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    #149 Neil Pasricha: Simple Rules for Happiness

    Taking just a few minutes each day to connect with nature can improve our overall well-being by reducing stress and anxiety, increasing energy levels, and promoting a positive mindset.

    enOctober 18, 2022

    About this Episode

    Shane's guest on this episode of the show is New York Times bestselling author Neil Pasricha, who returns for his second appearance on The Knowledge Project. We discuss the importance of gratitude and how simple acts can change the way you feel, where confidence comes from, the specific routines and habits you can use to counter anxiety, the recipe for building resilience, and so much more.

    Pasricha is the author of seven books which collectively have sold over 2 million copies and spent over 200 weeks on bestseller lists, including The Happiness Equation and Two-Minute Mornings. His first TED talk, “The 3 A’s of Awesome,” is ranked as one of the 10 Most Inspiring of all time, and he also hosts a podcast called 3 Books, where he uncovers the 1,000 most formative books in the world. 
     
    Neil previously appeared on Episode 72 of the The Knowledge Project, one of the show’s most downloaded conversations to date. His new book, Our Book of Awesome, will be released Dec. 6.

    --

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    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Rising rates of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and suicide, particularly among college students and teen girls, highlight the urgent need to address these issues and reassess our relationship with social media and cell phone usage.
    • By making a prioritized list of three tasks for the next day and practicing a two-minute morning routine to alleviate anxiety, individuals can improve focus and productivity while finding balance in all aspects of life.
    • Prioritize time, set boundaries, and focus on important tasks to achieve a work-life balance and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
    • A personal dashboard with specific goals in different categories can help maintain balance, prioritize, and achieve overall harmony in life. Self-care is essential for productivity and well-being.
    • Prioritizing quality time, fostering connection, and investing in relationships are vital for nurturing long-lasting and fulfilling bonds.
    • Implementing schedules and routines can enhance productivity and overall well-being by reducing decision fatigue and optimizing cognitive load.
    • Setting clear personal rules can help us make important decisions in advance, eliminate the need for constant willpower, and lead to consistent choices that lead to desired outcomes.
    • Setting rules, creating an environment that supports them, and utilizing personal strategies to minimize distractions can help maintain discipline and focus on what truly matters.
    • Cultivating resilience involves being conscious of our experiences, addressing vulnerabilities, and embracing new challenges to persevere through failures and achieve success.
    • Recognizing and reframing difficult experiences as accomplishments can foster resilience. Teaching children perseverance and reflection on past achievements is vital for building resilience in the face of future obstacles.
    • Taking just a few minutes each day to connect with nature can improve our overall well-being by reducing stress and anxiety, increasing energy levels, and promoting a positive mindset.
    • Social media algorithms exploit our negativity bias, leading to polarization and the loss of genuine discussions. It's crucial to find work-life balance and redefine success beyond professional achievements. Quiet quitting promotes a healthier approach to work.
    • The decision to work remotely or in the office can affect career growth, as building trust in the office may lead to faster promotions. However, personal values and priorities should also be considered, as this choice can have long-term ramifications.
    • While remote work offers flexibility, it is important to consider the valuable insights, collaboration, and sense of community that come with in-person interactions in the office environment.
    • Prioritize intrinsic motivators over external rewards to maintain a genuine love for your work and find true fulfillment in your pursuits.
    • Disconnecting from technology, engaging in intentional living, and cultivating authentic relationships can lead to a more fulfilling and connected life.
    • Setting boundaries with devices and being mindful of cell phone addiction can improve our ability to connect with others and live in the present moment.
    • Success can be defined in different ways - financially, socially, and personally. It's important to understand and balance these types of success to find fulfillment and contentment in our pursuits.
    • Success should be measured by personal goals, not external comparisons. Focus on what brings you joy and fulfillment, prioritize creativity, and embrace growth over perfection.
    • Embrace new experiences and challenge yourself to live a fulfilling life, as the ups and downs of daily life pale in comparison to the bigger picture.
    • Embracing confidence and recognizing our own self-worth while appreciating the beauty in others allows us to live intentionally and fully, appreciating the preciousness of our existence.
    • We should be grateful for the opportunities, joys, and privileges we have in life, as we are part of a fortunate minority in the grand scheme of humanity.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    The Negative Impact on Society's Happiness Indicators

    Society's happiness indicators have been negatively impacted in recent years. Anxiety, depression, loneliness, and suicide rates have all significantly increased. College students and teens, especially teen girls, are experiencing high levels of anxiety. Depression rates are spiking, with almost half of the population reporting some form of depression. Loneliness rates have doubled over the years, and the surgeon general predicts it to be the next big epidemic. Suicide rates are also alarmingly high, with rates not seen since World War 2. The pandemic has amplified these issues, mainly due to the lack of strong connections with friends and family. Social media is also a contributing factor to anxiety and the decline of resilience. It is important to address these problems and reconsider our relationship with social media and cell phone access.

