's hawkish me. Oh, they're just like always on the like, no roughhousing. You can't do that. You can't touch anybody else. You're sort of and it's really interesting to me because that goes away.
Right. But it goes away in grade seven and grade eight. But you get all the social feedback in like grade one, two, three and four. We're like, if you're running around putting a booger on somebody, they're going to push you.
But in grade two, I mean, it doesn't really do any damage, right? Like you're going to cry, but you learn in that age.
But if you're doing stuff that annoys other people in grade seven, they're not going to punch you and it's really going to hurt. So you're like getting this feedback, right?
Yeah. What's it called a progressive resistance? Well, it's a natural consequence to a lot of this behavior.
And we're increasingly it strikes me that we're moving away or we're trying to prevent natural consequences from happening or we're saying there's something wrong with the natural consequence versus the behavior causing the natural consequence. And I worry about that as parents.
What are you what are you doing for your kids to build resilience, to sort of like help them through this so that when they're 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 and something in life doesn't go their way, they have the capacity and the strength to to handle that.
Oh, that's you just put your finger on the root issue and the root question. And it was epitomized for me in a slightly different story, but very similar, Jane, when I got off the stage and it's like well dressed 50 something year old executive runs up to me like urgently like it's not yells get questions after a speech. But you rarely get someone like Razan to see you, like with something burning on his hand. He says, Neil, how what's wrong with my son and how do I fix them?
I was like, excuse me, like, who's your son? He's like my son, he graduated from high school valedictorian, captain of the football team, you know, straight-A student. He gets a scholarship to Duke University. I was like, cool. Like, he's like, yeah, he graduated a few months ago, top of his class, like, honours list, Dean's list, all that stuff. He got a top job at a fancy company.
On his first day of work. He got an email from his boss saying something slightly critical. My son thought it was rude and called me crying from his bed that night saying, I'm never going back there. I won't go back tomorrow. And he couldn't get out of bed. He was crying and broken because of this rude email. And I'm flashing finger quotes because who knows what the email said. And it was the first day of the guy's job, but he was like, what's wrong with my son?
And what do I do about it? Because his son has shown a history of being a shining star and just bam, you're shattered by something so small. And I think we're all to some extent, feeling like that these days. We are becoming an army of porcelain dolls. When we slip and fall on the sidewalk, we don't get up. We just lie there crying, you know, and that is the muscle. I'm trying to guide myself and others.
That's what I'm exploring right now.
So I remember I went to a pretty rough high school during a rough era. We had CNN trucks parked outside of my high school just to put things in on this. This is Canada. And we had like American media trucks covering and resuming violence.
Is that you're saying?
Yeah, covering violence at the school and drugs and a whole bunch of other stuff. And I remember the time being envious of all of these other schools who didn't have these problems, all of these other kids, like I was one zip code away, basically one postal code in Canada, one zip code in the US from, you know, literally a block. And I would have been at this other school, which was brand new, had none of these problems.
And I remember just like being so envious that people who went there and being like, man, they don't have to deal with this. Like, my school's close like two days a week. You know, we're tipping buses over and letting them online fire.
And and then it was only later in life that I was like, actually, that wasn't so bad. I mean, it was bad, but obviously it never happened. But it it sort of built a lot of resilience here. And I ended up getting divorced when stuff happened in life. When I failed at work, when something happened, it was more contextualised than it would have been had I not had that experience. I'm not saying that experience is the only thing.
I mean, I had tons of like everybody else, right? No better, no worse, but different different situations. But I wasn't really protected from a lot of that stuff after being a teenager. And that allowed me to handle things a little bit better in life. And the reason I'm mentioning that is because I know when I get divorced in twenty fourteen, one of my friends get divorced shortly thereafter and the way that we handled it was just totally different and it wasn't good for either of us, but.
That was the first time that she had ever gone through. Something even remotely challenging and you're in your mid 30s and you have no muscles, you don't know what to do. It's crazy. Yes, really hard and part of what you had that your friend did not is the understanding and awareness in your mind that things would go on, you wouldn't move past it, and it would become a step towards a future you because you had been through some traumatic experiences before.
And there's an amazing study that I uncovered while researching my book by Dan Gilbert, famous Harvard professor, psychologist, author of the book Stumbling on Happiness and other amazing books called The End of History Illusion. I don't know if you've heard about this or not, Jane, but basically he and a team of people interviewed 19000 people and essentially they asked them two questions. It was a little bit more scientific. And that's essentially the root of the study was two questions.
Number one, what's been the last 10 years of your life like? And what do you think the next 10 years will hold, every single person said the moment, the last 10 years, I mean, it was up and down. I had this trauma. I got through this like I moved, you know, me and Joe broke up and whatever. Like it was like this tempestuous story for the next 10 years, the next 10 years, all I'm hockey stick.
No, next 10 years. People said same as it is now, I, I probably won't move. Me and Mark are still going to be together instead of a director, I'll be a VPE like they literally thought history stopped where they were today and it didn't matter if people were in their 20s, 30s, 40s or even 60s. They had this perception that history is finished where I am because I can't see that future. So I cannot think what it would look like.
So I read this study and you know what it made me think of? I worked at Wal-Mart for ten years. I was director of leadership development there. But leading up to that role had a lot of roles. And one of the worst roles I had, although there was a huge option to be empathetic and this job was I had to help managers, fire employees. So I was in I was the third person in the room. A manager is telling an employee that they are terminated.
And I'm the third person trying to help coach the manager before the meeting and provide empathy and compassion and clarity for the person getting fired. I would therefore be the one walking them to their car, helping them pack their trunk in the middle of winter. And they would say to me, what am I going to do now? I will never find anything. I've been here twenty years. My life is over. The point of that story, though, is Canada is pretty small and different industries are pretty small.
So I would inevitably bump into people that had been terminated years later. Every single one of them said, I'm not kidding. That was the best thing that ever happened to me. If I hadn't got fired, I wouldn't have had time with my daughter. After her miscarriage, I wouldn't have traveled to Peru like I always said I wanted to do. I wouldn't have got a job with this tiny startup. But now I'm a C sweet, sweet.
I've got promoted twice there because it's only twenty people. Everyone was happy with the termination in the past and at the time they could not see that future staircase. They thought history. And now and I think that's an important study because it helps us see it as a step for you, the divorce and I'm projecting on you, but for you, maybe the divorce was a step towards something and maybe for a friend it's an end of something. And that that difference of how you perceive a traumatic experience can help you get through it.
So in your experience, then, is there ways to help people prime them in those moments where you're about to deliver bad news? But is this an innate personality thing with people or is this a learned sort of skill? Is there anything new people delivering bad news can?
So when I was in the room, the thing I learned after all those meetings over and over and over again was say less, talk less. Don't go over the big summary. I was supposed to go through the big termination letter and explain all the clauses and stuff. No, it was just about. Being there for the person offering your eyes, your hand, your face, your empathy, your compassion and being there with them, because that was the start of the beginning of the little bit of processing.
OK, not like roughly going through the notes, OK. And then in terms of which way the people go afterwards and why, I do think it is learned and I do think it comes from, you know, saying a study like The End of history, illusion and how we all have to trained ourselves to see. So that doesn't help much when when you're getting fired or when you have you know, in my case, my wife told me she's done with our marriage.
You know, like that doesn't help for me to be like, oh, the left side of my brain says this is going to get better. No, but going through it helps you get better and then you get better the next time. But the first one really does hurt. Part of why I wrote this new book is because I share stories of where I got through this stuff and studies that helped confirm to me why it works. And I'm hoping to share with my kids.
It's like, you know, when you go through trauma, you will be OK, especially if you think you will, because here's what the research says. Here's some stories. Here's some things that will help you get through there. But I don't think it's easy and I don't think I have all the answers. I think the way the path you go A, B or C and that little mental tree diagram you just drove is is a question mark.
