#731: A Futurist’s Guide to Building the Life You Want
When people hear that Brian David Johnson is a futurist, they typically want him to offer up some predictions for what the world will look like 10, 20, 50 years from now. But Brian will explain to them that being a futurist is less about predicting the future than envisioning possibilities for it, choosing the one you want to build, and figuring out how to get there from the present.
Brian works through this process of futurecasting for Fortune 500 companies and the military, and in his book, The Future You, he shows individuals how they can apply it to their personal lives. He shares what that looks like with us today on the show, beginning with the importance of envisioning the future not as something set that you’re helplessly hurtling towards, but as something you can actively change and shape. We then talk about how to do your own futurecasting by figuring out what you want the life of the future you to look like, and identifying the tools and people that can get you there. Brian then explains how to get going towards your desired future and why that future is local. We end our conversation with what all this has to do with a quote from General Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Plans are useless, but planning is everything.”
#730: The Hell-Raising Leader of WWII’s Filthy Thirteen
If you have any interest in World War II, then you’ve surely seen one of the most arresting photographs to come out of that conflict. In it, members of the 101st Airborne Division can be seen sporting mohawks and applying war paint to each other’s faces right before they’re set to parachute into Normandy. The idea for that pre-battle ritual came from Jake McNiece, part Choctaw Indian and the section sergeant of the Army’s notorious “Filthy Thirteen” demolition unit, who had already proved himself a highly unorthodox leader long before the countdown to D-Day.
Today on the show, Richard Killblane shares the story of Jake McNiece and the Filthy Thirteen with us. Richard is the author of two books about the unit — The Filthy Thirteen and War Paint — and is himself a veteran of the Army’s Special Forces who served at every level in the military from private soldier to company commander, and ended his career as the Command Historian for the U.S. Army Transportation Corps. Richard describes how you could already see the kind of hell-raising-but-effective leader McNiece would become during his youth in Oklahoma, and why McNiece chose to become a paratrooper. Richard then talks about all the trouble McNiece got into during boot camp, how he ended up leading a section of fellow renegades, and why his superior officers kept him around despite his pattern of engaging in deliberate disobedience. Richard then explains what was going on with the Filthy Thirteen’s pre-Normandy Invasion mohawks and war paint, and what McNiece and his men did on D-Day and during the rest of the war. Richard explains why it was that McNiece got promoted, despite never changing his rebellious ways, and we end our conversation with his surprising transformation after the war.
#729: How to Fight Internet-Induced Numbness
The ironic thing about our digital devices, is that they promise constant stimulation . . . and yet we find they end up making us feel numb. Numb in terms of struggling to be present. Numb in feeling overloaded with information and choices. Numb in feeling like we often view even our own experiences from a third-party perspective.
My guest today, Dr. Charles Chaffin, has written a book called Numb: How the Information Age Dulls Our Senses and How We Can Get Them Back, which explores the various ways internet-induced numbness manifests itself, from FOMO to choice overload on dating apps. On the show today we focus in particular on how the news media and social media can negatively alter the way we experience life and what to do about it. We first discuss how recovering our sense of engagement with life begins with thinking about the fact that our attention is a finite resource, and being intentional about how we direct that resource. We then discuss how to deal with what Charles calls the “attention panhandlers” who vie for our engagement online. Charles talks about the phenomenon of compassion fatigue, where there are so many worthy causes you could take up, that you end up doing nothing at all. We then discuss how Instagram can change the way you experience life in an age where we can all feel like content creators. We end our conversation with how to wrest back control of your attention, and use it towards action rather than distraction.
#728: Improve Your Productivity With the Power of Deadlines
Everyone has experienced the way deadlines can act as a double-edged sword: on the one hand, they force us to get stuff done; but on the other, they often push us to wait until the last minute to get to work, so that we do that work in a poorly executed, slapdash rush. Scientists call that latter dynamic “the deadline effect,” and my guest today has taken a field-tested dive into how to manage it, so that you can get the advantages of deadlines, without suffering from their downsides.
His name is Chrisopther Cox, and he’s the author of The Deadline Effect: How to Work Like It’s the Last Minute—Before the Last Minute. We begin our conversation with how Chris’s experience as a magazine editor got him interested in deadlines and what studies have shown as to both their benefits and their pitfalls. Chris then unpacks ways to harness the former towards greater productivity in both your personal and professional life, including creating interim checkpoints, knowing how to set reasonable due dates, planning left to right rather than right to left, and using what he calls “soft opens with teeth.” Along the way, Chris explains these principles using a bunch of real world case studies, from the system a chef uses to open multiple Michelin 3-star restaurants to how the Telluride ski resort gets ready to open for the season. We end our conversation with what you can start doing today to take advantage of the power of deadlines in your own life.
#727: How Doing A Life Review Can Help Your Understand Your Past, Present, And Future
Who and where do you want to be in the future? It's a question we typically answer by looking ahead. But, my guest would say, you can actually best find the answer by looking back.
His name is William Damon, and he's a Stanford psychologist who studies adult development and purpose, and the author of A Round of Golf With My Father: The New Psychology of Exploring Your Past to Make Peace With Your Present. On the show today, Bill explains why you should consider doing something called a "life review," a process you can initiate at any age in order to get greater clarity on what is now probably a blur of memories around how you ended up who and where you are today. Bill explains the steps of doing a life review, and how doing one can do two things for you: 1) help you think more positively and gratefully about your life story — even its regrets — and understand why you made certain choices and developed as you did, and 2) help you refine your life's purpose, recognize that you can change and grow no matter where you are in the life cycle, and chart a course for further development in the future. Bill does this through the lens of the fascinating story around how he came to do his own life review, in order to better get to know himself, by getting to know his father, who he was told growing up was killed in World War II, but, Bill would discover, in fact survived the war and led a more complex life than Bill could have imagined.