    Prioritizing Tasks and Practicing Focus for Mental Well-being and Productivity

    Prioritizing tasks and practicing focus are essential for mental well-being and productivity. Neil Pasricha emphasizes the importance of making a prioritized list of three things to be done the next day, thereby relieving anxiety and ensuring a clear focus. He also shares his two-minute morning practice of writing down statements that help alleviate anxiety and set a positive mindset for the day. Shane Parrish highlights the prevalent issue of spending more time bookmarking and prioritizing tasks rather than actually doing them. The constant distractions and notifications from apps hinder focus and contribute to a shrinking attention span. By consciously selecting one focus item, individuals can carve out time for things that truly matter, even if it's something small or personal. It's about prioritizing and finding balance, not just in work, but also in personal relationships and self-care.

    Effective time management for work-life balance.

    It is important to prioritize and plan our time effectively to achieve a work-life balance. Neil Pasricha emphasizes the use of family contracts to establish clear terms for personal time and commitments. By setting boundaries and dedicating specific days and nights for family and personal activities, we can ensure that we stay connected and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, Neil suggests having an untouchable day each week, where we focus on ourselves and cannot be reached, allowing us to recharge and prevent burnout. Lastly, he emphasizes the significance of writing down and accomplishing three important tasks each day, starting with the hardest one first. By implementing these strategies, we can maximize our productivity and fulfillment in both our personal and professional lives.

    Creating a Personal Dashboard for Balance and Prioritization

    Creating a personal dashboard can help us maintain balance and prioritize different aspects of our lives. Neil Pasricha shares his own dashboard, which includes four main categories: strong core, fastest learning, best family, and best self. By setting specific goals within each category and tracking their progress with colored circles, he is able to see the overall picture of his life. This dashboard serves as a guidance system, reminding him to not focus myopically on one area and to maintain harmony and balance. It also highlights the importance of taking care of ourselves, as self-care is essential for our overall well-being and ability to perform at work and in other areas of our lives.

    Building and Maintaining Strong Relationships for Long-Term Success

    Investing in and nurturing relationships is crucial for their long-term success. By prioritizing date nights and engaging in activities that strengthen the connection, individuals can prevent friction and maintain a deep tethering in their relationships. Neglecting these investments may lead to arguments and a transactional approach, which can ultimately damage the relationship. Additionally, it is important to feel a part of something larger than ourselves, whether it be through work or in our communities. This sense of belonging contributes to our overall fulfillment and engagement. Adhering to a structured schedule and seeking stimulation through learning also play essential roles in creating a satisfying career.

    Boost Productivity and Well-being Through Scheduling and Routines

    Scheduling and creating habits and routines can significantly improve our productivity and overall well-being. By incorporating systems and automatic rules into our daily lives, we can alleviate decision fatigue and conserve our limited willpower. Neil Pasricha initially believed that living a schedule-free life would be ideal, but he now realizes the value of having structure. He uses an app to schedule his workouts, which ensures that he stays consistent and has energy for the rest of the day. Moreover, having a set routine reduces the mental burden of making countless decisions throughout the day. Designing our schedules consciously and following automatic rules allows us to optimize our cognitive load and achieve greater success.

    Creating Personal Rules for Success and Discipline

    Setting clear rules for ourselves can lead to greater success and discipline in our lives. By creating personal rules, we can make important decisions ahead of time and remove the need for constant willpower and negotiation. For example, Shane's rule of never saying yes on the phone helped him prioritize his time and only commit to things that truly mattered. Similarly, Neil's rule of moving his money into investments based on specific thresholds prevented him from trying to time the market and allowed him to focus on long-term growth. These rules act as guiding principles that align with our best selves and help us make consistent choices that lead to desired outcomes.