So I want to get to your divorce. You've written broadly on three topics. So gratitude, happiness and resilience. Yes, we've talked a lot about resilience. Walk me through how these fit together, why these three particular topics, how they came to be sure, and what sort of go through gratitude and happiness to you. Sure. So my wife left me. My best friend took his own life. I started a blog called One Thousand Awesome Things dot com.
For a thousand straight days. I wrote about one simple pleasure in life, things like wearing warm underwear from the dryer, getting cold up to the dinner buffet, first at a wedding, which is huge, and an Indian wedding, because there's 500 tables, you know, hitting a string green lights when you're late for work, just little things.
I expand on them and 500 word essays ish. And for a thousand days I posted the blog, went viral. It took off. It turned into my first book, which is the book of awesome. That book, therefore, is all about gratitude. It isn't one of these Academi I book became a New York Times bestseller. Yeah. Yeah exactly.
Yeah. Sold million copies and it was number one I think for one hundred straight weeks on the bestseller list. Why do you think it was number one. Why do you think it resonated so much with people.
The weirdest advice or the weirdest compliment I ever got to things too. You know how people say stuff about your own work and then sometimes they say stuff that helps you see it in a different way. Mark Madsen once said this to me on my part because he's like, you know, when someone wrote this about my sutler and it made me realize what I was doing right. So to compliment stock information, one is this is the only self-help book I've ever bought that doesn't tell me what to do.
It shows me how to do it. Like I'm not saying, oh, sit around your dinner table every night and write down the stuff on a piece of paper. I don't say that once. I'm talking about the virtues of getting my opinion before. It's all out of pannier, you know? I mean, I have. So then you can start to see your own life that way. And the second company got that resonate with me. It was my eight year old son now never reads anything, but he read your book.
And so I think there's something to reading and books in general that I'm always scratching at, which is I'm trying to expand the size of the pie. My writing veers slightly different than yours, like I'm aiming for the big fat mass.
I want the most accessible writing possible because I want the widest possible market. And when I get nonreaders, to read that to me is a sign of the book's success. Nonreaders reading as a kind of one of my big ultimate goals. And it's a topic that's enduring, like we're all taught sort of awareness of gratitude and then that we should have gratitude and nobody's sort of like, I don't know, maybe I can't say nobody.
I mean, I am trying to think how I model that for my kids just seems so cheesy and hokey when you hear about it these days, you know, it's like, yeah, well, Oprah's gratitude journal and like write down five things on your bedside table before you go to bed and like I mean, everyone's like, yeah, yeah, yeah, sure. But it's when you do it as a practice, when you go, I always say to people, the best way to do it, quickest way to do it is go around your dinner table at night and do Rose Rose Thorn.
But have you heard about this. No. So you say a rose from your day. That's something that was a highlight for you. A gratitude. Then say your son says one, your other son says one, whatever, then another rose, then a thorn, which is something that did not go well because you want to get it off your chest, you need to vent and the other people need to show you empathy. And then A Bud B you d which is something you are looking forward to tomorrow, next week, next year, whenever that little exercise helps you get all the.
Gratitudes and that the science has really work, Emin's and McCulloh, 10 weeks of five gratitudes a week makes you not only happier but physically healthier after 10 weeks. So we know it's a powerful punch to your brain to do that, but it puts it in a little around the table dinner exercise that's just quite like simple and easy to do. Why is that effective, though?
I have a theory on this SUMAI theory, and you're going to prove me wrong here in a second is because I was thinking about this, researching, speaking with you, and also like the things that I do at home. And I'm like, oh, these little moments of joy are actually really awesome, but why are they awesome?
And then I think a lot of it is just adding perspective. Right. So you get almost like this flashlight with a narrow beam and then you start, oh, look, I'm going to find something that's really nice. You widen it a little bit more, and then it's that perspective that causes you to see things in a new way. But to get the perspective, you're actually reflecting. And it's the reflection. I think there's something to do with that reflection that actually drives this sort of an.
Drives the response, I don't know your brain, I'm much bigger than mine, so I my my instinct is to say you're right. No, no.
Can I add and sprinkle some salt on that with a little bit of evolutionary biology stuff? Two hundred thousand years we've been around ish, our species and plus or minus, you know, whenever they can backdate the carbon dating of the first human body or whatever. And for the first one hundred and ninety nine thousand nine hundred of those years, we had to fight for survival. Luckily, there's something in our brain called our amygdala. It secretes a fight or flight hormone.
And when you see a saber tooth tiger, you know, I got to fight that thing to the death with a stick where I got out, run the hell away. Right. And that served us very well. We went from a few scattered hundreds on the African savannah to the most populous mammal on the planet. We took over this spaceship. We won. We eat all the other ones for dinner, literally, like we they used to eat us, but we eat them now, you know, and we won.
We took it over in the last hundred years. We no longer need that one hundred ninety nine thousand nine hundred years of evolutionary biology that has programmed us into thinking if it doesn't kill me, I got to kill it and I got to run. We now live in an era of abundance and abundance is only skyrocketing. Think about it. That model I said you can press a button in a car, picks you up, press another button, you've got dinner, press another button, then you've got entertainment.
Like we just press buttons now. So we don't need that that fight or flight hormone as much yet. It's still there. That is not. Well, you're not just going to evolve away your amygdala, you know, what are you going to do? So you're going to naturally have all the neural pathways to see negative stuff first. That is why it bleeds. It leads people to say to me, why isn't there a good news newspaper? I'm like, no one would watch it.
They want to watch the fire. We want the race car crash. We want the hard hitting football. We want that stuff that they're like, oh, everyone's rubbernecking on the highway. It's like, of course, everyone wants to see the accident. We instinctively, biologically, evolutionarily want to see it. So this gratitude stuff is actually practising to develop a whole new muscle car being totally different neural pathways to see how awesome it is to be alive.
You got thirty thousand days on this planet. You will never be as young as you are right now. And if you don't watch for all these tiny, little pleasurable moments, it'll slip away and you won't see them. And life is awesome. And the gratitude stuff works because then you're like, whoa, I'm so happy to see you today, Shane. I can't wait to shake your hand. And thank you for your time. I love seeing the farm street offices.
Wow. I can't wait to soak in your bookshelf on the way out. It's beautiful. I, I want to soak that in because if I don't, life's over and I missed it.
Yeah. Life is so brief and so fragile. Right. We think we naturally just sort of think oh life expectancy is sort of say eighty or something and I'm this old so I have like all this time left in the future. But recently I mean I've seen a lot of people that I know become sick or sort of suffer some sort of catastrophic injury. And life isn't long. Life is super short and fragile. And we always think that we'll put off living until we're older.
When we retire, we're going to talk about retirement a little bit, but we always think we can put this off until we're in a better place or we have more time and but life. There's this quote by Mariangela that I love, which is it's on the wall in my living room, actually, and it says life loves the liver of it. Oh, that's good. And I think it's so deep on multiple levels and it's so easily accessible to.
Right, because every day you wake up, it's like this is your your day, right.
This you can live your best life today.
And so one of the routines we're talking about is sort of like routines for gratitude or perspective. One of the things that I taught my kids to do, which I encourage all parents of young children to do, if they're so inclined, is when your kids get out of bed in the morning, a lot of people send them downstairs, like go watch cartoons because parents are a little slower to wake up than kids. I don't know if everybody's kids are like mine, like they're up and out of bed and like full bore in like thirty seconds.
Right. Like I'm dressed like 5:00 am. Yeah. Yeah. And so I was like, OK, you can't get out of your bed till seven. Like here's the rules sort of right. Like at seven you can come in my bed and we're going to cuddle and this is how we're going to start the day and they're still doing it. They're ten and nine, although it's gone from like thirty minutes to maybe five to eight now. But we sort of talk about like what we're looking forward to today, like if there was any lesson from yesterday from.
