The Making of a Stoic Emperor Image

The Making of a Stoic Emperor

26 February - 51 mins
Podcast Series The Art of Manliness

Perhaps you've read Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, a book many turn to to learn and internalize the teachings of Stoic philosophy. But what do you know of the man who penned that seminal text?

Here to help us get to know the philosopher and ruler is Donald Robertson, a cognitive-behavior psychotherapist and the author of Marcus Aurelius: The Stoic Emperor. Drawing on the Meditations, three ancient histories about Marcus' life and character, and a cache of private letters between him and his rhetoric tutor, Donald unpacks how Marcus' life shaped his approach to Stoicism, and how Stoicism shaped him. We discuss Marcus' childhood and influences, his idea of manliness, the surprising significanc...

51 mins

Series Episodes

Skills Over Pills

Skills Over Pills

Over the last decade, there's been an increase in the number of people, particularly young adults, who struggle with low moods, distractibility, and anxiety and consequent difficulties with getting their life on track and making progress in work, friendship, and romance. In addressing these difficulties, people are often given or adopt a mental health diagnosis, and look for a solution in therapy and/or medication. My guest isn't opposed to these remedies. She is herself a clinical psychologist who's maintained a practice for a quarter century that specializes in treating clients in their twenties. But Dr. Meg Jay, who's also the author of The Twentysomething Treatment, believes that a lot of what young adults, and in fact adults of all ages, struggle with, aren't disorders that need to be treated, but problems that can be solved. In the first half of our conversation, Meg explains what's behind the decline in mental health for young adults and how it's bigger than just smartphones. We discuss the dangers of self-diagnosis, the potential downsides of using medications to treat mental health issues, and why she advocates for "skills over pills." In the second half of our conversation, we talk about how mental health gets better when we get better at life, and what skills twentysomethings, and many older adults, need to develop, including the skills of thinking, feeling, working, socializing, and even cooking. We also discuss how porn is affecting the young men in her practice and an alternative to being a self-assurance junkie.

1 hour 6 mins

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The Power of Everyday Rituals to Shape and Enhance Our Lives

The Power of Everyday Rituals to Shape and Enhance Our Lives

When we think of rituals, we tend to think of big, inherited, more occasional religious or cultural ceremonies like church services, holidays, weddings, and funerals. But as my guest observes, we also engage in small, self-made, everyday rituals that help us turn life's more mundane moments into more meaningful ones. In the The Ritual Effect: From Habit to Ritual, Harness the Surprising Power of Everyday Actions, psychologist and Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton explores the way our DIY rituals shape, and enhance, our lives. We take up that survey on today's show. Michael explains the difference between a habit and a ritual and how individuals and families create unique "ritual signatures" even within more standard rituals like holidays. We discuss the different areas of life in which rituals show up and what they do for us, including how they help us cope with uncertainty, savor life, and connect to the past. We get into the function DIY rituals perform in romantic relationships, from deepening intimacy to facilitating a break-up, the role that "kinkeepers" play in keeping a family together, the tricky business of combining family traditions when people get married, how to know when a family tradition should be retired, and much more.

44 mins

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Walden on Wheels — A Man, a Debt, and an American Adventure

Walden on Wheels — A Man, a Debt, and an American Adventure

Millions of young adults know what it's like to graduate from college with student debt. For some, it's a frustrating annoyance. For others, it's a worry-inducing burden. For Ken Ilgunas, it was a dragon in need of slaying and a pathway to adventure. Ken is the author of Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom, and today on the show, he shares the story of how his quest to erase his debt led him to the Arctic Circle and through the peaks and valleys of living a totally unshackled life. Ken explains why he went to Alaska to work as a truckstop burger flipper and park ranger to pay off his student debt, what it's like to hitchhike across the country, how reading Thoreau's Walden got him questioning how we live our lives, and how that inspiration led him to living in his van while attending grad school at Duke. Along the way, Ken shares his meditations on nonconformity, engaging in romantic pursuits, and the benefits of both de-institutionalizing and re-institutionalizing your life.

58 mins

8 April Finished

How to Create a Distraction-Free Phone

How to Create a Distraction-Free Phone

Jake Knapp loves tech. He grew up using Apple II and then Mac computers, browsing bulletin boards, and making his own games. As an adult, he worked at Microsoft on the Encarta CD-ROM, before being hired by Google, where he worked on Gmail, co-founded Google Meet, and created Google Ventures' Design Sprint process. Today, he's a venture capitalist and consultant for start-ups, as well as a writer. But, if Jake was an early adopter and booster of the upsides of technology, he was also early in sensing its not-so-positive side effects. Twelve years ago, unhappy with the pull his smartphone was exerting on him, he decided to curb its distractions. He continues to use this distraction-free phone today. Today on the show, I talk to Jake about what motivated him to change his relationship with his phone over a decade ago and what steps he took to do so, including how and why he lives life without a web browser or email app on his phone. We get into what realizations about work and life Jake's gotten from having a distraction-free phone, why he doesn't think using tools like Screen Time or a dumbphone are always the best solutions to reducing the phone itch, and how he also cuts down on distractions on his desktop computer.

50 mins

3 April Finished

Want to Be Happy? Give Yourself Reasons to Admire Yourself

Want to Be Happy? Give Yourself Reasons to Admire Yourself

Happiness and depression can feel like slippery and befuddling things. We can do the things we've been told will make us happy, while still not feeling satisfied. Or, on paper, our lives can look great, yet we feel depressed. And the advice that's out there about these states doesn't always seem to correspond to our lived experience. Ryan Bush has created a new map he thinks can help us make better sense of life. Ryan is a systems designer with a long-standing interest in psychology and philosophy, the founder of Designing the Mind, a self-development organization, and an author. His latest book is Become Who You Are: A New Theory of Self-Esteem, Human Greatness, and the Opposite of Depression. Today on the show, Ryan explains the two dimensions along which we usually plot our happiness, and what he thinks is the missing third dimension: virtue or admirability. Ryan then unpacks his "virtue self-signaling theory" which he thinks can heighten happiness and reduce depression, and which is premised on the idea that if you want to live a flourishing life, you have to give yourself reasons to admire yourself. I really think this is a valuable idea that everyone can get something from and recommend listening through.

50 mins

1 April Finished

Tips From a Hostage Negotiator on Handling Difficult Conversations

Tips From a Hostage Negotiator on Handling Difficult Conversations

In resolving hundreds of kidnap-for-ransom cases involving gang leaders, pirates, and extortionists, Scott Walker, a former Scotland Yard detective, has learned a thing or two about how to negotiate and communicate in a crisis. He shares how to apply those lessons to the difficult conversations we all have in our everyday lives in his book Order Out of Chaos: Win Every Negotiation, Thrive in Adversity, and Become a World-Class Communicator, and we talk about his tips on today's show. Scott and I discuss what a "red center" means in a kidnap-for-ransom scenario and how to create one in your personal life, the "immediate action drill" that can help you stay in that red center, the importance of separating the decision-maker from the communicator in a negotiation and having a "battle rhythm," why you don't give hostage takers the money they ask for right away and how to structure a negotiation instead, and more.

47 mins

27 March Finished

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