    Maintaining Discipline Through Clear Rules and an Enabling Environment

    Setting clear rules and creating an environment that supports those rules can help you maintain discipline even when you don't feel like it. Neil Pasricha shared his strategy of giving himself a label as a carb snob to resist temptation and enjoy carbs only when they meet certain criteria. He also discussed how he has taken steps to minimize distractions by deleting social media apps from his phone, disabling notifications, and creating friction when accessing certain apps or services. By doing so, he has made his phone a "pull device" that serves his needs rather than a "push device" that constantly bombards him with distractions. These guardrails help him stay focused and spend his time on what truly matters to him.

    Building Resilience through Intentional Living and Facing Challenges

    Resilience can be cultivated by being conscious of our experiences and framing them as opportunities for growth. Neil Pasricha emphasizes the importance of living intentionally and recognizing our own tendencies towards seeking instant gratification, such as scrolling through apps for a quick dopamine treat. He argues that many of us have thin skin and need to address this vulnerability in order to build resilience. Shane Parrish adds that the pandemic has been a major life experience for everyone, akin to taking a significant picture in the camera roll of our lives. To further increase resilience, we should embrace new challenges, persevere through failures, and not be afraid to take multiple swings at success.

    Building Resilience Through Overcoming Challenges

    Resilience is built through facing and overcoming difficult challenges. The speakers highlight the importance of recognizing and acknowledging the hardships that individuals have experienced, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. By reframing these challenges as accomplishments, individuals can develop a sense of resilience and confidence in facing future obstacles. The conversation also emphasizes the need to teach children the value of perseverance and not always giving in to their immediate desires. The pandemic has shown that constantly making things easier for children can hinder their development of resilience. It is crucial to have conversations about the impact of these experiences and to encourage individuals to reflect on their past achievements in order to strengthen their resilience for the future.

    The Healing Power of Nature: Boosting Mental and Physical Health

    Immersing ourselves in nature can greatly benefit our mental and physiological health. Researcher Dr. Jing Lee has found that spending time in nature increases the production of cancer-killing cells, improves heart health, and reduces anxiety and stress levels. Trees release a chemical called phytoncides, which, when breathed in, can reduce cortisol levels and alleviate anxiety. Therefore, it is important for individuals to take at least 2 minutes in the morning and find some time during the day to connect with nature. By resetting our physiology and reducing cortisol and adrenaline levels, we can experience increased energy and a more positive mindset. Nature can serve as a powerful tool for improving resilience and overall well-being.

    The Impact of Social Media Algorithms and the Importance of Balance and Clarity

    Our brains are wired to focus on the negative and social media algorithms capitalize on this tendency. We naturally gravitate towards negative comments and reviews, which can have a detrimental impact on our well-being. Moreover, social media platforms reward extreme behavior, pushing us to post exaggerated content in order to gain attention and validation. This can lead to increased polarization and the loss of genuine and balanced discussions. In addition, the conversation touches upon the concept of burnout, emphasizing the importance of finding a work-life balance and reevaluating priorities. The pandemic has allowed some individuals to gain clarity and reevaluate their definition of success beyond the traditional notion of professional achievement. The idea of quiet quitting, or focusing on doing the expected amount of work without overexertion, aligns with this perspective.

    The Impact of Remote Work vs. Office Work on Career Advancement

    The decision to work remotely or return to the office can have significant implications on one's career advancement. Shane Parrish argues that those who choose to work in the office are more likely to build trust with their colleagues and superiors, which can lead to faster promotions and raises. However, this does not necessarily mean that they work harder or better than those who work remotely. It is also important to note that this dynamic may not apply to organizations in hybrid mode or those that are fully remote or in-person. Additionally, individuals need to carefully consider their personal values and priorities when making this decision, as choosing to work remotely may result in being perceived as less ambitious or driven. Ultimately, the key takeaway is that the choice between remote work and office work can have long-term implications on one's career trajectory and should be made consciously.

    The Importance of In-Person Interactions in the Workplace

    There are significant advantages to having in-person interactions and connections in the workplace. Water cooler conversations and casual interactions can lead to valuable insights, collaboration, and the prevention of duplication of work. Being physically present allows for a greater sense of community and a deeper understanding of the organization as a whole. While remote work has its benefits, including flexibility, it may lack the intangible benefits and social connections that come with being in an office environment. When evaluating career opportunities, individuals should consider what they may regret not pursuing and also have a backup plan or "plan B" in case things don't work out as desired.