Sort of an educational perspective, I did this and I got this outcome, but that wasn't what I wanted. So I would do it differently, which is sort of like do the spaced repetition on, oh, remember what happened yesterday? If you encounter the situation today, like, how would you respond to that? And then it's like, what are you looking forward to today? And we just spend a few minutes talking and cuddling. Wow, what an incredible practice.
I'm very jealous. I want to do that now.
Like, I don't do that with you guys.
You can't come in my bed and cuddle and I particularly want to cuddle with you, but I think that's that's amazing. And it's about pausing. And that's partly why I always say life spending days. I never refer to it as years. I always refer to it as days. I'm a big fan of the Kevin Kelly death clock idea. So I have to tell you that Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired magazine, keeps a clock on his desktop that has an expected lifespan.
Subtract his current age measured in days. So if the average lifespan, which it is in North America, is thirty thousand days and he happens to have lived twenty one thousand five hundred of them, that thing will say, Quick, Neil, do the math. Eighty five hundred and then tomorrow it'll say eight thousand four hundred ninety nine. And that literally is the number of days he has left. A lot of people will find that too dark or too to like.
Well man, I think it's empowering and it gives you information that it's like, you know what? I really don't want to spend my time this way, but I really don't want to do this.
And I only have so much like delaying things I always find like so weird to me, like when you know something that you want to do something and you just keep putting it off and off and off and you might never get a chance to do it.
It doesn't force you to take action. There's even a Google Chrome plugin that's called the Death Clock. And I did download it, but I deleted it eventually because it was all black with like red skulls and stuff. And I was like, that's a little dark, OK, that depends how you frame it. So that's kind of the whole gradle to piece. That Book of Awesome was the manifestation of a blog I wrote every day for a thousand straight days.
Now, you asked me, what about happiness? OK, three years after that I met someone new.
Her name is Leslie. We fell in love. A year later has been with me and I got down on one knee and I proposed and she says, yeah, so I'm like entering into I mean. Thirty three years old. I'm entering into like marriage number two, which feels super weird. I told myself I was never going to get married again and this is it for me. And here I am getting married. So Leslie and I get married.
We go on a honeymoon to Southeast Asia. We never been no one neither of us had ever been there before. She planned the wedding. So I planned the honeymoon. And then on the plane, on the way home, she's not feeling well. She's sick. And we have a layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. And she's like, Neil, I really need to lie down. Like find me a pharmacy. Like where where can I get some rest?
And I'm like, that's like we're about to get on a 13 hour flight home. Like, Are you sure you're up for this? She's like you, the pharmacy. So we find the pharmacy, find a place to lie down, get on the plane. It's like, are you sure? She's like, I'm sure. So the plane takes off. We're up in the sky. We're above the clouds. She goes to the tiny airplane bathroom at the front of the plane.
She's there for a few minutes. She comes back to our seats and she says, I'm pregnant. She bought the pregnancy test in the Malaysian airport pharmacy. She did the pregnancy test in the tiny airplane bathroom. And we're on our honeymoon.
So that's why she wasn't feeling well, didn't waste any time, didn't waste any time. Baby was born literally nine months the day after my wedding day, July 12th to April 12th.
I know my friend sent me a year laughing. So I have to just tell you, a friend of mine sent me a YouTube clip of Mario Lemieux's first shift. Or for those that don't know, Mary Lemieux jumps on the ice, he gets a pass and he scores like that's like Mary Louise Virginities. I'm like, OK, so so anyway.
But I had nine months searching and that force of thought, a new thought, which is how do I help my kids live happy lives? So I ended up writing a three hundred page love letter to my unborn child before he was born. And this is the happiness equation that is literally the letter. So that's just a deep exploration reading every single positive psychology study out there, the science of happiness and trying to distill it down to frameworks and models that I and my children can understand.
And that came from a death clock place because I thought if I got hit by a bus before the kid gets born or like before, they're of an age where they can understand my philosophy. I want to at least have that codified somewhere. That was kind of the that that gave me the the sort of needle in my back or whatever, the prod, the cattle prod to keep going.
How would you define happiness? Happiness is the joy you feel while striving towards your potential. I've borrowed and butchered and amalgamated that quote from a number of sources even two thousand years ago. A lot of philosophers use that phrase. Things about happiness. I want to share, though, are two thousand years ago, Aristotle said it's the meaning of life. We've been thinking that since then. Three hundred and fifty years ago in the Declaration of Independence, they wrote Everyone gets life, liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
They were careful to add the legalese that you get life and liberty for sure, but you only get to chase happiness. You get the pursuit of. And then in 1996, this is the most impactful, Martin Seligman and Mahalakshmi Hall in Pennsylvania founded the whole discipline of positive psychology. So when I talk to friends of mine who are on the International Council of Global Happiness, there really is such a thing would like I might have butchered the name is like Jeffrey Sachs, professor at Columbia, Martin Seligman's on Nachshon Aikau, author of The Happiest avenges on it.
And I talked to Sean and I was like, hey, what are you guys up to on that council? He's like, we're spending our all our meetings talking about how to define happiness. So to your point and to your original question a minute ago, it's it is an almost undefinable word. I will say my definition is the joy you feel whilst driving towards your potential. I use that particularly because, for example, or training for a marathon in the rain with shin splints, you can still be happy while giving birth with labor, with pain.
You can still be happy because you're achieving something bigger than you than you thought you could or you're going your version of yourself is expanding. The point that I want to say, though, is in all the scientific studies, the way they define it is they call it subjective wellbeing. They ask people on a scale of typically one to ten how happy they are self reported. They ask them to do a number of different things and then they ask them at the end.
So all these studies I'm talking about, like journaling, nature walks, they'll compare people doing nature walks with people on anti-depressants, with people doing neither, with people doing both, and then they're able to intimate results from those studies that way. And I went deep on the science there because I just know you would have asked me anyway. Probably happiness is so interesting to me.
I used to ask a lot of people I don't do this anymore, how happy he is. That's a lot of my friends that. Yeah, let's scale one to ten cup thing or no, it's just open ended.
Well, how people respond to that is very interesting question for me.
And I stopped asking that question because more and more it seemed like I was getting this. I'm happy, but or I'll be happy when and especially with kids, I notice a whole lot right now. I'll use kids as an example. And this doesn't apply to everybody. It's sort of a gross overgeneralization. But you can break parents down into two categories. There's the parents who are in the moment with their kids, and then there's the parents who are always waiting for their kids to be in the next phase.
And I find the people I was around the most that I didn't actually like spending time with were always like wanting their kid to be in the next phase. Hedonistic treadmill. Right. So it's like, oh, I had a baby. Great.
I love this thing, but I can't wait till there are two diapers. I can't wait till they walk. I can't wait till they go to school. I can't wait till they go to high school. And it even gets to the point where I can wait till they're out of the house. Yeah, you're lucky. You're like, well, why do you have a car if you want to be gone?
So to me, that's like I'm happy. PODMORE I'll be happy when. And it always struck me that, like, you're never in the present moment. So the pursuit of happiness is also an interesting thing where I don't know if I've actually thought about it, but I think it causes a lot of unhappiness.
Right, because you're striving for this thing and you're wanting and there's a gap between sort of what you have and what you want. And I think that a lot of happiness is sort of like just wanting what you have or the absence of desire for something more. And so you can think of happiness as, yeah, you can be happy running and you can be happy with shin splints because you're doing what you want to be doing in that moment. You don't need anything else, but you're your present in that moment.
So I think personally, a lot of unhappiness comes from living in the past or living in the future. That's good. Have you heard the model that adds to that saying living with the past is depression, living in the future is anxiety? Oh, that's interesting. No, I haven't heard. Yeah, yeah. I've just been hearing a little bit of the I don't know, I don't have a stable source unfortunately, but that the idea that living in the present is therefore happiness.
If you're living in the past you are doing something, are depressed about something or regretful of something, or living in the future is typically anxiety because you're taking all potential future iterations of what could happen and brain up to today. That's anxiety. And if you can live in your present, that's OK. I like that.
