Episode 237: AJ Jacobs – The Power of Irrational Confidence (Life As An Experiment)

A.J. Jacobs is an author, journalist, lecturer and human guinea pig. He has written four New York Times bestsellers that combine memoir, science, humor and a dash of self-help.  He is also editor at large at Esquire magazine, a commentator on NPR and a columnist for Mental Floss magazine. He is currently helping to build a family tree of the entire world and holding the biggest family reunion ever in 2015.

In addition to his books, Jacobs written for The New York TimesEntertainment Weekly, and New York magazine.

He has appeared on OprahThe Today ShowGood Morning America, CNN, The Dr. Oz Show, Conan and The Colbert Report.  He has given several TED talks, including ones about living biblically, creating a one-world family, and living healthily.

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Episode 237: AJ Jacobs – The Power of Irrational Confidence (Life As An Experiment)

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“It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than think your way into a new way of acting.”

Show Notes:

  • Commonalities of leaders who sustain excellence:
    • Self delusion — Optimism helps you do incredible things.  Acting “as if”
      • “It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than think your way into a new way of acting.”
    • Great curiosity — “I’m curious about everything… Even things that don’t interest me.”
  • Why he read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica
  • Why the “good ole days” actually sucked — Studying this made him very grateful for being alive today
  • The practice of radical honesty and how it got him in trouble — He was forced to tell the full truth at all times
    • Can be good or bad
  • Gratitude — Common among the greatest achievers — be thankful for everything. “When you’re grateful for something as small as the elevator door opening, you’re much happier.”
  • It’s All Relative — Building a world family true.  How we are related.  How he is related to President Barack Obama…
    • It helps with perspective and tolerance… We’re more tolerant of people we are related to
    • The Global Family Reunion event
  • Why his experiments drive his wife crazy — The year of living biblically — Why it was so hard to follow the exact words of the Bible
  • Harvard studies — If we share DNA, people are more open to help one another
  • Why we need to get out of the echo chamber
  • Typical day — stretch, treadmill desk, write and walk at the same time, walking keeps him alert
    • Importance of “walks with wife” — raises serotonin
  • Batching activities — Phone calls
    • It’s lonely as a writer… AJ needs to speak with other creatives often: “I need to bounce ideas of of others in between the alone time”
    • Doing “Skype” lunches.  He eats lunch with friends over Skype
  • Best advice he’s heard: From George Clooney — “When I get up to bat, I don’t think Am I going to hit a home run? I think, where will I hit this home run?” — The importance of irrational confidence.  Delusional optimism is helpful.
  • Stage presence (when speaking) — Why you “owe it to the audience” to think “you’re the baddest dude on the planet” and will deliver for THEM

“When I got up to bat, I didn’t think, “Am I going to hit a home run?” I thought, “Where will this home run go?” — George Clooney on the importance of self confidence

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