    Focus on Intrinsic Motivation for True Satisfaction

    It's important to prioritize and value intrinsic motivators over extrinsic motivators. Neil Pasricha shares his experience of becoming addicted to extrinsic motivators, such as follower counts and book rankings, which resulted in him losing his intrinsic desire to write. Research shows that when exposed to extrinsic motivators, our intrinsic motivators are hidden in our brain, leading to less satisfaction and reduced learning. It is crucial to constantly ask ourselves if we would do the work we're doing for free, as it indicates our burning intrinsic motivation. Letting things we can't control, such as rankings and government responses, dictate our happiness and mindset is counterproductive. By focusing on intrinsic motivators, we can find true satisfaction and fulfillment in our pursuits.

    Prioritizing intrinsic motivation and presence for a happier life.

    We need to be aware of the traps of extrinsic motivators and intentionally design our lives to prioritize intrinsic motivation and presence. Our brains have millions of years of evolutionary history that make us prone to constantly looking for problems. However, this can lead us to focus only on the negative and miss out on the joys of life. By choosing to engage in activities like reading books, engaging in intentional living, and disconnecting from excessive technology, we can cultivate a happier and more fulfilling life. Additionally, our excessive use of phones and constant distractions can hinder our ability to connect with others on a deeper level. Being present in the moment and prioritizing authentic relationships can lead to greater rapport and kinship with others.

    The negative impact of constant device connection on human connection and presence.

    Our constant connection to devices is inhibiting our ability to truly connect with others and live in the present moment. Neil Pasricha highlights how having a device constantly within reach distracts us from meaningful interactions and makes us prioritize digital content over real-life experiences. He suggests introducing friction, such as keeping chargers in inconvenient locations, to prevent impulsive and regrettable actions fueled by our depleted decision-making energy. Both Neil and Shane discuss the positive effects of setting boundaries with devices, such as leaving phones in a different room or disconnecting from the internet at certain times. They emphasize the importance of being aware of and addressing cell phone addiction, which can negatively impact our psychological well-being and lead to unhealthy comparisons with others.

    Different Types of Success and How to Achieve Them

    Success can be defined in different ways and it is important to clarify what type of success we are pursuing in different areas of our lives. The three types of success discussed are sales success, social success, and self-success. Sales success refers to achieving financial or tangible results, while social success relates to gaining recognition and praise from others. On the other hand, self-success involves personal satisfaction and fulfillment. It is crucial to understand that these types of success are not mutually exclusive and that we have the power to prioritize and balance them based on our goals and values. By understanding this, we can better manage our ambitions and expectations, allowing us to find fulfillment and contentment in our pursuits.

    Rethinking Success: Defining Your Own Goals and Priorities

    Success should not be defined solely by external achievements or comparisons to past successes. It is important to understand and articulate the type of success you want for each project or endeavor you take on. By knowing and focusing on your own goals and aspirations, rather than constantly trying to top previous accomplishments or meet societal expectations, you can free yourself to pursue projects that truly bring you joy and fulfillment. This shift in mindset allows you to prioritize the artistic or creative aspects of your work and ultimately leads to a more authentic and enjoyable process. It may be challenging to break free from the pressure to constantly achieve more, but the goal is to consistently improve and grow, not to be perfect.

    Stepping outside your comfort zone: Creating meaningful experiences and personal growth.

    Stepping outside of your comfort zone and doing something new can create meaningful experiences and help you grow. This applies not only to vacations but also to everyday life. By challenging ourselves and pushing beyond our limits, we can make lasting memories and feel a sense of accomplishment. Neil Pasricha shares his personal experience of collecting 10 rocks, each representing a decade of his life, as a reminder of the times he ventured outside his comfort zone. This serves as a metaphor for thinking long-term and realizing that the ups and downs of daily life are not as significant as the bigger picture. By embracing new experiences and striving to live a fulfilling life, we can make the most of our time here.

    The Power of Confidence in Navigating Life

    Confidence plays a significant role in our happiness. Neil Pasricha suggests that confidence allows us to navigate through the rapids of life. He explains a 2x2 matrix where our opinion of ourselves and others determines our position. Cynicism arises when we have a low opinion of both, arrogance when we have a high opinion of ourselves but a low opinion of others, and insecurity when we have a high opinion of others but a low opinion of ourselves. Confidence, he defines, is having a high opinion of oneself and others. By recognizing our own worth and acknowledging the beauty in others, we can live more intentional and fulfilled lives. Ultimately, it is about being aware of the preciousness of our existence and not taking it for granted.