I think you have to look backwards to learn, right? So you have to reflect on things that have happened and importantly, your contribution to whatever is going on in your life. And it might be five percent, it might be one percent.
Maybe you don't like living in the presence of its ultimate.
And and you apply that to the future to hopefully sort of in other words, that need for funnel cakes at the fair. And tomorrow I feel sick. So, I mean, yeah, you got to take some of the future and pass them there.
So to question one about Leslie, and then I want to go back to the happiness equation. Did you did you know when you met her that you loved her? Was this like an instant love at first sight or was this. She's going to listen to this. That's right. I felt very strongly about her very quickly, and it was scary for me because I had been divorced. And so I was fearful of that emotion, thinking to myself, oh, my gosh, I felt this lust before.
And it manifested itself into a marriage that did not work. So I have to now be careful of this emotion. So the way I navigated that was I created a little system for myself, which was this I need to be dating someone. I actually created the system before I met Leslie. So it helped to have in place beforehand. I need to be dating someone for one year, a full year before minimum before we live together. I need to be living together with someone for one year minimum before we get married.
And that little two step process actually really helped because before I met Leslie, I didn't date anyone else for a year. And some of that was by design. Some of that was people that didn't want to date me. Who I was interested in, you know, is the natural human relationships. I went on a lot of dates and they ghosted me. You know what I'm saying? There's a lot of that, too.
So to finally, Leslie and I, it kind of one hundred dates later, you know, it kind of we had this chemistry in this connection, but that model still applied and that helped me tastefully process my emotions. I was a bit scared, like the story of your friend that got engaged for twenty four hours. But that would have been my fear that I would rush into another marriage and be divorced again. And that's a fear based on what happened in the first marriage.
So. Correct me if my understanding is wrong here, but you came home one day in your first marriage. Yes, she said, I don't love you anymore. Tell me about that conversation. Yeah.
So that is the phrase I use in my TED talk and in speeches. And when I try to describe how that relationship ended, because this is a podcast and it's long form, I can take you zoom, I can zoom into it and a little bit more granularity to say that it wasn't exactly like that. That's just the that's the way I summarize it. So what happened was we'd been married, I think, two years at this time. And I was working at Wal-Mart.
She's a high school teacher. I get home. I get home one night and. She's trying to process something big and she's trying and she's she's scared and she's sad and all these emotions, so I'm trying to comfort her. What is that? What are you thinking about? And she's like, I'm I'm worried that we're kind of different. And I was like, well, opposites attract, you know, like the classic, uh, maybe, you know, naive response.
And she's like, Yeah, but, you know, you proposed so quickly eight months after we started dating, I proposed. Then you went to Harvard for two years for business school. So we were long distance through our engagement and our marriage. We got married the summer between the two years she came down to Boston to try to live there. It didn't work because she couldn't find a job, visas and issues, et cetera. So she went home and then we got together and bought the house.
And she's like, I think we're just starting to get to know each other now, two years into the marriage. And now I'm feeling like maybe we're not connected and I'm not sure if I love you. And that was the death blow. That phrase, because I grew up in the Western world. Love is the ultimate. Not like my parents. Like, you know, my parents would supersede love overall. But I'm like I've been surrounded by music and movies and songs my whole life, like love, if love is the answer, you know, and all you need is love.
And and so to hear that she was not sure that she was in love with me anymore, that was what cracked it kind of open. And what happened next? Well, what happened next is we had to get a divorce and we had to we had to like, did you go to marriage counseling?
I was like, how did this conversation flow? Was it like, well, I still want that. I don't talk about very often is that there was somebody else in her life. So I don't talk about that very often out of respect to her. But there was somebody else that she did have some emotions for. And so there was that presence and that person also had emotions for her and it was also in a relationship. So it's really two relationships ending at once so that they could be together doing so, I think as carefully and tactfully and positively as possible.
I knew that there was she had emotions elsewhere. And so it wasn't a choice, really. And I also, despite thinking to myself so strongly and seriously, like, I want this to work, we just bought a house. We're about to have kids. Like, this is it? I'm in my I'm in my late twenties. And like this was I'm supposed to do right. Like buy a house, get married, have kids. Like, isn't that the model?
So when all that cracked open, we did not pursue marriage counseling and I don't remember why if we explore that or not, we went to the divorce lawyer and he's like, well, why don't you make a list of everything you guys own and just write a name beside it all. And we did that in one night because it was like we didn't own anything like the harder thing. The split was like, who gets the wedding album?
And I was like, I don't want that. So she's like, Oh, that'd be great. I really like those pictures, you know? And I'd be like, Oh, I like the couch. She'd be like, well, I'd like like we had one car, like it was trying to split very little assets. And so we did that. And then unfortunately my friend took his own life at that same time. So and that was my best friend from Harvard.
His name's Chris. And that's what amplified kind of the emotions at the time. And that's partly why either one of those things in their own would be so tough. Yeah. And both of them had a run up, like Chris had attempted suicide once before. Again, this time I don't talk about Htun. I knew his psychiatrist. I knew his medications. I had an emergency phone number. I was supposed to call if I saw anything and with my wife.
There were some previous conversations that I can now look back on and say, oh, that was a big sign or that was a member. One day we went hiking in the Adirondacks and we got to the top of the mountain. And I was like, that was the worst day of my life. There is bugs. There was mosquitoes. I thought I heard a bear. I'm covered in blood. She was like, that was the best day of my life.
I love I want to do this every day. And I was like, whoa, how possibly could we be so different? And you can look back and decide stuff. So and then this fall apart, the marriage falls apart. I lose my close friend and that's where I really started putting like 10 hours that day outside of work into that blog. Like, I just dove deep into one thousand awesome things, dotcom, because I had nowhere else to go.
I had no other place to channel my energy. I had no one else in my phone book. I had no I don't want to get in touch with mutual friends because they were mutual friends. So they also knew, like, I was like, I got to find a bachelor apartment downtown Toronto, find a place to live by myself. I got to, like, fix my and I started going to therapy twice a week because that's how much I needed to talk about process.
And it was just like a mess. And a lot of it was breaking down a lot of the systems I carried around in my head, East Indian culture, you know, whatever baggage around what I should be doing by when in my life. I already feel that being a doctor, you know, that was already a mess. I didn't know the East Indian culture is supposed to, you know, great work, to be happy to be a doctor.
If not, then maybe fail and be a lawyer, an engineer. But not certainly not like when I was.
Never mind being an artist like I'm doing today, you know, like never mind that. Then you got to be married, have kids, certainly heterosexual marriage, certainly. Probably to kids. Ideally a boy and a girl. You know, I'm saying I didn't into this from stuff my parents told me it was just stuff I saw growing up. Every family I saw growing up was like, the dad's a doctor. The mom stays at home. They got two kids.
The kids are probably becoming a doctor or an engineer. All of the parents talk about is what grades their kids get in school. And like, you know, I'm saying that's the culture I grew up in. If you're an artist and you don't get this, probably if you are, you're like singing baby because that's exactly what you feel like. Do so that shattering of all those assumptions and all those things I thought I wanted was hard to process.
Never mind the idea that I was a failure at something in whose eyes to myself, I failed at marriage. I got a divorce. I suck at relationships. I am unlovable. This is a story. Exactly. I'm ugly. I am I'm not someone people want to be with. I'm too neurotic. I talk too loud. I, I'm hard to be around. I'm not good in bed. Maybe we didn't have kids. Maybe this is a function like your mind goes where it goes.
And for me in those times. In those years, in those days I was thinking like I'm sunk, I'm over. How did you stop those narratives or change them or replace them? Like, walk me through that, because it's like I have this theory on narratives being so powerful in their lives, like the stories we tell ourselves, like in a relationship. You have your story. You sort of have either a story of your relationship, your story, like there's the story of your parents, what's expected of you.
