Episode #270 – Sam Jones – A Comfortable Life Is Overrated

Sam Jones is an acclaimed photographer and director whose seminal portraits of President Obama, Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Bob Dylan, Kristin Stewart, Robert Downey Jr, Amy Adams, Jack Nicholson, and many others have appeared on the covers of Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Esquire, GQ, Time, Entertainment Weekly and Men’s Journal.

In 2013 he launched Off Camera with Sam Jones on Directv’s Audience Network. Off Camera is an hour long show created out of his passion for long form conversational interviews. These are conversations with the artists, actors, and musicians who fascinate and inspire him most. Jeff Daniels, Sarah Silverman, Dave Grohl, Laura Dern, Tony Hawk, Matt Damon and Will Ferrell have all appeared on the show.  Sam is one of my favorite interviewers.

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“A comfortable life is overrated.”

Show Notes:

  • Commonalities of sustaining excellence:
    • “They did not have a back up plan.  They had a desire to do what they loved even if it wasn’t the obvious choice.”
  • “A comfortable life is overrated.” — “I’ve always followed the things that excited me most.”
  • “It almost feels like a lie when I’m doing something that doesn’t excite me.”
  • “I connect with this idea of listening to your gut feeling.”
    • For artists, the goal is to make art
  • “No one knows you like you know you.  There is no set path for how things get done.”
  • A life well lived = “Did I live up to my full potential?”
  • “I’ve always been curious about the questions to ask that open people up.”
    • Sam started doing an interview show on camera when he was 14 years old
  • “I think my own theories through voicing my thoughts.”
    • “Conversations are how I learn things… I’ve always been very curious.”
  • Rose Byrne – “It’s good to look back and see where you’ve come from.”
  • The Jeff Daniels interview (one of my personal favorites)
    • As an interviewer, the importance of seeing their body language, how they react, “the look in their eye.”
  • The interview preparation process
    • Identify possible themes of the conversation
  • As a communicator and conversationalist — Think about how to do something better.  A form of scrutiny.  This leads to growth.
  • Two things a guest needs to have
    • Be willing
    • Be able
  • Is the guest open, honest, and self aware?  They need to be…
  • The guest needs to be able to tell a good narrative
  • “If you’re going to find something true and authentic, you have to go down a path.”
  • Goal = Make best environment for the human being to come out.”
    • “I really want to know who this person is.”
  • How to define success? “They keep letting us make more.”
  • Interviewers Sam looks up to:
    • David Letterman — He didn’t adhere to strict rules.  You shouldn’t have to…
    • Terry Gross — NPR
    • Howard Stern — Consistently done it well over time
  • Sam’s upbringing:
    • “I didn’t fit in at school.”
    • “I always questioned social norms” — “Why does this have to be this way?”
  • How to decide where to start an interview?
    • “That’s the hardest part.” — “The best conversations are when your open to let it go anywhere.”
  • Dream guests? — Paul McCartney, Cameron Crowe
  • How to create an environment for people to articulate insecurity…
  • Why joining The Learning Leader Circle is a good idea
  • Use the “Get To Know You Document

“I’ve always questioned social norms.  Why does it have to be this way?”

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Episode 234: Jocko Willink — Why Discipline Equals Freedom