    Appreciating Life's Lottery

    We should remember the lottery of life. We are incredibly fortunate to be alive and have the opportunities we have. Out of the 115 billion people who have ever lived, we are one of the 8 billion alive today. This means we have already won a 1 in 15 lottery. We should appreciate the simple joys of life, like watching a sunset or enjoying a bowl of ice cream, because 14 out of every fifteen people will never experience these things again. Additionally, having an education and earning more than $5,000 a year puts us in a privileged position globally. We should be grateful for the freedoms we have and continue to make the most of the opportunities before us.

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    Newsletter - I share timeless insights and ideas you can use at work and home. Join over 600k others every Sunday and subscribe to Brain Food. Try it: https://fs.blog/newsletter/

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    ---

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    Gayner shares the difference between good debt and bad debt, where he disagrees with Munger, and why he focuses on the basics.

    This intimate conversation offers a level of insight and honesty that Tom hasn’t offered anywhere else.

    Gayner is currently the CEO of Markel Group and the Director of The Coca‑Cola Company. He also serves as chairman of the Davis Series Mutual Funds board and on the boards of Graham Holdings and Markel.

    Listen and Learn.

    --

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    Blake Eastman: Learn to Read Anyone

    Blake Eastman: Learn to Read Anyone
    Blake Eastman has dedicated his entire life to psychology and nonverbal behavior.
     
    In 2009 he founded The Nonverbal Group, a  behavioral research and education company in New York City which conducts large scale studies on human behavior and uses a wide range of technologies to systematically deconstruct and improve human communication.
     
    Eastman dives deep into a number of subjects revolving around how we communicate with one another, including the ability to read nonverbal cues, his thoughts on big talkers vs. silent types, how we can communicate with our partners without complaining, the value of watching ourselves communicate on video, understanding the power structures and social dynamics at work, and so much more.
     
    Eastman has also served as an adjunct psychology professor at the City University of New York for six years where he taught General Psychology, Developmental Psychology, and Group Dynamics. He is also a former professional poker player and the founder of School of Cards, the first brick-and-mortar poker school in New York City.
     
    Listen and Learn

    --

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    #184 Best of 2023: Conversations of the Year

    #184 Best of 2023: Conversations of the Year
    The Knowledge Project closes 2023 with a look back at some of the best conversations of the year. Featuring interviews from nine of the most downloaded and acclaimed episodes of 2023, this collection of conversations offers a variety of insights into the power of intention, how to become a better listener, how to give and receive feedback at work, the Four Pillars of Integrity, facing the realities of life, the importance of having deadlines, taking responsibility, building trust in a large organization, and when to double-down on your plans for success.
     
    Guests on this episode include: Mindfulness expert Jack Kornfield, executive coach Carloyn Coughlin, organizational expert Aaron Dignan, leadership expert Jim Dethmer, venture capitalist Ravi Gupta, author and Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly, doctor of psychology Julie Gurner, veteran CEO Frank Slootman, and performance psychologist Gio Valiante.

    --

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    Paul Assaiante: Learning to Face Your Fears

    Paul Assaiante: Learning to Face Your Fears

    When Paul Assaiante announced his retirement from coaching the men's squash team at Trinity College in Connecticut earlier this year, it marked the end of the most successful run for any coach in the history of college athletics.

    During his tenure, Assaiante guided Trinity to 17 national titles, including 13 consecutive championships and 252 wins in a row from 1999 to 2011.

    On this episode of The Knowledge Project, Assaiante draws on his 30 years of coaching to discuss the lessons he learned during his career. These lessons include how to conquer fear and anxiety, why safety is actually found when facing adversity, the importance of practice, and what's keeping you from reaching your goals.

    Assaiante is also the author of the 2012 book, Run to the Roar: Coaching to Overcome Fear. Listen and learn.

    --

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    #182 Todd Herman: Unleashing Your Secret Identity

    #182 Todd Herman: Unleashing Your Secret Identity
    We all inhabit different identities throughout our day. Perhaps we’re entrepreneurs or employees, mothers or fathers, athletes or CEOs. But how can you harness the strengths of these different identities to get the best out of yourself? And can these different identities be used to get through tough times? Todd Herman calls on more than two decades of experience working with top performers on performance, strategy, mindset, and execution to discuss his thoughts on peak performance, the value of patience, the fear that prevents us from performing our best, imposter syndrome, and how he worked with Kobe Bryant to build the legendary alter-ego of The Black Mamba.

    Herman has worked with elite athletes, peak performers, and entrepreneurial leaders for over 22 years. He helps them achieve their most ambitious goals by becoming more resilient, creative, confident, and courageous. He is also the author of the bestselling book The Alter Ego Effect.

    --

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