And like, how did you how did you replace those narratives? How did you change them? Is that through there? So there's kind of like a low level answer and a high level answer. So the low level answer is therapy. The blog, remember, my blog was a daily journaling practice to focus essentially on gratitude and positivity. That really helps. Right? I found an outlet. I talked about it. I had a therapist like I.
I had great family. I went bunked with my parents every weekend while I was processing stuff and crying and processing all this. So there's a lot of that. But the higher level answer is I learned to tell myself a different story. So you called it these were stories you were telling yourself. I love that you said that because that would have been an enamelled that I wouldn't have been able to see at the time. But truthfully, what was happening, Shane, was I was telling myself all these stories and I had to work to revise and replace those narratives.
So there's a really famous study called Too Fat to Fit Through the door by universities that Utrecht University, if I'm saying that right or wrong, in the Netherlands, they studied anorexics, OK? And they asked people who had anorexia and people who did not. A very simple, non challenging question to answer, but some of that mentally distracted them while they walked through a doorway so they were not paying attention to the doorway. The anorexia shifted their body much more than the non anorexic, believing they were too fat to fit through the doorway, although, of course, they were not.
The story they were telling themselves says, I'm fat. So when I walk through a door, I got it. I got a shuffle sideways to fit through here. That study was a real breakthrough for me as I was writing about resilience in my new book because I saw myself in that story.
I'm unlovable, I'm ugly. No one will date like these stories become fact. And part of the language that you have to learn is learning to see the story. I feel biology is a lot different than I failed my parents first ones. In fact, second one's a story. I'm an alcoholic is a lot different then no one will trust me again. First one's a fact. That one's a story. So on top of the I am divorced fact, I was layering on top all these endless stories and I've done that to myself throughout my whole life.
I tell a story about discovering I had one testicle and grade nine gym class in this new book. And I know I always thought everyone had one. We have one nose, one mouth, one heart, one who who's to say you needed to. I didn't know. Then my great nine gym class teacher made some horrible comments, referring to a guy that he wrestled with in a wrestling tournament. He crushed the guy's testicle and he said after that, I mean, everyone called him half a man and everyone in the gym class burst out laughing his great.
And then that's when it dawned on me that, oh, my gosh, everyone else has to. And so guess what happened, Jane? Once again, I told myself a zillion stories. I am disfigured. I will never have. Children, I have a high pitched voice, I am saying so part of that process was learning to see the story, just learning the you're the one that's the best at this.
You're all you get so high level on the models that we use inside our brains. And like this is one that I'd love for you to explore because you could help me with that. But like seeing how learning how to see the story, that is a big skill that takes time to peel away the onion over and over and over again till you get to the root core objective truth. And oftentimes when you get there, I have one testicle. I am a person who has been divorced and that ain't so bad.
That ain't that bad at all. Actually, it's not that bad. But it takes a while to get to the core objective truth. And then you realize, like, who cares about that?
There's this old man at this coffee shop that I go to. I don't even know his name. I talk to him all the time. Just briefly passing by. I always say, like, how is your how are you doing today? And he's like, I woke up. It's a good day right out of the ground. And I find it actually like it's great, right?
Because sometimes I'm walking in there and I'm like lost mentally the stories that we're telling ourselves for whatever reason. And it snaps me out of it and it's just like, yeah, oh my God, my day could be so much worse. Right. Like if this was the case and it helps you gain perspective, it's easier to see the narratives of other people and have sort of just started exploring this, this narrative idea a little bit. But one of the narratives.
Go ahead. No, no.
I was just going to say, have you heard of that study called It's from the Telegraph. So have you had enough one night stands?
No, I want to tell you, I won't tell you about the station because I think you might find this interesting. So basically, it's like there's a study in the Telegraph where they looked at people who had found long term true love. OK, so they were, by all definitions with the one. And they said to them, so how many people did you date before this one? How many one night stands that you have, how many times you were chillun?
How many times did you cheat on someone else? It's a bizarre research study, obviously.
But what they found and I'm going to read this to you right now, according to the study, the average woman no, this is in a committed, long term loving relationship will kiss fifteen people, have seven sexual partners for one night, stands for disaster dates, three relationships less than the year, two relationships more than a year fall in love twice. Be heartbroken twice. Cheat once. B, cheat alone once, all before they find a lifelong partner.
The male statistics are very similar. Average man will kiss sixteen people have ten sexual partners, six one night stands for disaster dates for relationships that lasts less than a year to more than a year. Fall in love twice. Be heartbroken twice. Cheat once and be cheated on once, all before he finds a long term partner. If you ask the average person, would you like to go through all that to find the one, they would say, Know what, Beechey Island have ten disaster dates like you kidding me?
But the story that you might tell yourself later is that was all in service of finding the one. I can now say confidently that without that divorce, I would not have found Leslie. I wouldn't have been in that apartment building. I wouldn't have met Rita, the friend who, like nothing would have happened that would have led me to her. With the benefit of hindsight, I can now refer to that as a step which we talked about earlier and a story that I've changed in my mind.
And I like this study from the Telegraph, although even though it's a little funny, it does point to the idea that, hey, maybe everything happens for a reason. And actually you can reframe things towards your the ultimate more positive place you hopefully are projecting towards. I like that. I think asking yourself what story you're telling yourself is really important. And I think to understand other people asking yourself what story they're telling themselves about themselves is the key to sort of understanding and gaining perspective and seeing the world through their eyes and empathy and empathy.
So one of the stories you told yourself at Harvard. Yeah. Was that you don't belong there and you're the worst. Yeah. Walk me through that.
So, first of all, there's a joke in Harvard Business School called the admissions mistake jokes. It's like everyone's like, well, I'm the admissions mistake. Like people refer to themselves as admissions mistake. People are like, well, I think that's probably the admissions. It's like this like classic like little joke within Harvard. And I actually thought, I'm sure many people, they're dead, like, no, that's actually me. How do I get in?
I wasn't even Dean's list in my undergrad. I had seven days. I'm at Harvard. They must have made a mistake.
You know, they must have miscalculated in their internal secret algorithm, like other experiences were, because I got there and I was blown away by every other student. So I always felt like the bottom of the class kind of thing. And the funny thing happened was I got the scholarship to go there because I was so poor. You know, when you when you apply to undergrad, they ask you. Are your parents tax returns, but when you apply your masters, they ask you for your tax returns.
So my tax returns are crap. So they're like, congratulations, you're so poor and we have an 18 billion dollar endowment, so you get a little bit of it. So mine was called the John MacArthur Fellowship. I write a letter to this dude who I don't know because he's paying for my tuition for the two years of the NBA. Turns out he's the former dean of the place. He was the dean of HBS from 1980 to 1985. He was a Canadian.
So he set up a scholarship for future Canadians to go down there. Any Canadians listening? If you're poor, you might be asked that he this guy might give you a free ride.
OK, so I end up getting invited to meet him for lunch. And while I have lunch with him, he looks at me in the eyes. He's like, how's it going? How's school? And I'm like, it's stressful, man. It's stressful. I'm going out every night, like wining and dining with millionaire consultants and bankers with black bags under their eyes. We all want to be millionaire consultants and bankers with black bags under our eyes, too.
So we're like hobnobbing with them and applying and first interviews and secretaries and blah, blah, blah, blah. It's overwhelming.
Stressful because. Why are you doing that? I was like, well, I had no money when I came here. I'm hoping to correct that problem. And he's like, dude, you're you're at the beach right now.
He didn't say, dude, OK, he's like 80 years old, but he was like, you're a guy outside the beach. You're looking in the beach. There's a fence right in front of your face. And inside are 10 sunbathing beauties. Make whatever gender you want, but you are with a thousand other people outside that beach. And when they open the beach, all thousand of you are going to run in to try to get that Google job or that amazing hedge fund opportunity or whatever it is.
But there's only ten of them. So your odds of getting any of them are so low. I was like, yeah, I know. I know that. I already feel that. I feel like a loser here. He's like, so get off the beach, go to the library, find the nerd, find the broken bankrupt companies who don't have money to send a private jet to Harvard to do their fancy campus recruiting. And if you call up those companies and if they take you inside, you will get a bigger job with more learning and more experience that you can possibly imagine, your voice will be worth something at the table.
You will be a big fish in a small pond, get off the beach and go to the library. Guess what? I never applied for a single job through Harvard Business School ever. I made an Excel spreadsheet of every company I could think of that I wanted to work at and had also been through a hard time, flat stock price for a decade. A PR crisis, something that would make it interesting, but also that they weren't coming to Harvard, called a hundred companies, got fifty responses, got about twenty five people doing what I called first interviews were just five minute interviews, got about twelve first interviews from that and a five offers all from places off the beach.
I accepted that job at Wal-Mart, which at the time if you remember was like not a very cool place at the time. You know, they're killing Main Street and Lola. So I got a job, Wal-Mart. And guess what? I was the only one with, like, the background I had. In the entire office of a thousand plus people and different is better than better. While I didn't know a ton. More than a ton, the stuff I did know in the meetings was different than the stuff everybody else knew.
So I was promoted quickly. I was given leadership positions. He was right. He was basically right. And so I learned and I discovered through researching it afterwards, this line of thinking holds true across the world and every culture and demographic. If you put yourself in a small pond, then your academic self concept or how you think of yourself goes up for up to 10 years after you leave the pond. So you think you're great for way longer than you're in that position and it stays with you.
So now one of my keys to resilience is can you find small ponds? We now live in a giant pond called a global community with a billion people. You'll never be good enough, ever. I can tell you a hundred people that have more followers than you have more views than you have more podcast downloads than you and you know them to. And even Oprah is looking at Justin Bieber's followers like no one wins. So in this global community, it's important to develop resilience by giving ourselves games that we can win.
Sign up for the marathon in the lowest, slowest category, tee off from the tees closest to the pin, rigged the game so you can finally win something and then you'll feel better about yourself and you'll use that confidence, the energy to keep going.
And so underrated in terms of standing out. Right. Like who you're competing against.
If you're a type A person, they're prone to competing against other type people. Be a lot easier to compete against type people. The people that don't work as hard, people that don't learn as quickly, you know, you're going to you're bound to go further. And the contrast that you're creating will make you stand out. And it's hard to stand out in a world that's brutally competitive. I mean, this is the pain I think a lot of us feel on a daily basis, because I can tell you one hundred metrics that I have that I'm like, oh, so and so's higher, so and so's better.
So like, this is just where our brains go back to our evolutionary thinking. But yeah, if you can put yourself in the game, you can win, then you feel better after I always say this will happen. My keynote speaking after the Book of Awesome got popular bunch of speakers bureau has called me up and said, Hey, you want to speak for us? I said, Sure, how much do you think it should cost? And they told me some crazy number, whatever it was, ten to fifteen thousand dollars.
I'm like, What are you kidding me? So I'm going to pay me that much money, like to fly and give a speech. And they're like, yeah. And I'm like, who else is getting paid that much like this New York Times best seller, this gold medal winning Olympian, this. And I'm like, oh, I know all those people like those are like Rockstar professor like those are those are winners. Like those are people I don't know.
What about the lowest was the lowest fee category you have and they're like five thousand dollars, whatever. Like that's the lowest. And they're like we work for commission, that's the lowest we have. And I'm like, who's in that category? And they're like listed a bunch of people that no offense, I just didn't know them. I never heard of any of their names. So I said, put me there. Guess what shame that meant. I was practicing essentially in like boardrooms of fifty people rather than like Vegas casinos for a thousand.
So my ability to think I could do it shot up. That's really interesting. And it stayed up as I kept moving to higher and higher stages. That's really fascinating. Going back to Walmart for a second, talk about how narratives changed from Walmart eating the world and killing Main Street to will they survive in a world, Amazon?
One of the things I wanted to touch on with you is untouchable days. What are those? So I worked at Walmart for a decade and my writing all the stuff I've been talking about with you so far today, I was always on the side. It was a side hustle. But then I had this brilliant epiphany when lesson I got married, had kids. I'm like, I actually want to see my kids. I don't want to be the guy grinding till 4:00 a.m. every night and away every week during a speech.
So I'm going to have to quit one of these. Either that's the writing that I do every night or the Walmart that I do every day. Took a long time, came up with the help of a mentor with a to question test to decide the deathbed test, which will I regret not doing more on my deathbed and the Plan B test, which is what will I do if it fails the writing pass both those tests. I thought I would regret it more and I thought if I failed that I could go knocking on a door again for a job.
So I did the writing job full time, starting in twenty sixteen right after the happiness equation came out.
Problem was, I was my purported goal of doing that was to write my next book and after six months I was like, I ain't written shit. Like nothing's been written like I. How did that even happen. I have no other job. And then people would say like how's the new book coming? I'd be like, Oh you mean now that I quit my job terribly?
It was so embarrassing. They're like, well, what are you do aren't you just empty? I was like, no meetings have congealed into my calendar like like a virus because I got to be with a web developer. And the before the speech, just you can imagine this endless meetings. So I took what I called a very strong position at the time and I started carving out one day per week.
What I called untouchable, I wrote in all caps, like literally until you see a in my Ikal and I plan them 16 weeks in advance, why 16 weeks? Because the speaking calendar is arranged typically six to 12 months in advance. But nothing else says so. I could see which days I'd be traveling, but the rest of the week looked empty 16 weeks in advance. So, I mean, one day a week untouchable. Guess what would happen on that day?
Nothing. I would have no internet, no cell phone, no connection to anybody, not even my wife. Nobody could get hold of me. No one could contact me. I could nothing. It was like an oven. I was literally untouchable. And guess what happened? Instead of writing five hundred words through bits and spurts on a normal day, I wrote 5000 words like ten days worth of writing one day, a 10x increase in my production.
So that's where my next book came from. I launched three books, my podcast from those days. I like everything good that I've done in the last couple years, has only come from untouchable days. Wrote this article for Harvard Business Review about it. It went viral. Adam Grant said You gave a name to something that I've always done. I never knew what it was called. And then this era of endless ephemera and constant pinging and ringing phones, it's even more important that we each take one day a week to be totally untouchable to the world.
It's easy for us like entrepreneurs to do that right.
In a sense, we can structure our lives around work and we can create this. And one of the feedbacks I often get from people is what you can do that. But I, I can't. I used to work in an office and I was like, well, I used to work in the biggest office in the mall, which was the government. Yeah. And I was like what I used to do. I couldn't do that, but I would do morning.
Right. So I would just block in my calendar three to four days a week. There you go.
And try to block off the mornings and try because most people just generally when you're scheduling did the admins are sort of like looking through calendars, going, oh, this is blocked off. They can't always see what's going on. And so they'll try to find the first common space that's available to everybody and this dramatically cut down on my meetings and totally increase my productivity in the sense of every day. I would basically have like two, three. And I still do that to the to this day, with the exception.
There's exceptions now, but most mornings I won't schedule anything and then I'll schedule all the stuff that I don't want to be doing, sort of like the calls, the lawyers, the accountants, the talking to the web guys, all of that stuff always in the afternoon. Yeah. And probably later in the week, too. I mean, later in the week. Right. Because I'm not my best sort of like Monday recharge with the kids and sort of like come back to work and I'm ready to go.
Right. And I find this harmony sort of we were talking about this a little before we started recording, but this harmony between sort of family and work and how they feed each other.
And I want to I want you to talk about well, that's why fly wait a second here. But it enables me to do so. And it's really the uninterrupted time. I'm not distracted. I don't have to find the time. And that's the other thing. Look, I'm not searching for it.
It just exists. I don't have to look for it. I know every day I'm free from, you know, basically when I get to work until 12:00. Yeah. And then if I have a lunch meeting, I do a lunch meeting and then all of this stuff when I don't want to be doing or like I have to do to run a business.
Sure. All of that stuff goes in the afternoon when the lowest energy already. And I'm also quicker at it then. Right, because it seems like in the morning I'm like, oh, we can explore this. And like, but it really doesn't matter.
Right. Like, you know, explain this for twenty minutes versus ten. We're probably going to get to the same outcome. Putting that in the afternoon is also more productive even on the individual basis. OK, so talk to me about Bizos and the Fly Will. Oh, sure. One thing I want to say on the untouchability is just quickly before anyone listening, it's like I'm in an office. I can't do it as do what Shane did, first of all.
And second of all is if you just check email from nine AM to 10 AM and four to five PM, well, I've done the study that gives everyone the perception that you're always on. Yeah, you've created a 10 a.m. to four p.m. oasis of blankness, even though you're still answering email twice a day for an hour or so, there's ways to build it into corporate corporate culture, even if it is slower and more difficult. So basis than the flywheel.
I was lucky enough to hear Bezos be interviewed by his brother down in Los Angeles a couple of years back. And one of the things he said really stuck with me. He said there is no such thing as work life balance. When you hear that word balance, what you probably picture is a scale like one of these things where like one side gets goes down, the other side goes up more. One part is less than another. But he said, no, it's not like that.
It's a fly. We'll think of that thing that, like, fills with water and then it spins. And then the more water has, the faster it spins. Meaning if you're at work and you're loving your work and you were in the zone in your work and you were having killer breakthroughs and you were making a difference in the world or whatever it is that makes the work awesome for you, then guess what version of you goes home, the awesome version of you, the version that's thrilled to see your kids and can't wait to jump into making a great dinner because you have so much energy because of how fulfilling your work was and when.
You have an awesome night being Superdad, if you're my case at night with your family, you're running around your dancing with your kids, you make a great dinner, you tuck them into bed. Guess what that gives you energy for? Because you were Superdad. He gives you awesome energy to go even faster, harder or deeper the next morning at work, meaning that it's not work life balance, it's a flywheel. The more energy you pour into either side your life, the faster and more energy you can pour into the rest.
And I found that model so inspiring. I was already doing that without knowing that that was a thing. I was always under the mistaken assumption that they were trade offs rather than a thing that grows a pie that constantly grows with maximum energy and no limit on its potential. We often think of it as balance. Right? And this is how people talk to me. I like my work life balance is out of sort of equilibrium. And it's always strikes me as weird because it's like that implies taking something from one aspect and putting it the other.
And it's like if you take away family time, you're going to be more balanced or it never sort of intuitively hit me.
And it also, I think, strikes something that you were talking earlier in terms of using your phone. Right. So when you're at home and you're on your phone, you're not dancing with your kids, you're not really feeding that flow.
You're there, but you're not there. Right. You're physically present, but you're not mentally embodying that presence. So you're not all in. So you're not feeding the flywheel. You're not sort of like charging up. And I always find that I'm better and more productive after time with my kids, bedtime with my kids, not time where I'm sort of with my kids and doing work. Exactly. This also springs to mind what Chris Anderson often describes Ted as being, which is a series of incongruent ideas presented to you so that at the end you make like huge awarenesses and insights.
So if you're all in with your kids, then you're all in with the work, then you're all then you're essentially creating incongruent experiences rather than being tethered to a cell phone at all times. So I'm fully agreeing with you, but it's kind of like. Opening your mind totally different things is what also provokes your best ideas. Maybe that's why you feel so energized after your kids. I think so, yeah. Talk to me about one thing we have in common.
We both sort of think retirement is a bit of bunk. Walk me through your thinking on that.
So in high school, I had an awesome guidance counselor and I'll use the name Mr. H. I won't even use his name because I'm afraid I'll use the right name is the wrong name. But I'm a guidance counselor and he was awesome and we loved him. He was like the best guidance counselor ever. He high five kids in the hallways. He was friends with, like, the sort of like the good kids in the bad kids, the nerds and the and then know everyone was loving this dude.
But then in age sixty five in Ontario, in Canada, we had mandatory retirement. So we had one of those Mr. Holland's Opus kind of final scenes, or like everyone said, goodbye to this guy. Two weeks later I had a heart attack and he died. And I remember when I heard that from the guidance counselor secretary thinking how that he just he was so happy. But then it hit me like we took away from him everything that he loved, his social connection, his stimulation, his sense of learning, the story he was part of in our high school and those three S's, I purposely dropped social stimulation and story because I do believe we need all those three things.
So I start looking around while researching the happiness equation. I discover that retirement was invented in 1889 in Germany by this dude named Otto von Bismarck, coolest head of state name ever, like the bus driver in The Simpsons.
And he was like, Oh, we got twenty percent youth unemployment rate. Yeah. If you're like sixty five, let's say, and you want to stop working like you don't have to, but if you want it, we'll give you a little bit of money to bridge you to sixty seven, which is the average lifespan like average lifespan was sixty seven in late. Eighteen hundreds Germany. So it's like a two year gap and penicillin wasn't invented for forty years.
I mean our lifespan of a lot shorter. Guess what happened. That number he kind of artificially decreed. Sixty five became the Western barometer through the nineteen thirty five Social Security Act in the US, UK Canada was sixty five to sixty five is suddenly the year. Meanwhile, our lifespans have extended greatly. If anything, we've artificially depressed that desirable retirement age freedom. Fifty five and you know, we actually want to retire earlier. There's a lot of people preaching like retiring it like forty and thirty and stuff.
And what we're doing I think is creating this vacuous gap where like what are you going to do? Like golf is going to get old and in fact you're going to rob yourself of the social connection you need the stimulation of always learning something new and the story of being part of something bigger than yourself. Fortune magazine says the two most dangerous years of our lives are the year we are born and the year we retire. Lots of people have stories of someone that did not do well post retirement.
And in fact, some of the healthiest societies in the world like a blue zone. Studies from Dan Buettner at National Geographic. They've pointed to countries or places like Okinawa, Japan. Which has the highest ratio of people over the age of 100 of anywhere, you know, what they call retirement. No, they don't either. They got no word for it. They have no word in the language in Okinawa that describes the concept of ceasing work completely, but they have a different word.
And it's the word I love. The word is icky guy. I, I g i it roughly translates as the reason you get out of bed in the morning. OK, so that's why they have like ninety five year olds there that are like teaching boxing and like spear fishermen that are like one hundred and ten like they, because they have a reason, they have a purpose when they open their eyes. So Leslie and I, we make little cards for our bedside tables of water.
A key Ghias. So mine says helping people live happy lives. And her says teaching empathy because she's an elementary school teacher and she thinks, ah, the big issue, what she's doing is teaching empathy in the classroom. So when you open your eyes, it's the first thing you see. And that is a guiding principle for your dad. I don't believe people want to retire. I believe it's very dangerous. I believe you lose a lot of the social connection, the stimulation of learning in the story, which you could call a naked guy.
And instead you want to have purpose and you want to be doing meaningful and productive work right till your last day. And I will never retire.
And it's a huge load off on retirement savings to sort of see things very similarly.
I think purpose plays a large role in it. Right. And if we lose our purpose, then it sort of sets us on a different path. But getting into the psychology, which I don't know very well, I just sort of feel or into it in this case, I think a lot of people look forward to retirement because they're doing something they hate and they think that they're treating sort of like chips now to get chips later on.
I'm just going to do this until I'm fifty five and then. Yeah. And we're coming back to this again.
Right. And then I'm going to live my life and then I'm free, but it never sort of works out that way and that life is never guaranteed.
Right. In terms of where you are and what's going on in life and how your health is and your relationships. And so, you know, so I said the three S's, but I didn't say one of those losses was salary purposely. So I'm not saying if you're about to punch up for your last day at the meat packing plant, like sign up for another couple of decades. I'm not saying that. I'm saying volunteer at the library. I'm saying start that blog you've been dreaming about.
I'm saying go down on the craft show and actually turn your woodworking into a viable hobby on eBay or at the it doesn't have to be making money just to be doing something you love. There's a reason that Mississauga, Ontario Mayor Hazel McCallion is like ninety five and she retired. She lasted through eight Canadian prime ministers, eight Canadian prime ministers in a row. She was the mayor. And when people asked her, well, why don't you retire, she's like, well, I don't know what I'd do if she wasn't doing it for the money.
My point is, in the example you gave, I'm not saying it has to be something earning you an income. I'm saying it just has to be a doing right of some kind that gives you meaning. Fulfillment gives you. That's a good clarification.
I also think if I use the more provocative headline, obviously, no, never retires as a little producer on NPR, I do think it's sort of worth exploring if you're living life in that way, or I'm doing something today that I and you know, there's aspects where this makes sense, like saving money and there's aspects where it doesn't or it's like going to work and spending one third of your life doing something that you you hate or dislike in the hopes that you will be happy all of a sudden at fifty five.
That's I will be happy when that's another manifestation of this.
I love the model you draw in the happiness equation called the space scribble around simplifying sort of decision making. Can you walk me through this?
Sure. So it's a two by two matrix. Yes. To see a matrix.
So basically what happened was I basically did this analysis on myself of how many decisions I make per day.
So guess how many decisions you make on an average day. And I will tell you how many I made after you tell me you're I guess I'm going to say over a thousand. OK, so my actual number for me was like around three hundred, OK, but it was simple, like, do you want lettuce on the sub? Exactly which way do you want to turn left or right? Like I always use the example of like going to the gym when I was at Wal-Mart, it was like, don't wanna go to the gym.
Yes. OK, do I want to do cardio or weights cardio or do I wanna do the elliptical, the treadmill or the staircase or the elliptical.
Oh well do I want to do a hill or manual or like do I want to start at ten reps or should I do what I'm saying. It never ends. And so I came up with this model as a way to simplify decision making, because as I'm sure you know, decision making energy is a finite resource. When it's gone, it's gone. A lot of research on this in the book Willpower. John Tierney. I think if I'm meeting the author, right, they say when you're done with your will, your decision making energy, there's only two ways.
To replenish it, but no one is sleep and number two is glucose or anything that turns into glucose in your body. So at the front of the supermarket, if you've chosen between 12 kinds of eggs and 10 cans of salsa, there's a wall full of sugar, which people are too low resilience to say no to. So how is this to buy to work? I argue that every single decision you make in your life takes a certain amount of time.
That's one axis and takes a certain level of importance. That's the other. It's different, I should notice, than the time versus urgency model that Stephen covid has and the seven habits of highly effective people.
For anyone that may know that, I'm saying time versus importance, what do you do in the lowest quadrant when it's a low time and a low importance decision? My argument is you need to automate that decision. So I wear the same exact clothes whenever I do media or speeches. Like I literally have ten of the same socks, 10 of the same jeans, like I don't think about it. Obama Marks, I've heard of this. Mark Zuckerberg wears the same hoodie.
Doesn't matter. That's an automatable decision. Maybe so is a friend of mine. Has Amazon automatic ordering on every consumable item in his house. He has figured out the frequency rate of even things like hand towels. Oh, wow. Like he's done, obviously. Like, you know, I get new dish soap on the month and I get new yogurt once a week or whatever. But even like we need hand towels once a year or whatever, like I'm using an extreme example.
But every consumable item in his house, automation is automated. OK, that's extreme. But can you automate it? That's the first question. A lot of the stuff is, yeah, you can like for example, you drive to work, just use ways like just use the traffic and don't think about how you get to work. It's because I was deciding freeway or city roads and what's faster. Listen to the radio. No, be an Uber driver.
Follow the map. OK, what do you do about things that take a lot of time but they're not very important. That's the top left quadrant. So it's high on time, but low on importance. This one you need to regulate.
Email is a great example I mentioned earlier. I think if you do two hours of email a day in two one hour windows, it's a regular at a time, freeing up your day. Another example is my wife and I. We bought our first house. It was super old house. So something broken in every day, patio stones, wobbly fences, squeaky blah, blah, blah. I was killing us. So eventually we said the old house was at number two seventy six on the street.
So we said, oh we have two seventy six day once a month. I sent my wife an invite on Eichel. She accepted it. It was a recurring invite every Saturday morning from nine to 12. On the first Saturday of the month we had two seventy six day for the other twenty nine days of the month. We made a list on the inside of one of our kitchen cupboards of everything that broke. And on that one three our regulated burst, we fixed everything.
Regulating high time, low importance things into a window totally frees up your mind. What do you do about stuff that's high importance but doesn't take very long?
Like I'm like picking your kids up from daycare or like saying hi to your team in the morning.
This is important stuff, but doesn't take very long. The word I had to Google to discover to rhyme is effectuate. That means just execute, just do it because it doesn't take very long.
And the importance of the model is, of course, the top right quadrant, as it often is with the high time, high importance decisions. You have freedom not to debate them. Where am I going to live?
Who am I going to be with? What school will I go to? These are the chewy ones. These are the ones you should be thinking about that you should be contemplating, but which you have no space for because of the endless series of Ding's and Peng's forcing you to make decisions on things that are not important. So I am carving out this two by two matrix with the express purpose of taking more time to debate the bigger things which you're the master of.
Like this is your sweet spot, debating, thinking about things at a level of depth that other people can get to.
I want to end on two minute warning. So last question talked me through your two minute warnings and how they impact your day.
Every single day. I wake up in the morning and I write down three things I write down I will let go of, I am grateful for and I will focus on. I believe that with the decline of the church and the rise of secularism, by the way, National Geographic reports that the fastest growing religion is no religion. And certain countries like I believe France, Australia, UK are about to cross into a majority secular population for the first time.
We've also lost confession, which is a root belief system in a lot of world religion. You know, the Catholic confession chamber, but also Mormonism, Judaism, Islam have have confession built in. Bless me, father, for I have sinned. I put Big Tony in a vise under the deli, remember, from the movies and stuff. So we've lost that. So I think we see a huge uptick in things like post secret dotcom, which is KLECK.
A million postcards of people mailing confessions. It's the largest advertising free blog in the world, like a billion hats, and I do this for myself every morning. I will let go of is the way to crystallize an object, an anxiety that I start my day with. And there is one every single day I will let go of. Compare myself to Tim Ferriss. I will let go of the fact that this guy has a book on the bestseller list and I don't.
There's always stuff the five pounds I gained over the holidays and my stomach like them.
Now I need to go to the gym I am grateful for. We talked about earlier. This is the practice of gratitude. We know from the research it's super powerful, just a few simple, specific things. We didn't talk about that. But they have to be specific. You can't just write family and friends that doesn't do anything. You have to say, like my husband put the toilet seat down. You have to be like specific. And I will focus on is maybe one of the root issues we've been exploring today is carving from the giant clay block that is your endless could do and should do list one thing you will do each day.
There is nothing more satisfying to me than at the end of the night crossing off. The one thing I'm going to do that day and guess I wrote this morning. Talk to you and I will cross that off when I fly home tonight, and it will feel awesome because no matter what else I could have and should have done, which, by the way, there's lots and I probably had half of I'll feel good because my dad was a success I will let go of.
I am grateful for, I will focus on is a two minute morning practice to reveal, to heal or create contemporary confession and a positive path of thinking for the day.
I think that's a great way to wake up to it refocuses and reframes the lot with a kid cuddling and well, I mean, maybe incorporate it with the kids. Yes. And that might be a better way to do it. But this has been an amazing conversation, you know. Thank you so much. Thanks, Jane. I love what you're doing. I love the work you make. I love your art. I think it's beautiful. Thanks for having me on the show.
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